Table of Contents
The Addenda consist of a variety of supplementary material for FUDGE.
Chapters 1 through 5 represent plain, vanilla FUDGE - here you can find and create fancier fare. If you pass FUDGE around, please add any customization to this chapter (quoting Section number and name, such as 1.33, Gifts), rather than change the original. Suggestions for a specific genre also go in the Addenda. Examples: a list of sample superpowers, or a list of guns and their damage.
Please include a date and credit (your name) for the change, and, if possible, notify Steffan O'Sullivan, the original author of FUDGE, via the Internet (to email@example.com) or via the Post Office (c/o Grey Ghost Games, P.O. Box 838, Randolph, MA 02368).
Date: November, 1992 to November, 1993
By: Steffan O'Sullivan
Here is a sample magic system, based on the following premises mentioned in Section 2.5, Magic:
Who can cast:
Magicians only (supernormal power needed).
Levels of Power: yes. There are two game effects: the greater the power, the easier it is to cast more powerful spells; and power levels act as a reserve in case of severe failure, which temporarily drains Power. Voluntarily draining a level of Power can also guarantee success for one spell.
Source of Power: manipulation of local area mana.
Time to cast spells: depends on potency of spell (one minute to days). This can be speeded up by taking a penalty to the roll.
Spells: improvised. Exact wording isn't important, so magic books tend to be collections of effects, not formulae.
Material Components: none needed, but good use can give a +1 bonus to skill.
Drawbacks: casting non-trivial spells is fatiguing; severe failure causes distress.
Societal constraints: none - magic is rare, but not unheard of.
This system is based on the conviction that a player using magic should never be blase: there should always be some tension and excitement when a character casts a spell, or the magic has gone out of the game. Too often in a roleplaying game, the player running a magician uses tried-and-true spells so regularly that spell-casting becomes mundane. Since "mundane magic" seems a contradiction in terms, FUDGE Magic attempts to instill a little excitement into spell-casting.
There are many ways to achieve this. FUDGE Magic has chosen the following limitations:
Options are provided to alter these limitations for GMs who dislike them. In fact, Section 7.193, Spell-Casting Skill Alternatives, is essential for Faerie races and demigods, who have much more dependable magic powers than humans. (Unless the GM is generous, such characters would have to buy higher skill levels normally if using the Objective Character Creation system. Taking some faults to balance such Powers is in keeping with the nature of demigods and Faerie races.)
See Section 6.31 for sample characters using FUDGE Magic.
Magic Potential is a Supernormal Power. (A suggested cost in the Objective Character Creation system is two gifts for each level of Magic Potential. This can be reduced in a magic-rich campaign.) A character with at least one level of Magic Potential (usually abbreviated to Potential, sometimes simply called Power) is referred to as a "magician" in these rules - substitute your favorite word. Only magicians may cast spells. (However, see Section 7.192, Magicians & Non-Magicians, for other options.) Magic Potential may be taken more than once, but each level counts as a separate supernormal power.
Each level of Magic Potential must be bought as a specialization. Specializations can be suggested by the player or set by the GM. (In the latter case, she should make a list of acceptable magic specializations.) The categories can be as broad or as narrow as the GM wishes - the broader the terms, the more powerful the magicians.
A character may have Power levels in more than one specialization, unless the GM disallows it for some reason. Certain disciplines may have societal constraints: in most cultures, studying Necromancy is offensive and probably illegal. Mind Control, Invisibility, Teleportation, Illusion Magic, etc., might all be limited to government-approved magicians, at best. It's even possible that such magicians will be outlaws. Anything that can be used easily to commit a crime (especially assassination or thievery) will be difficult, if not impossible, to learn openly in most cultures. If a given culture allows such magic openly, it is sure to have powerful defenses against being damaged by it.
Narrow specializations should probably cost less than one supernormal power: perhaps each specialized Potential is worth one gift.
In order to cast a spell of a given result, the magician must have at least +1 Potential specialized in that type of magic (on the character sheet, that is: he may be temporarily reduced to 0 Potential). Someone with +1 Potential: Combat Magic and +2 Potential: Information-Gathering Magic could not cast a spell to create food in the wilderness, for example.
Failing a spell miserably causes the temporary loss of a level of Magic Potential (see Section 7.15, Resolution). When this happens, the magician faints for at least one combat round. He needs a Good Constitution roll to wake up (roll each round). When he comes to, the magician may function normally, even attempting to cast the same spell again - if he hasn't dropped below 0 Potential.
If a magician has two or more types of Potential that are appropriate for the spell being cast, and a loss of Potential is called for, the GM decides which type of Potential is reduced. For example, a magician has one level of Combat Magic and two levels of Fire Magic, and fails miserably on a fireball spell. The GM could say that he has lost either his one level of Combat Magic or one of his Fire Magic levels, but not one of each.
If a magician drops to -1 Potential in any given specialty, he immediately falls into a coma, lasting anywhere from an hour to a day (GM's decision). When he wakes, he must roll against his Constitution: on a Mediocre or worse roll, he takes a point of damage. He checks Constitution again at the end of every day he is active - a failed result means another point of damage. These wounds cannot be healed until he recharges his Magic Potential back up to level 0.
A magician with 0 Potential may still cast spells; a magician at -1 Magic Potential, however, cannot attempt any magic spells that would involve that specialty. He may still cast spells of another specialty. For example, a magician who falls to -1 Encyclopedic Magic can no longer cast a spell that allows him to open his blank book and read a magically-appearing encyclopedia entry on a specified topic. But he can still cast spells using his Animal Empathy Magic, allowing him to call and converse with wild animals, provided that Potential is still 0 or greater. He must still make a Constitution check for every day he his active, however, to see if his -1 Encyclopedic Magic Potential is causing him wounds.
Magic Potential may be recharged only by resting for one week per level. (GMs may alter this time to taste, of course: resting for one day is sufficient for more epic campaigns.) For example, a magician falls to -1 Potential. Resting one week will bring him up to 0 Potential (and cure any wounds incurred by being active while at -1 Potential). A second week of rest will bring him up to +1 Potential.
No character may gain Magic Potential levels beyond his starting level except through Character Development - see Chapter 5.
