Monday, November 28, 2005

Fudge Social Combat

by Douglas Weber (infornific @ aol .com)

Why let the sword swingers and gunmen get all the screen time? With the Social Combat rules, you can Bluff, Charm, Intimidate, Impress, and Persuade your way through the world with all the detail and suspense of physical combat.
Standard Fudge rules allow for detailed outcomes from physical combat - Skill, Strength, armor and chance all play into a well-defined outcome. Social skills on the other hand are not so well detailed. Often players and gamemasters choose to simply act out social interactions, but this can handicap shy players. If a slow, clumsy player can play a lightning-quick, expert swordsman, why can't a shy player run a charming con artist? Fortunately, the standard Fudge combat system can be adapted for social interaction. For the purpose of this system, I'm going to define three attributes, but other attributes may be substituted to suit the gamemaster's tastes.
Wit - A measure of mental agility and speed
Confidence - Presence and mental force
Ego - Mental and emotional toughness
Social skills as you might expect replace combat skills. The above Attributes are used as Offensive and Defensive Damage Factors (ODF and DDF). The various injury outcomes -- Scratch, Hurt, Very Hurt, Incapacitated -- have different definitions depending on what the character is attempting to do -- Bluff, Charm, Impress, Intimidate, or Persuade. The different social techniques include suggested Skills. Players should be encouraged to come up with creative uses for Skills, as long as they can describe a plausible effort. Alternately, the GM may simply use Bluff, Charm, Impress, Intimidate and Persuade as Skills. Choose an appropriate defensive skill based on the attack skill. For example, an attempt to Intimidate using Sword skill might be resisted by a Sword or other weapon skill. If there seems to be no appropriate Skill, simply set difficulty at Fair. As with combat, clever tactics and roleplaying should be rewarded with bonuses. To successfully use a social technique, the attacker must roll higher than the defender, just as in regular combat. In addition, the attacker must roll at least a Poor result. A failed attempt with a social technique doesn't necessarily have negative consequences. However, a roll of Terrible or worse should have repercussions. An effort to Charm offends, an effort to Impress does the opposite, etc. A failed effort to Intimidate always causes a hostile reaction. Add degree of success to ODF, and subtract DDF. If the result is positive, calculate the standard Fudge damage (Scratch, Hurt, etc) and check against the specific technique for the result.

Social Techniques


As the name suggests, a Bluff is an effort to fake something, carried out through sheer force of will. While Persuasion may depend on logic or cunning, Bluff relies on confidence and chutzpah. Outcome depends in part on how plausible the bluff is and in part on how much risk the target takes in believing the bluff. Bluffing your way into a high-security base is difficult in part because the guards will face severe penalties for letting someone through unauthorized.
Skill: Acting is appropriate for pretending to be someone. Courtly Manners or similar skill for pretending to be a noble, appropriate academic skills for pretending to be a professor, etc.
ODF: Confidence
DDF: Wit
Scratch - The target will believe a plausible bluff, if there is no risk to the target.
Hurt - The target will believe the character's implausible bluff if no risk is involved or a plausible bluff if minor risk is involved.
Very Hurt - The target will believe a plausible bluff even at major risk, an implausible bluff at minor risk, or an absurd one at no risk.
Incapacitated - The target will believe a plausible bluff at severe risk (life and limb), an implausible bluff at major risk or an absurd one at minor risk.
Near Death - The target will believe an utterly ludicrous bluff.
Example: Jolene the Fair attempts to crash a noble's party by pretending to be an aristocrat. Met at the gate, she haughtily declares a noble title and demands to be introduced. Jolene is well-dressed and has a noble's manners, so the bluff is plausible. However, the doorman is at some risk in accepting Jolene's word, so the gamemaster decides a Hurt result is needed for success. Jolene has Courtly Manners at Great, while the doorman has the same skill at Mediocre. Jolene's Confidence is Great, the doorman's Wit is Good. Unfortunately, Jolene rolls a -1 and the doorman gets a +1. This gives Jolene a Scratch result - the doorman thinks she's a noble but insists on getting confirmation.


