Saturday, May 01, 2004

Editorial: Culture Shock

I had the great recent pleasure to take a trip into the Carribean, to the U.S. Virgin Islands, in particular, St. John. It's a small island, about nine miles across, with fifty or so miles of coastline. The water is bluer than Hollywood would have you believe; the landside scenery is lush and green, with the majority of the island (and a great many coral reefs) designated as a national park thanks to much of it getting bought up and then donated by Rockefeller back in the day.

I swam in those waters, spending most of my days snorkelling. There were sea turtles with matching pairs of remora hitching lifts on their shells. I saw a "field" of at least a hundred large starfish, each as far across as my chest is wide. I floated and swayed in time with the ocean, watching fan coral mirror my movements below. This experience was common enough that when I got back on dry land, I would occasionally still feel the swaying of the ocean currents, like my blood and body had been adopted by the tide.

St. John itself had a few quirks to get used to. Though the cars have the American layout, they're driven on the left side of the road. The accents spoken there are occasionally impenetrable. There are wild mules, set loose by the Dutch when the liberation of slaves ended the sugar trade. And there's what the locals call "island time", that sense that nothing is rushed, where everything starts late (much like this issue), and where each second passes languidly, such that when you reach the end of your day, you're certain what you were doing in the morning happened at least two or three days ago. My week there felt like a month or more.

It was, in all, a wholly transformative experience. And then I headed home. Which ended up as the strangest experience -- because, when I arrived back at my regular life, I got hit with the culture shock of the everyday. Driving on the right side of the road seemed the bizarrest choice. The fact that the world was not painted in hues that were more vivid than Technicolor clearly indicated something was amiss. Time moved faster here, and my calendar grew mystifyingly complex and intricate. Even now, as I write this several days later, I haven't quite been able to shake the sense that what was normal before now occupies a kind of otherworld, and I am an interloper in it.

As I've sat down to assemble this somewhat delayed issue of the Factor, I've been thinking about how my "island time" experience relates to the experience of stepping into Fudge. Fudge certainly has its wonders and its strange quirks, after all, and after you've spent some time as "Fudge time", it certainly can leave the rest of gaming -- which seemed so normal before -- looking strange and not-quite-right.

This is at least especially true for me, with the last half-decade strongly immersed in Fudge (and Fate) gaming. In that time, I've also played a little d20 and Tri-Stat, and I'm currently a player in an Exalted game and running a Nobilis campaign (heck, there's even been some Risus in there -- but Risus is at least part of the same island chain). And post-Fudge, they do look a little different from before, and they often gleam less than they otherwise would, since I know I can get something much more to my taste out of Fudge.

That said, I wouldn't have wanted to play Fudge games instead of these other ones.

St. John would not have been St. John if I hadn't left a regular life to go there, and wouldn't have stayed St. John if I didn't then head back to my regular life afterwards. St. John worked for me, and grabbed me right in my bones, because of the contrast to the rest of everything.

It's my opinion that much the same can be said of Fudge -- essentially, I believe everyone who loves Fudge should take some time away from Fudge too, to better appreciate what it is, and what it can do. Moreover, I think doing so inevitably enhances the Fudge experience. There are lessons and modes of thought and stealable, usable things out there in the rest of the world of gaming, and it's well worth exploring that stuff, well worth carrying it inside you when you take your trip back to Fudge. Both your non-Fudge and your Fudge gaming will inevitably benefit from one another.

So, it boggles me a bit when I see folks proclaim that Fudge is the only thing they'll play; that seems to invite the same thing as living constantly in a place of beauty -- eventually, that beauty dims, because you have become accustomed to it. It's only when you take a step away, and let a little culture shock creep back in, that you can then begin to see what you've been seeing all along all over again, with new eyes.

Read the full article...

Fudge Firefight! - Part I

Welcome to "Fudge Firefight!" a two-part article that explores the blazing fury and unrealistic mayhem of the action-movie genre using the Fudge system.

Entire game systems have been built around the inconsistent realism of action movies, from Feng Shui to Hong Kong Action Theater to several of the d20 variants that have hit the game shelves in the last few years. With a little creativity, Fudge players can enjoy that same wild action, all without having to sacrifice any of their Fudge dice.

The first part of "Fudge Firefight!" outlines a number of tweaks for Fudge combat, including a simplified initiative system, rules governing the use of firearms in combat, and even some guidelines for how to handle certain situations that have become staples in the genre. The second part will explore the use of explosives in the action genre and will also look at character Knacks, combat-specific "super gifts" enjoyed by the stars of action stories.

General Rules

Trait Levels

As with most Fudge settings, "Fudge Firefight!" uses the Trait Level sequence presented within the Fudge rules to rate the difficulty of tasks, the abilities of the characters involved, and generally every other variable factor presented within the game environment.

Unlike standard Fudge settings, however, which make use of a seven-level sequence (running from Superb to Terrible), games meant to simulate the wild, often unrealistic qualities of the action genre, will need the additional "headroom" of levels above Superb to help describe the abilities and actions of the game's stars. For this reason, "Fudge Firefight!" uses two additional Trait Levels at the positive side of the scale. The two levels added to the scale are Legendary, which is already discussed in detail within the Fudge rules, and Impossible, a Trait Level beyond Legendary.

The new sequence of Trait Levels used within "Fudge Firefight!" are presented below (in order of best to worst), as well as some descriptions of what certain levels of skill or ability mean:

Trait Level Value Benchmark
Impossible +5 Beyond the limits of normal humanity
Legendary +4 Inspiring, One of the best in the world
Superb +3 Remarkable ability, Olympic-class
Great +2 Highly competent, Gifted
Good +1 Talented, Above average
Fair 0 Average
Mediocre -1 Below average, Underdeveloped skill or ability
Poor -2 Challenged, Unskilled
Terrible -3 Incompetent

Given the truly cinematic feel of the genre, gamemasters might allow characters to possess Legendary Skills or Attributes, but Impossible level abilities should be... well, impossible. A character could dedicate his entire life to mastering a particular art or skill and would never progress beyond Legendary ability.

Initiative

The order of character actions in combat, better known as Initiative, should be determined by comparing the appropriate Attribute or Skill of each character. All actions during a Combat Round will then take place in order, going from the highest trait level to the lowest trait level of Initiative, until everyone has been given a chance to act.

Characters with identical Initiatives will either act "simultaneously" or will be required to roll an Initiative contest, depending on how vital action order may be for the given situation. Usually, this contest will only determine who acts first out of the two tied characters and will not reorder the action sequence for everyone else involved in the combat.

In some circumstances Gifts may provide bonuses to a character's base Attribute or Skill, such as "Lightning Fast" or "Gets the drop on everyone." These Gifts, which affect a character's physical speed or reaction time, should be taken into account when determining a character's final Initiative for any given Combat Round.

It is also important to note that any penalties resulting from Wounds, such as a Hurt or Very Hurt injury result, will affect a character's Initiative rating.

Why such a simple system? It is important to keep things moving as quickly as possible. Tactical actions or well-planned maneuvers have no place in the action genre and so adding die rolls to Initiatives will slow things down. For that reason alone, Initiative "checks" should be avoided in most situations and a more simplistic system for determine action order should be used.

Optional Rule: Forcing An Initiative Check

Using a straight Attribute or Skill to determine Initiative is the recommended method, simply because it helps to speed up action. The gamemaster could create a quick table with the PCs Initiatives and use it from adventure to adventure, making the order of actions fairly reliable and easy to remember.

However, that being said, there will be times when a character needs to move before an opponent that is faster than he is, but will be unable to, given the standard Initiative guidelines described above. In those moments of desperation the character can try to force an Initiative check by throwing off an opponent's timing. This will result in each character rolling his own Speed/Quickness/Reflexes/Etc. Trait, then using his new Trait Level for Initiative purposes.

The process for "throwing off an opponent's timing" is a highly subjective one, dependent more on roleplaying than anything else. Usually, forcing an Initiative check requires that the slower character trick his opponent, or cause him to become irrational, by playing on known psychological quirks.

For example, "Two-Fisted" Jack is fighting his arch-nemesis, the evil Doctor Muerte, a cunning and able adversary. The Doctor is much faster than Jack, and has threatened to activate a bomb, killing thousands. The two-fisted hero has only one chance to save the day, but will need to move before his foe to stop him from pressing the detonation button on his control panel.

Knowing that Doctor Muerte has a pathological hatred of him, Jack starts to goad the doctor into a rage by reminding him of all of the times when he failed to kill him, spouting out each and every humiliating defeat and failure. The GM reasons that this would be enough to upset Doctor Muerte's timing and decides that both characters must make an Initiative check to determine Initiative for that combat round.

It is important to note that "throwing off an opponent's timing" doesn't necessarily give a character the advantage. It only provides him with the possibility of getting to act first. The character with the higher Speed/Reflexes/Zip/etc. Attribute is still going to be faster in most circumstances!

A character must declare that he intends to perform this action in-between combat rounds. He cannot announce his intention of throwing off his opponent's timing after his opponent has already begun to act for that round.

The One Shot Rule

In most campaigns, there will be both major and minor characters that impact the overall story arc of the game. Major characters are primarily composed of the PCs and the villains or opponents skilled enough to be their equals. Minor characters, on the other hand, are usually comprised of anyone who isn't important enough to be given an actual name and they usually possess skills that are rated far beneath those of the PCs and other major characters. These minor characters can take many different forms, such as gun-toting mobsters, post-apocalyptic mutants, or stylish yakuza henchmen.

In the movies, minor characters are rarely very durable and can usually be taken out of a fight with only one shot. To simulate this in "Fudge Firefight!" the GM is encouraged to drop the usual wound track for minor characters and simply keep track of them as being either "Unhurt" or "Out." Whenever a PC or other major character performs a successful attack on a minor character, the character's status changes from "Unhurt" to "Out" and he is effectively removed from the game, left unconscious and bleeding on the ground.

