Monday, January 23, 2006

Cartoon Fudge

Roleplaying campaigns constructed with extraordinary detail, epic scope, and high drama are all well and good, but sometimes there's just no substitute for fast action and low comedy - and that's the perfect time for a Cartoon Fudge adventure.

Roleplaying campaigns constructed with extraordinary detail, epic scope, and high drama are all well and good, but sometimes there's just no substitute for fast action and low comedy - and that's the perfect time for a Cartoon Fudge adventure.

These rules are intended to show how Fudge can be used to set up a quick, lighthearted game where the players are the stars of their own Saturday morning cartoon. The objective of a Cartoon Fudge game is not to win, but to act silly, make bad jokes, play pranks, and have a good time all around.

Creating a cartoon character

Name

Whatever suits your character. Make it short and sweet ("Muggy") or long and pretentious ("Henrietta Hensworth the Third") or whatever you like.

Type of Creature

What are you? Bird? Dog? Cat? Snake? Or something more unusual, like a robot, or a ghost, or a carrot? Or are you that most ridiculous of creatures -- a cartoon human being?

Attributes

Every Cartoon Fudge character (even a carrot) has these six Attributes:

  • Brawn - muscle power
  • Guts - ability to resist being beaten up (or sliced in half, or disintegrated, or whatever)
  • Stunts - speed, agility, and coordination
  • Will - ability to resist mental influence
  • Wits - intelligence and cunning
  • Charm - personality and cuteness

All Attributes default to Fair. There are no free Attribute Levels; to raise one Attribute, you must lower another by the same amount. Having low Attributes can be a good thing in Cartoon Fudge, as they provide the opportunity for amusing failures.

Gifts

Cartoon Fudge characters are always doing unusual things, but if a player wants her character to be able to do a specific unusual thing regularly, the character should have a Gift to represent the ability. A character must trade away two Attribute Levels to buy one Gift.

A few examples:

  • Flight - the character can fly. Most appropriate for characters with wings.
  • Build Gadgets - the character can make Wits rolls to assemble useful gadgets out of parts.
  • Wealthy - the character has a staggering amount of whatever passes for cash in the cartoon.
  • Scary Looking - the character's horrifying appearance can cause most other creatures to run away in fear.

Faults

Faults provide a way for a Cartoon Fudge character to get into even more trouble. A character receives two extra Attribute Levels after taking one Fault.

A few examples:

  • Overconfident - the character is always assured of his or her own skill and genius.
  • Nearsighted - the character has trouble seeing, and is constantly mistaking one object (or character) for another.
  • Girl Crazy or Boy Crazy - the character is fascinated by members of the opposite sex.
  • Always Falls Off Cliffs - in every adventure, the character will be tricked into falling off of a cliff.

Equipment

Characters should be able to have just about any equipment they would like: giant hammers, super-powerful magnets, joy buzzers, cream pies, and so forth. If the gamemaster is running a more story-based game, the characters may be restricted to using the same set of equipment every adventure (for instance, Daring Duck might always have his whip, fedora, and travel guide book). The gamemaster may also wish to restrict characters to a certain genre of equipment (for instance, in an outer space adventure, the gamemaster might ask players to carry ray guns as weapons instead of swords or pistols).

Any item that might be used as a weapon (which in a Cartoon Fudge game, is probably just about anything) should have a Damage Rating. See the "Taking Damage" rules later for an explanation of this rating.

Animated Action

Rolling the Dice

To add risk and chaos to the game, the gamemaster may ask the player to roll for any action whose outcome is in doubt. The usual Fudge rules apply: the gamemaster chooses the most appropriate Attribute for the player's described action, as well as the difficulty level of the task. The player then adds a die roll to the chosen Attribute, and if the result equals or exceeds the difficulty level, the task succeeds. If the result is less than the difficulty level, the task fails, and the gamemaster and player can decide on the (humorous) consequences.

Contests - when two characters are performing actions that are

in opposition to each other, each player should roll against the appropriate Attribute for his or her action. The high roll wins. Here are a few examples of contests between Molly the Mouse and Cecil the Cat:

Molly and Cecil are in a footrace: Both players roll against Stunts. The highest roll wins.

Molly tries to shoot Cecil with a ray gun, and Cecil dodges: Both players make Stunts rolls. If Molly's roll is higher, the ray gun blast hits Cecil. Check the "Taking Damage" section of the rules to find out what happens next.

Molly tries to fast-talk Cecil into accepting a birthday cake with dynamite for candles: Both players make Wits rolls. If Molly's roll is higher, Cecil will accept the cake with gratitude, and will admire the sparkling candles while Molly runs for the hills....

