Zludge Roleplaying Game System, v1.0α

Built for my City9 campaign, Zludge is meant to focus gameplay more on the story than rules and combat. (Ideally, enough so that it can be played in the car during a long road trip.) It is a particular instantiation/combination of FATE and its source material Fudge, with a few ideas from D&D (d20) and mechanics from GURPS thrown in. The system relies on a high granularity to avoid bogging down in rule particulars.

The name can be pronounced either "zludge" or "sludge" (as per the muddy mixture). It is spelled with a Z as a nod to its creator (me) and to produce a distinctive name should anyone search for it.

Status: Version 1.0 Alpha. The system is essentially complete, but has still not been playtested.



Use 4dF, where an F (Fudge) die has 2 "+" sides, 2 "0" sides, and 2 "-" sides.


Nearly every roll in Zludge is a skill roll. The result shows how well the character performed at the task. These adjectives can be used instead of numbers to describe both skill level and task performance.

ValueChance of rolling this modifierAbility/Performance AdjectiveChance of Achieving this Level of Success with +0 (Fair) modifier
+120%Decent (Satisfactory)38%
+024%Fair (Average, Adequate)62%
-120%Poor (Unsatisfactory)82%

Tests and Contests

A test is when the player is attempting to achieve something unopposed by another character. Apply their skill modifier (see below) and the difficulty modifier (see below) to the roll, and the result translates into their performance (see above). Any less than 0 is some sort of failure, though the degree may vary. Success by +4 or more (superb performance) is akin to a critical success; failure by -4 or more (abysmal performance) is like a critical failure.

"Take 0": If the character is not stressed, rushed, or otherwise under pressure and if there is no consequence of not getting it absolutely right on the first try, a character can skip rolling and assume a roll result of "0".

Contests are between two or more characters. In a simple contest, compare the two ability scores, and the higher one wins. (So there is no roll involved--it's as if both participants are "Taking 0".) If the scores are the same, treat instead as a regular contest.

In a regular contest, each participant makes the appropriate skill roll. If there is a tie, roll again.

If a player must roll the dice for a particular test or contest, it is called a roll. If the player may either roll or "Take 0" for a test or contest, it is called a check. For example, most combat skills require skill rolls rather than skill checks.

Task Difficulty

The following chart shows the different approximate levels of task difficulty and the modifier associated with each.

Difficulty ModifierTask Difficulty AdjectiveSkill Level that could handle the Task on a roll of 0Examples
-4ImprobableSuperbSuch skill as to expand the very nature of the task/field: developing a new field of research or art style, composing a masterpiece
-3StaggeringGreatOnly a few people in the world undertake such tasks: organ transplant, climbing Everest, soloing for the NYC symphony, tightrope-walking across the Grand Canyon
-2DauntingGoodNot even professionals run into these challenges very often: flying a fighter jet, open-heart surgery, cooking for a high-class restaurant, designing a building, surviving a week in the desert
-1DifficultDecentRarely possible without some sort of training, or at least preparation: rebuilding a car engine, simple surgery, building a house, flying a small airplane
+0SimpleFairA challenge to the average person, but easy/routine to a practioner: parallel parking, obscure research, playing an instrument in a marching band, performing CPR, splinting a broken arm, sewing a dress, tracking or skinning an animal
+1MundanePoorEveryday tasks difficult enough to be interesting but not challenging: driving in the rain, basic research, climbing a rope, treating a cut finger, following a recipe, quickly loading a gun, making a campfire, hitting a large ball with a bat
+2NegligibleBadTasks that should not require a roll (unless perhaps under great stress): starting a car, climbing a ladder, pounding a nail, getting into a pool, microwaving popcorn, hitting a street sign with stick

Character Creation


First, before worrying about the rules, sketch out your character in plain English. Consider his or her history, personality, and notable abilities. Then, once you have a firm idea of what you want the character to be, look at how you can build a skeleton of this character using the following traits.


Attributes are a character's inborn potential in certain broad areas of performance. Everyone starts off with a +0 (Fair) on all attributes. You may raise one attribute by lowering another. You may not raise an attribute above +1 (Decent) or lower it below -1 (Poor). Your attribute modifier stacks with your skill modifier for skills based on that attribute. The specific attributes available depend on the particular world/GM (see Skills).

In a high-powered campaign, the GM may specify a number of free +1 bonuses that can be applied to attributes at character creation.

Phases: Aspects, Hooks, and Quirks

A phase represent a segment of your character's past. You can think of them as something like "levels" in other systems. Every phase gives a character 1 aspect and 4 skill points (also called ranks; see below) to spend.

Aspects summarize your experiences for a particular phase--sort of like a job title or chapter heading. Examples: "Student of Shadow WuShu", "Star Ranger", "Priest of Slon-Da".

Whenever you make a roll that you can argue relates to your experience, you can invoke the aspect. Each aspect includes a single check box, which you check off when you invoke it. Skills you took for that aspect's phase always apply, but you may be able to invoke the aspect for other skill rolls as well. When you invoke an aspect for a particular roll (either before or after the roll), you can either:

Aspects refresh once per game-world day (usually after your character has had a good night's rest).

When describing your phases, you can also include various hooks and quirks. Hooks provide potential story material, such as past events, relationships, and character goals. If associated with an aspect, they can be invoked by checking off that aspect. This is good for Allies, Patrons, Contacts, etc. (Also see Extras for another way to model these.) Examples: "was at the massacre of Pikk5", "still knows a couple people in the Brotherhood of Miracles", "used to date the daughter of the Network's CEO", "has a price on his head in Regulus system".

Quirks are minor personality traits. They provide color and roleplaying material but do not have a strong enough game effect to be worth points. Includes beliefs, likes and dislikes, habits, etc. Example: "can't pass up a free meal", "tends to be cruel to animals", "hates to leave a foe standing", "is always polite and chivalrous to women".