In most cases, using this system for determining the fate of minor characters will be fine. However, there may be instances where the specifics of a lackey's health are important. For example, a PC may plan to interrogate a downed foe, and will obviously need to find one that is still living. In these situations, the gamemaster is encouraged to make a quick judgment call regarding the health of "Out" opponents, based primarily on the methods used to subdue them, and how long they have been left with their wounds.

Multiple Actions

Major characters, such as the PCs, should not be limited to only one action per combat round, as they are when using "normal" Fudge combat rules. Although more difficult than simply performing one action or task, characters in "Fudge Firefight!" can perform several actions within the span of a single Combat Round, taking a penalty of -1 Trait Level to all actions for each additional action.

For example, a character who performs only one action will not be penalized, but a character who performs two separate actions (shooting at one foe, then kicking another, for example), will be penalized -1 Trait Level to each Skill or Attribute used during that round. A character who performs three actions will be using each skill at -2 Trait Levels, and so on.

There is no set limit to the number of actions that a character can take, but any skill that drops below Terrible due to Multiple Action penalties will be an automatic failure.

Minor characters, such as the ones discussed in "The One Shot Rule," are not allowed to perform Multiple Actions. Multiple Actions are reserved for "main" characters, such as the player characters and major villains.

Firearms

A staple of the action movie genre, and therefore, a staple of "Fudge Firefight!" guns play an important part of any campaign or adventure. Due to the special importance of guns over other weapons of destruction, several new rules have been designed to simulate the furious action of gunfights.

It is important to understand, however, that the rules presented here are in no way meant to simulate a realistic depiction of firearms. The weapons and rules described below are intended to mimic the gun play seen in movies, in all of their unrealistic glory. Players and gamemasters wishing to simulate accurate, realistic firearm action will need to look elsewhere.

Ammunition

In the movies, ammunition usage is rarely an exact science, and so it should stand to reason that those same imprecise qualities should be emulated in the cinematic realism of many Fudge games. So, rather than count each chunk of hot lead as it is squeezed out of a gun, the characters are free to fire their weapons as many times as they wish, until an "empty" result is rolled during an attack.

An "empty" result is determined by rolling three blanks during any Opposed Action involving guns (three natural blank results plus any fourth result), on 4dF. When such a result is rolled, the hammer in the character's gun slams down with a dramatic click, and nothing else. To begin firing again, the character must reload his weapon, which uses up the character's action for the next Combat Round (coming up empty takes one Round, then reloading takes another Round).

A character is not required to reload his weapon immediately. For example, a character corners his arch-nemesis, aims, fires and then realizes that he is out of ammunition. If the character wastes his next Combat Round reloading his foe will either escape or blast him into a thin paste. So, the player decides that his character will toss his empty gun aside and tackle his nemesis, hoping to pummel him into unconsciousness. He'll worry about reloading his weapon later.

The first roll made by a player in a gunfight does not count towards running out of ammunition regardless of what is rolled on the dice. The first roll is always a "freebie," since it is assumed that most characters will go into a fight with at least one bullet.

An unrealistic rule, to be sure, the Ammunition guidelines presented here are intended to allow for dramatic action without adding burdensome rules and complications, which can slow things down. Players and gamemasters who wish to count each and every round fired to determine reload times should feel free to do so, but should also understand that it will detract from the fantastic excitement of action movie gunfights.

Players and gamemasters wanting a compromise between the two "systems" might want to consider counting reloads, as opposed to actual rounds. This way a character can actually run out of ammunition during a firefight, but the players are not required to keep careful track of each round that is fired. This is especially appropriate for more gritty campaigns, such as a post-apocalyptic setting or horror campaign, where a weapon reload might not be an easy thing to come by.

Malfunctions

If a player is unlucky enough to roll four natural blanks when using a firearm, the gun will not fire, as above, and has jammed. A weapon that has jammed cannot be fired again during that combat and will require repairs before it can be safely used in the future.

The gamemaster can assign a Jam Modifier if she decides that the circumstances merit an increased chance of firearm malfunctions. Usually this will be the result of environmental conditions, such as the character being trapped in a sandstorm or dropping his gun into mud, but it could also be the result of a lack of proper maintenance (a weapon kept in a closet for ten years, for example). If the gamemaster does assign a Jam Modifier, a malfunction result will always occur instead of an empty result.

For example, a character that has just pulled himself from quicksand might get a Jam Modifier of -1 with the weapons he is carrying with him, meaning that the chance for rolling a malfunction only requires three natural blanks, rather than the standard four blanks. Although a roll of three blanks normally results in an empty gun, the gun will malfunction instead.

Rolling more blanks than necessary will also result in a malfunction or jam. So, if the player character described above rolls four blanks (one more than necessary, after the Jam Modifier assigned by the gamemaster), his weapon will still jam and be unable to fire until repairs can be made at a later time.

Optional Rule: Ammo Dice

It is likely that this somewhat random method for determining ammunition use might clash with some philosophies of how combat should been run. After all, a character could conceivably fire off one shot and then come up "empty" when attempting another shot. This possibility might not necessarily fit with a player's perception of his character, especially if the character is a seasoned combat veteran who would know enough to have properly loaded his gun before getting into a dangerous situation.

To offset some of the randomness caused by this method, the gamemaster can introduce "Ammo Dice" to her combats, using an extra set of colored Fudge Dice.

Every time a character uses a firearm, the gamemaster gives the player one "Ammo Die," which replaces one of the four Fudge Dice the player normally uses to determine success when attacking. The dice are used normally, but only Blank results rolled on the Ammo Dice are used to determine an empty result or gun malfunction. Ammo Dice are kept throughout the combat and the effect is cumulative, so that if a player character has fired his gun three times, he will have three Ammo Dice in his hand and one "normal" die.

When a character does finally come up empty and has to reload, the player returns the Ammo Dice to the gamemaster and uses his four original dice again, accumulating new Ammo Dice through actions taken after reloading.

This method will "push back" the possibility of running out of ammunition and might better represent ammunition usage for players wanting a little more realism, with only a slight amount of added complexity.

Ammunition Types

Although some characters may take great pains to load their weapons with exotic and powerful types of ammunition, all ammunition in "Fudge Firefight!" will do the same amount of damage. Hollow points, mag-safes, spartan rounds, and beehives, are merely used as story elements and will have no real effect in terms of game mechanics.

If a character has grown used to the protection of bulletproof vests, the GM might allow certain modifiers for armor piercing rounds, but as a general rule different ammunition types will perform identically in the game.

Automatic Fire/Volley Attacks

There are many firearms that are capable of unleashing a hail of bullets with every pull of the trigger, rather than firing only one slug at a time. These weapons are capable of what is called "automatic fire."

To determine the success of an Automatic Fire attack, a player will roll normally for the "first" attack in the volley, then roll one Fudge die for every additional shot in that particular volley. For the sake of simplicity, this will be either two additional dice for a "burst" or four additional dice for "full automatic."

Colored dice are ideal for this kind of attack, since they could be rolled all at once (one color for the 4dF roll and another color for the additional volley rolls), but careful players could use a set of dice that are all the same color.

If the initial 4dF roll results in a successful hit, every "plus" result rolled on the additional shot or volley dice signifies another hit.

Damage is figured normally, using the initial 4dF roll and factoring in such things as Damage Capacity, armor, and relative degree. Each additional hit (determined by the additional or colored dice) will score another wound against the target, but at one level less in severity. Regardless of the number of hits, the Wound severity will never drop below Scratch. So, a character who suffers a Scratch result will continue to suffer Scratch level Wounds until the number of bullets that hit has been depleted.

For example, if the first "bullet" in an attack results in a Very Hurt wound, the second hit in the volley would score a Hurt result. If all three bullets in a "burst" hit, the victim of the attack would take one Very Hurt wound, one Hurt wound, and one Scratch.

Since the number of rounds used in automatic weapon fire is much greater than when firing single rounds, all of the dice used in determining the success of a volley attack are used for the purposes of figuring an "empty" or "malfunction" result. Therefore, when firing a burst, all six Fudge Dice are used when counting "blanks" and all eight Fudge Dice are used when firing in "full automatic" mode.

If a character is using Automatic Fire to spray an area with bullets, hoping to hit several foes at once, use the same rules described above. In these cases, every "plus" result on the Volley Dice will result in a hit against an additional opponent (determined randomly or by the gamemasters's discretion).

These hits against additional foes will result in identical wounds to the one suffered by the first target. Although fairly unrealistic, the guidelines given for "spray" attacks allow for fast action in Fudge, and should only be used against minor characters.

For example, a character opens fire on a gang of well-armed drug dealers, using his assault rifle in "full automatic" mode. He rolls normally to determine whether or not he has hit and then rolls four additional Volley Dice for the full automatic mode. With his additional dice he gets two "plus" results, meaning that if his initial attack is successful, he also scores hits against two additional opponents.

These same guidelines can be used for other attacks that are released in a volley, such as thrown shuriken.

Suppression Fire

A useful technique for keeping foes pinned down or keeping them from moving into a specific location, Suppression Fire simulates spraying an area with bullets so that anyone who enters that spot will be attacked.

In game terms, any character with an automatic weapon (see "Automatic Fire/Volley Attacks" above) can declare that he is using Suppression Fire as his action for the Combat Round. He must state the area he is attacking and describe its desired effect on the behavior of the opponents so that the gamemaster can determine the effects of the attack.

If the situation warrants it, any character who attempts to move into an area being held with Suppression Fire must then make a Grit check (or Bravery, Will, Assertiveness, Tactics, etc.) against the marksmanship skill of the character who is attacking that area. Failure to win in the Grit check will force the character to reconsider his actions and stay put. A success in the Grit check will allow the character to move into that area as planned, but he is then subject to an automatic attack by the character using the Suppression Fire (meaning the character can attack the individual moving into the suppressed area without expending another action and without needed to check Initiatives).

