Why Fudge is A Great Accessible RPG

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Fudge RPG Accessibility Spotlight
Fudge System Logo™

The Fudge System logo is a trademark of Grey Ghost Press, Inc., and is used under license. Logo design by Daniel M. Davis, www.agyris.net.


Fudge, the Free-form Universal Do-it-Yourself Gaming Engine, probably wasn’t designed specifically with accessibility in mind but it possesses a lot of qualities that make it one of the best RPGs in regards to ease of access. It is simple yet powerful, infinitely adaptable, easy to learn and play, and its unique Fudge Dice are nicely tactile. I’d like to spotlight it for a moment and talk about why Fudge is a Great accessible RPG.

There is a lot to say about Fudge, so I’m going to break this down into a few articles over the next couple of days or weeks.

What is Fudge?

About Fudge: Fudge is a roleplaying game written by Steffan O’Sullivan, with extensive input from the Usenet community of rec.games.design and other online forums. The core rules of Fudge are available free on the Internet at http://www.fudgerpg.com and other sites. Fudge was designed to be customized, and may be used with any gaming genre. Fudge gamemasters and game designers are encouraged to modify Fudge to suit their needs, and to share their modifications and additions with the Fudge community. The Fudge game system is copyrighted ©2000, 2005 by Grey Ghost Press, Inc., and is available for use under the Open Game License. See the fudgerpg.com website for more information.

As a game system, Fudge can be broken down into just a few small and easy to manage chunks. A variety of Fudge variants, such as “Fudge in a Nutshell” and “EZ Fudge” have been released that take the core mechanics and list them on as few as four pages of text. Because Fudge uses the Open Game License (OGL) it is freely available and can be downloaded from a variety of sources across the Internet. My personal preference is the unofficial Fudge RPG TiddlyWiki, which has both the Fudge in a Nutshell and core Fudge SRDs in HTML format.

At the core of Fudge is its Trait Ladder, which is a short list of adjectives used to define the relative power level of any attribute, skill, or item in the game. Just so we’re all on the same page, I’ll quote the following from Fudge in a Nutshell:

Fudge characters are described by “traits,” including attributes (any trait that everyone in the game world has), skills (any trait that isn’t an attribute and can be improved through practice), gifts (any trait that isn’t an attribute or skill but is something positive for the character), and faults (any trait that limits a character’s actions or earns him a bad reaction from other people). Supernormal powers are treated as potent gifts.

Fudge uses ordinary words to describe some traits, especially attributes and skills. The following terms of a seven-level sequence are the words suggested by the Fudge author and used in Grey Ghost Games products:
* Superb
* Great
* Good
* Fair
* Mediocre
* Poor
* Terrible
There is an additional level not listed above: Legendary, which is beyond Superb. ~GMs may restrict Legendary traits to non-player characters.

By using adjectives, rather than numbers, to define a character’s traits, Fudge keeps math to a minimum. Rather than defining your character as a “Rank 13 swordsman,” for example, you can simply say that he is a Great Swordsman. Characters can be Mediocre Pilots, Superb Swimmers, Fair Artists, or any other variety of Adjective + Noun combinations one can come up with.

Fudge Dice

The other defining feature of Fudge is its unique dice. Known as Fudge Dice, they have six sides, with two sides marked Plus (+), two sides marked Minus (-), and two blank sides. Check out the Fudge System Logo at the beginning of this article. See that dice in the picture? That’s what a Fudge Dice look like.

Any time a character wishes to make a skill check, he rolls four Fudge Dice, designated as 4dF, and totals them up. Pluses cancel out Minuses, while Blank sides add or subtract nothing. For example, if I roll [+, +, -, blank] I would have a net result of +1. The one Minus cancelled out one of the Pluses, the Blank had no impact on the result, and I was left with one Plus-sided dice.

The roll is then added to the character’s trait level to determine his overall result. For example, if I were a Good Swordsman and I was swinging a sword, I would place my finger on “Good” on the trait ladder (shown above) and move my finger up one spot because I got +1 on my dice. That result would be Great, so my Good Swordsman had a Great check.

There are other, more mathematically-oriented ways to handle reading the dice, but that’s part of the beauty of Fudge — there’s always more than one way to do something.

Why is it so Great?

Now that we have the basics out of the way, it will be easier to discuss what makes Fudge such a great accessible RPG.

Because Fudge can be so simple, it is easy to develop and adapt for people at a variety of ability levels. Gamers who thrive on rules and a sub-system for every aspect of play can attach a wide variety to their games, while others who prefer a more casual play style can keep it simple and straightforward. More importantly, it can be adapted for children or people with learning disabilities by stripping away the hard math and complications and making it into a simple set of rules that can represent any number of settings or scenarios.

Years ago on the Fudge RPG Yahoo! Group there was a member talking about a Dinosaur RPG for Children that he was working on. The idea was to create an educational, yet fun and exciting game that even young kids could play. Because Fudge reduces math to its simplest state of adding and subtracting numbers no larger than 4, and its trait ladder can be altered to use any variety of adjectives (including those which children may be more used to, such as “Good” and “Really Good” instead of “Good” and “Great”), it is well-suited to use as a teaching device.

I also read from one person on Google+ about his endeavors to make a Fudge variant that his young children could play. Instead of using the trait ladder adjectives, he made a clipboard with smiley faces that depicted different levels of happy or sad faces. The happiest face was at the top of the list and the saddest face at the bottom, and a paperclip or similar object could be affixed to the side of the laminated paper and moved up or down based on the dice results. It was visual, did not require a strong grasp of language, and still fell into the realm of Fudge possibilities.

The simplicity of Fudge makes it a great tool for teaching children how to play RPGs, but even better is that it can be used to teach children about shared storytelling without them even needing to grasp the concept of what an RPG is. The rules can be boiled down to their most basic parts and used as a simple framework for a plethora of teaching techniques that most games wouldn’t come close to being able to touch.

What’s Next?

This week I talked about the basics of Fudge and how it can be used as a simple but effective mechanism for teaching. I have a lot more to cover, including how its tactile dice are great for people with visual impairments,   so come back next week to read more.  Want a notification when next week’s post arrives? Click the RSS button in the right column to subscribe to our feed.

I am also gathering feedback about your experiences with Fudge. If you’ve played Fudge with someone who has a disability or with children, please comment below or contact me using the Contact Us form. I would love to incorporate your experiences into another article in this series.

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About Jacob Wood

Jacob founded Accessible Games because he wants to spread the joy of gaming to everyone, including people with disabilities. He is visually impaired and knows what it's like to need to adapt, and he brings two decades of gaming experience to the table.
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