Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

The Freeform Feedback Framework (F3)

I feel a little like I’m becoming what I despise: someone who thinks you should just use one system for everything and ignore all the ways different stories demand different structures. But here I am, turning to a system, or a half-system anyway, I derived from a game of essentially Battlestar Galactica, and trying to apply it to a game of inter-player intrigue influenced by Lost. What’s the matter with me?

Well, the system’s pretty abstract. Like, very abstract. It amounts to “put a token on a thing that you think is becoming important in the scene, and when something has enough tokens on it, resolve the scene with a die roll determining whether the characters got what they wanted out of that thing.” So yeah, adaptable to lots of different subject matter. Besides which, it has huge tracts of vagueness and places that are just plain undetermined. And I have some fairly specific ideas for how I’m going to modify it for Outside Men, but that’s not what I want to talk about now.

Here is the latest version of what I posted in that Descriptive Systems thread I linked to, the almost-a-system that was once called Fudgiversalis, then the Freeballin’ Fudge Framework, and now has a name that’s almost respectable. I have a couple of sections in the text right now where I ask myself questions out loud, and we can talk about those, plus I have some more questions I’d love to hear from y’all about.

First: anything at all that’s unclear, please say so. (A couple of things that Ryan asked: yes, it’s a GMless game, and yes, I need to write some examples.)

Second: the biggest areas of vagueness right now are what happens after a roll, and what happens when you have to decide exactly who is rolling for exactly what. The former is deliberately vague, and I do have some very specific things in mind that will happen here in Outside Men; the latter is kind of a problem, and I take a few stabs at possible solutions in the text but I would be psyched to hear more.

My overall question is really this: can this system work at all for anything but genre sim – that is, for stories that aren’t of a type and setting that’s already well understood by everyone at the table?


June 14, 2007 - Posted by | Outside Men


  1. Ok, first, what sort of things can be Elements? Are these things like “Todd’s car” or “Marital infidelity?” Second (and this is the big one), what the rolling in step 7 about? What does it resolve or do? What is the Element rolling against?
    Other than that, it appears to me that your setting up a system whereby players can indicate what things in the fiction they care about. Once enough people care about something, it becomes what the scene is about, and then we have some sort of conflict about it. Seems reasonable. That said, why privilege (in step 10) people who have expressed interest in the thing that everyone else at the table finds least interesting?
    Also, if you haven’t read Capes (which I totally don’t understand) and Full Light, Full Steam (which I do), you should.
    Does that help?

    Comment by ptevis | June 14, 2007 | Reply

  2. I mostly understand Capes. It took about five (enjoyable) read-throughs. It’s definitely an influence here.

    Yes, both things you cite could be Elements. The reason to make something an Element is if you’d like it to be the focus of a scene’s conflict, or to simply have the visual-reminder effect on other players’ input that Ryan pointed out to me in email… or, in Outside Men, to have it be something that characters can use to Advance. (That’s right, character advancement. But not really; it’s actually more like the dharma paths in J-Walt’s Avatar game. But more on that anon.)

    Step 7 still has a lot of question marks in between underpants and profit, if you get my meaning. I’ve got a lot of noodling left to do on that one so I will be quiet for now.

    Step 10 is currently wrapping itself in the Assumption of Awesome flag. It’s there to provide an impetus towards multi-threaded narrative, to help ensure that there are subplots, and the flow of things gets changed up now and again. It may not turn out to have any such effect in play, of course, and it’s true that a scene in which not many people have interest could go on for a while under the current rules. Maybe I should strike this until I get some testing in; it may just be cruft.

    (Awesome. This thing that we’re doing is working, people)


    Comment by misuba | June 14, 2007 | Reply

  3. Here were my comments in e-mail from before we got rolling with Master Mines:

    On step 5, why would someone take a story element and card-ify it? Just because it’s a cool element? Is it suppose to be an element of adversity? Is there something going on here that I’m not following?

    On step 7, I’m a bit confused as to what exactly happens after the dice. Some examples would be helpful here. For instance, if we’re freeforming a haunted house story and someone writes down ‘Squeaky Floorboards’ — which prompts others to talk about it (as I see people reinforcing cards they see in play as just what happens when people are reminded about stuff visually) — what happens when it hits 7 coins and what exactly am I (and maybe others) rolling?

    If ‘squeaky floorboards’ seems like a lame example, I don’t really see anywhere in the text that addresses carding-up weak ideas.