For example, a character holding an uzi announces that he will fire above the bar in a nightclub to keep the thugs hiding behind it from standing and returning fire. If one of the thugs were to attempt to stand and return fire, even though that area is being fired upon, he would be required to make a Bravery/Willpower/Grit/Etc. check against his attacker's Submachine Gun skill. If he succeeds in the check, he will then be attacked by that same Submachine Gun skill automatically, before he can perform any other actions.

The effects of Suppression Fire will be identical for both minor and major characters. Gamemasters may even require PCs to roll a Bravery check when charging into bullet-filled areas, but this should depend primarily on the campaign tone and the kinds of actions the GM wishes to promote in his game.

Holding a Character at Gunpoint

There will be times when a character will want to hold an opponent at gunpoint, implying physical harm, rather than actually causing it. The reasons for performing such a maneuver are innumerable, but regardless of the reason, the person holding the weapon always has the tactical edge should things degenerate into combat.

To "hold" an opponent at gunpoint, the attacking character (who will be described as the "threatening" character in this section) must make a successful attack roll against his target. This attack roll does not do any damage until the threatening character decides to actually follow through with the attack, allowing for plenty of time to exchange threats, demand information, or simply heighten the drama of the scene. When the threatening character decides to fire, he automatically hits, using his original "to hit" roll to determine the relative degree of success for the attack.

Under normal circumstances, the character who is being held at gunpoint will be completely aware of the danger he is in, either because of a "Move and I'll..." threat, because he will notice the gleaming weapon of destruction aimed at his head, or some other bit of drama. In this position, the character can do one of three things:

1 Wait to be shot. 1 Talk his opponent into lowering his weapon. 1 Trick his opponent into hesitating, so that he can act first.

The process of tricking an opponent who is holding a character at gunpoint is dependent on roleplaying. If the GM decides that the character that is being "covered" says or does something that will cause his would-be attacker to hesitate, the two roll an Initiative contest to determine who can act first.

When rolling for Initiative, the threatening character gets a bonus of +1 Trait Level to his Initiative Attribute (or Swiftness, Speed, Reflexes, etc.) due to his superior tactical position. If the threatening character wins the Initiative contest, he can use his original roll to fire at his opponent, hitting automatically as before. If the threatening character loses the Initiative contest, his opponent gets the opportunity to attack first and he must re-roll to hit if he still wishes to shoot at his target.

If the threatening character is distracted by an uninvolved character or event, he does not receive the +1 Trait Level bonus against the covered character.

In most cases, a character that is holding another character at gunpoint will have his ability to evade incoming attacks diminished, due to his concentration on his potential target. For this reason, anyone who is holding another character at gunpoint will suffer -2 Trait Levels for the sake of any evasion or blocking attempts to outside attacks. This penalty may be increased if the character is surprised by an incoming attack or it comes from behind the character, dependent primarily on the GM's interpretation of the action scene. This penalty is not applied to any attacks made by the character that is actually being held at gun-point. Because the threatening character is focusing all of his attention on that particular foe, he can act normally, evading any incoming attacks at his usual level of skill.

Mexican Standoffs

There will also be times when characters have each other at a disadvantage, each one waiting for the other to slip up, so that he can act. Popular in movies, the Mexican Standoff usually involves two characters who have each other at gunpoint.

In game terms, a Mexican Standoff will occur whenever two or more characters elect to perform the "Holding A Character At Gunpoint" maneuver, and then succeed in their attack roll to hold the opposite character.

The mechanics needed for a Mexican Standoff to occur will require a bit of flexibility on the part of the gamemaster and players, since simultaneous actions are almost impossible in a combat system that utilizes an Initiative system.

To allow a character held at gunpoint an attempt at pulling his weapon on his attacker, the gamemaster will need to limit the ability of the characters to react instantaneously and instead declare that a number of Trait Levels worth of Initiative are required to pass before the first character is allowed to fire.

For example, a gamemaster may decide that up to three Trait Levels of Initiative can pass before a character holding another at gunpoint can actually fire his weapon. This allows a character with an Initiative of Fair to reply to a threat from a character with an Initiative of Superb. A character with an Initiative score of Mediocre, however, will be unable to engage in a Mexican Standoff with the character with a Superb Initiative, because his Initiative is four Trait Levels lower than his possible attacker.

Alternatively, the gamemaster might also declare that a character can only enter into a Mexican Standoff, and take no other action within that narrow timeframe, without his potential attacker being able to fire his weapon. If the second character was to attempt a different action, the character who initially attempted to "cover" the character could fire, unhindered by any padding in the Initiative system.

Just as with "Holding A Character At Gunpoint," there are three basic actions which all of the characters involved will be able to perform:

1 Wait to be shot. 1 Talk his opponent into lowering his weapon. 1 Trick his opponent into hesitating, so that he can act first.

If a character involved in a Mexican Standoff tries to trick one or more of his opponents into hesitating, everyone involved in the Mexican Standoff is allowed to roll in an Initiative check to determine who can move first, but no one is given a +1 bonus to their Initiative... everyone is considered to be on equal ground in a Mexican Standoff, which can be an incentive for a character threatened with being "held at gunpoint" to escalate things to a Standoff.

Guns

Considering the importance of firearms in the action genre and in these rules, it would be a tremendous oversight to exclude a listing of weapons that can be used in an action game. Below are a number of firearms that can be used in any "Fudge Firefight!" inspired game.

Just as the specifics of ammunition should be glossed over for the sake of simplicity and speed, specific models of guns are also glossed over in favor of more generic descriptions. The .45 magnum, carried by infamous police in San Francisco, would simply be described as a "Large Handgun." A Desert Eagle would also be listed as a "Large Handgun," performing more or less the same as Dirty Harry's preferred weapon, while a .357 might be best described as a "Medium Handgun."

The gamemaster should exercise some care in keeping weapons consistent. For example, if the gamemaster has the PCs stumble across a group of Central American drug lords, all armed with uzis, in one session, the uzis carried by the Alaskan eco-terrorists in the following week's adventure should be described using the same "level" of Submachine Gun.

The Damage Factors listed for each weapon have been selected with the assumption that the campaign will include some sort of Damage Capacity Attribute which will be used to provide protection from Wounds. However, even with this in mind, the gamemaster may need to adjust the Damage Factor values up or down so that they are in line with the level of realism intended for the game.

For example, a Small Handgun has a Damage Factor of 3. A PC with a Damage Capacity of Good will only receive a Scratch wound result from a gunshot, assuming there is no relative degree to hit. That same shot from a Machine Gun will result in a Very Hurt result for the PC. If the character happens to be wearing a bulletproof vest (+2 Armor), the Small Handgun won't do any damage at all and the Machine Gun will only result in a Hurt wound. If the PC has a Damage Capacity of Great and is wearing a bulletproof vest, the Wounds resulting from Machine Gun fire might only be a series of Scratches.

If a gamemaster wants a more lethal campaign, she should add one or two points to each Damage Factor. A less lethal campaign should result in a subtraction of a point or two of Damage Factor from each firearm listed. The gamemaster should take into account the average Damage Capacity of the PCs and the availability of armor when adjusting these figures.

Weapon Damage
Factor
Range Notes
Sm. Handgun 3 Poor to Great
Md. Handgun 4 Poor to Great
Lg. Handgun 5 Poor to Great
Shotgun 5 Poor to Good Distance Modifiers doubled
Double-barreled 7 Poor to Good Distance Modifiers doubled
Elephant Gun 9 Poor to Good Distance Modifiers doubled
Rifle 7 Poor to Superb +1 vs. Distance Modifiers
High-powered Rifle 8 Mediocre to Legendary +2 vs. Distance Modifiers
Sniper Rifle 8 Fair to Legendary +3 vs. Distance Modifiers
Sm. Submachine Gun 4 Poor to Great Automatic Fire possible
Lg. Submachine Gun 5 Poor to Great Automatic Fire possible
Assault Rifle 5 Poor to Superb Automatic Fire possible
Machine Gun 6 Poor to Superb Automatic Fire possible
Anti-Aircraft Rocket 10 Fair to Legendary Explosive effect
Anti-Tank Rocket 12 Fair to Legendary Explosive effect
Grenade Launcher 8 Good to Great Explosive effect

Distance Modifiers

The weapon list provided above lists a Range for each weapon. These Ranges, as well as the typical penalties assigned to firing on individuals who are at various distances, are shown below.

Trait Level Penalty Description
Terrible -1 Grappling
Poor 1 At arm's length
Mediocre 0 Spitting distance
Fair -1 Across the room
Good -2 Shouting distance
Great -3 An entire city block
Superb -4 Several blocks away
Legendary -5 A country mile

Melee Weapons

The behavior of melee weapons, such as swords and clubs, is usually much more predictable in combat than that of guns. For example, a club will never "come up empty" and need to be reloaded. However, the gamemaster might wish to use some of the same rules used for firearms when dealing with melee weapons. This can be done to reinforce the drama of combat and can also help to make certain die results more universal in nature.

Fumbles

When three blank results are rolled while attempting to attack with a melee weapon, the weapon may be knocked from the character's hand. An unopposed Strength/Might/Swordplay/etc. check against the Damage Factor of the weapon (not including Sharpness bonuses) will be needed to maintain control of the weapon. Smaller weapons are easier to maintain control of as opposed to larger, heavier weapons. A failed roll results in the character dropping it, which will then require one of the character's actions to retrieve.

For example, the PCs have finally cornered the evil Bishop who has cast a pox on their lands. They draw their rapiers and get ready to deal out a little justice, when the Bishop's guards arrive to protect their lord. One of the PCs lunges in to teach the head guard a lesson, but rolls three blank results on his attack roll, signaling a possible fumble. Failing his follow-up roll to keep control of his sword, the PC drops his weapon. Its not very heroic to just throw your weapon to the ground, however, so the player decides that the guard caught his sword with an especially skillful parry, causing him to lose his grip. The gamemaster approves the little exchange and keeps the combat moving forward. If the player character wants to use his rapier, he will have to spend one Combat Round to pick it up, assuming of course that someone else doesn't beat him to it.