Charm means an effort to make someone like you. It can be helpful in avoiding trouble or helping set up a roll to persuade. An effort to Charm is likely to take some time, unlike other social techniques.
Skill: Seduction or similar skills are appropriate for romantic efforts. Carousing is appropriate for parties, Courtier for high society, and so on. DDF: Confidence
DDF: Wit
Scratch - Target will be mildly more congenial. Efforts to Persuade are at +1.
Hurt - Target will be significantly friendlier than before. Efforts to Persuade are at +2.
Very Hurt - Target is likely to be friendly, even if initially hostile to the character. Efforts to Persuade are at +3.
Incapacitated - Target will be (temporarily) friendly even if the character is normally an enemy. Efforts to Persuade are at +4.
Near Death - Target is putty in the character's hands. Efforts to Persuade are at +5.
Example: Buddy the Cat is trying to convince his human owner to give him some food. He decides to use his Purring skill to Charm his owner first before making the attempt to Persuade. Buddy has Good Purring and Great Confidence. The owner has Mediocre Animal Handling and Good Wit. Buddy rolls, -2 for a Mediocre Purring Effort. Fortunately, his owner rolls -1 for a Poor Animal Handling result, and Buddy just barely succeeds. Adding his Great Confidence and subtracting his owner's Good Wit, Buddy gets a Scratch result, giving him a +1 to Persuade the owner to hand over people food.


Impress is an effort to awe or inspire someone. This could be dramatic oratory, a command in battle or any other similar effort.

Skill: Oratory for speeches, Leadership for commands. Other skills may be used to impress in limited contexts -- a minstrel might use skill with a harp to Impress a potential employer.
ODF: Confidence
DDF: The best of Wit or Confidence
Scratch - The target is mildly impressed.
Hurt - The target is moderately impressed.
Very Hurt - The target is very impressed with the character's abilities.
Incapacitated - The target is awestruck.
Near Death - The target is struck speechless with awe at the character's prowess.
Impress can be used as a complementary technique to Charm or Persuade, as described below. For dramatic speeches, check Persuade for results.
Example: Joe meets Jane at the high school prom and tries to Impress her with his Dance skill. Unfortunately, Joe has only Mediocre Dance skill, but Good Confidence. Jane has Good Wit. The gamemaster sets the difficulty of the attempt at Fair. Joe rolls a +1 for a Fair result -- not quite good enough to get a positive result, but at least he hasn't made a fool of himself.


An effort to Intimidate is like an effort to Impress, but with the deliberate attempt to frighten an opponent. If successful, it may handicap the opponent in combat. Unsuccessful efforts will lead to hostile reactions. This is the preferred social technique of tough guys and angsty superheroes dressed in black.

Skill: Anything that can be used to threaten. Weapon skills could be used to display combat prowess, Courtly Manners to imply you have powerful social connections, Streetwise to suggest friends in low places, etc.
ODF: Confidence
DDF: The best of Confidence or Ego
A character with a significant and obvious combat advantage should get a +1 to Skill, +2 for a Large advantage (for example, ogre vs. normal human). Likewise, a character at a significant seeming disadvantage should receive a -1 or more(a halfling attempting to intimidate a human for example). The advantage or disadvantage must be obvious to the defender.
Scratch - Target is mildly unnerved and will hesitate. If attacked, he will fight normally, but if attacking first, will be at -1 for the first round.
Hurt - Target is frightened and will be reluctant to attack. He will be at -1 in combat.
Very Hurt - Target is very frightened and will not attack first. He will be at -2 in combat.
Incapacitated - Target is terrified and will be at -3 in combat.
Near Death - Target is completely cowed and will either surrender or flee.
If using Intimidate to interrogate, check Persuade for likely results.
Example: Old West gunslinger Deadeye Crane finds himself confronting the self-named El Paso Kid, son of a man Deadeye killed many years ago. Deadeye doesn't want to kill the Kid, so instead tries to Intimidate him with a display of marksmanship. He points to a distant apple tree, draws his pistol and shoots away the stems of two apples. The GM decides that Gun skill is used for both attack and defense skill. Deadeye has Legendary skill (that's why they call him Deadeye) and Great Confidence, for an ODF of +2. The Kid has Good Gun skill, Good Confidence and Fair Ego. Since his Confidence is higher than his Ego, the Kid uses his Confidence for a DDF of +1. Deadeye's RDF is +1. Deadeye rolls a +1, giving him a result of Legendary+1. The Kid rolls 0, for a result of Good. Deadeye's degree of success is 4, +1 for his RDF, gives a result of +5 or Very Hurt. The Kid is badly shaken by Deadeye's display and will be at -2 in any combat.