When the GM uses one of your plot hooks and when you consistently roleplay your quirks, it earns you plot points.

You may also want to include a description of your character, and his current goals (at least what aspect he or she is working towards next).

Example Phase: "Star Ranger".
Skills: Driving, Ranged Weapons, Melee Weapons, Area Knowledge: Regulus.
I spent 3 years as a Regulus Ranger. I was involved in the Pikk5 massacre (hook), and I now tend to give any Pikkian the benefit of the doubt (quirk). I had a falling out with the Rangers, and have a poor reputation with most of them now (hook), though I still have a couple friends I could call on in a pinch (hook).

This player could invoke this "Star Ranger" aspect on any roll for the four skills above, but also for other aspect-related rolls--such as a Survival check in a cold environment (like that of icy Pikk5) or on an Intimidate check when the player is in a position of authority (such as a cop or Ranger might have regularly had over a civilian or underling). The player could also invoke the aspect to introduce a related hook or story effect (subject to GM approval; see Plot Points). For instance, if captured and imprisoned, he might be able to call on one of his old Ranger buddies for help.


Skill rolls form the bulk of Zludge, as nearly every roll is some sort of test or contest based on a skill. Skills are relatively broad categories, though a player can specialize in a sub-skill. Skills and attributes should be customized based on the particular GM and campaign world so that they get relatively equal use. For example, in a combat-heavy world, there should be more than 3 or 4 combat skills.

As mentioned, each skill is associated with an attribute. There can be any number of attributes--though 2 to 10 is generally good, and 4 to 6 is most common. The number of skills required depends on the intended max level of characters. For example, 20th level characters require about 40 different skills in order to maintain their skill pyramids (see below).

By way of example, the following skills are for City9, which is an isolated, dystopian, sci-fi/cyberpunk-like setting with only a light focus on combat. Attributes include: Fortitude, Grace, Perception, Knowledge, Applied, and Social. Within each skill description, various sub-skills (usually about 4) can be discerned. Sometimes aspects of the skill are "advanced", meaning such attempts are at least of Difficult (-1) difficulty.

A player can take ranks in skills or sub-skills not listed here, but she should probably check with her GM first (to be sure they'll get used).


FORTITUDE: Physical strength, durability, and endurance.
Athletics Moving your body, such as running, jumping, climbing, swimming.
Lifting and Breaking Moving or destroying objects, such as lifting/dragging, forcing doors, smashing objects, bursting restraints/bending bars.
Melee Combat Using hand-held bludgeoning, cutting, and piercing weapons. Includes larger, two-handed weapons (such as baseball bats, swords, axes, spears, chainsaws) as well as smaller, one-handed weapons (such as knives, saps, billy clubs, rapiers, table legs). Includes both swinging and stabbing (for both small and large weapons).
Advanced: disarm.
Unarmed Combat Unarmed combat, including brawling, wrestling/grappling, and bull rushes.
Advanced: martial arts, kicks, throws/trips.
Durability Pain-tolerance, resistance to injury, quick healing.
[Special skill: See Combat: Injury]
Endurance Stamina for prolonged activity, breath-holding, overcoming tiredness, resistance to poison/drugs/disease.
[Special skill: See Combat: Fatigue]

GRACE: Flexibility, speed, and dexterity.
Acrobatics Dexterous full-body movement: balancing, dodging/evasion, tumbling, recovering from falls
Contortions Flexibility: wriggling through small spaces, slipping from restraints or grapples
Driving Using vehicles, such as boards (rollerskates, skateboards, surfboards, skis), bicycles, motorcycles (including ATVs, etc), cars (including dune-buggies, golf carts, small trucks), heavy vehicles (including semis, tanks, troop carriers), construction vehicles (bulldozers, forklifts, cranes), sailboats, and powerboats.
Advanced: 3D vehicles (planes, [starcraft])
Ranged Combat Point-and-shoot weapons: pistols, rifles, machine guns, laser guns, bows, other aimed weapons. Includes thrown things, such as knives, spears, rocks, and grappling hooks.
Advanced: Targets further away than about 30ft (a decent sized room). May have further penalties for long shots.
Reflexes Reaction time, overcoming the shock of surprise
Stealth Ability to hide, move silently, and generally sneak around in shadowy and deserted places without being seen. [Opposed by: Alertness or Observation.]
Sleight of Hand Fine manual dexterity: ability to pick pockets, palm small objects, conceal items in hand or on person, and use ropes.

PERCEPTION: Keen senses and general awareness of surrounding environment.
Alertness Passive ability to notice changes, oddities, or danger in your environment--often only in peripheral vision, when you're focusing on something else. Includes sight, hearing, touch, smell/taste, mental.
Observation Actively take in details of the environment at a glace--like an "active" alertness check--such as when on guard duty. Take in details of a room in a glance around the corner, remember small details, etc. Includes sight, hearing, touch, smell/taste.
Examination Ability to actively search for particular or interesting features in an object or environment. Generally takes a little while. Includes sight, hearing, touch, smell/taste.
Willpower Avoid distractions, stick to long or confusing tasks, withstand mental attacks, and control compulsions

KNOWLEDGE: General theoretical knowledge, which often proves helpful in identifying novel items or when determining what is possible.
Area: The Dome Geography, general customs and manners, major groups, important people
Area: Red Light "
Area: Warehouse "
Biology life processes, genetics
Chemistry Reactions, chemicals, drugs/poisons/toxins.
Environment Natural details of the greater natural world, such as astronomy, climatology/meteorology, geology, geography.
History Knowledge of past events, as well as of the humanities, literature, art history, mythology, theology.
Mathematics Algebra, geometry, probability, accounting, economics.
Advanced: calculus, number theory, game theory, cryptography.
Physics Matter, energy, forces, psi effects.
Research The applied aspect of theoretical knowledge: find out something you don't know, by searching through existing resources or designing and running an experiment
Social Science Communication, psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, archeology, etc.