Broken Weapons

On the other hand, rolling four blank results with a melee weapon will cause the weapon to break in the character's hands. The specifics will depend on the situation, so it is best left to the imagination of the gamemaster and players to determine the details, but following the break roll, the weapon cannot be used in the same manner.

Of course, unlike a jammed gun, a broken melee weapon isn't necessarily unusable. A sword that has had its blade shattered can still be used to cut foes, although most likely with limited effectiveness. Other broken weapons might continue to be useful, but have their characteristics altered. For example, a broken axe might become a club, and a staff that has been snapped into two pieces might become a pair of dangerous, wooden stakes.

Breaking Modifiers

Some weapons are more prone to breaking than others. For example, a bottle that is being used as a club has a greater chance of being broken than a large piece of firewood. In these instances, the gamemaster may assign a Breaking Modifier, much like a Jamming Modifier, which increases the character's chance of breaking his weapon.

A Breaking Modifier of -1 will cause a melee weapon to break if three blank results are rolled during a combat. Especially fragile weapons, like the bottle described above, might even have a -2 Breaking Modifier, causing the weapon to shatter with just two blank results rolled.

As with a jam result, a broken result will supercede any results for fumbles.

Hand-to-Hand Weapons

Just as a sample gun list was provided, a listing of generic melee and muscle-powered weapons is also provided for easy reference. The weapons provided here have been rated with a Range to help define their reach. This Range corresponds to the Distance Modifiers listed with the Guns section and should be used in a similar fashion.

Weapon Damage
Factor
Range Notes
Unarmed, untrained -1 Terrible to Poor
Unarmed, trained 0 Terrible to Poor
 
Dagger 1 Terrible to Poor Can be thrown
Small Knife 1 Terrible to Poor Can be thrown
Large Knife 2 Terrible to Poor
 
Short Sword 2 Terrible to Poor
Medium Sword 2 Terrible to Poor
Great Sword 3 Terrible to Mediocre
Two-handed Sword 4 Terrible to Mediocre
 
Brass Knuckles 0 Terrible to Poor
Blackjack 0 Terrible to Poor
Club 1 Terrible to Poor
Large Club 2 Terrible to Poor
Quarterstaff 2 Terrible to Mediocre
 
Hatchet 1 Terrible to Poor Can be thrown
Axe 2 Terrible to Poor
Great Axe 3 Terrible to Mediocre
 
Javelin 2 Terrible to Good Can be thrown
Spear 2 Terrible to Good Can be thrown
Polearm 3 Terrible to Mediocre
 
Whip 2 Terrible to Fair 3 blanks rolled equals self-inflicted injury, No Strength bonus

These weapons have been based on the weapon list provided in the Fudge rulebook. Like those weapons, many of the weapons listed above will merit a +1 Sharpness bonus.

That's it for this installment. In Part II, guidelines will be presented for handling explosives in a "Fudge Firefight!" campaign. Characters will also be given a boost thanks to the addition of Knacks, "Super Gifts" that make them especially capable in a fight. So, consider this... to be continued....

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Building the Better Spaceship

What do you think when you think of the science fiction genre? Do you think of strange alien cultures? Do you think of dashing heroes fighting space pirates? Do you think of wondrous new technology? Well, I do and I also like having these things in my Fudge games.

But, how do we get to these strange new alien cultures and fearsome space pirates? How do we showcase amazing technological achievements? The answer is a staple of science fiction: the spaceship. The spaceship is present in one form or another in almost every popular sci-fi setting, from Star Wars to Transhuman Space.

You'll notice that I use the phrase Starship, Spaceship, Spacecraft and Ship interchangeably throughout the article; this is done for clarity and adaptability.

What is a Spaceship?

Simply put, a spaceship is a vehicle that lets people traverse the lonely void beyond the sky. This is a rather boring definition, as it is way too broad. Science fiction has been around a long time and so have science fiction roleplaying games, the image conjured up by the word spaceship has changed through the years.

In the novel The War of the Worlds, H.G Wells envisioned Martians invading the Earth. They came in metal cylinders that fell to earth like meteors. These early spaceships were propelled not by an engine; instead, the cylinders were shot out of a giant Martian cannon, aimed at the earth by some malevolent intelligence.

Of course, this fanciful tale of Martian invasion was written in 1898. Attitudes towards spaceships and space travel have changed a lot in the last century. Early science fiction stories brought people all around the world to sit near to their radios to listen to the exploits of their favorite pulp heroes flying a rocket ship around the solar system. In the middle of the century, attitudes began to shift again; science fiction became more and more popular as the Earth entered its own space age. The rocket ships were replaced by the fanciful starships of Star Trek and then the vicious dog-fighting spacecraft of Star Wars. As the 20th century came to a close, we no longer have any dominate style. We have rocket ships, we have star cruisers, and we have all this and more.

Attributes for Spaceships

Like the characters that use them, spaceships will be represented with Attributes to measure their capabilities. All starships have 2 primary Attributes, Hull Strength and Scale, although only Hull Strength works the way a normal attribute for a character does.

Hull Strength

This is a measure of the ship's durability, similar to a character's Damage Capacity. Subtract this number from all damage taken or add to the damage suffered if the Trait Level is negative. You may also need to make Hull Strength rolls when encountering dangerous cosmological phenomena or any other time that the ship's structural integrity is being threatened.

Scale

A number between 0 and 10 which represents the size of your ship. Scale is provided in a simplified form over what is discussed in the rules provided in the Fudge rulebook and will be discussed in greater detail below.

Ship Gifts and Flaws

In addition to Attributes, ships will often have Gifts to represent advanced capabilities and Flaws to depict any shortcomings. In general, a Gift should either grant a +1 bonus or a special ability. A Flaw should penalize an action with a -1 penalty or limit the craft in some other way.

Gifts can also represent certain things that are rare in the setting, such as hyperspace drives or other forms of advanced technology. The following is a list of Gift and Flaw examples:

Agile: The spacecraft is more agile then normal; it provides +1 to all evasion rolls or piloting rolls involving quick maneuvering.

Faster-Than-Normal: The spacecraft has better engines and travels faster than most ships of equal mass.

Sharp Sensors: The spacecraft has a superior sensor array and can see things much better. This adds +1 to all sensor and detection rolls.

Heavy Armor: This adds +1 to Hull Strength for the purpose of damage resistance.

Junker: The ship is patched together with different parts and systems. When the ship takes damage a random, minor system may fail.

Unusual Quantum Signature: The ship's quantum hyperspace drive attracts strange aliens that live between the realities of the universe. These strange aliens are a thorn in the side of the characters, a nuisance at best, and a menace at worst.

Spaceship Combat

Spaceship combat is the most rules intensive part of this article and will be detailed in full. This isn't to say that shooting plasma beams at each other is the end-all-be-all of spacecraft, but it does require more rules than fixing the engines, for example.

The basics of ship combat are simple. One spaceship uses one of its weapons to try and hit another ship. The defending ship either evades the shot or is hit and takes damage. Larger ships are generally bulky and so difficult to maneuver they are easily hit by fighters and smaller ships.

Each attack is handled in the following manner:

The attacker's 4dF rolls + Gunnery skill + any other applicable modifiers

vs.

The defender's 4dF roll + Piloting skill + any Scale differences or other modifiers

Now, we should go into what all of those means.

Attacker refers to the person doing the shooting. They may be sitting in an uncomfortable ball turret, directing the gun manually, or they may be sitting in the comfort of the ship's command area, controlling the gun through an advanced targeting computer.

Defender refers to person piloting the other ship. In cases where there are a group of people piloting the spaceship (as may be the case in a huge capital ship), average the piloting skills of the characters involved.

The gunnery and piloting skills refer to a character's skill with spaceship weapons (there may be several skills in your game) and moving the ship in combat, respectively.

But, the most important thing that you must note is Scale. Scale is used a bit differently here than in the standard rules. Here it only refers to the size of the spaceship, but on a much more abstract level than in the standard rules. An exact size is not derived from a Scale rating and these ratings as they may vary from game to game, but a good rule of thumb is that every Scale is about 2 times larger then the Scale that preceded it. So, a Scale 3 corvette is twice as large as a Scale 2 courier spaceship, the corvette is 4 times larger then a Scale 1 heavy fighter and 8 times larger then a light fighter. Note that this breaks down at the higher Scales (near 8, 9 and 10) as spaceships will get extremely massive. I will provide examples for most Scales from popular culture in a minute.

The Scale difference works like this: if your ship has a small Scale and you are shooting at something with a large Scale, your opponent subtracts the difference in Scale ratings from their Dodge rolls. On the other hand, if your ship has a large Scale compared to your opponent's ship, your opponent can add the Scale difference to their dodge rolls. This models smaller ships that are harder to hit than huge, lumbering vessels.

Weapons will have a Scale rating as well. Most large capital ships will have an array of smaller weapons; usually scale 1 or 2, which can be used to target fighters and other smaller craft. In this case, you will use the Scale of a weapon in place of the ship's Scale when determining attack success and damage.

Example Scales

With this Scale system, the bottom end of the range has been set as a small, fighter spaceship.

Scale 0 -- Light Fighter: A small agile fighter with few weapons and even less armor. The A-Wing from Star Wars is a good example, as are the 4 winged fighter ships from Babylon 5. Light fighters are usually piloted by one person, two at the very most.

Scale 1 -- Heavy Fighter or Small Shuttlecraft: Bigger than light fighters but still relatively small. Heavy fighters and shuttlecraft can only hold a few people.

Scale 2 -- Medium-sized Shuttlecraft, Courier or Scout Ship: Now you are getting out of tiny fighter territory and into true spaceships. This a fairly nice ship for a small player group, though it may not last long against much resistance in combat.

Scale 3 -- Corvette or Light Freighter: A true spaceship, the corvette is fairly large, but still not large enough to take on capital ships. The Millennium Falcon of Star wars is a good example of a ship this size. This is a great sized ship for player groups; it is big enough for most adventures, such as the exploration of planets or ferrying cargo, while not overwhelming in size, like a capital ship.