When a magician wishes to cast a spell, he describes the result he has in mind. The GM assesses how powerful such an effect would be, based on how prevalent magic is in her campaign. In a low-magic campaign, even a simple spell such as levitating the jail keys to an imprisoned character would be taxing. In a high-magic campaign, however, that would be a trivial spell, and even shooting forth a flash of lightning from a fingertip wouldn't be out of the ordinary.
The potency of the spell can be modified by the magician's appropriate Power level. An "average" magician has three levels of appropriate Power when casting a given spell. (Modify this number up or down for harder or easier magic.) That is, a spell is more difficult for a magician with less than three levels of an appropriate Power. Likewise, a magician with four or more appropriate Power levels treats a spell as more trivial than it would be for an average magician.
"Appropriate" Power does not have to be all of the same specialization so long as each Power governs the spell in question. For example, a spell to make a sword fly up and attack a foe could be governed by Flying Magic, Combat Magic, and Control Inanimate Material. If a magician had one level of each of those types of magic, the spell would be of average potency for him.
A spell is then Trivial, Average, or Potent. (It may also be Very Trivial, or Very Potent, if the GM wishes. In fact, the players will undoubtedly propose truly awesome spells, which should be labelled as Extraordinarily Potent, or with some other impressive adjective.) The GM tells the player what the potency of a proposed spell is - any magician character would have a fairly good idea of a spell's potency.
The spell's potency determines the Difficulty level. A spell of average potency has a Fair Difficultly level, while a Potent spell has a Difficulty level of at least Good. Likewise, a Trivial spell has a Difficulty level of Mediocre or Poor.
The GM also decides the duration of the spell if it succeeds -
seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. The character may try to adjust
this, subject to GM approval. For example, the magician can
voluntarily take more fatigue or reduce the scope of the effect - or
accept some other penalty - to lengthen the spell's duration. Rolling
a higher relative degree can also mean the spell lasts longer. Some
spells have permanent effects: healing (until wounded again), busting
a hole in a wall (until repaired manually or by magic), teleporting to
a distant place (until you come back), and so on. Of course, even
these spell effects may be temporary in a given GM's world: healing
only lasts a day and the wound reappears, or a hole in the wall fixes
itself after a few minutes, or a teleported person automatically
returns after an hour in the other
The GM also needs to determine if there are any drawbacks to casting a spell. FUDGE Magic assumes that spells are tiring to cast, and a magician reduces his Fatigue attribute when casting. The more potent the spell, the more the fatigue. (Fatigue is regained by resting, of course. If Fatigue goes below Terrible, the character passes out. The GM may have separate Fatigue attribute, or base it on Endurance, Constitution, Strength, etc.)
A GM who dislikes the idea of keeping track of fatigue can change the drawback to something else. Perhaps a magician has a limited number of spells he can cast in a day (or in an hour). In this case, he may have a Spell Point attribute, which is drained by spell casting and regained simply by the passage of time. (A trivial spell won't drain any Spell Point levels, while an average spell drops a magician from Good Spell Points to Fair, for example, and more potent spells drain two or more levels at a time.) Draining spell points would not necessarily make the magician tired in this case, and Spell Points would regenerate whether the magician was resting or not - or they might only regenerate with sleep.
Or maybe each spell affects a magician's Sanity attribute, and he
needs to convalesce to restore it. Or, equally entertaining, a spell
might affect the sanity of anyone who witnesses magic! Reduced
sanity can manifest in many amusing
Mana is an energy source capable of manipulating matter, time and space. It can be tapped only by those with Magic Potential. The GM determines the availability and density of mana in a given game world, just as she does the average potency of a spell. Mana density can affect two things: how large an area is needed to fuel a given spell effect, and (optionally), how easy or hard it is to cast a spell.
When a spell of a particular effect is cast, the magician draws a specific type of mana to him to create the effect. The next time this same effect is desired, it will be harder to do: he has drained some of that mana type in the local area.
The size of the area is defined by the GM. For most fantasy worlds,
assume it's about 50 yards or meters in diameter. In a low-level
magic campaign, the area is the size of a town or even city. (This
would give meaning to the old line, "This town ain't big enough for
both of us" - dueling wizards!) On the other hand, a high-level magic
campaign is so mana-rich that the magician can simply take a step or
two and be in a new area. Note that the area governs which spells
can be cast without penalty: if one magician casts a healing spell, a
second magician will be at -1 to cast a healing spell in the same area
within the next 24 hours. (Mana may recharge at a different rate in a
given game world, of course.) Note also that a magician may be
unaware of what spells were cast in an area before he
In a mana-rich area, spells may also be easier to cast: +1 or +2 to skill level. Likewise, in a mana-poor area, spells can be harder to cast: -1 or more. The GM decides if this rule is in effect.
Mana is dispersed and weak in a world such as modern Earth. The average fantasy game world will have much stronger mana, and some high-magic campaigns will simply reek of mana. In any given world, it is possible to vary the amount of mana. Some lands may be mana-rich, while neighboring areas are mana-poor. Mana may flow in currents, or in tides with the phases of the moon. There may be "rogue" mana streams that change course and invade new areas, or a mana drought may afflict a given locale. Astrological alignments can affect mana, too - thus even here on mana-poor Earth there will be places and times of the year when cultists gather to call forth unseen powers . . .
A PC magician would know the general mana level for at least his home area. He may or may not know whether it fluctuates periodically, or if far lands have different mana levels. In order to determine the mana level of the local area at a given time, a magician must cast a spell specifically to that end.
Spell-casting is a skill that must be learned. The default is Non-Existent, and, due to the element of uncertainty in FUDGE Magic (mentioned in Section 7.1, FUDGE Magic), the maximum base skill level is Fair. This cannot be raised permanently - but see Section 7.193, Spell-Casting Skill Alternatives.
One generic Spell-Casting skill is assumed, but the GM may require more if she breaks magic down into different types. It should cost one level just to get a Spell-Casting skill at Terrible.
Spell-casting skill may be modified (to a maximum of Great) by the following:
Taking an average time to cast a spell: +0. (Note: the GM assesses
the average time for any given spell proposed. Potent spells might
take all day, or even longer, while Trivial ones might take one to
Taking a long time to cast a spell carefully: +1. (Relative to each spell, of course. For a Trivial spell: taking a half an hour or more.)