APPLIED: Applied knowledge and cumulative practical experience, good for creating things and generally getting stuff done.
Art Produce creative physical objects and crafts, such as carving, cooking, drawing, painting, photography, sculpture
Agriculture Includes gardening, farming, animal husbandry, animal training, riding
Construction Building structures and simple objects (large or small) without extensive moving parts: carpentry, welding, steel work, concrete, lathing, simple (melee) weaponry.
Advanced: architecture, demolition/explosives
Mechanics Building complicated systems of moving parts: engines, vehicles, locking mechanisms, guns, etc.
Electronics Various electrical appliances, stand-alone devices, and subsystems: household appliances, radios, infrared communications, security systems
Advanced: advanced sensors/communication systems, robotic subsystems, laser weaponry
Hardware Electronics uses in computers and data network systems: system construction and maintenance, cabling, interface ports.
Advanced: robotics, cybernetic components, low-level driver development
Larceny General burglary and thieving: breaking and entering, lockpicking, fencing stolen goods.
Advanced: forging papers, counterfeiting.
[For more personal thefts, see Slight of Hand]
Leisure The rules and customs of having fun: games, sports, hobbies, gambling, mixing drinks
Medical The workings of the human body: human physiology, diagnosis, first aid.
Advanced: surgery
Performance Produce intangible, abstract, or language-based artistic works: singing, dancing, musical instruments, acting, creative writing, etc.
Software Using computers: computer operation, OSs, network navigation, information retrieval
Advanced: programming, AI
Survival Get along in a natural wilderness: navigation, tracking, hunting/trapping, foraging, rustic shelter

SOCIAL: Dealing with people, particularly when trying to get them to do what you want.
Persona More inherent and less learned than most skills, this is what sort of first impression you give, when you're not trying to be someone else or before you get a chance to really interact with someone. Includes appearance, voice, mannerisms, fashion.
Blend-In Anonymously and unobtrusively blend into a crowd [Opp: Observation], shadow someone in a populated place without them noticing you [Opp: Alertness, or Read Person from others], disguise yourself as a general member of another community, a specific role/occupation, or even a specific person (though if actually interacting with someone who knows the person, must succeed at Deceiving them). [Opp: Read Person (to become suspicion) or Examination (to detect a costume)]
Deceive Fast-talk someone into doing something without really thinking it through, bluff someone with a white lie or give a false impression, lie elaborately to someone, seduce or use sex appeal to win someone over, engage in (corrupt) politics.
Diplomacy Make a convincing (but civil) argument/debate, rhetoric/public speaking, etiquette, (noble) politics, leadership
Gossip Make polite small-talk, gather word-of-mouth information, spread news.
Advanced: spread a false rumor (without it being traced back to you)
Intimidate Appear threatening, scare someone into doing what you want.
Advanced: interrogate, torture
Read Person Notice if someone is uncomfortable, lying, engaged in strange behavior, or not otherwise as they seem
Streetwise Get along in an urban environment: wayfind in an unfamiliar cityscape, scrounge items in an urban environment, find certain kinds of people or services, haggle, get along with the seedier and rougher element

Skills default to -1 (Poor) without any ranks. Each rank bought adds +1 to the skill. A maximum of 3 ranks can be bought in each skill (resulting in a +2 (Good) modifier, assuming no other modifiers).

Only one rank can be bought in a skill each phase. Players may only buy ranks in skills they have actually used (or were otherwise relevant) in recent play, though they may announce that they will be practicing a certain skill during character down-time.

Skill ranks must adhere to a "pyramid" distribution: there must always be at least one more skill in the next rank down. For instance, if a character has three skills with 3 ranks each, she must also have at least four other skills with only 2 ranks each, and at least 5 other skills with only one rank.

Specialization: At the cost of one rank, you may specialize in a sub-skill, such as Athletics(Climbing), Survival(Tracking), Alertness(Sight), or Melee Combat(Two-handed swinging). The sub-skill must comprise 1/4 or less of the skill domain. You may only have one sub-skill specialization rank per sub-skill. Specialization grants +2 for the sub-skill (which stacks with any skill ranks in the broader skill), to a max of +4 total rank modifier. (So, if you have a full 3 ranks in the broader skill, specialization grants only +1, but allows you to exceed the 3 rank limitation.) Specialization ranks are ignored when figuring the pyramid distribution of ranks.

Situational (rather than sub-skill) specialization is also possible. For example, you could specialize in a climate for Survival, such as Arctic, Desert, Forest, etc. Or take a Social skill specialization for dealing only with members of the opposite sex (though this would cost 2 ranks, as the specialization would apply to about 1/2 of the domain.) Other possibilities exist; talk to your GM. It's even possible to specialize in the entire skill for 4 ranks.

Specialization ranks--whether situation or for a sub-skill--do not stack with each other. Your skill ranks and any specialization ranks stack to produce your rank modifier. Added to your attribute modifier, this produces your skill modifier for that skill, which is what gets applied to any skill check.

Example: If you have a +1 attribute (Fortitude), 3 ranks in a skill (Athletics), and a specialization rank in the sub-skill (Athletics(Climbing)), it's possible to have a +4 to your (Climbing) roll (since skills default to -1 (Poor)). You could achieve Superb performance without even trying (Taking 0).

Occassionally the GM may call for a check using the average of two skills. This is handy for covering tasks that seem to involve more than one skill simultaneously. For instance, in a game with no separate Riding skill, the GM might call for the average of the Animal Influence and Acrobatics skills. When averaging skills, round up to the nearest whole modifier.

Extras: Gifts and Limitations

Since, as much as possible, game mechanics are handled through skills, some combination of attribute selection, skill choice, and sub-skill or situational specialization will generally produce the sort of character you have in mind. However, there are also Extras, which come as either gifts or limitations.

