A Take on FAE’s Approaches

While talking a bit with Mark Diaz Truman about FAE and its Approaches, I confessed that I really don’t care for them, because of the Use-Whenever Stats element.

Before someone takes that comment out of context (again), I should say that I respect what FAE is, who it’s for, and what role it has for introducing people into the hobby with such a slim book. And it does seem a great fit for the Fate version of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

Mark’s working on Fate-Do, and he wanted to know more about my hairy-eyeballing of Approaches. The end result was us talking about the consequences (general term, not Fate game term) of using different approaches in different situations, about codifying that in a way that puts those rules in the available headspace between players and the GM, rather than just having it be something the GM introduces in an unpredictable manner.[1]

Here’s what we came up with in our conversation:

How you approach something can have unintended consequences. Being Forceful when you’re trying to get someone to spill a name might scare others around you, for example. (Just as shooting someone can have the consequence of alerting nearby people.) This can happen whether you’re successful in the action or not.

  • If you’re Forceful, you may unintentionally break or harm something, or alarm or otherwise draw unwanted attention.
  • If you’re Clever, you may miss something important while your mind is focusing the current problem and solution.
  • If you’re Quick, you may miss something crucial in your haste to get something done.
  • If you’re Sneaky, you may pass over something important as you focus on being unnoticed.
  • If you’re Flashy, you may draw unwanted attention or miss something that requires a delicate touch.
  • If you’re Careful, you may not be able to react to something new in time.

These are clear to use in failure and in succeeding with cost. However, also look at using these in successes in order to introduce new moments and show that the world will respond to how characters approach things will impact the wider fictional world. By explicitly stating these potential results, even with success (though, perhaps not as likely in a success with style), everyone knows they’re always on the table, not just with failures.

GMs, use these are opportunities to create amazing moments of dynamic and fun stories.

The idea is that by explicitly putting out there as soft GM rules the players have full knowledge of, you explicitly point out two separate sets of  decisions: narrating your best approach in a situation, and using an approach that has the least risk of consequence in a situation. And, as my good friend John Wick says, the hearts of games are suboptimal decisions.

– Ryan

[1] Which is the core issue I have — that the idea of “fairness” (which is to say, suboptimal decisions) is only given by GM arbitration without player touchstones.


3 Responses to A Take on FAE’s Approaches

  1. Fred Hicks says:

    A lot of this dovetails with David Goodwin’s observations about Approaches from August 18th.


  2. Two great examples of this from Do: Fate of the Flying Temple playtests:

    1) Two Pilgrims are fighting over a dragon egg in orbit around a planetoid. One tries to win the contest and take the egg by twisting the egg away in zero-gee. She wants to roll Clever (+3), but I point out that she might miss something because she’s focusing on her clever plan. She doesn’t like that.

    We talk through the other options and she opts for Forceful (+2) instead because she’s okay with damaging the egg (which she’s trying to hatch anyway) or drawing attention.

    2) Another Pilgrim makes a dragonfruit tree to feed their dragon (obviously!) using Flashy magic. The action kinda pauses, and I say “The dragon wakes up from his nap. Looks like you’ve got his attention. He sees the fruit tree and is so excited that he summons a big gust of wind to suck up all the fruit. What do you do?”

  3. Paul Stefko says:

    You can also use the nature of the approaches as guidelines for creating boosts when you succeed with style.

    Just as a Forceful action could cause unintended damage, there could be collateral effects on an opponent’s equipment or the environment. Example Boosts: I Put a Chink in Your Armor; Broken Windows Let in a Draft.

    A Careful action strives to cover every angle and use every bit of energy put into it. This will often include setting up your next action. Example Boosts: Calculated Attack; Overwhelming Logic.

    A Sneaky action, by definition, is about misdirection, so it will easily put an opponent off-balance, looking the wrong way. Example Boosts: Look, Over There!; Silver Tongue.

    A Flashy action is impressive or moving. It makes onlookers feel good about you or fear you. Example Boosts: Whoa!; They’re Not Paying Me Enough.

    A Clever action seeks to get the most effect out of the least effort. It uses tricks and loopholes to create temporary advantages. Example Boosts: Bewildering Wit; Backdoor Access.

    A Quick action is all about speed. If you spend half the time someone else would take, that leaves you that much more time to start on the next task. Example Boosts: On Three, 1, 2 –; Too Slow!