Casting a spell much more quickly than normal: -1. (For a Trivial spell: one combat round of concentration.)
Using normal effort to cast a spell: +0.
Using extra effort to cast a spell (more fatigue than normal, or
counts as two spells cast if there is a limit per day, or reduces
Sanity more than normal, etc.): +1 or +2.
Using less effort than normal to cast a spell: -1 or more. (Reduced fatigue, or it only counts as half a spell against a daily limit, etc.)
First spell-casting of a particular effect in a given area within 24
hours: +0. (See Section 7.13, Mana, for the size of an area.)
Additional spell-castings of a particular effect in a given area within 24 hours: -1 per casting.
For using authentic magic formulae: +1. (The Law of Contagion or the Law of Similarity, for example - see James Frazer's classic anthropological study, The Golden Bough. Both Laws require some physical component: a feather to cast a flight spell, a piece of the subject's hair to heal or hurt her, a drop of water that becomes a water jet, a stick that becomes a staff, a bearskin to change the magician into a bear, etc. Drafting the spell in poetical form earns an additional +1, if the GM is willing.)
Multiple magicians casting a spell that they have all tried before: +1 (for two to X magicians) or +2 (for more than X magicians). (X is set by the GM, anywhere from two to ten, or even more for low-magic campaigns. One magician is assumed to be the primary caster: roll only once against his skill.)
Mana-rich area: +1 or +2 (optional).
Normal mana area: +0
Mana-poor area: -1 or more (optional).
Other modifiers may also apply, such as in a spell to search the mountains magically for someone you love (+1) or searching for someone you've never met (-1).
Each spell is then resolved as an Unopposed action: the Difficulty level is dependent on the spell potency. Spells of average potency have a Difficulty level of Fair, while more trivial spells have difficultly levels of Mediocre or Poor. (No spell has a Difficulty level of Terrible - magic just doesn't work at that level.) More potent spells have Difficultly levels of Good to Superb, or even beyond Superb if a truly powerful effect is desired.
If the magician surpasses the Difficulty level, the spell occurs as he described it. The better the relative degree, the better the result. The magician suffers -1 (or more) to his Fatigue attribute if the GM deems the spell is fatiguing. (If the GM has chosen some other drawback, of course, apply that instead.)
Sometimes a skill roll is then needed to do something with the end result of a spell. For example, a fireball needs to be thrown accurately: use the Throwing Skill and Ranged Weapon rules in Chapter 4.
If the magician equals the Difficulty level, then a watered-down version of the spell occurs. Either it will have a short duration, or reduced potency, or there is a time lag before the spell takes effect, etc. There may be an unexpected side effect, though it won't be harmful to the magician. There is no penalty for the magician beyond a possible -1 or -2 to Fatigue, at worst.
If the magician rolls below the Difficulty level, however, he is adversely affected. The energy inherent in mana lashes out at the magician's psyche instead of being focused as desired. There may (or may not) be some visible magical effect, but it will not be the desired effect, and, if he rolled poorly enough, it may even be inimical to the magician's goals - or health . . .
On a failed roll, the magician is stunned for one combat round (no actions or defense) and takes at least -1 Fatigue. A Terrible result always fails.
If he rolls a result of -4, the spell automatically fails (no matter what the resulting level) and he also temporarily drains one level of his Magic Potential - see Section 7.11, Magic Potential, for effects. (This is the "riskiness" of magic mentioned in Section 7.1, FUDGE Magic.)
If the spell is one which attempts to Control another being - either mentally, physically or spiritually - Opposed action rolls are also called for. First, the magician casts the spell (as above); then he has to overcome the Personal Magic Resistance of the subject. Magic Resistance may be an attribute or gift (Willpower is a good choice, if there is no specific anti-magic trait), as the GM desires. Magic Resistance may even be a different attribute for different types of spells (a mental attribute for attempts to control the mind, etc.). This second roll is Opposed - the subject of the spell gets a chance to resist it, and so can influence the result.
If the GM is willing, the magician may use the result he just rolled as his skill level for the Opposed action. That is, if he rolled a Great result on the spell, he rolls the Opposed action as if his skill were Great. Otherwise, he uses the same level he rolled initially against.
"Control" can mean many things to different GMs. Personal Magic Resistance would resist an attempt to read someone's mind to one GM, but not to another. However, Magic Resistance does not resist any spell that calls or creates physical energy to lash out at another being. If the magician successfully creates lightning to blast the subject, it is not resisted by Personal Resistance; it is treated as a physical weapon.
Sometimes a magician desperately needs a certain result. In this
case, he may opt not to roll the dice at all, and simply drain one
level of Magic Potential for a guaranteed success. He takes the usual
penalties for losing a level of Potential - see Section 7.11, Magic
Potential. This means he'll faint - be unconscious - after casting
the spell, which limits the utility for certain spells. You can't
control someone's mind when you are unconscious, for
The GM may restrict this to Trivial spells, or non-Potent spells, or have no restrictions at all, beyond requiring the normal fatigue (or other) penalties. If the spell is one that could logically be resisted by the subject, however, the subject still gets a Resistance roll. In this case, the magician rolls as if his skill were Great.
Items may be permanently enchanted in this system. The magician works for a number of weeks or months (as required by the GM), depending on the number and potency of the spells desired, and the general availability of magic items in the campaign. At the end of each month (or week), the magician rolls against two skills: Spell-casting, and the appropriate Craft skill for the material being worked. The usual penalties apply on failing a spell roll. If he surpasses the Difficulty level on each roll, the spell is slowly being set into the item, one stage at a time. On a roll that only matches the Difficulty level, the work counts as only half a time period, but does progress the enchantment.
Obviously, a mana-rich area will attract magicians, especially enchanters.
These options offer ways to make FUDGE Magic more sweeping, more reliable, less risky, and even make it available to non-magicians.
Some GMs may want the players to have sweeping powers. In this case, each level of Magic Potential allows a character to try any magic effect desired. This is in keeping with certain fictional settings in which learning magic involves general principles rather than specific spell effects. This makes for a very free and open game, which may or may not be to your tastes.
This system still allows specializations. Simply use faults to limit a magician's ability to cast certain spells. See Section 6.311, Character Examples, Brogo the Scout.