Gifts provide some advantage to a character. As mentioned, these should be made through the skill mechanic, if possible. Appearance and odd personal habits will affect social skill rolls in certain situations, as will status and reputation. Military/Clerical/Police rank will affect certain social skills, but would probably be best modeled as an aspect. Night Vision is a situational specialization in one or more Perception skills.

If the gift is relatively minor, it can be listed as a hook, and invoked using the associated aspect. Or the GM may be amendable to simply working it into the story occasionally (possibly with a plot point cost).

Still, if after considering the game effect of certain advantages, a skill modifier doesn't seem to fit, talk to your GM about designing a gift. Most gifts are some sort of special ability that allows a character do something not normally possible. Gifts have a cost in skill ranks.

An example gift might be Rapid Healing. Your character takes damage normally (so it's not just a high Durability skill), but the damage just heals faster! Healing at twice the normal rate of a human might cost 2 skill ranks. Healing all physical damage with a good night's sleep might be worth 5 ranks.

Limitations limit your character's actions in some way. Examples include a code of conduct/honor, vow, compulsion, obsession, or phobia. These specify some behavior the character must or cannot engage in. Specifically, this might be cowardice (flees combat and imminent personal harm), honesty (can't lie or steal), or handwashing obsession (must wash hands once an hour or after touching anything icky). Sometimes these limitation come in a form closer to dependency or addiction. That is, if character fails to engage in some specified behavior with a certain regularity, certain penalties result.

Again, disadvantages might simply be situational or consistent penalties to a skill or attribute. Talk to your GM about the costs/penalties for such a disadvantage.

Limitations give you their value in skill ranks, which you can then spend normally. You may spend a plot point to overcome a limitation in a particular instance. (For example, when the coward manages to screw up his courage this one time because his best friend is in danger.) However, be aware that consistently overriding your limitations is poor roleplaying and will impact the number of plot points awarded.

Equipment and Gear

A character should have gear appropriate to her history and station--talk to your GM about the details. For the most part, gear in Zludge is mundane and just lets you do things. If you have special gear--such an occult library or neural interface jack--that gives you some bonus on rolls or is essential to your character, it should to be paid for through an aspect, skill, or extra.

Plot Points

Plot points (also called fate or story points) allow players some directorial or meta-narrative control.

You earn phases as the story advances and your character becomes more experienced. But you earn plot points for good roleplaying. This is easier when you have defined a rich character, especially one with a few quirks or limitations. When you work to advance the story, roleplay your character well, or generally improve the game experience for everyone, you earn plot points--usually 1 to 3 per game session.

You can spend one plot point to add +1 to a check, either before or after making a roll. This may be combined with an aspect invocation, but only one plot point can be spent per check.

You can also spend plot points for minor narrative control or to introduce a cinematic event. Examples include:

The GM should try to go with plot point expenditures as much as possible. Still, narrative control uses can always be vetoed by the GM (in which case the point is not spent), or he may up the cost to 2 or even 3 plot points to achieve the effect.


The rate of character advancement is up to the GM. Occasionally, the GM will distribute a phase--an aspect and 4 skill points--to be spent as the player sees fit. (Alternately, the GM may give out one skill point at a time, giving out an aspect every 4th point.)


Zludge combat is dangerous (realistic), though with just enough cinema to keep it from being automatically deadly. Wounds quickly impair your ability to fight, and you can be incapacitated with a couple blows of a good-sized weapon. Healing tends to take a couple weeks.

Weapons and Armor

Weapons are classified by their damage-level:

0: unarmed combat, small rocks, etc.
1: small, one-handed melee weapons (knife, short club, etc.); tiny holdout pistol
2: larger, two-handed melee weapons (sword, axe, baseball bat, etc.); small firearms, such as pistols and low-caliber rifles
3: high damage weapons, such as chainsaws; machine guns, shotguns at close range, etc.
4: Explosives and such

Armor is rated based on the damage-level it absorbs:

0: leather jacket, thick winter coat
1: flak jacket [leather armor, studded leather]
2: light kevlar vest [chainmail, ringmail, scalemail]
3: heavy-duty combat kevlar [platemail]
4: bomb suit, a Franklin wood stove

Some bulky armors may cause a penalty to certain skills, such as Athletics and Acrobatics.

Optional: Armor in your world may only cover certain areas of the body. If so, use Hit Locations below for every attack.

Starting Combat

If everyone can see everyone else (and someone goes for a weapon!), roll Reflexes and proceed through combat in that order.

In an ambush situation, the victim instead rolls the average of Reflexes and Alertness (round up), while the hiding/sneaking/ambushing characters may roll Stealth instead of Reflexes.

Occasionally, an ambusher may get an entire surprise action before Reflexes are rolled. This is in cases such as a ranged attack from hiding, where--if the victim hasn't noticed the ambusher by now--there is no chance to notice him until after the first attack.

Before a character has had a chance to act in combat, they are flat-footed. They do not make a defense roll, and the attack is resolved as a test rather than a contest: +1 for a stationary target, +0 if moving.

Combat Actions

Every round of combat (about 3 seconds, give or take a couple seconds), each active (conscious, aware of combat, and capable of acting) character gets to take an action. A character can generally perform one of the following sorts of actions:

When making an attack, the attacker rolls an attack roll. The specific skill depends on the weapon used; in a combat-lite world, this might simply be the Melee, Ranged, or Unarmed skill. The target defender rolls a defense roll, which is generally Acrobatics (or equivalent dodging skill). However, if the attack is Unarmed or Melee, a defender may defend (parry) with Unarmed or Melee (if she has an appropriate weapon or free hand) instead.

If the attack roll is less than the defense roll, the attack missed. If the attack roll exceeds the defense roll, apply the weapon's damage to the target (minus any reduction due to the target's armor). If the attack roll is a critical hit (+4 over defense roll), +1 to the damage-level dealt. If the two rolls are equal, the attack clipped the target, dealing 0-level damage (see below).

