06 October 2021

Survival of the Able Kickstarter Live

Jacob Wood's Kickstarter project for Survival of the Able is now live through 1 November 2021. Details are available here.

21 September 2021

Survival of the Able Kickstarter Imminent

Jacob Wood's Fudge-related role-playing game, Survival of the Able, will be returning to Kickstarter soon. It is, in his words, "a game about people with disabilities working together to overcome a zombie plague." To learn more, read this update.

17 August 2021

Looking for Clues

An investigative role-playing game requires commitment from both the players and the GM to be a success. It is reasonable to expect more from a player than "I use my Spot Hidden skill" or even "I search the room." Players have skills just as their characters do, and role-playing is a far richer experience when they use those skills. Investigation should be described by the player in sufficient detail that anyone can imagine what the character is doing and the GM can ascertain whether any clues, if extant, would be discovered. It is also reasonable to expect more from a GM than "Roll your Spot Hidden skill." If a player has done what is necessary to be reasonably assured that a clue, if extant, would be discovered, then no roll should be required. If the clue is there and the effort is made to find it, it should be considered found. It's shocking in its simplicity.

The designers of Trail of Cthulhu may consider the rules they crafted a solution to the alleged problem inherent in Call of Cthulhu, i.e. "one bad die roll can derail an adventure," but that rests on the presumption that the existence of an investigative skill roll requires making an investigative skill roll. I would argue that these rolls, like other detection rolls in other role-playing games (q.v.), serve mainly as a second chance to make a discovery when a player mistakenly neglects to properly investigate an area through which he or she passes. As long as the GM and the players are doing their share of the role-playing and providing the necessary descriptions, then nothing can derail an adventure except the actions of the player characters.

As for the "solution" proposed in Trail of Cthulhu, I think never having to roll an investigative skill is just as misguided as always having to roll an investigative skill. In cases where player skill comes into play, such as describing how one searches a room, results should depend on neither dice rolls nor automatic success, but on the logical consequences of the actions described. If the player, having described the extent of the search, fails to describe an action that would lead to the discovery of a particular clue, but the character possesses a skill that would have a bearing on the search (such as Spot Hidden or another skill that applies), then the GM may make the roll secretly. If the pertinent skill is high enough or the clue obvious enough, then the GM may rule that the clue is found without making a skill roll. It all depends on the circumstances. Recognizing which rules to use, alter, or ignore in a given situation is really the basis of GMing itself.

If, on the other hand, a character possesses a specialized skill that the player does not have, then it is acceptable to assume that under ordinary circumstances the skill will be automatically successful, or that under extraordinary circumstances a skill roll will be required. In neither case will a detailed description of the action on the part of the player be necessary. In other words, one needn't be a doctor in real life to play one on T.V. (or in a role-playing game).

Character skills should extend the capabilities of the player, not limit them. Similarly, skill rolls should be made to extend the plot, not kill it. Even if a crucial roll results in failure, it should merely delay or misdirect the investigators [Edit: or allow them to succeed, but at a great cost]; it should not prevent them from reaching their ultimate goal. Only their ability as players should have a bearing on that.

[Originally posted in Fudgery.net/fudgerylog on 1 March 2012.]

15 August 2021

Detect Player Skill

The debate of player skill versus character skill, which extends to the dichotomy of class-based role-playing games versus skill-based role-playing games, is one that has its origin in a single game that encompassed both views: Dungeons & Dragons. Even within the covers of a single book, the original Advanced D&D Players Handbook, we find advice advocating player skill ("Observation and clever deduction, as well as proper caution, should negate a significant portion of traps.") alongside the suggestion that having "a dwarf for trap detection" goes "a long way toward reducing the hazard." Clearly, if player skill were sufficient, the inherent abilities of dwarves to "Detect traps involving pits, falling blocks and other stonework" would be irrelevant, and the same is true for the thief's function of "Finding/Removing Traps." Another example would be the rules for detecting secret doors. Is one supposed to describe the act of searching for a secret door, or is one supposed to roll 1d6 and abide by the result?

