Monday, December 26, 2005

Repeating Scale

This article proposes a modified Strength Scale which follows a repeating pattern of values, and offers a general formula for deriving your own Scale. Some people are happy with Scale as it is, and this article is not intended for them. Also, some math is involved in deriving the formulas, but you can safely skip it.

Abstract

This article proposes a modified Strength Scale which follows a repeating pattern of values, and offers a general formula for deriving your own Scale. Some people are happy with Scale as it is, and this article is not intended for them. Also, some math is involved in deriving the formulas, but you can safely skip it.

If It Ain't Broke...

Fudge Mass Scale is a very elegant mechanic, and it already works just fine. There are some rounding errors in the numbers, and the question of whether it describes Strength or Mass is both vague and complicated... but Fudge is not a precise game, and it gets the job done with little fuss. So if it works, why mess with it?

Because it is table-based.

Fudge is a very intuitive game. The rules are quickly memorized and easily applied with simple rules-of-thumb. You can run everything out of your head... everything except Scale. As nice as the Scale mechanic is, it requires a table lookup. The table is not easily memorized, and the rounding errors are large enough that a pocket calculator cannot be used as a reliable substitute.

Looking at the Fudge Scale table in the rules, you'll notice sequences like 10-15-25-40 that seem to be repeated in various places. But the locations seem to be irregular, and the numbers don't always match.

I have been unable to find a clear pattern in the standard table, but the illusion of a pattern inspired me to try to create a Scale progression that does follow a repeating pattern. This article is the result.

The Fundamentals

Mass Scale in Fudge is described in terms of Mass, but defined in terms of Strength. For purposes of this article we do not care about the Strength versus Mass question, but we do need a basic definition to build upon. This can be found in Steffan's design notes:

"I'm sometimes asked why I chose such an awkward set of numbers for the Strength and Speed scales. Why not some more common logarithm? The answer is: reality test. I did a lot of research into human strength and speed, and found that the strongest human is about five times as strong as the average human..."

"So if the strongest and fastest are Legendary, and the average is Fair, that means Legendary Strength should be five times stronger than Fair Strength"

(As an aside, note that this assumes that Legendary is the top of the scale for a realistic game, not Superb. If you consider Superb to be the maximum human limit, and Legendary to be superhuman, then you should adjust the scale so that scale +3 has a 5x value multiplier. More on that later.)

Ideally, then, we'd like the Fudge Scale to provide x5 Strength at Scale +4. This is our foundation.

Standard Scale

Mass Scale is exponential, based on the general formula that each +1 Scale indicates a Strength 1.5 times greater than the previous value. Reduced to a formula,

  • strength = 1.5 ^ scale

If you remember your logarithms from high school, you can also perform the inverse calculation,

  • scale = log(1.5) strength

(Note: Excel spreadsheet formulas are provided at the end of the article)

Inspiration from Hero

The Hero System has a similar scale mechanic for strength: it is exponential and allows creatures of greatly differing sizes to interact meaningfully. But the Hero strength scale has one feature Fudge does not: it is regular, doubling its value over every interval of 5. That means that +5 strength means "twice as strong", +10 means 4x as strong, etc. This is a very handy feature, especially since multiples of 5 are by far the most common strength values in the game.

The Hero strength scale can be reduced to a formula just as the Fudge Scale can:

  • lifting capacity = 2 ^ ((STR - 10) / 5)
  • STR = 10 + 5 x log(2) lifting capacity

Designing a New Scale

Now we need to come up with a new formula. Following the Hero System example, and using our base assumption of x5 Strength at +4 Scale, an obvious and simple formula is:

  • strength = 5 ^ (scale / 4)

This provides all Scale values, and is nearly identical to the original, except that every +4 Scale is x5 Strength. But it does not repeat in an obvious pattern; its predictability is really limited to multiples of +4.

If you remember your laws of exponents from high school, the formula can be rewritten like this:

  • strength = (5 ^ (1/4)) ^ scale

That looks complicated, but what we've done is isolate the scaling constant to a single term that can be pre-computed:

  • strength = constant ^ scale
  • constant = 5 ^ (1/4) = 1.495349

so,

  • strength = 1.495349 ^ scale

Each level is 1.495 stronger than the previous level. We can take this a step further and create a generalized formula. If we want Strength increase by (multiple) over a given (range) of Scale values,

  • constant = mult ^ (1 / range)

For example, if Strength increases by x5 for every +4 Scale, mult = 5 and range = 4. I'll use the notation mult/+range (5/+4) to represent this.

Now that we have a generalized formula, let's think about what sort of progression is the most useful.

The 5/+4 scale is better than the standard 1.5/+1 scale, because it is easy to remember that every +4 Scale is five times stronger, and the 1.5/+1 is still close enough to be a useful approximation. This is not only true for Scale values of 0/5/10/etc, but any value: Scale +7 is five times stronger than Scale +3, and Scale +1 is five times stronger than Scale -3. Similarly, every +8 means a multiple of x25, and +12 means a multiple of x125.

So it's now a lot easier to "ballpark" a Scale, but still pretty rough. We could improve the ball-parking if we are willing to fudge the x5 aspect. A very nice scale that would work well for Fudge is 2/+2 (every +2 Scale means twice as strong). This puts Legendary at only x4 Strength, but it is VERY easy to estimate nearly any Scale value you need, especially if you work with computers and are familiar with the powers-of-2 progression. A dragon 100 times stronger than a man? Well, 128 is 2^7 which equates to +14... so 13 or 14. If you need an in-between value, the multiple is roughly 1.4. The downside is that this Scale diverges quite a bit from the standard Fudge Scale, especially at large values: Scale +20 is x1024, instead of x4000 using the standard Fudge Scale. This is not a problem if you write your own material or estimate everything, but not so good if you use published or shared material.

Better than either 5/+4 or 2/+2 would be a Scale based on powers of 10, because increasing the Scale one interval merely adjusts a decimal place. Looking at the standard Fudge Scale, we see powers of 10 at +6 and +17. A smaller interval is more useful and easier to work with, so let's try a Scale based on 10/+6.

Using the formula, our constant is 1.467799, which is close enough to 1.5 to fudge the difference. The Scale diverges a bit from the standard Scale, but within at least +1 or -1 out to Scale 20 or -20. Few campaigns will ever exceed that range. Best of all, this is a repeating Scale: the values shift one decimal place every six intervals. Here is the basic Scale:

Scale Value
+0 1.0
+1 1.5
+2 2.0
+3 3.0
+4 4.5
+5 7.0
   
+6 10
+7 15
+8 20
+9 30
+10 45
+11 70
   
+12 100
+13 150
+14 200
+15 300
+16 450
+17 700

Each group of six Scale levels is a power of 10:

Scale Value
-18 0.001
-12 0.01
-6 0.1
+0 1
+6 10
+12 100
+18 1,000
+24 10,000
+30 100,000
+36 1,000,000
+42 10,000,000
+48 100,000,000

(The table above is rounded for easy memorization, but you can compute and use the precise values without losing the repeating aspect.)

Estimation is easy: adjust by a multiple of six, read the value, and multiply back out.

  • Scale +17: subtract 12 (x100), Scale 5 is x7, result is 700
  • Scale +45: subtract 42 (ten million), Scale 3 is x3, result is 30 million
  • Scale -22: subtract 18 (x1000), Scale 4 is 4.5, result is 0.0045

This is also a nice estimator, since we often think in terms of twice (+1), three times (+2), five times (+4), or ten times (+6).

