I posted this over on Google+ as well, but I am going to post it here too for referenceability.
What frustrates me the most is when folks think there’s some sort of dividing line between Core and FAE, that FAE is all that different from Core, that one picks either FAE or Core, anything along those lines. FAE is a build of Core. It is not a different ruleset. It’s a condensation, with two or three different ways of presenting certain concepts.
You reduce a skill list down to five or six or seven things, they end up looking a lot like approaches. We decided to try to “say” something a little different than “yeah, it’s a skill list, only short” by shifting the perspective to what approaches are and do but at the end… they’re just skills of another color.
Stunts are presented as they are to provide some extra handholding and guidance for new players, which does limit their scope but only a little, and trivially given that you could apply Core’s stuntthink to FAE and break nothing.
Most everything else that seems different is really just a function of omitting or simplifying things from Core in the pursuit of a twin agenda of “condense, avoiding the explanation fetish we’ve pursued to an extreme in Core and prior Fate builds” and “make sure this is accessible to new players young and old”.
Play Core and ignore FAE and you might get caught up in fiddling with the dials without quite realizing what the true core of Core is.
Play FAE and ignore Core and you’re missing out on a number of additional pieces of critical advice and perspective, not to mention maybe a dozen handy tools, for making your play experience better.
They’re a continuum. They’re the same. They’re not as separate as the discussion suggests. You diminish both when you treat them as separate. Each improves the other.
You will see FAE catch a little more enthusiasm because in its stripped-down nature, it’s something you can fit inside an existing or new setting and still have a book that’s not hugely bloated. (Consider instead starting with the 300 page baseline of Core, and THEN adding material for a setting. That way lies 500-page books and claims that Fate is a “heavy system” because look at the pagecount!)
FAE will also catch enthusiasm because of its price point (you can buy enough books for your whole table for the amount you’d normally pay for one player’s handbook in another system) and because — frankly — it appeals to the lazy as well as the young/new player set. Lots of folks don’t have the time to game that they used to, and FAE’s going to look particularly shiny and sparkly to those folks. Myself included. This also means it’ll catch a certain amount of fire for folks looking to make a convention slot happen with no or little prep.
But Core is full of advice and tools that can be used to build nuance or to scratch those same itches that we get scratched by building a complex power set in HERO or leveling up and gathering new magical loot in D&D. That’s a special kind of fun.
For this and other reasons, Core is going to come off as more robust, and probably a little (or a lot) better at handling a game with a lot of advancement that gets reflected in character sheet mechanics.
It’s also probably a lot better at being GM-friendly than FAE is. By pursuing a “we got no time for examples, let’s present the system as it is and move on to the next thing” agenda, FAE does not give a ton of GM advice. Core lavishes the GM with advice, and as such it actually has more of a safety-net to it than FAE. FAE is probably more player-inflected than Core by contrast, even tho both books are plenty approachable for those who are “off-inflection”.
As the Core and Core-via-FAE based games come out from Evil Hat over the course of the next year-plus I think folks are going to start to “get” this about Core and FAE a lot more. Because we’ll be illuminating other points along that continuum I’m talking about.
Atomic Robo is going to be simultaneously both simpler than Core, achieving some of the same streamlining that FAE does in terms of get-to-playing-right-now processes, and more robust than Core, by providing specific, smart, mechanical ways to represent atomic robots and crazy dinosaurs with machine guns. Like some sort of quantum particle, it’s going to occupy two positions on the continuum at the same time.
War of Ashes, meanwhile, is going to be FAE-based… but will provide support for more tactical combat involving minis if you like, and probably a bit of “gear-porn” configurability as well… _while still being FAE_.
And so on.
There’s a lot to be done with both Core and FAE and if folks are “doing it right”, once they sit down to play a campaign with any real amount of customization, they probably won’t be playing purely one or the other. They’re starting points. Awesome starting points. And both worth keeping close at hand.