The GM may allow non-magicians to cast spells. In this case, it is risky, as there is no Magic Potential "cushion" - one severe failure is enough to devastate the character. Still, in an emergency, it may be worth the risk. Such a character would still need to have some Spell-casting skill, however. (But see Section 7.193, Spell-casting Skill Alternatives).
As a substitute for Magic Potential specialization, the GM looks over the character sheet (checking traits, personality, and character background) and decides if a proposed spell would be appropriate for the character. The character must have some aptitude in the proposed spell subject, or he may not cast such a spell. For example, a trained fighter with no knowledge of book learning or foreign languages could conceivably try a combat spell, but not a spell to translate a book written in an unknown script.
Of course, the same spell is of greater potency for a non-magician than for a magician. This probably means that a non-magician will only have a chance of casting a spell that a magician would consider trivial.
Since tastes differ, and FUDGE Magic tends to be undependable (see Section 7.1, FUDGE Magic), three options are provided for more reliable spell-casting:
To make spell-casting less risky (not necessarily a good thing - see Section 7.1, FUDGE Magic), make it harder to drain a level of Potential.
Examples (apply as many or as few as desired):
Date: December, 1992
By: Steffan O'Sullivan
Here is a sample miracle system (not generic), based on the following premises mentioned in Section 2.6, Miracles:
Can miracles occur by petition: Yes.
Who can petition: Anyone. Holy persons have an advantage. (A holy person is one with the supernormal power: Divine Favor, and whose behavior is in synch with the deity's goals - GM decision on how the player is roleplaying.) Religious Investiture - a social title that may or may not coincide with Divine Favor - is not required, and, in fact, does no good if behavior is inappropriate.
Certainty of petitioned miracles: Mediocre.
Broad or specific requests: Specific requests are more likely to be granted.
Divine Favor is a supernormal power that can be taken more than once. Each time Divine Favor is taken, it is dedicated to a single deity. It is possible to have Divine Favor from more than one deity in a polytheistic world, or you can have multiple steps of Divine Favor from a single deity. Each step of Divine Favor counts as two supernormal powers (recommended).
Divine Favor can be temporarily lost if the character does not act in accordance with the deity's desires. Usually a period of atonement is required to regain Divine Favor. This may be instantaneous for a merciful deity, or it may take up to a month for stricter deities. All steps are lost and regained as a unit when this happens.
A character may petition a miracle at any time. However, some deities do not like to be disturbed for trivial matters, and may ignore requests when it is obvious the character hasn't even tried to help himself.
In FUDGE Miracles, the petition should be fairly precisely worded. Rather than a simple, "Please help me," the character should focus the plea: "We are starving, please feed us," or, "My friend is dying, please heal him." A holy character can petition for any miraculous result desired, however - there is no established list of miracles.
Characters without Divine Favor have a Petitioning skill of Poor (or Mediocre in a more deity-active game). Those with one or more steps of Divine Favor have a Petitioning skill of Fair. Petitioning skill cannot be raised. (In a high-level deity-active campaign, Petitioning skill can be raised to Good at the cost of one supernormal power.) Petitioning skill can be modified, however - see the next section.
To resolve a petition, make an Unopposed action roll against Petitioning skill. Each step of Divine Favor grants the holy character one extra chance to roll the dice in a petition to his deity.
On a Fair or worse result, the roll is a failure. If the character has any steps of Divine Favor from the same deity, he may roll again for each step (this does not count as a separate petition). He can stop at any point - only the last result rolled counts. This means a character with two steps of Divine Favor can try one, two, or three rolls. If he gets Good, Fair, and Mediocre results, in that order, the result of the petition is Mediocre.
On a Fair or Mediocre result, the petition isn't answered by the
deity, but the deity isn't annoyed by the petitioner. On Poor or
worse result, however, the deity is angry with the character, and
there will be a -1 on the next petition attempt. If the deity is
evil, a miracle may actually occur, but not one the petitioner is
On a Good or better result, the petition is granted. The better the rolled result, the better the answer to the prayer. For example, a Good result heals one wound or wound level, while a Superb result totally heals the character. A Good result could call a wolf to defend the petitioner, while three lions might answer a Superb result. And so on.
The GM decides if any modifiers are applicable. Suggested modifiers:
The petitioner's behavior has been strictly in accordance with the
deity's desires: +1
The petitioner's behavior has not been in accordance with the deity's desires: -1 or more
The petition will further the deity's desires: +1
The petition goes against the deity's desires: -1 or more
The petition involves the deity's sphere of influence: +1 (Calling
for a fireball from a fire god, for example. This is not
appropriate for a Supreme God, whose sphere encompasses all
The petition involves an element antagonistic to the deity: -1 or more (asking the Fire deity to use water, for example.)
The petition is phrased too generally: -1 or more
The petitioner has not tried to help himself first: -1 or more.
The petition is too trivial to bother the deity with: -1 or more
The petition is a simple, but important, request: +1, provided the petitioner has exhausted his own abilities to accomplish this task. (Example: requesting a piece of chalk, which is trifling, but simply cannot be found anywhere near the character. In this case, chalk would have to be essential to the character's state of body, mind or soul.)
The last petition was a Poor or worse result: -1
The deity feels the petitioner is calling for help too frequently: -1 or more (Optional - may be invoked by a GM annoyed at constant requests for
Date: February, 1993 & December, 1993
By: Shawn Garbett and Steffan O'Sullivan
There are three types of Psi traits in this system: Powers, skills, and Psychic Reservoir. Only psionicists have Powers and the skills to activate them, but everyone has a Psychic Reservoir to resist psionic attacks.
The GM must decide how precisely to define Psi Powers. Since each Power must be bought separately, defining them broadly makes for more powerful characters.
The following chart shows some broad groups that include more narrowly defined Psi power groups listed with them. These in turn contain even more narrowly defined powers, which a GM may use as individual Powers if desired. This list may be regrouped, expanded, some powers disallowed, a narrowly defined group made into a broad group that includes other powers, etc. The list is not intended to be comprehensive, but merely a sample.
|Very Broad Groups||Mildly Broad Groups||Narrow Groups|
|Control Inanimate||Force Shield|
|Electrokinesis||Alter Electric Current|
|Control Electrical Devices|
|Mental Communication||Mind Reading|
|Mental Control||Alter Memory|
|Prevent Clear Thinking|
|Send Violent Energy|
|Drain Psychic Reservoir|
|Open Dimension Portal|
The GM should let the players know what depth of Psi skills she is using. Each Power costs one Supernormal Power (two gifts).