For Those Who Do Not Use Legendary

If you don't use Legendary levels and consider Superb to be the the maximum human ability, then Strength should be x5 at Scale +3. The most obvious adjusted Scale in this case is 5/+3, or a Scale constant of 1.71. This one is not so easy to repeat (if you like that feature), although 10/+4 is fairly close. Anyway, this article should provide you with some tools to explore this further if you are interested.

Excel Spreadsheet Formulas

  • Standard Mass Scale:
    • value = POWER(1.5, scale)
    • scale = LOG(value, 1.5)
  • Generalized Scale
    • mult = Y
    • range = X
    • constant = POWER(mult, 1/range)
    • value = POWER(constant, scale)
    • scale = LOG(value, constant)
  • Standard Fudge Scale: mult = 1.5, range = +1
  • Superb Scale: mult = 5, range = +3
  • Precise Scale: mult = 5, range = +4
  • Repeating Scale: mult = 10, range = +6

Read the full article...
Monday, December 19, 2005

Getting "The Edge" Over Your Opponents

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

A Review of Systems to Overcome Granularity in FUDGE

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Campaign-Level Solutions to Granularity

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

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

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

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

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

Creating Narrative Distinctions in Contests

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

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

Situational Tie Breakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The "Thirds" System of Nomenclature

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

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

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

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

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

Plus/Minus Tie Breaker System

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

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

Offset Mechanic

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

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

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

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

Standard Thirds Mechanic

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

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

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

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

Simple Polyhedral Mechanic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tenths Mechanic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"The Edge" (Version 2.0) Granularity Solution

Introduction

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

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

Setup

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

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

Use of The Edge in Contests of High Variance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simplified Relative Degree Computations

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

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

How Often to Roll the Edge Die

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

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

Advanced Relative Degree Factor Computations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using The Edge for Tasks of Negligible Variance

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

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

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

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

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

Edge Bonuses or Penalties During Objective Character Creation & Advancement

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

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

  • Chemistry: Superb-
    • Organic Chemistry: Superb+

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

Sample Magic Items Using The Edge

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

The Singing Sword of Pendelhaven

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

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

The Ring of Unshakeable Confidence

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

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

Closing Comments

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

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


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

Trait Level Edge Step Strength
Multiple
Military
Press (lbs.)
Speed
Multiple
100 m
dash (s)
  + 8.7 481 2.6 7.26
Trans-Legendary (+5)   7.6 420 2.5 7.71
  - 6.6 367 2.3 8.19
  + 5.8 320 2.2 8.71
Legendary (+4)   5.1 280 2.1 9.25
  - 4.4 245 2 9.83
  + 3.9 214 1.8 10.45
Superb (+3)   3.4 187 1.7 11.1
  - 2.9 163 1.6 11.8
  + 2.6 142 1.5 12.54
Great (+2)   2.3 124 1.4 13.33
  - 2 109 1.4 14.16
  + 1.7 95 1.3 15.05
Good (+1)   1.5 83 1.2 15.99
  - 1.3 72 1.1 16.99
  + 1.1 63 1.1 18.06
Fair (+0)   1 55 1 19.19
  - 0.9 48 0.9 20.39
  + 0.8 42 0.9 21.67
Mediocre (-1)   0.7 37 0.8 23.03
  - 0.6 32 0.8 24.47
  + 0.5 28 0.7 26
Poor (-2)   0.4 25 0.7 27.63
  - 0.4 21 0.7 29.36
  + 0.3 19 0.6 31.2
Terrible (-3)   0.3 16 0.6 33.16
  - 0.3 14 0.5 35.23
  + 0.2 13 0.5 37.44
Abyssmal (-4)   0.2 11 0.5 39.79
  - 0.2 10 0.5 42.28
  + 0.2 8 0.4 44.93
Sub-Abyssmal (-5)   0.1 7 0.4 47.75
  - 0.1 6 0.4 50.74
Read the full article...
Monday, December 12, 2005

Call of Chtoonhu

Ever feel like playing a good, scary roleplaying game, but feel it may be just a little too dark? Well, step right up for a clever solution what get you jumping out of your fur with fright! Yes, fur.

"Call of Chtoonhu" is a cartoonish Lovecraftian setting where the players take the roles of 'toons in a devilishly twisted, terrifying world. Death and horror await with a twisted sense of humor... if you dare!

Dedicated to Pyat and his good advice!

Always look on the bright side of life.
Always look on the right side of life,

For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word.
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin.
Give the audience a grin.
Enjoy it. It's your last chance, anyhow.
So...

Always look on the bright side of death,
Just before you draw your terminal breath.

©1979 Monty Python

Funny Animals vs Lovecraftian Horrors

This game is loosely based upon the works of HP Lovecraft. His stories of cosmic horror, terror and madness now have an even more twisted look to them.

Inhuman Lovecraftian powers roam the Earth, waiting for the moment for the stars to be right. Insane, loathsome, bubbly and disgusting, they plot for the fall of... humanity? Not at all, because even if they're as evil as the usual Lovecraft menace, the characters aren't human. The characters in this setting are cartoons. They are combinations of cartoon extremes; this is not anime in which characters would be normal people with some special skills and still be affected by Lovecraftian horrors and die in the same way, nor this is like Saturday-morning cartoons where the characters would fend off monsters by dropping anvils on them.

No, the characters are still funny animals but they can be killed and exposure to indescribable beings will reduce them to near madness. However, they can flee from deaths that would be inescapable for Lovecraft's characters, escaping even being struck with serious, permanent mental maladies.

Characters can be almost anything you can think of (preferably funny animals, as said earlier), who for one reason or another have caught a glimpse of the real world behind the curtain of ignorance. After that, they can't stay quiet and warm in their cozy beds and find that they have to do something about it.

Let's use an example:

Fox Molder is an FBI agent from today who always thought weird things went bump in the night. One fateful night, he met some of them. Some kind of flying cockroaches were trying to abduct teenagers from a park. Gathering his courage, he made them run (fly) with a hail of bullets. He managed to retain knowledge of the terrible experience, and later checked his newly learnt knowledge with similar minds.

In a later investigation, while he was tracking drug dealers, he was ambushed by sea monsters known as sardine men and his boat was forcibly sunk to the depths of the sea. However, he managed to flee from the face of death by invoking his cartoonish nature. Will be able to do that the next time?

Then, accompanied by people with paranormal experiences like his own, he found himself searching for a terrible tree-like creature in the depths of a nameless forest. Sadly, things went awry and a few of Molder's companions met an untimely end. The rest, hurt, and with their little egos hurt as well, ran like chickens to fight another day.

With this example a few common concepts in this crossover can be glimpsed. First, we can notice madness doesn't play as important a part in the story as it did in Lovecraft's stories. People do get as scared as a bunch of rabbits when confronted by supernatural terrors, but besides babbling and drooling a little they usually aren't affected by permanent mental disabilities. Most wise people just run away (if they can't keep their nerve) but aren't affected by serious mental disorders.

Second, we can see that even when facing terrors so despicable, characters can sometimes survive even when everything is lost. As if inserting a new coin, they come back later (blinking), sweating and scared, but alive. How many of Lovecraft's characters would have payed all their savings to get that chance!

Finally, I must add the horror in this game is "light." This is not a bloody game. For example, people do in fact die, but they just die die abstractly, not specifically and bloodily like in modern horror movies.

Now we can wonder what can cartoon characters do that standard characters can't, and vice-versa. We've already seen a few things they can do which are beyond the usual stories. Besides that, they're as functional as any Lovecraftian's John Doe. Characters can investigate, look for clues, read old books or newspapers; they can investigate crime scenes (happy like CSIs with new magnifying glasses), talk with the locals, tracks strange marks in the countryside, and plot how to defeat the monsters.

