Saturday, 9 June 2012

F.U.D.G.E. RPG and Wargames (Rules Review)

No, this is not a debate on the best confectionary and snacks when wargaming.  Rather, the open-source RPG created by Steffan O'Sullivan (Grey Ghost Games.) It is the only RPG I have liked for its own sake (a few I have borrowed source material from; others - like Savage Worlds - I use for miniatures combat due to their simple mechanics.)

The Shiny: It's not very shiny at all. In fact my version is all text.  It's free, so I can't complain.

FUDGE dice are cheaply available - or make your own with permanent marker

The game revolves around "FUDGE Dice" - d6 cubes; with two sides marked with a "+", two sides marked with a "-" and two blank sides.  Each roll involves using 4 FUDGE dice.

Each "+" moves the result up a level; each "-" moves the result down a level.

The FUDGE dice are easy to make - I made mine in 5 minutes with a permanent marker and some clear matte spraypaint - but you can buy + or - dice cheaply from EM4 or Grey Ghost themselves.

Skills & Stats
Player skills and stats can be whatever they decide.  Most stats come in 7 levels (although you could expand them - i.e. levels above superb, like "legendary" are quite common):

Fair  <-----------human average

The good feature about this is that stats can be about whatever you choose - and the same mechanics are used for attributes and skills.  In a typical wargame you might choose "Missile"  "Melee" "Defence"  "Willpower"  "Strength" and "Agility" as base stats, for example - but you can customise your stat-line as you choose.

The beauty of this system is it is word based (i.e. you can describe things, and your description gives the stat i.e. "Legolas is a superb archer" - giving him a missile skill of "Superb"  whilst "Gimli is good at throwing his axes" - giving him a missile skill of "good". It is quite intuitive.

Unopposed Roll:  Tasks are assigned a difficulty level (i.e. "Great" difficulty).  You then roll the 4 FUDGE dice (hereafter called 4DF), add any + results and deduct any - results to your relevant attribute or skill.

I.e. a wall might be "great difficulty" to climb.  A elf with "good" agility would need to increase 1 level to "great" to succeed.  He rolls 4DF, and gets [+] [ - ] [   ]  [+].  The [+] and [ - ] cancel each other out, leaving one [ + ] which increases his agility result from "good" to "great" - he succeeds in climbing the wall.  If he had rolled [ - ]  [ - ]  [   ]  [   ] he would have been -2 levels ("mediocre") resulting in a failure or a fall.  

Opposed Rolls: These are usually used for combat and the like.  Both sides roll 4DF and increase or decrease their relevant stat according to the + and - results thrown.  I.e. a elf and a orc are in melee.  
The elf has "Fair" combat skills - he rolls a [ + ]  [ - ] [ - ] [   ] decreasing him 1 level to "mediocore".
The Orc is also a "Fair" fighter. He rolls [ + ]  [ + ]  [   ]  [   ] increasing 2 levels to "great".

The orc wins comfortably (by a difference of 3 levels).  The difference is called the "relative degree" of victory (or failure) and may have further implications.

For example, the orc might then roll to damage using its strength stat, plus 4DF, then add its relative degree of success (+3).  The elf would roll is toughness stat plus 4DF.

The relative degree of that roll might determine damage i.e. 1-2 difference = scratch, 3-4 = hurt, 5-6 very hurt; 7-8 incapacitated; 9+ dead.

The beauty of this system is it is word based (i.e. you can describe things, and your description gives the stat i.e. "Legolas is a superb archer" - giving him a missile skill of "Superb"  whilst "Gimli is good at throwing his axes" - giving him a missile skill of "good". It is quite intuitive.

The second thing I like is results are predictable due to the "bell curve" of the 4DF. i.e. the chance of rolling +4 or -4 levels is quite low - both have only a 1.2% chance of occurring i.e.
+4 or -4 = 1.2%
+3 or -3 = 4.9%
+2 or -2 = 12.3%
+1or -1  = 19.8%
no change = 23.5%
This means characters tend to behave how they are expected with a "fair" skilled character commonly capable of mediocre to good results but seldom being truly superb or genuinely terrible; most of the time the mini will perform as advertised.

