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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default DM fudging good or bad?

    This comes out of Ken do nim's "Was I right to be upset about this?" thread. Rather than derailing his thread I figured I'd start a new one.

    I've played in games that had no fudging, we just let the dice fall as they may. I had a lot of fun with that.
    I've also played in games with blatant fudging where the DM would back up the encounter and say something didn't happen or roll out in the open and then tell us he was going to ignore the roll. This bothered me. The storyline was interesting, but there was no suspense since I knew he wouldn't let us die no matter what happened.

    When I run a game I use minimal fudging and try not to let the players know when I do it. Most of the time I let the dice roll and just go with it. If a character fails he suffers the consequences. Luck is part of the game and adventuring is a risky business. If a character dies I'm okay with that, it's happened many times in my games.
    On the other hand I don't like TPKs. If an encounter is going bad because I made a mistake planning it (hard to believe, I know!) I will fudge things a little bit to make it a more even match. If the players are playing well but are just exceptionally unlucky and they are heading for a TPK in what was supposed to be a minor encounter I might fudge it. If half the party is down I may lower the NPC's BAB or damage bonus a step or 2 to give the PCs a chance. If I have a plausible reason for the bad guys to run they may do that. I might also have them capture the PCs or rob them but leave them alive. There will be consequences, but I will try to avoid a TPK.
    In a major battle TPKs are fair, but I don't seek them out and have never had one in one of my games. As a general rule I don't fudge in major battles, these are meant to be dangerous after all. I did finish off one school year of play with a fight that killed 3 out of the 4 PCs and left the last one at 4hp, but that is the closest I've ever gotten to TPK. I pride myself on that fact as I feel it means I create relatively balanced encounters most of the time.

    My basic beliefs:
    Ultimately the purpose of fudging should be to make the game more fun for everyone and enhance the shared story of the group, not just the DM's idea of what should happen. Fudging should be done secretly to maintain the illusion of risk for the players. Fudging should not entirely eliminate the risk to the players. PC death should still be a possibility, otherwise the game can become boring. Even if the players don't realize the DM is fudging they will eventually recognize the lack of risk.
    If the group does not like fudging it should not be used. This is a tough one to judge since asking them will give it away if you do use it, but do your best to get a feel for the players' feelings on the subject.

    So what are your opinions? What level of fudging is okay? What level of challenge are you looking for in an adventure? Do you like playing in games where TPKs happen on a regular basis? For purposes of this discussion I include any change made on the fly to the encounter for the pupose of reducing the risk to the PCs. Please explain your reasons for whatever answers you give.

    Editted for clarity (I hope)
    Last edited by Tallis; 2008-09-03 at 01:25 AM.
    DMs don't cheat, they just change the rules.

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  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Sstoopidtallkid's Avatar

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    No fudging. At all. I'm a simulationist. I want the world real. I prefer "realistic" over even plot, let alone survival.
    [/sarcasm]
    FAQ is not RAW!
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    Saph:It's surprising how many problems can be solved by one druid spell combined with enough aggression.
    I play primarily 3.5 D&D. Most of my advice will be based off of this. If my advice doesn't apply, specify a version in your post.

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    I fudge all the time. I might as well not be rolling the dice. I go by the general feel of the roll. I usually try to make my players take enough damage to scare them, but not to kill them. Occasionally I do kill them though.

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anxe View Post
    I fudge all the time. I might as well not be rolling the dice. I go by the general feel of the roll. I usually try to make my players take enough damage to scare them, but not to kill them. Occasionally I do kill them though.
    I would never game with you. No offense, but that makes it a rules-based drama group, not an RPG, IMHO.
    [/sarcasm]
    FAQ is not RAW!
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    Saph:It's surprising how many problems can be solved by one druid spell combined with enough aggression.
    I play primarily 3.5 D&D. Most of my advice will be based off of this. If my advice doesn't apply, specify a version in your post.

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    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tallis View Post
    On the other hand I don't like TPKs. If an encounter is going bad because I made a mistake planning it (hard to believe, I know!) I will fudge things to make it a more even match.
    I think this is the key. I try to do major fudges only when I feel like I, as a DM, planned the encounter poorly. Sometimes, this means it is too hard, so the bad guy needs to miss with a crucial spell. Sometimes, it means it is too easy, so the bad guy needs to hit with a few attacks to make him feel threatening.

