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Fudge Dice and Functional Alternatives

Fudge is a wonderful role-playing game for many reasons. It’s easy to learn, easy to teach, easy to adapt to any genre, and available in different formats (some of which are free). There’s much to love about Fudge. Alas, for some there is one great barrier to appreciating Fudge, and that is its default use of Fudge dice. (Personally, I would argue there is a greater barrier, but that’s a topic for another article.)

For the uninitiated (skip this paragraph if otherwise), Fudge dice have six sides, two of which are marked with plus signs (+), two of which are marked with minus signs (-), and two of which are blank ( ). Rolling four Fudge dice per the standard skill or attribute roll (notated “4dF”), one eliminates the blanks and the dice that cancel each other out (pairs of + and -), and the remainder is the result. For instance, a roll of 4dF might yield +, +, blank, -. The + and – pair and the blank are removed, leaving a single +, which means the result is +1. This is the number by which the character’s trait is adjusted on a trait ladder that consists of Terrible, Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good, Great, and Superb levels of quality. If the character in question rates as Good at Fencing and rolls +1 for an attack, then his attack would be Great (one better than Good), and this would be compared to his opponent’s roll. It’s quite elegant, but if my explanation is inadequate, please consult Section 3.21, Reading the Dice in the Fudge rules.

As brilliant as Fudge dice are, some gamers disdain them the way some disdain gamers. They seem philosophically unwilling to allow for the possibility that using randomizers other than polyhedral dice or simulators of the same could be fun or useful. They argue that the rarity and exoticism of Fudge dice renders Fudge unplayable and therefore unsuccessful as a game. If this were the case (which is demonstrably untrue considering the worldwide scale of its fandom), then I would counterargue that the polyhedral dice so essential to Dungeons & Dragons were far scarcer and far more exotic at the dawn of role-playing than Fudge dice are now. If the original role-playing gamers feared the unusual as much as some gamers do now, then D&D would never have expanded beyond the tables of a few war game clubs in Wisconsin and Minnesota and we wouldn’t be having this discussion today.

Fudge dice are obtainable and quite easily, too, from the publisher’s Web site, Most game stores are also capable of ordering them if they have none in stock. Moreover, they are not expensive. In a pinch, Fudge dice can be made with standard six-sided dice, a permanent marker, and blank stickers or Avery labels (or just the dice and marker). If, however, acquiring actual Fudge dice is an insurmountable obstacle for whatever reason, the DIY method is unappealing, or the concept of Fudge dice is too alien to tolerate, there are numerous alternatives, many of which have been described in the Fudge text itself. Three of these options are described in the free Fudge 1995 Edition in Section 3.22, Other Dice Techniques:

4d6: this method requires 2d6 of one color (or size) and 2d6 of another color or size. First declare which two dice are the positive dice, and which two the negative, then roll all four dice. Do not add the dice in this system. Instead, remove from the table all but the lowest die (or dice, if more than one has the same lowest number showing). If the only dice left on the table are the same color, that is the result: a positive die with a “1″ showing is a +1, for example. If there are still dice of both colors showing, the result is “0″.

Examples (p = positive die, n = negative die): you roll p4, p3, n3, n3. The lowest number is a 3, so the p4 is removed, leaving p3, n3 and n3. Since there are both positive and negative dice remaining, the result is 0. On another roll, you get p1, p1, n2, n4. Remove the highest numbers, n2 and n4. This leaves only positive dice, so the result is +1, since a “1″ is showing on a positive die, and there are no negative dice on the table.

3d6: Roll 3 six-sided dice. Add the numbers and look up the results on the table below. This table is small enough to fit easily on a character sheet. Example: a roll of 3, 3, 6 is a sum of 12. Looking up 12 on the table yields a result of +1.

Rolled: 3-4 5 6-7 8-9 10-11 12-13 14-15 16 17-18
Result: -4 -3 -2 -1 +0 +1 +2 +3 +4

d%: roll two ten-sided dice, having first declared which will be the “tens” digit. Read the tens die and the ones die as a number from 1 to 100 (01 = 1, but 00 = 100), and consult the table below, which should be printed on the character sheet:

Rolled: 1 2-6 7-18 19-38 39-62 63-82 83-94 95-99 00
Result: -4 -3 -2 -1 +0 +1 +2 +3 +4

From the Fudge December 7, 1993 Version, we have three other options. The default method from this edition is found in Section 4.21, Reading the Dice:

Each player and the GM need 2d6, and each person should preferably have two different colors or sizes. One die must be designated the “plus” or “positive” die, and the other the “minus” or “negative” die. Ideally, all players will have uniform sets of dice (for example, one red and one white), and all will use the same color to be the plus die. (If you only have two identical dice, such as borrowed from a board game, place your pencil on the table pointing away from you. Assign one side of the pencil to be plus, the other minus, and roll one die on each side of the pencil.)

When a die roll is called for, the player rolls both dice and examines them. If they are doubles, he has scored his trait level exactly — leave both dice on the table.

If the dice show different numbers, the player should physically remove the higher die from the table, leaving only the lesser number rolled. That number on that die, either plus or minus, is the result. If the die left on the table is the plus die showing a 3, for example, the player rolled +3 above his trait level. If it is the minus die showing a 1, however, he just rolled a -1 to his trait level.

There are two exceptions to the rule above: results of +5 and -5. These results are too extreme for FUDGE, so they are converted to a +0 result: the character just achieved his trait level. They do not occur very often, so no special care need be taken to watch out for them. When the GM hears “Plus five” or “Minus five” as a result, she can simply say, “That means zero in FUDGE,” and the game goes on.

Two other methods are offered in Section 4.22, Other Dice Techniques:

  • Roll 2 six-sided dice. As above, one is the minus die, and one the plus die. Take the difference of the dice. If the minus die is higher, the result is negative. If the plus die is higher, the result is positive. Example: a roll of 4 on the minus die and 2 on the plus die gives a -2 result. Convert any results of +5 or -5 to 0.
  • Roll 2 six-sided dice, add them together, and subtract 7. If the result is +5 or -5, convert it to 0. Otherwise, the resulting number is how well the character just did, compared to his trait being tested. There are no plus or minus dice in this method.

    A table can also be used with this last method, if desired. This could be printed on each character sheet, as follows:

Rolled: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Result: +0 -4 -3 -2 -1 +0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +0

As long as I am delving into the past, I could point out that the Fudge July 4, 1993 Version described yet another method:

When a character needs to resolve such an action, the player rolls two dice, adds the numbers, and consults the following table:

Rolled: 2 3 4 5 6, 7, 8 9 10 11 12
Levels: -4 -3 -2 -1 +0 +1 +2 +3 +4

(As you can see, some of the methods are better than others in terms of probability.)

These are seven different alternatives to playing Fudge without Fudge dice, and there are more that have been proposed throughout the Internet. If Fudge dice are one’s only complaint about Fudge, it is a complaint that rings hollow.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. Fudgerylog › Dice-Inclusive Fudge on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    [...] other than Fudge dice to make it work, there is nothing to stop you. And as I mentioned previously (q.v.), there have always been alternatives to Fudge dice in Fudge. This was written by Gordon Cooper. [...]