Monday, December 19, 2005

Getting "The Edge" Over Your Opponents

Many times Fudge GMs love the relative granularity of the Fudge trait system because of the speed it adds to game play and its ease of use. Sometimes, however, a particular GM, group of players, or particular genre will require more detail than Fudge can provide at its base level of granularity. This article describes a wide variety of rules light to rules heavy approaches for adding additional levels of detail to the Fudge task resolution system without a fundamental overhaul of the core mechanic you know and love. Think of it as a mini-encyclopedia of granularity solutions.

A Review of Systems to Overcome Granularity in FUDGE


Many times Fudge GMs love the relative granularity of the Fudge trait system because of the speed it adds to game play and its ease of use. Sometimes, however, a particular GM, group of players, or particular genre will require more detail than Fudge can provide at its base level of granularity.

This is particularly true with the seven-step trait ladder (Terrible to Superb). Some Fudge GMs and players find that either to differentiate characters from one another. Other GMs need to give players a sense of continuous character advancement without increasing trait levels at a high speed. Still others want ways to spice up negligible variance tasks (like races) without defaulting each competitor to his trait level and ended up with dozens of ties.

While an obvious solution may be to add additional named levels to the seven-step trait ladder, this solution solves several problems while introducing a few of its own, namely that having some consistency in the seven-step trait ladder produces positive networking externalities which are likely necessary if Fudge is to see any widespread acceptance in the market by multiple publishers -- otherwise Fudge supplements may be largely incompatible with each other.

Ideally, then Fudge authors who desire additional detail should seek out means to increase detail without straying from this seven-step trait ladder paradigm. This article presents, compares, and contrasts a variety of different methods for increasing trait level detail while making character sheets still compatible with textbook Fudge campaigns.

Campaign-Level Solutions to Granularity

Granularity rears itself as a problem, rather than as a convenient device for narrative GMs, when players are in competition with each other or with key NPCs for time in the spotlight in a given bailiwick. Players are more likely to care that they are tied in proficiency with someone else using their best or most notorious skill, than when they are tied at their worst skill.

For example, many players may not care that, by default, they are tied at Poor with all other characters at Basket Weaving if they did not spend points on the skill. But a player who has a Fencing skill of Superb might care whether he was slightly better or worse than his arch-rival at Fencing, if for nothing else than bragging rights.

Additionally, some players will care more about differentiating traits used for Opposed rolls as contrasted to Unopposed rolls. The psychology behind this being that a player may care whether his character is better than another character in a story line, and may feel that his character conception is somehow ruined if he is not the best Fencer in the land. In Unopposed rolls, however, the realization of how a given player's character compares to other characters is one step removed from the situation -- that other character is not in your face reminding you that he is better than your character.

One way to make sure that players never feel constrained by the Fudge seven-step trait ladder is to make certain that every character fills a specific niche or role in the campaign that no other character is in direct competition with. Perhaps one is a warrior, another a pilot, another may be a gadgeteer, etc. As long as each player is alloted time for his character to shine in the spotlight then players will probably feel unconstrained by the relative granularity of Fudge. This may require artificial constraints on the part of the GM, limiting the number characters (PCs and NPCs alike) who have skill ratings of Great or Superb. The party's Great Fencer will be the best swordsman in the party, but will know that his enemy, Dr. Crudite, is a Superb Fencer and is bested only by undermining his confidence with witty repartee.

When NPCs and particularly PCs start overlapping in their roles, players are likely to feel the need for some other mechanism to maintain distinctions. The character Thunderbird in the Marvel Comics series X-Men once complained of this -- he was not as strong as Colossus, not as good a fighter as Wolverine, etc. He was a great well-rounded character having a variety of super powers, but he was always playing "second string" to everybody in some ability or another. He was not the best on the team at any one superpower, except that he was well-rounded, and in the end, was the greatest team player, sacrificing his own life to save others. Some players feel their characters should be the best in the party at something, and when they are not, some players may get bored or disheartened by "Thunderbird Syndrome." This may suggest a restructuring of that character's role in the campaign if the GM is unwilling to consider other solutions to the issue of granularity.

Creating Narrative Distinctions in Contests

When simulating dramatic high variance scenes with combatants of the same skill level, and particularly when handling tasks of negligible variance, you may want to add more flavor to the scene in order to distinguish characters from each other. Whether simulating combat, athletic competitions, or international chess championships, you can add "advantages" and "pitfalls" to any Opposed task resolution.

