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Simple FUDGE

I was asked by Shawn Medero on twitter about creating a simple fudge system. This was about the time I did my video blog about Ghost Ops, the game that got me into creating solo roleplay rules.

I said at the time that I would most likely to an ‘open book’ game design. I will discuss my ideas and the rules in public blog posts and then pull it all together in to a rulebook at the end.

The last time I did this was with Devil’s Staircase, and that went from Blogs, to playtest documents, to crowdfunding and eventually to full commercial game.

Incidentally, I am planning a Weird West supplement for that game in the autumn!

These blog posts will not be in any particular order. They are more ‘as ideas strike me’ than organised game design.

First things first, I want to lay down a ‘standard’. I want to use this ladder.

If you are not familiar with FUDGE dice, they have +, – and <blank> repeated on a d6 and you roll four at once. You treat minuses as -1 and pluses as +1 and ignore blanks. Once you have summed your roll you can move up or down the ladder from your base skill level. If your character was Good at driving but you wanted to pull off a Superb handbrake turn (bootlegger reverse?) you would have to get a net of two plusses to pull off the manoeuver.

As long as our character sheet has that ladder on it you can play FUDGE without referring to numbers, you can just use the adjectives.

The same ladder is used for traits and skills.

I like numbers and the numbers in FUDGE tend to stay pretty small. I think if this as an advantage as small numbers are easier to remember and less off putting to people who are not particularly comfortable with math.

Another nice thing about this ladder is that it is used for character creation as well as skill resolution.

You can run FUDGE as a very broad or meta-skill game, where “Bob is a Superb pilot” is the entire character sheet. If you wanted to break that down into a little more detail, you could split to one Superb into two Great skills. You could then break one of the Greats into two Good skills or both Greats into four Fair skills, and so on down to whatever level of detail you want.

You can set a power level for the game by deciding how many Superb skills you give out at the start.

The list on the right here shows the middle and detail levels of skills. You could start at being a Superb Spy in a very narrative game but break that down to being Great and Combat and Great at Covert or break it down again to being Good in four different detailed skills, or Fair in eight very specific skills.

In practice the GM will tell you how difficult your action is and then you roll the dice and count up or down from your skill level.

So that is how FUDGE works, in a nutshell.

What I propose is to have no explicit combat rules. In their place I want to treat combat situations as scenes with a difficulty level. If you want to kick in the door, roll through twisting around and shooting the two spies who you think are hiding either side of the door, you had better be Great at combat. What I am thinking of doing is overlaying an oracle on to the skill ladder. If you miss your roll by one, that could be Not, but… meaning you failed but you got something out of it, fail by two levels and that is a definite failure. Fail by three and you have the dreaded No, and… which would be a critical failure.

Fights could be resolved in a single oracle roll or for more detail you could roll for each phase of the fight, once for door busting and getting in, another for clearing the rooms, a third when you find a spy trying to make their way out of the fire escape in the back bedroom.

Our genre is Golden Age of Hollywood movies like:

  • The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) …
  • The Blob (1958) …
  • Them! …
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) …
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) …
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) …
  • The War of the Worlds (1953)

We don’t need blood splattering gore, or even excessive violence.

So this is where I am going. Very narrative and with the oracle built into everything from GM emulation to skill resolution.

I am going to think about how I am going to build a character and record wounds next.

If you would like a 40% discount on these rules, I send the discount links out by email.

If you are happy for me to send you email with news of new products, or for me to ask your opinions on ideas, please consider joining my contact list. I send emails no more than once a week so you definitely won’t be flooded by emails.

Please consider joining as I really value your opinions and support.

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Oracle Combat in Maze Rats

I had a question come up on DTRPG yesterday about how can a character survive combat.

It is a valid point, with two answers.

a) you are not really supposed to fight, if you do have to fight, don’t fight fair.

b) don’t die.

If you would like to try Maze Rat, my solo rules for this game, read down for a discount code.

I will look at the a) first:

Don’t Fight Fair

The base combat system in Maze Rats requires 10+ on 2d6 to score a hit. You could get up to +2 for using the right stat or some other advantages. Those are not good odds. In fact they are so bad that any fight where you are out numbered is going to kill you.

If you are alone then the best odds you can hope for is 1:1.

What you need to do is get into a position where you can apply a bonus but your foe cannot. The difference between you needing 8+ and them needing 10+ is significant. When I had no choice but to go through an enemy I found that backing up to a longish range and using missiles against monsters was a decent tactic. I much preferred being able to hit without being hit back, to trying to slug it out. Hand to hand fights are high risk.