This apparent contradiction has led some gamers to assume that the existence of character skills that echo player skills means that a roll of the dice (or expenditure of a meta-game resource) should resolve all situations that arise, and that disallowing them or minimizing them somehow "punishes" less-skilled players. (This is an argument that I believe is popular amongst players of "story games.")

Outside the philosophical considerations of role-playing versus story-gaming, some gamers are simply content to roll-play rather than role-play out of sheer laziness or lack of interest. The "Spot Hidden" skill of Basic Role-Playing infamy is often subject to this mishandling. When the GM's question, "What do you do?" is answered with, "Roll my Spot Hidden skill," the game loses an entire dimension. (There is a flip side to the abuse of this skill, which I will discuss in another article.)

I consider it far more enjoyable to prevail by using my own abilities as a player than by using the arbitrary abilities of my character. Both as a GM and as a player, I derive much more pleasure from providing or listening to descriptions of a character's actions than from endless calls for dice rolls. That being said, I enjoy skill-based role-playing games like Fudge just as much, if not more, than class-based role-playing games. How, you may reasonably wonder, can that be?

Since a role-playing game is, above all else, a game (albeit an unconventional one), I think it is important to reward those who demonstrate actual skill at playing it. Ingenuity, preparedness, coolness under fire, and the ability to think quickly are all qualities that ought to translate into success for the player demonstrating them. The player's description of the character's actions ought to be the primary consideration of what transpires in the game. Detection rolls, as I see it, represent a second chance that the character, who may be an expert at such things, confers to the player. If, for example, the player fails to mention that his thief examines or prods (with a 10' pole, of course) the mosaic on the floor in front of him, the GM may secretly make the character's Find Traps roll. If successful, the GM mentions that the thief notices something suspicious about the mosaic in a trappy sort of way (if it's a trap) or says nothing (if it isn't). If unsuccessful, the GM says nothing regardless of whether it's a trap and waits to see of the thief walks across it. If the player had mentioned taking measures to inspect the mosaic cautiously, then no roll would have been necessary and the GM would have confirmed or refuted the player's suspicions. This basic idea can easily be applied to other situations: secret doors, hidden items, clues, etc. Effort and caution yield results; pertinent character skills yield a second chance.

This is not to say that a player's problem-solving skills are the only important aspects of role-playing. Tactical combat skills and actual role-playing skills (i.e. portraying one's character faithfully) are all sides of the triangle that represent good playing to me.

Remember that role-playing is like improvisational acting plus strategy. Playing a doctor doesn't mean a player must know how to diagnose or treat a patient in the real world. Playing a knight doesn't mean a player must know how to ride a horse. Playing a thief doesn't mean a player must know how to successfully pick someone's pocket. It does mean that a player should know when to render medical assistance to someone, which enemy to charge first, and whether it would be a good idea to pick this particular merchant's pockets in this particular time and place. Your character has skills in a game world. You, as a player, have skills in the real world to make decisions for your character in the game world. When your skills guide your character's skills toward success (however that may be defined for that character), then you are playing the game well.

[Originally posted in Fudgery.net/fudgerylog on 28 February 2012.]

24 July 2021

PSA: Compromised Dead Link

In brief, my former Fudge site, Fudgery.net, was discontinued in 2014, but it is currently being used by scammers. Do not go to this site. If you go to the site accidentally, do not click on anything. When I saw it linked on someone's old fan site, I clicked on it out of curiosity and was taken to a page with a phony security warning that urged me to click on a button to scan for viruses. I did no such thing, of course, but I am concerned others might.

If you have a site or blog that links to Fudgery.net, please remove these links immediately. Nearly all of the content formerly located in Fudgery.net and Fudgerylog is now here in Creative Reckoning.

Take care and share the game with others.

19 June 2021

I Am Not a Number! I Am a Free-Form Adjective!

