Fuzion–Of unrealized Potential and being ahead of its Time

Back in 1998 I stumbled upon Fuzion, an universal roleplaying game which was available for free on the internet. This was – at least for me – something new and unexpected. Back in the day, roleplaying games were mostly available in print and not in digital formats. And giving away games for free wasn’t that common back in the day. In a way, Fuzion was ahead of its time in more than one aspect.

Fuzion was created in collaboration between R. Talsorian Games and Hero Games. It combined elements of the Interlock System and the Hero system, but many people claim that it combined the worst elements of both. I have to admit, I am no expert in either system and I liked a lot what Fuzion had to offer.

Fuzion had support for various genres and power levels. Like in games like GURPS the number of character points used to build character’s stats determined the power level of the campaign. The system was also build in a modular way, so you could easily add rules for vehicles, magic etc. using plugins. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s a lot of people all over the internet wrote plugins or variant rules for Fuzion and shared them freely. I actually expected Fuzion to become the next big thing, but that never happened.

I am not sure if the OGL for D&D in 2000 was to blame, or if it was because of the rather lackluster support of the game system. R. Talsorian Games released a couple of games using the system (mainly licensed anime RPGs), but aside from that the support was pretty limited. But I also think that Fuzion was ahead of its time. The core rules were mainly distributed online in a time when most people haven’t even heard of the internet. In addition to that universal systems always have a hard time.

By the way, if you are interested in checking out what Fuzion has to offer, there’s an illustrated version available for $3 at DriveThruRPG. Free material can be found on Christian Conkle’s Tranzfuzion site.

What are your thoughts on the Fuzion system? Was it ahead of its time? Or did it deserve to die a quick death? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

7 thoughts on “Fuzion–Of unrealized Potential and being ahead of its Time”

  1. There wasn’t really any need to blend HERO and Interlock the way Fuzion did. It was an interesting thought experiment, but to me that’s all it really should have been. I purchased the Bubblegum Crisis RPG, the very first Fuzion product released, when it came out and was immediately put off by how close it was to Cyberpunk, but with a few “Uncanny Valley” differences. It didn’t help that R.Tal decided to direct everyone to Mekton Zeta Plus for mecha creation.

    Later on, I bought Sengoku from Gold Rush Games (I was a major Japanophile at the time) and thought the whole thing felt extremely forced. A tailored system would have worked much better. Finally, I bought Shards of the Stone, which actually succeeded in simplifying some of the most egregious aspects of Fuzion that bothered me (Disadvantage calculation being one) and had a power- and magic-creation system that resembled Champions but was much easier to use, if badly edited within the text. A little bit more work on trimming the system would have made Shards perfect, and there were Big Plans for the game, including many individually-flavored Realms, but the project was basically abandoned (it got shunted into a house system called “Five-Stat”, which really sucked, and then was just dropped entirely). Sean Fannon’s Shaintar was originally conceived as a Realm for Shards of the Stone.

    Overall, Fuzion didn’t light my fire, if you’ll pardon the pun, but I think the version used in Shards of the Stone would have made a great supers game.

  2. Yes, generic systems have it hard, but that was slightly better when Fuzion actually came out. But this also means that GURPS was still bringing it’s a-game and didn’t just play a distant second fiddle to a semi-humorous card game. Compared to that, the support for Fuzion was lackluster. Talsorian was pretty much off the map, and Cyberpunk 3 was released long after Fuzion’s short glory days.

    Champions: The New Millennium is a bit under-appreciated in my opinion, but it had to fight against terrible iron-age art and a power system that was basically HERO’s with all costs divided by ten — which really removed most fine-tuning options and was little motivation to ditch your trusty Big Blue Book.

    So IMHO the strong points of Fuzion were in the more rules-lite sector (compared to HERO/GURPS, mind you), as shown by e.g. the Usagi Yojimbo game. And the free game market, where you didn’t have a wide variety of basic games available (FUDGE comes to mind). The Lodoss War RPG was quite popular, if I remember correctly.

    Which might show one of the reasons why Fuzion had some issues: Quite a few people pegged it as an “anime game”, but for the hardcore anime crowd it wasn’t genre-savvy enough and didn’t pander enough in its core version (as opposed to BESM).

    And then D&D happened — both the OGL, as mentioned, and the whole skills/feats structure, which influenced the next crowd of “generic” games. If you look at Savage Worlds and its ilk, you’ll see more influence from that area than from the “huge pool of points” forefathers.

    I did like the basic system, which removed some of the warts that Champions/HERO accumulated over the days. But still retained quite a few of those, especially if you play a game with all options turned on (powers, martial arts, the speed chart…). The release of HERO 5E and GURPS 4E obviously didn’t help, either.

    I wonder what would’ve happened with a more liberal license, though.

  3. I jumped the Fuzion train back in 1997-98, when I stumbled over it looking for an Alien(s) game. Serena Dawn Spaceport had used the Fuzion system to create a free Alien(s) game that was awesome. However, back then we didn’t play RPGs anymore, and I failed to gather the old gang to play,so it kinda died out. I think the stuff’s still out there: http://www.serenadawn.com/AlienRPG-Contents.htm

  4. By the time Fuzion was out, I had already discovered FUDGE. Fuzion was sort of like an attempt to do light HERO and generic Cyberpunk. But it was more complex that Cyberpunk. But, it wasn’t _light_enough_ to displace my infatuation with FUDGE … so really it was just a generic version of Cyberpunk, and as I said, more complex than that.

    So, it really had nothing I wanted. Half of the complexity and clunkiness of Hero (which is/was too much complexity/clunkiness). None of the genre specifics of Cyberpunk (but it did have something like Interlock which I found cool for gritty combat). And no compelling reason to buy into it, IMO. So I didn’t.

  5. The Action! System is the Son of Fuzion… Action! is OGL and is a robust system. If you’d like to see what Fuzion could have been, then look at Action!…

  6. Two things hurt Fuzion badly. One was the way that it was marketed to the Hero Fanbase, and that it included an incomplete power generation system (BTW it was Power divided by Five not 10). They left out powers, and other things that were part of the core Champions Power generation system. It was a better system with no multiplication or division required. It kind of included the Secondary Stats from Champions, which was good and bad. IMHO it should have had more development time. So the whole thing was mostly rejected by the Hero/Champions fanbase.

    The second thing that EVERYONE forgets about, is the impact that Magic the Gathering had on RPGs everywhere. There was a time period where RPG sales were flat while everyone played the new card game. 3.0 D&D turned that around, but during that time before then. Many RPGs nearly died or did die. Some games never really recovered. Fuzion was one of those that died during that time. Also, a change of ownership for Hero ended the R.Tal/Hero Partnership.

  7. Back in the day, I was a huge fan of the system. Purchased he book from R Tal, downloaded and printed every thing I could. But in the end, I only ran one game using FUZION. I used with a MegaTraveller adventure, Rapid Repo, and it worked quite well.

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