[Fate/FAE] What's not to grok?

Adam Reynolds

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Approaches were the big thing that it took me awhile to understand, as they are rather unusual for a more skill/mechanics heavy background(my first real game was GURPS and so that sort of stuck for awhile). I would also agree that the main book is somewhat hard to understand, though reading it is obviously essential.

There are two useful ways of looking at approaches. The first is that they are paired opposites, each in a slightly different area. If you are Quick, you aren't all that Careful. The same applies to Flashy/Sneaky and Forceful/Clever. You can think of each pair as being about whether you are noticed(Flashy/Sneaky), how much you understand what you are doing (Forceful/Clever), or how long you are taking(Quick Careful). You can also sort of see the slight overlap between Flashy, Forceful, and Quick as well as Clever, Careful, and Sneaky. In this respect it is about opportunity cost, if you are Flashy, you aren't Sneaky. Success at a cost is also effective when you look at at a different axis for the failure and the opposite side. If you are Flashy to charm your way past a guard, she lets you through but remembers you when the alarm goes off(you weren't Careful enough).

Another way of looking at them is that they are a ranking of how your character likes to solve problems. Someone who likes being the center of attention is naturally Flashy, even when they would probably be better suited by being Sneaky. While some of this can be handled by varied difficulties for different approaches(which can be offset by strongest vs weakest approaches), the larger effect is on the future story. You can get past a guard by being Flashy, but there are consequences to doing so as she will always remember you were there even on a success. If you were Sneaky in the first place, there is a much greater chance that she won't remember or notice that you were ever there. Though if you succeed with style, hopefully you managed to completely obscure what it is you were doing.

The other issue with understanding how to use approaches is that they don't really tell you what a character does, which is what skills and attributes in most games are focused on. Trying to make them fit skills in some fashion generally defeats the point. While stunts can be used as surrogate skills to an extent, it is generally better to indicate special areas of character competence or incompetence via aspects. If your character is a pilot, they can clearly fly a plane or helicopter without rolling until something interesting happens. If they are not, even turning the thing on requires a somewhat difficult roll. As most characters in most stories are broadly competent in similar ways, they can also be used for the opposite, cases in which a character can't do things that others can. A pacifist in an action series can't really fight freely, so every time they are around violence they are the target of compels. This allows them to be even more effective in whatever specialization still makes them useful(Harold Finch in Person of Interest is an excellent example of this, as a wealthy brilliant hacker).


I think the fundamental issue with Fate is one rarely discussed. On some level it is a mechanical heavy system for people who enjoy thinking like writers. Things like aspects being always true but only having a mechanical impact when it matters(invoked or compeled) is a classic example of this, as it is how characters are written in stories. Stories also tend to be written in the fashion in which saying you just can't do that because it doesn't make sense is a valid way of handling something. Approaches are another example, as most characters in fiction tend to solve every problem in the same fashion, and teams tend to be diverse in their approaches(which also leads to more interesting conflicts).

Every other RPG generally falls on either side of it. Either they have vastly more rules to handle a variety of situations like GURPS, or they have extremely light rules like any of Ben Robbins games(Microscope, Kingdom and Follow). PtbA is the only system I can think of with similar goals, but it does so by rigidly fixing the roles of players and GM, in which they are actually following different rules. This tends to make it easier to understand.
 

Delgarde

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Put on a magic show right next to the room you want to sneak into. One with a really over the top performance with music and lights and attractive assistants. Disappear yourself, sneak into the room, swipe what needs swiping, and reappear somewhere ridiculous, like in the center of the audience.

Sounds flashy to me.
Yeah, it's funny - intuitively, "sneaky" and "flashy" couldn't be further apart. But in practice, sleight of hand and distraction are a valuable aid to any sneaky character, and "flashy" is the best approach for making people look the wrong way.
 

Delgarde

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Yeah, it's funny - intuitively, "sneaky" and "flashy" couldn't be further apart. But in practice, sleight of hand and distraction are a valuable aid to any sneaky character, and "flashy" is the best approach for making people look the wrong way.
Oh, and the number of times my (D&D, not Fate) rogue character has literally shouted "LOOK, A DISTRACTION!" as a setup for either a sneak attack or to provide an opportunity to slip past a guard. Pure "flashy", even though the goal is to be sneaky.

Also, "flashy" is often appropriate for infiltrators who favour face skills over stealth... it's the approach for someone who gets into secure facilities not through hacking the security system, but through generous application of bullshit and charm.
 

