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The Codex of Fudge
Making Players Feel Needed PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jonathan Snyder   
Thursday, 21 June 2012 20:21


This is something that came up a while ago that I meant to write about. This is geared toward the new GM.

Players are the most important thing in your game. It is not the rules, the setting, or the cool new trap that you have setup. If players are not happy about what they are doing then they are not going to enjoy your story.

Something that now seems obvious, but was completely missed by myself, is that you need to make sure that the player creates a character that is not only fun, but useful.

My wife, Susanna, created a character for a fantasy game I was going to be running and had tried to cover too many skills. I, being too much in to the mechanics, did not realize that the character would be hard pressed to succeed at some of the basic tasks. The campaign went for about three sessions until the end of the third did I notice Susanna was frustrated and upset at her character.

I realized then what I had done. I had not taken the time to really check her character out and see how well it would fare in the campaign. I also failed to notice her frustration building at every roll that barely made it or failed.

Lucky for me, the players agreed to allow her to re-tool her character to a more specific and better combination of skill points and the mission continued. I was blessed to have such an understanding group.

So, some tips for the new GM who might be making these mistakes.

1) When somebody gives you their character for approval, think about how the character is going to act in the session. Do they have skills that are useful? Are they taking skills they really do not need? If you see it going that way say something. Suggest some changes.

2) Sometimes characters slip through your watchful gaze. Watch for the mood of your people. If you can see frustration and it seems to be more than just bad dice rolls, you might want to think of adding something for that character to be more useful or give them a chance to change a skill or two. 

Remember, if your players are not having fun, you are just wasting everybody's time.

 

Good luck!

 
Dealing With Player Character Death PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jonathan Snyder   
Sunday, 12 February 2012 13:30

Three weeks ago I ran a session that was part of the campaign I have been running for some time now. That day the player characters had wound up in a dangerous situation hunting an elemental dragon in his lair. The plan was to sneak up on it and kill it while it slept. It was working fine until one player rolled four minuses and already had a negative one penalty.

As we had been playing for some time I had already told the players they were out of "tutorial mode" and I would not be assisting them with reminders for Fudge points and so forth. I wanted them to think and plan for themselves instead of using me as a fall back. It might sound cruel, but I'll explain farther down in this article.

Suffice to say, our unlucky player forgot to spend the fudge points to change the collective negative five and the beast awoke. What followed was fifteen rounds of pure chaos and adrenalin as the PCs and NPCs tried to stay alive.

By the end of the next two hours all, but one, was incapacitated or near death. The other only survived because I took pity on the whole situation and had the dragon leave. I did not have happy players on my hands and I was shunned by my wife (who was a player) for a few hours.

This is what got me thinking about an article. Luckily these sets of PCs did not die when there was a great chance that it could happen. I spent the next few hours poring over my notes thinking what could have gone better and if I was in the right to allow the situation to go the way it did. Here is what I came up with.

The situation was player generated. Bad rolls and forgotten fudge points allowed the situation to come to be. Instead of disengaging all the PCs decided to stay and try to complete the quest and kill the dragon. They did do well the first rounds, but as soon as their healer fell to a swift dragon kick, the battle went south fast.

The dice were unfair and miraculously everyone continued to forget about their fudge points!

So, what is this article about? Well, dealing with the major causes of player anger.

1) Players are angry at the situation because their character did not perform the way they had hoped. This is true in the case of one player who had great agility skill to climb the dragon, but every time she rolled at a crucial time to get to its neck, she rolled bad and fell down a few yards from her goal. This was the case through the whole game.

2) Players have a strong attachment to their characters. A good RPer knows that this does happen and to try to remind themselves that it's just a character, but in the case of my wife, she loves characters and her little assassin especially. She was angry at me for allowing harm to come to her character. She was not angry as in fuming, but understood that's how the game goes, but still upset how close death came.

3) Player who don't like losing. Gratefully, I did not have any of these types of players in my game. When everybody went to lick their wounds, the conversation was how they were all lucky to be alive instead of what had gone horribly wrong. I wasn't held for to much except not reminding them about fudge points.

What should you do if you have a situation like this? First of all, the best thing to do is remember that though the players are upset, they are most likely upset at you because you're the only one they can be. It's usually never personal. I got a lot of thank you's and “it was a fun game” after the fact (like three or four days.)

Another is to do what I should have done in hind sight. I should have let the situation arise, but helped in the area of fudge points. Being silent had them really panicky and it's not good to put your players through that too much. A good life and death game does put some effort in to their characters and imagination, but now I fear that they will be timid in all their actions in later sessions.