Putting one level in a Power gets it at Terrible. Powers may then be raised at the cost of two skill levels per level, if using the Objective Character Creation system. For example, raising Telekinesis Power to Poor requires two skill levels, and raising it to Mediocre would cost two more skill levels.
If a GM envisions a psi-rich campaign, of course, the costs should be much cheaper. Allowing many free levels of Supernormal Powers is a good way to do this, but be cautious about trading them for mundane traits.
Power levels define range, quantity or size of subject affected, etc. - see Section 2.7, Psi. A Fair Power can do whatever the default average is for the campaign world.
Some tasks require a minimum Power level, as set by the GM. If the character has the Power, but not at the minimum level required, he may not attempt the action unless he uses Desperation Psionics (A HREF="#sec7.35">Section 7.35). If the psi has the appropriate Power at three or more levels above the minimum required, he is at +1 for that use.
No psionic ability can be used unless the character has the Power listed on his character sheet.
A character may take a latent psi Power at the cost of one gift. He can't use the Power (may not take any related psi skills), but later in the campaign he may spend EP equal to another gift to awaken the Power. He would then have to learn the skills to control the Power.
It is also possible to take some interesting faults that will limit the nature (and reduce the cost) of any Power. "Usable only in emergencies" is a common theme in fiction, for example.
You cannot attempt any psionic action unless you have the specific skill to control the Power in question. Each Power must have an accompanying skill of corresponding broadness or narrowness (Control Telekinesis, Use Telepathy, Read Minds, etc.).
The default for psionic skills is Non-existent. Raising a skill to Terrible costs one skill level, etc. Skills may be taken as high as Fair at the beginning of a game. (The GM may allow higher levels if the campaign is centered around psionic abilities.) They may be improved through normal character development, and new ones may be added if the GM is willing. The player should have a good story concerning awakening new skills, however.
Psychic Reservoir is a measure of raw psi power available. Like most attributes, Psychic Reservoir is at Fair for every character unless deliberately altered. The GM may set the default lower, and there may be a ceiling on how high Psychic Reservoir can be set.
Merely having a Psychic Reservoir attribute does not mean the character is capable of actively using psi. Other psionic Powers and skills are necessary to activate the Psychic Reservoir.
A low Psychic Reservoir can negatively modify any active psi ability, while a high Reservoir can be tapped to increase your chances of success - see Section 7.36, Psi Modifiers Summary.
A psionicist taps his Psychic Reservoir when he uses a psychic skill. Ongoing use gradually drains a Reservoir, and short but heavy-duty use of a psi Power also drains a Reservoir, but normal brief use doesn't. However, a rolled degree of Terrible or worse on a psionic skill roll always lowers Psychic Reservoir a minimum of one level.
A psionicist can also attempt to drain his Psychic Reservoir deliberately. This may be done to gain a bonus to a psionic skill (see Section 7.34, Psionic Actions), or to a Power (see Section 7.35, Desperation Psionics).
There is no immediate penalty for dropping a level of Psychic Reservoir, as long as it remains Terrible or higher. However, your next use of psi may be affected: there is a negative modifier for using a Psychic skill when your Psychic Reservoir is below Fair.
If the Psychic Reservoir is drained to below Terrible, the character immediately loses consciousness. It requires a Good roll versus a Constitution attribute to regain consciousness, which may be attempted every combat round.
Even after regaining consciousness, a character with Psychic Reservoir below Terrible is in trouble. The GM may impose any type of affliction she desires on such a character until the Psychic Reservoir reaches at least Terrible. Suggested afflictions include mild insanity (hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, etc.), physical debility (drooling, shaking, twitching, etc.), attribute reductions, and negative modifiers for even non-psi actions.
A character can regain one level of his Psychic Reservoir for each week (or day, or whatever the GM sets) of rest, up to his current maximum level.
Two kinds of psionic action are possible, Opposed and Unopposed.
An Opposed action is a psionic attack upon an unwilling subject. The attacker rolls against his specific psionic skill, and defender rolls against a Willpower attribute to resist. (A defender may have an appropriate psi skill to use instead, such as Mind Shield.) An example of an Opposed action would be an attempt to create fear in someone.
Unopposed psionic actions usually target inanimate objects. An Unopposed action could be as simple as examining an object psychically, or as complex as opening a dimensional door at one's feet. Telekinetically hurling an object at a foe is an Unopposed action because the object, not the foe, is the subject of the psionic skill.
When a Psi wishes to use an ability, the player describes the result he wants to the GM. The GM then assigns a Difficulty level to the action. Even if a psi overcomes a defender's Willpower roll to resist, he must still roll the Difficulty level or higher to succeed at a task.
There may also be a minimum Power level needed in order to attempt an action. For example, telekinetically lifting a pencil might only require a Terrible Telekinesis Power, but lifting a large book might require a Mediocre Telekinesis Power, and lifting a car might require a Superb Telekinesis Power. If the psi's Power level is three or more above the minimum needed, he gets a +1 to his skill level.
The time required to activate a psionic ability depends on the potency of the desired effect and the Power level of the character. It is set by the GM. This can range from a single combat round to hours of concentration. The individual can also vary the time concentrating (which must be uninterrupted) to speed up the results or increase the chances of success - see Section 7.36, Psi Modifiers Summary.
The Psi now applies all modifiers and rolls against the Difficulty level using the appropriate skill. In an Opposed action, both parties involved make their rolls. On tie results, the status quo is maintained, whatever that may be.
At this point, a psi (or animate target of a psionic attack) may attempt to sacrifice one or more levels of Psychic Reservoir to augment his rolled result. That is, if a psi fails in an Unopposed action, he may stress himself in attempt to succeed. In an Opposed action, this can be considered two people locked in psionic combat, each struggling to boost their power a bit to overcome the other.