LatinaBunny

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For me, it’s the vagueness/openness and subjectiveness of approaches and Aspects, and the narrative emulation nature of the metacurrency.

I read lots of Fate books, and got some great explanations from many helpful Fate users here and on Reddit, but I think, based on just reading the various Fate books, it could be that I’m not used to more narrative emulation systems and it’s just not working well with my more straightforward mindset.

(I still haven’t played a Fate game yet, and the thought of GMing a Fate/FAE game just stresses me out, so I haven’t experienced any actual Fate/FAE gameplay. I just read the rule books and listened to people explaining the game.)
 
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Hammel

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Does Fate and FAE work in generalities, sometimes (both in the rulebooks and actual gameplay)? Could this be bad for players that are more detail-oriented and prefer detail in their games?

Is there some sort of filter for Fate/FAE I can put up before players are attracted to a game they won't grok? Or is it something that can't be known about Fate/FAE until a group starts playing? Competence, Proactive, and Drama for characters as mentioned in Fate Core seems like it could be one filter.
 

My Hero Zero

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When it comes to not understanding Approaches, I think it's because many people think of the method rather than the outcome. So if you were to take a math test, Clever is the best Approach; it's right in its wheelhouse. Forceful and Flashy are right out. Careful, Quick are certainly possible and present you with ways to think about the outcome. With Careful you'll no doubt use the whole class period. Quick implies not being Careful, so even if you pass (succeed in your roll), it's probably going to come at the expense of a few silly mistakes. Sneaky, OTOH, is in a class by itself. It implies cheating on the test, and whether you pass or fail, the outcome might be delayed--failing your roll doesn't mean initially failing the test--it could mean you initially pass, but later are discovered to have cheated.

Forceful probably is the easiest Approach to understand, kind of like benchmarking strength vs intelligence. We can lift things, we know how much things way, we can even see machines lifting very heavy things so we can extrapolate superhuman strength. But something like Flashy can be a little elusive. Is doing a flying knee strike Forceful or Flashy? You could debate it. But it's not Sneaky or Careful. If you play with people who like to "win" they'll try to force their best Approach (as opposed to players who want to tell good stories, which often can include not objectively "winning." I know that starts to enter into "badwrongfun" accusations, but I just don't play with those kinds of people and I don't understand wanting to play in an RPG with a fiction-first structure and treat it like it's a video game in god mode. Play a different game.
 

LatinaBunny

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Thinking about it, I think I am one of those people. I love playing video games and computer games, so I tend to like structured abilities and such when it comes to combat, and some types of puzzles.

I still really like story (and that’s why I sometimes buy some novelizations of video games, and I love reading the lore and seeing character relationships within the games), but for some reason, I don’t think I really like the story structure being enforced with rules in some of these narrative/fiction-first tabletop rpgs for some reason.

I like to socialize without rules being put in place on how my character should act or develop according to a character arc or to always provide a constant exciting plot.

I tend to feel a little lost when things get too abstracted and vague (when it comes to anything in life), so I think my mentality just doesn’t work well with freeform games, I guess.

I think this is why Fudge (stripping Fate of the Aspects) and certain games like D&D and AGE appeals to me more: I can have some more structure with the stats, and I can just roll the straightforward abilities.

Being a gamer who always wants to do the best the character can do, I can see myself trying to use the best approach all of the time in a FAE game, lol. :p

I would be like, “Screw this, let’s fight”, and use Forceful +3 all of the time, or just using whatever stunt is the best ability at the moment.

I’m not good at stealth or being clever, and I have trouble communicating in real life, so combat (usually the area that is straighforward and detailed in the abilities) is often my favorite part of games and rpgs. (I do like some types of puzzles, though. And I LOVE exploration.)

I have a feeling I would get some decision paralysis with some of the abstract narrative concepts, like the approach of Flashy, or trying to come up with Aspects (and trying to justify the use of said Aspects).

With D&D, I can just roll for Strength or Wisdom, etc, easily enough, while with freeform games like Fate, I feel I would probably hesitate much more about how to create or use an Aspect (or Approach).