And as a cartoonish twist, much in the same style as Army of Darkness and other cult movies that have helped create the cartoonish-terror style, characters can (try to) make fun of monstrosities, fill them with lead, smash them with weird looking machines and wield chainsaws -- florentine-style.

However, even cartoon characters can't always hope to defeat otherwordly monsters by sheer firepower. They also have to use their little "bwains."

Character Traits

Characters have the following Attributes:

  • Biceps: that measures how well a character handles heavy weights and how much damage is dealt bare handed or with large objects.
  • Stamina: measures how tough is a character against physical damage, disease and fatigue.
  • Nimbleness: is a measure of dexterity and quickness.
  • Thinking Cap: roughly measures IQ.
  • Mnemocraftia: is the weird ability to retain the memories about encounters with the supernatural. Characters with low levels will quickly forget the horrors they saw and will attribute those experiences to bad dreams or over use of not-too-lawful substances, though hazy memories of those events can remain. On the other hand, characters with high levels will barely forget the worst details. It can also be used sometimes to understand the weird logic of the mythos. Monsters don't have this attribute, they feel at home when surrounded by others of their kind!
  • Whistle In the Dark: is used to try to stay brave and forget one's fear in front of the supernatural. It's also used to represent willpower.
a cartoon

All Attributes start at Fair and we can add three free levels to them. Alternatively, some of them can be lowered to get extra free levels, as usual.

If you want to use Appearance or Comeliness I'd suggest to use it as a Gift. And viceversa, use specific Faults to produce ugly characters.

If a character wants to work magic, he first needs exposure to the mythos. He must then buy the Gift "Weird Magic" and the spells he will learn. However, as soon as he buys Wierd Magic, his Whistle In the Dark will go down a level. You can't learn the very fabric of the universe and sleep well at night!

There are around fifty skills available. A character must now choose his or her signature skills from amongst them; one at Great and nine more at Good. During gameplay (on the fly) you can choose your secondary skills; six at Fair, and ten more at Mediocre.

Most unspecified skills will have a default value of Poor, but not all, so check it before adding it to your sheet. Skills listed as Not Available are just that -- not available to be used unless you bought them as Mediocre at least.

Your secondary skills (the skills at Mediocre and Fair) can be changed between stories. That is, you can "forget" your Fair "Pinpoint stars" and add "Avoid getting lost" at the same level.

Through experience, as usual, you'll be able to raise your score on both signature and secondary skills. However, as soon as a secondary skill gets a Good level or better, it ceases to be secondary and becomes a fixed, signature skill.

Each character will have one special skill, usually only available to him/her, which the player gets to make up. See the sample characters at the end of the article for examples. You can rate this skill as high or as low as you want, as long as it is at least a Mediocre level.

The Skills

  • Amateur Naturalist: use this skill as a Natural History mix.
  • Auditing and Forging Financial Records: used to check the accounts of companies and/or to forge them. i.e. Accounting.
  • Avoid Getting Lost: a very useful skill used to navigate around and arrive at where you intended.
  • Behaviours and Cultures: in a nutshell, Anthropology. Base default: Not Available.
  • Catch Images On Photosensitive Surfaces: used to catch people, supernatural stuff (invisible to normal film) and very quick things on film. Think about Photography.
  • Creative Impulses: anytime you want to create aesthetic things use this. i.e. Art.
  • Chtoonhu Mythos: this is a knowledge skill that covers the world of supernatural. Use it to identify creatures, guess or remember weak spots and develop ways to defeat them (if there are some). You can't have a higher level on it than your level of Mnemocraftia. Base default: Not Available.
  • Creep Up On: skill used to crawl quietly towards a place or somebody. Use it anytime you want to Sneak around.
  • Cut Items Off from Sight: use it to Conceal items.
  • Drive Hard Bargains: use it to negotiate services or sales, and to get the best of such Bargains.
  • Endure Blue Screens: in modern games, use it to meddle with computers and get the best of them (if possible). Base default: Terrible. i.e. Computer Use
  • Fiddle Locks Away: use it to open and close locks without the appropriate key. Base default: Not Available. i.e. Locksmithing.
  • Fight Tooth and Nail: use it whenever you're called to fight bare handed, no matter if you bite, kick, hit or use your head.
  • Find Needles In a Haystack: characters with high levels in this skill always find hidden things. Base default: Mediocre.
  • Foreign Vernacular Skill: use it to speak languages from other countries. The higher the level, the better you speak that language. Base default: Not Available.
  • Reurbish Electrical Things: use this whenever you have to fix electrical stuff. i.e. Electrical Repair.
  • Get Wind of Things: very useful to hear monsters getting near or listen to important bits of info. Base default: Mediocre.
  • Go Postal with X: use this skill with the specific firearm X (guns, shotguns, machineguns, rifles, etc).
  • Guess Freudian Slips: use this to fix people's minds. Repeated exposures to the supernatural tend to leave people with weird syndromes. Base default: Not Available. i.e. Psychoanalysis.
  • Hippocratic Arts: use these arts to heal people from serious problems. Base default: Terrible. i.e. Medicine.
  • Hit the Road: used to drive cars (or carriages if in the appropriate time period). i.e. Drive Auto.
  • Knowledge of Dead People: most people call this History but there is rarely any difference at all.
  • Knowledge of Mysterious Stuff: knowledge of good/bad luck charms and similar paraphernalia. Base default: Terrible. i.e. Occult.
  • Knowledge of People Long Dead: unlike with History nobody doubts these people are very, very dead. Base default: Not Available. i.e. Archaeology.
  • Kung Fu: the ability to beat people down efficiently. Base default: Not Available. i.e. Martial Arts.
  • Lie Low: use it to stay quietly out of sight, and try not to attract attention. i.e. Hide.
  • Litigation, Jurisprudence and Cynicism: useful skill to keep you out of jail and/or send people there. Base default: Terrible. i.e. Law.
  • Masquerade: use this to Disguise yourself effectively as someone else. Base default: Terrible.
  • Mixing Substances: knowledge about how to mix substances and get many different effects. Base default: Not Available. i.e. Chemistry.
  • Move On Liquid Surfaces: when done well, you can win Olympic medals. When done poorly, you usually drown. Base default: Mediocre. i.e. Swim.
  • Move Upward or Along: used to move over surfaces not meant for people to move on. If you try to Climb silently you'll have to roll against both this skill and Creep Up On. If you succeed in the first but fail in the later, you'll climb but make a lot of noise doing so; if you fail in the first but succeed in the later, you fail to climb and fall in absolute silence -- until you smash yourself into the ground and start yelling, that is. Base default: Fair.
  • Patch People Up: used to bind people and treat wounds right on the spot. Can't be used in many serious situations. Base default: Mediocre. i.e. First Aid.
  • Pick Up Trails: used to follow people (or mosters) by the footprints and broken branches they leave behind. i.e. Track.
  • Pinpoint Stars: you can use this to navigate using the positions of the stars, and guess which star is which. Base default: Not Available. i.e. Astronomy.
  • Pull Fast Ones: used to cheat and deceive people into anything you want for them to believe. Base default: Terrible. i.e. Fast Talk.
  • Rake In the Money: whenever the need for lots of money arise, use this skill. This skill will also be used to evaluate your income, fudged according to your signature skills. If you have a high Rake In the Money, and a high Hippocratic Arts, you might be a famous doctor. However, with a lower level on your professional skills and high levels on this credit skill, you might have been lucky and gotten a good job or a severe case of nepotism! i.e. Credit Rating.
  • Rough People Up with X: use the item X (choose amongst sticks, knives, clubs, etc) to beat people and monsters with probable harming intentions.
  • Save One's Neck: a must! Use it to Dodge blows and sometimes projectiles (by increasing their difficulty). Base default: Nimbleness-1.
  • Sciences of Living Things: use it like Biology but only for normal, natural beings. Base default: Not Available.
  • Sciences of Matter, Energy and the Like: most people call this Physics. Base default: Not Available.
  • Sciences of Rocks Big and Small: though most people call it Geology, it's just knowledge of rocks at small and large scale. Base default: Not Available.
  • Scrounge Around the Library: use it whenever you search a library for valuable information. Base default: Mediocre. i.e. Library Use.
  • Second-Guess People: with this you can guess the motives behind people's words. Base default: Terrible. i.e. Psychology.
  • Send Stuff Through the Air: with this you can Throw things to harm people, activate switches, etc. Thrown weapons are covered by their respective skills. Base default: Mediocre.
  • Shake a Leg: use this anytime you need to run like mad to avoid a terrible fate. Use this scaled by the respective speeds of the people (or monsters) involved. Base default: Mediocre. i.e.Run.
  • Spring Off the Ground: very useful when you have to cross chasms without bridges, or Jump from one building to another. Base default: Mediocre.
  • Steer Flying Machines: like driving cars but with flying machines. Base default: Not Available. i.e. Pilot.
  • Steer Floating Machines: like piloting flying machines but with floating ones. Base default: Not Available. i.e. Pilot Boat.
  • Steer Horses: like driving cars but in this case the "vehicle" is alive. Base default: Terrible. i.e. Ride.
  • Steer Large Machines: use it to handle large machines, usually construction ones, but also tanks and such vehicles. Base default: Not Available. i.e. Operate Heavy Machine.
  • Stuff People with Medicines: use it to heal people from wounds and diseases with the help of medicines. Also useful to nullify the effects of poisoning. Base default: Not Available. i.e. Pharmacy.
  • Tell Sob Stories: you're able to tell stories that makes others feel pity or sorrow and thus motivate them to help you. i.e. Persuade.
  • Tinkering with Electronics: use it to fix or create electronic stuff. Base default: Not Available. Electronics.
  • Tinkering with Stuff: use it to build non-electronic things from scratch. Base default: Terrible. i.e. Craft.
  • Vernacular Skill: used to speak your Own Language. Base default: your Thinking Cap skill.
  • Wind Machine Up: use it to repair machines or mechanisms, i.e. Mechanical Repair.

