One morning, as we were accompanying our dogs on their romp through the woods, Paul mentioned that he was going to have to abandon Five-Point Fudge as the character creation system for a project he was working on, and go with the objective character creation system instead. That got me thinking about the various approaches to Fudge (objective, subjective, and some things like Five Point Fudge that lie somewhere between the two).
Back in 1994-1995, when Steffan was working on the version of Fudge that became the core rules set in June 1995, he was thinking about abandoning the "Objective System" approaches in Fudge as he never used them himself. (You can read about this in his Fudge Designer's Notes.) At the time, I'd been writing for both TSR (D&D® and then AD&D®) and Steve Jackson Games (GURPS®), so I was used to relatively complex systems with objective rules. While my husband Paul and I played a very freeform type of roleplaying game when we were gaming together, we used D&D or GURPS when we were playing with other people.
I was interested in using Fudge to publish my own roleplaying supplements, and I frankly didn't think that a game that was nothing but "subjective" free-form "rules" would go over very well in a marketplace dominated by complex systems. So I offered some arguments for the objective system to stay. I knew players who'd feel lost without solid rules to lean on, and I myself was more comfortable with the objective system at the time.
Over the years, my own GMing style started gravitating towards the "subjective" approach. This was, in part, due to the many convention games I ran to promote Fudge and Grey Ghost games. We often ended up running barely fleshed-out adventures with little more than some pre-generated characters, a short blurb in the convention program book, and a general idea of what the adventure was about. Just "winging it" (or "fudging it") helped keep the pace fast and furious and the players entertained for the alotted 2 or 4 hours. A quick 5-minute explanation and demo of the basic rules and we were off and running.
You can see the evolution of my own use of Fudge reflected in the books I've published. The first full Fudge game was "Gatecrasher," which actually proved how complex an ediface you can stick on top of a Fudge foundation and not have it topple over. Michael Lucas, the author, was new to Fudge (of course, most people were at the time!) and did his best to translate his own system (based on the Tri-Tac system) to Fudge. I was new to editing Fudge games, and did my best to make it at least a bit more like Fudge without losing Michael's vision.
By the time Terra Incognita was going through the editing process, my own play style had moved quite solidly into a "just fudge it!" mode. (Carl Cravens's "Just Fudge It!" chapter in the 10th Anniversary Edition of Fudge elegantly explains both why and how to "just fudge it!") But I was reluctant to move entirely to subjective systems for my published games. Fortunately, Steffan had created the Five Point Fudge character creation system to bridge the gap between the Objective and Subjective approaches. I adoped Five Point Fudge as the "house" rules for my published games, and have been quite happy with that approach.
Even so, when it came time to finalize the rules for the Deryni Adventure Game, we put more emphasis on the subjective system. The Deryni Adventure Game presents the obective rules and Five Point Fudge side by side with more subjective ways of doing things. The idea was to give players and GMs new to role-playing enough structure to get them started, but to let them know it was perfectly okay to throw that structure out the window and "just fudge it" if they felt comfortable doing so.
And this gets me back to my original thoughts regarding the different approaches to Fudge (objective, subjective, and in between).
I think that in the beginning, I needed the structure the "objective system" provided to feel as though I were playing the game "right." But as I learned how to play (not just Fudge but any roleplaying game), I didn't need those "training wheels" so much anymore.
With art, most aspring artists must first learn the technical aspects of the craft. Once they've mastered the techniques, they can truly allow their artwork to flow from their creativity. They paint, sculpt, and design in a freeform way that's informed and aided by the techniques they've learned. In this sense, I'm now a Fudge "Artist."
But some people are "Engineers." Paul is one of them. What they create is also art – but it's more along the lines of architecture than "fine art." They use more structure to build their Fudge games than Fudge "artists" do.
And I say, thank goodness that we have artists and engineers, because the world needs both!
And thank you, Steffan, for creating a customizable roleplaying game that can equally satisfy Engineers and Artists!