Priority Systems

Because Fudge Doesn’t Have Enough Character Creation Options Yet

On the one hand, there is a certain limitation to objective character creation systems with heavy siloing. Everyone getting the same number of attribute points, skill points, gifts/faults, etc. can end up feeling a little repetitive.

On the other hand large scale point-buy systems can be a bit much sometimes. That one resource spent in a lot of different places at a lot of different expense rates can be a bit heavy on the accounting, and lead to analysis paralysis during character creation for some players.

Both are still good systems with a lot of strengths, and I still use both happily. Still, if there’s anything the design of Fudge emphasizes it’s that just because you already have multiple solid options doesn’t mean that you couldn’t have more. Plus, a lot of good people have had a lot of good ideas when working on other systems and it would be a shame to close that well of inspiration.

Enter priority systems.

Priority Systems 101

The basic idea of a priority system is that every character is mechanically represented by several distinct components, and that the importance of these components varies by character. Have a talented but inexperienced youth? They probably have some pretty solid attributes, but their skills are likely lacking. Have a rich, sheltered noble? Social station is often a component on its own, resources another, and they likely have both. Generally these are ranked from most important to least important, often with a letter scale. What each letter means then varies by category.

For Fudge specifically there are a few common points. Attributes, Skills, and Gifts/Faults almost certainly make an appearance. Equipment often shows up in some form or other, varying by genre. Class does as well. In fantasy or space opera games Species might make an appearance. Every game needs its own custom list – and a few examples are provided as a spring board.

Space Opera

Let’s start simple, with a space opera game. The categories are Attributes, Skills, Gifts/Faults, Spaceship; they’re rated A-D. We’ll assume 4 attributes that total a particular number, skills that take a pyramid structure (e.g. 1 great, 2 good, 3 fair, 4 mediocre, default poor), and that gifts/faults can vary in absolute number but that there is a particular value for Gifts-Faults representing the balance. This might look something like this:

AttributesA(+4), B(+2), C(0), D(-2)
SkillsA(Superb Pyramid, Default Mediocre),
B(Great Pyramid, Default Mediocre),
C(Great Pyramid, Default Poor),
D(Good Pyramid, Default Poor)
Gifts/FaultsA(+4), B(+2), C(0), D(-2)
SpaceshipA(Capital Ship), B(Commercial Ship),
C(Personal Ship), D(No Ship)

High Fantasy

Next up we have high fantasy, leaning heavy into archetypes. The categories are Attributes, Skill Packages, Gifts/Faults, Species, Social Class. We’ll assume 6 attributes, skill packages where you select an archetype and it provides a bundle of skills, and gifts/faults that come to a total number. This might look something like this:

AttributesA(+6), B(+3), C(0), D(-3), E(-6)
Skill PackagesA(Sorcerer, Mage-Priest, Chosen One),
B(Hedge Mage, Paladin),
C(Ranger, Warleader, Priest),
D(Warrior, Scout), E(Civilian)
Gifts/FaultsA(+3), B(+2), C(+1), D(0), E(-1)
SpeciesA (Atlantean, Elf, Birdfolk), B (Dwarf, Troll),
C (Human, Orc, Lizardfolk), D (Halfling, Goblin),
E(Curseborn, Slugfolk)
Social ClassA (Baron), B(Knight, Clergy), C(Merchant),
D (Peasant), E (Criminal, Exile)

The Robot Rebellion

This has all been a little too ordinary, so: the robot rebellion. Players all play robots that are in an organized rebellion against their human masters. They have Hardware Attributes, Software Attributes, Programs, Special Components, Chassis, and Rank. We’ll assume 3 hardware attributes, 3 software attributes, programs as a pool of skill points, special components as a number of major and minor components and associated modular component slots, and rank as military rank within a structure that deliberately apes human militaries. The whole thing is intentionally weird and complicated as an example, so:

Hardware AttributesA(+6), B(+4), C(+2), D(0), E(-2) F(-4)
Software AttributesA(+2), B(+1), C(0), D(-1), E(-2), F(-3)
ProgramsA(50 points), B(40 points),
C(32 points), D(26 points),
E(20 points), F(16 points)
Special ComponentsA(3 major), B(2 major, 1 minor),
C(1 major, 2 minor), D(3 minor),
E(2 minor), F(1 minor).
ChassisA(Scale 2, Metal), B(Scale 0, Metal),
C(Scale 0, Plastic), D(Scale -2, Metal),
E(Scale -2, Plastic), F (Scale -6, Plastic)
RankA(Colonel), B(Major), C(Lieutenant),
D(Sergeant), E(Corporal), F(Private)

Concluding Remarks

Priority systems can be a powerful tool, but they also have their downsides. They get unwieldy quickly, meaning that everything that makes it on the list of categories has to be important. They can be finicky, with subtly different categories having major implications for the costs of making certain types of characters; just splitting Gifts/Faults into two doubles the cost of a gift heavy character. They’re also untrodden ground in Fudge, as far as I know – which means there’s no corpus of best practices to draw on. Still, I’m confident that if this gets out in the community the community can do great things with it.

Open Game License v 1.0 Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
Fudge 10th Anniversary Edition Copyright 2005, Grey Ghost Press, Inc.; Authors Steffan O’Sullivan and Ann Dupuis, with additional material by Jonathan Benn, Peter Bonney, Deird’Re Brooks, Reimer Behrends, Don Bisdorf, Carl Cravens, Shawn Garbett, Steven Hammond, Ed Heil, Bernard Hsiung, J.M. “Thijs” Krijger, Sedge Lewis, Shawn Lockard, Gordon McCormick, Kent Matthewson, Peter Mikelsons, Robb Neumann, Anthony Roberson, Andy Skinner, William Stoddard, Stephan Szabo, John Ughrin, Alex Weldon, Duke York, Dmitri Zagidulin
This article Copyright 2019, Knaight Babbitt.
The contents of this document are declared Open Game Content.