Recent Thoughts on Fudge

By Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated April 3, 2000

Overall, I'm pretty happy with Fudge. I've been running it exclusively for three years as I write this, and it works so well I have no desire to go back to any other RPG system.

So I don't really have any mind-boggling changes to suggest. This article contains, then, little ways to do things better and a couple of suggestions for optional rules. Make of them what you will.


(Most recent changes first)

  1. Designer's Notes
  2. Examples of Scale
  3. Five-Point Fudge - a ready-to-use character creation system!
  4. Very Simple Dice - Suitable for Outdoors!
  5. Is Fudge a complete game?
  6. Dice Techniques & Steep Curves
  7. Attributes and Skills
  8. Combat Rounds
  9. Experience
  10. Translations to/from other RPGs
  11. Cinematic Action
  12. Feng Shui Style Gifts

Very Simple Dice - Even Suitable for Outdoors!

The return of an old dice proposal ... I had first considered this in 1992 but rejected it as too simplistic. It's back now because I realize that Fudge can survive simplistic techniques, but mainly because ...

I discovered that Basic Fun, Inc. makes, under license from Hasbro, a keychain with a "Pop-o-matic" d6 in it: a little tiny sealed clear plastic toy that you press on and a little tiny - but readable! - d6 jumps around and basically rolls itself. This was too cute to pass up, so I bought one. I found myself wishing it had Fudge dice, but realized that Fudge is flexible enough to be used with a single d6!

This is easy to do, though it only returns a spread of +3 to -3, which is actually fine for most Fudge purposes. Simply roll a d6, and use the following table, easily memorized:

  1. Roll again: on a 1-2, the result is -3; on a 3-6, -2
  2. -1
  3. 0
  4. 0
  5. +1
  6. Roll again: on a 1-4, the result is +2; on a 5-6, +3

For those who like to see the odds:

     Result    Exact    Cumulative
       +3       5.5%      5.5%
       +2      11.1%     16.7%
       +1      16.7%     33.3%
        0      33.3%     66.7%
       -1      16.7%     83.3%
       -2      11.1%     94.5%
       -3       5.5%    100.0%

This technique returns a higher result for "0", and lower results for "+1" and "-1", but is otherwise very similar to 3dF.

This allows play of Fudge under very difficult conditions, such as outdoors, or when you can only find one d6, or when you have a new "pop-o-matic" toy you want to use. :-)

As a bonus, it's also not a bad system for those who like a greater concentration of "0" results than 4dF gives (23.5%).

Dice Techniques & Steep Curves

People love to come up with dice techniques for Fudge - there's something about the game which makes you want to experiment with how to get the exact results you want. I know I did - a lot. In fact, I'll wager Fudge has had more proposed action resolution techniques than any other RPG - Andy Skinner, Reimer Behrends and I came up with over a hundred different dice techniques between the three of us!

I finally settled on 4dF (Fudge Dice), but that doesn't mean you have to. Some people are unhappy with the spread - they say it's too easy to get a non-zero result, meaning your performance isn't very reliable. They want a higher zero result, so you feel more consistent in your skills.

This may be fine, but I'd like to point out the downside to this approach. I played Fudge extensively this way for over a year. To be honest, it made the game clunkier. Let me explain:

If you have a zero result more than 25% of the time, this is excellent for Unopposed actions, I admit. It means that if you're Good at something, you'll usually get Good results - makes sense. But if you are talking about Opposed actions, that's a different story. What it means is that the difference between a Good and Great fighter, for example, become much greater. That is, the Great fighter will beat the Good fighter a higher percentage of the time if you have a steeper curve. This means it becomes much more valuable to the player to raise his fighting and other Opposed skills, making the game more and more a munchkin experience.

After a year of this, I decided it wasn't working - fights were boring because the better fighter won so much more often that it wasn't interesting, and trait escalation became common. People were focusing on maximizing their characters instead of roleplaying. Fudge was becoming a munchkin game. Thus, 4dF was born.

I love Fudge Dice - thanks, Ann, for having them manufactured for me! I think nothing works better in a game of Fudge, and I've probably tried more dice techniques than you have. But there are some caveats when using Fudge Dice:

  1. Don't require the players to roll for routine or trivial actions. They'll get skewed results. If you require a Good cook to roll for breakfast, you could easily get a Mediocre meal or a Superb meal. This is too much fluctuation for your daily professional or routine tasks - you wouldn't be called a Good cook if you didn't turn out Good food regularly. So for tasks like that, I simply look at their skill levels, and tell the players, "Yes, you can do that - no need to roll," if it's something they can do without any problem.
  2. If they complain about the spread of results they're getting in combat, tell them the stress is making them behave more erratically than they do in the practice ring. If they claim they have some "Coolness under Fire" attribute that would alleviate that, then have them move all their rolls one closer to zero - that is, a -4 becomes -3 and a +4 becomes +3, etc. If they complain you're taking away their best shots, tell them they can't have their cake and eat it, too - if they want their bad shots smoothed to the center of the curve, then the same thing has to happen to their good shots.
That's it. If you try this and still find the spread of results too extreme, then check out some of the alternate dice techniques others have come up with - Mike Harvey's page (URL on my Fudge Page) should have some listed. Above all, remember to be loose and enjoy the game!

