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.
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.
 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.