I don’t have a problem with this as the game says up front that it is not a hack and slash game, in as many words.

Not Dying

This is good advice whether you are gaming or in real life.

When you are defeated in battle, no one says you have to die. You could be knocked unconscious, tied and bound, stripped of your gear and thrown in a holding pen as tomorrows lunch. So yes, there were consequences to your defeat but you are not dead.

You could have been mistaken for dead, looted and tossed on the midden heap along with other rotting corpses.

This option can give you a few variations, captured for ransom is another one. You cannot over play it or it grows thin pretty quickly but it does get you out of a jam once in a while.

Oracle Combat

As Maze Rats demands 10+ to get a hit, for low level encounters you can do a lot of rolling with no one landing a blow. For me at least, that is not that exciting. I like to condense minor skirmishes down to two oracle rolls.

If we ignore the more subtle answers and just focus on the Yes-No of the result there are four vanilla possibilities

Yes – Yes
Yes – No
No – Yes
No – No

Taking the situation at the start of a fight, your question could be “Can I ambush and scatter the goblins?” This gives us two options, either yes, you fell upon the goblins and you have the advantage at least initially. The other option was that no, your ambush didn’t scatter them. Their moral and discipline held and you are facing an angry gang. Making the second oracle roll you base the question on the first result. If you have the advantage you could ask “Can I break their moral and make them flee?”, if you are up against it, “Can I turn and flee?” A yes result for either question ends the fight and you live to fight another day.

If you had come up as a no for the second result you are now in a standoff in the first instance and trapped in the second.

What have you gained?

Well, the original fight could have taken dozens of dice rolls if you just ground out the battle. In this version, it turned the start of the battle into a more narrative encounter. You were proactive, describing your intent and hopefully playing to your strengths. A double yes got you exactly what you wanted, defeated goblins running in fear while others lay dead at your feet. A yes-no would suggest that several fell during your ambush and I would play out the fight against the last goblin standing. The no-yes has you fleeing for your lift, but at least you are alive. Finally, the no-no result has you captured by the goblins after your bungled attack on them.

This time around you have a 3 out of 4 chance of winning the fight.


Oracles, or the ones I make, often throw up complications, they also have shades of grey in the yes-no results. This can turn a roll-fest battle into just that one roll. If you gave yourself advantage on the roll because you were the one springing the ambush and you got a Yes, and… I would say that several fell to your sword and the rest fled in terror. Battle over in a single roll.

There is a chance as well that you are going to get a No, and… the goblins were ready for you and you leaped straight into a net they were concealing.

Complications can be even more fun. As you prepare your attack the shadow of a dragon sweeps over the landscape and the goblins turn and fear as the shadow hovers over them…

Using Oracle combat means you can cut down on tons of rolls, and narrative combat is much more descriptive than losing points of health or hit points or whatever the terminology is. Your battles are only as limited as your imagination.

Maze Rat was released this week and adds solo play to Maze Rats. The following link will give you a 40% discount.

Loyalty Discounts

If you would like a 40% discount on these rules, I send the discount links out by email.

If you are happy for me to send you email with news of new products, or for me to ask your opinions on ideas, please consider joining my contact list. I send emails no more than once a week so you definitely won’t be flooded by emails.

Please consider joining as I really value your opinions and support.

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Savage Intent

I got to play Savage Worlds last night.

I am in my favourite part of writing the solo rules. I play, I refine and I play again. Just working out what works and what doesn’t and always trying to make it better.

By ‘better’ I mean ‘more fun’.

If you know your Savage Worlds Adventure Edition I can tell you that I am using both the Creative Combat and Dumb Luck options and the More Skill Points, which is supposed to be for modern settings but I am applying it across the board.

I said yesterday in my Maze Rat post that I am not a massive fan of excessive dice rolling. In my Savage Worlds Solo GB I have used an approach where the yes-no closed question oracle runs on dice but the open questions use a deck of cards. This has been quite fun to play. If I was arty in any way then a custom deck would be amazing.

My first instinct was to use a tarot deck. Tarot use 78 cards, 22 major and 56 minor. Combining those would give a fairly broad ranging oracle. The more I read into the tarot, the more it was obvious that to just pull out bits of tarot for what I wanted was to miss the point of the tarot deck, to use it properly would be massively too slow for solo playing.

Instead of Tarot cards I have built a deck of 52 cards. It only really requires attaching a meaning for each standard card in a poker deck. Draw a card and shuffle on a joker.

That simple separation of dice for closed and cards for open is playing really nicely.

I am also quite keen on the reference sheets provided in the rulebook. I don’t know Savage Worlds well enough yet to remember what each edge, trait or hinderance does.

