D&D/Pathfinder style FATE hack – Could Classes be used as Approaches to minimise D&D hack skill list?

A few comments (from Jonathan Dietrich, Christopher Stilson and a couple of others) on my initial post regarding thoughts about a D&D/fack hack (available here http://wh40krpg.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/d-style-fate-hack-abilities-and-skills.html) got me thinking about the complexity and the size of the skill list; initially my thoughts has been just to port over the Abilities and Skills from D&D, but Jonathans comment about not “understand[ing] why one would want to add [that] much to a Fate game” made me consider whether I was infact just keeping the Abilities and Skills because they would make the hack more obviously D&D inspired rather than because it would result in a better gaming experience. My main goal (and i’d hope the goal of gamesmasters everywhere) in RP has always been to create a game where both players and the GM are enjoying themselves and becoming immersed in the events occurring in-game; I have always thought that one of the main obstacles to this IMO is the ‘crunchiness’ of some rules systems (although I am sure there are people who love the crunch and would disagree with me), the more book-flipping and table referencing I have to do then the less I find myself drawn into and enthusiastic about the game. This one of the main reasons why FATE and particularly FAE are two of my favourite systems at the moment, the rules are easy to understand, play with a minimum of rulebook flipping (I generally just have a copy of the fate ladder, skill list and cheatsheet on the table during a game) and focus more on creating an interesting narrative than being an accurate simulation of what is occurring in-game.
Christopher Stilson made a comment regarding classes in the game; i’ve never been a fan of classes personally and had always favoured the D20 variants that eliminated or minimised the impacts of classes (often house-ruling them away in games i’ve run), however, they are an iconic part of D&D and one that instantly allows the players to get some sort of handle on their character’s place in the party. Flipping some of the toolkit material I have, there is a section that talks about altering or expanding the default Skill list used in FATE core, one suggestion is to replace them altogether with a number of ‘professions’ that players have a rating in; this strikes me as very much like the Approaches in FAE (and indeed it can’t be a coincidence that in the same chapter it discusses Approaches next) and made me wonder whether or not it would be possible to approach characters in a FAE-like fashion but using profession/approaches rather than a list of skills?
The classes listed in the Pathfinder SRD are:
  • Barbarian: The barbarian is a brutal berserker from beyond the edge of civilized lands.
  • Bard: The bard uses skill and spell alike to bolster his allies, confound his enemies, and build upon his fame.
  • Cleric: A devout follower of a deity, the cleric can heal wounds, raise the dead, and call down the wrath of the gods.
  • Druid: The druid is a worshiper of all things natural—a spellcaster, a friend to animals, and a skilled shapechanger.
  • Fighter: Brave and stalwart, the fighter is a master of all manner of arms and armor.
  • Monk: A student of martial arts, the monk trains his body to be his greatest weapon and defense.
  • Paladin: The paladin is the knight in shining armor, a devoted follower of law and good.
  • Ranger: A tracker and hunter, the ranger is a creature of the wild and of tracking down his favored foes.
  • Rogue: The rogue is a thief and a scout, an opportunist capable of delivering brutal strikes against unwary foes.
  • Sorcerer: The spellcasting sorcerer is born with an innate knack for magic and has strange, eldritch powers.
  • Wizard: The wizard masters magic through constant study that gives him incredible magical power.

FAE features 6 Approaches (Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick, and Sneaky) so I decided to see whether I could boil down the PF SRD Classes into approximately half a dozen Approaches that could be used in a FATE D&D-style game.

  1. Barbarian, Fighter, Monk, Paladin and Ranger  all have martial abilities (whether in hand to hand or ranged combat) as part of their Class makeup, so I decided to create an Approach called WARRIOR to cover this.
  2. Bards, Rogues and Thieves all rely (to a certain extent) on misdirection and cunning to carry out their crafts so I would create an Aspect called THIEF.
  3. Bards, Clerics, Druids, Paladins, Sorcerors and Wizards all make use of magic and so I made a SPELLCASTER Aspect to cover this.
  4. Clerics, Druids, Monks and Paladins all have a religious or faith aspect to them and so I created a PRIEST Aspect.
  5. Barbarians, Druids and Rangers all spend a lot of their time out in the wilderness and so possibly some sort of BARBARIAN Aspect may be necessary.

