FU-20 is an experiment. I have played around with a bunch different resolution mechanisms over the last twelve months and using a d20 was one of them. I even went so far as to draft another iteration of FU with rules taking advantage of the twenty-sided die. What follows is based on my original work with FU, but presents a significant departure in terms of character creation and action resolution. The intent is to present a set of rules that captures the heart of classic FU, but both simplify and clarify game play. Familiarity with the classic rules will probably help to make sense of some of this.
NOTE: This is not the second edition of FU – just another interpretation and way to enjoy the game! These rules are incomplete, but there is enough her for any fan to play games.
The core of FU works the same – characters are described with words that define what makes them unique and interesting. In fact, everything that has the potential to impact on a given situation has these descriptors which we call TAGS. When a tag works in a character’s favour it provides ADVANTAGE and when it works against whatever the character is trying to accomplish it creates DISADVANTAGE. We write advantage and disadvantage in shorthand as [+] and [-].
When a character attempts an action where the outcome has the potential to be interesting, whether they succeed or fail, a die roll is made (no fancy name for it here, though I’m open to suggestions). The player rolls a D20 and adds +1 for every advantage they have and subtracts -1 for every disadvantage influencing their chance of success. The final result is compared to the OUTCOME CHART.
Natural 1’s and 20’s
No result is impossible, no matter the odds. If a die rolls an unmodified “1” the result is “No, and…”, even if modifiers would improve the result to something else. Likewise, if the die roll is a “20” the result will be “Yes, and…” even if modifiers could make the result worse.
Some rules and situations allow a player to re-roll a die. In these instances you literally pick up the die in question and re-roll it. The new result stands, even if it is worse than the original roll. A die can be re-rolled as many times as a rule or situation allows.
Conflicts are situations where a character attempts to overcome an enemy, obstacle or threat that might potentially do the character harm. When a roll is made to resolve a dangerous or risky action the loser of the conflict loses one point of Stress. When a character, opponent or obstacle has no stress left it is defeated or overcome. See this article on conflict and stress for more ideas.
|1-5||No, and…||The action fails and…
the character suffers a condition OR
a mostly negative detail is added to the scene OR
an enemy gains an opportunity
|6-10||No, but…||The action fails but…
a target suffers a condition OR
|11-15||Yes, but…||The action succeeds but…
the character suffers a condition OR
a mostly negative detail is added to the scene OR
|16-20||Yes, and…||The action succeeds and…
the target suffers a condition OR
Character/Target suffers a condition: apply a temporary condition tag to the character/target.
Detail is added to the scene: a tag is applied to the scene. Anyone can use a tag to modify a roll (if it is relevant to the action being attempted). Positive details will probably provide some bonus to player actions while negative details will be a hindrance or create some new obstacle to overcome.
Gain an opportunity: this is an opening to take an action. Unlike a condition or detail that can modify a roll, an opportunity is permission to take an action. If an enemy gains an opportunity they will probably attempt to hurt the character(s), escape, or change the situation to their benefit. This usually means the character(s) has to act to stop the enemy. If a character gains an opportunity, the scene has changed in some way that opens up new options.
Each player portrays an interesting and dynamic character with which to participate in the fiction. A character is made up of a number of “parts” that help you tell their story and participate in the game play.
Each character consists of a CONCEPT, TALENT, DRIVE, TRADEMARKS, FLAW, and STRESS.
Who and/or what is your character? Consider their background, occupation, physical or mental attributes or other notable features.
Write your concept as a statement:
I am adjective noun.
For example, I am a brave knight; I am a swashbuckling pirate; I am a beautiful assassin.
- Both the adjective and the noun are tags. When either one is helpful or a hindrance, apply [+] or [-] to your roll. If both are relevant, they both may modify the roll.
Brad’s Swashbuckling Pirate attempts to swing from a chandelier. Brad and the narrator agree that “swashbuckling” will grant [+] but “pirate” provides no significant advantage.
What amazing ability, unique talent or incredible skill does your character possess? A trademark is something that not everyone can do. It can be an amazing ability, or a supernatural power but is always innate.
Write your talent as a statement:
I can verb.
For example, I can fly; I can please a crowd like nobody else; I can control weather magic; I can run faster than most people; I can see in the dark; I can disguise myself as anyone; I can buy whatever I want; I can cleave my enemies in twain; I can disappear in a crowd; I can hit a target from a thousand yards.
- You may attempt things related to your talent, even if others cannot. The narrator may decide you automatically succeed, or it may require a roll.
- A talent is a tag.
