Thursday, April 01, 2004

Editorial: Everything Old Is New Again

Exciting times are afoot for Fudge Factor and Fudge in general!

Let's talk about the elephant in the room right off the bat: The announcement by Grey Ghost Games that they've acquired the full copyright for Fudge, and are planning to take Fudge into the land of Open Gaming.

Folks, this is just huge. I have personally long felt that the existing Fudge License — I'm talking about the commercial one here — was keeping more potential publishers out of doing Fudge material than was generally believed. If some of the chatter over on the Fudge legal issues mailing list is right, I am really looking forward to what we may start seeing getting, at the least, e-published over the next twelve to eighteen months.

The possibilities for cross-pollenation should not be set aside lightly, either. Regardless what your opinion may be of d20 material on the market today, there are some diamonds in the rough out there, and with OGL d20 material and OGL Fudge material both getting out there, the two will be able to mix. An OGL Fudge means we could start seeing more dual-system supplements, adventures, settings ... But given ten hours to babble about this, I'll fill all ten, so let me cut myself there and just reaffirm: this is cool.

To bring this back to the Factor, we're turning a new leaf of sorts with this issue. The smallest is the most obvious: we've given Fudge Factor a facelift, one that still remains friendly to our text-browsing readership while giving a little more pizzazz to the graphically inclined.

But read on past this editorial, and you'll see something else to go along with our usual stellar array of articles — interviews and sponsors. This is all a part of our renewed commitment — given new meaning and intensity by the news from Grey Ghost — to supporting the commercial publication of Fudge products (and, thus, growing the community).

To kick off our first-ever interview issue, we're giving you one and a half — all of an interview with the man himself, Steffan O'Sullivan, and the first part of an interview with Ann Dupuis of Grey Ghost Games. In the coming months, you'll see us talking with other folks in the Fudge publication biz, as well as particular personalities from the Fudge community at large.

We're also working on building partnerships with commercial publishers by way of our sponsorship page, which you'll find at the end of this, and all future, issues. This is a win for everyone involved — our readers get a discount on some fine Fudge wares, and the publishers get the advantage of drawing our focused readership to their products.

It all boils down to this. We're riding on the crest of a wave this month. It is still building in momentum, and when it reaches the coast — well, who knows how it will shape things? I, for one, am glad I'm here to be a part of it.

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Simplifying Tech and Wizardry Levels in Gatecrasher

In this series of articles, we are providing advanced looks at the revised 2nd edition of the Gatecrasher Science Fantasy Adventure Game for Fudge. This particular article deals with simplifying the Tech and Wizardry levels found therein.

As written in the Gatecrasher Science Fantasy Adventure Game, Tech and Wizardry levels are rated from -10 to +10, with -10 being a near complete absence of Tech or Wizardry, and +10 being the penultimate Tech or Wizardry acheivements. We want to distill those levels down to a normal Fudge Terrible...Fair...Superb track. Since there are 21 individual levels of Tech or Wizardry from -10 to +10, and seven levels on the normal Fudge track, a simple division operation results in three numeric levels of Tech or Wizardry per Fudge level as shown in the table below.

Tech/Wizardry level Fudge level
-10 to -8 Terrible
-7 to -5 Poor
-4 to -2 Mediocre
-1 to +1 Fair
+2 to +4 Good
+5 to +7 Great
+8 to +10 Superb

A description of each Tech and Wizardry level appears in the table below.

Level Tech Wizardry
Terrible Stone age environment.People live simply and have only basic machinery and simple buildings. Extremely primitive.Magic works more by luck than skill, and uses large amounts of power.
Poor Classical/medieval/Renaissance locale; the realms of swords-and-sorcery adventure. While the basic laws of magic are not defined, magicians can manipulate those laws at a low level.
Mediocre Early industrial age environment, characterized by rapid social change as primitive societies adapt to new ways of life. The basic laws of magic are codified.Magic becomes safely usable.
Fair Late industrial age, very similar to the world in the 20th century.Space flight begins. More experimentation and research into the workings of magic.
Good Primitive spacefaring culture; relies more on brute force than engineering skill to maintain homes on hostile worlds. Blunt manipulation of reality becomes regularly possible, and matter can be created in violation of natural laws.
Great Describes an advanced spacefaring culture with a highly developed technology. Magically warping space is possible, and permanent Gates are built.Magic can be used by common folk to improve their lives.
Superb Technological methods to measure magical energy.Limits of current Lunar technology. Ultimate understanding of physical magic.Almost any magical effect can be wrought with enough power and preparation.

It should be fairly easy to plug the new Tech and Wizardry levels into the existing Gatecrasher rules. When the Tech and Wizardry levels are called into play, simply substitute the proper Fudge level for the numeric Tech or Wizardry level stated in the rules. For example, Earth would have a Tech level of Terrible to Poor and a Wizardry level of Poor to Great.

How are homeworlds affected?

As written, the Gift or Fault cost of the homeworld is calculated by adding the homeworld's Tech and Wizardry levels. That is still done, but use the regular Fudge level's value instead of the -10 to +10 value and determine the cost according to the table below.

Combined Tech/Wizardry Cost
-3 2 Faults
-2 to -1 1 Fault
0 Free
+1 to +2 1 Gift
+3 2 Gifts

As stated in the Gatecrasher rules, Stardard Gravity still costs an additional Gift and Zero Gravity is worth one Fault. So, as an example, a homeworld of Himalia would cost 1 fault: Tech = Great (+2), Wizardry = Poor (-2), (+2) + (-2) = 0, Zero Gravity = one Fault.

How is Magical Effect affected?

When using the revised Tech and Wizardry rules, the character's Magical Effect takes on a normal Fudge level as per the table below.

Id Magical Effect
Terrible Superb
Poor Great
Mediocre Good
Fair Fair
Good Mediocre
Great Poor
Superb Terrible

Using this table, it should be easy to determine if a character's magic will work on technology - if the character's Magical Effect is of a level equal to or greater than the Tech level, the magic works reliably. If the Tech level is greater than the wizard's Magical Effect, make an opposed roll with the difficulty level equal to the Tech level. For example, a wizard with an Id of Great has a Magical Effect of Poor. Should that wizard attempt to cast a spell on a device with a Tech level of Poor or Terrible, the magic would work reliably; if the device has a Tech level of Fair, the wizard must make a Magical Effect roll with 4dF and roll at least a +2.

How are Magic Points affected?

Instead of the Magic Points Table used in the Gatecrasher rules (page 15), use the table listed below. Compare the character's Id along the top axis of the table and to the character's Wizardry along the left axis. The character's Magic Point total can be found where the two traits intersect.

Terrible Id Poor Id Mediocre Id Fair Id Good Id Great Id Superb Id
Terrible Wiz 1 6 11 16 21 26 31
Poor Wiz 7 12 17 22 27 32 37
Mediocre Wiz 13 18 23 28 33 38 43
Fair Wiz 15 20 25 30 35 40 45
Good Wiz 16 21 26 32 37 42 47
Great Wiz 19 24 31 38 43 48 53
Superb Wiz 22 27 37 44 49 54 59

The Gatecrasher Science Fantasy Adventure Game is available from Domibia Games. Domibia Games is currently offering a 50% off purchases of the Gatecrasher Science Fantasy Adventure Game for Fudge Factor authors and readers when purchased directly from Domibia Games. For more information on Domibia Games and the Gatecrasher Science Fantasy Adventure Game, please see http://www.domibia.com - to take advantage of the 50% off special, please see http://www.domibia.com/ffspecial.htm.

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An Interview with Steffan O'Sullivan

Fudge Factor put the irons to the man himself, Steffan O'Sullivan, and got him to confess in this mid-March interview. Read on to find out what the creative force behind Fudge thinks about where it's been, and where it's going.


FF: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the hobby.

SOS: I've been a gamer most of my life, playing my first children's boardgames when there was still a King in England. Growing up, I played a lot of boardgames, both with my family and neighborhood playmates. Through high school and college, they were mostly Avalon Hill games and card games. But there were no roleplaying games in those days - they weren't invented until after I had gotten my BA and married a non-gamer.

My wife didn't like me gaming, so I gave it up while married. After my divorce, I gravitated to hobby shops to reconnect with the hobby I hadn't looked at in many years - this was the late 1970s. That's when I saw my first RPG - it must have been 1st edition AD&D, judging from the publication date. I perused it for about ten minutes in the hobby shop, intrigued, but couldn't make any sense out of it. So I put it back on the rack and bought a boardgame instead.

But I was still drawn by the concept of an RPG, and in a future visit to the hobby shop noticed Bunnies & Burrows by Dennis Sustare and Scott Robinson. I loved Watership Down, and could instantly relate to the subject. B&B was a very slim book compared to the seemingly endless volumes of *D&D, so I took a chance and bought it. I didn't know anyone who roleplayed, mind you, so was on my own figuring it out.

I read it for some time before trying it in the early '80s. Some things I never did figure out, like levels. (I still don't get them to this day.) But I understood enough to try running it for some friends. I was in my early thirties by then, and the group I first ran B&B for ranged from ages 25-40, three men and three women. Only one had even heard of an RPG before, and he'd never GMed, just played D&D.

We had a blast! We were in a three-year training program at that time, which met one weekend a month in Amherst, Massachusetts. So we played once a month for almost the whole three years - what a great campaign that was. I still had never tried any game with human PCs at the end of the third year, nor ever been a player, only a self-taught GM.

It wasn't until 1984 when I hitched up with the local college gaming club that I finally played a game, as opposed to GMing. It was Gamma World, and though I never understood much of what went on, it was enough to whet my appetite for more. I began to search out human-PC games simple enough for me to understand. I ran Tunnels & Trolls for a bit before discovering The Fantasy Trip (no levels!). I stayed with that until GURPS came out - Man to Man, actually.

The first edition of GURPS was a big step up from anything I'd ever played, but I found lots of holes in the rules. I began writing weekly letters (on a typewriter - I didn't have a computer yet) to Steve Jackson with questions and comments. Must have driven the poor man mad. In fact, he later gave me the title Playtester from Hell, and even made a GenCon badge with that on it for me in 1988.