    The only other time I fudge stuff is when a player has a niche roll (like a rogue and traps) that I haven't thrown at them for awhile. I might fudge a near miss to be a successful disarm, because someone who pours their heart and sole into filling a specific role doesn't deserve to have his character look stupid over an unlucky roll. (why have him roll then? well, I don't fudge it if it is a frequent occurence, and I try to let all of my players fill their roles in the party, so if they haven't been lately, then it is the same as above and falls under DM mistake)

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    I think DM rolls should be behind a screen, and that fudging is both acceptable and to be encouraged when appropriate for story purposes.

    I don't like killing PCs, have never done so, and (I hope they don't read this) I do not intend to ever do so for non-dramatic purposes. This is because, as a player, I find it difficult to make an attachment to a character if I believe his death is all too likely from the outset.
    Avatar courtesy of Szilard

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    If you like TPK happening on a regular basis you should quit DnD and start playing the Warhammer RolePlaying Game where you are living in a world where everything can and will kill you.

    Personally I think that if the entire Party is killed then either the DM screwed up or the Players rolled very badly. Or the DM rolled really good. TPK should be a constant risk but only because of the inherent nature or the dice. Technically a kobold could kill a lvl 20 fighter simply by virtue of natural 20's and natural 1's. So in any fight you could be killed but you shouldn't be assuming both the players and the DM roll averagely and the Players don't act like idiots.

    DM fudging should be kept to an absolute minimum. If say a random encounter that was supposed to be easy wound up having the enemy run up and roll a crit and he had a X4 crit weapon then the DM should roll the damage in secret(assuming he does that often) and tell them that it reduced him to -3 or something if it should have killed him. If it wound up not killing them anyway just go with the dice and keep going. If they are about to die because they were acting like an idiot and charged off alone then let them die. If it is a more important fight (say against the final villain or a rival or even a high level henchman) then you should let the dice stand completely to keep the tension alive. If it kills everyone well they will be better prepared next time and since it was against the final villain or atleast a major enemy they won't feel cheated.

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    A little fudging unless the game incorporates Action Points is usually nice.
    Stolen from Bayar

    My PC likes hamburgers but prefers cheeseburgers. Any LG Paladin should Wish for a CG Candle of Invocation to Summon a Noble Djinni or a Solar. Pazuzu probably amused at a lowly Paladin having a Demon Lord grant him a Wish to command a Solar to grant a Wish for something like Summoning a Noble Djinni for more wishes of questionable purposes. Gate spell doesn't cause creature to forget.

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by CASTLEMIKE View Post
    A little fudging unless the game incorporates Action Points is usually nice.
    Why are so many people willing to go easy? I really don't get it.
    [/sarcasm]
    FAQ is not RAW!
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    Saph:It's surprising how many problems can be solved by one druid spell combined with enough aggression.
    I play primarily 3.5 D&D. Most of my advice will be based off of this. If my advice doesn't apply, specify a version in your post.

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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anxe View Post
    I fudge all the time. I might as well not be rolling the dice. I go by the general feel of the roll. I usually try to make my players take enough damage to scare them, but not to kill them. Occasionally I do kill them though.
    Hmmm....
    Interesting way of doing thigs, but if the layers catch you they could get pretty upset. Especially if you killed them.

    If it works for your group great, but I don't think I'd like it.

    Thank you for your input though, it's always interesting to know how other people do things.
    DMs don't cheat, they just change the rules.

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    "Celebacy is no match for a natural 20!" -RandomNPC

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    I think it's necessary, sometimes. I mostly do so only to avoid killing a PC, and then only when it's going to be a pointless death, or if it will somehow derail my story.

    I've been more likely to roll above average against PCs and I've gotten this habit of lifting the screen to show crits or strings of high rolls.

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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sstoopidtallkid View Post
    Why are so many people willing to go easy? I really don't get it.
    For myself at least telling a good story is more important than an individual roll of the dice. If an encounter is meant to be tough within the story I generally won't fudge things. On the other hand if the PCs are just unlucky in what is meant to be an easy encounter and are losing through no fault of their own then I will push things in a direction that supports the story.
    Most of the players I've gamed with have wanted to play heroic (power level, not always morality ) games. Dying in a minor encounter is not very heroic so I avoid that in the interest of everyone's fun.
    DMs don't cheat, they just change the rules.

