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Milestones & Advancement Options

This document collects various options to help a GM decide how they want to handle milestones and advancement in their Pathfinder Fate Accelerated campaign.

The default milestone based advancement described in Fate Accelerated works wonderfully and allows characters to not just get better but also to adapt to the unfolding story. Generally speaking, Pathfinder Fate Accelerated assumes that it is being used as described below. However, some GM's may prefer to do away with it entirely, or apply some restrictions to it and some options to help with that are provided.

Assumed Milestones and Advancement

Approaches cannot be raised above Superb (+5), as is normal for Fate Accelerated. Archetypes on the other hand are not capped and can be raised as high as a character is able to progress.

At minor milestones, Pathfinder Fate Accelerated doesn't change anything; just use the rules as written in the Fate Accelerated rulebook.

At significant milestones, again nothing is changed. You may raise an Approach by +1, as normal. You may not raise a Archetype by +1.

At major milestones in addition to the various things you are already allowed to do, in Pathfinder Fate Accelerated you may also raise either an Approach or a Archetype by +1, your choice.

Unlike Approaches you generally cannot switch your Archetypes around after play starts. A GM might allow you to take a +1 off of a Archetype and put it on a different Archetype during a milestone if you can make a strong enough case for it, but this should be an uncommon occurrence...perhaps in conjunction with a change of High Concept.

Option: Mind the Gap

Note: this option is only applicable to Approaches; it does not apply to Capabilites.

Using the standard advancement options described in the Fate Accelerated rulebook is generally a safe proposition, but there is nothing by default preventing a player for putting all of their Approach advancements into one Approach (up to the cap of +5). Some GM's may prefer to prevent characters from becoming imbalanced due to this sort of overconcentration of bonuses onto a single Approach; this option offers a fairly light handed way to do that.

Pathfinder FAE does not force a pyramid style of Approach advancement by default, but to prevent completely unbalanced characters GM's might consider enforcing some restrictions to prevent a player from putting all of their +1's in a single Approach and then attempting to resolve every challenge using that Approach.

For instance, Pathfinder FAE characters start with +2, +1, +1 in Approaches of their choice. Often a player raises the +2 bonus to a +3 at the first significant milestone to reenforce the character's specialty, and that's fine. But if the second significant milestone's raise goes to advance +3 to +4, we end up with a rather awkward character that has Approaches of +4, +1, +1; the third milestone often further tilts the character to +5, +1, +1.

One strategy to address this sort of outcome is a modified skill pyramid scheme referred to as Mind the Gap, which requires that +1 raises to Approaches gained at milestones be allocated to fill in or close any gaps between bonus numbers.

The following Approach distributions are provided as examples:

  • +2, +1, +1
    • there is no gap; the character can advance any Approach by +1
  • +3, +1, +1
    • the gap is between +1 and +3; the character needs a +2
  • +4, +3, +1
    • the gap is between +1 and +3; the character needs a +2
  • +3, +2, +1
    • there is no gap; the character can advance any Approach by +1
  • +3, +2, +2
    • the gap is between +0 and +2; the character needs a +1 in a new Approach
  • +4, +3, +2, +1
    • there is no gap; the character can advance any Approach by +1

This allows for some early ramping up but gradually puts the breaks on as bonuses climb higher up the ladder.

The pattern extrapolates from there. The overall effect is, players can still specialize their characters and get that early extra +1 on their dominant Approach, but it prevents characters from getting competely lopsided.

Option: Plot Driven Advancement

A GM might decide to ignore the milestone based advancement of Fate Accelerated and instead simply allow characters to improve and change as the plot demands. This might even happen mid-adventure.

The extent of improvements or changes is essentially a ruling by the GM or a negotiation between the GM and the player on a case by case basis. Maintaining "balance", keeping things fair, and all other social contract considerations are left to the GM and their play group to sort out, with no schedule or expectation put forth by the game system.

The main pro of this option is that it is completely fluid and encourages full contact non-gamist narrative play. It can be particularly advantageous for high-end reality bending campaigns where the nature of a "character" is not necessarily static. In the context of a D & D flavored game, it supports the style of play where the party "levels up" at specific pre-determined times to "keep them on track" for a long adventure arc.

The main con of this option is that it can be completely arbitrary and has the potential to marginalize player agency if the GM isn't careful. On the other hand if the GM is too permissive or powers up the characters too much it can turn into a "Monty Haul" sort of campaign. Another con is that some, perhaps even many, players enjoy looking forward to an advancement progression and it helps fuel their continuing enjoyment of playing their character; getting rid of a predictable progression can erode their interest in continued play.