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!