Tomorrow is video blog day, but by Thursday I hope to have a bit more to show you from my Savage Worlds solo book.

Do you play Savage Worlds?

If you would like a 40% discount on these rules, I send the discount links out by email.

If you are happy for me to send you email with news of new products, or for me to ask your opinions on ideas, please consider joining my contact list. I send emails no more than once a week so you definitely won’t be flooded by emails.

Please consider joining as I really value your opinions and support.


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Maze Rat – Solo

Today I put Maze Rat, my solo rules for Maze Rats up on DTRPG. I am curious as to which one will prove more popular. I mentioned this week that half of all RPG books will never sell more than 50 copies. A Lonely Knave sold 50 in 25hrs.

There is more OSR fun in the pipeline, Read down about what is coming up and about getting discounts.

Of those that do sell more than fifty, half of them will never sell more than 100 copies, A lonely Knave sold 101 in four days. In seven days it is halfway to Electrum best selling which represents the top 10% of books.

Maze Rats is a similar game to Knave, but it is more solo-friendly of the two systems. Maze Rats has a wonderful random magic spell generator, it has random world creation and even random ‘what did I get up to last night’ creation.

The cool thing about Maze Rats is its six by six lists. Every area comes with six lists and each list has six items. You can either roll one d6 twice, once for the list and then once for the entry on the list, but what I did was just use a single roll.

The first time I needed to use each table, I rolled a d6, then picked the first available item from the list. This meant that I never used the same thing twice. It also made the game fractionally faster at the table. For a role player I am not particularly keen on dice rolling. I don’t know why.

So, I am a big Maze Rats fan. The solo rules have followed the same format as closely as I could.

If you are familiar with the game, I hope you agree that this page could have fallen out of the PDF. That is the enture solo system!

Let’s take a look at the six by six lists on the second page.

The open question oracle is giving you 36 x 36 possible combinations of prompt. That is nearly 1,300 options. Not the most expansive oracle admittedly but it is more than adequate for the kind of one-shot adventures that Maze Rats cries out for.

Having worked and played both systems for two weeks, which do I prefer?

I like the random magic and world generation in Maze Rats. I have said that I am not overly keen on dice rolling, but it was easy to halve the number of required rolls and just cycling through the lists from start to finish.


I am also getting quite into writing one-page adventures. The are really quick to write, a day or so is about par. They are chance to revisit old monsters and some of the tools available today to help with dungeon creation just did not exist when I was running full campaigns. A one page dungeon is a perfect partner for an OSR solo game. They take less prep than a full blown TSR or WotC module, they can often be done is a session and there is a good chance you are going to either survive, or go so far off course that it becomes the root of a totally unexpected greater adventure. Either way you’re a winner.

So far the only one of these I have released is Grave Error, but these are going to be my Thursday projects, so I have something to play over the weekends.

Don’t read too much into the word dungeon. I want to explore lots of settings in these little outings.


Knave, I think has the greater longevity as a standalone game. Not necessarily as a solo system. If you are in the UK you are probably more than familiar with Red Dwarf. It is my understanding that Red Dwarf did not do so well in the States. I am working on a Red Dwarf inspired OSR game. It is Knave that is going to sit at the heart of the system.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for that, it is a back burner project and something I am dabbling with just for fun, for now at least.

If you would like a 40% discount on these rules, I send the discount links out by email.

If you are happy for me to send you email with news of new products, or for me to ask your opinions on ideas, please consider joining my contact list. I send emails no more than once a week so you definitely won’t be flooded by emails.

Please consider joining as I really value your opinions and support.

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The Missing Skill

Death of a Salesman (1985 film) - Wikipedia

In most ways I am your typical indie creator. I write all my own books*, I source the art (I cannot draw to save my own skin) and I do the layout.

I think I am mostly unskilled. I am dyslexic and or autistic. These things were not tested for when I was at school, but my daughter is autistic and everyone remarks that we are incredibly similar. I certainly display all the typical behaviours.

I know almost nothing about art, or layout. I look at other people’s books and try and emulate what I see. Most people can function on a ‘I know what I like’ level, while not being able to create something truly unique of their own. That is me.

My game design, writing and layout may be terrible, but there is one skill that almost all indie game creators lack and that is marketing. Sales and marketing is the one function that has almost every indie cringing and recoiling. This is a pity as a mediocre book with great marketing is going to out sell the best book ever written, if no one knows it exists.

If you want to support your household income, or make a living from your games and game books, you are going to need to learn the two most important elements in selling.