Scale 4 -- Large Corvette: Another good ship for player characters, much like Scale 3 except, well, bigger.

Scale 6 -- Heavy Destroyer or Heavy Freighter: A dedicated capital ship, the heavy destroyer will have multiple weapon systems and will most likely be a difficult opponent in combat. A freighter will have a huge cargo bay in place of weapons.

Scale 8 -- Bulk Freighter or Cruiser: The cruiser is a much bigger version of the destroyer, hosting many weapon systems and even a few fighter craft. Bulk freighters are huge vessels that are most likely the standard cargo carriers in the safe and secure regions of space.

Scale 10 -- Dreadnought: These huge ships form the core of any fleet. Their massive weapon systems, almost impenetrable armor, and their army of soldiers stationed onboard make them a fortress in space.

Scale 11+: Any Scale above 10 should be reserved for one-of-a-kind ships and super powered alien spaceships.

Shooting Example

Danzig, the ruthless space pirate, has cornered a light freighter in his space fighter. Danzig's custom fighter is Scale 0, while the larger and bulkier light freighter is Scale 3. As merciless as his reputation, Danzig shoots his fighter's laser cannon at the freighter. The laser cannon's Scale is the same as the fighter (Scale 0) and Danzig's gunnery skill is Great. On the receiving end of this attack is the crew of the light freighter Acton. Even with their sizable bulk in comparison to the fighter, they hope to avoid the laser with some fancy piloting. The pilot of the vessel has a skill of Good.

Danzig's player rolls and gets a +1 result. He adds his gunnery skill of Great for a final result of +3. The pilot of the Acton tries to dodge, rolling a +3 on his dice, when added with his skill, results in a total of +4. But wait, since the Acton is much larger than Danzig's fighter, the pilot must subtract the Scale difference from his dodge roll. The difference is 3, lowering the Acton's final dodge result to +1. The ruthless Danzig has scored a hit.

Weapons damage

Weapon damage is also handled a bit differently from character combat. Instead of adding a damage bonus to your threshold roll, you simply roll a die and add your skill level. The opponent then subtracts their defenses (armor, hull strength, etc) from the damage and applies the damage to their ship's wound track. Of course, bigger weapons will do more damage to smaller opponents and also do less damage to opponents in even larger ships. As a result, smaller defenders will subtract the Scale difference from their defenses and larger defenders will add the Scale difference to their defenses.

Every weapon in this system will have an assigned die for the purposes of determining damage. Usually weapon ratings will range from 1d4 to 1d12, with 1d4, 1d6 and 1d8 being by far the most common. The specifics of these weapons will vary from setting to setting. In one setting, a laser cannon might do 1d6, while in another, it might be 1d8.

The basic weapon damage roll is this:

Weapon's damage die result + Attacker's gunnery skill

vs.

Defender's Hull Strength + or - any Scale differences

After subtracting the defenders hull strength, Scale differences and any other modifiers, you apply that damage to the ship as if it were a character, using a Wound track. 1-2 is a Scratch on the armor, 3-4 is Damaged and -1 to most ship systems, 5-6 is Very Damaged and -2 to most ship systems, 7-8 Disables the ship until a Superb repair roll can made and finally, a 9+ result usually results in the ship being Destroyed. At this point, the ship may explode in a ball of flame, simply fall apart, or just shut down.

Ships are hardier then characters and can take 4 Scratches, 2 Damaged results, 1 Very Damaged result and one Disabled result before being Destroyed.

1, 2 OOOO Scratched
3, 4 OO Damaged (-1)
5, 6 O Very Damaged (-2)
7, 8 O Disabled
9+ O Destroyed

The combat system presented here differs from standard Fudge combat by separating armor and dodging, which the original combat system does not. In the original combat system, a small fighter would easily destroy a larger ship, since the larger ships scale would make it an easy target, giving the small fighter an incredible damage threshold. While you could argue that this is realistic, the system provided here emulates the reality of a large chunk of the science fiction genre.

Damage Example

In the earlier example, the pirate Danzig, piloting a space fighter, had just hit the light freighter Acton with a blast from his laser cannon. To calculate damage, Danzig's player rolls the laser cannon's damage dice (in this case 1d6) and adds Danzig's gunnery skill (+2), resulting in a total of 5 damage, a solid hit.

The Acton has a hull strength of Mediocre, being a non-combat freighter, but it's still much bigger than the fighter. The Acton's hull strength (-1) is added to the Scale difference between the craft (3) for a total of 2 points of damage resistance (any armor plating or other defenses would also modify this number). The 2 pts is then subtracted from the laser cannon's 5 damage, causing 3 damage to the freighter. The freighter is now Damaged, which will cause a -1 penalty to most actions until the damage can be repaired. Things do not look good for the Acton.

Where does this break down?

A simple system like Fudge cannot perfectly model reality, much less the whole range of reality found in science fiction settings. For this reason, starship combat breaks down in three ways. Two of the ways involve Scale and the third applies to almost all spaceship combat systems in almost every role-playing game on the market.

Scale is, in my opinion, the most complicated concept in these rules. You add the difference to your dodge rolls if you're in a smaller ship, subtract it when you're in a larger craft, and then you reverse that mechanism when determining weapon damage. Weapons will sometimes have their own Scale, further complicating things! There are two main rule breaks in this system; the first is the relation between starship scale and character Scale, the second accommodating super massive spacecraft into the Scale system.

Unlike the somewhat exacting Scale found in the Fudge rules which handle character size, the spaceship Scale system is much more abstract and arbitrary. I did this intentionally so that the system could accommodate many different sizes and shapes of spacecraft. But, as a consequence, it then becomes difficult to determine what happens when a spaceship Scale weapon hits a character Scale person or object. Since characters rarely get hit by spaceship weapons, most of the time this isn't a problem. A Game Master could simply count the character as dead or mortally wounded. Or, a Game Master could simply add 4 to the spaceship scale to convert it to character scale.

Scale also becomes an issue when trying to accurately model ships that operate on a truly massive scale, such as a 5 mile long battle-cruiser. Should it be rated as Scale 10, 20, or even 30? If it is determined to be Scale 20 (or around that area), it will be almost completely impervious to damage. To fix this, you might say that any ship approaching the higher levels of the Scale range, such as the 5 mile battle cruiser, is made up of a number of individual sections, all of which are Scale 10. Fighters and other ships would only be able to inflict damage by targeting these smaller sections of the huge vessel.

Lastly, Scale also comes into play when attempting to role-playing starship combat. Simply put, large capital ships are going to have dozens and dozens of weapons, making attack rolls cumbersome and impractical, especially for a system as freeform as Fudge, turning an encounter into a wargrame. When dealing with NPCs, this issue can usually be glossed over, but with PCs thrown into the mix, there will often be more demand for the specific effects of each weapon.

Unfortunately, there aren't many ways of getting around this problem. As a Game Master, you could simply keep such ships out of the hands of the players and limit their appearance as adversaries. Alternatively, you could cut the amount of guns on a capital ship by 4 or more, ruling that the arc of fire on each gun (or turret) limits the total number of weapons that can be brought to bear on any one foe.

Faster-than-light Travel

Do your spaceships have faster-than-light drives; engines which allow them to quickly travel between star systems? Most star spanning games have these technological items in one form or another. The method used for FTL travel and its capabilities and idiosyncracies will most likely alter the entire structure of a universe, so it's important to really understand what sort of FTL travel you wish to have in a campaign and how it will impact the galaxy you have designed. I have a few examples below.

Wormholes

Wormholes are holes in the fabric of space and time that lead to other places. A ship would simply have to go into the wormhole and it would reappear somewhere else. Most wormholes will be static and unchanging, always going to the same place. However, some wormholes could change their openings and closing from time to time. Entire networks of worlds could be bounded together by a web of wormholes.

Using wormholes as the primary FTL in your campaign has several advantages associated with it. A network of worlds connected by wormholes make mapping the campaign universe a lot easier, since you must detail only the worlds included in this network. This also makes it easier for you to restrict the setting by setting boundaries.

Wormholes are a good choice for FTL travel in a hard science fiction setting, since they only sort of break the laws of reality.

Of course, using wormholes will also change the structure of a campaign. The wormholes in most systems will be guarded heavily. Don't expect Captain Beef Wallop and his ragtag band to be able to escape the home planet of tyrannical space lizards when those same space lizards have a few dozen capital ships guarding the only way in or out of the system.

Also, having a static network of wormholes, especially a small number, makes the campaign rather closed. This can be a boon for an inexperienced GM, but it can also hinder creativity, as all the planets that can be encountered in the game must be part of a network. There are many ways around this, such as people being able to discover new wormholes, or civilizations possibly learning how to create new wormholes to expand their reach into the stars (this applies to permanent wormholes, ships that simply create their own wormholes should just use the hyperdrive guidelines).

Hyperdrives

This type of faster-than-light travel focuses on engines which enable spaceships to travel faster then the speed of light, either by bending space, tearing a hole in space, or by just bypassing the entire issue of the light barrier by flinging the spaceship into a different dimension. Many popular science fiction settings use these sorts of engines as this design allows for very wide open settings. A ship can get almost anywhere while still maintaining some suspension of disbelief.

There are, however, a few down sides to the hyperdrive and its ilk. The first is the fact that the setting becomes very open, even infinite. It is quite easy for the players to go to unknown and undefined areas, forcing the GM to think on her toes while maintaining the overall feel of her universe. The GM will most likely have to set limits on these kinds of engines to restrain the reach of the players (like fuel, time to operation and other things of that nature).

Old Timey and Miscellaneous Types of FTL

This is a somewhat catchall category for things that simply don't fit in the two categories provided above. The two big ones are simply getting rid of the light barrier and using generational spaceships.

