Thursday, April 06, 2006

Just Fudge It

I'm sorta getting back into my on-again off-again interest in Steffan O'Sullivan's Fudge. Repeated prodding by Chris Helton (maintainer of the fun Dorkland! blog) and the opening of FudgeForum have led me to look at Fudge as an easy system for some of my more pretentious ideas. We're talking things like running an artsy-fartsy, deeply psychological episode of the Prisoner or some sort of 'serious' sci-fi. Dave Bezio (a.k.a. cool RPGnetter grubman) recently upped the ante by announcing his new project, FAST, sorta the bastard child of Fudge and Savage Worlds. I've seen an early draft and it looks cool.

(BTW, am I the only guy left not writing his own idiosyncratic fantasy RPG? The Evil DM has his Legends of Steel, a percentile based homage to bad 80's barbarian flicks. RPG Pundit has Forward to Adventure. Grubman has FAST and his earlier Dungeon Delvers. Calithena Gildenclaw has one or too similar projects as well.)

One of the things I'm encountering as I peruse the FudgeForum is that people approach design differently there than at, say, the Forge. Comparing the minimalist, laser-focused approach common in Forge-inspired designs versus the simple hacks and kludges of Fudge fandom reassures me that I did the right thing when I stopped regularly visiting the Forge. Don't get me wrong, I'm not here to condemn the Forge. That's one of RPG Pundit's schticks, not mine. Clearly those folks produced some useful stuff, even if we can argue endlessly about which parts of it are worth keeping. No, I think the real difference here is in methods and philosophy. The general trend at the Forge is to reduce gaming to its atomic components and apply rigorous analysis. The folks at FudgeForum use a more intuitive approach. Kinda like the difference between talking to an agronomist and a farmer. Both people would have interesting and useful things to say about making a plant grow, just from different angles. When it comes to roleplaying, I think I'd rather be in the local coffee shop with the farmers rather than in the café sipping chai with the agronomists.

That may sound anti-intellectual but I don't think it is. The folks at FudgeForum clearly also have their brains engaged. It's just that they're using different parts of their equally brilliant brains. It may be that this same analytical/intuitive divide is what makes me nuts about the new D&D sometimes. I learned the old versions through repetition until I reached an intuitive relationship with the game. Maybe I can't always articulate why I do something, but I usually have a sound grasp that such-and-such a monster is an appropriate challenge or that this-or-that treasure won't be too powerful in the hands of the party. Not so in 3.5. I usually brush off this deficiency as inexperience, but maybe the issue is that this new stuff isn't engaging that same crazy creative part of my brain that fire-up when I started so many years ago. Running D&D sometimes feels like doing homework. I never got that feeling with any version published by TSR.