Using this method to overcome granularity generally requires the GM to create rich, thorough descriptions of the situation and the environment, and to allow the task to be resolved through roleplaying as much as possible. Where rolls occur, generally there should be multiple options to gain or lose advantage described, even if these represent hundredths of a second of real time in a race. Set up specific ways that individual competitors can gain an advantage (more knowledge of how your opponent plays a specific chess gambit than he has about you, for instance) or suffer a pitfall (if you do not avoid the slippery patch on the track you will twist your ankle and lose a whole trait level of performance in the race). Advantages and pitfalls should either have trait rolls associated with them (to gain the advantage or avoid the pitfall), or alternately a means by which a player can successfully role-play to gain the advantage or avoid the pitfall. Advantages and pitfalls may be either full trait level modifications or they may interact with other methods presented in this articles (acting as Tie Breakers, giving Edge step bonuses, etc.).

Situational Tie Breakers

One mechanic for providing minor distinctions between different characters is to break ties that occur in contests ending in a Relative Degree of +0, so that one side or another ends up winning the contest with a Relative Degree of +0 or else receives a bonus to shift the Relative Degree to +1 in his favor. The advantage of this is that a Tie Breaker mechanic can be simple and many times you will be able to ignore it in dice rolls, so it will not be very intrusive on play. The disadvantage of a Tie Breaker mechanic is that it will necessarily distort the shape of the underlying 4dF variance curve if a bonus is given, as +0 net results get shifted to +1. Also, some GMs may prefer having the dramatic flair provided by having ties occur in some situations.

A simple tie breaker mechanic is to allow the character with the higher listed skill to win the Tie Breaker. Another variation has the GM consider other secondary traits involved in the task, or looking at the competing character's ability scores in addition to their skill scores. For example, when a PC and NPC fencers end up with a Relative Degree of +0 the GM may look at their Fencing skill scores, giving a +1 bonus to the character with the higher Fencing skills to break the tie, and if that maintains the tie, then perhaps giving a +1 to the character with the higher Agility score.

This is also useful in handling races. In negligible variance tasks like races, it is likely that characters will run about their Speed scale and trait level all the time, and rolling 4dF and applying it to Speed seems unrealistic. However, without a variance roll, ties will be produced -- lots of them. All characters of the same Speed scale and trait level are so close in foot speed that they will be separated by mere fractions of a second. Perhaps then what really separates them is how fast they got off the line -- the GM might break the tie by comparing the Reflex attributes of all the characters in the contest.

Lastly, the GM may consider situational tie breakers. Perhaps one character has slightly better running shoes or a better golf club. Lacking anything else to break a tie, the GM may require a situational roll from every competitor, keeping them at their same outcome level, but rank ordering people within an outcome level. So, if one runner has Good Speed and runs against 3 Fair runners, perhaps the Good runner wins, and the other 3 finish as fast as you would expect any Fair runner to run, but end up placing based on a rank ordering of 4dF situational rolls.

This method is best employed in rules light Fudge campaigns where narrative task resolution is the focus. Shawn McMahon, a noted rules light Fudge GM, initially proposed the narrative Tie Breaker mechanic as an extension of this author's ideas on using the Tie Breaker as a solution to the relative granularity of Fudge.

Fractional Trait Levels -- the "Halves" or "Plus Level" System

Another means to handle the issue of granularity is to sub-divide each trait level into some number of fractional levels. The author of the original Fudge core rules, Steffan O'Sullivan, recognized this possibility and included the first fractional trait level system for Fudge called "plus levels: (see section 4.36 of the Fudge rules). "Plus levels" were half levels in between the normal trait levels on a ladder. Good was +1 and and Great was +2 in Fudge, so should there not exist the possibility that someone had a trait level of +1.5? What should we call this? O'Sullivan suggested merely adding a "+" sign at the end of a trait level to indicate "+0.5". So that the trait ladder could have characters who were Good, Good+, Great, Great+, etc., representing values of +1, +1.5, +2, and +2.5 respectively. Since Fudge did not have a method per se of handling "+0.5" levels, O'Sullivan proposed that every other combat round the character should receive a full +1 trait level bonus over his named trait level. So that a Good+ character started out as Good on round #1, then went to Great on round #2, back to Good on round #3, and finally back to Great on round #4. Since the character's trait level is Good (+1) on odd rounds and Great (+2) on even rounds he is, on average, Good+ (+1.5).