The Horror

a cartoon

Whenever a character finds herself in a supernatural scenario, she must make a successful Whistle In the Dark check against a difficulty set by the gamemaster. This factor will either be a level fudged by the GM, or it will depend on the specific Horror Rating of the place or creature(s) met.

Most creatures will have a Horror Rating score which will be measured with the standard Fudge adjectives. Some powerful monsters, however, also will have Scale on this rating. This scale will always be positive and will make resisting fear much more difficult! In this article, however, only low level monsters will be shown, which, even when huge and very powerful, still have workable values on this Attribute.

If she passed the check, the character is able to act without problems. She may be shaken but able to clench her teeth and go on. She can choose to stay or flee, but panic doesn't steer the boat.

On the other hand, if she failed, check the amount by which she failed and apply consequences. If failed by little, she may just be badly scared (-1 to all skills except Shake a Leg). With more you can choose between the Dirty Diapers Syndrome and a hasty retreat, or earning a phobia and also applying the -1 penalty to skills while the scene lasts. Other alternatives to earning a phobia (which can be even more dangerous) are panic attacks, fits of hysteria, laughing outbursts, catatonia, babbling incoherently, etc.

Phobias earned can be removed with successful use of Guess Freudian Slips, and are permanent until that time.

Example of phobias:

  • Acrophobia: fear of heights.
  • Ailurophobia: fear of cats (great if one of the PCs is a cat!).
  • Aquaphobia: fear of water.
  • Claustrophobia: fear of being confined.
  • Dendrophobia: fear of trees.
  • Doraphobia: fear of fur (also great with funny animals!).
  • Entomophobia: fear of insects.
  • Ergophobia: fear to work (so popular nowadays!).
  • Hematophobia: fear of blood.
  • Ichthyofobia: fear of fish.
  • Monophobia: fear of being alone.
  • Necrophobia: fear of the dead.
  • Noctophobia: fear of the night.
  • Nyctophobia: fear of darkness.
  • Squidphobia: fear of squid and other seafood.
  • etc

Death and Narrow Escapes

What happens when a character falls in the maws of a Goog? Or if a gang of sardine men drown him under the cold, dark sea? In Lovecraftian stories those characters would be quickly dead and gone but in this setting, this is not the case. If the character can make a situational roll of +1 or better, she'll somehow survive and come back soon afterwards, with dirty, wet clothes, shocked, maybe hurt, but alive -- which is what matters. Being a cartoon ought to have some advantages!

Even then, obviously you don't want to put your character in situations where you'll be forced to make this roll often, because some day you'll fail... and you'll have to make a new character from scratch.

House Rules

In this setting we'll always check damage in the same way. We'll compare Biceps + weapon damage + Scale + degree of success versus Stamina + armor + Scale.

Many monsters will have bonuses to soak damage, if they can be hurt at all.

This way, people will become harder to harm if they have good Stamina. Also note that armor isn't often seen in an scenarios of this Lovecraftian style.

For magic, a character with the Weird Magic Gift will have to roll Whistle In the Dark against a difficulty which will depend on the specific spell. If she fails, she'll be affected as if she had failed a panic roll against a Horror Rating equal to the spell's level.

Doomed Books

A good cliche of this game is the use of unholy books filled with dark knowledge. Used mainly as a less lethal source of Chtoonhu Mythos, it helps to develop that skill -- though most are coded and very hard to read.

Many books are also sources of spells.

Lots of psychotic cultists have those books as light bedtime reading. They're usually the best source of books for characters.

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Many universities have also books of this kind, kept as curiosities of history and anthropology. Sadly (or fortunately) they aren't prone to lend them to anyone!

Example books: the Necrocomicon, Learn Dark Arts in 21 days, Doom for Dummies, Vermin Mysteries, etc.

Spells

Here are some spells that you can find in dusty, terrible tomes of forbidden knowledge:

  • Arcane Graffiti: used to repel Chtoonhu-related creatures. It has a Fair difficulty to cast and forces monsters to roll Superb+ results with their Horror Rating scores to come near this sign (is it a star or a tree?).
  • Create Undead: this spell is more suitable for evil sorcerers who are well known for their bad taste and poor sense of smell. There is a version which creates skeletons and another one for creating zombies. Use a difficulty of Fair for both.
  • Healing: this spell cures the target 4+4dF points of damage but it takes a random time of 10-60 seconds to act. Difficulty: Fair.
  • Itching Powder of Hermes Jr: made with very hard to find substances, a dose of this powder harms greatly supernatural creatures as if it were acid. Armor doesn't protect them against it and it causes a base damage (plus rolled degree as it has to be thrown at them) of +4. The main problem here is gathering the chemical components and making a Great or better Mixing Substances roll to create it. Difficulty: Fair.
  • Imbue Weapon with Magical Properties: this is actually a whole set of different spells whose only purpose is make a weapon harm creatures which otherwise are immune or resistant to it. Difficulty: Mediocre -- but it takes time.
  • Kill From Afar: this very evil spell lets you kill someone unless they make a Superb or better Stamina roll. Supernaturals are less affected by this spell so they must roll only Great or better (Scale applies).
  • Magic Armor: choose a difficulty from Good through Legendary and roll Whistle In the Dark against it. If you succeed, gain an armor bonus equal to the difficulty level (+1 to +4). It lasts only one scene and doesn't stack with other armor bonuses.
  • Regeneration: this spell allows someone to heal their wounds twice as fast as normal, even if properly treated by doctors. Difficulty: Mediocre.
  • Revealing Dust: this magic powder can be used to reveal invisible things, but only for a little while (4dF+5 rounds). It's easy to use as it is very light and can be blown easily to cover a few square yards (where you do suspect there are invisible creatures, above all). Difficulty: Mediocre.
  • Summon Critter: spell used to invoke foul creatures to your presence. It has a variant for each supernatural being possible so there are a lot of spells of this kind. Its difficulty is equal to the Horror Factor of the being to be summoned, because weirder beings are harder to summon to the world. As soon as the creature arrives you must face its Horror Rating (as usual). If you succeed you can demand one action of the creature, but if you fail it will probably attack you and anyone else around!
  • Summon Outer God: like the previous spell, it is used to invoke creatures, but in this case to summon the most powerful ones. Thus it is rarely useful for characters except when spelled backwards, when they can be used to banish those "gods" to their places of origin. They're expensive to cast and very difficult. They often can't be cast except in the appropriate places, when the stars are right. It really depends a lot on the specific being to summon. The Gods can roll their own Horror Factor to resist being banished and if they roll better than the rolled result to invoke them they can stay if they so choose.
  • Toughen: this spell gives a +1 to Stamina for a whole scene. Difficulty: Fair. It can be cast only on the sorcerer herself.
  • Wound From Afar: choose a difficulty from Good through Legendary and roll Whistle In the Dark against it. If you succeed, do damage to a target equal to the difficulty level (+1 to +4). The target must be visible and within 100 paces. Non-magical armor doesn't protect against this damage.

Law & Order

The life of an investigator isn't easy. Besides facing otherworldy horrors and working to earn a salary, they often have to persuade the law agencies to not throw them into a mental institution or prison.

Usually if the characters arrive in a town, act funny, blame citizens for supernatural crimes and start firefights, most authorities will think ill of them unless they can show proof of the supernatural. And even then, sometimes they'll prefer to believe in the happy, trouble-free world in which they had always believed.

So characters, even in a cartoon level, ought to be careful with what they do. Fighting monsters is one thing, but fighting cops (who also have guns!) is entirely different!

Arsenal

In the course of the many adventures a character can live through in this setting, they can sometimes learn enough to develop ways to erase the presence of the tentacular minions of the outer Gods. Many low level monsters can be defeated by standard ways like lots of lead, fire, electricity, driving over them and holy dynamite.

Those monsters though, are easy pickings. Most of them have limited resistance to damage, but with a bit of perseverance they can be killed. Huge monsters are often the harder ones to kill.

Certain monsters, however, are much harder. For them, characters can try different approaches until a way can be seen as tried and true. Silver or wood bullets, stakes, cold iron, bullets with Arcane Graffiti spells engraved in them, phospor coated bullets, hollow bullets filled with acid, etc. Many devious ways can be tried, though at best you can hope they'll hurt the monsters and at worst they'll laugh in your face -- so never forget a pair of fast sneakers!

Try to always have ranged weapons, because most monsters are lethal in melee. If you have to fight them hand to hand, bring a chainsaw. Or a lawn mower!

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Monsters

If I were a Deep One
Blub-blub blub-blub blub-blub-blub blub blub-blub blub-blub blub-blub-blub
All day long I'd swim beneath the sea
If I were a De-eep One

©1979-99 Shoggoth on the Roof

Note: though some monsters are very, very intelligent, you can apply it just as very cunning because of their alien nature.

Also, keep in mind relative scales when considering movement. A slow monster with a large scale may be able to kick you to kingdom come even when you've already run 100 yards away!

Bikerhees

These ant-crow-corpse-mole things are often used as steeds. They'll never be seen without some kind of black leather jackets (don't ask me why do they wear them).

  • Great Biceps, Good Nimbleness, all others Fair
  • Scale +1
  • Horror Rating: Fair
  • Claws: Fair -- OF +1 per claw
  • Bite: Fair -- OF +1
  • Tough hide: DF +1
  • Flight
  • Walks slower than a human but flies almost three times faster

Cheethonians

These huge worm-like creatures move much faster than their size and form would suggest... hence the name.

  • Great Thinking Cap, Mediocre Nimbleness, all other Fair
  • Scale: +9
  • Horror Rating: Superb
  • Tentacles: Good -- OF +0
  • Crush: Good -- OF +2
  • Armored skin: DF +3
  • Regenerates 2 points of damage per round
  • Able to burrow through solid rock
  • Moves half as fast as a human, if that human were Scale +9!

Clayggoths

Those fetid monsters look like the result of a stew left in the sun for a whole week. Yuck.

  • Mediocre Thinking Cap, Poor Nimbleness, all others Fair
  • Scale: +15
  • Horror Rating: Superb
  • Crush: Fair -- OF +0
  • Physical weapons only do 1 point of damage to them (fire and electricity do half damage only)
  • Regenerates 1 point of damage per round
  • Moves (rolls) slightly faster than a human

Dark Young of Bushniggurath

These monsters are too terrible to describe!

  • Great Stamina, Good Thinking Cap, Great Nimbleness, all other Fair
  • Scale: +6
  • Horror Rating: Great
  • Tentacle: Good -- OF +0 (usually four)
  • Trample: Fair -- OF +2
  • Projectile weapons deal, at best, 1 point of damage to them.
  • Melee weapons do normal damage.
  • Most other sources of damage have no effect on these monsters (fire, electricity, acid, etc).
  • Walks as fast as a human

Dimensional shamblers

These ugly monstrosities stink of cheap liquor and dirt.

  • Superb Biceps, Great Stamina, Mediocre Thinking Cap
  • Scale: +1
  • Horror Rating: Great
  • Claws: Mediocre -- OF +1 per claw
  • Tough skin: DF +2
  • Dimensional movement
  • Walks slightly slowler than a human

Dogs of Tindaloose

  • Superb Stamina, Great Biceps, Great Thinking Cap, all other Fair
  • Scale: +1
  • Horror Rating: Superb
  • Paw attack: Great -- OF +2
  • Tongue attack (eew): Fair -- OF +1, plus acid damage
  • Tough hide: DF +1
  • Regenerate 1 point of damage per round
  • Mundane weapons don't harm them
  • Dimensional & time movement
  • Flight
  • Walks slower than a human but flies almost five times faster

Energy dragons

These weird creatures are immaterial most of time, though sometimes they materialize large draconian bodies.

  • Superb Thinking Cap
  • Scale: +9
  • Horror Rating: Good
  • Claw: Mediocre -- OF +1
  • Bite: Fair -- OF +2
  • Armored skin: DF +4
  • Immune to all physical weapons when immaterial
  • Invisible when immaterial
  • Walks slightly slower than a human and very slowly through matter (when immaterial only)

Firey Vampires

Like the song, they're living (but not great) balls of fire.