Situational Combat Modifiers

+1 bonus to attack for each of the following:

+1 bonus to defense for each of the following:

-1 penalties to attack and defense for each of the following:

Hit Locations (Optional)

For the most part, combat damage is left abstract. However, if is it important to determine where an attack hits (such as whether that area is armored or not), roll 1d6 to determine the general area:

  1. Head and neck
  2. Right arm and shoulder
  3. Left arm and shoulder
  4. Chest and ribs
  5. Abdomen, hips, and groin
  6. Legs

(If an even more specific area is required, divide the struck area into 6 parts and roll 1d6 again.) Damage in particular locations may impact what skills can be used. An attacker can make a "called shot" at -2 to the attack roll.


Each character has a capacity for physical damage, modeled as a series of check boxes. When a character takes damage, this "checks off" a box at the corresponding damage-level. If that level is full (all boxes checked), fill in a box on the next higher (well, lower in this table) level. Instead of checks, note what the actual wound was using either damage-level values (0, 1, 2, ...) or wound abbreviations (S, H, V, I, C). This is important later for healing--someone can be slowly pounded into a comatose state with only 0-level damage punches, but recover in a day or so of rest. Or they can be shot twice and take a month to recover.

BoxesDamage-LevelState/WoundExamplesGame Effect
[ ][ ][ ]0Scratched Scratches, scrapes, bruises, swellings, blisters, minor sprains Clipped: -1 to physical actions until your next action (thrown off balance a bit)
[ ][ ]1Hurt Cuts worthy of stitches, torn tendons/ligaments, serious bruises or sprains, minor fractures -1 to physical actions
[ ]2Very Hurt Cuts to the bone, broken bones -2 to physical actions
[ ]3Incapacitated Open or puncture wounds, compound fractures Knocked prone and most actions not possible, (-3 to physical actions)
[ ]4Comatose (Nearly Dead) Severe wounds (damage to vital organs, crushed bones) Unconscious, so no actions possible, (-4 to physical actions)

The clipped state is best modeled with a paperclip or poker chip, as it disappears as soon as that player gets to act again. Clipped and wound penalties do not stack with each other; only the highest applies.

Durability skill: Unlike other skills, Durability does not affect rolls. Instead, each rank buys one more box on the next higher level: 1 rank for an extra Scratched box, another rank for an extra Hurt box, and so on. A high Fortitude grants an additional Scratched box, rather than stacking with Durability. And a low Fortitude subtracts a Scratched box.


Fatigue is an indication of mental exhaustion and nonlethal physical damage. It uses the same mechanism as physical damage, though in a separate table and with slightly different penalties. Fatigue damage also affects your mind, and so impacts all your skills; but it heals much faster.

BoxesFatigue Damage-LevelStateExamplesGame Effect
[ ][ ][ ]0Winded Short of breath; yawning, strung out No game effect
[ ][ ]1Tired Panting; sleepy, tired, hung-over -1 to actions
[ ]2Very Tired Gasping; trembling, stumbling, fuzzy-headed, bleary-eyed -2 to actions
[ ]3Exhausted Collapsing; shaky, weak, disoriented Prone and most actions not possible, (-3 to physical actions)
[ ]4Unconscious Unconscious No actions possible

Fatigue comes in two forms. The first is physical fatigue, usually from over-exertion. You may accumulate this if you are working hard over time (such as fighting or running for you life), or on failing Fortitude skill rolls. Mark such fatigue with a "P" (for "physical") on the chart. Mark all other fatigue--whether from mental strain, sleeplessness, disease, alcohol, etc--using the normal notation (numerical damage values or W/T/V/E/U).

Endurance skill: Endurance works just like Durability, only for the fatigue chart.

Clarification of the word "damage": Damage is either physical injury (called "physical damage" or simply "damage") or nonlethal impairment (called "fatigue damage" or simply "fatigue"). The difference between "physical damage" and "fatigue damage" is simple which chart they affect. Damage (of either form) also has an associated damage-level, which is a measure of the damage's severity. This simply determines at which level a box gets checked off. References to "a point of damage" or "1 fatigue" implies 0-level damage or fatigue. The norm is that damage results in the loss of only one box. The phrase "3 points of damage" is ambiguous in Zludge--this could either mean 3 points of 0-level damage, or one point of 3-level damage.

Healing and Recovery

A few minutes work with bandages (and maybe splints and tourniquets) and a successful Medical(First Aid) roll reduces wound game effects by one level. So a Hurt is no longer impairing, someone Incapacitated could now hobble around at -2, etc. Your injury chart doesn't not change, however: you still have the same wounds, they are just less impairing. A failure on a physical skill check can reopen your wounds, returning their full penalties.

Clipped/Scratched game effects last less than a round. However their appearance and presence on your character sheet persists for 2 days--you still feel a little tender and people can see you've been in a fight.

Other wounds heal at the rate of 1 level/week: Hurts become Scratches, Very Hurts become Hurts, etc. This healing time can be reduced 1 day per Medical bonus of the caregiver. (Assuming initial treatment followed by daily monitoring, the caregiver can take 0. If there is no later monitoring, make a roll.)

Fatigue heals a little differently. Physical fatigue heals one level/10 minutes of rest. Other fatigue heals at 2 levels/full night's sleep (or /full day of rest).

Supernormal Powers: City9 Psi

Supernormal powers are a special subset of skills, gifts, and limitations for a particular game setting. These are usually for a magic, psi, super powers, cybernetic augmentation, etc. See Fate for a good discussion of different kinds of magic systems.

What follows is the psi system for the City9 game world.


Three powers determine the underlying ways you can extend and exert your mental energy. A level of a single power is bought in exchange for an aspect. (You cannot invoke/"check-off" a level of power as you can an aspect--it simply lets you use your psi powers.) You must have at least one level of one power in order use a psi ability (provided you have the correct power required for that skill). Some psi skills, such as Telekinesis, require more than one power to be effective, making those abilities more expensive and "rarer" in the game world. You may not spend more than 2/3 of your character's aspects or skills on psi abilities.

