Wednesday 26 October 2011

In praise of the Dice of Fudge

Minus one. Slight bummer.
Once upon a time, a chap called Steffan O'Sullivan instigated a process that ended up with the creation of a generic roleplaying game system which he called FUDGE.

I really like FUDGE conceptually, but it requires a lot of work from the GM to build a campaign. There's a reasonable amount of stuff available for it, already built by people like us with an unreasonable obsession with playing make-believe games — for example, there was a pretty complete port of AD&D to FUDGE built by a guy called Peter Mikelsons some years ago (it, and he, appears to have dropped entirely off the internet). But if you want to build something from the ground up, expect to put in some pretty hard slog.

Anyway. About the dice.

FUDGE's core resolution dynamic rests on rolling a number — often, but not always, three or four — of d3 marked with a plus sign, a minus sign, and blank face (there are two of each on a d6, like those in the picture). You can buy dedicated FUDGE dice like those shown here, or you can just use ordinary six-siders, counting 1-2 as a minus, 3-4 as blank, and 5-6 as a plus. The pluses and minuses are tallied against each other, with blanks being neutral, so scores from -4 to +4 are possible on 4dF (though there's only a 1:1,296 chance of getting either of those results on any given throw). The higher your plus result, the better the outcome. The lower the minus result, the worse things turn out.

What I like about them is that the results conform statistically to a bell-curve, where things are most likely to be only averagely good or bad, but with the (small) possibility of astounding wonderfulness or horrifying horribleness. You can easily modify the degree of potential wonderfulness/horribleness by adjusting the number of dice thrown. I like to use them as Luck Dice, in situations when things could go either way and the outcome rests in the laps of the gods. They fulfil a similar role to a d20 saving throw, but without the linear result curve, and without any level-based modification.

Of course there's no reason why I couldn't just use regular six-siders. But as may have become apparent, I really do like special dice.

Friday 14 October 2011


Falling damage is something I've been wrestling with for many years. On the one hand, one doesn't want to make it as deadly as it is in real life, as that would tend to make for a level of character mortality that would delight only the most sadistic DM (or masochistic player). On the other hand, if it's not serious enough you end up with the situation where a massively muscled but brainless fighter with many, many hit-points* will simply hurl himself off a hundred-foot-high cliff as a means of getting into a fight faster. That may be heroic, but it's a bit too anime-ridiculous for me these days.

What I'm thinking is this:

  • Falling characters take 1d6 damage per 10' per 10' fallen — i.e. 1d6 for the first 10', plus 2d6 for the second 10', plus 3d6 for the third, and so on — up to a maximum of 20d6 (terminal velocity).
  • Falling (or fallen) characters are concussed for one Turn per point of damage over their level. They will be seeing double, will probably puke if they attempt any vigorous activity (or even no activity), and all their die rolls will be at minus 1 per Turn of concussion remaining. For example, a level 5 character who takes 10 points of falling damage will be concussed for 5 Turns, and will be at -5 to everything the first Turn, at -4 the second, -3 the next, and so on.
  • A character who takes more falling damage than their level plus CON score is knocked out; the duration of unconsciousness is up to the DM, but when they wake up they will be concussed (as above) for at least a day.

Hopefully this will make falling dangerous enough to make players wary of suffering it, but not so dangerous the campaign will be littered with more broken and splattered corpses than is fun.

I'm tempted to allow a saving throw to halve falling damage, just because I think almost anything should allow some chance at mitigation. If so, I'd probably make the save at -1 per die of damage taken after the first, or something like that. Or maybe you get to knock off one die of damage for every point you make the save by... that might be better than a flat halving.

*His name was Smirnoff. He was one of my very first D&D characters, and had practically no skills except taking damage and dishing it out in vast amounts.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

The Damage Done

Back in those ancient days of yore when giants walked the earth and D&D was O, every weapon and every monster did 1d6 damage with a successful attack. The rationale was, I believe, that because a dagger was capable of killing a person with a single blow, and a two-handed sword was equally capable of inflicting a mere scratch, that having different damage ranges for different weapons would be functionally pointless, though I believe (I'm not really sure here) that weapons like greatswords got to roll two dice and took the best score. Maybe not. Anyway, the system is still used by people playing with the original D&D Little Brown Books, and with S&W White Box. Somebody on the Swords & Wizardry forums suggested using it for S&W Core Rules as well, but using a d8 instead of a d6.

I find the idea attractive for one major reason: it makes a character's choice of weapon largely aesthetic; there's no weapon-damage min-maxing to be done. If a scimitar suits a character conception better than a greatsword, the player won't be tempted to go for an inappropriate weapon for mechanical reasons. Also, there's nothing for the DM to remember when it comes to what damage a monster does with its fangs or claws or tail-bash or whatever.

It does have its aesthetic down-side though. In a game in which encumbrance is actually important, everyone is going to be using daggers exclusively — and why not? They're lighter, smaller, you can throw them, and they do just as much damage as anything else.

The most important reason not to adopt Ye Olde Damyge Systeme though is this: it reduces still further the use of all those excellent funny-shaped dice. And the poor d12 already gets the short end of the stick there.

I think I'll stick with the many-dice model.