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The Fugue system: narrative rules for amnesia RPGs
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The Fugue system: narrative rules for amnesia RPGs

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FUGUE is an RPG engine that lets you construct and tell the story of a group of people who begin with complete amnesia, and who regain their memories of themselves, their pasts, their connections, their abilities and their secrets as the story goes on.

What really differentiates Fugue from most RPGs is that it’s built to tell a story that lasts a pre-determined amount of time (usually four sessions), and leads to a definite final conclusion. Where most RPGs are soap operas, ongoing and open-ended with characters entering and leaving the narrative, a Fugue game is more like an HBO or Netflix miniseries: there’s a fixed number of episodes and the story's done.

Fugue is a narrative game system: it is designed to let players tell a story through collaborative play. That doesn’t mean that success is inevitable, and it definitely doesn’t mean that it’s just about making stuff up. The game, together with whichever content-set you’re playing it with, is designed to provide a group of players with a structured, set of rules to act as a foundation, plus a background and narrative framework that lets them build their stories on top of that foundation. The system is simple, easy to learn, elegant and intelligent. It uses a deck of Tarot cards instead of dice.

Fugue is the system that drives the Alas Vegas RPG, a 322-page book containing four different campaigns that all use these rules. They are:

  • 'Alas Vegas', a nightmarish journey of discovery in a bizarre casino city ruled by warring mob-bosses, by James Wallis
  • 'Yet Already', frantic time-travel to save a chaotic collapsing universe, by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
  • 'Warlock Kings', paladins returned to life as generals of a dark army, by Allen Varney and Johnstone Metzger
  • 'Remembering Cosmic Man', uncovering the twisted histories of superheroes and their foes, by Laurent Devernay and Jerome Larre.

Fugue's designer, James Wallis, is best known as co-creator of the Games 100 storytelling game Once Upon a Time (as seen on Wil Wheaton's Tabletop), the Origins Award-winning publisher of Nobilis 2e, and the creator of the multi-award-nominated Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen RPG, the original story-game. He is lead designer on the 2016 reboot of the classic dark-humour RPG Paranoia

Fugue is released under a Creative Commons licence, allowing anyone to use it, rework it and republish it in their own games, including commercial releases. There is more information on this within the document.

The current version of Fugue is version 1.51, released 20th February 2018. Updates since v1.501 include clarifications to wording in the But What Happened? table, removing unconsciousness from the definition of 'Incapacitated' on page 22, and removing minor formatting errors.

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Discussions (1)
Customer avatar
Bob J September 27, 2016 10:24 am UTC
I'd rate this 1 star if I could. This is a product that came out of a kickstarter which has not yet been fulfilled. Seems a bit cheeky to be posting it here when the author hasn't spoken to his backers for almost a year.
Customer avatar
James W November 07, 2016 11:41 am UTC
One of the stretch-goals of the Kickstarter was that the Fugue system would be released for free under a Creative Commons licence. This is that document.
Customer avatar
Bob J November 07, 2016 2:01 pm UTC
That's great. What about the rest of the game?
Customer avatar
James W February 20, 2018 3:03 pm UTC
The Alas Vegas PDF was released to backers at the end of 2016. it's now available for sale on this site.
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File Last Updated:
February 20, 2018
This title was added to our catalog on August 16, 2016.