Sometimes you can use your Power as a skill roll. In this case, each level of power is like a rank, where the "skill" defaults to -1 (Poor). You cannot use a plot point on such a power-skill roll.

You can always choose to use a lesser power level (less force, shorter range, etc.).


This power determine the range at which you can affect specific targets.

  1. Touch
  2. Indoor distance -- ~30 feet: close enough for good eye contact, a city bus length, across the living room, close enough to start a conversation with a friend approaching you
  3. Building/Neighbor distance -- ~200 feet: the far corner of a good-sized house, from the front yard into the back, just into the house two doors down, into a restaurant from a car parked across the street, across a gym or auditorium
  4. City block distance -- ~1000 feet: one or two city blocks (depending on their size), the other side of a football stadium, the distance you can just start to recognize someone you know well
  5. Horizon -- ~3 miles: as far as you can see at sea-level

This power determines the radius at which you can affect the area around you (or all objects within that area)

  1. Touch
  2. Personal -- ~5 feet: close enough for a conversation with a friend or deep philosophy over a couple beers, elevator distance
  3. Social -- ~10 feet: close enough for a conversation with an colleague or acquaintance in the hallway
  4. Indoor distance -- ~30 feet: close enough to feel the need to either ignore or acknowledge someone
  5. Hallway distance -- ~100 feet: the end of the hall in an apartment building, a large lecture hall, a movie theatre

This power determines how much strength or force you can exert with your psi powers. Its use depends on the particular skill, but the following are the sorts of objects you can affect with the Telekinesis or Energy Control powers. Both weight and size of an object are important.

  1. Finger-sized -- coin, key, die, wooden pencil, playing card, plastic spoon, pebble
  2. Fist-sized -- deck of cards (in box), wallet, mug, thin paperback, empty can, rock
  3. Forearm-sized -- hardcover book, phone handset, dinner plate, fresh bottle of beer, brick
  4. Arm-sized -- laptop, dictionary, light lawn chair, garbage can, watering can
  5. 1/2-body-sized -- child, bed-side table, wooden desk chair


There is no base Psi attribute. Psi skills have no pyramid requirements or limits on the number of ranks you can buy in a phase. You may specialize in psi skills as per the normal skill specialization rules. However, psi ranks and specialization costs twice the amount of normal skills.

Psi skills contain a number of subskills, which are listed in tiers of difficulty. To even attempt a certain subskill, you must have at least that skill modifier, whether through ranks or specialization. You also take the equivalent penalty to rolls in that subskill. For instance, to Astrally Project, you need at least +2 (Good) ESP. This could be bought with either 3 ESP ranks or 1 ESP rank and specialization in ESP(Astral Projection). All Astral Projection rolls are at -2. However, since you already have the equivalent requisite modifier, you can usually "Take 0" for most tasks.

To activate a psi ability, you must use the concentrate action, and then roll (or Take 0) for success. If you take damage while concentrating, roll Willpower - the damage taken to keep concentration. (Remember, an opponent can ready an attack for when you start concentrating.)

Most psi powers are maintained--you must concentrate every round to keep them going. Others are instantaneous, meaning they simply occur at the end of your concentrate action. Some powers are background powers, meaning you must concentrate only to turn them on or off. (Even background powers don't work when you're unconscious.) Some powers--such as ESP's Precognition--operate (at least partially) in a passive way--when the GM invokes them.

Some uses of psi require effort: they cost 1 fatigue and you cannot "Take 0" on the roll. Effort cannot be used on background or passive abilities.

You may choose to boost one or more of your power levels through exertion. This requires effort--stacking with its effects and subject to the same restrictions. For each level you add to one of your powers (Proj, Diff, or Force) for this roll, you take one point of fatigue damage at the next higher fatigue level. (So, in adding 2 levels, you would take one point of 1-level AND one point of 2-level fatigue damage.) Your skill roll is at -1. If the ability is maintained, you take one extra point of 0-level fatigue each round.

For example: Bob the Telepath has Projection 1. He is well-rested, but currently gagged and bound to a chair in a large warehouse, where his enemies lie in wait for Bob's friend, Greg, to come find him. Bob sees Greg through a small window, obliviously heading into danger; he wants to silently warn Greg with a short message. Bob can boost his Projection power to the required 3 through exertion. The initial effort means he will take 1 point of fatigue (meaning he'll be Winded afterwards) and can't Take 0. The additional exertion means the roll will be at -1. The extra two levels of fatigue means he checks off a Tired and a Very Tired box after the roll. Luckily, the message--"It's a trap! Come in the back."--is short enough that he doesn't have to maintain it next round, and so suffers no further fatigue. (If he had wanted to wait a round to read Greg's mental response, he would have to continue to concentrate and would take another Winded point of fatigue.)

SKILL Description
(Req Mod/Diff Pen | Subskill | Subskill Description)
ESP Extra sensory perception is the ability to extend your senses from your current locus. You can actively sense things from around corners and through material obstructions.