With Fate, I really like the Skills, Stunts, and sort of like the four Actions and Outcomes (except for Succeed at a Cost and sometimes getting confused on Create An Advantage). The Aspects, Approaches, compels, and metacurrency (and a couple of Actions like Create An Advantage) feel like the areas where I would get stuck on. So, basically, it looks like I like the straightforward Fudge-y parts, haha. ^_^;;
 
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My Hero Zero

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And as to "detail" I'd argue that it is there. Take the D20 system and the Trip maneuver and the Prone condition. These, and I'd point out any maneuver and condition, are subsumed under Create an Advantage. Unless you're inflicting Stress, you're using CaA against another person in a conflict. So, sure, it's right there and you don't have to think of it. But. What if you do think of something and it's not there? I'd argue that if the game gets in your way and spoils your creativity then that's at least as bad, and actually, come to think of it, worse (to me).

Lots of people complain about analysis paralysis when it comes to Fate, but I think it works the other way, too. I only have to think about two things when fighting someone: stress or something else? That actually makes things easier for me. Sure, every time you generate a Boost, you might freeze thinking you have to name it and maybe you struggle with the cleverness factor that some people might seem to possess. Who cares? As both a GM and a player, I don't. If it's self-imposed I can't help you. You do have the Boost, whether you name it or not. It has a mechanical value. Personally, as I explained things to my daughter when I introduced her to FAE, I just used the idea of her learning to cartwheel: at first she plopped over quite a bunch--but she stuck with it and the falling over thing began to diminish. If you come to a game and you see some potential, sure, there's going to be a learning curve. But like most things, if should get easier/faster/etc with the doing of it.
 

LatinaBunny

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Yeah, I think some Actions/Outcomes confuses me, because I remembered asking multiple times about Create An Advantage on Reddit to the point of frustrating a Fate player on asking the same/similar questions about Fate. I just keep getting confused on which action would be representing what I’m trying to do. I felt stupid pretty much the entire time.

I just have to accept in the end, that I am an adult who cannot get into the Fate mindset like the many kids or rpg newbies that some Fate players keep keep talking about having successful Fate games with.

Fate is pretty much like a difficult foreign language I have to admire from afar, lol. (Or a popular indie or AAA video game that I just can’t wrap my head around and don’t feel confident I could do well at.)
 
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My Hero Zero

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I think the Actions are absolutely straightforward. Attack/Defend certainly directly correlate to literally any other game. Overcome might be a little indirect, but I usually just turn it into a phrase: Overcome [an obstacle]. If it's not a person, it's an obstacle.

Create an Advantage is usually the area (IME of five years with FAE) that people can get bogged down. But as I said above, if you're not inflicting Stress, this is the action you use. You only have four. Are you attacking? Yes: are you inflicting Stress? Then it's Attack, otherwise it's CaA.

As to Outcomes, I'd also say the narrative element is (if anything) going to slow people up. Paying with a cost makes you engage with the situation. Personally, I see this as a feature and not a bug. I'd much rather have a brief discussion with the GM who asks me what I want to happen. To me, that's so much better than the GM just inflicting it on me. It preserves my agency. Since I don't play games like D&D, which I feel has kept me distant from my character because of the likelihood of character death, I get more involved with a game like Fate because of how I can specifically interact with not only the plot, but the outcomes.

I also play in fiction-based games where failure isn't a thing. The good guys always win. Every time. It's not about if they'll win, it's about HOW they'll win. It's about WHEN they'll win. It's about what they have to PAY to win. So Succeed at [a/great] Cost is brilliant. Take the following example:

Black Widow has to get into the foreign embassy to to steal the Thing that's Bad for her side. With games that allow for objective failure, e.g. roll to climb the wall. Oh, you failed by 5, you fall and now you look like a chump. Haha. On the other hand, succeed at a cost let's you become involved in the plot: okay, so you failed that roll. Let's have succeed or else we have no story. What's the cost? Let's say a guard hears me scrambling over the wall as I knock a loose brick that's been neglected since the heyday of the Cold War. I'll have to avoid being detected, too, and that's just more fun, but he's going to be on the alert.

Or take picking the lock to get into the room with the Thing. Fail that roll and you're stopped in your tracks. So, fail the roll and succeed at a cost. What's the cost? Well, I get in, of course some stupid enemy lock is no match for my skillz, but hey, what do you know, in my overconfidence I missed the new fangled camera filming me. So, sure, I can get the Thing, but now I have to go deeper into the building to confront moar guards--defeat them naturally--and get the videotape of me doing my thang.

Could a good GM do that without the Succeed at a Cost mechanic? Sure. But, I've been in a Mutants & Masterminds game where I was playing Catwoman, the best burglar in the DCU, and failed rolls that resulted in: you couldn't even bypass a stupid museum security system? I revoke your mantle as best burglar--more like best BUNGLER! No thanks.
 
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