At any rate, after a year of too many letters, Steve, though he hadn't met me, knew two things about me:

1 I could write. 2 I knew the GURPS system inside out.

So he offered me the GURPS Bestiary contract out of the blue! His writer for it had just dropped out, and he felt he really needed a bestiary to get his game taken seriously. (Some folk say the same thing about Fudge...)

I'm sure you'll have to edit this down CONSIDERABLY, but that's how I got into the hobby, both as a gamer and an author.

FF: Whew! All right... Say you have two minutes to give someone a history lesson on how Fudge came to be... what would that go like?

SOS: I once had the contract to write GURPS Faerie but couldn't make it work. GURPS is fine for human PCs and situations where a player would logically know the laws of the universe, but I couldn't get it to fit my concept of Faerie. This involved not only PCs very far from the human scale (and even farther from each other), but also natural laws that are not consistent. Also, I was beginning to be bothered that some of my players frequently lost roleplaying focus to stop and look up rules as GURPS got more and more complex.

At any rate, I was feeling a little dissatisfied with GURPS, though I still think the core system is a fine and elegant game. About that time, there was an interesting project on the newsgroup rec.games.design about a group-designed game. This was actually the third attempt at this I had seen, and all had fallen apart because no one could agree on very much.

So I started a splinter group, focused on a freeform game. I made it clear that I felt the only way the project would work was if one person made all the final decisions, and anyone who didn't like that was warned from the start not to contribute. I wanted a non-rigid game because my favorite genres are mostly fringe genres, and rigid rules tend to break at the fringes of the hobby. In addition, I'd seen good roleplayers become too wrapped up in the details of the rules and lose sense of their character - I wanted to avoid that. I wanted a framework to allow lots of imagination and creativity in playing a role, and to me that meant focusing on the situations, not the rules.

FF: Who or what would you say were your strongest non-gaming influences on Fudge?

SOS: In no particular order, fairy tales, mythology of many different peoples, stories of Faerie, Alexandre Dumas, Rafael Sabatini, Leigh Brackett, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Bilbo Baggins, Beren & Luthien, Jack Vance, pre-modern history, The Wind in the Willows, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Robert Lawson, Musashi, Mark Twain, God, various cats I've lived with, Walt Kelly, Carl Barks, Chuang Tzu, Lao Tse, George Herriman, Walter R. Brooks, NC Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Watership Down, Robin Hood, Cuchulainn, Laurel & Hardy, Seven Samurai, Zorro, The Court Jester, the Commedia dell'Arte, Zomo the Rabbit and other trickster figures, The Jungle Books, Carl Jung, Roberto Assagioli, John Bellairs, Sherlock Holmes, Leonard Wibberley, Carbonel, Ursula K. Le Guin, Snorri Sturluson, Ende's Momo, The Swamp Fox, Simon Girty, my childhood playmates, my brothers, my parents, my grandmother, my high-school friend Marshall, and frankly too many more to list. Anyone/anything that stimulated, encouraged, aided and abetted imagination and creativity.

FF: Is that all? — Don't answer that. Try this one on instead: What do you see as the most important part of designing a role-playing game?

SOS: Defining the objective before you begin, and keeping it mind during the whole design process. I knew from the start what I wanted Fudge to be used for, and I knew it had to be simple and avoid tables and charts that wouldn't fit on the character sheet. That was always on my mind as I made decisions about the game. This will be different than what someone else will want their game to be, of course. Their goals may be close enough to mine to be able to use Fudge, or they may need something closer to, say, Rolemaster. Tastes differ: know what yours are when designing a game or even an implementation of a game.

FF: Here's a follow-up — what do you see as the most important part of designing an adventure for a role-playing game?

SOS: Abraham Maslow's theory of creativity. Maslow broke creativity down into two phases. I don't remember his terms (it's been 20 years since I've read him), but phase one is the phase of freedom. Don't let critical thoughts enter into this phase, or even wonder how to make it believable. No negatives, no "That'll never work." Just let things explode into the most outrageous outcomes, with one idea sparking an even more outrageous next event.

When the brainstorming begins to wind down, then go to phase two: the crafting. Now the critical, analytical mind steps in to make things plausible and believable. Link the elements you want with mundane events that no one could doubt would happen. Insert balance into the adventure at this point: make sure there are puzzles to solve for those who like such things, and obstacles to overcome with strength, physical skill, and heroism. Make sure every member of the party will be the center of attention in rotating critical points. (For convention games, I design all the characters, so know in advance what that means. For a group at home, I tend to know in advance what they want to play before designing a scenario.) Make sure it's challenging enough to give a sense of accomplishment, but not so impossible as to be depressing. But don't do ANY of that during the first phase - it kills stage-one creativity.

FF: Fudge was an early, collaborative, internet-based project when it started out. Today we see places like The Forge sprouting up with similar goals of collaboration. Do you feel like you were ahead of your time with Fudge?

SOS: Well, I wasn't the first, so can't really say I was ahead of my time. But Fudge may have been the first to succeed because of my firm belief that committees make lousy games if every member of the committee has an equal voice in the final product. Committees can make solid recommendations, but can have a hard time coming to a consensus. So maybe it was just right on time.

Fudge does have a couple of minor innovations, but really it's pretty firmly rooted in games that came before, and still recognizable as something Dave Arneson, the papa of roleplaying in gaming, could relate to. There are games more creatively different from the norm than Fudge.

FF: Are there any internet-developed games out there these days that have captured your attention or imagination?

SOS: To be honest, I haven't looked at any. I've largely moved away from roleplaying back to my boardgaming roots. I still play an occasional RPG (the most recent was about eight weeks ago as I write this: an excellent Animal Companions adventure by Ann Dupuis' husband, Paul, the best GM I've ever played with), and I GM every year at the local college convention, but that's about it. So I don't read RPGs any more, sorry.

FF: Several things you've written have indicated you have a strong interest in the swashbuckling genre. Was this interest a strong influence on Fudge?

SOS: Yes.

FF: Okay — do you consider Fudge the ideal gaming engine for a swashbuckling game, and why?

SOS: It is for me. But I can't even pretend it would be so for everyone. It works for me because the loose framework supports the devil-may-care attitude you want when roleplaying swashbuckling characters. I personally find it much easier to swash bucklers when I'm not stopping to add numbers and check a rulebook, but will concede that other folks may have different tastes.

FF: What's the strangest Fudge game you've ever seen or heard tell?

SOS: Heavens, too many vying for that prize! Fudge seems to attract imaginative people, and many of these people have ideas that won't work in most "normal" games, so they try them in Fudge. I really can't even remember most settings I hear about, but crossovers figure prominently, as do some bizarre non-human PCs, including players playing bodily parts, diseases, and even psychic/psychotic furniture. I even planned a game once (but never ran it - I stopped going to GenCon) where the GM of the game played all the player characters in a game-within-a-game and the players in the game were warring sub-personalities of the game-within-a-game GM.

FF: Is there anything you'd do differently about Fudge today, if you didn't have it written yet, but were about to start on such a project?

SOS: I think I'd stress the Subjective systems more. I was surprised a while ago to hear someone say Five-Point Fudge was broken because it allowed min-maxing. Now I fully admit Five-Point Fudge is limiting and was designed solely to introduce people to Fudge, specifically people who were at a loss to create a character because of too many choices. But that it encouraged min-maxing never entered my head. When questioned, he said it was because of the experience system. This is a puzzle to me, as to my mind the basic experience system in Fudge is the Subjective one. I guess I didn't make that as clear as I'd like. The Objective systems are mostly in there because other members of the "committee" wanted them. The only really Objective system I use is the the wound track numbering scheme. (I use the Min-Mid-Max damage system, which is mostly subjective in itself. I guess another thing I'd do differently is write the Min-Mid-Max section more clearly - it's probably some of the muddiest writing I've ever done, my apologies.)

FF: Is there anything you'd like to see done with Fudge — a particular setting, a game you'd like to see run — that you haven't seen yet?

SOS: Australian aboriginal myth/legend. I've only seen one RPG supplement deal with the subject at all half well (BTRC), but even then I don't think it did it justice. It's a very rich mythos I've been fascinated with since I was seven years old, I think. Also, classic fairy tales. Again, there have been some attempts at this; some succeed better than others do, but no one's hit it just right that I've seen. And a trickster tale environment - use interlibrary loan to get hold of the lamentably out-of-print Zomo the Rabbit by Hugh Sturton and you'll see what I mean. (Warning: there is another book about Zomo, a picture book, that doesn't come close to doing him justice - don't judge him by that!)

FF: Over on the discussion list, folks sometimes talk about "what it takes to get Fudge to a broader audience". Do you have any thoughts to share on that?

SOS: My own tastes are very far from the RPG mainstream. I mean, I really do think it's more fun to play a bunny than a human or humanoid - how many gamers feel that way? Anything that I think would make an awesome setting is generally met with blank looks by most gamers. So I think the best thing for people looking to reach a broader audience is to look elsewhere than to me for ideas on how to do that.

FF: Given that, was Fudge even "meant" to go to a broad audience?

SOS: It was meant to appeal to people who value, as I do, the ability to be creative and imaginative in roleplaying over having to pay attention to a rules system. Mind you, I like many games with rigid rules systems, but they're all boardgames and miniatures games. (Heck, my favorite wargame right now is The Napoleonic Wars, and that practically requires a law degree just to understand the rules.)

I know that people play RPGs for many reasons, and some players enjoy maximizing their characters' abilities by cleverly taking advantage of rules as they are written. Fudge really isn't for them, though they're welcome to add as many rules to Fudge as they please to try to achieve this. So in that sense, it wasn't really aimed at an extremely broad audience - it was aimed at a specific subsection of the RPG gaming crowd. I don't know even roughly what percentage of roleplayers that is. I believe WotC did some market research on this subject, but I think their results are skewed by their audience. Still, they probably know better than I do, and someone told me their results are published on the web somewhere. Wouldn't hurt to look it up.