Simply doing away with the "light barrier" is the FTL travel method often overlooked in today's science fiction games. In the olden days of science fiction, many writers didn't see why there had to be a speed limit in space, and so they simply presented their stories without any limits on space travel. Your ship goes as fast you can make it go. I would advise against putting this in anything but an old time space opera game, but it is still a nice change of pace for some games.

A generational spaceship, on the other hand, does not actually travel at faster-than-light speeds. It is simply a huge ship, packed with people (sometimes held in suspended animation), that makes a slow, lonely journey between the stars at slower-than-light speeds. On the other hand, the spaceship could be going faster-than-light, but even traveling at such speeds could seem quite slow depending on the destination of the ship.

What Kind Of Game Do You Want?

In a science fiction adventure, featuring lots of spaceships, it should come as no surprise that those spaceships will help define the setting in the minds of the players. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you design the spaceships used in your campaign setting with care.

I will outline three major styles of spaceships and discuss the ways in which their "technology" affects the setting. These three styles only scratch the surface on what is possible; you can mix and match them, create entirely new styles of spaceships, and modify other ideas to fit your own vision of the world of tomorrow. The three styles discussed here are Old Timey, Realistic, and finally, Space Opera.

Old Timey is likely the least realistic of the three styles presented here. Based on the old radio plays and comic books of the 1920s and beyond, spaceships are most often described as actual rockets, flying through space on kerosene or other fuels.

The advantage of this style is that you can throw realism to the wind and concentrate on telling an exciting story. Another advantage is that most of the ships in the Old Timey style are usually about the same size, which will make combat a little easier. Armed with death rays and atomic warp engines, the rocket ships of yesteryear fly into the present.

The Realistic style is quite the opposite of the Old Timey style. The Realistic style strives to emulate what might be, the speculative fiction of the present. The spaceships of the Realistic style are not flashy and they are usually fairly small. Typically, this kind of campaign tone doesn't allow for settings with faster-than-light travel, but if FTL is an option, then it too lacks the flash of the other styles. Combat usually involves long ranged lasers, projectile guns, and guided missiles.

The watchword of the Realistic style is mundane. The main advantage of the style is that is presents a fairly believable universe, populated by fairly believable things. Another advantage is eerily reminiscent of the Old Timey style: most of the ships are relatively small and most of them will be fairly similar in size.

In between these two extremes we find the style used in most popular science fiction: Space Opera. Ships can be of wildly different sizes and science can be stretched as far as you want. A caravan of freighters warping through a nebula, being chased by pirate destroyers, is a good example of the style. Fighters swooping through space and strafing larger ships with their particle blasters are also good examples.

The advantage of this style is that you can include pretty much anything. While a broken down, rusty merchant vessel might be out of place in the Old Timey style, it would fit right into the Space Opera style. While a 300 mile wide alien city ship would completely wreak the mood of a Realistic style game, it would be perfectly at home in the Space Opera style.

Tricks and Tips

Don't be afraid to think really big in regards to spaceships, especially if your characters will never be getting any of the truly huge craft. Want an 800 mile long battle cruiser that patrols the wormhole near the edge of the solar system? There isn't much stopping you if you want to put this big honking ship in your campaign. So, don't be afraid to go overboard, especially if its a cinematic, space opera game.

Space monsters and space storms always spice up a dull voyage when they are used. This one may not work in most Realistic or even some Space Opera games, but it is fun when you can include them without disrupting the mood. You may have asteroid-eating worms the size of cities floating around in the void, or evil, dragon-like abominations that dwell in between reality in hyperspace. Space storms can also work well, although you may have to dress them up a little, calling them tachyon storms or something. These storms might just rock the boat or they could fling the ship into a whole different dimension. Another natural hazard could be black holes, collapsed stars that are so massive that even light cannot escape their grasp. Plus, nothing is stranger than when a lone science outpost radios into headquarters that a strange disc has been ejected by a black hole, then the outpost radio goes dead.

A good name is sometimes worth more then hundreds of words of background. Good names are a must for people, spaceships, guns, engines and planets. Unless your players are more scientifically adept then usual, don't be afraid to simply take some cool sounding word and putting it in. Take the word ion for instance; all it means is an atom or a molecule with a net positive or negative charge. Now put it in front of the word Rifle and then add the word Phased to the mix. You now have a Phased Ion Rifle, a name that most likely doesn't mean anything, but it sounds real enough that players can debate the physics of it shortly after using it to blow up the creepy, slime aliens from beyond Jupiter. Try taking a sciencey sounding word and putting drive or engine after it, now you have the name of a spaceship engine. If you're doing a retro style game (such as the Old Timey style mentioned earlier), you may want to customize the names to reflect the time period. If the style and tone has been taken from the 30s, use Kerosene Engines and other things that sound like they may be from that era. If you move up the implied technology into a more 50s and 60s style, put Nuclear or Atomic in the names. Naming is extremely important and it will convey the feel of the setting just as well as any 600 mile long ship or artificial ring world will do.

Putting it all Together

Cara has been putting off working on her game all week, but the players will be showing up soon and she has to think of a game to run. She knows she will be using the Fudge system and she knows the group wants to play in a space opera setting. For the last few weeks, Cara has run nothing but gritty cyberpunk games, so she has decided that she will run an epic space opera game for the group to mix things up a bit.

She doesn't want to constrain herself with a restrictive setting, so she envisions the characters exploring a small nebula on the edge of known space, most likely in a mid-sized spaceship. She decides that the characters will be working for a far-ranging corporation known as Stella Collegium, but she doesn't have enough time to flesh out the entire corporation, so she will concentrate on the ship.

Cara wants the players' ship to be small enough that will be awed by the wonders of the nebula, while still being big enough that they won't be trampled underfoot by them. She decides that their ship has a Scale of 3, about equal to a medium-sized corvette. She decides to increase the hull strength by 1 level since it is an exploratory ship in uncharted territory. Cara also adds a few gifts to individualize the ship and enforce the idea that it is an exploratory vessel. She adds Sharp Sensors and large amount of supplies. She also decides that the vessel will use a hyperspace-like engine called a Warp Shockwave Drive to propel the starship at faster-than-light speeds.

Name
Type Explorer Vessel
Hull Strength Good +1
Scale 3
Gifts Sharp Sensors
Lots of Supplies Weapons

Next, she gives the exploratory ship a few weapons. She decides that the ship will have a main gun mounted on a turret and 3 smaller weapons for dealing with marauding fighters. She makes up a nice Scale 3 weapon called a Plasma Ejector and assigns it a damage dice rating of 1d6. The other three weapons are small laser cannons that are only rated at a Scale of 0 and do 1d4 damage.

Satisfied, Cara is ready to go, letting the players take on the responsibility of naming it. What will her players face tomorrow? Hostile robotic aliens from beyond reality? Nebula monsters lusting greedily after the sweet titanium treat floating through their territory?

Name
Type Explorer Vessel
Hull Strength Good +1
Scale 3
Gifts Sharp Sensors
Lots of Supplies Weapons
Weapons Main Plasma Ejector Turret: Scale 3 (1d6)
3 Small Laser Cannon Turrets: Scale 0 (1d4)

The Brave New World and the Ship of Tomorrow

The Spaceship is a fundamental unit of the space going science fiction genre. It is the boat of tomorrow, the ship that will carry us into strange new lands. It is this exploration that makes the spaceship possible and it is this exploration that fuels us to journey into the brave new world.

Star Wars, characters, names, and all related indicia are trademarks of Lucasfilm, Ltd. . 2004 Lucasfilm, Ltd.

Babylon 5, characters, names, and all related indicia are trademarks of Time Warner Entertainment Co., LP. . 2004 Time Warner Entertainment Co.

Transhuman Space, characters, names, and all related indicia are trademarks of Steve Jackson Games. . 2004 Steve Jackson Games.

Star Trek, characters, names, and all related indicia are trademarks of Paramount Pictures. . 2004 Paramount Pictures.

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A Non-Linear Wounding System

Most RPG damage systems have a linear way of regarding wounds, i.e. hit points, a wound track, or a similar mechanism. The idea is that if you sustain enough small wounds, you will eventually die. This is fine for most games, but is nevertheless somewhat unrealistic. I present here an optional damage system, inspired by Fantasy Flight Games' Synergy game system.

The system is based on the assumption that you don't die if you sustain several non-mortal wounds. You might be hindered, feel bad and look unwell, but you won't die from it unless your condition somehow worsens. Likewise, it's fully possible to die from a single wound, no matter how tough you are.

The Health Conditions

The conditions a person can be in is connected to how much damage he has sustained, but there is no direct correlation. You might stumble around and fight back, even if you're spilling entrails and slipping in your own blood. Or you might be concussed and out like a light, but otherwise fine.

Healthy: Pretty self-explanatory. The subject is not hindered by any wounds he might have sustained. Hindered: The subject has sustained some wounds, and is feeling it. An arm might be numb, a blow might have caused dizziness; in any case, this is reflected by a penalty to all rolls one makes. Stunned: The subject is reeling from pain and shock and takes a round of ouch time. This is a temporary condition. While stunned, one might stumble away from immediate danger and dodge a few blows, but is otherwise incapable of coherent action. Defence is at -2. Incapacitated: The subject is out cold, but his or her condition is not life-threatening. No action can be taken. Dying: The subject is down and has sustained serious body trauma. He can take no action and will die unless the injury is treated. How long that takes depends on the injury and how nasty the GM is feeling; however, it is not too late... Dead: But now it is. In a fantasy or science-fiction campaign, it might be possible to raise the dead, in which case the body's condition may be a factor.

The Wound Levels

This is of course what it all comes down to. When playing, players might keep track of wounds by keeping differently-coloured counters. For example, the GM might give them a glass bead for each wound, or the player might fasten laquered paper clips to the character sheet.

The wound levels describe:

* The amount of damage sustained from the attack that caused the wound. * The Resistance roll. When a wound is sustained, one rolls against a relevant trait; Damage Capacity, Health, and Resolve are all good choices. The GM decides what he likes best. This roll is not affected by any wound penalties. * The penalty. This how much each wound hinders the subject. All penalties are cumulative, except as noted above.

