Back in the day (when did it happen that I could start like this?), there was a game called FUDGE. It had some new ideas like using those fudge dice and using adjectives instead of numbers. Otherwise it was more like a toolkit. Choose the attributes and stats for your campaign, pick whatever other rules you might need and have fun.
Now, my first exposure to Fate was with FATE 2 (pdf). It was more specific than Fudge but still pretty open. You still had to make up the skill list for your game. The one big thing was a new take on attributes. Instead of the GM making a list for that too, players would make up their own traits. That became popular at the time.
From such games, a caveat was learned. Very broad traits are boring. But it is tempting to make the broadest trait possible. So the Fate took that to heart. Instead of rolling those self-made attributes, you could spend them for bonuses. So you always roll a skill and, if you want, spend a charge from a fitting “Aspect” for a massive bonus. Of course, this solves the Broad Trait Problem, because any Aspect is finite. If you spend all your All Might early, you don’t have anything later and must rely on your other Aspects. Granted, the Aspect examples in the Fate 2 rulebook might not fit our nowadays refined tastes for literary expressiveness, but I’m looking at their functionality here.
There were Fate Points, too. You got them, when an Aspect became a problem, but they were a simple +1, while an Aspect charge meant a sure +2 or a full reroll. Fate Points and Aspect charges were not interchangeable. There were no scene and campaign aspects. The game also made a big point of Extras, which can still be found in the toolkit nowadays, but I’ve never seen anyone bothering either way.
It was a good system for its communicative power. Setting up the skill list, the GM says: This is what will be important for the campaign. This is what the characters will do. Making your Aspect on the other hand, you say: This is cool and important about my character.
Of course, newer editions don’t do it that way anymore. The question is why, if it was such a nice system. It’s certainly not about general simplicity, because in the same stroke that aspects were changed to simple tags, we also got Stunts, which are actually more complicated internally than the old Aspects, and another thing to keep track of. It might be a case for consistency, after maneuvers and their effects were invented. But those could have been handled without connecting things to Fate Points as well.
The only problem with the old Aspects I can imagine would be them being too good at what they do, that is limiting constant use of broad traits. We might call it the Aquaman problem. In order for Aquaman to shine, there should be water. So a particularly narrow Aspect might be wasted. But that might be fixed as well, as PDQ# has shown. The rule would be to discard Aspect charges in lieu of Stress. This could happen without regard to the current situation. Aquaman could still take a beating, but not use his Aspect actively. This would also remove the need for separate HP or stress tracks. Conditions could work unchanged.
So to use this Fate 2.9
- Make a skill list for your campaign.
- Use the Aspects the old way.
- Use Aspects as stress, too.
- Import the four kinds of actions from later editions.
- Import Conditions as you see fit.
- Gracefully ignore stunts.
Personally, I’d also make a ladder that requires less interpretation, but that might be another topic.
Originally posted at rpg.net, where it also got a comment by iago.