  • No Biceps, Mediocre Stamina, Great Nimbleness, all other Fair
  • Horror Rating: Terrible (kinda cute, aren't they?)
  • Immune to most physical attacks except those capable of extinguishing them
  • Flight
  • Flies almost twice as fast than a human
  • Touch attack: Good -- OF +4 by fire

Flying Cockroaches (A-Mi-Gos)

  • Good Thinking Cap, Good Nimbleness
  • Horror Rating: Fair
  • Nippers: Mediocre -- OF +1
  • Weird weapons: Mediocre -- Damage varies
  • Impaling weapons do minimum damage to them
  • Flight
  • Walks slower than a human but flies faster

Flying Polypoids

These horrible beings have hollow cylindrical bodies with the only opening being a central mouth at one end of the body, surrounded by tentacles armed with nematocysts. Ugly.

  • Good Thinking Cap, Good Nimbleness, all other Fair
  • Scale: +8
  • Horror Rating: Superb
  • Tentacle: Good -- OF +0
  • Windblast attack: Fair -- OF +5 (up to 2 yards), +4 (up to 4 yards), +3 (up to 6 yards), etc
  • Tough hide: DF +2
  • Invisibility
  • Physical weapons do minimum damage to them.
  • Spells, magical weapons, heat, fire and electricity (maybe others as well) do normal damage.
  • Flight
  • Walks as fast as a human but flies 1 1/2 times faster

Ghouls

These losers are proud of their wisdom but ought to change their diet.

  • Great Biceps, all others Good
  • Horror Rating: Fair
  • Claw: Mediocre -- OF +1
  • Bite: Mediocre -- OF +1 (and locks)
  • Projectile weapons do half damage to them
  • Walks slightly faster than a human

Goog

These large beings have more arms than they should and someone put them in an state of perpetual (if weird) smiling.

  • Good Thinking Cap, all other Fair
  • Scale: +9
  • Horror Rating: Good
  • Bite: Fair -- OF +2
  • Claw: Fair -- OF +1 each
  • Stomp: Mediocre -- OF +2
  • Armored skin: DF +4
  • Walks faster than a human

Hunting Horrors

  • Great Thinking Cap, Good Nimbleness, all other Fair
  • Scale: +6
  • Horror Rating: Great
  • Bite: Fair -- OF +1
  • Tail: Great -- Damage ( as grapple )
  • Armored skin: DF +4
  • Critical hits don't harm them
  • Flight
  • Walks slightly slower than a human but flies almost 1 1/2 times faster

Majordomo of the Outer Gods

These frog-squid monsters play their sickly flutes to amuse the outer gods. Sometimes they also tell dirty jokes.

  • Good Biceps, Great Stamina, Great Nimbleness, Great Thinking Cap, all others Fair
  • Scale: +1
  • Horror Rating: Great
  • Tentacle: Fair -- OF +1 (can use 2dF+3 tentacles per round)
  • Immune to mundane weapons
  • Regenerates 2 points of damage per round
  • Usually knows lots of summoning spells
  • Walks slightly slower than a human

Mannerless Spawn

These formless monsters are little else than slithering hulks of dirt.

  • Fair to Superb Biceps, Good Thinking Caps, Superb Nimbleness, all others Fair
  • Scale: +0 to +4
  • Horror Rating: Great
  • Body whip: Great -- OF +0
  • Tentacle: Fair -- OF +0
  • Bludgeon: Mediocre -- OF +0
  • Bite: Mediocre Damage ( swallows whole )
  • Immune to physical weapons (maybe spells, fire or chemicals can harm them)
  • Malleable
  • Walks around 1 1/2 faster than a human

Mummies

The classic shambling and dirty undead. Whoever bandaged them wasn't a great doctor as they died anyway.

  • Great Stamina
  • Scale: +2
  • Horror Rating: Good
  • Fist: Fair -- OF +0
  • Tough hide: DF +1
  • Extra resistance to damage (must be hacked apart to be destroyed)
  • Vulnerable to fire
  • Walks slower than a human

Nightgaunts

Faceless, gargoyle-like beings.

  • Terrible Thinking Cap, Good Nimbleness
  • Horror Rating: Fair
  • Grapple: Mediocre
  • Tough hide: DF +1
  • Tickling attack (though it's not funny)
  • Flight
  • Walks slower than a human but flies around 1 1/2 times faster

Sand Men

Unlike the popular Sandman, these beings use their fist to put you to sleep... permanently.

  • Good Stamina, Good Nimbleness, all other Fair
  • Scale: +1
  • Horror Rating: Fair
  • Claws: Mediocre -- OF +1
  • Tough hide: DF +2
  • Walks as fast as a human

Sardine Men

Those fish-looking amphibious anthropoids worship Cthoonhu and are almost exclusively seen on solitary beaches.

  • Good Biceps, Good Thinking Cap, all other Fair
  • Scale: +1
  • Horror Rating: Fair
  • Claw: Mediocre -- OF +1
  • Spear: Mediocre -- OF +3
  • Tough Hide: DF +1
  • Walks as fast as a human but swims even quicker

Serpent Men

These weird beings were once great sorcerers and builders but nowadays they've lost all their former glory. Thus it's not surprising that they're often quite upset.

  • Great Thinking Cap, Good Nimbleness
  • Horror Rating: Fair
  • Bite: Fair -- OF +1, plus poison
  • Tough hide: DF +1
  • Usually know lots of spells
  • Walks as fast as a human

Shantaks

Some kind of flying elephants more often seen when you're drunk.

  • Good Stamina, Terrible Thinking Cap, all others Fair
  • Scale: +9
  • Horror Rating: Fair
  • Bite: Fair -- OF +1
  • Armored skin: OF +4
  • Flight
  • Walks slower than a human but flies almost four times faster

Skeletons

These guys can't help but smile all the time.

  • No Stamina, all others Fair
  • Horror Rating: Fair
  • Melee weapon: Fair
  • Hard to destroy (damage of 4 points or greater destroy them; less damage doesn't usually affect them)
  • Impaling weapons do minimum damage to them due to lack of flesh
  • Walks slightly slower than a human

Squidfaces

Those are "miniature" copies of the great Chtoonhu, who are far easier to kill. That doesn't mean they're easy to kill, at all (unless you nuke them, that is).

  • Fair Nimbleness, Legendary Thinking Cap, all other Fair
  • Scale: +15
  • Horror Rating: Superb
  • Tentacle: Good -- OF +0
  • Armored skin: DF +5
  • Regenerates 2 points of damage per round
  • Walks almost thee times faster than a human and swims at the same speed

Star Vampires

They don't dress to kill, mainly because their body is composed entirely with tentacles and claws, but they like bleeding people to death anyway. Not very charismatic, either.

  • Good Stamina, all others Fair
  • Scale: +4
  • Horror Rating: Great
  • Talons: Fair -- OF +1
  • Bite: Good -- OF +1
  • Tough hide: DF +2
  • Projectile weapons do half damage to them
  • Invisibility
  • Flight
  • Walks slightly slower than a human but flies slightly faster

Werewolves

Classic monsters of the full moon.

  • Super Biceps, Good Stamina, Poor Thinking Cap, all others Fair
  • Scale: +2
  • Horror Rating: Good
  • Bite: Mediocre -- OF +1
  • Tough hide: DF +1
  • Regenerates 1 point of damage per round (not from silver or fire; silver is very poisonous for them - they must make a Superb Stamina roll or die -- even if they succeed, they receive 4 points of damage and can't reduce this amount by Scale or Stamina)
  • Walks almost 1 1/2 times faster than a human

Zombies

Slow, dumb as rocks, and stinky. Bad temper as they're forced to work even after death!

  • No Thinking Cap, Great Biceps, Great Stamina, Mediocre Nimbleness, all others Fair
  • Horror Rating: Good
  • Melee or Brawl: Mediocre
  • Half damage from mundane weapons
  • Impaling weapons do minimum damage to them
  • Walks as fast as a human (what a surprise!)

