I’m working on a new Fate implementation as a personal project, deriving mainly from Fate Core, and I’d like to use skill modes for its skill system — I feel modes would be extremely suitable for this implementation and produce very desirable and enjoyable results. I’m having significant trouble though: I can’t work out what the default modes should be, or how they should look.
I’ve read the Fate System Toolkit’s guidance on skill modes multiple times, and I understand they represent broad areas of competency. I’ve played Atomic Robo, which uses modes, and have very much gotten the hang of character creation and creating new modes within that setting to positive effect.
However, guidance on creating modes from scratch for a totally new game design is very thin on the ground, and Google turns up nothing extra. There must be a body of thought out there on designing these things, but I can find no signs of anyone having written about it. The more I work with them, the more I recognise I don’t understand. Among the questions buzzing through my head that I'm keenly aware I don't know the answer to:
How do I identify the key areas of competency to represent? (Atomic Robo's authors understood it needed action, banter, intrigue and science.) What is the impact of a larger or smaller number of modes? How do I determine how many skills should be in these modes, and what is the impact of modes generally having a large number of skills (5-8) vs a small number (3-4)? How do I determine if I should want a skill to be in many modes or few modes? (I understand that many modes makes it likely each character’s an expert at it, few modes makes that unlikely.) What approaches for mode creation work well, and how should I be attempting to draft these up and piece them together?
I understand there’s no right answers here. I understand I’ll work out what works best in playtesting, and that playtesters may come up with even better modes than I design. But I’m still at the stage of producing something to playtest, and my playtesters may flail as badly as I am in coming up with anything unless they also have some guidance.
How do I work out how to design my game’s modes? Or, where in the world can I find guidance about this?