Type Damage Nature Roll Penalty
Flesh Wound 1-3 This might be a graze, a flesh wound, a sprained ankle, or something similar. The injury is painful and might hinder action, but is not very serious. No roll is needed for flesh wounds. The subject grunts/screams in pain/does not flinch (whatever is appropriate) and is otherwise unaffected. The subject receives a -1 penalty for every two of these babies. Only one flesh wound will not hinder one. Much.
Severe Wound 4-8 This is something more noticable - actual fractures, a punctured lung, a concussion, or something similar. The subject is severely hurt and needs medical attention, but the injury is not in itself life-threatening. If the subject fails the roll, he is Stunned for one round. Success means he grits his teeth and fights on. The difficulty is Good. The subject receives a -1 penalty for every severe wound sustained.
Critical Wound 9-14 These are life-threatening injuries, usually because the subject's vital organs have been damaged. His stomach might be cut open and his guts spilling out (always a bad sign). Failing the roll means the subject is Dying. Success means he is still able to act; however, he might be permanently crippled at the GM's discretion. The difficulty is Great. For sustaining this kind of injury, the subject earns himself a -2 penalty.
Traumatic Wound 15+ This is the kind of damage that can kill you in an instant - standing within the blast range of an exploding bomb, for example. The subject will likely be crippled for the rest of his life, and should count himself lucky to survive. If he can count at all. Failure means the subject is instantly, messily Dead. Even if he succeeds, he will be Dying and barely alive. The roll has a Superb difficulty. For every 3 damage above 15, another level is added to difficulty (Legendary at 18, Legendary+1 at 21, and so on). A traumatic wound incurs a -3 penalty to all rolls.

Infection

Even after the wound is sustained, the danger is not over. For every day spent wounded, there is a risk that the wound might be infected. At the end of each day, the subject rolls against Fair (use Health, Damage Capacity or similar trait. Resolve might not be as relevant here). Failure means the wound has become infected.

The roll is influenced by any first aid administered to the subject. The environment might have adverse effects as well. In a jungle, for example, wounds are likely to fester.

If a wound is infected, its severity goes up by one level, i.e. a flesh wound becomes a severe wound. The subject then has to succeed at a Resistance roll or suffer the consequences of the new wound. It is possible for a wound to be affected by infection more than once as the infection gets worse.

Treating Wounds

Healing

If a wound is allowed to heal normally, its severity will decrease by one level every two weeks. Hospitalisation will reduce this time by half. The Gift Rapid Healing will further reduce it by half. Even an infected wound will get better. Yes, it is unrealistic for a bomb victim to be completely healed after four weeks in hospital, but this is where some realism has to be sacrificed for playability.

First Aid

A subject who is Dying will, well, die without immediate medical care. A successful First Aid roll will change the subject's condition to Incapacitated and put him out of immediate danger. If he gets sufficient rest, he might wake up and be merely Hindered; however, the wound level is not reduced by first aid.

Other Nastiness

Being wounded might have other consequenced than that mentioned above. The subject might be cut by a poisoned blade, creating a seemingly innocuous wound that will not heal and gradually gets worse as per infection. A particularly grievous wound might cause the loss of a limb, an eye, or other body part. This is all up to the GM, but playability should be kept in mind. It might be appropriate for someone who survived a direct hit from a 19th century cannon to lose a leg or an arm, or both, but players might be a bit miffed from losing an hand to a severe wound in a cinematic campaign.

Examples

Ugly Joe is in an old-style Wild West duel with El Hombre. Fingers twitch as the clock atop the church tower approaches 12. The two shots ring as one. Finally, Joe makes a gurgling sound and sinks to his knees.

In this example, Joe gets a Fair Revolver skill result, while El Hombre gets a Superb one. El Hombre's revolver has a damage rating of 7, while Joe's heavy duster gives him 1 armour. Total damage is 9, which is a critical wound. Ugly Joe now has to make a Resolve roll against Great difficulty, but rolls only Good. He falls over and is now dying.

Bad Luck Betty has been in a firefight, and taken three hits. One merely grazed her arm. One passed through her side, but failed to hit any vital organs. The third bullet, however, entered very close to her throat and has shattered her collarbone. Although in pain, she bit the bullet and managed to escape with her life. Bandaging her wounds, she decides to cross the desert and search for help in the first town she can find.

The first two hits are flesh wounds, but the second one is obviously a severe wound. Betty made the Resistance roll, however. Two flesh wounds mean a -1 penalty to all rolls, and the severe wound another -1, for a total of -2. She has made her First Aid roll, but it will have no effect other than lessening the chance of infection.

Jean-Pierre Brisset and his partner Pascal Dufresne are searching the Amazon jungle for the Lost Idol of Quetzalcoatl when they are surprised by hostile natives and forced to flee. Jean-Pierre has taken two massive spear wounds while Pascal has only a relatively innocuous wound from a blowpipe dart. Of course, as seasoned explorers they both know about the danger of poisoned darts, so Jean-Pierre desperately tries to suck the poison out. However brave, the attempt to alleviate Pascal's pain fails, and Jean-Pierre has to watch his partner die only a few hours later. The next day, one of Jean-Pierre's own wounds hurts considerably more and is looking rather worse. He gets a fever and considers his own prospects pretty bleak. However, Lady Luck smiles upon him as he is rescued by a friendly tribe just as he is about to pass out.

In this example, Jean-Pierre has sustained two severe wounds and Pascal only a flesh wound. However, Pascal's wound is poisoned and the GM decides Pascal's player has to make a Health check every hour against Good difficulty. Pascal fails the first roll, which is bad since his next roll will be modified for a severe wound, not a flesh wound. Meanwhile, Jean-Pierre tries to suck out the poison, which the GM rules will be a Medicine roll against Superb difficulty to shake the poison effects of the wound. Jean-Pierre doesn't even have the Medicine skill, so he fails. Although Pascal lasts for a few more hours, he ultimately fails the poisoning roll and the critical wound roll, and Jean-Pierre can only watch his dying partner writhe in agony.

Meanwhile, the day passes and it's time for Jean-Pierre to make his infection roll. He is in a damp jungle environment with lots of insects and bacteria to make his day worse, so the GM decides the roll will have a Superb difficulty. However the wounds have been treated with Pascal's First Aid skill, so the difficulty is lowered to Great. Jean-Pierre is in Good Health; however, his two severe wounds lowers his effective rating to Mediocre. His first two rolls are Great and Fair, which means one wound stays uninfected while an incredibly nasty South American insect lays its eggs in the other. Jean-Pierre now has one severe and one critical wound.

The French explorer shambles along all day and night, and it's time for infection rolls again. This time, his effective skill is Poor (Good -1 for the severe wound, -2 again for the critical one), and the difficulty is still Great. The rolls are Terrible and Fair - not even close. Jean-Pierre now has one critical and one traumatic wound. Although he fails the Resistance roll for the critical wound, he succeeds with the traumatic one, so he doesn't die outright, but passes out as his life slowly seeps away. Fortunately, he is found just in time for treatment.

Ted the ninja trainee has already become legendary for his ineptitude and bad luck. One day during katana practice, he trips and skewers himself on his own sword. His sensei carries him to the hospital, shaking his head. Florence the ninja nurse takes very good care of him, so what seemed at first a rather horrid wound quickly heals. After only two weeks, a rather embarrassed Ted is ready to resume practice. He has, however, fallen in love with Florence, which will cause him no end of trouble.

In this example, Ted first sustains a severe wound from his own sword. He is quickly carried to hospital, so one wound level will be healed every week. He still has to make infection rolls, but in this clean environment the difficulty will be Terrible. Even with Ted's Mediocre Health, he passes with flying colours. After one week, his injury has receded to a flesh wound, and after two, it is completely healed. He has acquired heartache, though, which is not covered by this system.

By the cover of night, "Dead Meat" Hamish and the other soldiers wade ashore from the landing boats. They have been making silent progress across the landscape when the soldier next to Hamish suddenly steps on a mine. Hamish is flung 10 metres in the air and lands brutally, alive but not looking it. Groaning painfully, he rolls onto his back - and triggers another mine. Again, he is flung several meters across a ridge and lands in front of an enemy truck. He is then run over. As Hamish is lying there, smeared across the road, He thinks "not again!" as he loses consciousness.

This is an example of multiple wounds. As his mate is killed by a mine, Hamish sustains 16 damage, which is a traumatic wound. Hamish's player rolls Health against Superb difficulty and makes it - the unlucky soldier shielded most of the blast. Then, Hamish is blasted by another mine - a direct hit. This time it's 20 damage and Legendary+1 difficulty. Since Hamish has Great Health, The player wins it again with another lucky roll. The GM rules Hamish hit the trigger with his knee, and his left leg is blasted off. He is then run over by a military truck, crushed for 17 damage by several tonnes of vehicle. His chest and most of his internal organs are crushed, but his heart still lurches on, since the Resistance difficulty is "only" Superb. The player can be glad no wound penalties are applied to the Resistance roll or he would be in trouble. Hamish is still very much dying and in enemy territory, though.

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Fudge on the Fly

Fudge on the Fly is a method of character generation that allows games to begin immediately, with only a few moments required for character generation. It does this by allowing players to select their character's skills during play, when the situation arises which calls for them. This has a number of benefits in addition to its speed - most notably it spares players the annoyance of failing to purchase the "right" skills. Every skill purchased will be one that proves itself useful during play. The revelation of character skills over the course of play also allows for the same sort of character discovery that is common in books and film.

