The Basics

Things You Should Have

In addition to these rules, you'll need a few supplies to play the game. Here's a list of mandatory items, as well as some recommended ones.

You'll need:

You'll find useful:

Dealing with the Dice

In this game, you use the dice quite a bit to figure out what happens as you play. Whenever there's uncertainty regarding an outcome, you don't just make up what happens—you use the dice to bring that element of chance to how things are going to turn out. The dice allow for unexpected successes and interesting failures.

What Are Fudge Dice?

Fudge dice are six-sided dice that have different markings from normal dice—instead of numbers or dots, they have two sides marked with a +, two sides marked with a -, and two sides that are blank (0). If you find yourself without Fudge dice or don't want to purchase them, you can roll 4 normal six-sided dice. Any die showing a 1 or 2 is treated as -, any die showing a 3 or 4 is treated as a 0, and any die showing a 5 or 6 is treated as +.

The Ladder

Most things in the system are rated according to the following ladder (when we say "the ladder" throughout this book, this is what we mean):

The Ladder
+8 Legendary
+7 Epic
+6 Fantastic
+5 Superb
+4 Great
+3 Good
+2 Fair
+1 Average
0 Mediocre
–1 Poor
–2 Terrible

Usually, the adjectives are used to describe things—someone might be a Good Driver or Average Scholar. The adjectives and numbers are interchangeable, so if you're more comfortable with numbers, it is equally valid to say Drive: +3 or Scholarship: +1. For clarity, it might be best to use both, as in Good (+3) Drive or Average (+1) Scholarship.

On this scale, Average represents the minimum level of capability for someone who does something regularly, but not exceptionally. Most people are between Average and Good at the things they do for a living—like Investigation for a private eye—and are Mediocre at most other things. It is only when they are driven to excel that they surpass those limits.

Player characters (PCs) push the boundaries of what "normal" people are capable of and, as such, they tend to be Great or Superb at whatever their central passion is. Each PC is, in a sense, the protagonist in his own story. PCs in a RPG are genuinely exceptional individuals and may well be recognized as such.

Rolling the Dice

You will roll four Fudge dice (abbreviated as 4dF) to generate a result between –4 and 4. When reading the dice, a + equals +1, a - equals –1 and a 0 (the blank side) equals 0. Some example dice totals:

-+-- –2

+000 +1

0+0- 0

The total of the dice is then added to an appropriate skill to get a result. This result can be referred to as the effort made, but sometimes it's just "the result."

Rolling Beyond the Ladder

On occasion, you'll end up rolling for a high or low skill, and getting a result that puts you past the ladder—higher than Legendary (+8) or lower than Terrible (–2). When that happens, just use the number that you came up with. (If you're feeling creative, come up with your own adjective for this dramatic roll!) This happens a little more often when you get bonuses due to aspects, which you'll learn about later.


When you roll for a result, you are trying to meet or exceed a target value, which is the difficulty for the roll. The difficulty indicates how hard it is to do something. Difficulties are measured on the same ladder as everything else. For instance, it might be a Mediocre (+0) difficulty to jumpstart a car, but a Good (+3) difficulty to repair that same car after a serious breakdown.

The difference between the difficulty and the effort (the result of the roll) is the magnitude of the effect, which is measured in shifts. Shifts are used to determine the potency of a character's efforts and to govern the resolution of complex actions. There's no such thing as a negative shift—any roll that does not reach the difficulty is simply considered a failure (although failing the roll by a great deal might influence how the group describes the result).

What's On Your Character Sheet

A character sheet is composed of three basic elements—your skills, your aspects, and your stunts. These represent your character's resources for solving problems, winning conflicts, and impacting the story during the game.

Skills are a basic measure of what your character can do, covering things like perceptiveness, physical prowess, social and mental capacity, and professional training. Aspects are a set of descriptive phrases that help you out (or make things complicated!) when something that happens in the story is particularly relevant to your character. Stunts expand the function of skills to cover a more specialized niche or allow you to do better in a specific circumstance.


Characters have skills, like Drive and Guns, which are rated on the ladder. When you roll the dice, you are usually rolling based on your character's skill.

Nearly every action that your character might undertake is covered by his skills. If he doesn't have a skill on his sheet, assume that it defaults to Mediocre (+0).

Skills are covered in greater detail in their own chapter.


Characters also have a set of traits called aspects. Aspects cover a wide range of elements and should collectively paint a picture of who the character is, what he's connected to, and what's important to him (in contrast to the "what he can do" of skills). Aspects can be relationships, beliefs, catchphrases, descriptors, items, or pretty much anything else that paints a picture of the character.

Some possible aspects include:

When one of your aspects applies to a situation, you can invoke the aspect to get a bonus by spending a fate point (see below). In this capacity, the aspect makes the character better at whatever he's doing, because the aspect in some way applies to the situation (such as invoking To Serve and Protect when acting in the interests of the Law).

An aspect can also gain you more fate points, by bringing complications and troubling circumstances into your character's life. Whenever your character ends up in a situation where one of his aspects could cause him trouble (such as Stubborn when he's trying to be diplomatic), you can mention it to the GM in the same way you mention an aspect that might help you. Alternately, the GM may initiate this event if one of your aspects seems particularly apt. Either way, this is compelling an aspect, and it limits your character's choices in some way. If the GM initiates or agrees to compel the aspect, you may get one or more fate points, depending on how it plays out.

Aspects are a much bigger topic than we can get into in this overview. For a lot of groups, aspects make up the core of the game. We go into more detail on invoking and compelling, along with that makes a good aspect, in the Aspects chapter.

As for fate points, we'll talk more about those shortly.


