Fudge System Fudge Factor
About Us | About Fudge | Writing for us | Previous Issue | Next Issue  
   
April, 2002: Issue 5 > Solving the +1 Dilemma  
Printer-friendly version  
Previous: Spirit Magic Next: No Bones About It

Solving the +1 Dilemma in Fudge
by Steven Hammond

Introduction

Probably the biggest problem I have faced when running Fudge, particularly in fantasy games, is dealing out bonuses and penalties to players. In many game systems a magical +1 sword is a good weapon, but in Fudge it is very powerful. If combined with a +1 from another source, such as a deity's blessing, it becomes even more powerful -- perhaps too powerful. Where does the GM go from there? The same issue exists with penalties; a -1 penalty is very harsh in Fudge.

Many proposals for solving this problem have been posted to the Fudge mailing list over the years. Typically they involve adding more levels, or using different dice systems.

What I really wanted was a system that worked with standard Fudge dice and used the 4 dice and seven levels everybody is familiar with, but allowed finer grain bonuses and penalties that could easily be accumulated.

What if I had a Sword?

At the time, I was primarily focused on magical swords, so I started thinking about things a sword could do other than give a +1 bonus in combat. I came up with a lot of ideas. In particular, I wondered what if the sword didn't actually help in combat, but it never hindered either? It would never over penetrate and get stuck, its balance would allow its user to quickly recover from a missed blow, etc. How could that be represented as a game mechanic?

The answer, and the basis for this system, is simple. Use a colored Fudge die and ignore any -'s that show up. That die is the sword and it never contributes negatively to a combat roll. It provides a bonus the player can measure and perceive that is less powerful than a full +1.

There is another effect; the player can see the sword's effect on his character's skill. Every time he rolls the dice he can see the sword's impact. "Whoa, good thing I had my sword, I would have missed without it."

The Dice Colors

Once the idea is out, it is easy to create a variety of patterns and assign them to dice colors. Table 1, below, lists the ones I use.

Color Pattern
Black Always rolls a -
Red A roll of + or - is read as a -
Blue Any + is ignored
Ivory Normal dF
Green Any - result is ignored
Purple Any - roll become a +
White Always read as a +
Table 1: Dice Colors and Patterns

The colors used were arbitrarily selected from the available dice colors. In the context of this article, the colors provide an easy way to reference a particular pattern. In practice, any color can be used as long as everybody knows what pattern it represents for the roll.

The following two tables show out the probabilities for each result when rolling 3dF and a single colored die. The probabilities for 4dF, 4dF+1 and 4dF-1 are also provided for comparison.

  4dF-1   Black   Red   Blue   4dF  
  Prob. Cum. Prob. Cum. Prob. Cum. Prob. Cum. Prob. Cum.
-5 1.23% 1.23% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
-4 4.94% 6.17% 3.70% 3.70% 2.47% 2.47% 1.23% 1.23% 1.23% 1.23%
-3 12.35% 18.52% 11.11% 14.81% 8.64% 11.11% 6.17% 7.40% 4.94% 6.17%
-2 19.75% 38.27% 22.22% 37.03% 18.52% 29.63% 14.81% 22.21% 12.35% 18.52%
-1 23.46% 61.73% 25.94% 62.97% 24.70% 54.33% 23.46% 45.67% 19.75% 38.27%
0 19.75% 81.48% 22.22% 85.19% 23.46% 77.79% 24.70% 70.37% 23.46% 61.73%
1 12.35% 93.83% 11.11% 96.30% 14.81% 92.60% 18.52% 88.89% 19.75% 81.48%
2 4.94% 98.77% 3.70% 100.00% 6.17% 98.77% 8.64% 97.53% 12.35% 93.83%
3 1.23% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 1.23% 100.00% 2.47% 100.00% 4.94% 98.77%
4 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 1.23% 100.00%
5 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00%
Table 2: Negative Dice Probabilities

  4dF   Green   Purple   White   4dF+1  
  Prob. Cum. Prob. Cum. Prob. Cum. Prob. Cum. Prob. Cum.
-5 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
-4 1.23% 1.23% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
-3 4.94% 6.17% 2.47% 2.47% 1.23% 1.23% 0.00% 0.00% 1.23% 1.23%
-2 12.35% 18.52% 8.64% 11.11% 6.17% 7.40% 3.70% 3.70% 4.94% 6.17%
-1 19.75% 38.27% 18.52% 29.63% 14.81% 22.21% 11.11% 14.81% 12.35% 18.52%
0 23.46% 61.73% 24.70% 54.33% 23.46% 45.67% 22.22% 37.03% 19.75% 38.27%
1 19.75% 81.48% 23.46% 77.79% 24.70% 70.37% 25.94% 62.97% 23.46% 61.73%
2 12.35% 93.83% 14.81% 92.60% 18.52% 88.89% 22.22% 85.19% 19.75% 81.48%
3 4.94% 98.77% 6.17% 98.77% 8.64% 97.53% 11.11% 96.30% 12.35% 93.83%
4 1.23% 100.00% 1.23% 100.00% 2.47% 100.00% 3.70% 100.00% 4.94% 98.77%
5 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 1.23% 100.00%
Table 3: Positive Dice Probabilities

A close look at the tables will reveal a few interesting features of the probability curves.

First, note that the colored dice never exceed the +4 to -4 range of the standard 4dF roll. Comparing Black and 4dF-1, you will see that they are both centered around -1. However, the Black curve only covers the range from 2 to -4. It is a little "steeper" and favors the -1 result more strongly.

The Red, Blue, Green and Purple curves are not symmetrical bell curves. They are weighted more towards the negative (Red and Blue) or positive (Green and Purple) in addition to having the curve's peak shifted away from 0. These features can more easily be seen in the graphs below.

The first graph shows all the curves. The second shows a subset of them. The second graph is easier to read. Blue and Red are a mirror image of Green and Purple. The curves are the same shape, just reflected across the 0 line. Similarly, White and 4dF+1 are reflections of Black and 4dF-1, respectively.

Chart 1
Chart 1: All dice probability curves (Click on graph for a larger view.)

Chart 2
Chart 2: Subset of the curves (Click on graph for a larger view.)

Multiple Colored Dice

Accounting for multiple bonuses and penalties is easy in this system. Replace one Ivory (normal dF) with an appropriate colored die for each modifier. GMs may choose to limit the number of dice that can be replaced. I use a limit of three, although I can't explain why I don't like the idea of replacing all four dice. Other GMs may disagree and allow all of the dice to be replaced.

If there are more bonuses and penalties than allowed substitutions then select the ones with the highest magnitude (i.e. select the Blacks and Whites first, then the Reds and Purples, then the Greens and Blues). If you have to choose between a positive and a negative of the same magnitude then it's the GMs choice. I I usually favor the positive modifier.

Colored Dice In Practice

As usual, each GM needs to decide how they want to use these dice in practice. I use the following guidelines when translating other Fudge material to this system.

-3 Black
-2 Red
-1 Blue
+1 Green
+2 Purple
+3 White

Individual bonuses or penalties greater than three are rare and I handle those as needed.


Previous: Spirit Magic Next: No Bones About It

Privacy Policy * Contact Us (editor @ fudgefactor.org)

All articles copyright their original authors. Fudge copyright Steffan O'Sullivan. Fudge Logo Design by Daniel M. Davis.