Molly tries to look cute and pitiful so that Cecil will not eat her: Molly makes a Charm roll, and Cecil makes a Will roll. If the Charm roll is higher, then Cecil is compelled by Molly's big dark eyes to let her go, just this once.

Taking Damage

If a character is hit with a mallet, zapped with a lightning bolt, or blown up by dynamite, the gamemaster should determine the Damage level of the attack. The victim must then make a Guts roll. If the roll equals or exceeds the Damage of the attack, the character is not seriously affected by the attack (though there may be some comic reaction, such as yelping, hopping around, eyes bugging out, and so forth). If the Guts roll is less than the Damage of the attack, the character is Knocked Out and is out of action for the duration of the scene. The character can return to play at the beginning of the next scene, none the worse for wear.

Example: Molly zaps Cecil with a ray gun. Assuming that Cecil is not able to dodge, as described in the "Contests" section of the rules, Cecil must make a Guts roll against the Damage of the ray gun. If Cecil's roll is equal to or greater than the Damage level, Cecil escapes with nothing more than a singe. If Cecil's roll is less than the ray gun's damage, Cecil is burned down to a pile of ashes - at least until the next scene.

Fudge Points

Every player should start every adventure with three Fudge Points. Players may spend Fudge Points to:

  • Reroll any roll and take the higherof the two
  • Produce a useful object out of nowhere, even if the object is not normally part of the character's equipment
  • Make use of cartoon physics, such as running across air, or painting a door in a wall and then running through it

The gamemaster may choose to award players with extra Fudge Points during the game for making the entire group laugh, for inventing an inspired solution to a problem, or just on a whim.

Slightly Silly or Seriously Silly?

Depending on the wishes of the gamemaster and the players, Cartoon Fudge can be used to run a quick, one-shot adventure, or a series of adventures with the same characters.

The Short Feature

The premise of a one-shot adventure can be extremely simple:

  • The characters are prospecting for gold.
  • The characters have been sent to explore Planet XB-13.
  • The characters are trying to avoid being eaten by a vicious, carnivorous wolf who has moved into the neighborhood.

There is no point in planning such an adventure in great detail, since the complications and plot twists are frequently introduced by the players themselves. Ridiculous plans and failed die rolls can put the characters into all sorts of trouble, and the gamemaster should encourage the mayhem to escalate to a satisfying and entertaining conclusion.

The Saturday Morning Series

A cartoon series can consist simply of a set of unrelated Short Features all using the same main characters. Alternately, it can take place in a single detailed setting, with recurring villains and other non-player characters. A series based in a consistent setting is less random and unpredictable than a one-shot adventure, but allows the players to set up long-term running gags, and to develop relationships between characters (both friendly and hostile).

A Sample Series - Tales of Greenvalley

This Cartoon Fudge series centers around the Kingdom of Bizentia, and specifically, around the Duchy of Greenvalley, which lies on the edge of Bizentia and borders on the dreaded Empire of Talonfell. The setting is medieval fantasy in flavor, somewhere between the Knights of the Round Table and the Three Musketeers. Players should create characters who reside in Greenvalley, and who serve under Duke Albert and Duchess Naomi. Player characters could be the children of the Duke and Duchess, or the family servants, or hired beasts-at-arms, or any combination of these.

Characters

Duke Albert of Greenvalley (Squirrel)

  • Brawn: Great
  • Guts: Great
  • Stunts: Great
  • Will: Good
  • Wits: Fair
  • Charm: Fair
  • Usual Equipment: Mace (the hitting kind, not the spraying kind)

Albert is an old friend of King Beauregard; the pair were practically brothers in their youth. They trained together, studied together, and adventured together. When Beauregard inherited the throne, he immediately made his old friend Albert the Duke of Greenvalley, trusting him to keep the peace and to defend the kingdom against the forces of Talonfell. Albert has performed this duty faithfully and well - though, to be honest, his wits are not as quick as they once were, and he sometimes needs the help of his wife, family, and servants to get him out of a tricky situation.

Duchess Naomi (Squirrel)

  • Brawn: Good
  • Guts: Great
  • Stunts: Superb
  • Will: Good
  • Wits: Good
  • Charm: Good
  • Usual Equipment: Quill, ink, to-do list (or sword and shield when going into battle)

In her younger days, Naomi was among King Beauregard's finest warriors. Tales are still told about her cunning and ferocity - though she discourages such tale-telling whenever she hears it. She has grown tired of the warrior's life, and wishes nothing more than to spend her days in peace with Albert and her children. However, despite her gentle, cheerful disposition, her old instincts return quickly in times of danger, and she is more than willing to pick up sword and shield in defense of those she loves.

