What Should Gear Do In Fudge?

A knight grabs a torch and uses it to light a foreboding cave to reveal secrets hidden by the darkness. A spy takes out a seemingly ordinary pen and reveals a hidden camera used to photograph documents with. An astronaut dons an extravehicular apparatus (EVA or spacesuit if you prefer) and can now step outside of the starship into the cold vast horizon of space.

With an RPG all of these situations are examples of how gear and equipment enables a character to do something that the character is incapable of doing naturally. Tools are an essential part of our daily lives, and I want my RPGs to be populated with many forms of tools that empower my character to do things beyond the traits listed on the character sheet.

That is why this week starting today I’m going to post a different article each day about how to use gear in Fudge. Today I’ll focus on the simplest approach – The Enabler!

With this approach the item has no significant rules attached to it. The details of the item are minimalist as well. Other than a potential value the enabler simple grants the character an ability or option that the character would normally lack.

One example of this is the spacesuit described in the introduction to this article. The spacesuit can have many details bolted onto it, such as a defensive and offensive modifier, how long the air supply will last for, battery life, attribute modifiers, and other such things. Yet there is absolutely nothing wrong with just hand waving all of that and ruling that the only detail that matters is that the spacesuit allows a character to survive in the vacuum of outer space. Nothing else needs to be said. Without the suit a character may not survive in outer space, and with the suit the character can survive in outer space. The spacesuit enables the character to do something that normally the character could not do.

Some people will want those additional details. Some games are more fun with those additional details. If every item was an enabler gear would soon become a very boring part of the game, but the enabler form of gear is great for both GMs and players because it allows actions to occur in the game world without the need for additional rules and without threatening the suspension of disbelief.

If we are playing a sci-fi game and normal human characters were capable of just walking out of their spacecraft into the hostile environment of outer space the game world would fall apart for most of the participants in the game. People would not enjoy the setting as much because there are no consequences to it. Why bother setting the game in outer space at all if the setting has no impact upon the characters?

Yet all a GM needs to say is “You find some spacesuits.” and suddenly the players begin to take the game into a whole new direction. They can leave the ship and use new tactics in order to move the shared fiction forward. The only thing that needs to be done is for the players to acknowledge that their characters put on the spacesuits.

So with two short sentences – “You found some spacesuits.” followed by “My PC puts the spacesuit on.” the game has entered new territory without disturbing the shared suspension of disbelief. The enabling gear requires nothing more than a name (spacesuit, potion of water breathing, access codes, money, rope, etc.) and yet it impacts the game significantly.

Think about this the next time you are running a game and it seems that the players have no idea as to how they should proceed. Perhaps throwing in one piece of gear that enables a new approach is all that is needed to get the game back on track.

Tomorrow I’ll cover modifying gear, the kind that influences a character’s existing traits by applying some sort of modifier to both dice rolls and stats.