The Basics

The core of this model is expressed with the character sheet, which includes the adjective ladder from Poor to Superb, and has slots next to each step. By default, there is one step next to Superb, two next to Great, three next to Good, four next to Fair, five next to Mediocre and any number of slots next to poor. Laid out on the page, it will look a lot like this:

Superb                      
Great                                          
Good                                                              
Fair                                                                                  
Mediocre                                                                                                    
 
                                                                                                     
Poor                                                                                                    
                                                                                                     

Character Generation

Character Generation is composed of four steps:

* Name the Character * Write a Blurb * Describe a Flaw * Choose a Talent

Name the Character

Hopefully, this step is self explanatory. Come up with a name that you think sounds neat, and which is not too hard for everyone else to remember, or else you run the risk of acquiring a nickname.

Write a Blurb

The character blurb is the one or two sentence summary of the character. It should not be longer than one or two sentences, perhaps twenty words. The goal of the blurb is to express the nature of the character, not their history or personality. This is an example of an awful blurb:

Third daughter of the Duke of Glockenberry, her father held her mother’s death in childbirth against her, remaining cold and distant as she grew up. Alienated, she sought friends among the castle’s staff, finding surreptitious comfort in their company, and retreated into books. As she grew older, she matured into a beauty, and her father turned his eye towards arranging a politically beneficial marriage for her. Left with no other option, she fled the castle in the night with nothing but a horse, a stolen sword, and the coins that were to have been her dowry.

If this is the story, that’s great, but that’s something to share with the GM, not to worry about in character generation. The blurb version of the above might read:

Shut-in daughter of aristocracy fleeing an arranged marriage.

When in doubt, err on the side of simplicity.

Describe a Flaw

Every character has a flaw, be it an internal weakness or an external threat. It could range from a drinking problem to a sworn enemy or to a doomed romance. Flaws need be neither large nor small, and have no specific mechanical effect, they’re just part of the character. As such, they don’t need to be in specific categories or lists, instead, simply describe the character's greatest flaw as succinctly as possible. Examples include "Bad temper", "Hunted by Cardinal Estreban of the Inquisition", "Fond of the ladies" and so on. The sole caveat is that if the flaw involves another character, like an enemy, it’s important to name them, otherwise the GM is obliged to make the unnamed NPC a monkey, a ninja, or a pirate.

Pick a Talent

Think of the one thing the character’s really good at, be it fencing, poetry, being keen-eyed, breaking things, or whatever else the one thing they excel at, above all others, is. Be a little specific. "Fencing" is reasonable, but "Killin’ things" might be a little broad. Let your GM know what this talent is, and if they say it’s ok, write it down in the box next to the word "Superb" on the character sheet.

Skills in Play

When the GM calls for a skill check, she’ll usually call out what skill is necessary for the task at hand. Players who have other skills they think might be appropriate can chime in and the GM will decide if they’re appropriate and assign any penalties to suit. The kicker is that starting characters have no skills on their sheet other then their talent, which they have at Superb.

Whenever the GM calls for a roll, players have a few options.

1. If they have the skill, they may roll it.

2. If they don’t have the skill and have a blank slot on their character sheet, they can write the name of the skill down in that slot. They now have that skill at that level, and can roll it.

3. Otherwise, the character writes the skill down in the "Poor" row, and may roll the skill at that level. Note that there is no limit on how many skills a character can have at Poor. If they run out of slots, they can just add more to hold the extra skills.

What this means is that players are effectively choosing their characters' skills on the fly. Narratively, the characters are assumed to have always had the skills, it is simply that they are revealed to the audience, as they would be in a movie or novel, at that point in the story.

Fudge Points

A player should be awarded one extra Fudge Point at the end of any session where their flaw was a significant detriment to their activities.

Development

From time to time, usually after the completion of an arc, the GM may call for a period of development. During a development period, players can reconsider their character’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of how that character may have changed or grown during that time. Each development period consists of a few steps:

1. Write a new blurb -

Assuming the character has grown or changed in some way, rewrite their blurb to reflect their new status. Make sure to keep a record of the old blurb: this creates a record of the character’s history which can be quite useful.

2. Consider the Flaw -

If the character has overcome their flaw, or a more interesting flaw has come up, the player may opt to change the flaw to reflect this.

3. Rearrange skills -

The player may rearrange skills within their steps, moving skills up and down no mare than one step. The final distribution should remain in the stepped pattern on the character sheet.

Optional Rules

Option #1: Stats

The default system assumes that only skills exist, and that anything that can be covered by stats like strength and toughness should be covered by appropriate skills. The failure of this model is when used in conjunction with combat systems which use stats as mechanical modifiers. In such a system, it's entirely possible to consider all such stats to be Fair (+0) and not worry about them. However, if it is important to your game to include stats, you may use any system you like for assigning stats without creating a problem. However, if you wish to assign stats in the same spirit which skills are assigned, it's a simple matter of creating similar slots for stats, and allowing players to choose them as they come up. For example, in a game that uses Strength, Toughness, Resolve and Wits, the core character sheet might look more like:

Stats Skills
Superb                      
                    Great                                          
                    Good                                                              
                    Fair                                                                                  
                    Mediocre                                                                                                    
 
                                                                                                     
Poor                                                                                                    
                                                                                                     

This would mean that the character can set one stat at Great, one at Good, one at Fair and one at Mediocre, and they may do so over the course of the game, in the same manner as skills.

Option #2: Advancement

Development exists as written to allow characters to evolve in a natural way. Interests and pursuits can grow more or less important, and the character can change to suit. The idea is that the young barbarian can eventually become a wise elder because he's changed his focus, not because he's added some political skills to his bucket of whupass. However, advancement, in the sense of characters growing more capable over time, is a classic staple of gaming, and many players would be uncomfortable without it.

The GM may declare any period of development (ideally one which takes place after a significant point in the game, such as the defeat of a major enemy or achievement of an important goal) to also be a period of advancement. When this happens, the player gets to add one more slot to one of his steps, which skills may then be moved into according to the normal development rules. Which step gains a slot depends on what advancement period this is.

Advancement Extra Slot in this Step
First Mediocre
Second Fair
Third Good
Fourth Great
Fifth Superb
Sixth Superb +1 (Legendary)

These steps are additive, so a character who has had three advancement periods will have extra slots at Mediocre, Fair and Good.

Example of Play

Deborah sits down to make a character. She wants to play a political type, a minor but ambitious noble. With that in mind, she gets started.

Name: She steals from one of her favorite books, and takes the name Baroness Diane Nichelli.

Blurb: This one’s easy: "Ambitious, scheming noblewoman."

Flaw: There are a number of options. Enemies is a strong contender, but since Diane is still a minor player, Deborah opts for something more internal and decides that Diane is "Arrogant."

Talent: Deborah thinks about a number of skills that might be useful for a politician, and decides she wants Diane to be an excellent judge of character, especially of a person’s honesty. She could probably call this "Sense motive" or even "Sense Lies" but she opts for the more colorful "Cold Read". Her Sheet Looks like this:


Baroness Diane Michelli

Ambitious, Scheming Noblewoman

Superb Cold Read  
Great                                          
Good                                                              
Fair                                                                                  
Mediocre                                                                                                    
 
                                                                                                     
Poor                                                                                                    
                                                                                                     

Flaw: Arrogant


The game begins and a conspiracy of coincidences result in Diane fleeing into the night on horseback. The GM asks what her riding skill is. She has none on her sheet, and Deborah gives it a moments thought. While Diane is hardly a jockey, she has been taught the fundamentals, so she writes down "Riding" next to Mediocre.

Later, there is a question of how she’s going to pay for her gown and servants for the upcoming ball, so Deborah quickly scribbles down "Wealth" next to Great, and the issue is resolved.

At that ball, Diane is accosted by another lady of the court in a most unladylike fashion. The ensuing scuffle calls for a brawl check. Deborah thinks Diane has no real talent for brawling, and writes it down next to "Poor". Thankfully, her opponentis not much better.

At this point in the game, her character sheet looks like this:


Baroness Diane Michelli

Ambitious, Scheming Noblewoman

Superb Cold Read  
Great Wealth                      
Good                                                              
Fair                                                                                  
Mediocre Riding                                                                                
 
  Brawling                                                                                
Poor                                                                                                    
                                                                                                     

Flaw: Arrogant


Example of Devlopment

In time Diane's sheet is fully fleshed out and reads as follows:


Baroness Diane Michelli

Ambitious, Scheming Noblewoman

Superb Cold Read  
Great Wealth Lying  
Good Dagger Observation Diplomacy  
Fair Fashion Gossip Dance Administration  
Mediocre Riding Athletics Singing Cryptography Hysterics
 
  Brawling Fencing Swimming Stealth                    
Poor                                                                                                    
                                                                                                     

Flaw: Arrogant


She goes through the steps of development:

New Blurb: Ambitious Lady of the Court, reknown for her parties.

Consider Flaw: Arrogant has done well for her, but she’s made some delightful enemies, so she replaces it with "Enemies with the Viscount Breneal".

Rearrange Skills: While she’s mostly happy with the current layout, She wants to make a few changes. Codes are proving more valuable than dances, so she swaps Cryptography and Dance. Additionally, Gossip has proven much more useful than Dagger, so she swaps the two of them. Ideally, she’d like to move Gossip up to Great, but she can’t move it two steps in one development period. Now, her sheet reads:


Baroness Diane Michelli

Ambitious, scheming noblewoman reknown for her parties

Superb Cold Read  
Great Wealth Lying  
Good Gossip Observation Diplomacy  
Fair Fashion Dagger Cryptography Administration  
Mediocre Riding Athletics Singing Dance Hysterics
 
  Brawling Fencing Swimming Stealth                    
Poor                                                                                                    
                                                                                                     

Flaw: Enemies with the Viscount Breneal


In Summary

Fudge on the Fly is designed to be fast and easy to use. It's a flexible concept that can be easily adapted to almost any approach to play, and can be adjusted to a variety of flavors through the simple addition and subtraction of slots. It plays to one of Fudge's strengths in stepping away from mechanical character creation and just stepping into the story where things "make sense" to a lot of gamers. At the same time, any player who is uncomfortable with choosing skills on the fly is naturally welcome to fill in their slots ahead of time, so it should not prove too difficult a compromise.

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