Here at Darkstar Eclectic Media, we want to support the plain vanilla Fudge system, as well as other open games, 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.

Storybook Fudge doesn’t use Skills or Attributes as found in standard Fudge. Rather, everything is rolled against Approaches, which details not what a character can do, but how. I borrowed this idea from Fate Accelerated Edition, because I’ve noticed that a lot of fiction likes to focus on how they do things, and never really focus on what they can do. Seriously, have you ever read a book where the author listed every skill the hero can do? Didn’t think so.

As a base, the Approaches in SF are:

Approahces can be renamed to match the setting that the rules are emulating, but with Heroes of Oz I decided to keep the list as is, since it fits the Oz books so well. A Supers game could chance the Approaches to Prowess, Intellect, Will, Agility, Perception, and Presence, and it would still play the same.

Gifts and Troubles
Gifts are pretty much what you find in Fudge, with the difference that here they do one of two things: They take an activity that you’d role for, and that your character specializes in, and makes it so that when you roll under zero, it’s treated at zero. If you’re a Skilled Cat Burglar and you’re Great at being Sneaky, You’ll always roll at least Great. Of course, there’s always going to be a time where a GM decides that there’s a Difficulty of Superb or Outstanding due to some extenuating circumstance (light everywhere, a field of motion-sensing lasers, etc).

As for Faults, quite frankly, I don’t like to find Fault with people, so I think it’s better to talk about what Troubles them instead. Troubles 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:

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.

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 no 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.

There is also a type of Conflict called a Simple Check, where it’s you against something that isn’t actively trying to beat you. This is the simple act of rolling an Approach against a Difficulty level.

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

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