FF: We're sure to have forgotten something in this interview. So in conclusion — what was it?

SOS: You didn't ask me any questions that would allow me to show my gratitude to various people, so let me do that now. I want to thank Ann & Paul Dupuis, the original contributors to Fudge, and all the loyal fans over the years for the support and kind words that have made the whole project worth all the effort I put into it. Thanks!

FF: Thank you!

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Typed Damage

One recurring element in many combat systems is the differentiation between how certain types of weapons will perform against certain types of armor. A slashing weapon may have a hard time penetrating armor which a blunt or piercing weapon will punch through with ease. Matching weaponry to your opponents defenses has been one of the great catalysts for changes in fighting throughout the ages. Capturing that same sort of dynamic in combat rules can add an extra layer of complexity to conflict. The trick is to do so without unnecessarily slowing down combat. To that end, typed damage allows for a simple representation of these factors without bogging down combat.

The Basic Mechanic

Typed damage uses Fudge dice to resolve damage, but does so in a non-traditional way. A number of dice are rolled and the number of faces showing a particular value ([-], [ ] or [+]) are counted. Each die face corresponds to one of the core damage types: Impact, Slashing and Piercing. Impact weapons are those which deliver their damage by virtue of their mass and solid striking surface. Clubs and maces are the most common example, and these sorts of weapons use the [ ] face. Slashing weapons are those that cut or chop, like swords and axes, and they use [-]. Piercing weapons primarily puncture, like arrows or spears, and use [+].

Weapons have two values in their description, a number which reflects their damage and a symbol which reflects their damage type. When used in combat, the attacker rolls an attack as normal. If he successfully hits, he rolls a number of dice equal to the damage of the weapon and plus the Margin of Success (MoS). For purposes of notation, blank faces are marked with a *.

For example:
Cyrus is armed with a shortsword, which is marked as 3-. That means it's a slashing weapon, and rolls 3 dice, counting [-]'s as successes. He is attacking a bandit and rolls a Good against the bandit's Mediocre, a Margin of Success of 2. He rolls 5 dice (3 for the sword + 2 for the MoS) before armor is considered.

Optional Rule: Strength and Damage
Very strong characters may opt to use their Strength for damage rather than their finesse. They should declare that they are doing this before the attack is rolled. In this case, use the character's Strength modifier in lieu of the margin of success.

Armor and Damage

Armor is rated based on how much it reduces each damage type. This is marked with the same symbols (+, * and -) as weapons. Thus, a suit of chainmail, which is strong against slashing weapons, provides some protection against piercing but is of little use against impact, might be noted as Chainmail: ---*++. This means it will stop 3 dice of slashing (-) attacks, 2 dice of piercing(+) attacks, or a single point of impact(*) attacks.

The dice that armor stops are subtracted from the dice the attacker rolls, though it cannot reduce the attacker's pool of dice to less than 1.

For example:
The bandit that Cyrus is fighting is wearing simple armor (Leather: +-*). That means Cyrus is rolling only 4 dice (3 for the sword + 2 for the MoS - 1 for the armor). Supposing he rolls [-][ ][ ][+], he gets a single -, and does one point of damage to the bandit. If the bandit had been wearing Chainmail: ---*++, Cyrus would only roll 2 dice (3 for the sword + 2 for the MoS - 3 for the armor). If the bandit had been wearing Super-Heavy Plate: ------****++++, Cyrus would subtract 5 dice, which would reduce him to 0, except he always gets to roll at least 1 die, so he would roll 1.

Special Damage Types

While the bulk of weapons can fall into one of the categories above, it does not account for every damage type possible. For those exceptions, special damage types are used. Three types of special damage, ballistic, energy and armor-piercing, are dealt with below, and provide guidelines for other types of damage that a game might need.

Ballistic Damage

Ballistic damage is, simply enough, damage from bullets. Bullets combine elements of both piercing and impact damage, and are treated as a combined damage type. This means that ballistic damage succeeds whenever the dice show a + or a *. It's notated with a B, so a pistol might be noted as Light Pistol: 3B.

Regular armor provides some protection against ballistic damage, but not a great deal. Regular armor is treated as if it is the weaker of its - and * values. It is also possible to get special ballistic armor (notated with B's) which uses it's B's instead of - or *'s. As a special note, ballistic armor can reduce damage to 0 dice.

For example:
Officer Murphy has just shot a perp with her target pistol (3B) with a MoS of 1. He's wearing a tough leather jacket (-*). Since it has 1 point of impact protection and no points of piercing protection, it uses the lesser of the two values, and provides no protection. Murphy will roll 4 dice, and do damage for every * or +. If the perp has been wearing a bulletproof vest (BBBB*), it would take away 4 of Murphy's dice, and she'd roll no dice (as per the armor's special note, above).

Energy Damage

Energy damage comes in a great many flavors: fire, electricity, etheric zap-guns and so on. The specifics of the type can determine how to protect against it, but the damage itself is mechanically similar, based upon the intensity of the damage. This uses a similar notation to normal damage types, except it is a progression of intensity. Normal energy attacks, such as a fire, a magical bolt or the like is noted as E+, and damages on +'s. More intense energy: A raging inferno, a true lightning strike and so on, are noted as E*+, and do damage on blanks and +'s. Lethally intense engergies, like stepping into magma or facing a disintegrator are marked as E-*+, which means the dice always succeed. The type of energy is also included in the notation, so a flamethrower might be noted as Flamethrower: 6E*+(Fire), which means it rolls 6 dice, doing fire damage on blanks and plusses.

Regular Armor is generally useless against energy weapons, though the GM may allow it to provide a point or two of protection if it seems approrpriate: Thick Furs, for example, might only be -*+, but they might provide a point or two of protection against a Cold attack. However, it is possible to get armor that protects against any sort of energy, though usually against only one type of Energy. This is noted with E's, and qualified with the type. As such, a heavy fireproof suit might be EEE-+(Fire), and will stop 3 dice of fire damage. As with ballistic damage, energy damage can be reduced to 0 by specialized armor.

*For example:*
Arias the Magnificent has just cast a Firebolt: 4E+ at his rival, Kerion, with a MoS of 2. Kerion has a defensive spell up, Protection from Fire: EEEEE(Fire) so Arias can roll only 1 die (4 dice base + 2 for MoS - 5 for the protection spell), which will do damage on a plus.

Armor Piercing Damage

An attack may be noted as being Armor Piercing with the notation AP: Pistol: 4B(AP). Armor piercing attacks treat hardened armor (see below) as regular armor.

Special Armor Types

In addition to the special armors that are designed to deal with special damage, there are three other armor concepts which are worth noting: universal, hardened, and ablative armor.

Universal Armor

Universal armor, noted with X's, stops all damage types, up to its value. This is most useful for representing certain magical or science-fiction defenses, like force-fields. Some Universal armors may have special rules, but those are specific to the setting.

For example:
Artus and Kiel are engaging in a traditional knife-and-forcefield duel. With the forcefields up, each of them has 6 levels of Universal armor (Shield Belt: XXXXXX). Since the knives are only 2+, it's almost impossible for them to hurt each other, except for a quirk in the inertial shield technology. By slowing down their stikes, they can pass gently through the shields. This is a tricky manuver, and increases the difficulty to hit their opponent by 2, but if successful, they can opt to ignore the armor when determining damage.

Hardened Armor

Hardened Armor is armor which is particularily resistant to damage. It's a good way to represent things which are heavily armored (like tanks) or things which are virtualy immune to a particular type of attack without having to give them excessive levels of armor. Hardened armor removes successes rather than dice, and can reduce any attack to 0 damage. Hardened armor is noted with an H, usually after the appropriate type of damage, or in the notes. As a rule of thumb, the effect of one level of hardened armor is generally equivalent to the effect of 3 levels of non-hardened armor.

For example:
Cyrus is wearing magical armor enchanted to protect him against arrows. It provides normal protection most of the time, but is considered hardened agaisnt arrows, so is noted as Armor of Muldoon: --**++(H vs. Arrows). If someone shoots an arrow against Cyrus for 4 dice, they roll the four dice normally (rather than subtracting 2). If they roll [-][+][+][*] it would normally be 2 damage, but since the Armor of Muldoon is hardened, the two points of piercing defense (++) are subtracted from that total, reducing the damage to 0.

Ablative Armor

Ablative Armor is "used up" as it protects, and is noted by the comment (Ab) after the armor. Every die of damage the armor prevents reduces the overall level of the armor by that much. Ablative armor generally starts at a high level and is whittled down over the course of an encounter.

For example:
Rocket Risanto's custom speeder has just burst into flame. The intensity of the fuel is such that the fire is going to automatically do 4E+* every round. Thankfully, the fire supression system sprays the cabin with Fire Retardant Foam: EEEEEEEEEE(Fire, Ab). In the first round, the foam stops the damage, but is reduced from EEEEEEEEEE to EEEEEE. Rocket clearly needs to get out of the speeder before the foam stops providing any protection.

Combining Armor Types

Many armors combine more than one armor type. Many energy armors, for example, are hardened against their energy type. Many traditional force fields can be represented as ablative universal armor.

Alternate Uses

Some combat systems may want to use different damage categories, and the model can easily adapt to represent that.

For example:
In a game of well armed automobiles shooting at each other, the damage types might be Energy (for lasers and flamethrowers), Ballistic (for Bullets and Missiles) and Collision (for ramming and, well, collisions). These can be easily mapped to -, *, and +, and things are good to go.

Advanced Weapons

Many weapons can be used in more than one way. It is, for example, entirely possible to either stab or slash (or even bash) with a sword. As such, a sword could have multiple notations, 4-/2+. This means that when attacking with a sword, the attacker can decide (before rolling) to slash for 4- or stab for 2+. Against an unarmored opponent, slashing is obviously the way to go, but stabbing may be more effective against certain armor types.

