To Fudge or Not to Fudge, That is the Question

Posted on October 31, 2009 by

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I brought up a topic on Twitter recently that spawned a number of replies and let to an interesting discussion.  I asked if DM’s mostly rolled out in the open, or behind the screen.  A good number of DM’s seem to roll their dice in front of their players, which is what I personally do.  In combat, all my attack and damage rolls are out there for all to see, as I believe it adds a sense of excitement to  combat.  I love the groans that accompany a natural 20, and the high fives that accompany a crucial monster attack that ends in a fumble.

Having said all this, the topic of the DM fudging  the dice came up.  How can you fudge if the dice are being rolled out in plain view?   Well, the truth is that I don’t fudge dice.  Dice fudging goes back to the very beginning of D&D.  It is a tried and true tradition of the game.  After all, what DM wants his party to die at the hands of a lucky Kobold rather than the big boss at the end of the dungeon?  Not me.  But I also think that the element of randomness that the dice bring to the game is crucial, and should be respected.  I was asked if I would allow a total party kill due to lucky rolling at the hands of some mediocre enemies.  So I tweeted the following:

I’d rather “guide” the story through narration than by fudging. If I smell a TPK, I’ll narrate them out of it, rather than lie about a roll.

It’s very simple.  If I see it coming, I’ll get them out of it before I let it happen.  I ask you this… what’s the point of rolling if you know that a certain outcome will cause you to fudge the roll?  If you know that your party might die due to the breath weapon on the big red dragon, and you plan to fudge this “to hit” roll, why do it at all?  Narrate them out of a possible TPK.  Reinforcements come in to help them bring down the dragon… a dragon’s old enemy swoops in to attack him while he’s busy with the party, allowing the pc’s some rounds to deal with a distracted dragon… the party has a round to heal a few key members… You can come up with something.

fudge

Although it looks tasty, it's not the fudge we're talking about.

All I’m saying is that I’m not in favor of the randomness of the game being played with.  You wouldn’t use loaded dice, and fudging is the verbal equivalent of pulling out your loaded d20.  Instead, use you narrative control of the game to steer things where you want them to go, while making it feel organic and not too obvious to the players.

I know I’m going to be in the minority with this thinking.  I know that fudging is seen by many as a handy DM tool.  I get that.  But I want to get my point across and get your thoughts on the matter.  If a result is so crucial that you are willing to lie to get it, then just skip the step  altogether and use your storytelling to get where you want or need to go.

Alright, my flame retardant suit of armor is on.  Bring it on!

Oh, and check out Mike’s D&D Blog, where he writes his views on the subject, as he was involved in the twitter debate.

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Posted in: 4e D&D, Gaming