Attributes and Skills

One of the most frequently asked questions about Fudge is, "How do I add attributes and skills together as in game X?"

Many players do, but my own personal answer (which really means nothing in Fudge, remember - your answer is much more important) is don't do it. I don't think the system really handles such a concept well, beyond what advice is already given in the book. As Mike Harvey points out, Fudge attributes and skills already span the whole range, so adding them doesn't make sense. You could average them, but then you get into min-maxing in a boring way.

I have seen more abuse in other games over attribute levels than any other single character creation aspect. Fudge deliberately disassociates attributes and skills for this very reason: no matter how you link them, it's too easy a concept to abuse. Sure, you can abuse the game anyway, but why make it so it so easy that even non-munchkins feel like doing it? I've seen it in other games ...

And if you want attributes and skills to have some logical connection, have the players make logical connections - it's not hard.

So my advice is:

Learn to think of a skill level as just that: your level in the listed skill.

You shouldn't have to add anything to it - if you're Great at Climbing, list it that way. If you're only Mediocre at Climbing with a Great Agility, you should either find a reason for this (slipped badly once, nearly fatal - hasn't the confidence to climb well anymore; OR just starting out - still new at it, etc.), or adjust one trait or the other if you simply can't stand it.

What do I use attributes for, then? For three things:

  1. Some opposed actions involve attributes, as in attribute vs. attribute, or skill vs. attribute. Examples include Strength vs. Strength for tug of war, or Strength vs. Fitness for choking, or Agility vs. Agility for knocking someone off a cliff, or Willpower vs. some psi skill to resist it, or Con-artist skill vs. Reasoning to fool someone, or Move Quietly vs. Perception (modified by how alert the latter is), etc.
  2. As a very broad skill group to give the GM an idea of where to set a default. An average default for a skill is Poor, but if your relevent attribute is much higher than average, I might give it a Mediocre, or if it's much lower than average, a Terrible.
  3. As a handle on who the character is: "Superb Strength, Great Agility, Great Fitness, Poor Reasoning, Mediocre Willpower - yes, I can play this." Some have made fun of me for this, but I feel this is really a valid use of attributes, and is one reason I don't like a lot of attributes in a game - I lose sense of this aspect of a character. Personal taste.

Combat Rounds

I've finally decided on a standard combat round length for my games: pi seconds. Why else would you call it a combat round?


After a convention game one time, Ann Dupuis and I were discussing how well the game went, especially with the one newcomer to gaming at the table. The woman was not only at her first convention, but was playing her first RPGs that weekend. Fudge was the last game in her schedule that con, and she was blown away by how easy it was compared to the other games. She said she understood the character sheet without having to have anything explained to her - and that the single mechanic to resolve all actions was the best she'd seen in the five different games she'd tried.

So we were congratulating ourselves, when I mentioned to Ann (President and Dictator for Life of Grey Ghost Games) that Fudge did have its drawbacks - experience being the most glaring. Yes, it's great for one-shot con games, but it seems to allow characters to develop too quickly or not at all in long-term games.

Ann came up with an idea which we batted around a bit, and it looks something like this:

Instead of awarding Experience Points, the GM awards Fudge Points at the end of a gaming session. These can be turned in for Experience Points, but the ratio in Section 1.36 (suggested 3 EP = 1 Fudge Point) is reversed. That is, you may turn in three Fudge Points for one EP.

Raising traits is unchanged from Chapter 5.

What this does is force the player to consider whether he needs to save his Fudge Points to get out of a jam the next session, or convert them to EP to raise a trait. He can save Fudge Points from session to session, so he can eventually swap 12 Fudge Points for 4 EP to raise a trait or two - but he may have to use some of those Fudge Points along the way to survive!

The net effect is that character development is left totally in the hands of the player, but is slowed down from the rate suggested in the book. This means a long-term campaign becomes more viable in Fudge.

Translations to/from Other RPGs

Mike Harvey suggested the table in Section 6.11 on converting characters to/from Fudge isn't accurate. He points out that my conversions of

   Mediocre:   6-8
   Poor:       4-5
   Terrible:   3 or less

are especially off - because no RPG really uses those numbers! And he's right. I doubt you'll find one GURPS character in a hundred with skills below 9.