- When you take an action and your talent is an advantage, you may spend a drama point and roll two dice. Keep the highest roll.
Varran is a Wise Wizard with the talent “I can control fire magic”. During an adventure Varran decides to hurl a fireball at an ogre. The narrator agrees this is well within the realm of the talent, and asks for a roll to see if the wizard is successful. He will get [+] because of the concept “wizard”, and another [+] because of the talent, and he decides to improve his chances even further by spending a drama point to roll 2d20!
What pushes your character to take action? What caused them to leave the comfort of their own home in search of adventure?
Write your drive as a statement:
I will verb.
For example, I will stop Warlord Drakoff; I will discover the lost island of Atlantis; I will prove to Father I am worthy of his kingdom; I will protect the weak.
- When you take action in pursuit of your drive apply [+] to your roll.
- When you take an action in pursuit of your drive and it causes you or an ally significant trouble, take +1 Drama Point or +1 XP.
What assets or advantages does your character have? They might be skills, affiliations, or natural talents.
Write four trademarks for your character.
Trademarks are always a single adjective, or adjective noun.
For example, athletic, clever, giant axe, perceptive, stealthy, trusty sidekick, witty.
- Each trademark is a tag. When relevant a trademark will provide [+] to dice rolls. In some situations a trademark may apply [-].
Focus: A focus is a very specific ability or talent related to a trademark. It is a specialisation indicating particular skill, knowledge or power related to a narrow focus of the trademark. A focus will be recorded in brackets after a trademark, such as athletic (jumping), or stealthy (hiding). A trademark can have any number of focus.
- Each focus is a tag. If you gain [+] from a trademark and also have a relevant focus, take an additional [+].
- If multiple focuses from a trademark are relevant they may all provide a [+].
Tennessee Smith dodges a pile of boulders. He is Nimble (dodging, quick) so gets [+] for the trademark and [+][+] because the narrator decides both dodging and quick focuses are relevant.
Option: Players may “pre populate” their trademarks with 1-6 focus. These focus begin “locked” and do not count as tags. They instead provide both the player and narrator with an indicator of the scope of a trademark. This is particularly useful for unusual trademarks or when playing with a new group of people. Locked focus may be “unlocked” in character generation and through advancement. See this article on trademarks for more information.
What trouble, weakness or difficulty does your character struggle to deal with? What makes their life harder? A flaw describes an interesting personality traits or physical feature that causes more problems than it solves.
Write one flaw. Make it short, clear and evocative.
For example, afraid of snakes, anger issues, hideously deformed, kleptomaniac, overweight.
- A flaw is a tag. When an action is influenced by a character’s flaw apply [+] or [-] as relevant.
- When a flaw applies [-] to a roll, take +1 Drama Point or +1 XP.
Stress defines a character’s raw potential to resist the dangers that they will face. It determines when a character is removed from a scene, so are a “life” or “plot immunity” track. See this article on conflicts and stress for more information.
Drama points are an abstract representation of a character’s luck and general power over the narrative. They were previously called FU Points.
- Spend a drama point before a roll to add [+].
- Spend a drama point after a roll to re-roll a die. If you have rolled two dice (due to a trademark, for example), you choose which dice to re-roll.
The basics of character creation remain the same as classic FU – you discuss the setting and potential stories you wish to tell. Use this discussion as inspiration for your character.
With a clear idea for you character:
- Write your character concept.
- Write your talent (optional).
- Write your drive.
- Write 4 trademarks.
- Write 1 flaw.
- You begin with 3 stress boxes.
- Apply 3 advances.
Now is an appropriate enough time to talk about character advancement. At the end of a game session players should allocate a short period for bookkeeping and the allocation of experience points.
Experience points (XP) are earned for bringing character drives and flaws into play, and exploring the world. They in turn are used to buy advances that improve a character.
A character can choose to take +1 XP when their drive causes trouble, or they suffer [-] from a flaw.
In addition, a character might earn experience points at the end of a session for the following:
- +1 XP if the character resolved their drive (“completed” it). Remove the drive from the character sheet and write a new one.
- +1 XP if the group learnt something particularly important about the setting and/or their mission.
- +1 XP if the group achieved a major objective (such as completing a mission / adventure)
Total up your XP for the session.
Option: A narrator might choose to award XP for other things too. It is recommended that this is discussed and written down before play to encourage players to take specific actions or act in a particular style.
Players spend experience points on advances. 5XP buys one advance.
- Add a focus to a trademark that you used recently. (At character creation you may create any relevant focus, or “unlock” one if you are using that option.)
