Comparison of Fate RPG and Fudge RPG

Fate RPG is a spin off from Fudge RPG. There are distinct similarities but Fate does add some interesting twists. Actually there are several versions of Fate and this comparison will concentrate on Free Fudge as this seems to embody the majority view on Fate 3.0. I’ll mention other variants if it seems relevant to the comparison.

Games Engine

To quote the Fudge RPG site:

Fudge is a rules-light role-playing game engine providing a common set of game mechanics that can be
used to create any role-playing game you desire. Fudge uses a simple word-based system for handling
action and combat resolution, which makes the game fast-paced and easy to play.

The key bit is “a common set of game mechanics that can be used to create any role-playing game you desire”. Fate is also a games engine by this definition although the Fate games engine includes many elements of the Fudge games engine.

Trait Levels = the Ladder

Fudge defines Attributes and Skills in terms of a sequence of seven adjectives, from Terrible to Superb. So a character might be a Great Swordsman and have Terrible Savoire Faire. The levels nominally correspond to numeric values from -3 to +3.

Fate calls this sequence the Ladder. Fate’s ladder uses a different sequence of adjectives from vanilla Fudge. Actually there has been some ability inflation from Fudge to Fate 2 then again to Fate 3 and Fate Core. In Fudge Fair = 0, in Fate 2 Fair = +1 and in Fate 3 Fair = +2. This inflation doesn’t make a difference to the game as the levels are relative; the relevant Skill/Attribute is compared to difficulty, itself defined as a level and perhaps based on the Skill/Attribute of another character, before being resolved.

In 2011 Steffan O’Sullivan, the author of Fudge, introduced Very Good (VG) Fudge, i.e. Fudge with a “Very Good” level inserted between Good and Great.

Number Fudge
VG Fudge
Fate 2
Fate 3 / Fate Core
+8: Legendary
+7: Epic
+6: Legendary Fantastic
+5: Epic Superb
+4: Superb Superb Great
+3: Superb Great Great Good
+2: Great Very Good Good Fair
+1: Good Good Fair Average
0: Fair Fair Average Mediocre
-1: Mediocre Mediocre Mediocre Poor
-2: Poor Poor Poor Terrible
-3 Terrible Terrible
-4 Abysmal

Regardless of the specific ladder in use most characters are Fair at the things they do for a living, like Science for a scientist, and are two levels lower (Mediocre or Poor) at most other things.

Fudge makes the point that the Fudge adjectives are intuitive, i.e. Great is obviously better than Good, etc. Personally I find this breaks down in the Fate 3 ladder. I don’t find the relative quality obvious between Fantastic, Epic or Legendary. They are all good, sure, but it isn’t clear which is better than the others.

Fudge Dice (dF)

A distinctive feature of Fudge is the use of Fudge Dice. These are six-sided dice with two faces having a “-“, two blank, and “two faces with a “+”. A number of these dice are rolled together, usually 4 or “4dF” in Fudge notation, to produce a result from -4 through +4. This result is applied to the appropriate Trait with the goal of matching or surpassing the Difficulty Level of the test.

Fudge Dice

Four Fudge Dice (4dF)

Fate is based on Fudge so, by default, uses 4dF for resolving actions. In both games other dice rolling techniques are allowed (e.g. +1d6-1d6). In fact the Fate people have started to refer to versions of Fate based on mechanisms other than Fudge and presumably in such a version the dice rolling would change. I haven’t seen such a version yet.

Character Creation

Fudge has two character creation methods: Subjective and Objective. In fact there is a spectrum with the player writing everything down about the character at the subjective end to buying traits with points at the objective end.

The different variants of Fate use slightly different Character creation methods but generally Characters are created in phases. For example, in Spirit of the Century, the first of the Fate 3.0 games, characters are created using this process:

  1. Pick a character concept.
  2. Make up a cool pulp name for the character.
  3. Go through the phases (Background, War, Novel, Guest Star I, Guest Star II) in order, picking two aspects each phase.
  4. Assign 15 skills. These form a pyramid with 1 skill at Superb, 2 skills at Great, 3 skills at Good, 4 skills at Fair, and 5 skills at Average.
  5. Select five stunts.

Fudge Attributes

Fudge, like most RPGs, has Attributes to describe intrinsic abilities that are shared by all characters. Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Health; that kind of thing. But in Fudge, being a games engine, the specific attributes used by a particular GM in a particular game/campaign are completely up to the GM.

Unlike games like GURPS, for example, Fudge Attributes do not make a character better at related Skills. Of course it might make sense that a Character with a high Dexterity Attribute also has high Skill in Swordsmanship and/or Acrobatics, that this relationship is left to the player in Fudge.