It's a very fine line and balance between helping your players avoid certain death and being so helpful that there is no danger for the characters anymore because they think they have the "GM Safety net".

Like any other advice I have given in this blog: It really depends on knowing your players and what they really feel in situations like this. A good GM will know when his players are getting upset and why they are. Upset because the situation is getting bad is better then upset at you because they think you are being cruel.

All parties need to remember that it is just a game and that's what will keep everybody happy in the end.

 
Art of Improvisation PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jonathan Snyder   
Friday, 30 December 2011 15:20

Improvisation. No matter how much preparation you do before a game, even the best GMs are still caught off guard. Developing the skills to improvise and adapt to the adventure at hand almost seems mystical, but it is not. This is something that I wanted to write about as many new GMs have never realized how needed this skill is especially with Fudge.


Improvising is the art of adapting your story around the sudden and/or unexpected actions of your PCs or questions that you had not planned for. The reason I call it an art is because some of the best GMs I know have made a game awesome and I did not know they improvised until the end.


Characters (and their players) are thee must unpredictable element in RPGs. You take players from different walks of life, put them at the table, and then tell them that they can do whatever they want with their characters, you are guaranteed a surprising development!

 

What do you do when this happens? How do you develop skills to cut the players off before they can surprise you? Well, you cannot keep them from surprising you, but there is a few things you can do to help make sure that when you are surprised, you can do it without fail.

 

1. Know your setting like the back of your hand. There is nothing like playing a setting and all of a sudden they ask you a question in a section you just gleaned over because they would never ask about that. Know your setting! Read the books of your world so you can answer anything they throw at you. The majority of improvisation will come from the wealth of knowledge you store up in your head.

 

Try to keep flipping through the books to a minimum as that will make the players doubt your ability to GM a game. I mean, how much trust would you put in to a GM who has to look at the rules every other question?

 

2. Flesh your story out. Know your story as well as you know your setting. This ties in to the above point. Be sure that you know the story and so when the players decide to go a different route to the objective then you had planned, you know the area and the story well enough to guide them back to the objective or give them a brand new route.

 

An example of my failure to plan ahead was a vault that I had sealed up and hid the key in the corner of a guard's office. What I did not take in to consideration was that a player that joined at the last minute decided to play a gaseous cloud. He simply squeezed through the keyhole and unlocked the door from the other side. My secret vault became useless because I did not think far enough ahead to plan for that. What makes me feel even dumber is that I knew ahead of time that this would have been one of his character possibilities.

 

3. Practice! No matter how much planning you do and even if you follow this article to the letter, the player is still going to surprise you with a move you did not expect. Just go with it and make up an answer or plan a new way of doing it. There is nothing like good practice in the field to give you the confidence and the experience to grow as a GM.

 

For this article I want to do a shout out to my good friend and fellow GMer Wolf “SirWolf” Bergenheim, A master of making-it-up-as-you-go. He was my first introduction to a true fudge game and after three awesome (and epic) sessions, I asked him his secret and he simply said, “Oh, I just make it up as I go.”

Good luck on your sessions and do not be afraid to fudge it!

 
How to Design a Setting PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jonathan Snyder   
Tuesday, 12 April 2011 10:59

This is something that I wanted to write for quite awhile, but had not yet decided that I was experienced enough to write it. It was only a few weeks ago I realized that nobody is truly experienced when it comes to creativity and that it is trying that improves the art. So, here I am penning a tutorial/essay about designing settings for Fudge.

Now the first thing I do want to point out is that setting and world are interchangeable in the community. For this tutorial a setting is a small collection of information encompassing something small. A world or a city, it is something that does not take up massive volumes and is easy for the GM to read over and get ready. A world by my definition is is a collection of settings make the playing field more epic. A world could be a group of star systems with a setting set for each planet or just a massive fantasy world. Again though I want to point out these terms are interchangeable and could mean something different to other people. So, with all the technical stuff out of the way, let us grab a tablet, notebook paper, or whatever you feel the most comfortable writing with and get to work. 

1.Decide What your Setting is Going to be About.

The first thing you want to do is decide what you want your setting to be about. This can be anything from a new gritty scifi world to a fantasy land. What I find the best thing to do is come up with a tagline or one sentence description that embodies the world. I'm designing a setting with you at the same time as I write this so you have something to compare what you have with what I am doing. Keep us all on the same page. 

Example: http://www.fudgefactor.org/2006/01/reign-of-evil.html

2. What is in this Setting?

First of all you probably want to have an idea of what you want your setting to be about. The way I like to start is come up with a small sentence to describe your universe. My entry is: "An empire of merpeople living in the oceans of Earth."

