So my last post ended with briefly mentioning the idea that characters could be considered to be using their skills at their base rating at all times. I knew there was some potential there, but that it wasn't a finished idea. The problem is that while for skills like notice it makes perfect sense, for other skills it's weird. How do you passively use craft? I just couldn't make it make sense for every skill.
Then I remembered that skill lists are the first thing you're supposed to rewrite for a FATE build. If the skills and the mechanic aren't meshing well, change the skills.
So here's the mechanic fully fleshed out. Each skill has a Passive Use, which is a constant effect of possessing the skill. Usually this means automatically overcoming obstacles with a difficulty less than your skill rating, but what that means will vary skill to skill. Broadly speaking, most skills fit into the following categories.
Knowledge skills: (Ex: Lore, any skill regarding related topics)
Characters with knowledge skills unsurprisingly know stuff. A character automatically recalls any facts related to the topic at hand with a difficulty to know equal to or less than their skill rating
Awareness skills: (Ex: Notice, Empathy)
Characters with these skills are always passively aware of their surroundings. Inform the character of any detail with a difficulty to notice equal to or less than their skill rating.
Grace skills: (Ex: Athletics, Piloting)
Characters with these skills move with better grace, balance, and awareness than others. They automatically overcome any obstacle to movement less than their skill rating. These skills also usually set the base difficulty to hit these characters in ranged combat.
Concealment skills: (Ex: Stealth, Deceit)
Characters with these skills are always more difficult to suss out, even when not actively attempting to hide. This skill sets the base difficulty of any attempt to notice something about this character.
Conflict Skills: (Ex: Fight, Rapport)
Characters with these skills are more on guard against people using these skills against them. This skill sets the base difficulty of any attack action against this character, even those they're unaware of.
Resistance skills: (Ex: Physique, Will)
These skills passively provide your character with extra boxes on their stress track.
Resource skills: (Ex: Resources, Craft)
A character with these skills never wants for the right tool. They can be assumed to have, make, or buy any tool with a difficulty/cost equal to or less than their skill rating, within reason.
If a skill doesn't have an obvious passive use, look to these categories to see if one fits. If it doesn't, then rework the skill to include one. At the very least, any skill is potentially a knowledge skill.
What we gain from this, first and foremost, is less rolling. In general, if the difficulty is equal to or less than the appropriate skill on defense or overcome actions, your passive skill use will get you through. You only have to break out the dice when the difficulty is greater than that. This should speed gameplay, and make your characters that much more competent.