On Familiar Favourites

At the times when I feel most disconnected from my hobby and find myself drifting, the one thing that lifts me out of the doldrums is to return to some old familiar favourites. The list of these is predictable to anyone who knows me but, at the core, these are games which engage me in thinking about traditional roleplaying.

RuneQuest II is from the depths of my roleplaying history – the first game I owned and the one which catapulted my youthful imagination into Glorantha. The appeal was in large part what my friend Arlen calls, “bonecrunch”: that visceral sense of each blow finding its mark as you play through a combat, with my first taste of hit locations and the idea that wounds would not simply be healed by magic.

But more than this, RuneQuest introduced me to the fantasy without “classes” and in which a hero might learn a multitude of skills. The classic “Battle Magic” opened my eyes to the idea of petty magic in the hands of everyone, taking seriously the idea of a world infused with wonders. The d100-system which was known as “Basic Roleplaying” opened my eyes to the possibilities of roleplaying beyond wargaming.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s, and I discovered FUDGE – then in it’s classic paperback form but shown here in the later 10th Anniversary Edition. FUDGE taught me about alternative ways to think about characterisation and adventure. Honestly, at the time, much of it didn’t resonate with me because I was finding it hard to let go of hard numbers and the idea of game balance. But as the years have gone by, I keep returning to this old game.

FUDGE holds the key to descriptive characterisation. Words instead of numbers increasingly appeal to me because this technique allows me to help the players to remain in the imaginary world. The fact that FUDGE is a toolkit also resonates, encouraging me to design my own version of the game which fits the methods and ideas I want to focus upon. I sense that somewhere in there, lies the key to a warmer and more deeply imagined fantasy. Plus, 4DF is a very nice and stable bell-curve for dice rolls.

There are other classics, of course, but somehow in this particular wave of disconnection and wandering I have found solace in familiar roleplaying forms. I’m not sure quite what it means – if anything – but I am paying attention to the ways in which our roleplaying roots inform our play through deep resonance. It turns out that, at heart, I am a very traditional roleplayer who is seeking to foster increasingly high-trust play, invisible rulebooks to the fore. It’s a curious realisation.

Game on!


  1. I used Fudge many years ago. When I was disatisfied with D&D 4e and was getting bored with 3.5. On reflection I built a system too close to D&D3.5 when I should have been more bold.
    Interestingly, I looked at GURPS 3rd edition at the time but talked myself out of it. Funny how times change. Fudge is even more of a tool kit than GURPS. It’s more akin to Cortex prime, though, again, Fudge is perhaps even more a bank canvas than Cortex. It would be cool to build something unique with Fudge at some point.

    Okay, I’ll stop rambling now.

    Liked by 1 person

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