Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I like Fudge (The RPG)

...well, I also like the desert, particularly that of the peanut butter variety, but that is another story.

I first played Fudge at a convention in my hometown somewhere around 2000-2001. I had heard of it before, but never had I seen or played it. The gentleman running it had prepared a scenario based on the TV show G vs. E (which I never watched), and it was such a good time I tracked the book and some special Fudge Dice (not actually made from Fudge, mind you) at one of the vendor booths.

In the eight or nine years since then, I have tinkered with Fudge from time to time, often filling mini-notebooks with campaign ideas and game mechanics. (Fudge is perhaps the must customizable rpg I have ever encountered.) Unfortunately, I have only run Fudge twice: one shots in 2004 and 2006, give or take. One of them was an 18th century monster hunting oneshot where a blacksmith and some brave villagers stormed the castle of a Frankenstein wannabe to save his daughter from becoming monster parts. The other session was a quirky, Quick-and-the-Dead style western, complete with exploding watchtower and squinty eyed bad guy. Both sessions were an absolute blast.

...so why don't I play this game more?

I suppose one reason is the amount of prep time. Fudge has no preset attributes, no preset skills, and only a bare skeleton of a combat system. The GM is supposed to make up the number of stats and define what they are, as well as decide how skills work, everything from depth (is there a Melee skill, or Heavy Blades vs. Light Blades vs. Polearms, or are we talking Broadsword, Longsword, Dagger, Heavy Crossbow, Light Crossbow all as separates?) to whether or not they are packaged (as pseudo-character classes) or separate, etc, etc. In fact, everything is so customizable that all my attemps to create a coherent campaign out of Fudge stall as I get stuck obsessing over a particular subsystem, such as how magic works or how to work out damage vs. wounds in combat. I believe, to date, I have partially developed Fudge rules for a 70's Action/Blaxploitation game, a weird ass pulp/four color superhero game, several attempts at a fantasy heartbreaker(gods do I hate Edwardsian terminology, but I just can't shake that one), a Victorian era monster hunting game, a modern monster hunting game, and conversions of Steve Jackson's In Nomine and Dream Pod 9's Tribe 8. Oh, and a zombie mecha game. (A friend and I were in a rather whimsical mood) I have finished exactly none of these, and aside from the In Nomine conversion, I have long ago lost or tossed the notebooks containing the rest of the material.

Despite the strange ADD that grips me when I fiddle around with it, this game continues to dwell in the back of my mind. The rules liteness, the sheer mutability of it... and of course, if you take the game's use of adjectives to evaluate stats and skills (My Intellect might be Great and my Sword skill Fair and my Compose Improvised Haiku might be Mediocre, for instance)

A haiku for fudge
the dice are many colors
and the stats are vague

(Sorry, after typing improvised haiku I couldn't help myself)

...anyway, the adjectives are also used to determine the outcome of various tasks. I like this because it syncs up with the creed of "rulings, not rules." If Joe gets a Great job on his climb check, what does that mean? We could say he beats the party to the top, or perhaps he is not as fatigued. You could even rule the results of an entire combat using them. If the party is attacked by orcs, you could use the adjective to determine how they come out of it. (Modified, of course, by the monster... going Good against orcs means you come out with a light wound or perhaps a shattered shield, whereas doing Good against an Ancient Red Dragon might mean that you put up a really impressive fight before being burned to cinders.)

I have far too much on my plate right now to run another game (much to my chagrin), but someday I intend to give Fudge the attention it deserves and run at least a brief mini-campaign with it.

Plus, you know....those Fudge dice are just cool and puzzle the hell out of anyone who comes across one when digging through my humble communal dice pool.


  1. I only ever liked Subjective Fudge and recently tried using a combination of Fudge and PDQ.

    Maybe if you started out with FATE and started from there, assuming you prefer more rules?

  2. I am familiar with FATE (the Fudge-based edition, anyway...last I checked they were working on a non-Fudge based version) and I think I may have the PDF buried somewhere in the dark recesses of my computer. I do like it quite a bit, at least, the basic ideas of "anything is an attribute" and "everyone has different attributes."

    I checked out your hybrid system and it looks like something that might bet me moving faster on Fudge, though I am not familiar with the PDQ system it is partially based on.

  3. PDQ is used for the Chad Underkoffler games Truth & Justice, Zorceror of Zo, Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies, etc.

    The main idea I stole was that "getting hit" means that you reduce your Qualities (skills, attributes) instead of having a separate vitality stat (hit points, stamina). Another idea is to allow the looser to pick the Quality, leading to the phrase "you can punch spiderman into the girlfriend" -- if spiderman looses and decides to reduce his girlfriend Quality instead of his spider silk, spider climb, or whatever Quality. The idea of using the Quality the defender picks first for a story hook is also pretty cool. That's the PDQ part I adapted.

    PDQ itself has lots more like extra costs for magic qualities, learning points, hero points, stunts, etc. Those I ignored.

  4. Is there any way for a character to die, or to lose an attribute permanently? Suppose Spiderman's girlfriend gets killed, like Gwen Stacey, or the knight's magic sword is destroyed or lost in a chasm?

  5. Not really -- I guess it's like loosing levels in D&D or something similarly devastating. You invested points into it at character creation and now you're going to loose it? The rules say: "Defining an ability as a Special Tool rather than a regular Quality means that it can be temporarily taken away from the character (but the PC is able to regain the Tool with a Scene or two of effort)." I guess one could argue that such a situation could also "free up" points so that you might have lost your special sword but look, you get to adopt something new and shiny instead.

  6. I felt much the same way when I started creating my Fudge-based Sword & Sorcery game, called "Blood, Sweat & Steel". As I started putting it together, it started getting crunchier and crunchier. Then I started working some of Fate into the game, and it's really smoothed things out, I think.

    I think it helps to create a generic system that incorporates the things you like to use regularly in Fudge games, and then use things like Skill lists and Aspects to give the game the flavor you want for the particular game you are going to run.