- Add a new trademark based on something you learned, did or experienced in the recent past. (At character creation your new trademark may be anything you choose.)
- Increase your maximum stress by one point.
- Add a new talent that is closely tied to some action you have taken or experience you have had. (At character creation your new talent may be anything the narrator agrees to.)
Players do not have to spend XP immediately. It is also totally okay to spend saved XP during a session to suddenly reveal a new edge, focus or trademark – it’s kind of like in movies when the character is in a tough spot and has a moment of clarity, remembering their master’s words, a trick they saw someone else do, or finally just “getting” how to do something. While revealing a new tag or trademark mid-game is fine, it is generally not cool to boost your stress with XP mid session unless you can provide a really good story reason.
In A Nutshell
That’s my take on FU with a d20. There is a lot in here I really like, and some stuff I have already thrown out and moved on from. But it all works, provides a solid frame to build on and play with.
What do you think? What do you love, hate and want to steal for your own games? Comment below!
I wanna say I like a lot of this. Or, really, I like all of this.
The die mechanic I’m slightly iffy on because d20 has a very wide spread and a +1 on it is really quite small, and it seems like it might be hard to get modifiers on it (so they feel mildly “yeah sure, ok”), but it might be totally fine in play!
My primary reason for commenting is: What stuff have you thrown out and moved on from, and why?
Good question! At this point nothing has been 100% thrown out, primarily because my playtest opportunities have been very scarce. Instead, what has been happening is in my spare time I come up with different ideas and play around with them myself. That is why so many dice systems have been written about!
I also think that a lot of the stuff I have so-far shared works for some styles of play, and not others. This has all been a bit of a wishy-washy answer though…
* Some of my earlier dice system suggestions are out. I like the simplicity of a single die +/- modifiers, and I like the premise of the Vagrant Workshop system as it still feels a lot like classic FU. I need to playtest both of these more.
The things I personally like are:
* Only 4 results (Yes and, Yes but, No but, No and)
* Clear chart for action outcomes
* The trademarks and meta-tags (I’m calling them “focuses” in my head)
* Concepts written as “I am adjective noun” and drives as “I will…”
Things I am still not happy with:
* Combat. FU works for narrative stuff, but if you want anything crunchier it is still quite nebulous. The stress stuff I’ve written about addresses this in a very generic way but I, personally, am not yet happy with it.
* FU point – what can you do with them that is more interesting than a +1 modifier? I think this will be dependent on the kind of game you are playing, so they need to be flexible.
Thanks for the great question!
I’ve been looking for a rules light system for solo dungeon crawling. I compare fu-20 with Scrawl (solo crawl) and Dungeonpunk.
Magic is too freeform. I like the chaotic generation of spells in Maze Rats and the use of Will points (like stress but for magic)
Yes, magic is still very freeform. I have a personal fear of spell lists after too many years of DnD! ? But there is definitely room to expand. I haven’t heard of Maze Rats – I am going to investigate!
Another possibility is completely unhooking the core of FU (Questions.) and creating a story die. A six sider that just has two “and”, two “but”, and two blank or “no effect” sides. (Nail polish can easily modify a dice this way if you don’t have stickers.) All you would have to remember is that an “and” result makes things slightly “more” (More positive or more negative.) and a “but” result makes things slightly “less”. (Less positive or negative.)
This has power. By creating a story die with little to no mechanical effect(A “and” or “but” result might lead to a mechanical effect, but by themselves wouldn’t.) you create a portable die. Something that can be used in ANY rpg that uses mechanical systems for outcome determination (90% of them.) without changing that rpg’s mechanics in any way.
Examples- D&D 5th edition. It uses two D20s. But you can easily slip in this “story” die without changing the mechanics in any way. Shadowrun- same thing. Plus, in game systems that have stats/mechanics that allow the players to modify rolls, get rid of that and just let them describe just for the action what the “and” or “but” result is, but at the regular cost of that stat. (ex.- Shadowrun- karma.) As long as it’s something that the GM/DM/group agrees to, as long as it advances the story, or at least makes it interesting, then go for it.
Another. In some of your posts Nathan about alternate FU systems, you’ve suggested various dice that act as modifiers. Dice pools and Fate related modifiers. This “story” die could be used instead to reduce the number of dice and still get results that are both random but also interesting. The “and” and “but” don’t add or subtract anything mechanically, but the alterations that they have on the story, those can create mechanical effects. (Example, someone misses a shot AND drops their gun. Now they have to spend time getting it back. Or the fighter stabs the orc AND stuns the orc from pain. The mech pilot fires their missiles for a direct hit BUT the damage isn’t that bad because it glanced off the armour. The investigator casting the spell to fend off the elder god fumbles it BUT they don’t go mad, this time.)
