The game systems that we play tend to shape our thinking about other games, about how systems are constructed, etc. etc. etc.. I’m sure Thomas Khun would be proud of this analogy, if I could piece it together.
I used to design RPGs back in the day. Once you start looking at the underlying systems, they’re quite interesting to break down and analyze, but one of my all-time favorites is FUDGE. And not just because of the food reference.
FUDGE uses, essentially, fuzzy logic to go ahead and determine the outcome of actions. There’s a scale of relative adjectives that it uses to rate … well, just about everything, really, and I’m finding that I’m using it more and more to describe Warcraft.
So here you go:
You assign an adjective to a task or a skill. Let’s say your character is good with a pistol, which represents their average skill over time. You can make a Good shot more often than not.
Fudge uses funny dice – d6s with 2 +s, 2 -s, and 2 blank sides. You roll 4 (or 1 or 6 or 10 or whatever) and tally up the plusses and minuses when adding random chance into an action. You modify the quality of your action accordingly – if you have a net +1, your shot goes from Good to Great. If you get a net -3, it’s a Poor shot.
FUDGE is a great RPG, hugely flexible, but the remarkable thing is that I find that I can describe most other game systems with it.
See, a lot of the mathematical exactness that game systems strive for can yield counterintuitive results. They can also bog players down in too many numbers or rules (Laws of the Night Revised edition, I’m looking at YOU) that take away from the RPG aspect of the game.
So when a game starts going cattywumpus – c.f. Warcraft characters at level 84 – I revert to the FUDGE scale to see what’s going on.
For example, the problem with leveling from 79-80 in Wrath, and then again at 83-84 inf Cataclysm, is that your Superb characters rapidly decline down the scale to Fair, or even Mediocre. Good toons go Poor. Fair toons are Terrible at 84. The scaling is brutal, and only the gear available at level 85 starts bringing characters back up to their former selves.
Going from “I kiled the Lich King!” to “I am having problem handling 4 Dragonmaw Orcs at a time” may be mathematically necessary to handle stat inflation, but it introduces cognitive dissonance and player dissatisfaction. It’s not that the 80-85 leveling is hard, but rather that our characters feel lessened by the experience.
I’m going to refer back to the Fudge Scale a lot, so now you know what I’m babbling about when I trot it out.