Looking at the Aspects created I would have them used as follows (selecting one at Good (+3), two at Fair (+2), two at Average (+1) and one at Mediocre (+0) as per the FAE rulebook):

  1. WARRIOR – rolled for attacking or defending from attack using physical means, taking care of armour, working out battle-tactics, recognising ambushes and initiative order in combat.
  2. THIEF – sleight of hand, stealing things, breaking and entering, deception.
  3. SPELLCASTER – casting spells (obviously), working out what spells other people were casting, crafting magic items, examining magic items, feats of prestigitation, etc
  4. PRIEST – interacting with church/holy order members, researching/recalling information about gods and their followers, making blessings, etc
  5. BARBARIAN – interacting with savage societies, wilderness survival checks, moving about unseen in the undergrowth.
  6. CIVILISED – interacting with civilised people, blending in with the city crowd, attending society functions, etc (I would probably make some rule that at character gen your civilised and barbarian Aspects have to be at least two levels apart (ie. if you had Civilised +3 then the highest you could have for Barbarian at character gen would be +1))
This is just one possible avenue of thought and will probably be tweak and refined before it sees any use.

D&D/Pathfinder style FATE hack – Abilities and Skills

I’m currently playing in a Pathfinder game run by a friend of mine, Pathfinder, for those of you who don’t know, is a spiritual successor to D&D 3.5 released in 2009 by Paizo Publishing using the D20; whereas D&D was completely re-written as D&D 4th edition (an entirely seperate game, my thoughts on which could take up a series of blog posts on their own) Pathfinder expanded and continued to use the 3.5 rules-set (albeit no longer under the D&D moniker). If you want to know more about Pathfinder there is a wikipedia article here. The Pathfinder game I am playing in is very enjoyable, we are from a world where magic has previously been hard to work and unreliable, the discovery of a portal opening to another world has lead to an increase in magical energy, and our player characters are the advanced scouting party sent through to explore this new world; I play an academic wizards apprentice who is fascinated by almost everything since it his first time out in the wider-world, I may get round to blogging some more specifics about the game in future.
Playing in the game has given me a nostalgic longing to run some sort of fantasy D&D-esque game in the future, i’ve run a number of them in the past though and have never really been sold on the D20 rules system, it’s quite versatile and there is a lot of source material available for it, however i’m just not as much a fan of the crunch as some people I know (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Given my complete love of the FATE system (even my wife has commented on how much I like the system, referring to me jokingly as “Mr Fate” on one occasion) and the relative success of my Rogue Trade FATE hack I fancied the challenge of making a D&D-style hack. I’m sure there are probably a number of D&D hacks already around, however, since I wasn’t going to be running this as a long-term game anytime soon I thought that I would take my time coming up with the rules, perhaps testing them by running one-off games during our one-shot Wednesday sessions when it rolls round to my turn behind the GM-ing screen.
Abilities & Skills

I decided to start with abilities and skills, Pathfinder and D&D has the following main character attributes:
  • STR – Strength
  • DEX – Dexterity
  • CON – Constitution
  • INT – Intelligence
  • WIS – Wisdom
  • CHA – Charisma
These attributes determine the basic modifiers that you will roll when it comes to your skills points; basically you work out your final modifer like this:

  • Total modifier = ability modifer + ranks in skill + any other misc modifiers
This system works perfectly fine for D&D/Pathfinder however you don’t really use the abilities on their own very much, only as a source of modifiers; I decided that, in my hack, you would create an ability pyramid (in the same way as skills in FATE core) and this would determine how many ranks you had to spend in associated skills.
During character creation you would rate your abilities as follows:
  • One ability at great (+4)
  • Two abilities at good (+3)
  • Three abilities at fair (+2)
When your abilities were rated this would determine how many skills of a particular type you could have, the highest level skill you would be able to have related to that ability would the same level as that ability, then two on the level below, and so on.
An example of the idea in pictorial form is shown below:
The D&D/Pathfinder skill list looks like this:
  • Acrobatics
  • Appraise
  • Bluff
  • Climb
  • Craft
  • Diplomacy
  • Disable Device
  • Disguise
  • Escape Artist
  • Fly
  • Handle Animal
  • Heal
  • Intimidate
  • Knowledge (arcana)
  • Knowledge (dungeoneering)
  • Knowledge (engineering)
  • Knowledge (geography)
  • Knowledge (history)
  • Knowledge (local)
  • Knowledge (nature)
  • Knowledge (nobility)
  • Knowledge (planes)
  • Knowledge (religion)
  • Linguistics
  • Perception
  • Perform
  • Profession
  • Ride
  • Sense Motive
  • Sleight of Hand
  • Spellcraft
  • Stealth
  • Survival
  • Swim
  • Use Magic Device
and they are all linked with one of the ability scores listed, the layout proposed about would allow 30+ skills at some level possessed by each PC. I’m sure there are probably better/different ways to do this but it’s something i’ll be tinkering around with over the coming months.