Most Important Element

Be a nice person

It really is as simple as that. Don’t try and rip people off, don’t try and be something your not. If people ask you questions about your book try and be helpful. All of these things will help you sell more books.

Let me take the last one in that list as an example. If you asked a question about one of my books on DrivethruRPG, and I answer it. Everyone else that looks will instantly see that the author is around and cares about the book. Or to put it another way, the book is supported. That is a major reassurance. If you buy something and don’t understand it, knowing there is someone to help is important.

If you want to see this in action, take a look at my Mutant Year Solo book. Not the product as much, scroll down to the discussion below. This is not high pressure selling, it isn’t even selling. I am just trying to be genuinely helpful and if I cannot write something, such as Aliens, I explain why. As a consequence people are reassured and confident to buy other books of mine.

I think that when many people think of sales and marketing they are thinking of trying to force or trick or manipulate people into buying something they don’t want or need. I don’t do any of that. I wouldn’t want to do any of that. Simply being nice, is a double reward. When I am nice, people respond in kind, which makes me feel good if I get nice comments from happy people. If I can reassure people that they will be looked after if they have spent some of their hard earned money on my books then I think that will reassure other people who may still be undecided.

The Other Most Important Element

Ask a fair price

The key here is what do I mean by fair. I don’t mean cheap. How long did you spend researching, writing, designing and testing your game stuff? How many books do you really expect to sell? Most game books sell less than 200 copies, ever.

When you are next on DriveThru look at the metal ratings for the books you browse. Copper means more than 51. Silver, more than 101, Electrum more than 251 and Gold over 501. Unless you are only looking at the big brand books I would guess that most of what you look at won’t even be copper.

Two thirds of all books never sell more than 50 copies.

That is a horrible thought. But there are in excess of 300,000 books for sale on DriveThru. They cannot all be on the hottest sellers lists, or the newest sellers list. Once a book is not new any more, and that could be two or three days in a popular category or on the homepage, it needs to be selling dozens a day to stay on the hottest lists.

The rules I released last Monday are now the 4th most popular book under $5

and the 6th hottest Small Press…

But in a few days time it will slip further and further down the lists and new books come out. I have a niche that I work in, it is a small niche and I cannot change that. I will never out compete any of the traditionally played game supplements just because there are more people who play as a group than there are people who play solo.

So what as this got to do with a fair price?

Knave, the ‘parent’ game costs $2.99. The adventure written by Ben Milton costs $1.50. To make A Lonely Knave fit in with the style of Knave and the published adventure, it is equally small and I felt that $1.50 was the most I could charge for what amounts to a for page booklet (US Letter, landscape, 2 sides folded in half). That was the ‘fair price’.

Contrast that with The Crusaders Solo Handbook. The Handbook pairs up with Castles & Crusades. Functionally, it is still a set of solo rules. Knave is an OSR style game that can use just about any OGL monster manual, C&C is an OSR style game that can use just about any OGL monster manual.

The solo handbook is 34 pages and costs $4.95.

So why the difference in price? When I started with C&C I bought the Castle Keepers Guide, the Players Handbook and the Treasures & Monsters book. I invested the time into reading, learning and playing the game (ok, playing the game was fun but you know what I mean). My investment was both financial and personal. The game is laid out ready to go to print.

I have also included a lot more content about handling different situations and playing adventure modules.

I put far more in, so I charge more.

That is fair to me.

Is $4.95 too much do charge for a book that will give you hundreds of hours of pleasure?

I don’t think it is.

I would almost define Fair as the highest price that the market will stand for the book you have created. Creators have been complaining for decades that they are underpaid. How are we ever going to change that if people compete on price and race to be the cheapest? If you spent 100 hours solo playing C&C using my book, which is only 25 evenings, that would be 5¢ an hour. There is virtually no other form of entertainment that could come close to that.

Just for context, that C&C book was released a month ago. It has sold about 60 copies, 15 a week. That is enough to make it the 3rd hottest selling book in the entire C&C category. If you are not a creator reading this, ‘just’ a player or GM, that is how tight the margins are in this industry.


Just put the two parts together, Be nice and charge a fair price is about as simple as it can get. Anyone can do it. Everyone should do it.

I have one more thing to say on price. I have made it a ‘thing’ to offer 40% discounts to you, my blog readers. Without you, there would be no point in me writing this blog. I see those discounts as a thank you for giving me your time.

If you would like a 40% discount on these rules, I send the discount links out by email.

If you are happy for me to send you email with news of new products, or for me to ask your opinions on ideas, please consider joining my contact list. I send emails no more than once a week so you definitely won’t be flooded by emails.

Please consider joining as I really value your opinions and support.