This addition to the Fudge Action Resolution section offers some ideas on taking a variety of different factors for success into account when determining the outcome of any given action. It also provides a common framework and vocabulary for describing Fudge actions in simple and straightforward terms.
3.31 Action Factors
A number of things factor into determining the outcome of any given action. By applying all of the appropriate factors for a given action you can quickly determine the outcome of the character’s attempt. Plus, by taking all the factors into account, you can quickly and easily determine outcomes, often without needed to roll dice at all!
The factors involved in any given action are: the character’s capability of performing that action, the conditions under which the action is performed, the amount of time and effort put into the action, and, lastly, a measure of luck.
A character’s capability is key to any action. It is the character’s level in the trait relevant to the action. All other factors being equal, characters can reliably achieve an outcome equal to their capability in any given action, so a Good swordsman usually achieves Good outcomes, a Great writer can reliably produce Great writing, and so forth. If capability is not a factor, then the action isn’t really an action, just a random happenstance, left up to the whims of chance (either a die roll or the decisions of the Game Master).
Option: Combined Capability
While one trait usually determines a character’s capability for any given action, the GM may choose to have two or more traits measure a character’s overall capability. In this case, use the lowest of all the required traits, as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. So, for example, for a complex scientific problem requiring skill in Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry, use the lowest of the character’s three skill levels to determine his capability for solving the problem.
Option: Supporting Traits
A supporting trait is a secondary trait that contributes in some way to the success of an action. This secondary trait can belong to the character performing the action or someone else providing assistance. Providing support is a Good action in itself (so the character must have some capability or success with the supporting trait for it to be of any help).
Example: Verne is at the library, researching an obscure South American Indian ritual. He uses his Research skill of Good, but he also has a Good Anthropology skill. The GM decides it is a suitable supporting trait and gives Verne a +1 modifier to Research for this action because he’s researching a familiar area. Support differs from combined capability in that the supporting trait is not required to complete the action, just helpful in doing so. In the example, if Verne were not Good at Anthropology, he could still research the obscure ritual, because he’s Good at Research. Being Good at Anthropology just makes his research more effective.
Option: Hindering Traits
A hindering trait is the opposite of a supporting trait, a trait so bad it makes related traits less effective! Essentially, if a character has a Terrible trait, then actions related to, but not directly using, that trait suffer a -1 penalty. Example: If Verne is Good at Research but Terrible at Anthropology and researching an obscure South American ritual, the Game Master can apply a -1 modifier, meaning Verne is only Fair at researching things related to anthropology, because he’s so bad at understanding it.
Conditions can make characters more or less effective in performing an action. For example, a character who is Hurt suffers a -1 modifier to all actions. A character with exceptionally fine tools or resources for an action may receive a +1 modifier, and so forth. As a general rule, makeshift or difficult conditions impose a -1 modifier, while good conditions grant a +1 bonus. Very bad conditions are -2, while ideal conditions are +2.
Time can be an important factor in completing an action. Being able to take your time can improve the outcome of your action.
Generally, taking about twice the normal time required is a +1 modifier, while taking ten times the normal time (a painstaking effort) is a +2 modifier. Taking more time than that doesn’t significantly affect the outcome. Conversely, not having enough time can adversely affect outcome: rushing an action is a -1 modifier, while extremely rushed or slap-dash efforts impose a -2 modifier.
Time is a factor in two ways. The first is taking time to prepare before attempting at action. The second is actually taking more time to perform the action. Which one applies depends on the type of action.
Effort is how hard the character tries to succeed, other than putting in extra time (which is a time factor). If how hard the character tries doesn’t really matter, then effort isn’t a factor.
Effort is measured against any normally required for that action. So if an action requires a certain minimum level of effort putting in more effort provides a bonus, while putting in less effort imposes a penalty. This means more capable characters operating under good conditions can usually succeed with less effort, while less capable characters need more effort in order to succeed at all.
The measurement of effort depends on how fatigue is handled in the game. In general, putting additional effort into a task, enough for a +1 bonus, should cause an amount of fatigue equivalent to a Hurt damage level, the loss of a level of a trait like Endurance or Strength, or something similar. Likewise, reducing the amount of effort by the same amount should equal a -1 penalty.
Luck is the final factor in completing an action. If the character’s final outcome after applying all the other factors isn’t sufficient to achieve the desired outcome, then all the character can do is rely on luck and hope for the best.
