Fate System Toolkit
Sometimes the skill list as presented just won’t work for you. Maybe you want another list entirely, or maybe you’re looking for a different approach. The good news is that even if you do something drastically different, the guidelines of the existing skills can still be helpful to you, because the underlying action can still work the same way as the original skill. Whether the skill is called Fight, Kung Fu, or Existential Badass, the basic mechanics of punching someone are going to remain more or less the same.
New Skill Lists
If you’re looking to make another skill list in the same style as the existing one—simply with new skills—then the guidelines are going to depend a lot on why you’re making the change, and no one’s going to know that better than you. The guidelines for adding and removing skills are your best reference for this.
While skills normally reflect what you do, professions reflect who the character is, and infer capabilities from that. If, for example, the professions are Fighter, Scholar, Woodsman, Thief, Craftsman and Diplomat, then you might roll Fighter in situations where you might roll Fight or Shoot, Thief where you might normally roll Stealth or Burglary, and so on. Profession lists tend to be shorter and more open ended than skill lists, which may mean a very reduced pyramid. It’s possible to use a fixed list of professions, or use them in in a freeform manner, which we’ll get into below.
If the normal skill list is what you do and professions reflect who you are, approaches reflect how you do things. That is, instead of more typical skills, a character may have a rating in Forceful, Graceful, Clever, and Resolute, and which he rolls depends upon the situation. In a swordfight, are you hammering at your opponent’s guard (Forceful!), swinging down from a chandelier (Graceful!), feinting and maneuvering as you seek an opening (Clever!) or biding your time until your opponent makes a mistake (Resolute!)?
Fans of Fate Accelerated Edition will recognize this method as the one FAE uses, with the approaches Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick, and Sneaky.
So, what if there were no skill list at all, and players were able to simply name their skills? It might seem a little bit chaotic at first, but most likely you’d see a lot of familiar patterns, with new and interesting names. Such an approach is absolutely playable, with only one real caveat—everyone needs to be on the same page regarding what skills mean. Otherwise it’s possible that one player may end up with a super-skill that’s useful in every situation, leaving the rest of the group out in the cold.
The easiest way to avoid this is make sure everyone understands the difference between a skill, a profession, and an approach. Most problems will emerge if you have one player choosing skills while another is choosing a profession or approach, because professions and approaches are much more broadly applicable than individual skills. Approaches and professions might be a little more interchangeable, but it is still something to tread carefully with.
In addition to opening up opportunities for player creativity, this approach allows for a particular trick—using aspects as skills.
Skills and Aspects
If you’re using freeform skills, one of your skills could share a name with one of your aspects. If you’re a Knight of the Chalice and also have Knight of the Chalice: Good (+3), there’s a certain sense of completeness to that. It’s far from mandatory, but sometimes it just feels like the right choice. It’s also possible to use aspects to forgo skills entirely, but that’s a bit more fiddly, and we’ll get to that further along.