My last post was about Fate… which was formally spelled FATE – an acronym for Fudge Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment. Fate is derived from and is a streamlined version of Fudge.
Fudge has a lot to recommend it including the revolutionary idea of having all rolls be equal to your base rank plus or minus a small amount depending on how you rolled. (i.e. the same central mechanic as Fate), which is simply brilliant. (Even though I wrote about Fate first, Fudge had the idea originally. Both are open-source, so it’s all nice and legal). Having come from systems wherein you were assumed to fail at a task unless you rolled a certain minimum, I quickly became enamored of a system where you could safely assume that a competent character will usually perform competently most of the time. The idea that a character with a +5 skill can’t possibly roll lower than +1 (because you roll 4 dice) and won’t usually roll any lower than +3 (because it’s rare to get more than a net +/- 2) rocked my world. You didn’t have to worry that your Olympic-level athlete character would fumble a walking-down-the-street-roll and trip in front of speeding cars. (That’s a ludicrous example, but… you know what I mean. Some systems call for you to roll for seemingly trivial things).
However, I found the main book to be overwhelming. It seemed to be less a system for playing a game than it was a system for creating a gaming system which you would then play. There’s no set skill list and there are at least 2 different mechanics for tracking damage, among other things. So, you can’t just sit down, make up a character, and start playing like you can with most games. You first have to make several key decisions on which rule(s) to use for a given situation. It’s extra confusing because they’re presented as equally weighted options. Simply stating that “X is the default way of tracking damage but Y and Z are valid alternatives if you prefer them instead” would have gone a long way toward helping me figure it out.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a ton of good ideas in the Fudge core book, you just have to figure out which are the best for you and your group — which is not an easy task when all you want to do is learn the system.
Now, for all my issues with Fudge, Palmer took to it like a SWAT team takes to Kevlar. He came up with his own Fudge sub-set a.k.a. Dr. Nik’s Happy Fun Rules (available for free download through DriveThroughRPG.com). Objectively, I can say it’s pretty good, especially for quick pickup games or convention games. I don’t know that I’d enjoy it for an extended year-long campaign — but that’s just my personal preference. If you just want to sit down with some friends and say: “O.K. Tonight we’re going to run through Mystery Mountain. Everybody make up characters.” — it’s perfect. Everything is distilled down to 5 extremely broad attributes and 1 player-defined attribute, the Archetype. Sometimes the archetype opens up extra abilities for your player. For instance, it’s logical that a character with Archetype (paramedic) or Archetype (doctor) would be able to perform first aid or surgery. Other times, you can roll your archetype attribute instead of the default attribute. An Archetype (elven woodsman) would be able to roll Archetype (elven woodsman) to stealthily move through the forest instead of the Physical attribute (assuming Archetype was higher).
I’d imagine all Fudge variants play pretty quickly but Dr. Nik’s Fudge is streamlined to supersonic levels. It only takes about a minute to learn. It’s ideal for groups that can’t meet regularly and who don’t want to waste a lot of time reading a 100 page rulebook (Dr. Nik’s Happy Fun Rules is only 5 pages long). And that’s why I develop for it. Because not every gaming group is the same as mine.