    "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't" -Margaret Thatcher

    "Celebacy is no match for a natural 20!" -RandomNPC

    "If you're so goth, where were YOU when we sacked Rome?" -Swordguy

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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Xenogears View Post
    If you like TPK happening on a regular basis you should quit DnD and start playing the Warhammer RolePlaying Game where you are living in a world where everything can and will kill you.
    I disagree. Call of Cthulu. Then you have multiple ways of killing.

    As a DM if it is a roll I would fudge I don't roll it. I have the power of "story" to do that. If it is an encounter I plan badly then I expect my PCs to have an escape route. I almost never block teleport or anything else, except for anticipate and delay teleport spells.

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    See, for me, I'd think that the story doesn't matter if there's no risk. It's not worth it if there's no chance of failure.
    [/sarcasm]
    FAQ is not RAW!
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    I play primarily 3.5 D&D. Most of my advice will be based off of this. If my advice doesn't apply, specify a version in your post.

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Well, I don't GM at all, but I think fudging should be done if it helps everyone present enjoy themselves(the players, I mean. The characters can be completely miserable for all I care). Even then, the GM should take care to hide the fact that it's happening from the players.
    Quote Originally Posted by Asmodeus View Post
    However, the general consensus about the best way to stop a monster from attacking is to kill it. In the case of undead, we recommend killing it again.
    2 useful principles for keeping roleplaying games fun.

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sstoopidtallkid View Post
    I would never game with you. No offense, but that makes it a rules-based drama group, not an RPG, IMHO.
    You say "rules-based drama group" like it's a bad thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sstoopidtallkid View Post
    Why are so many people willing to go easy? I really don't get it.
    You don't get it because you are only considering things from your own perspective, & not considering the possibility of alternative perspectives.

    For instance, as a thought exercise, consider DMing a game wherein you did not show your players the dice. Now you, as the DM, now have not only power over the player's gaming experience, but you now also have power over the game itself. You are not bound by the dice, or the social pressure to follow the mandates of random chance. You are free to craft your player's gameplay as you see fit.

    You should still roll the dice a lot, of course, but now you can choose to take the pips at face value or to make up a number that better suits your whims/fancies/desires/plans/plots/strategies. If done well, the players will never know that you changed a 3 to an 8, or a natural 20 to a mere 10. They will assume that your rolls are legit, or at least you are rolling for a reason.

    I've played with a DM who rolled her die every few seconds, consulting charts & jotting down notes. We always assumed that she was calculating background world events, as her worlds were very immersive & full of rich detail. I found out much later that she was just a masterful railroader, & that all her die rolling was just for show: she knew the results that she was going for before she ever took the die out of her bag.

    Now, this may not be the way you would prefer to DM, & by all means, you should follow your heart in that regard. But please tell us that you can at least imagine other DMs out there fudging the results? Surely you can concede that the idea has some appeal, as well as some distinct advantages.

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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sstoopidtallkid View Post
    See, for me, I'd think that the story doesn't matter if there's no risk. It's not worth it if there's no chance of failure.
    It's possible to fail without dying, that's generally what I aim for. I also generally to not completely ignore rolls, I just reduce damage or have their opponents keep them alive for ransom or something like that. It's still possible that the PCs could die, I just give them a better chance of survival. PCs do die due to bad luck in my games, just not very often. So my players know they're at risk and I do my best not to let them know when I protect them a little. From their point of view the risk is always there, and it is, just at a lower level than they think.
    DMs don't cheat, they just change the rules.

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    "Celebacy is no match for a natural 20!" -RandomNPC

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sstoopidtallkid View Post
    See, for me, I'd think that the story doesn't matter if there's no risk. It's not worth it if there's no chance of failure.
    It's almost a trope of fantasy that heroic groups have largely uniform membership from the start of the story to the end. There might be the occasional heroic death (Boromir in LotR or Sturm Brightblade in Dragonlance) but the core of the group remains constant the entire time.

    If too many characters die, you lose continuity and the story either (1) ceases altogether or (2) becomes about events rather than people.

    Ultimately, I believe that stories should be about people, and that entails that there shouldn't be too many casualties. To put a number on it, (and excluding voluntary PC departure) I'd say that you should finish a campaign with at 50% of the original characters present if you want to present some form of cohesive heroic tale.