I think the key to better Fudge is to divorce the trait ladder from numerical values.* Think in terms of the adjectives and what they mean to your character and the adventure. If you were to consider it from the character's point of view, would you really assess your attempt at a task to be +1 or -2 or any other number? If Fudge is intended to be a game that maximizes role-playing and minimizes out-of-character terminology, why should it be cluttered with the distraction of unnecessary numbers?

Personally, if I have a choice to have or not have a headache, I prefer to choose the latter. Fudge without numbers equals pain-free role-playing for me.

* By "better," I mean more intuitive, freer flowing. Your interpretation may differ.

09 May 2021

Elementary Fudge: Character Creation

My journey with Fudge has ultimately been about simplification, and I think this "build" may represent its final destination. Perhaps. Time and playtesting will tell. This is the character creation process I would like to implement in future Fudge sessions. It it proves playable, I intend to expand it with rules pertaining to character development.

The reader will note that this version (tentatively entitled Elementary Fudge) does away with point distribution, trait lists, and divisions between attributes and skills. Instead of attributes and skills, characters have descriptors, which are similar to professions or classes in other role-playing games. They are broad traits limited only by the player's imagination and the GM's approval. Since there are no attributes to serve as the basis for resistance or avoidance rolls, an appropriate descriptor may be substituted. If no descriptor is appropriate, the standard default trait level is Mediocre.

It will be apparent to some that Elementary Fudge is inspired by Risus: The Anything RPG, which, in turn, was partially inspired by Fudge. Behold the Ouroboros.

This is a first draft, of course.

The Character Creation Procedure

Step One: Descriptors

List four descriptors at the following trait levels: one at Great, one at Good, one at Fair, and one at Poor. Any descriptor not listed is assumed to be Mediocre. (A descriptor is a trait in the form of an occupation, whether it is a vocation, an avocation, or simply a notable aspect of one's persona. It is always a noun, but it may include one or more adjectives.)

Alternatively, list six descriptors as follows: one at Superb, one at Great, one at Good, one at Fair, one at Poor, and one at Terrible.

The third option is simply to list three descriptors at Fair.

It should be noted that any descriptor assigned a trait level of Poor or Terrible ought to have as significant an impact on a character as a Great or Superb descriptor. If such a descriptor is comparatively trivial, then the GM may assume it is intended as a hook or complication and treat it accordingly.

Step Two: Advantages and Disadvantages

List one or more advantages (with GM approval) and an equal number of disadvantages. Advantages and disadvantages ought to be of equivalent power, but a strong advantage may be balanced by several weaker disadvantages or vice versa. (Advantages and disadvantages are the same as gifts and faults.)

Step Three: Motivations

List one or more motivations. This gives the GM some guidance about the sort of goals and challenges that would interest the player and/or character.

As an example, a character might look like this:

Charlotte Chevalier, Reporter

Ambitious and Resourceful Reporter: Great
Crack Shot: Good
Daredevil Driver/Aviatrix: Fair
Enthusiastic Dancer: Poor
Advantages: Patron: Editor of a Big Metropolitan Newspaper
Disadvantages: Recklessly Brave
Motivations: To Show Up Her Disapproving Prominent Family; To Get the Scoop of the Century

25 April 2021

Exceptional Traits Remixed

This article is a slight correction to the way I was thinking about traits in Exceptional Traits for Fudge. Two of the sample characters, initially described in Descriptive Traits for Sherpa and Quasi-Descriptive Traits for Sherpa, have wording that makes less sense in Fudge. Charlotte Chevalier, for example, has Sharp as a Tack (Mind): Good for one trait. "Sharp as a Tack" is a loose description of a trait and its level — not a trait in and of itself. For better clarity, I would list the traits of these two characters in the following manner:

Charlotte Chevalier, Reporter (15 levels allocated)