Meh. Just a crazy idea. Fell free to ignore me while I go sit in the corner. 🙂
This is a great idea. I particularly like the idea of using it with systems that traditionally have a binary pass/fail resolution. Great stuff!
Your idea is amazing!
I want to try this!!!
“A six sider that just has two ‘and’, two ‘but’, and two blank or ‘no effect’ sides.”
That is very close to a Fudge/Fate die: two pluses, two minuses, two blanks
I am really loving all of the posts here and this FU-20 is pretty close to what I feel that I need in my game currently. My group is playing a procedural campaign that focuses on a group of specialists completing various missions from week to week. So we keep the same characters and then plug in a slightly different variant of the FU RPG rules each week.
In play, I found the +1 per advantage to be a little…..umm….insignificant…. for my liking, so here is what I may try next time. 🙂
Exactly as you had written, except that… After cancelling out all advantages and disadvantages, roll +1d3 or -1d3 per remaining advantage/disadvantage and add that to the total of the d20 roll.
This might make advantages/disadvantages a bit more significant, or it may throw off the balance completely. I’ll let you know, haha. I’m FAR from a game designer, I just like to tinker.
I’m pleased to hear you are enjoying the articles! An alternative to adding a +d3 would be to use a smaller die than a d20, or a bigger modifier (maybe +2 per bonus).
A couple of people have said the +1 bonus doesn’t feel significant, and my gut feeling is to swap the d20 for a d12 or even a d8. But probably a d12.
Ran a game using a D12 and +1/-1 per advantage/disadvantage. We found that it worked pretty well, actually. The only thing that makes me cautious of this type of approach is that, sometimes, the adding and subtracting of bonuses reminds me of a certain other d20 using game that I have specifically moved away from in favour of more narrative games. This may just be a personal bias….only time will tell.
I would really like to use a die-hard type mechanic because I love the feeling of a mitt full of polyhedrals. But a die-hard based game proves to be a bit “fiddly” for playing on roll20.
TL:DR- Played using a D12 and bonuses and it worked well.
Great to hear. Did you just use the 4 outcomes (Yes and, Yes but, No but, No and)? I ask, as it is also possible to go back the classic six results on a d12. My personal preference is the four, but was just wondering.
The one die vs handful of dice debate is a tough one. I can’t decide which I prefer, either! I love a good handful of dice, but rolling a single die is very quick. I’m going to need to play some more games with both options.
Oh no, I have to play games! ?
We used the standard 6, but next game we are going to switch to just the 4 answers.
The dice pool vs single dice debate, for me, boils down to usability in online circumstances. I find rolling groups of dice cumbersome in an online roller (but that might just be me). When you are working on FU-2, it might be an idea to include a single die mechanic as an alternative in a sidebar or something for people who play online. 🙂
This is good feedback. I don’t play online, so it is not something I would normally consider.
I wonder how using 2D10 in lieu of 1D20 would play out in actual game play? The change up would make each tag carry more weight given the addition of a mild probability curve.
Conversely, in situations where dice are pooled to take the best (or worst) result, the swing wouldn’t be as chaotic. ex: 3d10 take the 2 best vs 2d20 take best.
Anyways, just noodling about. Just ran across your excellent site. I’m a huge fan of both PbtA and FUDGE so stumbling across FU has been a really pleasant surprise.
Interesting I really like this version of FU
But I miss Relationship and Gear
Can’t wait to see new version of your great work
I find this extremely inspiring! But also raising a lot of questions:
1. Organizational question: is posting the same questions here and on your Facebook group (The FU Guru) acceptable? I would like to do it in hope of getting more answers from different people but I don’t want to appear like some bot 😉
2. What are the reasons behind the removal of “Yes” and “No” results and leaving only 4 results instead of 6? Aren’t you afraid that 4 results will bring more repeatability in the game than 6?
3. Do you recommend using d20 or d12 as a basic dice? I prefer rolls with just one dice (that’s one of the reasons why I prefer the idea of FU-20 over original rules), but I am not sure which one will get better results. I guess that my players will prefer d12, as with this dice their trademarks will have stronger influence on the result, but I haven’t discussed it with them yet.
4. A question to this “When a flaw applies [-] to a roll, take +1 Drama Point or +1 XP”. Who should choose if it is Drama Point or XP? And more important, does this reward apply regardless if the roll fails or succeeds?
