Advice for Newcomers to Fudge

These comments copyright 2000 by Mike Harvey
This page last updated April 5, 2000

[Note from Steffan O'Sullivan: the following was posted by Mike
Harvey to the newsgroup I thought it was an
excellent summary of advice for newcomers to Fudge, so I asked Mike
if I could post it, and he generously agreed.]

From: Mike Harvey
Subject: Re: Fudge opinions?
Date: Mon, 03 Apr 2000 19:44:50 -0700

tnbagwell wrote:
> Any opinions on Fudge? Things to watch out for? Avoid? Include?

Well, I've played quite a bit, and run into occasional problems. I don't feel that Fudge has "bugs" -- the problems I've encountered were all my fault. They are of four types:

  1. I didn't do my homework on creating an adventure. In some systems, the rules can be a game in themselves. You can run a whole session of D&D just rolling random encounters and fighting. Fudge does not give you this level of support; you have to make it all up yourself. That means if you don't prepare, you'll be caught with your pants down and won't know what to do. Some people are good at improvisation; if you are not, then make sure you have a plan.

  2. I added rules of my own that didn't work. Fudge is VERY malleable, and the temptation to tweak rules or add new ones is very seductive. I encourage you to resist firmly, at least until you are more experienced, and discuss proposed changes on the mailing list before trying them out on your group. Start with the plain vanilla rules -- they really do work for almost any genre, and they work well -- and add things carefully. Talk to your players, and if a new house rule doesn't work, drop it. You can experiment during the game session.

  3. I allowed things to become unbalanced. This mostly happened because:

    • I gave away magic items with skill bonuses. Beware skill bonuses! Even an apparently minor Sword +1 can push a warrior from Great to Superb, making him a LOT tougher. A +1 or +2 bonus to weapon damage is okay, but be careful about bonuses to armor. Try to find more creative magical effects.

    • I allowed player skills to rise too high, too quickly, mostly by giving out too much experience and then not paying attention to how it was used. Be stingy at first, until you get a feel for things.

  4. I made a poor judgement call. Fudge is very loose and puts a lot of responsibility on the GM; where other games have hundreds of precise rules to cover every possible situation, Fudge has only a few general rules and leaves everything else up to GM discretion. When you make a mistake (and you will), don't feel bound by it just because you set a precedent. Instead, explain to the players that you made a mistake, and do better next time. Also, if you don't know how to resolve something, talk to the players and see what they think. Do try to be fair however; I try not to take anything away from a player once I've given it. In the rare instances when I do, I apologize, explain why, and do something else to make up for it. Players tend to be understanding and often make a comment like, "no problem, I was surprised you gave it to me in the first place".
Some suggestions for running Fudge successfully:
  • Start small with the plain vanilla rules, and only fix what you don't like.

  • Ask players how they like the game. Ask them what works and what doesn't. Work with them to make it better and more fun for everyone.

  • Be creative in combat. Fudge combat is fairly simple, but leaves lots of room for improvisation. Make use of offensive and defensive combat stances. Grant players a bonus or penalty to skill for creative actions, and allow them to use "noncombat" skills creatively. Try giving them a few "Fudge points" at the beginning of the game and see how it works out.

  • Be willing to experiment. That's what Fudge is all about. If something isn't working, try changing it, even in the middle of the game. If you have a favorite mechanic from another game system, try importing that (dice and all) into Fudge.

  • Don't pile on a bunch of modifiers to each action. Remember that in Fudge, even a +1 to a skill is a significant bonus, and may represent as many has half a dozen minor factors, none of which would rate a bonus by itself.

  • Don't be anal about character creation. Fudge was originally designed to be subjective, and while many of us prefer to use the optional objective system, there is value in being loose. I'll often let players take an extra skill or two if it makes sense, even in the middle of the game; if it makes things more fun and is logical, who cares about a few points. I'll also let players juggle their skills a little after the game starts, if it seems reasonable and not unbalancing. This is especially important in trying a new game out, because nobody really knows what is "good" or otherwise. Plan to spend the first session or two fine-tuning as you become more comfortable. (This applies not only to characters, but to NPCs, combat, and everything else. Again, experimentation and tweaking are what Fudge does best.)

  • Do join the Fudge mailing list.

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