Therefore, a more accurate chart for Section 6.11 might look like:

   Superb:     19+
   Great:      16-18
   Good:       14-15
   Fair:       12-13
   Mediocre:   9-11
   Poor:       6-8
   Terrible:   5 or less

Cinematic Actions

This section was inspired by reading the miniatures game rules All For One, and was first tried in late 1995.

For certain genres - Swashbuckling, superheroes, larger-than-life fantasy - the GM gives the following Gift to PCs free of charge:

"Star" (as in cinematic Star)

Certain key NPCs are also Stars, but not the masses of NPC cannon fodder.

When a Star faces another Star in combat, use the normal Fudge combat rules you favor.

However, when a Star faces bit players (NPC masses), the Star gets special abilities:

  1. On the Star's turn, he may fight bit players one at a time, as many as he wishes. The first one faced is at his combat ability; the second one is at -1, the third one at -2, and so on. Any hit at all, even a Scratch, is assumed to Incapacitate a bit player for game purposes. The Star may choose how many to fight in a given turn, and so long as there are no Stars opposing him, he is assumed to be holding off the rest of the bit players should there be a mob of them. He may step in any direction - or even run, if applicable - after each successful combat, and may thus work his way toward a goal. He may also try other actions in his turn, but the GM may rule he has to fight through a number of bit players to be able to try these. If so, each bit player fought reduces any other skill he wishes to use by one.
    • Example: Pierre is facing a mass of English soldiers between himself and the open window. He tells the GM he wants to get to the window and try to rip the large curtain off it and jump through the window, hoping the curtain will act as a parachute enough to enable him to land without breaking any bones.
    • The GM says he'll have to fight at least two bit players to do this. Pierre, with Superb Fencing and Great acrobatics, will try it. He easily dispatches the two bit players, but his Acrobatics is now reduced two steps to Fair for having fought two bit players. He rips the curtain and jumps, making an Acrobatics roll of .... Fair. The GM rules this is enough to keep him from breaking any bones, but he lands heavily, is on the ground with the curtain covering him, and can't see what's going on right now . . . [End of example]
    • If the campaign is very cinematic, the GM may allow the Star to fight two (or even more!) bit players before having his ability reduced. He may even fight two at a time, if desired, treating them as a single foe. That is, one hit Incapacitates both opponents . . .
  2. On their action, bit players attack a Star as the GM sees fit. Generally, one bit player counts as a single opponent of Poor combat ability, and each additional one increases that rating by one. Thus four attacking bit players count as one opponent of Good ability, and six count as one opponent of Superb ability. There may be only room for four or even less to attack in a given turn, however.
Dan Frohlich has suggested that (2), above, be treated differently: each additional bit player adds +1 Scale instead of +1 skill level. This is an interesting idea which deserves consideration!

Feng Shui Gifts in Fudge

While I prefer Fudge to Feng Shui over all, the latter does have some very good ideas that are worth stea... I mean importing into Fudge.

In Feng Shui, Gifts are used to modify skills in many cases. So you can have various ranged weapon skills, for example, then take one (or more) of the following Gifts that lets you, among others,

  1. use two weapons with deadly effect vs the same target; or
  2. mow down cannon fodder NPCs effortlessly; or
  3. have extreme accuracy for single shots; or
  4. fast draw; or
  5. lightning reload; or
  6. do extra damage with a signature weapon.
Note that the effects of some of these Gifts are achievable only if you take the Gift (#2 & #6 spring to mind), while others might be done by ordinary folk, but not as often or as well (#3 or #1, for example).

These special Gifts are divided into six areas, and the templates tell you which character types can take how many Gifts of which type. You'll have to buy Feng Shui for more detail, but the basic idea is easily ported into Fudge.

The GM can write up some lists of these special Gifts and allow characters to choose from a list relevant to their character type. So a basic fighter or ranger might be able to choose one (or more, depending on the campaign) of the Gifts above, for example, while a wizard would have a different list of Gifts to choose from, and so on. Some characters might even be able to choose from different lists: one Ranged Weapon Special Gift, one Martial Arts Special Gift, and one Magic Special Gift, for example.

In short, I like how the Gifts in Feng Shui are spelled out and divied up, and used to do neat game effects. It makes you feel special if you can take gun Gifts and the other players can't. Of course, they're getting sorcery Gifts or martial arts Gifts or whatever, but that's cool, too.

So if this idea appeals to you, buy Feng Shui, port those Gifts into Fudge, and write your own. Perfect for cinematic games.

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