Unfortunately this method is suitable only for competitions that take more than one round to resolve -- apparently O'Sullivan suggested it as a solution to provide distinctions in Opposed task situations which some players find more important to highlight than Unopposed traits (as noted above). Also, given that the trait values change from round to round it requires the GM to change the tone of his play environment by keeping strict tract of combat rounds in a fashion incompatible with some GM's campaigns.

The "Thirds" System of Nomenclature

While O'Sullivan's granularity system is not widely used, it laid the foundation for a popular style of nomenclature where a "+" or "-" was appended to the end of a trait level. Dr Ian McDonald was one of the first to note that since Fudge was a system involving blanks, "+" signs, and "-" signs, perhaps these could be use to represent thirds of a level. Fair still meant +0, but Fair+ meant +0.333 and Fair- meant -0.333. This create an extended trait ladder that looked like this:

  • Superb+
  • Superb
  • Superb-
  • Great+
  • Great
  • Great-
  • .... and so on.

This nomenclature is becoming an unofficial second place standard right behind the core Fudge trait ladder. However, GMs differ widely in the ways that they handle or interpret these +/- levels. The rest of this article will address other systems of nomenclature, but due to the popularity of the "thirds" nomenclature, most of the solutions to granularity presented herein will assume the use of this trait level system.

Purchasing "thirds" levels poses a special problem. Each "thirds" level in between the unsigned level and the next unsigned level costs 1/3 of what it would cost to advance the full level. So, normally it costs 8 experience points to advance a skill from Great to Superb. So to advance a skill from Great to Great+ costs 2.666 experience points, from Great to Superb- costs 5.333 experience points, and to go from Great to Superb finally costs 8 total experience points.

To offset this, both "Pat" and this author have independently arrived at a single, optimal solution: the optional rule recommended by Ann Dupuis in section 5.4 of Fudge Expanded Edition of allowing 3 Fudge Points to convert to a single Experience Point is highly compatible with this mechanic. It does away with the need for players to track thirds of a point. Merely multiply all experience point costs in the Fudge advancement rules by 3 and advancement now costs Fudge Points instead of Experience points. So, for a cost of 24 Fudge Points (8 Experience points) a character can now advance from Great to Superb in a skill. That means it costs his 8 Fudge Points (2.666 experience points) for each "thirds" level between Great and Superb.

Plus/Minus Tie Breaker System

One basic way to interpret a "+" or "-" after a trait level is to ignore it utterly until you tie with someone else on a Relative Degree of +0 and then check the "thirds" level of the skills being rolled. A character with a thirds "+" beats out characters with no thirds sign or with a thirds "-". Characters with no thirds sign lose the Tie Breaker to characters with a "+" level and beat characters with a "-" level. This can be used as the primary tier of a Tie Breaker mechanic like the one presented previously in this article. The first such system proposed was written by this author and was called "The Edge #1."

This type of system uses the "thirds" nomenclature, but it does not actually pretend to map out individual thirds of a given level. The mathematics behind such a system are more complicated.

Offset Mechanic

Another simple system which slightly alters the shape of the 4dF variance roll but which is a simple approximation of +/- one third of a level is this author's Offset Mechanic (I believe a similar mechanic may have been developed independently by Jennifer Brinn and others). Whenever you roll 4dF and the rolled result (not the net outcome) is negative, remove one "-" die if you have a thirds "+" after your trait level. And whenever the diced result is positive, remove one "+" die if you have a thirds "-" after your trait level.

So, for example, if you had a Good+ Fencer, if you rolled [+, -, -, blank] on 4dF (for a total of -1) then you would remove one "-" die from the table before counting the 4dF result (which then totals +0) and adding it to your base score of Good.

Similarly if you had a Fair- Fencer and rolled [+, +, -, +] you would remove one "+" die before adding up the remainding 3dF (totalling +1) and adding it to your base trait level of Fair.

Plus levels then offset bad rolls and minus levels offset good rolls.

Standard Thirds Mechanic

Dr McDonald has proposed a standard by which the +/- "thirds" levels should be handled. When McDonald and others refer to "Thirds" they are referring both the Thirds nomenclature and to this specific means of handling the mechanic.