An effort to Persuade involves coming up with a logical, pseudo-logical, or otherwise cunning argument to convince the target to provide information or follow a certain course of action.
Skill: Diplomacy and Fast Talk are both appropriate. Other Skills may be used depending on the player's imagination and gamemaster's discretion.
ODF: Wit
DDF: Wit. However, if the attempt to Persuade goes against the character's principles, use the best of Ego or Wit.
Scratch - Target is willing to cooperate, if it's something he's likely to do anyway
Hurt - Target will cooperate with suggestions that involve no significant costs or risks, or actions he wouldn't mind doing.
Very Hurt - Target will cooperate with suggestions that may put him at minor risk, involve minor cost, or that he would normally be opposed to doing.
Incapacitated - Target will cooperate with suggestions that may put him at major risk or involve major cost, or that he is strongly opposed to doing.
Near Death - Target is completely bamboozled and will cooperate with truly ludicrous suggestions.
Example: Ragnar the Reckless is trying to talk a town watchman into letting him go after he was caught out after the city curfew. Ragnar hints that he is willing to pay a bribe to get out of trouble. The gamemaster decides this makes the suggestion one that the watchman is inclined to follow, and so Ragnar only needs a Scratch result. Ragnar has Fair Fast Talk and Great Wit. The Watchman has Fair Guile (used to resist Fast Talk) and Fair Wit. Ragnar gets a +1 and the watchman rolls a -1, giving Ragnar a result of Very Hurt. Ragnar gets away with breaking curfew, at a reasonable price.

Repeated Effort and Complementary Techniques

A player may attempt the same technique on the same target, but at a cumulative -1 per effort. Alternately, a player may follow up one technique with a different one. If the first technique is successful, the player might get a bonus to the second technique as follows:
Scratch: +1
Hurt: +2
Very Hurt: +3
Incapacitated: +4
Near Death: +5
For example, if a player gets a Hurt result using Charm, he may follow it with an attempt to Persuade at +2. In the example above from Impress, if Joe had gotten a Scratch result he would have been at +1 to Charm Jane. It is up to the gamemaster to decide whether a given technique is complementary. On the other hand, a failed attempt gives a -1 penalty to a complementary technique. With these rules, social combat can be as detailed as physical combat. Why let the sword swingers and gunmen get all the screen time? This system certainly isn't necessary for Fudge, but can add a lot of detail for diplomats and con artists.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Fudgemon: Pocket Monsters

by Morbus Iff (morbus @ disobey .com)

Pocket monsters, or "mons," are quite literally what you'd expect: tiny, living, breathing, and other... natural... bodily functions, that are small enough to fit in a pocket, palm, or purse. Where did they come from? Why are they here? What good are they besides increasing your tab at the local tailor due to their blasted little claws? They barely talk, don't eat lint, and usually cause rashes or worse. A warning to guys in the audience: never forget to feed your mon!

Pocket monsters, or "mons," are quite literally what you'd expect: tiny, living, breathing, and other... natural... bodily functions, that are small enough to fit in a pocket, palm, or purse. Where did they come from? Why are they here? What good are they besides increasing your tab at the local tailor due to their blasted little claws? They barely talk, don't eat lint, and usually cause rashes or worse. A warning to guys in the audience: never forget to feed your mon!

They Didn't Come From Storks, Bub

Where pocket monsters come from is entirely dependent upon your game world as well as how realistic you want it to be. They could be magical constructs, alchemical or created beings, natural inhabitants, aliens, or simply mutated and tinier versions of existing beasties. Possibilities include:

  • Similar to helper monkeys, your pocket monsters could simply be intelligently designed robots. Originally developed for altogether different purposes, such as spying on foreign embassies, eating up oil spills or providing video relay of a dark pipe, they became perverted from their initial intent by enterprising hackers. Today, with programmable robotic vacuums, crazy metallic dogs, and road signs that call out marriage proposals or the crowd favorite "0wn3d", we're not that far off.
  • Magical pocket monsters, however, could also fall under intelligent design. Whether it's a wizard, warlock, or witch scratching an itch with a custom-order familiar, or a fakir and illusionist creating the appearance of a tiny elephant from a ball of dried clay, there is still a singular intent. Unlike robots, however, familiars and fakir-golems can often be destroyed by killing its creator(s). On the other hand, dragons, trolls, and slimes aren't "created" in most back stories, so why should magical mons? They simply exist: as recognizable as faeries and as hard to catch.
  • No magic, no technology, no problem! Pocket monsters are the platypuses of your world: bastard mixes of multiple animals with no rhyme, reason, or intelligible forethought. They could be rare and secretive like the recently rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker, or communal and protective like a town of prairie dogs. Alternatively, your mons were accidentally created, whether by ingestion of sewage or other chemical waste (mutation), through creeping development (evolution), or strong community belief (legend).
  • Ok, so they did come from storks. I dunno what kinda storks are living in your world, but they may have brought pocket monsters from a foreign land during migration, are crossbreeding fools whose every new birth is an entirely new phylum, or who were deemed the dominant life, abducted by aliens, and returned a wee bit "off". Don't worry about the science. The concept of pocket monsters, at the outset, is rather ridiculous, as are talking swords, a missile coalescing from dead air, or the incredible capacity for an inn to be a plot device (how many adventures have YOU started from the local coffee house?)