5. Are there any ways of gaining Drama Points other than this mentioned above? How many of them should player have at the beginning of the game? Is there any “refresh”, like in Fate (where each player gets a number of Fate Points at the beginning of the session and any surplus from previous sessions)?
6. Are you sure that using a Talent to roll two dice should cost Drama Point as in “When you take an action and your talent is an advantage, you may spend a drama point and roll two dice.”? In my opinion, that renders Talent almost to being just a Trademark – in every situation player can spend Drama Point and reroll.
7. What approach to travel do you prefer? Suppose that PC is a Renaissance nobleman and he needs to get from Florence to Milan:
Option A: Game Master simply describes the player what he sees along the way (forests, mountains, villages) and occasionally arranges random or prepared meetings and events (bandits, merchants, wolves etc.) – like in most other RPGs.
Option B: Game Master announces that getting to Milan is a challenge that requires 3 successes. The player must then ask three times, “Have I managed to get closer to Milan?” Any kind of “Yes” answer means that the player has managed to overcome a significant part of the route, e.g. after his first success he reached Bologna, after the second he reached Parma, and after the third he is already in Milan. Any kind of “No” answer means that for some reason (e.g. an avalanche in the mountains blocked the road through the pass) he did not manage to beat a significant part of the route (in this case PC travels a very short distance, e.g. 3% of the route instead of 33% like in case of success). Of course, the failures in the tests do not mean that the player will not reach Milan, but rather that the road was not easy and there were a lot of obstacles and adventures.
1. Post away on Facebook!
2. Two reasons. First, 6 doesn’t go into a D8 or D20 as easily as 4! 😀 The second reason is that some people feel the straight “Yes” and “No” answers are the least interesting results. I think it depends on the type of game you are playing and personal preference about whether there should be some “average” result (though keeping in mind every result on a d6 has the same chance, there really is no “average” or typical result). I don’t think there is any concern about repeatability as every die roll will be made for a different reason.
3. Personally, between a d12 and a d20, I like the d12. It gives more weight to each descriptor and the d12 just doesn’t get enough love!
4. The player should always choose. And yes, this should be no matter whether the roll succeeds or fails. They are bringing their flaw into play (for better or for worse), so should be rewarded for that.
5. Treat Drama Points like FU points – the narrator should be giving them out as a reward (or if you want to use the “bowl” method, let other players hand them out when they see something cool happen). They do not refresh like Fate points – you need to earn them.
6. Remember, the talent is a “tag” so works exactly like a trademark already, but in some area that is extraordinary (i.e. you couldn’t normally have a trademark in). The 2 dice is an added bonus. Spending a drama point on a trademark essentially gives you a +1 to the roll, but spending a drama point on the talent lets you roll 2 dice and pick the best result. If you spend a drama point to re-roll a die, you must accept the second result which is not as good as rolling two and choosing which to keep.
7. Most of the time I personally prefer to avoid random encounters in preference to getting to wherever the “adventure” is, so I would be leaning toward option A. However, if travel / long distances / the journey itself is an important feature of your setting, or something your players enjoy, I might roll. I would probably only roll once, asking something like “Do we get to Milan before the coronation?” or “Do we get to Milan without incident?”… Now that I am writing, though, you could break the journey into “sections”, like “The mountain pass”, “The bandit-infested highway” and “The Dread Swamp” and ask a question at each point (“Do we travel the highway without being robbed by bandits?”).
Thanks for all the time you put into this. I have only played a super basic version of DnD once and and will soon play my first game as a dungeon master in my own world with I think your basic rules.
I have a feeling that players wear a bit too much plot armor. Dying is no fun, but if you can’t, I’m afraid it might lose a sense of ‘game’.
But none of us, or at least not many of us, who use this system want to write down HP and Damage on a statistic sheet, I reckon. I quite like the ‘realism’ of killing foes in one hit, or being killed in one hit. I quite like ‘toughness’ of 2 per fight.
So I’m theorising a risk/reward scenario using a FU Points/Dice as currency for using cool skills, with the risk that if you fail, the failure will be much harder.
Let’s say everyone starts with 3 FU points. This also means 3HP. This also means that, if you’re up against a strong foe, you can choose to use your FU points to better your chances of succes. Using 2 dice instead of one has more chance of succes. But failure is also more scary as you will lose the FU point you’ve added: 1 life.
If you don’t use a FU point you won’t lose a life but you lose one toughness.
I suppose all the modifiers still apply?
And I suppose if a player uses toughness… it’s death? Knocked Out? I don’t know. How do penalties in games like this usually work?