Sample Characters

Fox Molder

He's a fox working in the FBI who's had a few encounters with the supernatural (and a bad reputation as well!) As a result he's getting more and more involved and tries to find weird conspiracies everywhere.

Attributes:

  • Good Thinking Cap
  • Good Mnemocraftia
  • Good Whistle In the Dark
  • all others Fair

Great skill:

  • Save One's Neck

Good skills:

  • Find Needles In a Haystack
  • Get Wind of Things
  • Knowledge of Mysterious Stuff
  • Lie Low
  • Litigation, Jurisprudence and Cynicism
  • Pull Fast Ones
  • Go Postal with Guns
  • Second-Guess People
  • Special ("Build weird theories on the spot with a lot of truth on them")

Fair & Mediocre skills: will be chosen on the fly (though we'll probably add Cthoonhu Mythos as Fair as soon as we can).

Gifts:

  • Law Authority
  • Luck

Faults:

  • Duty to the FBI
  • Bad Reputation (spooky)

Michael Mouse

A journalist-like mouse who is specialized in denouncing the abuses of the mighty. Lately he's found many of them are involved with otherwordly powers!

Attributes:

  • Great Whistle In the Dark
  • Good Thinking Cap
  • all others Fair

Great skill:

  • Litigation, Jurisprudence and Cynicism

Good skills:

  • Auditing and Forging Financial Records
  • Drive Hard Bargains
  • Find Needles In a Haystack
  • Get Wind of Things
  • Pull Fast Ones
  • Rake In the Money
  • Second-Guess People
  • Special ("Unmask Powerful People")
  • Tell Sob Stories

Fair & Mediocre skills: will be chosen on the fly.

Gifts:

  • Strong Will

Faults:

  • Enemies
Read the full article...
Monday, December 05, 2005

Polyhedral Fudge

Do you never seem to have enough Fudge Dice around? Or perhaps you do, but just never acquired a taste for the unique fellas... Never fear -- Fudge is an ever adaptable beast and jives just fine with the rest of the polyhedral crew! In fact, here is a variant dice mechanic for Fudge that lets you use more of your dice collection with Fudge than ever before. Best of all, you can incorporate this without throwing out those precious Fudge Dice. So whether you are unintentionally missing Fudge Dice, intentionally missing them, or you're just up for something new and different, read on.

This is a method for using polyhedral dice instead of Fudge Dice as the core resolution mechanic. This method is much more linear than the standard 4dF and generates somewhat wild results - so is most suitable for very cinematic games. Those that enjoy d20 or who dislike Fudge Dice may find this to their taste. Also presented is a modified combat system. This variant was inspired by the Savage Worlds RPG.

One Question: Why??

A lot of gamers cut their teeth (figuratively, we hope) on polyhedral dice, and just about all gamers will agree that funky dice are symbolic of and virtually synonymous with the RPG hobby. As cool as Fudge Dice are, there are some good reasons to use polyhedral dice with Fudge:

  • You have a massive dice collection in a gallon-sized jar and you mean to use it.
  • You care more about simplicity and funky variety than statistical elegance.
  • You want to run a dungeon crawl in Fudge, and polyhedral dice help to set the mood.
  • You have a grognard in the group who refuses to try Fudge because he hates the weird dice.
  • You downloaded Fudge and want to play but don't have any Fudge Dice.
  • You like to try new things.

Choosing the Approach

So, having decided to use polyhedral dice, what is the best way to do it? There are innumerable ways to mangle the trait ladder and roll dice, but for this article I have set some requirements:

  • The technique should use the standard unmodified trait ladder, and should not change the meanings of the traits themselves.
  • The technique should be simple and intuitive, and should mirror the way polyhedral dice are used in other games (roll a single die against a target difficulty). No surprises or jumping through hoops. It should be easy to memorize.
  • The technique should start and end with an adjective. That is you should start with a "Good" skill and end up with a "Great" result, not a number. It should not require playing with numbers or arithmetic any more than necessary, though just as with standard Fudge Dice, it should have a numerical interpretation for those that prefer it.
  • The technique should preserve as much as possible the "Circularity of Fudge" concept, as described in the March 2003 Fudge Factor. That is, difficulty, skill, and performance are all measured on the same trait ladder, are interchangeable, and rolled degree provides an "absolute" measure of performance, not merely a relative pass/fail.

With those requirements in mind, I also have one non-requirement:

  • The technique does not need to duplicate the probability or results of the standard 4dF method. That is a solved problem; the goal here is to explore something new and to play to the inherent properties of polyhedral dice.

Examining the Differences

Before we start, let's consider the differences between Fudge Dice and polyhedral dice.

Fudge Dice have a curved distribution, meaning that results in the center of the range (+0) are far more likely than extreme results (+4, -4). Polyhedral dice have a linear distribution (when rolled singly), meaning that all results are equally likely. This changes the dynamic of play (making things feel more uncertain and random) and also makes extreme results much more likely.

Fudge Dice produce both positive and negative results, which allow them to be used as a modifier that is added to a trait level to produce a result. Polyhedral dice generate only positive numbers and do not include zero, which makes them poorly suited to the modifier approach. Games which use them in this way must denote skill levels as "minimum performance", but that is not compatible with Fudge, which describes the "average performance."

Fudge Dice have a fixed range (-4 to +4), while polyhedral dice are available in different ranges. With 4dF it is impossible for a Poor character to roll a Superb result, and the character is similarly guaranteed to have at least a chance at a Great result. With polyhedral dice, result ranges can be redefined, and multiple ranges can be implemented by using different dice for different situations.

Inspiration

Many games represent skill levels in terms of dice; some have dice pools, while others (such as Savage Worlds or The Window) assign individual polyhedral dice.

Savage Worlds is particularly interesting in that it only uses the five smaller dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12) and these correspond closely to the Fudge levels Mediocre through Superb; d6 is average, unskilled is d4-2, and Legendary is d12+N. There is much more to SW than this, and the rest is not particularly Fudge-like, but this concept can be used as the basis of a new Fudge resolution system.

Rethinking the Trait Ladder

The standard trait ladder is at the core of Fudge, and any dicing mechanic for Fudge must be reconciled in some fashion to the trait ladder. Taking the SW dice (d6 = Average) and matching them up with the Fudge trait ladder, we get:

Die Trait Level
  Legendary
d12 Superb
d10 Great
d8 Good
d6 Fair
d4 Mediocre
  Poor
  Terrible

A basic axiom of Fudge is that a Fair character will achieve at least a Fair performance most of the time (to be precise, about 62% of the time using 4dF). If we are using a d6 to represent Fair, then 4-6 would be 50% of the time:

1d6   Trait Level
17% 6 Great
33% 5 Good
50% 4 Fair
67% 3 Mediocre
83% 2 Poor
100% 1 Terrible

That 50% is reasonably close. Conveniently, we also find that Good (d8) will get a Good or better (5+) result 50% of the time, Great (d10) will get a Great or better(6+) result 50% of the time, etc! So our tentative trait ladder looks like this:

Target
Number
Trait Level Die
12 Legendary 5th d12+5
11 Legendary 4th d12+4
10 Legendary 3rd d12+3
9 Legendary 2nd d12+2
8 Legendary d12+1
7 Superb d12
6 Great d10
5 Good d8
4 Fair d6
3 Mediocre d4
2 Poor d4-1
1 Terrible  
0 Sub-Terrible / Nonexistent  

So far so good, we've defined Mediocre through Superb which covers 90% of what we need. Let's now examine the details and see if it holds together.