To augment a rolled result, a Psionicist rolls against the psionic skill he just used, with current modifiers still effective. If the result is Good, he may sacrifice one level of Psychic Reservoir to give him a +1 on the result of the skill attempt. On a result of Great, he may sacrifice one or two levels, gaining +1 for each level, and on a roll of Superb or better, he may sacrifice up to three levels of Psychic Reservoir. On a result of Fair, Mediocre or Poor, there is no effect: he may not sacrifice a level of Psychic Reservoir, but there is no penalty for having tried. On a result of Terrible or worse, however, he not only drains one level of Psychic Reservoir, he also loses one level of rolled result. This can intensify any negative consequences of having failed.
If one party of an Opposed action is successful in augmenting his rolled result, the other may then try to augment his. They may continue to trade sacrificing levels of Psychic Reservoir until one of them fails to change the result, or falls below Terrible Psychic Reservoir.
Someone defending with no psionic abilities rolls against Willpower-2 to augment his result.
Once augmenting - if any - is complete, the GM decides the duration of the effects - the better the roll, the better the results. Some effects will be permanent, such as Healing. Continuous concentration may be required to sustain other effects; this may slowly drain one's Psychic Reservoir.
Psionic abilities are sometimes dangerous to use. A rolled degree of Terrible or worse will usually result in the exact opposite of the desired outcome, or some other entertaining backfire. In addition, the psi loses one level of Psychic Reservoir, as outlined in Section 7.33. It may also have a gruesome result: brain hemorrhage, loss of sanity, or a similar outcome. A Terrible result on an Opposed psionic action can mean the loser is now psychically open to his opponent. Such an open channel to another's psyche means that if the winner has any psychic ability at all, he can automatically draw on the loser's Psychic Reservoir to power his own abilities. The GM should determine these effects based on the situation at hand.
Ordinarily, if the minimum Power level of a proposed psionic action is higher than the character's Power level, the psionicist may not attempt the action at all. However, if one is desperate enough, he can try it - at a great price.
For each level of Psychic Reservoir voluntarily drained before the skill roll, a psionicist can increase his Power level by +1. Simply pushing the Power level up to match the minimum level needed is all it takes to try the skill - but he is at -2 to his skill for each level of Psychic Reservoir he drained for this attempt.
Unlike augmenting a rolled result (as described in the previous section), draining one level of Psychic Reservoir before the die roll is automatically successful.
This is obviously not for casual use: the risk of a Terrible outcome is much higher than normal, as well as the guaranteed drain on Psychic Reservoir. Nonetheless, if one were being attacked by the Spawn of The Other, a demon of tremendous power, one might try anything to survive.
Apply as many modifiers to the skill as are appropriate:
|Psychic Reservoir Level||Psionic Skill use at|
Skill augmented by draining Psychic Reservoir: +1 per level
Terrible or worse result on skill augmenting attempt: -1
Desperation attempts: -2 per level of Psychic Reservoir drained
Power level is three or more greater than necessary for the task: +1
Concentration time reduced by half: -1
Concentration time doubled: +1
Certain drugs, devices, fields, star alignments, areas, etc., can also have modifiers. As a GM-chosen option, psionics may be blocked by metal - either all metal or just certain ones.
Yardmower Man wants to mow the lawn psionically - he needs the practice. He currently has a Good Psychic Reservoir and an interesting assortment of psi Powers and skills. The GM decides that to move and control the yard mower is a Great Difficulty level task on Telekinesis skill. It requires only Mediocre Telekinesis Power, however. Yardmower Man has a Good Telekinesis Power but only Fair Telekinesis skill. It may be tough to do it well, but he's willing to try it.
Yardmower Man declares he's going to spend twice as much time concentrating (+1) and is also under the influence of Batch-5, a psi-enhancing drug (+1). He rolls a -1 result, which means a Good Telekinesis effort due to his modifiers. He just missed the Difficulty level. Since his power is adequate to move the lawn mower, he still mows the lawn telekinetically, but doesn't do a very good job. In fact, it looks sloppy: there are thin strips of unmowed grass here and there, and he took out half of his daisy bed with one poorly aimed swipe.
Since this is a continued use, the GM decides that for each hour spent mowing he reduces his Psychic Reservoir by one level. It takes him two hours.
The next day, Yardmower Man decides the director of the local government psionic research facility should be Molecularly Rearranged. (He's always snooping around, and has been known to lock up psis in the past.) The GM rules that Molecularly Rearranging a human other than the Psi himself is a Superb Difficulty level task against the Shapeshift skill, and requires at least a Great Shapeshift Power. It is also a taxing thing to do: it will drain one level of Psychic Reservoir at the end of the action. It will be opposed by the director's Presence attribute, which is close as this campaign comes to willpower.
Fortunately for Yardmower man, he has the Shapeshift Power and skill both at Superb level. He also consumes a double dose of Batch-5, giving him a +2 in the Opposed action, but severely risking side effects. His Psychic Reservoir is down to Mediocre from activities the night before (-1 to skill). Yardmower man rolls a -1 Result. This is modified -1 for low Psychic Reservoir, and +2 for Batch-5, giving him a Superb Result.
The poor director has a Good Presence and Fair Psychic Reservoir. He gets lucky and rolls a Great Presence result trying to resist the psionic attack. But Great is not good enough (Yardmower man got a Superb result), so he tries to augment his result by sacrificing a level of Psychic Reservoir to fight the rearrangement of his molecules. His sacrifice roll (against Presence) is a Good Result, so he increases his result to Superb. He's still holding on, but just barely. Also, his Reservoir will be Mediocre after this round of psychic combat.
Yardmower Man, not to be outdone, attempts to sacrifice his own Psychic Reservoir. He started the combat with a Mediocre Psychic Reservoir and full of Batch-5, so he still applies the +1 overall modifier to his Superb Shapeshift skill on his augmentation roll. He easily achieves a Good Result, and he therefore augments his result to Superb+1. (After this round, his Reservoir will also drop another level.)
The director desperately tries to augment his result again, but rolls a Fair result: he's reached the limit of his ability to stave off defeat. Yardmower Man rearranges the director into a lovely bush, and stares blankly at the outcome. At this point, his Psychic Reservoir drops one more level, as required by the GM for such a taxing action.
