Monday, 23 April 2012

Levels in FU

One of the things reasonably often mentioned on the FU Yahoo Group is the problem of "levels", for example can someone be stronger than another "Strong" character? I thought I would lay out the options here, I'm not going to suggest a solution because I don't necessarily think there is one as each can be taken and used in whatever situation they are needed, a bit like golf clubs really.

So there are a number of possible solutions to this (that I have thought of, and probably more than this), a lot of which are not mutually exclusive (there goes the golf club metaphor!) so without further ado:

There is no problem
Simply ignore it for simplicity. One Strong character is equal to another Strong character. This is by far the simplest method but can leave a group feeling cheated.

Add a fixed levelling descriptor
A Jedi Padawan will have less control of The Force than a Jedi Master, at least in theory. These "levelling" descriptors can be of two types, fixed or freeform. A good selection of fixed levels can be stolen/borrowed from Fudge (levelling descriptors stolen from other games are available), these are:


So now you have a Fair Jedi against a Great Jedi, so it is clear which is better, of course whether this warrants one or two Bonus/Penalty dice will have to be determined by the group (my suggestion would be to stick to one, this is quite a healthy bonus in FU).

Add a freeform levelling descriptor
A freeform levelling descriptor would be something like Padawan in the above example, or Apprentice wizard, or Battle-hardened warrior. The good thing about these descriptors is that they add a certain flavour as well as adding a level, the bad thing is that they are less defined, is a Journeyman wizard better or worse than an Accomplished wizard?

Of course you could add a number before or after the descriptor. For me this breaks the purely word-based ruleset, but it is of course a very easy option. Be careful of the very slippery slope this represents however, for example now take the situation of someone trying to force a door, a fairly common occurance in fantasy campaigns. Do you grant a Bonus die for a Strong 2 character? Well, is the door also Strong or Protected in some way, if so does it warrant a number itself? Is it an interior door which is flimsy 1? Or a portcullis 7? Or a jail cell door 4? Suddenly numbers can sprout out anywhere, and that nice little narrative system is not so little or narrative anymore.

It can also leave you hidebound as you concentrate on numbers and not on a FLIMSY door, or an ENORMOUS, IMPOSING and HEAVY portcullis, or a KEYCODE LOCKED and SOLID cell door.

Narrowness rewarded
I've stolen this clean from Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2 (it's possibly in one as well, I don't know!), and that is to reward a narrower descriptor. For example a Warrior faces off against a Swordsman in a duel, now in normal circumstances you would grant/cancel a Bonus die to each, but here the Swordsman is more narrowly defined, clearly he deserves to be rewarded for this narrowness which could be a serious problem in other situations. So in this case I would grant a Bonus die to the Swordsman and the Warrior would get nothing. This in itself isn't necessarily a level, but it does show in certain circumstances where a Bonus is appropriate, and how a player can tailor a character to better represent what they want their character to be good at.

Take things to the extreme
I find taking things to the extreme sometimes shed light on the situation at a lower level, take for example The Hulk against a Bodybuilder, both are trying to lift a car. This could be played in a number of ways, the first is in the campaign's norms. By this I mean if we are playing a supers campaign where a Strong character represents a hulking brute then lifting a car is about normal and no roll is required, the "normal" would be required to take serious Penalty dice or just be incapable of performing the task. Now things get a little trickier if normals take a larger part of the action, or the setting is one in which the supers are more low powered.

In these situations you could do just about any of the above, but the cleanest solution if you are happy with "normal" FU is just to add a simple tag, like Super. So Super Speed grants a bonus over a Fast "normal", and a larger bonus over a "normal" with no Speed related talent. Really this is just a two step fixed descriptor, but in FU is much more required?

Hopefully this has helped, if only to clarify some of the available options.

Until next time Steve


  1. Nice. I appreciate creative solutions to system issues that don't try to solve those issues by breaking the system itself. Good ideas!

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