Whenever the GM requires a variance roll, in addition to the normal 4dF required, roll a fifth dF of a different color. Immediately after the roll, look at the fifth die. If the roll on that die matches your +/- level on your trait level, leave it on the table and add all 5 dice to your trait level. If it does not match, discard the fifth die and add the remaining 4 dice to your trait level as normal.

This system works well to distinguish trait levels, but produces some counter-intuitive results when used to handle bonuses or penalties which take some getting used to. If the GM awards a +1/3 bonus to a Fair+ fencer, then the player must remember that the next "thirds" level above Fair+ is Good-. So instead of rolling a fifth die and looking for normal "+" to match his Fencing thirds level, his modified fencing skill is now Good-, and so he rolls the fifth die looking for a "-". The Fair+ rating starts out at Fair and has a 1/3 chance of being rated as Good. The Good- rating starts out at Good and has a 1/3 chance of being rated as Fair before applying the normal 4dF.

Moreover, the system does not operationalize well "hidden bonuses" of +/- 1/3 or +/- 2/3 (bonuses the GM wants to give to the players without them knowing it, like from a magic sword they just found). To do that would require the GM to precisely watch the dice being rolled or to roll the dice himself. For systems where the thirds level is used purely as a distinction in trait levels and is never the to give bonuses or penalties (particularly hidden ones), this is an exceedingly clean mechanic and is highly recommended. It is particularly clean since, if the character has no +/- thirds modifier listed after his trait level he never even need roll the 5th die unless some bonus or penalty is applied, since the only time the 5th die will the thirds level and be left on the table is when it is blank.

Simple Polyhedral Mechanic

Both McDonald and "Pat" have suggested that the "thirds" mechanic is convenient for two reasons:

  1. that it keeps the number of trait levels to a minimum
  2. that it can easily be made compatible with standard Fudge Dice

For GMs willing to employ dice other than Fudge Dice, these and other authors have proposed the possibility of having fractional unit values other than thirds. Their suggestions generally involve picking a polyhedral die type (say a d6) and then either choosing to leave a trait without further annotation or else including a bracketed number after the trait level. If included, the bracketed number included after the trait level must be less than the maximum value of the chosen polyhedral die. Roll 4dF as normal and apply it to the named level. If the trait has a bracketed value appended then, roll the polyhedral die, and if its result is equal or less than the bracketed value after the trait, the character gets an additional +1 trait level on that result.

For example, two fencers are fighting. One is Fair [5]. He rolls [+, +, +, -] on 4dF and rolls a 6 on a d6. He gets no bonus from the d6 roll but gets the normal +2 from the 4dF roll for a total of Great. The other Fencer is Good [3]. He rolls "+, +, -, blank" and a 2 on the d6. He gets +1 from the 4dF and another +1 from his d6 roll for a total outcome of Superb.

This type of system does not handle secret bonuses well, but fractional bonuses are added directly to the bracketed value, subtracting out any whole number multiple of the polyhedral die type as a full +1 trait level bonus before rolling. For example. If a Good [4] Fencer has a +3/6 rapier he would add 3 to the bracketed value of 4 for a total of 7. Multiples of 6 are subtracted out of the result as a full +1 to trait level. 6 is subtracted from 7 yielding a full +1 to trait level with a bracketed [1] value remaining.

This makes the Good [4] Fencer with the +3/6 rapier equivalent to a Great [1] Fencer.

Tenths Mechanic

One of the more advanced mechanics that can be employed using a fractional nomenclature is a "tenths" mechanic. In this system, the nomenclature is slightly different. At the end of each trait value append whole number and a single digit decimal that represents the number of tenths of a point that the character is along his way between his current trait level and the next trait level. So, for instance, if Fair defaults to +0.0 and Good defaults to +1.0 then Fair [+0.7] is seven tenths of the way between Fair and Good. Traits now represent ranges of possible values as noted on the chart below.

Legendary +4.0 +4.9
Superb +3.0 +3.9
Great +2.0 +2.9
Good +1.0 +1.9
Fair +0.0 +0.9
Mediocre -0.1 -1.0
Poor -1.1 -2.0
Terrible -2.1 -3.0
Abyssmal -3.1 -4.0

To implement such a system, roll 4dF and add it to the trait's level (including the decimal) as a whole number modification the value. Then roll a d10 (treating any "0" rolled as "0" not as "10") and add 1/10 of the value rolled to the trait level.

