Is Fudge Complete?

These comments copyright 1998 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated August 3, 1998

The following is an edited and enlarged version of a post I made to about whether or not Fudge is a complete RPG. Please understand that there were a lot of posts denying this before I posted this, hence the tone ...

(And also please note the email address in the quote is obsolete.)

Subject: Re: Fudge "finished"? (was Re: Bloated FRPG Market?)
From: sos@XXXXX.XXXX.XXX (Steffan O'Sullivan)
Date: 1998/08/01
Message-ID: <6pvs07$cq2$>

I'll try one more time to explain this ...

When is a game complete?

If it says it can be set in the future, but...

  • has no list of types of futuristic weapons is it complete?
  • has no list of types of futuristic telephones?
  • has no list of types of futuristic dental lab equipment?
  • has no list of types of futuristic board games?
Or how about rules? What if a game has no rules for urination on demand? Is it complete? You may laugh - but this came up in a game I ran (footnote #1) - in fact, all of the things in the previous list have come up in games I've run over the years!

At some point, every RPG will fail the completeness test. Situations will arise in every genre, run by any rules, which are not covered in the rules. Therefore, these games are incomplete.

My premise when writing Fudge was that this is a necessary evil - no game can cover every possible event that can come up in an RPG because RPGs try to simulate not only all of known reality, but large hunks of unknown and possibly non-realities.

Therefore, Fudge was specifically written as if there were no possible way to cover everything that could come up. Instead, it was written so that you would never have to refer to the rule book during play - an action I find irritating, as it breaks the mood. If you can do this with Fudge - run a game and never have to refer to the rulebook - it is complete in its design goal.

"All right," you might say, "so every game is incomplete because they don't have rules for urination on demand, or a list of deadly things you might be able to find in a 22nd-century dental lab (footnote #2). But Fudge is less complete than other games!"

Insignificantly so, I reply. Since an RPG potentially is simulating not only the known universe, but an infinity of unknown universes, the denominator is too large to show any significant difference in completeness between Fudge and the most detailed game ever written.

In addition - and this is important - once you put in rules for specific events, you have to look things up. You then start to look up other things, since you probably don't remember which specific events have rules for them, and which don't. Every time you look in a rulebook during a game, you break the mood, whether you find what you're looking for or not.

So what you need is a good, easy to remember meta-rule for handling whatever comes up. Fudge has that - though I don't pretend it's alone in having that! Any decent RPG has that.

Other people have questioned whether or not Fudge is a finished game because, "it has no list of attributes and skills." Since this is a patently inane statement (Fudge has an adequate skill list and lists more attributes than any other RPG!), I pressed them for what they meant. They finally admitted that they meant it has no set attribute list - that the GM must choose which attributes to use.

To this argument I can only point out that if it had a set attribute list, it wouldn't be Fudge. In other words, I reject their definition that an RPG must have a specified list of attributes or it's not an RPG. Whatever it is that is the essence of an RPG, I guarantee it doesn't include a fixed attribute list. It includes character creation, playing the role, action resolution, and possibly character development - all of which Fudge covers quite well, thank you.

However, I will agree that you must make a shift in your perspective to understand Fudge - something these people are apparently unable to do. It's true that the GM's freedom in Fudge also requires that the GM make some choices. These don't have to be lengthy choices, nor do they require much work - but Fudge does require the GM to think a little, and choose a little. Apparently these people find that an unpleasant task. They are more to be pitied than blamed.

I maintain that Fudge is an RPG - and a complete, finished one. The work required of the GM is slightly different than that required by other games, but is no more burdensome. I've run other games for years - I tell you that I actually spend less time preparing for a Fudge game than I did for most other games - decide the genre, set the attributes, start making characters, and off you go. In fact, a typical game of Fudge requires much less work than reading a "module" (prewritten adventure). Much less!

Or, another way to think of it (having recently bought a bookcase labeled "complete in this box") you can think of Fudge as being complete, but with some assembly required ...

Footnote #1 - Warning: if a frank discussion of bodily waste fluids is distateful to you, skip this footnote: In the game, the PCs were capuchin monkeys in a human research laboratory. One of the players, when her character was caught and held by a human, asked me, "Can I piss in his face? Monkeys do that to their enemies, you know." I replied that if she concentrated this round, and made a Fair or better Fitness roll the next round, she could piss in his face. She made a Superb roll, as a matter of fact, and I ruled he was not only caught in the eyes, but was actually inhaling on a laugh as she let fly, and so was choking on the fluid ...

Fudge handled that well, I thought - and I agree that you could use the same rule in any game that had something corresponding to Fitness: Health, or Constitution, or whatever. But the point is that I don't know of any game that has that specific rule written in, so all RPGs are incomplete by the definition some people have been using.

Footnote #2: The game in which the dental lab equipment was important was notable because the dental lab equipment was more important than any SF weapons! The PCs were on the run, hunted, without weapons, when they found the dental lab and asked what was there that could be used as a weapon. I could have used a detailed list ...

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