There is a lot of thinking that goes in to making a good setting as you need to flesh out the setting in your head so you know what you want to do. This sentence gives you something to work with and what you want to make.

3. Creatures, and Things That Go Bump in the Night.

A world is empty and useless without characters and things in it. I personlly believe the hardest part of creating a setting is putting in the variaty of people and creatures to catch the reader's attention. In this case, I thought about the people of Mer under the water and tried to imagine what there life would be like. This I have found is a very good way of coming up with creatures and characters.

4. A Labor of Love

A setting is nothing that you can just come up with in one setting. Writing and designing is an art and art never should be rushed. One of the things I learned is the story is more important then just the setting. A good story will always bring people back and that's what you want in your setting. Stories for the players to play. 

5. Feedback and a thick skin.

Another good thing to know and understand is that once you release your setting is to welcome feedback and also expect criticism on something you put in there. A thick skin is important as though the words may sting when someone points out something they don't like or think is a flaw in your work, you need to realize that the majority of the time the person who is critiquing your work is trying to make it better and to help you out. 

Take his words in to consideration and decide if you agree with him/her or not. 

Well, that's all for this blog entry. I hope this gives you many ideas about what to do with your setting, but also give you a blue print in case you are not sure how to proceed. If you have any questions you can either post it on the forum, on the yahoogroups, or email me at: Morg223 AT jtworld DOT net. 

Here is the link to the People of Mer I made as an example:

http://www.fudgerpg.com/members/remository/settings/The-People-of-Mer/

 
I GMed my very first game! PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jonathan Snyder   
Monday, 24 January 2011 03:51

This blog entry is a little late, but I still think it's important since many new people are always wondering what it would be like to GM a game.

I know for me I was extremely nervous thinking of all the worse case scenarios that could happen to me. From completely botching up the story to being ostracized from the Fudge IRC channel. All of these fears were completely unfounded as you soon will find out.

My first GM experience crept up on me. My original plan was to watch, practice on my own, and ask questions of the experts. This changed when my good friend Jonas aka "Fudgebob" on the IRC chat said to me, "Hey, why don't you run a game?" I immediately began the wishy-washy-maybes, but he smoothly talked me in to running a game that Saturday.

As I logged off the computer the realization sunk in of what I had just done and I did not even have a story! So, for the next two days (as Saturday was only three days away) I worked feverishly on a story and with all my own print outs, cheat sheets I made to keep from screwing up, and a step by step of the story I logged in to run the game. I lucked out with have only fudgebob and I thought to myself, "Whew, this shouldn't be to difficult."

Boy, was I wrong! To all you Newbie GMs, the first thing you need to get out of your mind is that the story will go the way that you thought it out. It NEVER goes that way. Players are a unpredictable variable in the world of RPGs. When you would think they would try one thing, they try another and that is usually something you did not plan for.

My first experience in the game is when I had a little dinosaur steal a piece of vital equipment and I wanted fudgebob to chase it in to the field and wind up in a nest of them, but low and behold, Fudgebob decided to try to charm it and he rolled pretty good that I'm like, "Great! He just tamed the reptile. That wasn't part of the plan!" Let alone, he wouldn't enter the plains where I wanted too, try to forge the river where I had dinosaurs waiting for him. He just simply went his own way.

After two sessions though, I was graced with another player, shyann (another original thinker who threw me for a loop). After battles with veloci-raptors and collecting their weapons fudgebob and shyann finally got to the goal where I had a sleeping T-Rex waiting for them. I made sure the weather hampered their ability to see so I could at least have one surprise on them. The surprise worked and I sat there chuckling to see how they were going to get their goal without getting eaten.

Low and behold, they wanted to rig all their grenades together to make a super bomb to blow the T-Rex up! I couldn't believe it. I made the task hard to do, but they succeeded! I made their ability to sneak up on it hard to do and they made it! suffice to say, my only little surprise wound up being pummeled by a energy grenade explosion. Suffice to say, the mission did not go according to how I wanted it to go, but this is something I'm glad that happened.

If the story had gone by the book, my job would have been boring. I would not have had the chance to think on my feet without letting my players know that they had just stumped me. It is something that you should revel in and try your best.

Fudgebob was excellent in pointing out mistakes I made and taught me how to go with the flow, How to allow the players to describe their victory when they won instead of me. Do not be scared of GMing. It's a fun experience that I enjoy more then playing. To be able to watch my players panic because they think they are about to be eaten gives you such a happy feeling (in an evil sort of way). Stories are interactive and I know these adventures will live in my mind longer then any video game will.

If you want to know more about the game that was run or want to try it yourself. You can find it on the FudgeRPG repository as “A Fudgey Tale: Tears of the Jungle”.

 
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