The Wound Track

The system is adaptable to many wound tracks, the exact size and shape of which will have a lot of impact on how brutal combat is. The simplest track would read as follows:

[][][][] Scratched No Penalty
[][][] Hurt -1 Penalty to all actions
[][] Injured -2 Penalty to all Actions
[] Critically Injured -4 Penalty to all actions
[] Incapacitated Taken Out

Each point of damage (success) checks off a box, progressing through the boxes until the character is incapacitated. This has the advantage of simplicity, and is in keeping with many traditional ablative systems. However, it does not include any option for single wound doing grave damage, while still leaving the lesser boxes unfilled. For that, use a slightly different table:

1-2 [][] Scratched No Penalty
3 [][] Hurt -1 Penalty to all actions
4 [] Injured -2 Penalty to all Actions
5-6 [] Critically Injured -4 Penalty to all actions
7+ [] Incapacitated Taken Out

Using this system, look at the number of successes rolled, and check off a box at that level. If all the boxes at that level are filled in, fill in the next available box of greater severity (so if you roll 3 damage, and both Hurt boxes are filled, check off the Injured box).

Sample Weapons and Armor

Weapons Armor  
Fist 0* Padded *  
Gauntlet 1* Leather +  
Dagger 2-/1+ Studded Leather *+
Stiletto 2+ Light Chain -*++  
Light Club 2* Full Chain ---*++
Shortsword 3-/2+ Breastplate **++  
Truncheon 3* Field Plate --***++
Mace 4*    
Longsword 4-/2+    
Rapier 3+    
Spear 4+    
Shuriken 1-    
Dart 1+    
Self Bow 2+    
Shortbow 3+    
Longbow 4+    
Crossbow 4+    

These examples should not be cast in stone, as they represent a thinking that's very strongly influenced by a "fantasy" perspective on the utility of certain arms and armor. Those with the knowledge to spot historical inaccuracies should have no difficulty adjusting the statistics to suit their needs.

Final Thoughts

The goal of this system is to allow for a greater depth of interaction between damage and defense without adding signifigant extra time to damage resolution. My hope is that the simplicity of using symbols in the core notation makes this easy to read and easy to implement.

Read the full article...

Department 13

If the world knew the truth, if they knew that the only thing standing between them and their deepest fears, was you bunch of punks, they'd never be able to sleep at night. And they certainly wouldn't walk down to the 7/11 at 2 AM to get a Coke. -- The Director.

Welcome to the world of Department 13, a secret government agency that very few in the government know of and none will admit to. The conspiracy theorists that suspect Department 13 exists think it's protecting us from the alien menace. They are wrong. Department 13 is protecting us from the Darkness. Not to mention the occasional kook with an axe.

The Department

Hello, Mrs. Baskerville? I'm agent Smith of the Food and Drug Administration. I'd like to ask you a few questions about the, um, "biker gang" that trashed your house last night. -- Agent Alex Smith.

Department 13's job is to fight monsters. It's a never-ending job, slaying vampires, banishing demons, and bashing in the heads of the walking dead. Somebody's got to do it, and while they're at it, they try to keep the world from finding out the truth of the horrors that dwell in the Darkness.

Something of a red-headed stepchild, Department 13 gets shuffled around from budget to budget, landing in the lap of whoever touched it last. The Department is currently a branch of the Food and Drug Administration. Their last job for the FDA involved alchemically modified candy bars, or something like that, and the FDA hasn't been able to get rid of them since. No other agency wants to pick them up, but any time the FDA tries to cut them off entirely, they get a special vistor "from the top" who convinces them of the rashness of such an action.

Hence, the Department's budget could be described as "slim to non-existent." They don't have a fancy monster-fighting lab, they don't have lots of nifty weapons to fight the monsters with. They don't fight the Darkness with technology, they fight with blood, sweat, and tears. And bad puns. You'd be amazed at how damaging a bad pun can be.

The Operatives

Join the Army and see the world, join Department 13 and never see your famil... nevermind. Welcome aboard. - The Director

There are two recruitment paths into Department 13. Through one door of opportunity come experienced field operatives and soldiers. Ex-CIA, FBI, Green Beret, and black-ops from that other secret branch the government won't admit to. These operatives are easy to come by. The Department recruits the undesirables, those who don't fit in, or otherwise find their careers in jeopardy and are looking for a place to serve that will still provide them a paycheck. Usually provide them a paycheck, at least.

Here recruiting happens in cloak-and-dagger style, with a mysterious agent representing a mysterious government agency approaching the potential recruit with veiled intentions, carefully feeling them out, while at the same time playing out a hook that a recruit with any imagination cannot help but bite. Because the operatives they recruit have to be convinced of the existence of the supernatural, many of these operatives have active, and even over-active, imaginations.

Through the other door of opportunity come the more interesting operatives of Department 13. These are the witches, the seers, the natural-born demon hunters. They come without formal field training, but they bring an essential element to the Department's arsenal, the ability to fight fire with fire. The Department is constantly watching for those rare individuals who have a gift of supernatural power and at least a general leaning toward using it for the good.

These potential recruits are easier to approach. They're already grounded in a world of supernatural occurences. They're not wary of the recruiter being a foreign spy. But they can be harder to recruit. It takes a lot of convincing to get them to work for "the Man". Already dabbling or immersed in a fringe element, they're outsiders and used to their freedom. What usually brings them around is convincing them of the benefits of working as a team with financial backing. The lone vampire slayer finds benefit in having someone to cover their back. Too bad the bit about "financial backing" was exaggerated.

Non-player Operatives

Candice Collier

Candice Gifts
Strength Mediocre The Sight
Agility Fair Faults
Willpower Great Afraid of seeing her future.
Light Good Owes the Department a debt.
Skills  
Sight control Good  
Street fighting Good  
Occult lore Fair  
Research Fair  
Lying Good  
Detect lies Fair  

Y'know how the first time you learned how sausage was made, it turned you off to the stuff for years? I've seen how the future is made. So don't ask me unless you really need to know. Let me be the one to spend March afraid of her cornflakes. - Candice, during a recent debriefing

Candice has seen ghosts since she was nine. She's now seventeen, and has a fairly reliable control over her Sight. What limits her use of it is a fear that she will see how she is going to die. Because of this, she is very closed to seeing future events, whether they relate to her or not.

Candice has led a sheltered life, and isn't as street smart as most girls her age. After her Sight first manifested, she spent several years in a mental institution (where she learned that lying was the best way to get along) before the Department discovered her and arranged her release on the condition that she come to work for them.

She senses that Anthony has feelings for her, but she's reluctant to let him get too close. She trusts him completely, but she's seen something of the future that makes her afraid of a serious relationship. She's built a fragile friendship with Sofia, though her use of magic makes Candice uneasy. She doesn't resent Smith the way the others do, but she resents the way he thinks the Sight is something she can just turn on and off at will.

In the midst of all the monster hunting, Candice is trying to rebuild something of a normal life for herself. She'd like to start dating, but her natural shyness and supernatural ability make it difficult.

Alex Smith

Agent Smith Gifts
Strength Fair Contacts in the FBI.
Agility Good Faults
Willpower Good Resentful of having to "babysit" a team full of teens.
Light Fair  
Skills  
Gun combat Good  
Kung Fu Good  
Police protocol Fair  
Deduction Good  
Breaking and Entering Good  
Handle Bureaucracy Good  

It's not enough that I have to babysit a bunch of kids, now you want me to take them into the field without a sidearm? How am I supposed to threaten them into behaving if I'm not carrying a gun? -- Agent Smith to the Director

Agent Alex Smith is a former field agent of the FBI and takes the supernatural in stride as cold, hard facts of life. He's got a job to do, and he's going to do it by the book. That discipline and training are necessary to accomplish the job is just another cold, hard fact of life. What gets Smith's goat is that his team is a bunch of undisciplined teenagers who don't know diddly about running a real operation. There's a war going on, and the soldiers under his command are more than wet behind the ears, they think they know this business better than he does.

Smith will bend the rules and even throw out the book when he thinks it will serve the ultimate goal of the Department, but he's stricter with his team of teens than he would be with experienced agents. Their cockiness and disregard for protocol makes him come down on them all the harder.

What's really under Smith's skin is something that he doesn't really recognize. It's not that they're kids that he resents, it's that every one of them has some supernatural edge that he hasn't got. All he's got is hot lead, and occasionally silver, and deep down he knows that it isn't enough. He knows that the Department needs these kids, and the only thing he has to contribute is his training and self-discipline.

Sofia Martinez

Sofia Gifts
Strength Mediocre The Crystals of Aurelius (+1 to concentration or meditation)
Agility Fair Faults
Willpower Good Turns too easily to magic to solve problems.
Light Fair Mother wants to kill her.
Skills  
Occult lore Great  
Herb lore Fair  
Kickboxing Fair  
Research Good  
Bluff Fair  
Charm Fair  

"Not so subtle. Still quick to anger." -- Sofia's T-Shirt

Sofia is sixteen years old, the daughter of a witch, and a witch herself. She studied the black arts with her mother, until her mother demanded that she sacrifice one of her friends to a demon in exchange for power. Sofia, a good soul at heart, balked, and when her mother pushed her, the resulting contest left her mother's beautiful faced scarred and drove a wedge between them. While her mother vowed vengance upon her daughter, Sofia came to the realization that the arts learned from her mother endangered her soul. When Department 13 came looking for her, she was ready to join their ranks to atone for what she had been doing and to find a safe haven from her mother.

Sofia has a Fair Light, which is typical of most people. She used to have a Great Light, but continued use of black magics and invocations of Hecate have gradually diminished the goodness of her soul. If she continues down this path, it won't be long before she joins her mother as a servant of Darkness. As it is now, she is easily tempted by the use of magic, and even though she knows it has harmful effects on her, she often can't resist when the going gets tough. She could reverse the trend by eliminating her use of magic and turning her activities to something more wholesome, but it will likely take another serious to bring her to that.