So, if you had a Fair [+0.3] Fencer and rolled "+, +, -, blank" on 4dF you would have a total of +1.3. If you then rolled an 8 on the d10 you would add .8 to 1.3 and get a +2.1 result (Great). If you had a Fair [+0.3] Fencer and rolled "-, -, +, -" on 4dF you would get a total of -1.7. If you rolled a 4 on a d10, you would add .4 taking your total to -0.9 (Mediocre).

This system is more mathematically complicated than the previous systems, but handles bonuses and penalties well. The player may, if he so desires, announce the decimal result (-0.9 in the last example) and the GM may feel free to interpret it directly or apply any hidden bonuses or penalties. Doing so also allows weapon damage to be expressed in decimal form. Perhaps a rusty short sword only does +1.6 damage instead of the normal +2.0. That can be added directly to the decimal result of the attacker's roll and the decimal results of the defender's Defensive Damage Factor may then be applied to get a hyper-detailed system.

Additionally, for negligible variance tasks like weightlifting or racing, the GM may have players roll 1dF to 4dF for variance, but applying them as 1/10 point modifications instead of whole number modifications. For example a Good [+1.7] runner runs against a Great [+2.0] runner. The Good runner rolls 4dF and gets a critical success "+, +, +, +". Those count as 10ths of a point in negligible variance tasks taking him to a +2.1 result (Great). The second runner rolls "-, -, blank, blank". He subtracts two tenths from his score yielding a final result of +1.8 (Good).

For any trait level which has no decimal value above ".0" after it, the d10 roll may be omitted and this system converts completely to Fudge. Because of this, GMs may choose to employ the negligible variance task resolution part of this model even if they do not use the rest of the tenths mechanic system.

"The Edge" (Version 2.0) Granularity Solution


This mechanic is a slightly more obtrusive one and may not be to the taste of most Fudge GMs, but allows for maximum customization while still maintaining the ability to produce and use supplements compatible with the Fudge core rules.

The remainder of this article presents an alternate solution entitled "The Edge" (version 2.0) that is compatible with the Thirds nomenclature, handles negligible variance tasks well, and has a simple internally consistent that handles bonuses well. When bonuses (hidden or otherwise) are not being applied the system is entirely compatible with the standard Thirds mechanic, making it an ideal system of choice for many GMs seeking a solution to the issue of granularity in Fudge. It can be run invisibly like Thirds most of the time, and then fully embraced in game scenes where it would be useful to do so.


Every character trait is still rated according to the standard Fudge naming schema, ranging generally from Superb to Terrible, with a chance for other trait levels the GM may see fit to designate (for the purposes of this article the trait level above Superb is named Legendary and the trait level below Terrible is named Abyssmal).

Additionally, however, each character trait may have an Edge rating. If you tend to have a slight edge over others of the same trait level for a given skill or characteristic, denote this with a "+" sign after your trait level. If others of the same trait level tend to have a slight edge over you, denote this with a "-" sign after your trait level. Thus a character might have a trait rating of Good+, Good, or Good- in a game where The Edge is employed.. There are two "Edge steps" between Good- and Good+ The 3 values of Good-, Good, and Good+ represent the range of "Edge steps" within the "trait level" of Good.

Use of The Edge in Contests of High Variance

Most Fudge opposed and unopposed contests are high variance contests, where each player involved rolls 4dF to modify his base trait level.

When playing with The Edge for high variance contests, however, each player rolls basic variance dice, 4dF of one color (normally white), and one "Edge die" of a different color (say, blue, for the sake of this article). These dice are read slightly differently from each other. First, the basic variance dice are applied to the character's trait level as normal, ignoring any Edge rating for that trait for the time being. Next, the player puts his finger on the yellow row on the chart below, and then moves his finger up or down the sum of the Edge die, the character's Edge rating, and any other Edge modifiers the GM may see fit to apply. Modifications based on the Edge may end up moving a result up or down entire trait levels on the chart in this fashion.

Trait Level Edge Step
Trans-Legendary (+5)  
Legendary (+4)  
Superb (+3)  
Great (+2)  
Good (+1)  
Fair (+0)  
Mediocre (-1)  
Poor (-2)  
Terrible (-3)  
Sub-Terrible (-4)  

For example, if a character has a Good+ trait rating and rolls a +2 for his basic variance and +1 for his "Edge die" then he first put his finger on the Good rating and then moves up two trait levels to Superb. Then he puts his finger on the yellow Superb result and moves his finger up to "Edge" rows, the first for the character's own Edge rating, and then up another one for the roll of his Edge die, landing on the red row of the Legendary trait (also known as Legendary-). This final position on the chart is called the "personal performance rating."