All skill levels except trans-Superb can now get a Terrible result. Some will not like this, but fumbles are true to the traditions of single-die games (like D&D), and mean that highly skilled characters are not immune to failure. For some, this will add welcome variety and fun to their games.

Results of 8+ are Legendary but are otherwise not differentiated... a roll of 12 is no different than a roll of 9.

Superb: Rolling a d12, a Superb character can get anything from Terrible to Legendary, which extends the lower end of the range a fair bit.

Legendary: We can treat Legendary as trans-Superb; each level of Legendary adds +1 to the d12, so Legendary 2nd is d12+2, and so forth. Since legendary levels are optional this seems like a clean approach. Also, that means a Legendary trait will never have a rolled degree less than Poor.

Poor: Since this is the unskilled default it is actually somewhat common in emergencies. The lowest we can ever roll is Terrible (1). That actually seems reasonable, although it seems that a Poor or Terrible character ought to have a chance to get a sub-Terrible on a fumble. So, let's call Poor d4-1, for a range of 0-3. This means that a Poor (untrained) character will never achieve even a basically competent result of Fair, and likewise has a serious chance to fumble and get a sub-Terrible result.

The trait ladder is designed around a curved distribution centered on "Fair". This could be done with polyhedral dice by rolling multiple dice and renumbering the trait ladder; for example, rolling 2d4 and setting Fair equal to 5. However, such an approach really adds little except additional arithmetic, and you also run into the problem that the dice can no longer be added to the trait level.

In standard Fudge, you generate a die result from -4 to +4, and add or subtract that many levels from your trait in order to get a result.

Since polyhedral dice have no negative results, two modifications are made to the standard technique: First, the traits are renumbered from -4/+4 to +0/+8. Second, instead of adding the dice to your trait level, you add them to "Abysmal" (+0).

Each trait level above Terrible has an associated die:

Level Die
Legendary (2nd) d12+2 (etc)
Legendary d12+1
Superb d12
Great d10
Good d8
Fair d6
Mediocre d4
Poor d4-1
Terrible none
Abysmal none

The usual range of skill levels is Mediocre to Superb, which corresponds nicely to the five standard dice d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12. There are no unique dice to assign to Poor or Legendary, but these are unusual trait levels and a simple modifier will suffice when they are needed. Terrible and Abysmal are very rare as skill levels, so no dice have been suggested, although you could use d4-2 and d4-3 if you really need these.

Rolling the dice and adding to Abysmal produces the following probabilities:

Skill: Poor Med. Fair Good Great Superb Legendary
Legendary+       13% 30% 42% 50%
Superb       25% 40% 50% 58%
Great     17% 38% 50% 58% 67%
Good     33% 50% 60% 67% 75%
Fair   25% 50% 63% 70% 75% 83%
Med. 25% 50% 67% 75% 80% 83% 92%
Poor 50% 75% 83% 88% 90% 92% 100%
Terrible 75% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%  
Abysmal 100%            

Note that at any given skill level, you have 50% chance to roll your trait level or better. This is somewhat lower than standard Fudge, but it offset by the more linear distribution and general inability to roll below Terrible.

To make this more interesting, we can use "exploding" dice: whenever you roll max on a die, re-roll and add; continue until you get something other than a maximum result. For example, if you roll 6 on 1d6, roll again; if the second roll is 6, roll a third time; if the third roll is 4, the final result is 6+6+4=16. Extending the top of the scale also counterbalances the lower 50% chance of rolling your trait level.

Also, since very low (sub-Terrible) results are not really possible any more, we can add a "snake eyes" rule: if your initial roll is 1, roll again; if the second roll is also 1, it is a fumble and is treated as the worst (sub-Terrible) result possible.

These additions modify the probabilities:

  Skill: Poor Mediocre Fair Good Great Superb Legendary
8 Legendary 6% 6% 14% 12% 30% 42% 50%
7 Superb 6% 12% 17% 25% 40% 50% 58%
6 Great 12% 19% 17% 38% 50% 58% 67%
5 Good 19% 25% 33% 50% 60% 67% 75%
4 Fair 25% 25% 50% 62% 70% 75% 83%
3 Mediocre 25% 50% 67% 75% 80% 83% 92%
2 Poor 50% 75% 83% 88% 90% 92% 100%
1 Terrible 75% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%  

Adding trait numbers 1-8 to the trait ladder makes it easier to convert the die results back into adjectives; purists may feel this is violates the spirit of Fudge, but it is really no different than putting -4 to +4 on the ladder, and will be memorized just as quickly. Indeed, this is probably faster since the numbers are absolute and there is no level arithmetic going on. The trait ladder now looks like this:

Level Die
8+ Legendary d12+1
7 Superb d12
6 Great d10
5 Good d8
4 Fair d6
3 Mediocre d4
2 Poor d4-1
1 Terrible d4-2
** Abysmal  

Fudge Points

Spending a Fudge Point on a roll is treated as if you rolled max; so you get to roll again and add. Multiple Fudge Points can be spent to guarantee ridiculously over-the-top results.

Method Summarized

Roll the die indicated for your trait level and add any modifiers. Look up the result on the trait table to get your final trait level. Example: Indiana Joe has Good climbing, so rolls a d8 and gets a result of 6, a Great result.

Snake Eyes: If your initial roll is a 1, roll again; if you get another 1, it is a disaster. Treat it as the worst possible result (usually sub-Terrible). Example: Joe rolls a 1 on his climbing check; this is already a Terrible result, so the GM rules he has encountered an overhang and cannot continue. Taking a deep breath and kissing the die, the player re-rolls -- and gets a 1. The rock crumbles under Joe's weight and he falls...

Exploding Dice: If you roll max on a die, roll again and add the result. Continue rolling until you get something other than a max result. The scale only goes to 8, so very high results are usually discarded, but it is fun to see how high you can get. And for some results -- like rolling damage -- high results do count! Example: Indiana Joe is falling amid tumbling rocks and needs a Superb result to grab at his safety rope. He has Fair Agility and rolls a d6, getting a 6 (Great)! He re-rolls and gets another 6, bringing his total to 12; a third roll comes up 1, so his grand total is 13 -- well past Superb. Joe grabs the rope and swings Tarzan-like to the top of the cliff, where he lands nimbly on his feet and strikes a heroic pose.

Melee Damage

Method 1: Add your weapon damage to the relative degree and subtract armor. With this system, rolling really high on exploding attack dice will give a huge damage bonus!

Method 2: Roll strength (again, this is an exploding roll), add your weapon modifier, and subtract armor.

Weapons and Armor have the same bonuses as in Vanilla Fudge.

Missile Damage

Method 1: Rate each weapon with Lethality trait, and then roll damage based on that trait.

Method 2: Use the relative degree of your ranged attack for base damage, and add a weapon bonus.

Method 3: Assign raw dice to each missile weapon, like 1d8, 2d6, or 1d4+6.

Taking Damage

Everyone has a Damage Rating (DR). Your base DR is equal to the Trait Number (TN) for your Damage Capacity (or some other trait if the GM chooses). For example, a person with Great Damage Capacity would have a base DR 6.

DR = Base DR + Armor + Scale

So a knight with Great Damage Capacity and Chain Mail (+3) would have DR 9. Any damage that exceeds DR is applied to the wound track:

Damage Wound
1-4 Scratched
5-8 Hurt
9-12 Very Hurt
13-16 Incapacitated
17+ Near Death

The addition of a DR and the expanded wound track offsets the effect of the exploding dice, as well as the fact that Fair is now +4 instead of +0. If you want to use the standard wound track and no DR, cap exploding dice at 8 (Legendary) and it should work okay.

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