Saturday, April 22, 2017


In the mid-90s I got a subscription to Shadis Magazine. From there I ordered FUDGE, and from FUDGE I got SLUG. Looking back on my notes and scribblings from that era, it is very clear that FUDGE and SLUG were huge influences on how I thought about game design. My designs prior to that were hacked up riffs on D&D, Star Frontiers, and perhaps a bit of Bushido. I think it was probably seeing SLUG that planted the seed in my mind that an RPG system can be uber simple and still work.

I never ran SLUG and I kind of didn't love it. The reason was that I craved some kind of metric for deciding just how awesome a PC is. Not just having the player declare it, but having a way of measuring it or giving it a nudge in game. SLUG can do that, of course. The GM can assign modifiers. But there's no inherent way for a SLUG character to have a modifier. Clearly O'Sullivan intended for the characters' descriptions to provide that element. But I've got just enough crunchy bits in my blood that I need a little more.

The Pool is influenced by O'Sullivan's games. He even uses the term "traits", which I tended to use all the time from that point forward.

As an aside, I never ran FUDGE. But owning that game and reading it and understanding that it was open source (I'm not sure what the term was in 1994, but it opened new doors for me) made me want to create content for it. I took my older game idea for a fantasy world called Midaka - up to that point being ran via GURPS - and started fudging it up. But alas I never managed go get a game together.

But by 1995 or so I was running games (infrequently, randomly) using a personal system not unlike SLUG (in spirit). I called it the "ROC System" for a while. This was based on my comic publishing imprint Random Order Creations. The system was this:

1. Describe your character. Use an image if possible. I suggested using art cards, which were all the rage at the time.

2. Write down some traits based on the description and/or image.

3. Distribute 20 points between the traits as you like. All traits need at least 1 point. Each point is expressed as a +1.

4. In play, when a conflict arises you roll 1d20 + your trait vs. some target.

That was the entire system, start to finish. I never developed any sort of crunchy bits from it. No damage or death system. I think I gave players 1-3 points after a solid adventure and they could add them as +1s however they liked. That notions probably came from playing Star Frontiers.

The new game I'm working on uses this rudimentary system as its basic unit, but with some important differences. But I'll get into that later.

Meanwhile, FUDGE or SLUG it up!


SLUG Character Sheet


  1. Man, I haven't thought about FUDGE in forever, much less SLUG! Wonder if I should dig that up and check it out agein.

    FATE, originally a weird and exciting FUDGE variant, kind of stole its thunder. On the upside, you sure can get a lot of nice FUDGE dice since people are making them for FATE these days.

    Looking forward to seeing your future game designs, and art!

    1. I wish I had actually played FUDGE back then. I never got around to it.

  2. I had the privilege of playing a bit of SLUG and Fudge with Steffan O'Sullivan himself when he was attached to my college gaming club. It was pretty clear that SLUG was how he preferred to do roleplaying, and Fudge was kinda a tool built to appease players who wanted to show off action figure accessories. It was a very early and very fortunate lesson on focusing on fun-at-the-table rather than stats-in-the-book.

    1. That's awesome! I love the idea of SLUG, but I crave just a bit more structure. This is the reason The Pool was written as a GM-based RPG with clear rules. I needed/wanted that structure, even when exploring very narrative or freeform ideas.