As an alternative to first shifting on the Trait Level column on the chart below and then on the Edge Step column, the player may make all his calculations on the "Edge Step" column. Have the player put his finger on the yellow row for his trait level and then move solely on the Edge Step column, moving up 3 rows for every + on a white die and moving up 1 row for a + appearing on the blue Edge die. Also, should the sum total of bonuses and penalties take a result off the Legendary end of the chart (or below the Abyssmal end of the chart) first take the total Edge bonus or penalty and divide it by 3, treating the result as a trait level modification on the chart and treating the remainder as follows:

Remainder Game Effect
+2 Add +1 to the trait level, red Edge row
+1 Add +0 to the trait level, green Edge row
+0 Add +0 to the trait level, yellow Edge row
-1 Add +0 to the trait level, red Edge row
-2 Add -1 to the trait level, green Edge row

For example, if you had a Superb trait with a +1 basic variance roll, and a sum total of +5 Edge steps (after all bonuses) you would add +1 to your trait level for basic variance (up to Legendary). Then you would divide the Edge bonus by 3 and get a result of +1, remainder +2. You would then move your trait level up another +1 to Trans-Legendary (+5) as a result of the the Edge division result, and then you would look up the +2 remainder and find out that you got a red Edge result at a trait level even one higher. Your final result is Trans-Legendary (+6) with a red Edge result. Generally GM's will not assign Edge bonuses and penalties this high unless many factors are coming into play (such as several magical items, each of which is Edge rated adding up for the same success check). Using this system, the GM may find that a full +1 trait level bonus (or -1 trait level penalty) is simply too much for a situation but wants to detail his scenario a bit. He may instead add Edge bonuses or penalties which will have a lesser impact on the game. This makes the Edge a perfect tool for detailing skill specializations, weapon quality, magical enchantments, or minor environmental bonuses and penalties.

Simplified Relative Degree Computations

Unlike the standard Thirds mechanic which has you round immediately after rolling your variance, "The Edge" allows to do any roundings in combat after rolling the variance, after computing Relative Degree Factor, or after computing a Total Damage Factor. People familiar with the standard Thirds mechanic are used to rounding after the variance roll, and so that is the first option presented here. To make a simplified Relative Degree computation, when comparing two characters' personal performance ratings to compute a Relative Degree Factor, ignore the colors of the final personal performance ratings of each character and merely subtract one trait level from the other (per standard Fudge rules). For example, one character's personal performance rating was Superb+ and another's was Good-, but these characters are treated as if they had personal performance ratings of Superb and Good when computing a Relative Degree Factor for a high variance contest.

Note also, that for characters that are not Edge rated in a trait performing a high variance task which the GM chooses not to assign an Edge bonus or penalty for, the "Edge die" may simply be omitted when using the simplified Relative Degree computation given that, by itself, there will never be a full trait level modification that results.

How Often to Roll the Edge Die

"The Edge" is designed to allow for the Edge die to be rolled for every variance computation, but to simplify the situation or to change the dramatic effect of the mechanic, the GM may require players to roll a single Edge die and have it apply to all skill usages for the duration of a single dramatic scene, a gaming session, or even an adventure. Having a roll that applies to all actions occur just once a scene makes the Edge a snap to use because if no other bonuses or penalties apply, players can simply recalculate their new temporary skill ratings once for the scene, doing all rounding of the Edge steps one time only.

If a single Edge die is applied to all of a character's actions in a given scene a GM may not even require a roll, but may by fiat tell each player to set an Edge die in front of them of a given value and apply that to all actions in a given scene. Alternately the GM may combine the methods, having players roll only once a scene and then giving a flat Edge bonus or penalty based on the dramatic requirements of the scene. This combined approach really helps to simulate one group having a slight "Edge" over another during a particular encounter.

Advanced Relative Degree Factor Computations

Instead of ignoring Edge steps as you do when computing simplified Relative Degree Factors you can choose to do the calculation entirely using the Edge, with every three full Edge row shifts equalling one relative degree of difference. For example, the difference between Great- and Good using such a system would only be a RDF of +0 since they are not at least three full Edge row shifts apart. This is a slightly more complicated, but more internally consistent way of computing RDF if the GM and players are up to the extra calculations. You may choose to round the results after computing RDF, or you may choose to hold off until you finish calculating TDF in case damage or defense have any further Edge step modifications.