Sofia loves to hang out with Alex and Candice and wants to be best-buds. Smith, on the other hand, she's contemplated turning into a frog more than once. She's also got a crush on agent Murray, her kickboxing instructor, but she's sure nobody knows.

Anthony Brown

Anthony Gifts
Strength Superb +1 Damage Resistance
Agility Good Heals rapidly
Willpower Fair Inhuman endurance
Light Great Faults
Skills Compelled to fight the Darkness.
Streetwise Fair Just wants to live a normal life.
Street fighting Good  
Campaign City Lore Good  
Research Mediocre  
Surveillance Fair  
Socialize Mediocre  

"It's no big deal."
"You took off its head with a hubcap!"
"Okay, so I just put a little english on it..."
-- Anthony and Candice

Anthony is a natural-born demon hunter (see Forces of Light). He grew up in an orphanage and never knew who, or what, his parents were. When he was twelve, he ran away from the orphanage and lived on the streets, hunting vampires until Department 13 recruited him.

Anthony is wary of the Director's attempt to be "fatherly" to him, but his high-than-average Light gives him the gut feeling that the Director, however mysterious, does have his best interests in mind.

He's also very protective of Candice, waffling between being brotherly and something more. He's very cautious about Sofia, and has been contemplating having a serious talk with the Director about what the magic has been doing to her. He senses her slow slide into Darkness and wonders why the others don't see it as well. He tolerates Smith well, though he wishes the guy would go easier on them.

The Director

The Director Gifts
Strength Good Inspires loyalty
Agility Mediocre Faults
Willpower Great Secrets to keep
Light Great Overweight
Skills  
Gun combat Fair  
Fighting Fair  
Police protocol Good  
Deduction Fair  
Research Good  
Leadership Great  
Handling money Superb  

This is a serious job, and it takes serious people to do serious work. Now if you children are finished with your playground scuffle, we've got an operation to run here. -- The Director.

They call him "the Fat Man". Some, just a very few, have earned enough of his respect to call him that to his face. Those who use the moniker behind his back call him "the Director" to his face, as he has revealed no other name. A few, more polite operatives call him "the Old Man." He dislikes this nickname the most.

The Director is almost as mysterious as the Department itself. Nobody knows his name, nobody knows where he lives, nobody knows if he has any family. The senior operatives make sure the new recruits don't try to follow him around. They respect his privacy. If he wants to keep his life a secret, he must have a good reason for it.

He's also as humorless as he is mysterious. He never laughs, unless it's his short, dry bark of irony, and the only humor anyone gets from him comes as sarcasm, usually used to put an unruly operative in his place.

Who is the Director? He's whoever you need him to be. If you want to keep it simple, he's Martin Fess, ex-Green Beret grown fat, driven to do his job unrelentingly by the memory of the night his wife and children were taken from him by a creature of Darkness. He has given up his past and become the Director; that is the only meaning or purpose that he has left.

If you want something more complex, dig deeper, and you'll find that the Martin Fess identity is a mask under the mask. A false face for someone, or some thing, less expected. A supernatural agent of Light, organizing this world to fight the Darkness? Or maybe an agent of Darkness, using the mortals of this world to further its dark ends? Perhaps the real truth is even more sinister.

The Lab

Oh, I'll just run this through the DNA analyzer and we'll have your results in a jiffy!
... We have a DNA analyzer?!
Nah. I'm really going to let Bruno sniff both samples, and if he thinks they're from the same person, he'll bark twice. -- Jenkins and Alex

While they may not have the latest in fancy crime-fighting equipment, the Department does have a basic laboratory with enough equipment to analyze blood samples, identify common materials, do basic forensics work, and generally get annoyed at not having enough fancy equipment.

If any serious work needs done, it gets sent out of house. And analyzing anything suspicious usually requires calling in a marker or two.

The Library

You'd think the Tome of Orisis would be in the computer by now.
What, and miss out on the sun-fun experience of reading a book bound with human skin? -- Alex and Sofia

The guys in the lab will tell you that the Department spends far more money on books than on proper lab equipment. And they're quite right. Department 13's library is vast and old, full of rare books on all subjects arcane and mystical. A few of the more common works have been scanned into the computer, but library work generally requires late nights poring over old tomes.

Equipment

I told you, only adult agents get a sidearm.
You just won't let me have a gun because I'm a girl!
That's right, I don't give guns to agents who pout. -- The Director and Candice

Every agent of eighteen years or older is issued a standard sidearm. Bullet-proof vests are available when necessary. Don't ask for more than that. If you start thinking about silver-nitrate rounds, shotguns that shoot wooden stakes, and high-powered tasers, just remember, you're lucky to get bullets.

The Dirty Little Secret

Secrets? Everybody's got secrets! Question is, which ones are worth knowing, and which ones would just cause you trouble? -- The Director

So why does the Department seem to be the center of so much supernatural activity? There aren't branches all over the continent, just one little office and so much Darkness to be found nearby. While the occasional cross-country excursion does happen, the operatives of Department 13 rarely have to look outside their own city limits to keep their hands full. Why is that?

At the bottom level of the lab, there's a secret staircase. Only the Director and two other people know of its existence. At the bottom of the staircase, there's a secret vault made of cold iron. In this secret vault is the Codex of Malloch. It is the ultimate tool of Darkness and it cannot be destroyed by mortal man. If it found its way into the hands of those with evil intent, the utter destruction of mankind would be at hand. So this is the Department's ultimate purpose: to guard the most powerful artifact in the world without even knowing it exists.

The Codex isn't satisfied with this situation of course. It yearns to be free and to fulfill its purpose. It calls to the servants of Darkness, and they come. They don't even know why they come, don't even know the Codex is there, they just come. Some know they're being called, but of those, none have deliberately sought the Codex... yet.

Magic and the Supernatural

Magic

Gamemastering Magic

The first rule is that magic should be risky, both in the short term and the long term. Every successful casting risks a loss of Light, the basic force of goodness in the soul.

The second rule is that magic is unreliable, unpredictable, and downright under the GM's control. Use magic to make the story more interesting, not to let the players short-circuit the story.

To cast a spell, the witch must know (or develop) the proper ritual, have at hand the necessary components, call upon an appropriate power, and then force, coerce or bargain with that power to grant the desired spell.

If the witch doesn't get some portion of the spell correct, such as working from an inaccurate or damaged copy of the instructions, or a component was left out or substituted, there is the possibility that the spell will simply fail. This usually has no effect, but the GM may apply some minor backfire effect if desired. (This is especially encouraged if the players need reminding that magic is dangerous.) If there is the possibility of the spell being performed improperly, the witch may make a roll against her Magic skill to detect and correct for the mistake.

Once it is determined that the casting has been performed properly, the witch has made contact with the desired entity and must make a Willpower roll against the difficulty of the spell. When using spirits, this reflects the willfulness of the spirits; the witch literally bends them to her will. In the case of greater demons, it's not a matter of having a stronger will than the demon, it's a matter of having the willpower to control the energy granted. (A spell's difficulty is set by the gamemaster using whatever manner of determination he desires. Just don't make any magic too easy.)

If the spell fails at this stage, bad things are likely to happen. The spell may backfire with minor to terrible results. The spirits or demon's power may run amok or turn on the caster. The more powerful the spell, the more dangerous will its backlash be.

If the Willpower roll is successful, the spell goes off more or less as planned. The exact effects of a spell are under GM control. Both spirits and demons are mischevious, and the witch cannot count on everything going exactly as expected.

In either case, successful Willpower roll or not, the witch must make a Light roll against the difficulty of the spell. If this roll fails, she permanantly loses one level of Light. (This effect does not occur if the spell was simply cast incorrectly. It is willing contact with Dark forces that cause loss of Light.)

Magic should be handled in a very freeform manner. While witches may develop a few quick-cast spells for combat, most spells will be of specialized nature and not see repetitive use.

Why can't I find a book on white magic in the library?
Because there's no such thing as white magic. -- Candice and Alex

Magic in the world of Department 13 comes in two flavors, black and blacker. In order to cast magical spells, a witch must call upon the forces of Darkness to do her bidding. The so-called "white witch" treads a thin line, calling on the Darkness to fight the Darkness. With every incantation, the white witch sells a little piece of her soul. If the black witch works things right, she sells someone else's soul instead of her own. But even she doesn't always get so lucky.

When it comes right down to it, "black and blacker" really isn't a joke. There are two sources of power a witch can call on, and one is a lot uglier in the long run. These two powers are spirits and greater demons.

Spirits

Have you been calling up evil spirits again?
What, you think I summon up evil spirits just for fun?
You did, didn't you?
Well, yeah.... -- Alex and Sofia

The spirits of Darkness are more a force of nature or personifications of emotion than they are beings. They have no clear will of their own and most are easily summoned. Spirits are generally called upon to control the elements or someone's emotions. A fire spell is easily performed by calling upon a fire spirit to set something ablaze, or a spirit of anger to enrage a target. The price of calling on the spirits to do ones bidding is a potential loss of Light, the basic force of goodness in the soul.

Some examples are spirits of fire, anger, death, jealousy, wind, obsession. Some bear some discussion.

Spirits of the elements. These are probably the safest among the spirits, and the closest to being neutral in nature. The white witch will concentrate most of her efforts here, but note that these spirits can be very destructive if the spell goes wrong.

Spirits of love. There aren't any, nor are there any spirits of the emotions of Light. The witch foolish enough to call upon the spirits of "love" (and many do, as love spells are much sought after) will instead get a spirit of lust, obsession or jealousy. No love spell is truly successful because of this. The same goes for any spell that tries to make someone act out of an emotion of Light.

Spirits of death. All too easily summoned, even the worst of black witches will avoid these if they have any sense. Difficult to control, they are more likely to turn on their summoner than any other spirit.

Greater Demons

Hello, Hecate... are you listening? Yoohoo... like, I could use some help today, ya know? ... Pff -- goddesses! Never around when you need them. -- Sofia

Hecate, Abraxis, Pan, Amdusias, Loki, Housoku, the Nameless Ones... these are but a few of the known greater demons. Considered gods by the common witch, these beings wield raw power and can lend a portion of it to mortals. (See Demons below.)