Reporter: Great ("Ambitious")
Aviatrix: Great ("Daredevil")
Marksmanship: Great
Driver: Fair
Mind: Good ("Sharp as a Tack")
Body: Fair ("Tough Cookie")
Spirit: Great ("Sassy and Irrepressible")
Reflexes: Poor ("Klutzy")
Advantages: Patron: Editor of a Big Metropolitan Newspaper, Press Pass
Disadvantages: Obsessed with Dance (and Has Two Left Feet), Recklessly Brave
Complications: Her Prominent Family's Disapproval of Her Lifestyle
Motivations: To Show Up Her Family, To Get the Scoop of the Century

Oliver Rath, Police Detective (15 levels allocated)

Police Detective: Great
Boxer: Good
Poker Player: Good
Driver: Good
Mind: Great ("Like a Steel Trap")
Body: Good ("Tough as a Boot")
Spirit: Poor ("World Weary")
Reflexes: Good ("Agile When He Needs to Be")
Advantages: Photographic Memory, Law Enforcement Authority
Disadvantages: Lives in a Bad Neighborhood, Coffee Addiction
Complications: Is a Widower with Two Children
Motivations: To Provide for His Children, To Be the Best Damned Cop He Can Be

The descriptions are optional. Some trait/level combinations lend themselves easily to descriptions; some do not. The choice, as always, is yours.

[Edit: Upon re-examining the other sample characters, I noticed they, too, could benefit from this minor alteration (perhaps with the exception of Sam Turnstile).]

28 March 2021

E-Mail-Friendly Fudge Dice Roller

Sometimes I like to do a Google search for "FudgeRPG" and see if there is anything new (or anything at all written by me) in the results. Today, I discovered an online Fudge dice roller for use in online games (presumably play-by-e-mail). The PBE Games: Fudge Dice Roller enables one to set the base level, apply a modifier, and include a description for up to five rolls in one e-mail. I haven't played Fudge online (yet), but this seems to be a useful tool.

27 February 2021

Random Potion Description Generator

Sometimes it is expedient to use a random table to generate treasure that may be found by player characters in the course of their adventures. What these tables often lack, however, are descriptions, which are left to the GM to invent if he or she is so inclined. The following tables are designed to help GMs concoct spur-of-the-moment descriptions of one particular type of treasure: potions.

Roll on as many or few of the tables as desired to create a description for any magical potion. If, like me, you are not an advocate of the philosophy that all enchanted and/or cursed items are identical unless used, worn, or consumed, then you might find it useful to make a note of any descriptions generated. Then, whenever the item is encountered again, the player characters will be able to recognize what it is likely to be. Note that any description does not necessarily indicate what all potions of that variety are like, but what that particular recipe is like. Healing potions from different regions or different schools of healing craft may be very different from one another yet have the same curative properties. Potions with very different effects may also have have similar descriptions. Careful adventurers who catalogue the descriptions and effects of various potions should be rewarded for their efforts by a faithful consistency in representing previously encountered potion recipes.

These tables are not all-encompassing. Although it is possible to generate a wide variety of descriptions using them, the GM is advised to add extra details to complete the potion description. For instance, a randomly generated potion might be described as transparent, syrupy, sweet, and hot, with a hint of clover. Another potion could be opaque, syrupy, sweet, and cool, with a silvery blue color and tasting faintly of raspberries. Any two different potions may have one or more qualities in common (including extra details), but none will have all of them in common. If they do, then they are of the same recipe, and thus possess the same properties.

These tables are for use with Fudge dice, but a d6 [or, indeed, a d3 or d5 as appropriate] may be substituted.

Table A

Table B

Table C

Table D

Bonus potion: The potion of aquatic existence is translucent, effervescent, salty, cold, green in color, luminescent in the dark, and similar to broccoli in flavor. It grants the drinker the ability to exist comfortably underwater for seven days. The beneficiary of this enchantment is able to breathe underwater, survive the pressures of the greatest depths, and withstand the coldest waters with no harm whatsoever.

These tables are meant to generate descriptions for previously determined potions, but the potion above is an example of generating the description first and inventing a potion based on the results. The extra details were added once I decided on the nature of the potion.

[Originally posted in Fudgery.net/fudgerylog on 27 May 2011.]