If you want to round after calculating RDF then as a shortcut subtract the lower personal performance rating from the higher as normal, using only the base trait levels, but then subtracting one from the computed RDF as follows:

When the Winner has
an Edge Row Color of:
-1 to RDF if Loser's
Edge Row Color is:

So, back to our previous example you would compute a normal RDF of +1 in favor of a character with a Great- result over a Good result, however since the winner's Edge row color is Red you subtract 1 from the RDF because the loser's color is not Red. This results in an RDF of +0 a tie and not a loss in most circumstances! The same thing would be true with a Great- result compared to a Good+ result. The RDF would only reach +1 if the loser had a result of Good-, Fair+, or Fair.

If you would prefer not to round until after TDF has been calculated then it is easier to use this more detailed Edge step chart. Look up the Edge Step # value and use that for all the math of your computation, converting back to a Trait level at the end.

For example, a Poor- result has a step number of -7. A Good- result has a step number of +2. The Relative Degree between them is 9 Edge steps (and that translates back to a Superb Relative Degree result on the above chart).

This advanced chart is the easiest means to handle Edge step computations if you want to round after computing TDF because your damage calculation will include modifiers that are not whole trait level modifiers, but include Edge step modifiers. For example, if your GM rules that the rusty short sword you are using will only do Good- damage instead of Good damage, and you just had that Superb- Relative degree against an unarmored man you could add Edge step 9 (Superb) to Edge step 2 (Good-) to reach Edge step 11 (Legendary-) for a Total Damage Factor.

This level of detail is extremely easy using the advanced Edge chart. Without the chart, however, most Fudge GMs may prefer to round at the Relative Degree factor using the shortcut above or using the simplified Relative Degree computation method, limiting all damage computations to pure whole numbers.

Using The Edge for Tasks of Negligible Variance

The Fudge core rules introduce Strength and Speed Scales and note that characters of higher Speed will be much more likely to beat out those of lower trait ratings than a 4dF roll would show. This system of task resolution takes this into account. For tasks of negligible situational variance (like weight lifting, arm wrestling, sprinting, etc.), where the expected outcome for a competitor varies relatively little between successive trials reduce the number of dF used for rolling basic variance, or ideally, do away with them entirely when modelling negligible variance tasks.

Roll only the blue "Edge die," treating the basic rolled variance as a +0. Then apply the results as you would for normal variance. The only difference is that in negligible variance contests, the exact row on the Edge step chart for each character's personal performance rating is not necessarily discarded at the end even if you are using simplified Relative Degree computations for other tasks, instead it is used to precisely rank order competitors in a competition, with a trait level result automatically beating out anyone with a lower trait level, and within a trait level, anyone with a higher Edge step beating out anyone with a lower Edge step.

Additionally, while the GM may choose to throw out the 4dF of basic variance he might choose to still assign bonuses and penalties to each competitors Edge rating for exceptional equipment and other situational factors that still count for something in a negligible situational variance contest.

If you need to compute a Relative Degree Factor for any purpose compute this as you did for High Variance tasks, but for ranking the order of competitors according to their performance, pay strict attention to Edge step outcomes.

It is possible to interpolate the results from the Speed and Strength scales to include the new Edge values, with an Edge "+" being found at 1/3 of a Scale level higher than the underlying trait, and an Edge "-" at 1/3 of a Scale level below the underlying trait. The charts that follow do just that, extrapolating from world class performance records to determine lifting capacities and running speeds.

Edge Bonuses or Penalties During Objective Character Creation & Advancement

If the GM allows for Edge bonuses to be purchased during character creation and advancement, an Edge "+" should cost approximately 1/3 of what it would take to purchase the next full trait level outright. As noted in the preceding section on the Thirds nomenclature, this purchasing system works best when implemented with the 3 Fudge Points = 1 Experience Point option so that player do not have to track thirds of an Experience point.