Luck is a roll of the dice, providing a modifier between -4 and +4. It is the biggest potential modifier, but also the least reliable, since there’s no way of knowing if luck will favor you this time or not!
Luck is not a factor in some actions, such as lifting a heavy object or jumping across a span. For other actions, luck is practically the only factor!
Trying Your Luck
Luck is an optional factor in most actions, although the GM can require it for some actions as she sees fit. In most cases, characters can choose to achieve an outcome based on their other factors, primarily capability. This is the “slow and steady” approach: it’s reliable, but it also doesn’t innovate or give spectacular successes, either (unless the character is so capable as to achieve Superb outcomes all the time).
Adding the luck factor to an action that doesn’t require it is called, “trying your luck.” You’re pushing things a bit and relying on luck to help you through. This offers the possibility of a greater outcome at the risk of a great failure.
Option: Luck is Mysterious
The trouble with luck is you can’t rely on it, and you never know if the outcome was a lucky break or not. Whenever a player decides to try his luck at an action, the GM should roll the dice to determine the luck factor and not tell the player the result. The Game Master just adds the luck factor to the other factors and tells the player the final outcome, so it isn’t immediately clear what was due to luck and where other conditions came into play.
Option: Luck Points
To go completely diceless, have players use a “luck points” resource (which may or may not be the same at Fudge Points) which they expend to get a luck modifier on an action. Once they’re out of points their “luck has run out” until it renews. To combine with the “Luck is Mysterious” option, the GM tracks the characters’ luck points, spending as many of them as needed to provide the necessary modifier the player wants, until they run out, and the players won’t know exactly when that is except by finding out the hard way…
3.311 Applying Factors
Not all factors apply equally to all actions. Some actions rely solely on time and effort, others on luck and the right conditions.
Generally, an action can be described in terms of what factors apply to the outcome. For example: Understanding the scroll is a task of Great difficulty requiring knowledge, time, and luck. This can also be expressed in shorthand, such as: Decipher Scroll (Great Difficulty; capability, time, luck).
Here are some examples of applying action factors:
Kor the Barbarian needs to lift a heavy iron portcullis. The GM decides it is a Legendary feat of Strength to do so without any real effort. Kor has Great Strength, so without some additional factors, he cannot succeed. The GM has also decided time and luck are not factors in this action; someone can either lift the portcullis or not, taking extra time won’t make any difference, and a lucky break isn’t going to help someone lift any better. Since the conditions are a +0 modifier, Kor’s player needs to rely on effort to get the job done. Kor seizes the bottom of the gate and strains with all his might. One level of fatigue is enough for a Superb outcome, not quite enough; the iron gate moves slightly. Kor’s player says he’ll take two levels of fatigue, which pushes the outcome to Legendary. With a roar of triumph, Kor heaves the portcullis up and open.
Picking a Lock
Fast Eddie needs to pick a lock. Fast Eddie is actually Good at Lockpicking, and the GM has determined it requires about a minute and a Good outcome to pick this particular lock. That means, all other factors being equal, if Eddie has a minute, he can pick the lock. No roll (luck factor) required, he just does it.
Now, suppose Fast Eddie doesn’t have a minute to pick the lock. He needs it open now and has to live up to his name. Eddie’s player says he wants to pick the lock quickly. The GM decides that is a -1 Time factor, lowering Eddie’s outcome to only Fair, which won’t be enough (or, in other words, picking the lock fast requires Great Lockpicking, which Eddie doesn’t have). Eddie’s player needs to come up with some positive factors if he’s going to succeed. He asks the GM if Eddie can try harder, really concentrating on getting the lock open. She agrees and says Eddie can suffer a level of fatigue in exchange for a +1 modifier, which is enough to succeed.
Robin is shooting a bow and she is Fair at Archery. If she’s merely target shooting, she achieves a Fair outcome. If she takes twice the normal time to aim, she gets a Good outcome (a +1 modifier). If she’s shooting in the dark (poor conditions, a -1 modifier), the outcome is Mediocre. The GM decides Robin can put additional effort into a shot only if it is carefully aimed (taking extra time as well). She also decides that shooting in combat is always a situation where luck is a factor, since combats tend to be so chaotic. Note, however, this doesn’t apply to an ambush where Robin has time to set up and carefully choose her shot…