King Beauregard

  • Brawn: Fair
  • Guts: Great
  • Stunts: Fair
  • Will: Superb
  • Wits: Good
  • Charm: Good
  • Usual Equipment: Crown, robes, sword

Beauregard is proud, confident, generous, and brave: the very model of a monarch. He has dedicated himself to ensuring the safety and well-being of all subjects of Bizentia. He is also concerned with providing his daughter with a thorough education, so that she will grow up to become a wise and just Queen of Bizentia.

Princess Melody

  • Brawn: Fair
  • Guts: Good
  • Stunts: Good
  • Will: Good
  • Wits: Great
  • Charm: Great
  • Usual Equipment: Textbooks

Melody is Beauregard's daughter, and his greatest treasure. She is lovely, charming, and well-mannered (though she is sometimes frustrated by the weight of her studies and homework). She also has a romantic disposition, and frequently dreams of going on daring adventures with a handsome young companion.

Joy, Spring, and Rose, daughters of the Count and Countess of Serpent Marsh (Alligators)

  • Brawn: Great
  • Guts: Good
  • Stunts: Mediocre
  • Will: Mediocre
  • Wits: Mediocre
  • Charm: Terrible
  • Fault: Belligerent (can easily be provoked into a fit of anger)
  • Usual Equipment: Swords, axes, morningstars, crossbows, etc., all of Damage rating Fair (though they can get their hands on more powerful weapons if necessary)

Frederick and Wanda, the Count and Countess of Serpent Marsh, are a jealous pair. They want the rich lands of Greenvalley for themselves, and are constantly scheming to snatch the territory out from under Albert and Naomi. They have charged their three daughters with the same goal, and so Joy, Spring, and Rose are constantly pursuing one nefarious scheme or another. Unfortunately, while the three are fearsome warriors, they are not as clever as their parents, and can easily be outsmarted when they cannot be out-fought.

Jean, Louis, and Henri De Crow (Crows)

  • Brawn: Mediocre
  • Guts: Fair
  • Stunts: Good
  • Will: Mediocre
  • Wits: Good
  • Charm: Mediocre
  • Gift: Flight (can fly at will)
  • Fault: Greedy (will attempt to steal food and valuables at any opportunity)
  • Usual Equipment:* Masks, lockpicks, saws for cutting through bars and chains, smoke bombs

The De Crow brothers are notorious bandits, well known for thefts great and small throughout the kingdom. Their craving for gold and jewels is matched only by their craving for fine food, and they are just as likely to pilfer a fresh apple pie as they would a sparkling diamond necklace. They strive to maintain a dashing, stylish image, and always set about their work with witty banter and acrobatic flourishes.

Avaricia, Empress of Talonfell (Cat)

  • Brawn: Mediocre
  • Guts: Good
  • Stunts: Superb
  • Will: Superb
  • Wits: Great
  • Charm: Superb
  • Gift: Master of Disguise (her disguises are always flawless)
  • Gift: Escape Artist (can escape from any situation if she gets out of sight)

Empress Avaricia is haughty, cruel, and treacherous, and spends her every waking moment in pursuit of conquering Bizentia. She is repeatedly foiled in her efforts by the Duke and Duchess of Greenvalley, since the land of Greenvalley lies directly between Talonfell and the remainder of Bizentia. She prefers to send others to do her dirty work, but she is not above taking matters into her own hands when necessary. With her natural cunning and her talent for disguise, she can travel nearly anywhere she wishes without detection, and then disappear just as mysteriously.

Verminore the Wizard (Rat)

  • Brawn: Terrible
  • Guts: Mediocre
  • Stunts: Poor
  • Will: Fair
  • Wits: Fair
  • Charm: Terrible
  • Gift: Wizardry (can cast spells with a Wits roll of Fair or better)
  • Usual Equipment: Magic wand, potions with various and unpredictable effects

Verminore is a dedicated student of the darkest arts of magic - though not necessarily the most successful student, since his spells tend to fail just as often as they succeed. However, his talents are occasionally useful, and so Avaricia keeps him in her service.

When it is necessary for the current adventure story for Verminore to cast a spell successfully, the gamemaster may skip rolling dice for Verminore and simply declare that the spell goes off as planned. For the most part, however, the gamemaster should allow Verminore to roll for his spell, and should invent amusing side effects when spells fail (a few examples: Verminore turns himself into an ordinary chicken; Verminore's lightning bolt bounces off a wall and strikes him on the way back; Verminore teleports himself out into a nearby pond).