Since he lost one level of Psychic Reservoir augmenting his skill, and
another for the difficult Shapeshift action, Yardmower Man is now left
with a Terrible Psychic Reservoir; he'd better not try anything this
difficult for a while. Also, the GM demands a Good Difficulty level
roll against Constitution to avoid any unpleasant side effects from
the Batch-5 overdose. Yardmower Man gets a Mediocre result, missing
by two levels. The GM smiles at the player, and secretly jots down
that the next time he uses Batch-5, he'll hallucinate that the
director has returned to human form and is out to get
One of FUDGE's basic premises is that people have different tastes. Here are a collection of alternate rules sections for doing things slightly differently.
Date: December, 1992
By: Ed Heil
Instead of creating characters before starting the game, create them as the game progresses.
The GM assigns a number of skill levels available to a PC during a session. This should be based on how finely the GM defines skills: about 10 to 15 for broad skill-group games, and maybe twice that for fine skill-group games. These may be traded at the regular rate of three skill levels = one attribute level, or six skill levels = one gift. Faults may also be taken, subject to GM approval.
The players start with most of the character sheets blank - simply write out a brief sentence or two describing the character in a general way. ("Jeb is a surly dwarf, a good fighter, who is out to make a name for himself as a mean customer - and pick up some loot on the way. He likes to talk tough, and doesn't care much for halflings.")
As the character is confronted with challenging situations, the player must decide the level of the trait in question.
Since setting an initial skill at Fair level uses up two skill levels, and setting it at Superb uses up five levels, one must carefully weigh spending levels on skills as they are used versus saving them for emergency situations.
As usual, attributes are considered Fair unless altered, and most skills default to Poor. Taking a trait at a level below the default adds to your available skill level pool, of course. However, you may only define a trait as it is used in a game situation.
Experience points are given out as usual, but EP awarded are reduced by any unused skill levels after each session. That is, if you have two levels left after the first session, and the GM awards you three EP, you only get one more level for the next session, since you already have two levels unused. EP, in this case, can be used either to raise existing skills, as discussed in Section 5.2, Objective Character Development, or they can be used to add new skills, as discussed in this section, above. It costs more EPs to raise an existing skill than it does to define a previously undefined skill in this on-the-fly system. EP should be slightly higher under this system than a regular character creation system, perhaps a range of up to ten per session.
Date: May, 1995
By: Reimer Behrends, firstname.lastname@example.org
This section handles ways of resolving conflicts without resorting to the use of dice. There are reasons to do away with dice: some people find dice mechanics too intrusive for play; others may want to get rid of randomness altogether.
However, diceless action resolution is ill-suited to simulation-based gaming, despite the fact that the game can (and should) feel just as real as one with dice. Also, diceless resolution is usually more demanding of the GM than rolling dice to select an outcome. Even more so as there is no hard-and-fast rule for resolving conflicts without dice; instead, some creativity is required of the GM to fill in certain blanks.
The basic idea behind diceless action resolution is simple: the GM decides upon an appropriate outcome, based on player input and the situation at hand. The details of this, however, can be more complicated.
The idea is to use cause and effect to convey the feeling that whatever happens to the characters is not due to whim, but occurs because of the logic of the situation and the relevant history of everyone involved. It is important that any event (with exceptions, of course) appears to a be a logical effect of the preceding events. There is usually not a single event that is the outcome. The GM has to choose between several possible outcomes - which may vary wildly in terms of success and failure.
Consequently, the two most important parts in resolving an action are the reasons for a particular outcome and the consequences of that outcome.
Reasons are numerous. Foremost among reasons for success and/or failure is of course effective skill. However, a game where a sufficiently skilled character always wins and an incompetent character always fails would be quite boring due to its predictability. So we have to diversify these results, but in a way that doesn't feel artificial.
We do this by accounting for other factors besides effective skill. These factors can involve the environment (slipping in a puddle), equipment (a gun that jams at a critical moment), time constraints (defusing a bomb before it goes off), NPC actions (a character stepping in the way), etc. The idea is not to account for all possible factors, just to find one or two reasons that make the outcome seem logical.
Detailed description is essential to diceless action resolution. Description not only of the environment, but also of the characters. Noting that a character has a Great fencing skill may often suffice, but it is better to add some details (ideally through a character history). Describe style, weaknesses, and strengths, even though they may normally not show up on the character sheet. The same is true for the description of important actions.
Sometimes a character's perception (or lack thereof) may result in failure to notice why something happened. If, for instance, the floor suddenly gives way beneath him, he may not be certain as to what caused this to happen: did he step on a trap, or was there an outside agent involved? In this case, the GM will hide some or all of the reasons.
In addition to reasons, we have to consider consequences: what impact does a particular outcome have on the situation as a whole? The more serious the outcome, the more the reasons for it happening need to be convincing.
As an extreme example, death of player characters should only occur with ample forewarning of the risks or with really compelling reasons. Of course, jumping off a skyscraper will most likely render a character dead the instant he hits the ground. This is acceptable, because the players understand the logic of the situation. But slipping on a wet rock while crossing a stream - which can be ascribed to just plain bad luck - shouldn't kill a character outright. While it's true that slipping on a wet rock probably happens more often than jumping off a building, the GM needs to be careful in deciding the consequences of such an action.
There are many possible results for typical actions. So, lacking clear ideas as to which one is most appropriate - maybe even torn between clear success and catastrophic failure - how can this selection be narrowed down?
There are a few ways to approach the problem, and it is a good idea to reach an agreement with the group before play commences as to what factors will be used. The following list is far from complete, but gives some possibilities:
[The theme is "Combat is dangerous"]
GM: "Suddenly, you hear a rustling in the underbrush, and then,
out of it, a boar emerges, charging at you."
Player: "I'm not armed! I'll jump for the branch of the oak
next to me and pull myself up to safety."
GM: "Suddenly, you hear a rustling in the underbrush, and then, out of it, a boar emerges, charging at you."
Player: "I'm not armed! I'll jump for the branch of the oak next to me and pull myself up to safety."
[While the avoidance of a fight supports the theme, "Combat is
dangerous," there are other possibilities that emphasize it
GM: "You get hold of the branch, but as you start to pull
yourself up, you hear a loud CRACK, and all of a sudden the
ground rushes upwards to meet you."