When used with Projection, this is a manifested ability, allowing for focused Observation and Examination, but not for Alertness and peripheral sensing. The area of focus is approximately 1/6 your projection range. With only touch range, you can read the contents of envelopes, etc.,

When used with Diffusion, this is a background ability, providing sensual awareness of everything in range. Most of the time, this is unconscious awareness (allowing for Alertness checks for anything interesting or unusual in range); however, you can focus your attention if you like (such as mentally inspecting the woman sitting behind you on the bus.)
[Pre: Projection or Diffusion.]
0Clairvoyance, Clairaudience, etc.Extend a single sense.
[Maintained if Projection; Background if Diffusion.]
DowsingSeek a particular object, person, or material within your Projection range. You feel a pull from your locus in the direction of your target, which tells you whether you're getting closer or further away but not how far away you are. (Certain materials or emanations may provide partial interference.)
1ClairsentienceExtend multiple senses.
[Maintained or Background.]
2Astral ProjectionExtend your soul/mind completely from your body, taking your locus with you. You cannot perceive or affect the world except through psi powers, and vice versa. You are connected to your body by a silver cord, and can return instantly. Your body is unconscious, but you can detect physical damage to it. Damage to your body does not affect your astral performance. Your astral form can take fatigue damage; and it can be rendered unconscious, drifting in the astral plane. Your sensation of the world extends to your Diffusion range (min: 1 foot), and you can move twice your Diffusion range per round.
[Pre: Projection; Background.]
Temporal Sense When diffusing your mental presence out through space, you also begin to sense the dimension of time. However, exploring time--especially actively--is quite difficult. Future probabilities are largely based on your current intentions.
[Pre: Diffusion.]
0Danger SenseYou can passively sense dangerous persons or objects that are likely to harm you (or those you care about) within your Diffusion range. You can also sense personally dangerous events up to one round (+1 round/Force level) before they happen. This is only a sense of coming danger (though a critical success would give you more information). If an attacker is within Diffusion range, you also get a +1 to your Defense roll.
[Background, Passive.]
1 PsychometryYou gain a feeling for the past ("retrocognition") of an object, place, or person. The target must be within diffusion range. With no Force, you get a sense of the most emotionally charged event. Each level of Force allows another event (from anytime), or lets you explore (with effort) a specific period in the past day/week/month/year/longer.
PrecognitionYou passively gain occasional glimpses of the future, most often in dreams. You may actively seek (with effort) for glimpses of the future, though average results provide just a flash of image or even a scent or sound. Without Force, you can only see a few rounds, up to a minute. With Force levels you can see 10 minutes/1 hour/12 hours/1 day/1 week (though possibly later, at GM's dictate).
[Passive Background or Maintained.]
Telepathy The ability to send and receive thoughts from another person. You can affect a single mind (of a target you can see or sense) within your Projection range, though you can also broadcast or empathically read everyone in Diffusion range. Greater rolls give you more information or probe deeper into the subject's mind.
[Pre: Projection or Diffusion.]
0EmpathyYou read a person's most prominent emotion or physiological need (though good rolls can reveal additional or conflicting desires). This allows you to detect lying and mental domination. You can also send emotions--such as safety and contentment, caution, or hunted fear. This does not produce the emotion in the target; the target experiences it as a message.
Mental ShieldYou can defend your mind from certain attacks with a protective mental layer. You can instantly tune out specific sending telepaths. When a telepath attempts to read your mind while your Shield is up, you may substitute your Telepathy(Mind Shield) skill for Alertness (to notice the intrusion) or use your Force power-skill (instead of Willpower) in contests to eject an intruder.

Your Shield has a number of durability points equal to your Force levels. If your Shield is up when subjected to Pain or Agony, you can use your Force power-skill in place of Willpower when resisting the attack. If you do this and still take damage, you can check off Shield durability rather than fatigue or damage. Durability points heal at the rate of 1/minute. If reduced to 0, your Shield fails. Subtract any durability damage if trying to eject a mental intruder with Force.
1Mind ReadYou can send or receive thoughts at a rate of verbal conversation. To read from a mind, you must first successfully invade it. The target contests your roll with Alertness(Mental) to notice the intrusion. If the target notices, they can then try to eject you with a contest of Willpower. In this contest, may use your Force power-skill instead of Willpower to force your way in. Invading a mind is a prerequisite for any Telecontrol attempts. If your read/invade roll is Good or better, you can access the target's memories.
[Pre: Projection to read; Projection or Diffusion to send; Maintained.]
2CommunionWhen mentally reading a willing telepath, you can expand the connection and enter into a full mental communion, allowing you both to communicate with each other at the speed of thought.
[Instantaneous, but the reading/link must be Maintained.]
Telecontrol You can mentally control others, whether by subtly affecting their thoughts, altering their memories, or completely dominating their minds. You can only affect one mind at a time in this way, so Projection is required. You must have already successfully invaded the subject's mind with Mind Read before you can try to control it.
[Pre: Projection; Decent Telepathy(Mind Read).]
0NudgeYou can make very subtle suggestions to the subject. You can generally only expand on something already in the same domain. Examples include making a $1 bill look like a $100 or making a common baseball card (but not a playing card) look like a rare collectable card. You can encourage certain existing trains of thought--if the subject is thinking about how mad they are at someone, you can make them madder (or less mad). If you have access to their memories, this may be easier (+1) if you can encourage certain relevant recollections. You may also be able to encourage certain thoughts or states that lull a subject into complacency or slight inattention.

You cannot Nudge someone if they are aware of you in their mind. The subject contests each Nudge with Alertness(Mental) to notice your presence.
[Instantaneous, but the reading/link must be Maintained.]
1SuggestionA stronger kind of Nudge, you can encourage certain thoughts or behaviors the subject is not already engaged in. If the behavior is unusual for the current situation, the subject contests your suggestion with Willpower. If the behavior is in opposition to the person's normal beliefs or habits, the subject gets a bonus to Willpower.

For example, you might Suggest that a late-night guard take a little nap. If the guard is lazy (and tends to nap on the job occasionally), there is no contest. If the guard is normally very diligent, he may contest the Suggestion. Suggesting the guard go home and check that the stove is off would grant at contest at +1, since the guard knows not to leave his post. This mild-mannered, well-adjusted guard is unlikely to follow a Suggestion to kill someone (+3) or himself (+4).