Soldier of Talonfell (Weasel)

  • Brawn: Poor
  • Guts: Poor
  • Stunts: Poor
  • Will: Poor
  • Wits: Poor
  • Charm: Poor
  • Usual Equipment: Uniform, sword with Damage rating Poor

The rank-and-file soldiers of Talonfell have few virtues. They are not particularly bright, strong, quick, or loyal. However, they are quite numerous, and whenever one pack of them is sent fleeing, another is ready to take their place.

Sample Adventure - Birthday Bandits

Duke Albert is away from home, leading a band of soldiers on a scouting mission along the far borders of Bizentia. He is expected to return at midday tomorrow - and since tomorrow is the Duke's birthday, the Duchess has decided to arrange a surprise party for him. She has twenty-four hours to get together the decorations, the musicians, the gifts, and, of course, the cake. Since Naomi has plenty of work cut out for her, she puts the player characters in charge of the cake. A simple task - right?

At the beginning of the adventure, the Duchess will call the player characters together, explain her plans for the birthday party, and assign the characters their cake-baking duty. But this isn't going to be just any cake. Naomi wants to use her family's traditional, award-winning, never-failing, top secret cake recipe. She will retrieve the recipe from her secret hiding place (a hidden safe with an electronic keypad and a voice scanner) and will present it to the player characters with great ceremony. She will instruct the player characters that the cake must be perfect, and that they must make absolutely sure that the recipe is not lost or damaged. Then she will leave them to their work so that she can see to the rest of the preparations.

The gamemaster should use the initial cake-baking scenes as an opportunity for some easy slapstick humor. Most likely, some or all of the player characters will not have any experience in the kitchen, and simple tasks such as mixing eggs or measuring flour could easily turn into a giant mess. If the players are in the spirit of the game, they may even play along by deliberately causing their characters to make foolish mistakes. If things appear to be going too smoothly in the kitchen, the gamemaster can introduce complications by having other household members barging into the kitchen to demand things at inconvenient moments.

This, however, is only a warm-up to the real plot of the adventure. The De Crow brothers have gotten wind of the Duchess' birthday plans, and they have resolved to steal Naomi's treasured family cake recipe. At some point during the evening, the brothers will sneak into the castle. Jean and Louis will create a distraction by attempting to steal household valuables, and will allow themselves to be seen and pursued. They will lead the player characters on a chase through the castle, knocking over furniture and playing pranks, while Henri steals the cake recipe.

If the player characters have decided to hide the recipe somewhere (not in Naomi's safe, because only Naomi has the combination to open it) then the theft is simple: by the time the player characters get back to the recipe to check on it, they will find nothing there but a black crow's feather, and a note that says "Thanks for the recipe - suckers!" If, on the other hand, one of the player characters is carrying the note, then Henri will ambush and tackle the character during the chase, then set off a smoke bomb. When the smoke clears, Henri will be gone (if the player has made an attempt to grab hold of Henri, the character will find himself or herself holding only a fake crow's leg). Worse yet, the recipe will be gone; Henri has expertly picked the character's pocket.

It's true that, from a certain point of view, the theft is "unfair", since the characters can do nothing to prevent it. Just remember, it's a cartoon! Half the fun is getting into trouble, and the other half is getting out again.

Once the theft is accomplished, the player characters are on their own for how to recover the recipe. If the characters inform Naomi of the theft, she will be enraged, and will demand that the characters set out immediately in pursuit of the De Crows. If the characters decide to keep the theft to themselves (possibly a wise idea), then Naomi will continue happily about her birthday preparations.

The characters may have captured either Jean or Louis De Crow during the fight. The thief will do his best to escape (and will do so eventually), but in the meantime, the players can attempt to bribe, intimidate, or trick the crow into revealing the location of his brothers' hideout. If all of the brothers got away, then the player characters can attempt to follow the crows through the forest, though this will be difficult at night. Or the players may come up with some other scheme; the more ridiculous, the better.

Eventually the player characters should find the De Crow brothers' hidden treehouse in the forest. The brothers will be cheerfully bragging to one another about the theft, about how silly they made the player characters look, and about all the wonderful cakes they are going to bake for themselves. If the player characters attack the treehouse, there should be a rollicking fight, during which the recipe is endangered at least once (drifting toward a candle flame, perhaps, or floating into the path of a bird who wants to use it as material for a nest).

In the end, the characters will have the recipe back and will return to the castle in time to finish the birthday preparations. And when the Duke arrives to find a birthday party waiting, he will be overjoyed, and will thank everyone for the wonderful surprise.

And when he bites into the cake the player characters have baked - does he love it? Does he choke it down only with great effort? Does he complain that he never really liked Naomi's recipe, starting a grand food fight in the dining room? That's up to you....