Wednesday, May 02, 2012


I've written and re-written this post a dozen times by now.  For some reason, it's been a real bear to write. But, because I'm so familiar with it by now, I feel it only fair to warn you: This will be a long one. And it's likely to ramble more than I usually do.

A few weeks ago, a number of the gaming blogs I read started talking about games which influenced their gaming and writing.  It was really fascinating to see a lot of the Storygamer crowd talking about D&D and Gamma World and Traveller.

I follow a number of the OSR folks, too and they listed a very similar list of influences.  IT was a fascinating reminder of the shared history of role-playing, and how shallow that history is - we only have thirty or so years of history (as roleplayers). The significant revolutions which have occurred are all relatively fresh in our memories.

And sometimes, it took us a while to figure out what it was we were reading.

Today, I'm going to talk about FUDGE.

I first encountered FUDGE via discussion on the usenet hierarchy. A lot of the regular posters whose opinions were close to mine spoke very highly of this new game, and there was a link to get it for free.
So I downloaded the text file (these were the days before the PDF had become the standard).

The text file I had was one of the earliest drafts of the game.

I wasn't impressed. It didn't make sense. There were no set attributes or skills, meaning that characters from my FUDGE game would be incompatible with characters from anyone else's FUDGE game. The lack of details meant that ... well ... every time you played FUDGE, it would be a completely different experience. And it would be a lot of work for a GM.

In retrospect, FUDGE was too advanced for me to wrap my head around. And yet it's one of the simplest games ever published. In fact, the basic rules I read are still available as a PDF.

I revisited the game a few years later, after I'd read Sorcerer. A few years of "seasoning" made all the difference - I understood the game better, and appreciated how it was constructed.

Over the years, I've found FUDGE has become my go-to universal system because of its pick-up-and-play simplicity. How simple is it?  Try this for character generation:
Choose four attributes. All of them must be be effective or resistance attributes. Three of them at Good, one of them at Great. If you wish to be a magic user, you must choose an appropriate Effect attribute to indicate that.

You may also have two skill pyramids, capped at Great. Each spell should be a different skill.
Now, the group I'd played with knew well enough what I meant when I referred to attribute types (there are, to my mind, three "types" of attributes - active ("How well can I hit?"), effective ("How much does it hurt when I connect?") and resistive ("How well can I reduce the effect of a successful hit against me?").

In the setup I list above, there are no Active attributes - they are replaced with Skills. If I were creating a Cleric-type character, I would probably choose FAITH as my Great attribute. From there, I can choose any number of attributes to fill the other three gaps. Depending on my concept, I'd likely choose mostly resistive attributes - WILLPOWER, TOUGHNESS, and BELIEF.  Faith is Effective, but Belief is Resistive.

I had a player, once, choose NULL as a resistive attribute - it made it harder to use magic against him.

Skill-wise, I'd likely spend most of my slots on Spells.  Skill-wise, I would get two Great, four Good, and eight Fair skills.

As a GM, I tend to give Effect boosts to narrower skills - so a player with HAMMER will do better than a player who chooses MELEE WEAPONS - they'll hit with the same frequency, but the Hammer specialist will do more damage when he hits.

It all makes for an extremely simple easy-to-play and easy-to-run game.

A FUDGE GM can put in hours and hours of work doing world-building. They can build specific lists of attributes or skills for their players to use. Or they can just pick up and go. Just make it work.

A few years ago, a Tenth Anniversary Edition was released. I snapped it up pretty quickly - and it's a purchase I have not regretted in the slightest.  Where FUDGE has always been a toolbox, the new edition adds more tools and has more tips and tricks than ever before, without sacrificing any of its essential simplicity.  FUDGE is only as complicated as you make it, and this particular edition includes a number of options.

While preparing to write this post, I was offered free product by Grey Ghost Games. I already owned everything they offered except for Terra Incognita. Well, within hours of receiving shipping confirmation from them, my copy appeared on the shelf.  So now I have two copies (one of which I'll be giving away in a contest - watch this space for instructions on how you can win).

I'll discuss Terra Incognita - and the Deryni Adventure Game - and several other FUDGE books in a few weeks.  It'll be another long post, and I don't want to bury you in two long posts back-to-back.

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