    I would throw a lot of examples in the text, so help illustrate your idea. I can definitely see something cool here, with how the groupand story interact. I’m just not sure where it’s going.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | June 14, 2007 | Reply

  4. I think both Ryan’s and my comments indicate that we can make out the bones under this thing, but we aren’t sure how to play it. Which is frustrating, because I think I want to.

    Comment by ptevis | June 14, 2007 | Reply

  5. Okay: I think you could kind of play it, currently, if I can elucidate the rolling bit a little more. It’s all in there if you squint, but let me try to be clearer.

    First, F3 by default is made for Fudge. The reference to Fudge on the Fly in step 1 used to be a link and I don’t know what Google Docs did to it exactly, but here: Fudge on the Fly is by Rob Donoghue who has of course gone on to Evil Hat fame and fortune. It’s a means of making a bare-bones character to start the game, then filling out the rest as you play. It’s very cool, but I’ll be ripping the Fudge out for OM.

    Anyway, as written now, F3 characters are assumed to have some stats and skills and all that. The reason cards have a “plus side” and a “minus side” is you’re setting how difficult the roll for that element is going to be on the Fudge ladder. Starting from a default rating of Great, every coin on the element – all seven of them, if it’s time to roll on it – raises or lowers the rating by one notch.

    Then some character makes a roll trying to beat that rating. These rules don’t really specify who does the rolling – they were written on the assumption that this will normally be obvious to the group, and that people can come to a civil agreement on which skills apply, et cetera.

    Any clearer?

    Comment by misuba | June 14, 2007 | Reply

  6. Mike, you’ve just explained the part I already understand. My question is what does the roll mean? Why are we rolling? What does it resolve? I think I can see what you’re wanting, but that’s the part that is the least clear.

    Comment by ptevis | June 14, 2007 | Reply

  7. I think that part of the issue Paul and I have (well, at least that I have) is that I don’t think this document is sure what it is. On one hand, it feels like it should be a bolt onto a system, and on the other hand it feels like it should stand alone.

    It might better present the information to bring it out as a full text. For me, it’s too incomplete right now to conceptualize play.

    You might consider writing up some idealized, fictional Actual Play to illustrate both what you’re trying to explain and what you want to achieve, since this set-up feels very, very rooted in play.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | June 14, 2007 | Reply

  8. Yeah, this system did start its life as a bolt-on (I guess that makes it a Michael bolt-on), but it was intended less as a bolt-on to another system than as a bolt-on to a style of play. Hence the reliance on a group that finds the focus of conflicts and the person set to roll the dice all on its own. (It is supposed to handle the stakes of a roll implicitly as well, BTW.)

    I think what I’m going to do next, because I don’t have a huge desire to make a generic system, is write the more verbose rules for Outside Men rather than for F3. I have more specific ideas for that anyway.

    Thanks, everyone!

    Comment by misuba | June 15, 2007 | Reply

  9. That sounds like a good plan. I look forward to seeing it.

    Comment by ptevis | June 15, 2007 | Reply

  10. Mike, Paul and Ryan addressed some of the confusion I had while reading F3. I understand the conflict roll in Step 7, but I don’t see what it accomplishes (then again, it might be a matter of providing examples of conflicts that would be resolved at this step).

    The thing I had issue with was the Awesome Optional Session-pacing Rules – I don’t get their use. I undestand your rules for them, but I can’t really get why I would use them. If there is a need to time the scenes and/or session, I think the Timer card under Totally Advanced Rules covers that already.

    Comment by Daniel M. Perez | June 15, 2007 | Reply

  11. Daniel: indeed it does. The session-timer thing is not so much about when anything happens in the game – it’s about when the next coin refresh gets bigger. I’m not sure that the number of coins you get after a conflict roll should even ever change, so this rule may be on its way out.

    And just because I keep having it in mind to post but forgetting to post it: what you roll for and what the roll accomplishes!

    It should probably go into the rules explicitly that the player (or players) rolling the dice declares (or agree) what exactly it is that they want out of the element being rolled on. This is another thing that “just seemed obvious” in the game from which I derived the first shots at F3, so I left it implicit. But yeah. Then all the roll tells you is, “that thing you wanted to get something from? You either do, or don’t. So, everyone go ahead and roleplay from there, oh and also take back all your chips and work on starting a new scene.”

    Does the thing you wanted to get by rolling the dice, in fact, enter the fiction? That’s all the roll decides. There’s not even any assignment of narration rights or anything.

    Comment by misuba | June 15, 2007 | Reply

  12. Got it now, Mike.

    Comment by Daniel M. Perez | June 15, 2007 | Reply

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