As Nudge, each Suggestion is opposed by Alertness(Mental) to notice your presence. You can set a Suggestion to fire later given certain conditions.
[Instantaneous, but the reading/link must be Maintained.]
2Alter MemoriesYou can delete, edit, or insert a memory in the subject.
[Instantaneous, but the reading/link must be Maintained.]
SleepYou can put the subject into a normal sleep. Doing so alerts the subject to your presence, but if you succeed in the Sleep attempt, they won't remember it when they wake up. Roll a contest of your Force power-skill and the subject's Willpower to succeed.
[Instantaneous, but the reading/link must be Maintained.]
DominateYou can shove someone's mind aside and operate their body. The initial shove requires effort, and automatically alerts the subject to your presence. Roll a contest of your Force power-skill and the subject's Willpower to see if you succeed wresting control. If successful, the subject looses conscious control of their body for as long as you maintain the Domination. (If you lose, you're still in their mind, though they may try to eject you.) Any round you want to control the body and experience its senses, you must totally concentrate, ignoring your own surroundings.
Static You can produce a strange anit-psi static field. With practice, this can be shaped into a force that causes pain and even physical damage to non-psis.
[Pre: Projection or Diffusion; Force.]
0Interference Subtract your Force from each of the affected psi's powers, to a minimum of 1 level remaining in each power, or to 0 if you activate with effort. Victims of your interference can increase their power normally from their new levels by exertion despite your static. (If used with Diffusion, treat your own powers as also reduced for all other uses except Interference.)
[Maintained if by Projection; Background if by Diffusion.]
1Pain You cause fatigue damage in the subject, which is experienced as a steadily growing pain. Each round, roll a contest of your Force power-skill vs. the subject's Willpower. On a success, the subject takes a point of fatigue damage.
2Agony You have perfected your ability to inflict pain to the extent that it damages brain tissue and living flesh, causing hemorrhaging and agony in the subject. As Pain, but does physical damage.
Telekinesis You can move physical objects with your mind. The size and weight limits of objects you can affect are determined by your Force. The max speed at which you can move an object depends on how much your Force exceeds that needed to simply affect the object:
0) perceptible motion, but inching along
1) walking pace
2) as a soft, underhanded pitch
3) as a fast hard speedball pitch, hard to see with the naked eye
4) faster than can be seen with the naked eye
5) faster than sound, fast as a bullet

If attacking with a moved object, it does damage = (speed - 3). This may be modified if the object is particularly soft or sharp, or based on its size (+1 for most objects larger than 4). A Good Telekinesis roll is usually needed to keep an object oriented in a certain direction while it travels, and it takes a Ranged Combat roll to hit accurately.

When used with Diffusion, you indiscriminatingly affect all objects within your power, moving them towards or away from yourself, or in a certain direction.
[Pre: Projection or Diffusion; Force.]
0ShoveYou can push an object in a single direction, as if with the invisible palm of a hand. This can be a quick push, or it can maintained for sustained motion. (You may be able to topple tall objects of one size smaller than you can normally affect.)
[Instantaneous or Maintained.]
1MoveYou can lift an object or move an whole object in 3 dimensions, as if it were clutched in a large fist.
ShieldBy exerting a field of force at a distance up to your Diffusion range, you can (partially) deflect physical blows. You gain armor equivalent to your Force.
[Pre: Diffusion; Maintained.]
2ManipulateYou can rotate an object or move parts of an object independently, as if using fingers or even two hands. For example, you could write your name (crudely) with a pencil or make a toy soldier walk along the floor.
Energy Control You can shape and create fire or electricity in an object or space within your Projection range.
[Pre: Projection; Force.]
0PyrokinesisThe degree of control you have over fire depends on your Force level. At level 1, you can only manipulate flames. You can make shapes, or direct a small fire to burn in a direction of your choosing (provided there is fuel to sustain it). You can even cause a fire to jump small distances to ignite another object. Your skill roll determines how well you manipulate the flames.

At Force level 2, you can create a very small candle-like flame. At Force level 3, you can create a flame (about the size of a hand) that does 0-level damage. For each additional Force level, you can create a flame large enough to do the next level of damage--Force level 4 does 1-level damage, 5 does 2-level, etc.

Instantaneous flashes of flame singe and scorch, but usually don't last long enough to actually ignite anything but very flammable materials (such as tinder, gasoline, loose dry rags, etc.). You can Maintain a fire, causing it to burn without external fuel. This requires effort every round, and reduces the damage level of the flames by one. (At level 2, this reduces your flame to a smoldering ember about the size of a cigarette tip.)
[Instantaneous or Maintained.]
ElectrokinesisAs Pyrokinesis, but you manipulate electricity. When manipulating, you can also interrupt or dampen electrical current, dimming lights or turning off electrical gadgets.

At Force level 2, you can create an electrical spark or tingle, as per a good static discharge. This can damage sensitive electrical components if directed correctly. Higher levels of damage can impact larger and more fortified systems. Electrical damage causes fatigue, rather than physical damage, to living things. This may be accompanied by spasms and pain.

Electrokinesis can be maintained, as per Pyrokinesis. (This allows for that old trick of lighting a held light bulb.)
[Instantaneous or Maintained.]

You may be able to take some limitations or focuses in regards to your psi abilities. Example limitations include:

You may be able to buy only one or two subskill abilities for cheaper than the whole skill. For example, if you can only cause Pain with your Static skill, you could buy two ranks for the price of one. Similarly, if you can only send with your Telepathy skill, you might be able to buy ranks at 1/3 the price. Talk to your GM about the details.

Additional special powers may be possible for high-powered psis, such as Psi Lobotomy, Mental Healing, Mindswap, Metabolism Control, Psychic Vampirism, or Teleportation.

Tips for the GM


During the Game


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System Reference Document. Copyright 2000-2003, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Rich baker, Andy Collins, David Noonan, Rich Redman, Bruce R. Cordell, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

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Zludge Roleplaying Game System. Copyright 2007 by Zach Tomaszewski.

SD Consortium : SD Emporium : Zludge 1.0
Last Edited: 18 Jun 2008
©2007 by Z. Tomaszewski