GM: "You get hold of the branch, but as you start to pull yourself up, you hear a loud CRACK, and all of a sudden the ground rushes upwards to meet you."
[The situation is now much more dangerous. However, with a bit of luck and the help of the other characters in the group it is still possible to handle it without killing the PC.]
All of the above factors are meta-game issues. This is intentional. These factors contribute towards an interesting game, and one of the points of roleplaying is to have an interesting game. Besides, we are already using the in-game factors as cause and effect to convey a natural flow of events so we have to resort to the meta-level here.
It may look as though there is a lot of arbitrariness on the part of the GM. This is correct to some extent. Some individual decisions will be arbitrary. In the long run it should balance out, especially if the players possess even the slightest creativity. Note also that the GM should always respect player input. If something is going to fail that should normally work, failure should still reflect player input. (For instance, the example above with the breaking branch, where the character technically succeeds, but the branch does not cooperate).
There is no need to encumber the GM with all the decisions. The easiest way to hand some power back to the players is to give them a (limited) voice in the decision making process. For this purpose we employ Fudge Points (see Section 1.36).
By spending one Fudge Point, the player (instead of the GM) can decide the outcome of an action his character is involved in, provided the action is possible and not abusive to the game. (Blowing up an entire building with a cup of gunpowder is implausible, and possibly abusive to the plot). If the action is far beyond the normal skill of the character (given the circumstances), the GM may require expenditure of two or three Fudge Points instead.
Notice that using Fudge Points also gives the GM more leeway; she need no longer worry too much whether letting a character fail is too harsh, as it is within the power of the player to help his character if need be.
Diceless combat is action resolution with two added complications: the high risk of character death and a considerable amount of action that needs to be synchronized.
The synchronization part is fairly easy: as in resolution with dice, you can divide the entire combat in rounds of appropriate duration, cycling through all participating characters each round, or use story elements as suggested in Section 4.21.
Character death is trickier because players dislike losing their characters due to bad luck (be it because of an unlucky die roll or GM whim). The key here is to "post warning signs" before dangerous situations occur. These warnings should be subtle, such as the maniacal gleam in the opponent's eyes just before she launches a wild flurry of attacks. (Hopefully the player will say his character is on the defense, or announces some trick to counter a charge.) A description of the blood dripping from a character's wrist should warn the player that there may be a slippery puddle on the floor. In other words, prepare reasons for outcomes in advance and - most important - announce them to the players.
If the players maintain some maneuvering space for their characters after such warnings, that should be sufficient to prevent PC death - though not necessarily PC failure.
Character death - and any other drastic result - is usually due to a series of failures, each pushing the character a step further towards the edge - but always with opportunity to find a more favourable course of action in between. Unfortunately, in some situations this entire series of failures takes no longer than a few seconds.
The details of combat interaction are now fairly easy to handle, as they are an extension of normal diceless resolution. However, particular care should be taken to describe actions fully, especially in melee combat. The statement "I attack the pirate" is infinitely less informative than saying, "I assault the pirate with all I have, even if that means taking a blow or two myself. But I have to get out of here, and that means getting by her and at least wounding her so she can't follow quickly."
The object is to give the GM enough data to work with, such as:
Statements like these help the GM deciding how combat should be resolved much more than a simple, "I attack her."
The key here is to be creative. Everything is possible, so everything should be considered, from a simple rugby tackle to complex tactical maneuvering.
Bloodshed is an unfortunate but largely unavoidable side effect of combat. Wounds are also important because they may become major factors in the future course of the combat. Thus, wounds must be described and their effects detailed. For example:
The player should gather from this that his character is temporarily blinded, in severe pain, needing medical attention, in a state of dishabille, and in grave danger if enemies are approaching.
(This is of course appropriate for a high fantasy game. In a more realistic game, the character is probably charred and dead.)
Another example, this time a sniper's bullet hitting the character's arm:
And so on. There is no need to be too graphic in describing wounds, though. More important is the description of how the wound affects the character.
FUDGE is ideally suited to diceless action resolution since it's already simple and word-based. This can set the tone for the amount of description necessary for a diceless game to succeed. Once players and GM get used to diceless FUDGE, they'll find themselves describing their characters and actions in ways they never thought of before - and the game can be richer and more entertaining for it.
Date: January, 1993
By: Andy Skinner
As a simple variation on any dice technique, allow players who roll a +4 result to roll again. If the result is positive, add it in to the +4 already rolled. If the result is negative or 0, ignore the second roll. This allows a small chance of results up to +8, which can be lifesaving in a dire situation.
Only a pitiless GM would balance this by requiring additional rolls to see how miserably a person can do on a -4 result, however.
Date: February, 1995
By: Peter Bonney & Steffan O'Sullivan
If a PC is hit, he may reduce the effect of the hit by one wound level by throwing himself heroically out of the way of (at least part of) the blow. However, this heroic evasion will put the fighter at a temporary disadvantage: -2 on the next combat round in addition to any other penalties that may be accrued. This penalty disappears in subsequent rounds, as the hero is able to recover his equilibrium after a brief flurry of wild parrying. This may be repeated, but there is an additional -1 for every turn in succession that this is used.
If the penalty for an heroic evasion drops a fighter's skill level to below Terrible, he may still take the evasion. But he automatically collapses: his weapon drops from his nerveless fingers and his throat is helplessly exposed to the enemy for an instant death blow if the foe is so minded. A plea for mercy may accompany such an evasion, but the opponent isn't necessarily bound to honor such a plea.
Heroic Evasion can be used for major NPCs, too, of course.
Date: December, 1992
By: Bernard Hsiung
Ordinary playing cards can be used to keep track of wounds. Give a player one face-down card when his character is Hurt, and another face-down card when his character is Very Hurt. He gets rid of them when the character is healed. Face-up cards represent fatigue - the character is reeling from exhaustion. He gets rid of those by resting. (A character becomes fatigued by physical or mental activity, work, stress, etc. Casting spells, using psi powers, etc., may or may not count as fatiguing mental activity.)
Each card the character has represents a -1 to traits that would logically be affected until the third, which represents incapacitation.
The cards may also describe hit location, if desired: a black card is the torso, while a red card means an extremity. The lower the red card, the lower the extremity; the higher the red card, the higher the wound on the body.