    EDIT: To clarify, I'm talking about permanent death, not the usual D&D "take a nap until your cleric can cast his ritual" death. Permanent death of multiple PCs (especially by TPK) can, in my experience be a campaign killer.
    Last edited by Colmarr; 2008-09-01 at 01:21 AM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobVosh View Post
    I disagree. Call of Cthulu. Then you have multiple ways of killing.
    Both are good. The DM I usually played with let me try out Call of Cthulhu once. At level one I killed about ten zombie's with a sniper rifle before they could even get close enough to see me. He quit right then and there and we never played again. Although he did on occasion take it out in normal DnD in order to find a monster to horribly kill me. It never worked though. The monster was the one who died horribly.

    In Warhammer Role Playing you can play a Dwarf with an orange Mohawk though. The orange mohawk is a class feature! That is the single coolest class feature ever! Plus it is incredibly hard if not impossible to powerplay. (especially since starting careers are chosen randomly) so it makes the game more balanced. Also mages aren't that overpowered (especially since they get hunted down AND go insane). Plus my Dwarven Trollslayer wound up as the smartest character of the group.

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    I sometimes fudge the dice when the story calls for it. For example, although I do let the PCs get pretty beat up during, say, the penultimate encounter of an adventure, I'd only kill them in the final one. Or when they do something really stupid.

    I've tried an approach of not fudging anything, ever, in an earlier campaign, but that just didn't work. One player's characters kept dying and dying and dying, and could never truly get involved in the story. When the character who was the driving force in the plot died in an unimportant encounter, the story was over.

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    It's a doubly important issue in 4th, as you can fudge a whole lot more. You couldn't fudge everyone failing a save in 3.5. In 4.0, it's an attack roll against will, and you can fudge that.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Fudging can progress the story and that is good. However if you do it too much and the players begin to feel that they will never die the game is pretty much pointless. Sure dying sucks and might screw up the story but if you can't die then all the tension is gone. At most DM fudging should be used sparingly. Preferably not at all but in the case of a random bout of extreme unluckiness it is okay sometimes.

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Paranoia, of all systems, has a rule very dear to my heart: you should only be rolling dice if you don't know what you want to happen.

    Of course to me games like this are all about the story and the setting. Screw realism, screw strict adherence to the rules. When I play, I want to make sure my players and I are having fun. If that means fudging some rolls so they don't have some BS death, so much the better for all of us. TPKs are something I absolutely avoid at all cost, too. Or character death in general. I'm more willing to let them survive but have there be repercussions to their failure than to kill them, as someone else mentioned it breaks the flow of the game and forces a player to sit out, which isn't fun for them. Bottom line, if my players are happy, then I'm doing it right. If I have to fudge a roll to do it, hell yes I will.


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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sstoopidtallkid View Post
    Why are so many people willing to go easy? I really don't get it.
    Because sometimes a satisfying in-game narrative involving a character or the entire party is worth saying a nameless kobold hit a critical or the BBEG that you've been building up to for months from killing the party in the first round. That's what separates an RPG from a plotless hack-and-slash grinder. And before you ask, pretty much everyone in the campaign I'm currently playing in has died at least once.
    Last edited by Dode; 2008-09-01 at 02:58 AM.

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Behold_the_Void View Post
    Paranoia, of all systems, has a rule very dear to my heart: you should only be rolling dice if you don't know what you want to happen.
    That is basically what I was saying. However I don't care if my player lose to a same cr fight, unless I min/maxed the cr. But that is far more annoying to do than not...so I don't.

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by OneFamiliarFace View Post
    I think this is the key. I try to do major fudges only when I feel like I, as a DM, planned the encounter poorly. Sometimes, this means it is too hard, so the bad guy needs to miss with a crucial spell. Sometimes, it means it is too easy, so the bad guy needs to hit with a few attacks to make him feel threatening.
    I think this is the number one reason to fudge. Many 3.5 monsters are wrongly-CRed; many 4e monsters don't match their XP value. And that's just monsters taken from the book. Once the DM starts making stuff up from scratch, anything goes.

    Often these mistakes will result in an encounter that's way too hard or way too easy. In this case, I think you should fudge. If the PCs are expecting a level-appropriate encounter, and the module states that it's supposed to be a level-appropriate encounter, then having the PCs all die because some nitwit playtester made the Needlefang Drake Swarm twice as tough as it should be is just not fair. No-one wants to have a character die because of badly written rules.