The greater demons channel their power through the witch, creating nearly any effect imaginable. Notably, no spell can return the dead to real life.

The greatest danger to most novice witches dealing with the greater demons is that they think these "gods" are relatively harmless or even on their side. This naive view has led many a white witch down the path to the side of Darkness.

The price a greater demon exacts in exchange for its power varies. Some willingly give power to witches whose activites align with the demon's purposes, some will require a sacrifice or other bargain before they will grant power. Regardless of the price exacted, the witch always risks losing Light in the process.

Casting Spells

The time it takes to call upon the spirits varies depending on how powerful the spirit is, how skilled the witch is, and how large of an effect the witch is trying to accomplish. Small spells involving spirits can be cast quickly enough to be effective in combat.

Calling upon a greater demon always involves a long and complicated ritual. But if the witch is willing to enter into a long-term contract, usually at the cost of her immortal soul, she can call upon the demon's power with simple spells quickly enough to be effective in combat.

Any moderately powerful magic takes time, a ritual, the proper components, and often more than one witch.

See the sample spells later in this article.

The Sight

Gamemastering the Sight

While there are many ways to represent the Sight in game terms, here are two that work well:

Sight as a Gift

Either as a simple Gift (you got it or you don't) or as stackable (multiple levels in the Gift make you stronger at it), this method is pretty straightforward.

Sight as an Attribute

Give every character some kind of "psychic awareness" attribute. High levels (Superb or higher) allow sensing the supernatural and may allow visions of the past and future. Medium levels give a rudimentary ability to sense the supernatural (goosebumps or cold shivers when they are present). Low levels are practically useless... if a player buys his Sight down below Fair, make sure he suffers for it in play by failing to "sense evil" sneaking up behind him, or maybe allowing him to fall in love with a ghost without recognizing it for what it is.

Or a Little of Both...

Use a "psychic awareness" Attribute for basic sensing of nearby supernatural activity, and a Sight Gift for visions of the past and future.

Using the Sight

The gamemaster could work up a "results chart" for unopposed rolls against the Sight when supernatural activity is present, but that may restrict this ability more than you'd like. The Sight is as much a gamemaster plot tool as it is a problem-solving tool for the operatives. By limiting yourself to interpreting die rolls against a chart, you limit your ability to use the Sight as a plot device.

Play the Sight according to your needs to drop clues. Try throwing in the occasional "normal dream" or difficult to interpret vision to keep the Sight from becoming a routine source of reliable information. Visions of the future need not come to be, visions of the past might be through a historical person's eyes and subject to his interpretation of events.

Where magic is an external force to be called upon, some humans possess an internal ability to see things that others cannot, which the Department calls "the Sight." Most often, this ability allows them to see supernatural beings for what they are (invisible ghosts are visible to them, they recognize Type III vampires at a glance, etc). Occasionally, the Sight can extend into the past, usually when it involves a strong psychic imprint, such as seeing the past events of a murder when at the murder scene, or touching some important object or being involved in the murder. Very rarely, the Sight can extend into the future.

Operatives with the Sight are some of the Department's most valuable assets. The Department will go to a lot of expense, and put up with rather obnoxious behavior, to keep a Seer on the team.

Personal Light

Every mortal being possesses a soul, and that soul can be good or evil, full of Light or Darkness. Most mortals have a balance of Light and Darkness in them, possessing neither great good nor terrible evil.

Most people have a Fair Light. The virtuous have a Good or higher Light. The depraved and evil have a Mediocre or lower Light. The amount of Light a soul possesses dictates how well it resists temptation or domination by Darkness. The further away from Fair a being's Light is, the more sensitive that being is to Light, or lack of light, in others.

A person's Light can change over time. Consciously going out of one's way to do good will slowly raise one's Light. The fall into Darkness is far easier, and often starts with good intentions.

The Forces of Light

Unfortunately, the balance of power seems to be in favor of the Darkness. As far as the Department knows, there are no greater beings on the side of Light. For the most part, mankind stands alone in this battle. (Maybe. See the section on Religion in Department 13 for an alternative.)

Rarely, there are individual humans the Department calls demon-hunters. Gifted with some combination of great strength, speed, endurance, healing and supernatural senses or abilities, these incredible individuals are called to fight the forces of Darkness. Some respond willingly, others grudgingly, and some not at all, but each of them feels, at a gut level, the call to do battle with the creatures of Darkness.

Just as there are men devoted to Darkness, there are just a very few creatures of Darkness that have switched sides. Most often because they see some kind of gain in it, but occasionally because they are mutants among their own kind, genuinely good, and willing to risk their lives for the welfare of mankind.

The Forces of Darkness

The Undead

Vampires

Vampires

The exact abilities and weaknesses of the vampires are up to you. Here are some suggestions.

Type I (Elder)

  • Is inhumanly strong (Legendary+ strength).
  • Can shift into the form of a rat, wolf, bat or mist.
  • Can control rats, wolves and bats.
  • Regenerates rapidly if fed recently, slowly otherwise.
  • Can mesmerize its victims, who have no clear recollection of the encounter.
  • Does not cast a reflection.
  • Must drink human blood weekly or fall into a state of lethargy.
  • Must "sleep" during the day.
  • Is only active for a few weeks or months, then must sleep for several months or even years.
  • Can only be killed by a wooden stake through the heart or by cutting off its head.
  • Cannot enter a dwelling uninvited. (At the GM's option, this invitation can be revoked.)
  • Cannot bear the sight of a holy symbol, is burned by its touch.
  • Cannot bear sunlight, is burned by its touch.

Type II

All the attributes and weaknesses of the Type I vampire, except:

  • No shapeshifting and animal control.
  • Does not regenerate as fast.
  • Mesmerizing ability is weaker.
  • Does not have to "sleep" during the day.
  • Does not have to feed as often, won't fall into a stupor until after a month without feeding.
  • Slightly less affected (lower damage) by holy symbols and sunlight.

Type III

  • Only has the mesmerizing powers at a low level.

Are you sure Jones over in accounting isn't a vampire? - The Director

Vampires in the world of Department 13 come in three flavors.

Type I vampires, or Elders, are the common vampire of legend. They're ancient, powerful undead, who can change forms and mesmerize their victims. Fortunately they're rare, spend long months or even years "asleep", and don't have to feed often. After death, a victim who has tasted the blood of the Type I vampire rises as a Type II under the control of its creator.

Type II vampires are less-powerful versions of their masters, able to be active during the day and not needing the deep "sleep" their masters do.

Type III vampires, or daywalkers, appear entirely human, are cool to the touch but not deathly cold, cast a reflection, and can walk in sunlight (though they dislike it). They crave the taste of human blood, yet are not dependent on it, as they take sustenance from regular food. Like a Type I vampire, they take their prey by mesmerising them. The victim generally doesn't remember the enounter at all, but if pressed by a witness, will remember only a pleasant encounter with a friend or lover whom they can't quite remember. Individually, the Type III vampire doesn't drain enough blood to kill its victim, though if multiple Type III vampires feed from the same victim, death can occur. Type III vampires never create more vampires.

Type III vampires are the most common and the most difficult to detect, but hardly being vampires, they are almost harmless. Their greatest threat is not as vampires, but as the minions of a greater power.

How more Type I vampires are made isn't known, though the Department's current theory is that a Type I can simply make another Type I instead of a Type II when he chooses.

When killed, all three vampire types quickly decay into dust, even if they were only hours old, leaving behind only their empty clothes and possessions.

Zombies

Braainnsssss.... -- Jones over in Accounting

The most familiar of the living dead, zombies never occur "in the wild" the way vampires do. They are always created, either through alchemy or other black magic, to do some evil power's bidding. They can range from the mindless, shambling corpse to the looks-good-enough-to-be-human simulacrum of a living being. The former are good for overwhelming the heroes, the latter for subtle plot twists.

Ghosts

Maybe it was a ghost?
Keep up, Eintstein, ghosts don't wear Nikes. -- Alex and Candice

Ghosts are not very common in this world, and they rarely can cause any harm, poltergeists being the worst of them. When a ghost is encountered, it's usually held here by unfinished business, and nine times out of ten you can bet it was because they were murdered and they're hanging around in hopes to see justice. They often seek out those with the Sight in an attempt to find a champion for their cause. (Don't confuse ghosts with evil spirits. The former are the essense of mortals trapped on this earth, while the latter are insubstantial creatures of Darkness.)

Demons

Euugh... Those squid-face things again?
Yeah, those squid-face things again. What, are you alergic or something? - Candice and the Director

Demons abound in the universe of Department 13. There are almost as many types of demon as one could dream up. They come in all shapes, sizes and origins, but they can be broken up into two broad categories lesser demons and the greater demons.

Lesser Demons

Lesser demons are not unique individuals, but races of demons. They may possess minor magical powers, such as dimension travel, invisibility, or the ability to walk through walls. Generally, they're usually just mean, nasty things with tough hides and lots of muscles and horns.

Greater Demons

The "gods" of ancient myth are in reality unique demons of great power. Most of them can manifest in corporeal or non-corporeal forms, can hear their names spoken across the dimensions if the right rituals are performed, and can supply magial power through those rituals. All exact a price for lending their power.

Under normal circumstances, all the greater demons dwell in the outer realms, also known as the underworld, and cannot directly influence this world. Unless they can physically travel through one of the 365 gateways, they won't be encountered in physical form.

Here are just a few...

Abraxas

Once considered the Supreme Being by a Gnostic sect, Abraxas is actually the guardian of the 365 gateways to the underworld. His position is rather interesting, because he's as adamant about keeping the greater demons on their side of the gate as he is about keeping mortals on their side. He is obviously as evil as any of the greater demons, yet he must have some compelling reason to guard the gates as he does.

