Storybook Fudge: Our House System

Storybook Fudge: Our House System

Here at Darkstar Eclectic Media, we have products in the pipeline to support the plain vanilla Fudge system, as well as other open games, such as Pathfinder, Mongoose’s Legend, The Solar System, and a couple of others, but our main standalone games will all start out with what I call Storybook Fudge.

Storybook Fudge (SF) is meant to emulate the action found in much of literature. Standard RPG’s, including Fudge itself, are fun, but books don’t really read like the way we play games, so I’ve tried to put together a version of Fudge that emulates how action in books goes. Face it, RPG combat can sometimes go on for a long time, even with Fudge’s damage system.

While we are planning on releasing an SRD for Storybook Fudge, I hope to give you an idea of how the games we’re publishing are going to work.

The Fudge System
If you’re not familiar with Fudge, feel free to give it a read. Created by Steffan O’Sullivan, it’s free and can be downloaded from Grey Ghost Games. If you want a nice and easy-to-use reference for it, Jonas Susara has compiled the rules into a Tiddlywiki here. Also, all the rules are released under the Open Game License, and Grey Ghost Games is quite supportive of people publishing games with Fudge.

Less Crunch, More Story
Storybook Fudge is not a game system with a lot of rules. I figure that both players and Game Masters (GM’s) can fill in the blanks where we don’t have a specific rule. If a character falls off of a high cliff, it’s pretty well common sense what can happen to him once he hits the bottom of that fall. Fire will hurt, the vacuum of space will freeze and suffocate, and so on.

Because of this, I’ve found that the rules can fit more genres with a minimum of tweaking.

Abilities
Storybook Fudge doesn’t use Skills as found in standard Fudge. Rather, everything is rolled against Abilities, what Fudge normally calls Attributes. As a base, the Abilities in SF are:

Body
Mind
Soul
Agility
Charisma
Optionally, there can be a sixth Ability to include a skill or special power or something else that matches up with the character’s concept. Think about it, in literature, a character is usually known for one thing: they’re a starship captain, or a warlord, or an apprentice wizard, or a farm girl, or an assistant pig-keeper.

Because of how Benefits work (see below), you don’t really need that sixth Ability, but it can allow for some fine-tuning in character creation or to emulate the world the characters live in. In worlds like you’d find in Xanth or ElfQuest or Disney Fairies, most characters have a power they’re gifted with that work independently of the five other Abilities.

Abilities can be renamed to match the setting that the rules are emulating. For instance, Heroes of Oz renames Soul and Charisma to Heart and Friendship, respectively, and the five Abilities are all renamed for our future Supers game to Prowess, Intellect, Will, Agility and Presence.

Benefits and Troubles
These map to Fudge’s Gifts and Faults (with some inspiration from Aspects and Stunts from FATE), but I wanted to make the terms more intuitive and, quite frankly, I don’t like to find Fault with people, so I think it’s better to talk about what Troubles them instead.

Benefits either define something that a character can do, or they define an advantage that the character has. Most of the time, a Benefit will be based off an Ability and provide a bonus to it. Benefits can include allies, skills, equipment, driving forces and personal goals, backgrounds, or else that gives the character an edge of some kind. They don’t have to give a bonus to dice rolls, but they do need to provide an extra leg up.

Troubles, on the other hand, are internal or external problem that plague a character. This can be personal tendencies, fears, bad luck, enemies, financial status, or anything else that makes a character’s life more “interesting.” Besides making roleplaying a character more interesting, they also provide a way to give a character…

Fudge Points
These work pretty much the same way as they do in Fudge, but have been expanded to give more power over editing the world the story takes place in. They can provide a bonus to dice rolls and make things available that the GM doesn’t mention (Is there a key under the bad guy’s doormat? A Fudge Point says there is). They’ve been made similar to FATE Points in this regard.

Fudge Points are acquired by allowing bad things to happen to characters. In a Conflict (see below), a character can take a loss and receive a FP without rolling any dice. They can also succumb to a Trouble or just let the GM put them in a bad situation.

In Heroes of Oz, Fudge Points are called Story Points.

The Ladder
The Trait Ladder in Fudge has been modified slightly. I’ve taken an “accentuate the positive” approach with it by making Terrible a result, and not something a character can take. While we haven’t eliminated the negative (Thanks anyway, Baloo), there are more positive levels in our Ladder.

There are still seven Levels that define a character’s Abilities, but only two are detrimental to a character. I’ve also renamed two of the levels and added a level above Superb to compensate for getting rid of Terrible. So, a character is defined by the Levels in the Ladder thusly:

Outstanding
Superb
Great
Good
Fair
So-So
Awful
While it’s rare for a starting character to possess an Outstanding Ability, it is possible. Legendary is still there above Outstanding, but it’s meant as a result, not a definition. Abilities still start at Fair. And don’t worry, if you want to use other Fudge games with SF, So-So and Awful map right to Mediocre and Poor.

Note: If you’ve already downloaded the Instant Oz game at the time of this post, I am currently rewriting parts of it to match up with what you’re seeing here. I’ll announce the update as soon as it’s posted on the Heroes of Oz site and RPGNow.

Conflict
In many RPG’s, the main source of conflict is physical combat, whether hand-to-hand or from a distance. Not all stories, however, have such a focus. Conflict can take the form of flying fists, arguments, chases, subtle innuendo, psionics, forces of will, seduction, and many other things. Just having hit points or a damage track severely limits the type of conflict, and while it is possible to have multiple damage tracks, it goes against my rule-light philosophy to do so.

Therefore, SF has not damage tracks or hit points. Conflict is purely narrative, and relies largely on The Ladder to tell GM’s and players what’s happening. In a sword fight, a So-So result can deliver a flesh wound, but a Superb result gets metal through the gut. This doesn’t necessarily mean character death, but it is still dramatic.

In the same vein, in a social conflict, a So-So can result in a character being mildly insulted, while a Superb result can end in the character fleeing the room in embarrassment and tears.

As an option, there’s also a more structured conflict system, sort of a “three strikes and you’re out” type of thing. Conflict shouldn’t really go on for long periods of time, unless you’re running a game where that’s the norm (martial arts movies).

Also, we’ve changed a fundamental way that conflict works: When you engage another character, you only declare a minimum of intention before rolling the dice. Once that’s resolved, the winner of the action gets to narrate how they won.

Conclusion
Storybook Fudge is the system we’re using for all of our standalone games. While we will put out alternate versions of game lines for other systems, SF is the default that we’re using. We like it and have had fun using it ourselves, and we think you’ll like it, too. Since it’s a build of Fudge, you can always pull from the many other Fudge games and resources that have already been released to build upon your game and make it yours, but this is foundation of our work.

Blessings and Blessings,
Mike Conway

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