The game also uses "Fudge points" - heroic characters usually have 1 to 5 of these.  "Fudge points" can be used to increase or decrease rolls by 1 level (or wounds by 1 level) per point spent. These recharge after each adventure or mission and are thus a resource to be managed during battle.

There is a simple points build system where skills and attributes can be raised or lowered. Skills above "Fair" cost points whilst stats below "Fair" reimburse build points.

The free FUDGE rules include a basic magic (including psychic powers) and a basic combat system.  There are a zillion homebrew rules and mods for FUDGE - some quite 'complete' and professional. A quick google will reveal a zillion systems for combat and magic. Alternately you can buy sourcebooks from Grey Ghost themselves.

Obi Wan says this is not the fudge you were looking for....

"FUDGE" can be bolted into almost any ruleset by virtue of its description-based nature. It can be used as a simple solution to replace part of a game you are unhappy with. Don't like the magic system in a game? Replace it with a FUDGE based system.

It is also easy to "stat up" random models as the stats are descriptive rather than numbers.  Eyeball the model.  I.e. if a benchmark human warrior is "fair" - would that ogre have "good" or "great" strength in comparison?

The FUDGE dice give a bell-curve of results making results more predictable than usual, which may benefit those cursed by the dice gods (my wife knows what I am talking about - she only likes games where '1's are a good result). The fact the same "engine" is used for all skills and actions makes his game easy to learn - I taught the basics to my wife in 5 minutes waiting for a train...

Recommended?  A solid RPG system in its own right (Origins award nominated), it is highly customisable and very welcoming to home-brew add-ons.  You can also use the basic mechanics in the system to "fix" bits of other games that annoy you without adding lots of complication. And did I mention it is free?


  1. If you like FUDGE, FATE is a great set of rules based on it. Lots of RPGs these days use FATE, but you might be interested in Diaspora and Legends of Anglerre. Diaspora's a hardish-SF RPG, while Anglerre is fantasy, but both have various minigames in them.

    Diaspora has rules for combat at a personal level, and larger actions with platoons or companies fighting across a battlemap, and a starship combat game. It also has social "combat" rules, for influencing societies or simply getting to some VIP at a party and convincing them to support you in something without their hangers-on getting in the way.

    Anglerre has personal combat as well, but also armies fighting it out.

    The rules are all pretty similar, but each game implements them in their own special way to better suit the genre, and modifies them a bit further for their combat subsystems. Well worth a look.

  2. Thanks for the tip. I don't know much about RPGs except when they overlap into miniatures wargames (like Savage Worlds). If my rules budget stretches I'll probably grab one set.

    Do the Diaspora combat rules play relatively quickly?

  3. They're meant to be used as part of an RPG session, and they're not that heavy, so they are fairly quick. Of course, they're also designed so you can stretch them out over six hours, if you spend twenty minutes in idle roleplaying between every move, so your mileage may vary!

    They're actually pretty quick, don't worry.

    The website does have the space combat chapter up as a free download: It does build on the core rules of the game, and FATE isn't quite the same as FUDGE, but you should be able to understand it. I don't remember if FUDGE does aspects, but I don't think it does - if it doesn't, then the little sentences in italics in the ship stats are Aspects that actually do something mechanically.

    Ship combat is more abstract than the personal and platoon-level combat systems, by the way.

    1. I downloaded Diaspora from wargames vault - I'll test run the space and personal combat rules soon. I doubt I'll use it for RPGing though...

  4. It's not for everyone, but I hope you enjoy it, or at least enjoy part of it and steal that part and duct-tape it to a set of rules you like more.

    Even if you're not using it as an RPG, the world generation section is worth a look.

  5. Actually I skimmed through it and that was the part that caught my eye! I am working on a space game (see "Delta Vector" link) and working out a simple campaign system is high on my priority list.