Hecate

Patroness of black magic, night and darkness, Hecate is the most common source of dark power among female witches. She gives power readily, but exacts a steep price in the long run.

Pan

Patron of strong drink, wild dancing, lust, and wildness. A favorite among the fraternities, of course, Pan is also favored among many nature cults.

Amdusias

Demon of war and conflict, Amdusias is quick to lend strength in battle, but is a poor choice in the more subtle arts.

Loki

The trickster, patron of chaos and trickery. Loki is called upon by many black male witches, and occasionally by the white witch in hopes of fouling up an enemies plans.

Housoku

Demon of magical knowledge, science and astrology. A patron of scholars and more recently, computers and the Internet.

The Nameless Ones

Look not upon the faces of the Nameless Ones, for to see them is to invite madness. They will give power beyond your wildest dreams, but those dreams will turn into nightmares of endless, unimaginable terror. If circumstances require that you call upon them, cast yourself into the depths of the Abyss. Better the eternal tortures of the damned than to gaze for even a moment into the depths of those thousand dead eyes.

Men

Yes, many of mankind are on the side of Darkness as well. These are perhaps the most frightening of foes because they represent the potential for evil in all of us. They're also the most difficult to dispatch out-of-hand, for legal reasons if not for moral. If the operatives of the Department kill the mayor without sufficient evidence that would be believable in a court of law, they may find themselves left high and dry. "Because he was about to turn into the incarnation of Hoshepatawa himself!" is not a valid legal defense.

Gamemastering Department 13

Something you should note right away is that the operatives of Department 13 are a mixed bag. Here you have seasoned Green Beret's, FBI, and CIA agents working alongside street-smart teen witches, seers and demon hunters. If you don't see the inter-party roleplaying potential in that, you might oughta pack it up and go home now. Here are some other factors you might want to consider...

Tone

Deparment 13 is meant to be a dash of serious work mixed with a liberal dose of humor. Death of the main characters is extremely rare, death of secondary characters is rare, and death of innocent bystanders can happen almost every episode.

Yet it doesn't have to be played that way. Department 13 can range anywhere from down-and-dirty, no-holds-barred, main-characters-die-regularly, to a campy romp in which the red shirts die but that isn't really important. However you want to run it, pick a direction and stick with it, otherwise you'll confuse and frustrate your players.

Budget

How much money, and hence what kind of neat gadgets does the Department have? That depends on who is providing them with their budget and how much they can spare. Or for a more practical answer, it depends on just what you want the campaign to look like. Department 13 was written with a low budget in mind, but if you want action-adventure stories where the operatives to wade in with shotguns that shoot silver-tipped wooden stakes, holy water grenades, and sophisticated body armor (complete with neck shields), and you want them to have access to fancy computers and lab equipment, pour on the dough. On the other hand, if you're looking for a more thoughtful, low-key, stakes-and-crosses approach, keep the money tight and make them scramble for their existence.

Allies

Don't forget that there are forces of Light outside the Department. Some are potential recruits, some have already been approached and chose to stay solo. There's even the occasional creature which has somehow gained a measure of Light and fights on the side of the good guys. Or at least that's what they'd have you think.

Religion in Department 13

What role does religion play in a setting like this? In our most familiar, traditional vampire lore, it is the holy symbols of the Catholic church, the crucifix, St Andrews medallion, holy water or holy wafers, that harm the vampire. In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, the vampire is harmed by the Christian cross, but darned if the heroes don't turn to black magic instead of Christian prayer when they need supernatural aid.

If you want vampires (and maybe other forces of darkness... why should vampires cower at the sight of a crucifix while demons laugh at it?) in the more traditional mode, you'll want to consider why the holy symbols have their effect. (And while you're at it, maybe Department 13 is a branch of the Catholic church, and its operatives the equivalent of holy paladins.)

What is the role of the religious faith of the heroes when fighting the forces of darkness? More recent fiction expands from the symbols of the Catholic church so that any holy symbol of any faith will do the trick, so long as the bearer has faith in their religion. Loss or lack of faith makes the symbol useless. Conversely, those with strong faith (perhaps a Gift of True Faith?) may make the symbol more effective.

Or maybe the holy symbols only work because of willpower, and the vampire's psychic mesmerising ability make it vulnerable to psychic attack. So anything could be a "holy symbol" if the weilder really believed it would harm the vampire.

Finally, there's no reason that vampires and demons have to be linked to modern or real religion. Perhaps holy symbols and prayers have no effect on vampires and demons at all.

Do Your Own Thing

Department 13 is just a springboard, a stepping-off point, for a campaign that should be uniquely yours! Don't feel constrained by anything here; tear it apart and reassemble it to your liking. Make Department 13 your own. Staff it with NPC agents and office personell for the PCs to interact with. Concoct conspiracies, create vampire factions, throw in some sexy demons to lure the heroes to the dark side, do whatever "sharpens your stake." Then go out and kick some vampire butt!

The Rules

Suggested Attributes

  • Strength - Used to punch and pick up heavy stuff.
  • Agility - Used to dodge and throw things.
  • Willpower - Used to cast and resist the effects of magic.
  • Light - Represents the level of goodness in the soul.

Sample Skills

It is suggested that skills detail for Department 13 be kept fairly high-level, to keep character sheets simple and play focused on the action. Feel free to adjust this sample skill list to fit your campaign.

  • Academic
    • Research
    • Lore (Magic, Creatures of Darkness, or other specialty)
    • Teaching
    • Languages
    • Computers
    • Science
    • Area Knowledge
  • Artistic
    • Acting
    • Music
    • Art
  • Athletic
    • Acrobatics
    • Climbing
    • Endurance
    • Jumping
    • Running
    • Swimming
  • Combat
    • Fighting (Specify style or weapon: Street, Knife, Gun, Kung Fu, etc)
  • Criminal
    • Fence (as in stolen goods)
    • Forgery
    • Hide
    • Lockpicking
    • Pickpocket
    • Sneak
    • Streetwise
  • Perception
    • Deduction (or "Deduce")
    • Sense Motive
    • Surveillance
  • Professional
    • Protocol (Police, Military, Other)
    • Jury-Rig
    • Driving
    • First Aid
    • Medicine
    • Piloting
    • Other Profession (Specify)
    • Handle Bureaucracy
  • Social
    • Bluff
    • Make Connections
    • Charm
    • Intimidate
    • Lie
    • Seduce
  • Survival
    • Tracking (wilderness)
    • Shadowing (urban)
    • Wilderness Survival
    • Scrounge

Sample Spells

Fires of Hades

Fire, alright, but not really from the netherworld. This simple spell calls on spirits of fire to set flame to the target. Difficulty is Fair, or Mediocre if there is already fire present (which increases the intensity of a backfire should failure occur). Takes one round of concentration and the proper incantation. Failure often results in an out-of-control fire. (So does success.)

The Lost is Found

Calling upon the winds of the four directions, this spell gives the witch an "intuitive" understanding of how to find a lost item or person. Requires a personal article of the lost person, a pentacle with appropriate symbols, candles and twenty minutes of incantation. Difficulty is Good. Failure often results in wind damage in the area of casting.

Rites of the Zombie

No grimoire would be complete without a recipe for creating the walking dead! This ritual spell requires a corpse (fresh is good, but even an intact skeleton will do in a pinch, raising the difficulty one level), a branch of the yew, an embalming oil of stinging nettles, powdered bone, and oil of cedrium; the proper pentacle drawn on the floor, about three hours of preparation and incantation, and a piece of your immortal soul. Difficulty is Legendary. Failure often results in an out-of-control zombie, intent on killing its creator.

Sources

Obviously, this setting wasn't made up of whole cloth. It's a patchwork monster, with body parts gleefully stolen from the graveyards of many books and shows. You know most of them (do I have to say Buffy...?), so here are a few slightly obscure ones.

  • Television Shows
    • The Invisible Man, on SciFi. This show rocked, but it wasn't about monsters. If you want to know how to run the "business" side of the Department and need a role-model for the Director, this is it.
  • Books
    • Salem's Lot, Stephen King. Not quite your typical vampire novel, and it's view on what a single vampire can do to a small town in a matter of days is frightening. The inspiration for "tiers" of vampire types come from it's sister book, Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla.
    • Odd Thomas, Dean Koonts. Odd's got the Sight, and maybe he'd be better off without it. The ending is somewhat unsatisfying, but it's still a good read.
    • GURPS Places of Mystery. Here you go, all the weird places of the real world, all decked out for gaming.
  • Movies
    • Underworld (2003). A popular vampire and werewolf roleplaying world crossed with The Matrix look and feel (and sound effects). Despite getting mediocre reviews, this movie is ripe for the picking when it comes to the world of Department 13, and the premise and the plot work well enough. Watch for Type 1 and Type 2 vampires here.
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Ann Dupuis: The Before Time

With the recent announcement by Grey Ghost Games that Fudge's future is in Open Gaming, we thought it was high time we sat down with Ann Dupuis and asked her to discuss Fudge, where it's been, and where it's going.

The good news is she responded to our questions quickly. The bad news is that we were overenthusiastic! Not only did we dump a world of questions in her lap, we also asked several which she just isn't ready to answer yet. So, here we find the first part of our interview — a retrospective on Fudge and the current projects rumbling around the rafters at the Grey Ghost. In part two of our interview, in a later issue, we'll be looking to the future of Fudge, and in particular, those key questions about Fudge and Open Gaming that are burning in your hearts as well as ours.


FF: Let's start with an easy one. Why "Grey Ghost"?

AD: Ooh, that's not an easy one at all. Or at least not a short one.

I answered this and other how-did-you-get-started questions in another interview, by Jody Harkavy of the roleplaygames.about.com site.

And yes, that's me, on "Shazaam," my half-Arab pony, in a "native costume" class at an Arabian horse show.

FF: How'd you get involved with Fudge?

AD: It all started with GURPS, actually. My husband and I were involved with a small convention in New Hampshire, called "Dovercon" (although it was no longer held in Dover NH). I was the art show director, among other things. One year we went to a seminar by a games author, Steffan O'Sullivan, introducing gamers to the GURPS roleplaying game system. That was the start of a beautiful friendship — with GURPS, to be sure, but primarily with Steffan.