Representing mons within your game, physically, is quite easy and cheap. Unlike creating embarrassing cardboard swords or forcing your players to wear a Halloween costume, suitable mon designs can be found in pewter game figurines, M.U.S.C.L.E.™ toys ("Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere!"), or already painted models from games like Mage Knight™. These work best when you're not already using same-scale figs for combat or dungeon-delving purposes.

Mon Rarity, Desirability, and The Collectors

Besides the standard traits available in your game, each pocket monster has two additional measures: Rarity and Desirability. The Rarity, ranging from Poor to Superb, is indicative of how common the mons appear in your world. A mon with Poor Rarity is quite common, and you'd be able to find or buy one with only a few hours of searching. Mons with Superb Rarity, however, are extremely "short packed"* - waiting outside a known nest, or even having someone on the "inside" keeping an eye out for you, doesn't guarantee a victory. Often, you'll find yourself paying exorbitant prices, trading a mon of equal value, or going on lengthy and difficult quests. Traveling carnivals or sideshows may occasionally have the most desirable mons, but only locked away behind many layers of glass and protected by a number of condescending guards.

The other trait, Desirability, indicates whether the Rarity actually means anything. Some mons may have Great Rarity because of Poor Desirability: they may be too cranky, have too many faults, are impossible to handle without special consideration, or are simply variants of another strain (an always-blue Retrievimon, for example). A Poorly Desired mon with Poor Rarity, on the other hand, may be as common as a tribble: once they're everywhere, they're quite boring, easily foiled, and merely a nuisance.

Regardless of Desirability or Rarity, there are groups of people, collectors really, that care little for discussions about either trait. To them, every mon has Superb Desirability, and Rarity is merely a measure of how fervent one should be pursued. Their goals of collecting every pocket monster available, Legendary or otherwise, can often be considered a Fault (Obsessed, Devotion, Greedy, etc.), and is usually complemented with a Gift of Tireless, Unfazable, or Wealthy. Collectors will connive, steal, trade a fake (a self-painted blue Retrievimon), or lose sight of the big picture (leaving group combat to run after an escaping mon).

Pocket Monsters Love Pocket Monsters

And not much else. Sure, they like the idea of being fed, petted, and hauled around to locales that their little feets, wings, or wheels could never take them, but it is a bit degrading to be roughly grabbed and displayed to any onlooker at a moments notice. For that reason, some mons deliberately try to avoid hunters, and a GM should assess a +1 or +2 penalty to that monster's Rarity for the purpose of capture. This penalty should NOT be applied to collectors, due to their experience at tracking and the familiar, soothing smell of the dozens of mons probably on their person at any one time.

Pocket monsters communicate with each other in a series of unintelligible noises that are usually specific to each individual type. While every pocket monster can understand every other pocket monster regardless of their sound or type, we've yet been able to determine what they're really saying. Mons are expressive, however, and it is very easy to tell how they're actually feeling, be it sad, angry, ecstatic, etc.

Mons can and do mate with each other (which inevitably creates a new breed of some sort; if this child does not continue the line, Rarity jumps to Legendary and it earns a Gift of Unique) and can occasionally be violently territorial. Many a pocket has been destroyed due to a mon accidentally placed in the wrong location with the wrong companions at the wrong time. Thankfully, there are usually outside forces that cause this behavior, and careful attention to training and team-based mon interaction can reduce this threat.

