Last time I posted about FU I presented a list of stuff I would like to cover in a new edition of the game. I think it was a pretty good list of ideas – new options, clarifications and the like. As I looked over that list, however, I got to thinking about what was optional and, more specifically, how much of the game could be labelled “optional” and what bits were essential.
When I say “essential”, I am not talking about a section on character generation and another on action resolution, etc. What I mean is, what parts make FU the game it is. This is important because it will ultimately influence what parts of the game will be optional and what parts will remain at the core of the game. I don’t want to provide an optional rule that, if engaged, completely changes what FU is. Part of me is acutely aware that FU is so “light”, “generic” and “flexible” (What DO those words really mean? Perhaps a topic for another post!) that any option is going to change the feel of the game, and indeed that is the intent of many options, but I think you are getting where I am coming from – right?
So, I had a bit of a ponder. All games have an action resolution, and many use pools of D6; Fate, The Shadow of Yesterday, PDQ and Lady Blackbird (among others) use descriptive words or phrases to describe character ability; Hot War, Dungeon World and many other games use their equivalent of Drives and Relationships to influence roleplaying and player interaction. What I wanted to know was “what are the quintessential elements of FU?”
It wasn’t really that hard. I came up with the following things that I think are at the core of FU:
- Yes / No / And / But
- Descriptors / Gear / Conditions
- No numbers
- FU points
Yes / No / And / But
This was a no brainer. The success statements are at the very core of FU. They make results instantly understandable while the “and” and “but” component pushes the action into new places. If anything is at the heart of FU, it is this.
As I was writing this I was looking for a succinct and accurate way to sum-up this mechanism and realised I haven’t called it anything. In the rules as they currently stand it is just descriptions under the heading “Success and Failure”. It is not the “Beat the Odds” roll – that’s the actual dice rolling bit. I would like to come up with a term or phrase that sums up this resolution mechanism, in the same way Fate has the “success ladder”. Suggestions?
Descriptors / Gear / Conditions
I have grouped these things all together as they pretty much do the same thing, but come from different “places”. To be honest, I wan’t sure if these should be included in a list of “quintessential FU” as lots of games use elements similar to descriptors (etc). In the end I decided they are an important feature of FU as many of the options I have been contemplating, or that fans have created, play around with the way descriptors / gear / conditions work or are used. While these options and hacks may vary widely, they all utilise the same basic mechanism – if you have something good you get a bonus, and if you have something bad you suffer a penalty.
FU is not completely devoid of numbers, but all the important parts of a character are described with words, not numbers. There are no attributes or skill ranks or saving throws or health points or experience points to track. I think this is a fairly significant feature of FU. I will be giving this further thought, as one of the options I was considering was the use of Hit Points and Stats and now I am not sure if that slides things too far away from the “core”.
Okay, I know I just talked about “no numbers”, but stick with me! 🙂 FU points are quite similar to “drama points” and “Fate points” and devices used in lots and lots of other games, but that does not mean they are not important to the feel of FU. I don’t think I adequately explained in the original rules how much they can be used by the narrator to guide play, let alone all the cool hacks and options that play around with what FU points let players and characters do. FU points let characters be awesome, and they are used to reward playing in a way appropriate to the setting or genre of the game. For that reason I think they are very important to what FU is.
So, those are the four things that I think are at the heart of FU. I will be looking at each of the suggestions, options and examples that I include in the new edition to see how they impact on these elements. I will be watching out for stuff that drags the game too far away from what I think FU “is”.
What do you think? Do you agree with what I have said? Is there some other part of the game you think is quintessential FU? Let me know!
maybe ‘closed question resolution’ or ‘story action roll’? or ‘ask the dice’
Quintessential FU is also the cool name! I appreciate that you haven’t gone over the top with Kung Fu puns or leveraged gratuitous “Fu You!” word play. Just very subtly hanging out like a boss.
Quintessential FU is a cool name – I hadn’t really thought about it as an option! In my head I have been calling it “FU Plus”. I am not intending to make a great play on puns etc. this time around – I had some fun with early hacks, but it is not a feature I will pursuing for the new edition. For new settings I would love to use evocative names that are more reminiscent of novel or film titles, ones that hint at the genre and tone of the setting.
“There are no attributes or skill ranks or saving throws or health points or experience points to track.”
Which basically means the players have to flesh out a way to deal with it.
1) Not dealing with hits means one character can either good, injured or dead. That’s a bit simplistic for efficient roleplay I believe (you don’t play the same a character that’s hit at the shoulder and one that’s hit at the knee)
2) Having 2 opponents, one characterized by “Skilled swordsman” and the other by “Elite swordsman” is very much akin to “Swordsman rank 2” and “Swordsman rank 3”, the second is less litterary and faster to understand, interpret and then easier to put in dice rolls (or in modifiers, which for FU are extra dice).
That shouldn’t be taken as a criticism of FU which I find really well thought-out. But even if the game doesn’t mention ranks or points, the players will have to deal with them in some way, because you need to differenciate the different states your character passes by.
(sorry for the double post)
I think core FU should contain things that are then bound to be used often by the players and would require some agreement if left free-form (and players’ time is better spent roleplaying than agreeing on rules).
This for instance excludes the need for some sort of magic or powers system. First because only some universes need magic, second because it’s easy to devise a simple one for FU
(a spell has a score of difficulty, counting as malus die when rolling to beat the odds and each turn spent “preparing the spell” adding a bonus die) and finally because nobody could ever agree on what a “good magic system” (even for one specific universe) is.
The same goes for a localized damage system, just adding conditions (Injured: Head, Injured: Leg…) with malus dice when attempting an action involving a member with an injury is plenty enough, I have no problem with FU not detailing this part, because devising that on top of FU is straightforward.
But for (another) instance, this includes IMHO a need for further detail on “turn divided competitive actions”, which would form a set of rules that would be used alike for combats, pursuits, etc. So yes, keeping things general & simple is good, as long as it doesn’t imposes limits on roleplaying.
But you’re completely right in not wanting HP/MP/etc: this is an irrealistic and overrated system, I tolerate it in video games but hate it in RPGs. (yet some guidelines in how to deal with the nuances in the overall state of a character are good for roleplay)
Well, that quote is talking about numbers specifically. You are 100% correct that players will have to deal with these concepts in some way. Luckily, all of these things are still dealt with, but in a manner that is not so much about a whole bunch of abstract numbers on a character sheet. Hit points, for instance, are replaced with conditions – I personally feel that “broken arm”, “angry”, “blinded” or “confused” are much more interesting options than just “lost 15 hit points”. Your point is taken, though that these things should be covered in the rules – and they will be! 🙂
I also agree that “skilled swordsman” and “elite swordsman” are simply matters of semantics – what really is the difference between the two? They might as well be defined by “ranks” or whatever. However, the purpose of descriptors is just as much about defining a cool concept or story for your character as it is about describing raw ability, which I think differentiates it from just defining ability level.
Thanks for your feedback – I appreciate it!
Nathan, news about the new edition of FU?
I have been working on it! Actually I have a post half-drafted about what has been going on. The more I write for it the less I realise I need to write for it (if that makes sense). The core of the game is solid and I realised I was adding unnecessary complexity simply for the sake of it. More soon.