Fate has done away with Attributes as separate Traits. However the absence of Attributes in Fate is more apparent than real. If a Fate trait needs levels then it is a Skill, so in Fate some Fudge Attributes have merely become Skills. For example, the Strength Attribute becomes the Might skill in Fate; similarly the Perception Attribute becomes the Alertness skill; Dexterity becomes the Athletics skill; and Health becomes the Endurance skill.

Some Attributes won’t need a level and are candidates for Fate Aspects. You’d only take an Aspect for exceptionally good or bad scores. Aspects allow a player to choose to spend Fate points to gain a temporary bonus in a relevant situation. A player may choose, for example, to take an Aspect in Brawny (or Muscle Man or Wiry Strength).

Strands of Fate, one of the Fate 3.0 variants, re-introduced Attributes. In fact there are 12 Attributes in Strands of Fate.


In Fate anything measured on the ladder is a Skill. So that includes Fudge Skills but also those Fudge Attributes that weren’t turned into Aspects.

Fudge Gifts

Fudge Gifts are beneficial traits that don’t have a level. They become Fate Aspects.

Fudge Faults

Fudge Faults are detrimental traits that don’t have a level. They also become Fate Aspects. That is the thing Fate Aspects are both beneficial and problematic.

Fate Aspects

Fate introduced Aspects, a concept that doesn’t appear in Fudge. Aspects paint a picture of who the character is, what he’s connected to, and what’s important to him. This is in contrast to skills that define what the character can do. Aspects are descriptive and have no numerical rating. They can describe relationships, beliefs, catchphrases, aptitudes, life events, items or pretty much anything else.

Fate emphasises the story, so a good Aspect would be one that is both beneficial and causes inconvenience. Put another way, Aspects in Fate are similar to both Gifts and Faults in Fudge. Bear in mind that a beneficial Aspect (like a Gift) also has the potential for causing trouble; simarly a general bad Aspect (like a Fault) might be used for benefit.

To get a benefit from an Aspect a character must spend a Fate point. If the Aspect is relevant to a die roll and/or situation a player can spend a Fate point and:

  • add +2 to the total of the related dice roll
  • re-roll the dice again, taking the new result
  • Make a significant declaration

Fate Stunts

Fate also introduced Stunts. Stunts allow the usual rules about Skills to be bent or broken. Unlike an Aspect you (usually) don’t need to spend Fate points to benefit from the trait. A Stunt might allow a character to:

  • add +2 to the total of the related dice roll when a Skill used in a specific way
  • use a Skill in a broader array of situations
  • substitute a Skill for another Skill
  • use a Skill in a complementary fashion to another Skill

Fudge Points and Fate Points

Fudge points let a player fudge a game result. Players gain Fudge points at the start of each session or in lieu of experience points. Spending a Fudge point could, at the discretion of the GM, allow the player to:

  • Automatically succeeding an Unopposed action with panache
  • Score an automatic +4 result on an Opposed action, without having to roll the dice
  • Alter any single die roll one level, up or down, after the die has been rolled
  • Make a declaration, for example:
    • that wounds aren’t as bad as they first looked
    • ensure a favourable coincidence (this might cost more than one Fudge point)

Fate formalises and extends this concept and renames them to Fate Points. Fate points are refreshed at the start of a gaming session as a set rate; this depends on the particular version of fate and/or the character. Players can also earn a Fate point if one of their Aspects causes them trouble (in Fate this is phrased as “Compel an Aspect”). Conversely a player can spend a Fate Point to:

  • “Gain a Bonus”: Add +1 to the total of any die roll
  • “Power a Stunt”: Fuel a particularly powerful Stunt
  • “Invoke an Aspect” on their character sheet or “Tag an Aspect” of someone or something else: Where an Aspect is relevant to a die roll:
    • reroll the die roll or
    • add +2 to the total of a die roll (after any rerolls)
  • Make a minor declaration or, where an Aspect is relevant to the declaration, make a more significant declaration

The following table shows the same uses of a Fate point but highlights whether or not it is related to an aspect.

Fate points Aspect
Unrelated Related
Affecting Die roll “Gain a Bonus”: Add +1 to the total of any die roll “Invoke an Aspect” on their character sheet or “Tag an Aspect” of someone or something else: Where an Aspect is relevant to a die roll:

  • reroll the die roll or
  • add +2 to the total of a die roll (after any rerolls)
Declaration Make a minor declaration Make a more significant declaration
Stunt “Power a Stunt”: Fuel a particularly powerful Stunt  

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