Some Example Mons

Herein lies the rub: why would anyone want to keep a tiny little monster, full of animal, mutant, or electronic thoughts, tucked away in a pouch as if it were a stick of gum or copper piece? For every negative aspect of a filthy beast calling your linens home, they make up for it by their very nature: they're small, easily hidden, easily forgotten and, for enemies, nearly always a nasty surprise. Here are three examples of the veritable hundreds available:

  • Retrievimon (Fudgedex #24; Rarity: Good; Desirability: Good; Gift: Faithful; Fault: Irritable Hook Syndrome). The chameleon-like Retrievimon suffers in the Desirability department because, for full effect, you really need at least five to accomplish much of anything. At rest, the Retrievimon is a flattened globe, like a piece of wrapped sampler cheese. Put enough pressure on either of its flattest sides however, and up will pop a barbed hook which impales the intrusion. A number of Retrievimon scattered on a walkway will impale the foot of the first person to step on one, which usually causes the person to fall forward onto the rest of the mons scattered about for further entanglement. Being Faithful like a dog, the Retrievimon will dutifully return the "stick" to their owner (which is why quantity is important: the more mons, the quicker they return). Unfortunately, their Irritable Hook Syndrome causes sudden and involuntary flexes of their stabber which can cause quite some consternation to the owner of a pocket who has been impaled.
  • Splitbeemon (Fudgedex #138; Rarity: Great; Desirability: Good; Gift: Stinger; Fault: Unreliable). So dubbed because of the Split Bee Troupe, the team that first discovered and trained the mon, its ferocity is hard to beat. Once instructed, the Splitbeemon will slam itself again and again into its target, using its sharp Stinger to inflict small amounts of damage in large quantities. Each successful sting injects a tiny amount of tranquilizer - individually, the amount is harmless, but combined with hundreds of payloads, is enough to cause a grown man to be lulled into a sense of complacency, unwilling to stop further attacks or circumstances. While incredibly effective, the user can expect absolutely nothing roughly half of the time: the same venom that causes indifference in its victim runs through the veins of the mon as well. Be sure to have a backup plan ready when your Splitbeemon just isn't willing to perform.
  • Frlockmon (Fudgedex #176; Rarity: Great; Desirability: Superb; Gift: Eats Wood; Fault: Untrainable). When it comes to feeding mons, there can be nothing better than finding one without the picky tastes so many collectors and trainers have lamented. The Frlockmon eats, nay, devours, wood which is naturally and readily abundant. It also is an excellent lock picker, able to slide its spindly arms into the smallest orifice, manipulate the tumblers, and unlock a door or chest in comparable time to any master thief. Insanely Desirable by any but the most principled adventurers (and many justify their ownership with "concerns" about being locked out of their own homes and treasure), the Frlockmon has one big problem: in most cases, locks are surrounded by wood. Wooden chests, wooden doors, wooden boxes, wooden what-have-you. Combined with its Untrainable Fault and uncontrollable appetite, you'll be able to unlock doors with a minimum of fuss... with the difficulty of concealing the fact that the lock itself has fallen to the floor due to consumption of the surrounding wood.

Episode Guide

What follows is a partial Now Playing (from Carnivore Games) episode guide for the show "Fudgemon-o-theism" on your local cable network. Oddly, the show takes its mature cue from Japanese animation and, though bubbly and humorous, deals with complicated themes not normally suitable for children.

  • 101 - The Hatchling. A team of well-liked investigators discovers an egg in the middle of a pasture, with a human female claiming to be its virgin mother.
  • 102 - Can or Able? Faced with the apparent suicide of a pre-teen child, the team has nothing to go on until another egg is found. The virgin mother returns, holding a newborn mon and claiming the second egg as a gift from above.
  • 103 - And Baby Makes Three. The two mons, now hatched and each three weeks old, mate. A third egg is laid and begins to hatch. Whither the virgin mother?
  • 104 - Exsanguinating Circumstances. The baby, appearing unlike either of the two mother mons that laid it, cuts it own throat. Instead of blood, forth hundreds of mons do swell.
  • 105 - Frightened New World. The virgin mother returns, and is carried to the east by a cadre of Retrievimon piercing every few inches of her body. Facing downward, her blood leaves no trail, and our team is called out on other duties.
  • 106 - Invasion, Part 1. With dozens of unaccounted mons, our team of investigators is sent to catalog and collect each one for further study.

Fudgemon-o-theism is currently awaiting word from above regarding its future.


* - "Short packed" refers to the inclusion of a low number of collectable items (such as action figures) shipped to stores, in comparison with the quantity of other figures from the same collection. If a company shipped out ten each of Ratman, Sparrow, and The Poker in every case, but only included three Piddlers in expectation of lower sales of that figure, then the Piddler was "short packed."