Porting Fate Core Skills into the Aether Sea

This is a re-posting of something I wrote in December of 2014, on a blog which has since fallen to ash. I realized that some people were still using it, via a Wayback Machine archive, and realized that it was probably worth putting here. I've updated it a bit, because I am indecisive, and changed my mind about some stuff.

The Aether Sea has been out for a while, and has been getting some fairly good comments and whatnot, and that makes me happy. That said, something I’ve seen multipletimes is folks not happy that it was made with Fate Accelerated Edition, rather than Fate Core. And I get that; Core is crunchier, and that appeals to some folks, while FAE’s approach-based business doesn’t.

Of course, I had my reasons for picking FAE as the backbone for the Aether Sea, but I’m not, like, adamant about it. I mean, it’s Fate, after all. It’s built to be hackable. So let’s hack Aether Sea.

(Strictly speaking, if I wrote the Aether Sea, can I be said to be hacking it? Is there such a thing as house rule in my own house? Eh. Philosophy.)


One big reason I liked approaches was that it made jumping between humanoid characters and ships dead simple, and  I’d like to keep aetherships approach-based. That makes sense to me for a few reasons:

  1. It doesn’t add a whole bevy of “ship skills” to clutter up the place.
  2. Approaches lead to a certain sameyness in terms of what characters can do, if not how they go about it. That makes a lot of sense for inanimate objects… ships all accomplish the same basic tasks, really.
  3. Since ship-creation is collaborative, approaches means there are fewer areas to disagree with one another.
  4. It makes ships feel similar to, but distinct from, skill-using characters. This is a benefit that doesn’t exist in Aether Sea as written, but I think it might be useful.

So, I say keep aetherships approach-based. Instead of adding character and ship approaches together, however, you’ll use ship approaches on their own, so give the ship the standard array of bonuses: One Great (+3), two Good (+2), two Average (+1) and one Mediocre (+0).


For characters, I enjoy having “favored approaches” to make the different types of folk feel a little different. To hold on to that, I’m going to map the Fate Core skills onto the FAE approaches; eighteen skills and six approaches means that there’s a three-to-one ratio. What I mean by “mapping” is that those three skills will get the benefit of that one approach. So, I have Fight mapped to Forceful; this means that, as a troll, Fight is favored (if I roll less than Mediocre (+0) I treat the roll as Mediocre (+0)). This troll also favors the other skills mapped to Forceful, in this case Fight and Provoke.

The mappings are a bit imperfect, admittedly; I have explanations where appropriate, but a lot of this is “best-fit” approximation. As in all things, tweak as and when you feel the need. Clever readers will notice that there’s no Drive on this list; I got rid of it, because there is, essentially, an entirely different subsystem for driving.

  • Careful:
    • Investigate (as in carefully observing)
    • Crafts (carefully making)
    • Will (the odd one here. In part it’s included because I think of it as a fundamentally “dwarfy” skill, and in part because I consider Careful to be roughly equivalent to Wisdom (versus Clever’s Intelligence) and willpower would fall under that general header.)
  • Clever:
    • Empathy (being clever in a social context, reading people)
    • Lore
    • Update: Pilot, rather than Magic, as the last Clever skill. See the update at the bottom for why I got rid of magic. Pilot is still used for getting vehicles places, including non-Aethercraft, planetary vehicles.
    • Magic (A specific sort of Lore. This is used for casting, sure, but it’s also your basic “identify magic and Create Advantages concerning weaknesses of a given spell” sort of skill.) I broke Lore in two, in part because there’s a lot of emphasis on magic in this setting, and in part because I needed an eighteenth skill to even things out.
  • Forceful (This one was a gimme):
    • Physique
    • Provoke
    • Fight
  • Flashy:
    • Rapport (impressing people)
    • Contacts (having impressed people in the past)
    • Resources (the material benefits of being impressive)
  • Quick:
    • Athletics (moving quickly)
    • Notice (reacting quickly)
    • Shoot (…I needed a place to put Shoot. No, using a sort of approaches-by-way-of-D&D-attributes logic, Quick is similar to Dexterity, which controls ranged weapons. Plus, I felt that the orcs needed some sort of violence-dealing skill to favor. And I needed somewhere to put Shoot. So here we are.)
  • Sneaky (This one was as much a gimme as Forceful):
    • Deceive
    • Burglary
    • Stealth

Bam, there’s your mapping. It means each character has three favored skills, which is interesting; it means you can get more use out of “favored” as a game mechanic because you’re more likely to have one or more skill at mediocre.  You can also excel at one skill that your species favors, even making it your apex skill, and still benefit from favoring the other skills. Interesting.

We can also take stress rules from Fate Core now, with the two tracks and the bonuses for Physique and Will in place. While we’re at it, we can import whatever other Fate Core rules we want that don’t exist in FAE.

Miscellaneous Rules

Finally, I like having a character’s personal skills impact their ability to fly their aethercraft, so I’m going to incorporate a little bit of that. When you’re using a ship’s approach which is mapped to a skill that you have Great (+4) or better in, you get a +1 bonus to your roll. So if you’re Great (+4) at Burglary, then you are a little better when trying to be Sneaky in the aether.

Beyond that, actions and outcomes remain the same. When it comes to casting, let’s say that Magic is the go-to skill for now; I worry that this might overload it, but I haven’t seen it in action, so for the time being, its a simple solution. Oppositions and other numbers stay the same; I know Core’s apex skill is +4 to FAE’s +3, but since you won’t be able to use it as often, so that should more-or-less even out.

That should cover everything you need to run Aether Sea by way of Fate Core. Obviously this is experimental and untested, but if you’re of a mind to give it a try, I’d love to know how it goes.

Update: Casting

Using "magic" as a general-purpose casting skill is... workable, but there's a lot to dislike about it. Too tempting to make it an apex skill and rely on it overmuch. 

Instead, each school of magic is its own skill: Animation, Evocation, and Alteration. Nobody favors these skills. If you have the skill at Average (+1) or above, then you dabble. This makes it much easier to dabble! I am okay with that. In retrospect, it's the sort of thing that's worth encouraging. 

Focusing still requires a stunt and a justifying aspect, however in addition to being able to cast quickly, you get a +1 when casting within your focus. Makes focusing a little more powerful. Other than that, everything works about the same. 

This makes things a bit more magical, which is cool! Everyone probably has at least a little casting in them.