Five Tips For Running Fudge Games

Gamemasters new to Fudge can be overwhelmed at first by just how open the system is to any type of play style. Some of this is in part to how so many role playing games have a very objective approach to character creation, combat, and social interactions within the context of the game. Fudge on the other hand can be much more subjective and that makes it difficult for a new Fudge GM to feel confident in his or her knowledge of the rules.

Contrary to what others might think this is a good thing. It encourages new Fudge GMs to think about the rules that they want to use and to discard rules that their game does not need. It allows the GM to tailor his or her Fudge game to the gaming group’s taste. After playing a few games of Fudge based upon the original 1995 edition rules, the set that I believe most people are introduced to Fudge with, it increases a GMs appreciation for the published games that are released using the Fudge system.

Yet like many good things there are some challenges to overcome in order to become a good Fudge GM. Below you will find five tips for Fudge GMs that I wish someone had shared with me before I ran my first Fudge game, and that I am sharing with everyone with the hope that they will make a new Fudge GM’s first game a bit more fun.

  1. Mediocre is the new Fair. It is tempting to start the player characters at the rank of Fair as the default for all attributes and maybe skills as well. The problem with this is that spending a few points to get a Superb trait makes the game feel “too easy”. Have the PCs default to a rank of Mediocre for their attributes instead, and structure your character creation system so that ranks higher than that of Good are expensive to acquire. Players who want characters with Great strength or Superb acrobatics will truly shine during game play when using those traits. Meanwhile the GM has a reserve which he or she can tap to make the game more challenging if needed. Just introduce more Great and Superb ranked obstacles.
  2. Don’t make a list of skills, but ask what skills are desired. You might think that this would be more difficult for beginning GMs because it is so open and I began this article saying that can be overwhelming. Yet in this case open is good, because you are asking the players to define exactly how they want their characters to interact with the game. If one of your players says “I want to be an anthropologist.” and another says “I want to do Kung Fu!” let them write that down on their character sheet. Now you know to include anthropology and Kung Fu in your game! Just add a little structure in the form of how many skills at each rank the character may possess. I often use the following structure of one skill at Great, two skills at Good, and three skills at Fair when running Fudge for people who have never played it before. It takes less time to have the players create six skills then it does for them to choose six skills from a list of fifty or more. As your game matures you can populate your list of skills with those that have played well within your game.
  3. Opponents have a single rank for all purposes. Instead of writing down every detail that might apply to an NPC or a challenge within the game just assign a rank to it instead. When the PCs encounter a group of goblins all of the goblins are Mediocre.  The goblins are Mediocre in strength and dexterity. If the goblins are using swords they are Mediocre with their attacks. If the goblins are climbing trees to escape the PCs they climb at the rank of Mediocre. Now instead of determining at what rank a goblin does something you are just determining if the goblin can do it. Maybe you think goblins would know how to use short bows, but do not know how to use heavy crossbows. Fine, they fire their short bows at Mediocre then and they do not use heavy crossbows. The other nice thing about this tip is that when the PCs encounter something tougher like orcs those creatures do everything at the rank of Fair, and following that encounter the ogres do everything at the rank of Good, and so on, and so on. Your game now has a sense of escalating challenge with very little work on your part.
  4. Just let the player roll the dice. Players will try to apply their PC’s traits to any situation. Have a PC that is a combat monster that is negotiating with the king? The player will suggest that his or her PC intimidate the king using its combat skills. Think about that for a moment. A king is threatened by a person during negotiations. Most kings have guards, and knights, and a royal court made up of powerful allies. Do you really think that they are going to be intimidated by such a tactic? Probably not. Yet the players are just using the tools that they like the best to play the game with, so let them. This is what they think is fun. Just a assign a target rank (you can make it Superb or Legendary if you want failure to be more likely) and let the player roll the dice. If they succeed it will make the game more enjoyable, and if they fail it was their roll and not your decision that did it.
  5. Think in terms of the story, not in terms of the mechanics. Fudge is a game that uses adjectives instead of numbers for a reason. You should not focus on the mechanics of the game, because the mechanics of the game were designed to get you thinking about the story instead. When the PCs encounter anything just ask yourself “Would the possibility of failure at this point make this game more fun to play?” If the answer is yes, then require rolls of the dice and numerous successes in order to overcome the challenge. If the answer is no, then do not bother with the dice rolling at all. Let the PCs move on. Climbing the “Cliffs of Doom” because it is the fastest way to reach the princess before she is sacrificed to the dragon may require several rolls of the dice. That is a tense situation that the PCs may not survive with a direct impact on the story. Climbing the “Cliffs of In-Your-Way-To-Cool-Stuff”? Not so much.

I hope that these tips help you in running your next Fudge game. If you have your own tips that you would like to share, or if you just want to share your opinion on these five tips, please leave a comment below. I look forward to learning about what others are doing for their Fudge games!