Our interest in GURPS led to my writing some things for Steve Jackson Games, which segued into writing for TSR (Paul and I continued to play D&D while playing GURPS), so in a way Steffan launched my writing career...

FF: When did you decide to take on commercial publication of Fudge, and why?

AD: When? I don't recall a precise moment when I thought to myself, "Aha! I'll become a Fudge publisher!" The idea was certainly growing on me throughout 1993 and into 1994.

The "why" part is another long story. Ready?

In 1990, I began my game writing career with an article in Steve Jackson Games' Roleplayer! magazine and an adventure in Dungeon! magazine. That led to some actual book contracts — GURPS(r) Old West for Steve Jackson Games being the first.

At that time, I was already thinking of becoming a publisher as well as an author. In 1991, some friends and I began the process of forming "Evil Twin Publishing Corporation" and obtaining a license to publish GURPS adventures. Our first one was going to be a GURPS Old West adventure. Steve Jackson had pretty much abandoned any GURPS sourcebooks less than 96 pages, as they simply weren't profitable for a company with overhead expenses such as office space and payroll (pesky things that they are!). So we were going to publish several shorter works, 64 pages or less.

Why become publishers at all? For all the same reasons many people start their own business — to be our own bosses and to make money doing something we enjoyed.

For various reasons, "Evil Twin Publishing Corporation" dissolved before publishing anything. But two things grew out of that initial attempt.

The "publishing" bug kept growing — and, a chance encounter at GenCon in 1992, while I was displaying an Evil Twin Publishing Corporation business card on my attendance badge, led to my receiving my first contract for TSR ("Night Howlers," a lycanthropy sourcebook for D&D).

Fast forward a year or so, when I was working on another book for Steve Jackson Games. This one was one that I'd submitted a proposal for, rather than having it drop into my lap as GURPS Old West had. (That's a long story, too, but I won't tell that one here.)

In short, I was working on "Animal Companions" for GURPS.

I was also working on my second project for TSR, "Champions of Mystara," a boxed set requiring lots and lots of words and maps.

My work stalled on "Animal Companions" for two reasons that occurred pretty much simultaneously:

I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to make GURPS's "Fatigue" rules work for both housecats and elephants (the normal Fatigue mechanics were based on Strength),

and

I realized I could meet one deadline or the other, but not both.

At the time, TSR, being the "800-lb gorilla" of the gaming industry, paid so much better than Steve Jackson Games that the choice was pretty clear. So I told my managing editor at Steve Jackson Games that I was going to have to put Animal Companions on hold while I finished up Champions of Mystara. I intended to get back to work on Animal Companions — and solve that darned Fatigue problem! — but the editor told me, basically, not to bother. (That's yet another long story...)

So I set Animal Companions aside, and concentrated on TSR products for the next few years.

In the meantime, Steffan began tinkering with his own game system. I wasn't paying all that much attention in the beginning, frankly, being busy with TSR and still tinkering with GURPS a bit. But I did pop in now and again to see what Steffan and the other folks working on Fudge were doing.

I gradually became more involved with the Fudge project, as the system developed and grew.

And then Steffan introduced Scale, which provided the perfect solution for the problems inherent in describing housecats and elephants in the same game system. I knew then that Animal Companions was meant to be a Fudge product, and my interest in Fudge became much stronger.

But before I could have any hope at publishing Animal Companions and have it be commercially viable, I had to establish Fudge as a "known" game system.

That took rather longer than I'd expected....

In the meantime, I kept getting sidetracked into other interesting Fudge projects. So "Animal Companions" kept getting put off....

Oh, and since then, the GURPS Compendium has linked the Fatigue rules to Health rather than Strength, but that elegant solution eluded me all those years ago. (Scale's better, anyhow.)

FF: Brief history lesson time. Fudge has gone through several versions. Can you give us an overview, starting back with Wild Mule?

AD: I've published Fudge as a "core book" three times so far:

The Wild Mule edition in 1994 (grand total of 200 copies printed, of which a few still remain — signed and numbered, for any collectors out there!

The first Grey Ghost book, "Fudge: A Role-Playing Game by Steffan O'Sullivan," in 1995 (that was when Steffan announced he was happy with Fudge and was done tinkering with it)

and then "Fudge Expanded Edition," when it was time to reprint Fudge. The "Expanded" section was in response to the oft-voiced complaint that Fudge wasn't a "complete game" playable "out of the box" (something that Steffan and I actually disagree with, by the way, but it was a good excuse to create a new edition).

Now we're working on the almost-10th-Anniversary edition, which will contain everything in Fudge Expanded Edition and a bunch more material. This will be the first hardcover edition of the Fudge core rules, and should be out later this year. More on that later.

FF: What's been the biggest frustration or obstacle you've faced with your commercial venture with Fudge?

AD: Money. There's never enough of it.

And time. There's never enough of that, either.

FF: How about the biggest success — personally or commercially — with Fudge?

AD: My biggest commercial success with Fudge hasn't happened yet.

My biggest personal success with Fudge was finally "grokking" the system — really understanding it, on a deep level. It took me years as a Fudge player, GM, designer, and publisher before I truly understood the system.

Now I just roll the dice and fudge the rest.

FF: You publish a number of Fudge products outside of the core rules. Do you have any favorites among them?

AD: Terra Incognita, no doubt about it. Scott Larson did a terrific job, and it's due to his diligence and persistence that the TI "errata" sheet is so short. (All errors were mine, by the way.)

I also love the way he keeps up the "nagssociety.com" website, with "daily dispatches" from the Nags Society. I truly wish I had the resources to support that website more fully, Scott could do wonders with it.

Terra Incognita is simply my favorite roleplaying game, as either a player or a GM. In fact, my husband Paul's starting up a campaign again — the first one in years (we've been very busy!). He asked us what genre we wanted to play in, and the decision was instant and unanimous: Terra Incognita! We left the timing up to him, we didn't really care whether it was on the Victorian or Pulp end of things. Pulp adventures throughout the world, here we come!

FF: Any poor sellers you'd love to see do better?

AD: It depends on how you define "poor seller." In one sense, they're all poor sellers. Except for the actual Fudge books, I've got stock left of everything I've published. I typically do print runs of 2000 copies. Ideally, that would last only a year or two. Gamemaster Secrets would have been sold out in 2 years if I hadn't made the mistake of increasing the print run to 3000 copies. Shortly after that book came out, roleplaying game sales took a nosedive, and they haven't yet recovered.

Still, Grey Ghost typically does better sales on initial release than many small press publishers. We usually sell 500-1000 copies right off the bat (1200 copies of Gamemastering Secrets), compared to about 300 - 500 copies by the typical new or small-press company.

"Gatecrasher 2nd Edition" was our poorest seller, and it didn't deserve that. A big part of the problem was that it was only our second book, and the first stand-alone Fudge game commercially produced. At the time I was new to publishing and still fairly new to Fudge. It would be a much different book if I were to produce it today.

It's a quirky setting, and set off the "It Must Be Mine!" reaction in a few customers and retailers when I was advertising it, but never really caught on.

Fortunately, the Gatecrasher setting has found a new home. Domibia Games owns the property now, and has some great plans for it. Fudge is no longer an unknown system, plus they'll be retooling it for d20 and the Action! system under the Open Game License. Domibia Games will produce a much better version of Gatecrasher than I was able to almost a decade ago. With good marketing behind it, and better-looking books (they've hired some really good artists and know more about layout and art direction than I did back then), Gatecrasher has a really good shot at catching on.

FF: Is the Animal Companions project dead, backburnered, or something else?

AD: Something else.

It turns out that I wasn't ready to write that book a decade ago, or even a couple of years ago. I've learned an incredible amount about animal behavior in the past few years, working for the first time with a young, "green" horse (never been trained to be ridden before I got him) and with two "difficult" dogs (one of whom came to us with fear-aggression issues).

Plus I've amassed an impressive library of animal-related resources over the years. Good books on camel training eluded me for a long time, but I've tracked a couple down — sadly out of print, and sadly going for $80+ each now, but I'm likely to bite the bullet on those as soon as the Deryni game is out the door.

Animal Companions, when it's finished, will bear very little resemblance to those first 5 chapters I'd uploaded to the Steve Jackson Games bulletin board system for "playtesting" when I was writing the book for GURPS. But it will be the better for it.

FF: Are you working on any writing projects of your own?

AD: I'm doing some re-writes for the Deryni Adventure Game core book. The original author turned in the rules chapters, but they didn't quite have the implementation of Fudge I'd envisioned for the Deryni world when I contracted the project out. So while Aaron Rosenberg finished all the background information and GMing chapters, having picked up where Jennifer Brinn left off, I started rewriting the rules. I got bogged down in other things, and the project stalled for a while. But Nancy Berman, the editor, and I are chugging along again and should get it ship-shape pretty soon.

After that, I'll be turning my attention back to the Animal Companions manuscript.

On a more personal note, I'm also working on "Barney's Good Dog Owner's Manual," a what-to and how-to for first-time or inexperienced dog owners. It's dedicated to Barney, our Canine Good Citizen and registered Therapy Dog, who we lost to cancer a couple of years ago.

FF: What's the story behind your decision to acquire the rights to Deryni? How's that working out?

AD: Ooh, my goodness, this story's longer than all the others combined! It includes a lot of serendipity, intercessions by good friends, amazing coincidences, and even a far-reaching curse that's touched everyone who's had anything to do with the Deryni Adventure Game projects!

The story also involves new friends and incredibly wonderful experiences. Katherine Kurtz has been marvelous throughout — I couldn't have asked for a better licensor, and certainly hadn't expected our business relationship to rapidly evolve into friendship.

Ask me again once the Deryni Core Book has been released, I may actually have time to tell the story then.


Join us next time for Ann Dupuis: The Once and Future Game.

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