Stunts are the special tricks your character has up his sleeves which allow him to stretch or break the skill rules. Typically, they either give a bonus to a specific use of a skill or broaden a skill to encompass some other way of using it. Some help you take a hit in a fight or other things like that.

Stunts have very specific uses and rules, which are detailed more fully in Stunts. Though not all characters will have stunts, many will.

Fate Points

The other, and potentially most important, resource that you have during a game is a currency called fate points (FP). Fate points are central to the function of the game system; they are basically a measure of how much power you have to influence the story in favor of your character. When you spend fate points, you take a little bit of control over the game, either by giving your character bonuses when you feel he needs them, or by taking over a small part of the story. To earn fate points, you allow your character's aspects to create complications for him.

Each player begins the first session of the game with a number of fate points equal to his character's refresh level. You'll refill your total number of fate points back to that level each time a refresh occurs. Fate points are best represented by some non-edible token, such as glass beads or poker chips. (Previous experiments with small edible candies have left players strapped for points!)

You may, at any point, spend a fate point to gain a bonus, invoke an aspect, make a declaration, or fuel a stunt.

Gain a Bonus: A fate point can be spent to add 1 to any roll of the dice or to improve any effort (such as an attack or defense) by 1. In practice, this is the least potent way to use a fate point—you're usually much better off using one of the other applications discussed below.

Invoke an Aspect: Aspects are those things that really describe a character and his place in the story. When you have an aspect that's applicable to a situation, it can be invoked to grant a bonus. After you roll the dice, you may pick one of your aspects and describe how it applies to this situation. If the GM agrees that it's appropriate, you may spend a fate point and do one of the following:

You may do this multiple times for a single situation, so long as you have multiple aspects that are applicable. You cannot use the same aspect more than once on the same skill use, though you may use the same aspect on several different rolls throughout a scene, at the cost of one fate point per use.

Scenes, other characters, locations, and other things of dramatic importance can have aspects. Sometimes they're obvious, and sometimes they're less so. You can spend a fate point to invoke an aspect which is not on your own character sheet, if you know what the aspect is. This is covered in greater detail in Aspects.

As a rule of thumb, invoking someone or something else's aspects requires a little more justification than invoking one of your own aspects. For scene aspects, it should be some way to really bring in the visual image or the dramatic theme that the aspect suggests. For aspects on opponents, you need to know about the aspect in the first place, and then play to it.

Use certain Stunts: Some stunts have particularly potent effects and require spending a fate point when used; this will be made clear in the description. See Stunts for more.

Make a Declaration: Declarations are usually handled with a skill roll, but in some cases you may simply lay down a fate point and declare something. If the GM accepts the fate point, it will be true. This gives you the ability to create things in a story that would usually be under the GM's purview. Typically, these things can't be used to drastically change the plot or win a scene.

Declaring "Doctor Keiser drops dead of a heart attack" is not only likely to be rejected by the GM, it wouldn't even be that much fun to begin with. Declarations are better suited to creating convenient coincidences. Does your character need a lighter (but doesn't smoke)? Spend a fate point and you've got one! Is there an interesting scene happening over there that your character might miss? Spend a fate point to declare you arrive at a dramatically appropriate moment!

Your GM has veto power over this use, but it has one dirty little secret. If you use it to do something to make the game cooler for everyone, the GM will usually grant far more leeway than she will for something boring or, worse, selfish.

As a general rule, you'll get a lot more lenience from the GM if you make a declaration that is in keeping with one or more of your aspects. For example, the GM will usually balk at letting a character spend a fate point to have a weapon after he's been searched for them. However, if you can point out that you're Always Armed or describe how your Distracting Beauty kept the guard's attention on inappropriate areas, the GM is more likely to give you some leeway. (This is much like invoking an aspect, but without a die roll.)

Refreshing Fate Points

Players usually regain fate points between sessions when a refresh occurs. The number of fate points you get at a refresh is called your refresh level, and it will vary depending on the game. Your refresh level will be reduced by the stunts and powers your character possesses.

PCs are not allowed to let their refresh level drop below one; when a character's refresh hits zero or less, he is not longer a viable player character.

If the GM left things with a cliffhanger, she is entitled to say that no refresh has occurred between sessions. By the same token, if the GM feels that a substantial (i.e., dramatically appropriate) amount of downtime and rest occurs in play, the GM may allow a refresh to occur midsession.

When a refresh occurs, bring your current number of fate points up to your refresh level. If the number of fate points you have when you refresh is higher than your refresh level, your current total does not change.

Earning New Fate Points During Play

You earn fate points when your aspects create problems for your character. When this occurs, it's said that the aspect is compelled. When your character ends up in a situation where his compelled aspect suggests a problematic course of action, the GM should offer you a choice: spend a fate point to ignore the problem, or acknowledge the problem and earn a fate point. Sometimes, the GM may also simply award a fate point to you without explanation, indicating that one of your aspects is going to complicate an upcoming situation. You can refuse that point and spend one of your own to avoid the complication, but it's not a good idea to do that too often, because you will probably need the fate point in the future. And let's face it—that's a pretty boring way to play anyway. Drama is a good thing.

This isn't just the GM's show; you can trigger compels as well—on yourself or on others—either by explicitly indicating that an aspect may be complicating things or by playing to your aspects from the get-go and reminding the GM after the fact that your character already behaved as if compelled. The GM isn't always obligated to agree that a compel is appropriate, but it's important that players participate here. See Aspects for a more detailed treatment of compels.

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Fudge System 1995 version © 1992-1995 by Steffan O’Sullivan, © 2005 by Grey Ghost Press, Inc.; Author Steffan O’Sullivan.

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