    On the other hand, sometimes the PCs lose fair and square. If they make bad decisions and have bad luck, and the monsters play well and have good luck, and the battle's a close-run thing where the PCs run through all their abilities but are finally defeated, well, then you should play it as it rolls. (If you don't, then when are you going to?)

    I don't think it's a good idea to fudge just because the results of a combat aren't matching the DM's intended narrative. The whole fun of a RPG is that you have the freedom to succeed (or fail) in your own way. Sure, players don't want to die a pointless death, but that doesn't mean they want the opposite extreme, either. If the entire party is basically invulnerable for all but two or three fights per campaign, they're likely to get bored. Riskless combats get dull fast. The players have to believe that they're in at least some danger when a fight starts, otherwise they'll lose interest.

    Even if you do fudge from time to time (and you'll probably have to) it's important not to do it too often. The players will understand if you fudge one encounter out of five, but not two encounters out of three. At some point, you have to either start going by what the dice say, or stop pretending to roll them in the first place.

    - Saph
    I'm the author of the Alex Verus series of urban fantasy novels. Fated is the first, and Book #10 in the series, Fallen, is out as of September 2019. For updates, check my blog!

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sstoopidtallkid View Post
    Why are so many people willing to go easy? I really don't get it.
    Lots of reasons which vary from person to person but in the end it is usually more fun.
    Stolen from Bayar

    My PC likes hamburgers but prefers cheeseburgers. Any LG Paladin should Wish for a CG Candle of Invocation to Summon a Noble Djinni or a Solar. Pazuzu probably amused at a lowly Paladin having a Demon Lord grant him a Wish to command a Solar to grant a Wish for something like Summoning a Noble Djinni for more wishes of questionable purposes. Gate spell doesn't cause creature to forget.

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    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dode View Post
    Because sometimes a satisfying in-game narrative involving a character or the entire party is worth saying a nameless kobold hit a critical or the BBEG that you've been building up to for months from killing the party in the first round. That's what separates an RPG from a plotless hack-and-slash grinder. And before you ask, pretty much everyone in the campaign I'm currently playing in has died at least once.
    Yes. And even stepping outside of the narrative bit for a moment, we can look at players. Of all the types of players, probably the only ones who have a strong urge to die in them are storytellers and people who play barbaric idiot characters. Everyone else would like to see the next session with character sheet in tact.

    As far as making it exciting without character death, I have but two words: Rust Monster. This thing shows that players can piss their pants even when they won't have to be rolling new stats in a few minutes. On simpler terms, I've had players thinking they were in mortal danger for an entire combat, and then, when they look afterwards, they realize they are still easily at half capacity. It's more about description and ideas than about the actual probability of risk. You have to make them feel that something is at risk by making them feel it. And that combines the narrative desires of the DM and the players' desires to stay alive!

    Edit: And just to add, losing a combat doesn't always have to end in losing one's life. Players should be more okay with running when the chips are down if they don't think they have a good hand. This would actually make things easier on the DM a good number of times.
    Last edited by OneFamiliarFace; 2008-09-01 at 03:59 AM.

  29. - Top - End - #29
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    I only fudge dice rolls to keep PCs from dying from poor luck. The key, obviously, is that the players can't know.

    In most games, I roll on my little "DM table", but in some games, I roll on the "battle board" table, which makes fudging impossible.

    Whether I bother fudging depends on the game. Call of Cthulhu? Definitely - it's easier to scare players when their characters are alive (and characters with history = characters the players are invested in). D&D? Probably not - combat and dice have a bigger role in combat-heavy games.

    Backing up encounters and the like is definitely no good - in fact, any fudging that necessitates saying anything is bad fudging.


    I really prefer games like Warhammer FRP, where the players have a legitimate way to fudge bad rolls built into the rules (Fate Points, in WFRP). In story-heavy games, failed dice rolls should result in fixable messes and new challenges, not termination of a PC's story. (Of course, in some games - like high-level RuneQuest - death is a fixable mess.)

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    nagora's Avatar

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    Default Re: DM fudging good or bad?

    No fudging at all.

    As a player I find it deeply patronising and turns every victory into a hollow one. As a DM, I feel it makes my world and NPCs into cardboard cutouts.

    Fudging is like a drug: the DM starts off doing it just a little because "I don't like to kill people for bad luck" or "This encounter is a little too tough", and ends up with railroads as far as the eye can see.

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