An Accounting of an Obsession

Current Downloads

The current version of EZFudge is the "Essentials Edition," first published in 2018, corrected in 2021, and updated in 2022. No further updates are expected.

Backstory (or, "Let Me Tell You About My RPG Design")

In summer 1980, I spent most of my chore money on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons hardcovers and dice. It fascinated me, but I never found a group, or a group never found me, or maybe both.

In April 1981, I joined a group playing Metagaming's The Fantasy Trip (TFT). There have been many games since, but TFT fixed in me a lot of ideas about an RPG should be. Mind you, we didn't play TFT by-the-book at all. In our group at that time, RPGs were for free-wheeling action-adventure play. Save the rules for the board game nights.

I saw Fudge not long after it hit the net in 1995. But I didn't understand it then. It was admirable, and the writing was clear. I just didn't see what was in it for me. So it faded to the background.

In 1997, I fell in with the Plainlabel Game System crew, and it became my game obsession of choice for many years. After that was Risus: The Anything RPG. And then I looked at Fudge again, and I got it. Here was a toolkit with which I could build a game that suited how I wanted to play.

The first version of EZFudge, in 2001, was about 2000 words of essay and a character sheet that had all the meaningful rules on it. There followed "expansions" for vehicles, and magic rules, and some setting seeds that could be used for inspiration. Oh, and a conversion for Star Trek, of course. Elsewhere on the web, others were developing spin-offs of Star Frontiers, Gamma World, and other games or worlds using EZFudge as a base. I wish someone had told me that was going on. I missed out.

In 2006, my skills and ambition had grown, along with my understanding that (under the Fudge License) I could use the text of the base book, trimmed down to fit my design frame. So I did that. This was the first version subtitled "Roleplaying Basic Rules." I adapted some of my older material for the new publication style; some I let go by the wayside.

In 2012, I came back to the idea of getting the rules out of the books and onto the table. So the Ultimate Edition was born. Flowcharts and reference sheets became the order of the day, and I adapted the notion of weapon and gear cards from Plainlabel. It was a big bunch of printable playables, and I liked it at the time. Later I came to rue it. It was just too much clutter, too many things to print, too much stuff.(This was the first version under the OGL instead of the Fudge License.)

In 2018, I resolved to clarify and simplify. The references and flowcharts climbed back into the books, and the books were designed for digest-sized pages. I also changed the Fudge Ladder to be more similar to what was being done in Fate Core games and in The Princess Bride Roleplaying Game. And then I made one more alteration. Following the inspiration of Marvel Super Hero Adventure Game, Blue Rose, and others, I determined that only the player makes dice rolls. For my beloved Star Trek setting, I dared to write character sheets for the Original Series crew, character sheets that did not cheat. (I'd long been irked by the sample characters in the licensed games, characters who could not possibly be created by application of the written game rules.)

In 2020 and 2021 I started getting actual feedback on people using EZFudge Essentials. It wasn't bad at first, but then a series of mail exchanges made it clear to me that I'd done the combat rules completely wrong to meet my player-roll goal. So in 2021 I updated the booklet to correct those oversights. Then I found ways to add tactical variety (removed in the stripping to Essentials) again. And put in notes for damage roll options. And then I noticed I had lost a lot of the flavor of Fudge in my mania to simplify down to numbers, so I wrote some notes about that. And then I took a year off, very unhappy with myself for those failures. (I also had botched Spock's sheet.)

In early 2022, I was ready to pull it all back together. I discovered some new (minor) mistakes. I found the tattered edge of the action rules that I'd never properly finished in the 2018 text. Fixing that set off terminology issues across the book, and obliged me to recreate the flowcharts. Lastly, I decided to return to the HTML format. It's Open Content, so I'll leave it to anyone else who is interested to remix it for other delivery modes.

The Final Frontier booklet is unchanged, but I have remastered the character sheets — same data, just new sheet design and a few minor typography corrections. (Why didn't somebody tell me about those flaws sooner? Well, 'cause no one is really looking. Which is why in 2023, I'm calling this done.

Let me close with a note of gratitude. Every time I ran into a design question … how do I do this? … it was only necessary to go back to the 1995 Fudge core book and read closely. That's the amazing potency of what Steffan O'Sullivan and the original Usenet contributors made. So, to Steffan and to Ann Dupuis the current keeper of the flame, if you read this, thank you. It's been great playing with your toys, and I hope I haven't scuffed them up too badly.

Copyright 2022, 2023 W. Robert Portnell. All rights reserved.