For traits costing 1 point (like all during character creation), simply assign up to 3 total Edge plus points to character skills for each point spent. So, for example, a character that has a rating of Hiking: Good and Cooking: Fair could be raised to Hiking: Good+ and Cooking: Good- for the expenditure of a single additional point (where Hiking increased 1 Edge step and Cooking increased 2 Edge steps). Optionally, to reflect skill specializations, for no additional cost during character creation a player may purchase a skill at a given level (Good for example) and then write down the general skill with a single Edge penalty and a sub-skill specialization with an Edge bonus. For example a character might have the skill Chemistry: Superb, but he could, at no additional cost, choose to become a specialist during character creation, writing down:

  • Chemistry: Superb-
    • Organic Chemistry: Superb+

The GM may then treat these as one skill (with a level equal to the average of the two Superb in the example) for future objective character creation. Clearly this system only works if the GM is willing to allow for hierarchical skills to be used in his game.

Sample Magic Items Using The Edge

Here are some examples of the kinds of interesting effects that are possible using the Edge in Fudge.

The Singing Sword of Pendelhaven

This brilliant blue steel blade seems to be lightly blurred at its edges when viewed under bright light. That is because when the Singing Sword is unsheathed it constantly vibrates. This vibration is initially distracting to its wielder, and for the first month of use its wielder is -1 Edge step when rolling attacks or defenses with this sword.

After the initial month of training, however, the sword instead adds +1 Edge step to attacks and defenses made with the sword. Once the wielder has so mastered the sword, he may mentally force the sword to "sing" in combat, causing it to vibrate so rapidly that it produces a high-pitched, ear piercing whine which the wielder is immune to. All his opponents, however, who engage him in melee combat always lose Initiative against the sword wielder unless they are deaf, and further suffer a -1 trait level penalty to any rolled morale checks the GM might make for them.

The Ring of Unshakeable Confidence

This rather unremarkable cold iron ring is of the simplest of designs. No markings of any kind distinguish it. However, any character from the size of a halfling to the size of an ogre who attempts to put this ring on his finger will find that the ring fits snugly but perfectly adjusting itself immediately to the character's hand size.

Twice a day the bearer of this ring may add +2 Edge steps to any ability or skill check that would otherwise be tied or lost. The ring bearer may make the decision to use this power after rolling the dice. The GM will inform the character when this power will make the difference, as the ring grants its bearer a limited ability to know when it will help the character gain "the Edge" over his opponents or overcome an obstacle.

Closing Comments

In general this system should be used in moderation. Fudge has a sleek and elegant task resolution system, and when "The Edge" is not used the game will run a little faster. As a result the GM may want to limit the total number of traits that he will allow on a character sheet with an Edge rating of any kind. He may want to primarily reserve it for magic items, skill specializations, items of quality, and distinguishing higher level traits that take more than one Experience Point to advance to the next level.

When you GM with the Edge you may also want to round all Edge bonuses and penalties to the nearest trait level for the sake of speed in certain instances. If you do this constantly you will undermine the whole point of the system, but for occasional use an approximation (particularly one in favor of the players) will not be considered an intrusion by most players.

Revised Fudge Scale Charts for Negligible Variance & "The Edge"

Trait Level Edge Step Strength
Press (lbs.)
100 m
dash (s)
  + 8.7 481 2.6 7.26
Trans-Legendary (+5)   7.6 420 2.5 7.71
  - 6.6 367 2.3 8.19
  + 5.8 320 2.2 8.71
Legendary (+4)   5.1 280 2.1 9.25
  - 4.4 245 2 9.83
  + 3.9 214 1.8 10.45
Superb (+3)   3.4 187 1.7 11.1
  - 2.9 163 1.6 11.8
  + 2.6 142 1.5 12.54
Great (+2)   2.3 124 1.4 13.33
  - 2 109 1.4 14.16
  + 1.7 95 1.3 15.05
Good (+1)   1.5 83 1.2 15.99
  - 1.3 72 1.1 16.99
  + 1.1 63 1.1 18.06
Fair (+0)   1 55 1 19.19
  - 0.9 48 0.9 20.39
  + 0.8 42 0.9 21.67
Mediocre (-1)   0.7 37 0.8 23.03
  - 0.6 32 0.8 24.47
  + 0.5 28 0.7 26
Poor (-2)   0.4 25 0.7 27.63
  - 0.4 21 0.7 29.36
  + 0.3 19 0.6 31.2
Terrible (-3)   0.3 16 0.6 33.16
  - 0.3 14 0.5 35.23
  + 0.2 13 0.5 37.44
Abyssmal (-4)   0.2 11 0.5 39.79
  - 0.2 10 0.5 42.28
  + 0.2 8 0.4 44.93
Sub-Abyssmal (-5)   0.1 7 0.4 47.75
  - 0.1 6 0.4 50.74