Wednesday, April 7, 2010

To Fudge, or Not To Fudge

So my turn to DM is coming up pretty soon with the new group of players I'm with and I questioning my usual DMing style. Typically I like to play behind a screen, obviously to hide maps and things, but also to hide dice rolls. Especially at low levels, characters can die VERY easily. Even at max hit points, a character can only suffer a couple of hits from a average monster before folding like a road map. So I would generally like to roll behind a screen so if the hits and damage are flowing TOO freely, I can make some minor adjustments. This isn't to help the party and make it a nice soft, fluffy game but rather to help ME. I don't like running games that force the players to spend half their time recovering from near-death injuries. It seems to detract more from the flow of an adventure when the party has to continually retreat to a safe haven (i.e. town) to lick their wounds and rethink strategy.

On the other hand, the other DMs we have (there have been two others so far), have no problem rolling out in the open and not caring if the party dies or not because "it's the luck of the die". And I can sort of agree with that to an extent. You know that he's not cheating when he rolls 13 critical hits in a row, but at the same time a nasty string of good rolls by the DM can decimate the party and there's really nothing that can be done about it.

I do like the danger a party feels from knowing they can die at any minute, but I also like to control the flow of the adventure and the emotion of battle, to an extent, while I run the game. 

Now, I'm wondering if I should go with the established status quo and roll out in the open and let the chips fall where they may, or retreat behind the screen and make minor adjustments if things are going too far south too quickly. 

I know that rule #1 of DMing is "You Don't Talk About Fight Club"
and that rule #2 is..."You Don't Talk About Fight Club"
but the almost as well known rule #3 is "You're just there to tell the story and react to the players, not lead them by the nose and coddle them"

Maybe I just hate to see them defeated by little pieces of plastic when they have solid planning and tactics, but so far no one has complained about it so maybe it's time for me to change my ways and step out from behind my screen and let the carnage commence.


  1. Go with your initial feeling of rolling behind the screen. Fudge if you feel a bad result will screw up the game.

    There are plenty of other ways for you to "cheat" without having to alter rolls.

    If you're not comfortable with your end of the game, your players will pick up on it. And the game will probably suffer for it.

  2. I'm not a DM but I think I have to agree with you about the 'fudging', as it's known. Because at the end of the day it is all about fun and fun is getting the balance right - not too much injury/fear of death slowing things down, not too easy to kill the bad guys. At the end of the day it is down to the DM's decision really.

    I don't know if this is the right place for this but on this website I saw yesterday I saw they sell 'fudge dice', pardon my ignorance but does anyone have a clue what that's all about?

  3. Fudge dice are used to roll skewed results. You don't really need anything like that to fudge results. You just roll behind a screen and tell them the result that you want to have happen.

    I would even go so far as to say that fudge dice are more for players to cheat with rather than DMs to skew results.

  4. I think about it like this: presumably the players and I have the same goal, which is for everyone to have fun. My players and I are not adversaries.

    If me "fudging" a die-role furthers our mutual goal, then I hadve no problem with it.

  5. Interesting coincidence that you have that picture of a shield being splintered. There's a middle road, where you can roll in the open, but institute a couple house rules that allow PCs to mitigate a deadly roll once or twice. The "Shields Shall Be Splintered!" rule is a great example of that. Or Jeff Rients' "Death's Door" table. I use both in my campaign.

  6. The primary effect of the 'Shields Shall Be Splintered' rule is to enhance character survivability at first level.

    A knock-on effect I've seen in play though is that the party skews heavily towards fighters and clerics because of the enhanced survivability. ... This may cause party composition problems for when a thief or magic-user and the party doesn't have one (or the other).

    Another would be that two-handed weapons are never adopted as a second shield is carried for when the first one breaks. More can be picked up from fallen humanoid foes if need be as well.

    I think a more elegant solution (and one keeping more in line with the abstract nature of D&D combat) is to let characters begin with 3 HD of hit points and no more until they reach 4th level. Accomplishes the low-level survivability quest without the above causal effects (though there may be others...)

    Me, I just let the PC's fall where they may...let the player learn the SKILL and techniques necessary until they 'luck out' and reach the low-mid levels where every single encounter need not be his last.

  7. I highly recommend rolling in the open, there are plenty of opportunities to fudge things on a macro level. Screwing with dice rolls never leads to good. It's not up to the DM to fudge damage, it's up to the players to run away when they are in over their heads. Bad luck happens, that's why there are saves, magical healing, etc. etc.

    > I don't like running games that force the players to spend half their time recovering from near-death injuries.

    Then you shouldn't build world/encounters/whatever were deadly combat is common. Or else make hit point recovery quick.

    @Trey FUDGE is a free-form and free RPG It uses special Fudge Dice. google FUDGE RPG and learn all about it.

  8. I have to concur with Norman, I try to arrange the scenarios in play to make it so that the PCs don't die without adequate opportunities to change their fortune beforehand... Generally, I feel like once you fudge or the players think you are doing so, the trust in the "reality" of the adventure is undermined, and down that road lies ruin!

  9. Damn guys are NOT helping at all! Everyone has really good opinions on this and you all make sense.

    But I think I'm leaning toward No Fudging. Let the dice fly and see what happens. If they don't wanna die, they better have their running shoes on


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