Mea Culpa (or What do I Want in my Game)

On 4 April 2014, I post an entry about why I felt Dice Fudging was bad. It started a heated and acrimonious debate. I feel bad that my post was the sulfur and bat guano that started this fireball. Since that blog post went up the following things have happened:

All of this has led me to reexamine my game and how I run it. I asked myself several questions. Have I ever fudged dice? YES. Did fudging dice ever improve a particular encounter? YES. Did fudging Dice ever worsen an encounter? YES. Was there ever a time that I wished I had fudged dice? YES   Did my players ever know that I fudged dice? PROBABLY. Did my Players ever suspect that I fudged dive? YES. Did that knowledge or suspicion have an effect on my game? YES. Was the effect positive or negative? NEGATIVE.

I lost the trust of my players. They couldn’t never be certain that a lucky series of rolls was just a lucky series of rolls and not a grudge attack? Did Hil get randomly shot at by the drow sniper or was I still mad at him, because he got a wild hair and murdered an NPC on which I had worked too hard. Did the ettin really miss hitting James or did I fudge on his behalf because he is my best friend? Did I randomly roll on the 1E DMG magic items tables and get a +5 Holy Avenger for Christina or did I give it to her because she is my wife? They may have believed that it actually happened the way I said it rolled, but there was always a shadow of doubt.

I am not perfect. I try very hard to be completely fair to my Players, but life gets in the way. Some days, I get mad at a Player. Some days, I feel bad about hurting a particular Player. Some days, I want the background on which I worked so hard to shine. Not always; not even most of the time; but SOMETIMES, I fall down. My Players are smart, educated, empathetic people and they SUSPECT that I fall. Do your Players SUSPECT you of fudging your die rolls? If they do, you may not have their trust in the game. They play your game because they have fun, but they may not believe that you are fair.

Having admitted that I fudge dice and not always for the right reason, I now ask myself, “Gregory, why did you roll the die in the first place? What was the purpose of that die roll that I now want to fudge?”

I am not a slave to my dice nor to the Rules As Written (RAW). I discarded the rolling for Wandering Monsters back in First Edition (1E) AD&D, just as I discarded weapon speed and the one minute combat round. I choose when or if to roll a die to get a randomly determined result. I choose what table to roll against. I choose what monsters the PCs encounter.

What if, when I roll the die, it comes up an undesirable result? Why roll the die, if I am not going to use the result? Am I trying to give the illusion of fairness? Am I trying to shift the blame of my choices to Random Chance? Am I just trying to give my Players the facade of free will; pretending that I am not railroading them along the path of my desire to fulfill the Story Arc that have, so cleverly, devised? The answer to the question of why I rolled the die is this: I rolled the die to place a random element into the game, so that my Players and I could react to the result and create the next element in our shared Story.

I was trying to expound upon 3 reasons why I felt that fudging dice led to a less awesome game. If fudging dice improves the awesome in your game, then fudge. Do whatever makes your game better. I will.

Game On!

4 thoughts on “Mea Culpa (or What do I Want in my Game)

  1. All due respect to the other blogs but they are full of shit. Ignoring dice rolls makes you a HORRIBLE DM – oh I didn’t intend that so ill fudge – you really wanna be in a game like that?
    Thanks but ill take the dice as they fall and let the story unfold organically. Because I care about the story. Rant over.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Color me jaded, but I tend to favor the “fudge” or “finagle factor” of game play. I personally believe that there is a time to finagle and a time to stand by the roll. The real matter to me is that we are all gathered around the game table to have fun. That can sometimes be for me to tell a story of intrigue in space or for all of us to enjoy a social game of Monopoly or Arkham Horror.

    Now if I were to be enjoying a game with my players of Talisman or Battle Tech, then yes I say let the dice stay as they are rolled, mostly because we are in it together and everyone just saw me roll a “1” to hit. There I am testing my mettle with them to see who winds up with the most stuff or just stand at the center and have defeated the Old One to end the game.

    I think the biggest part of the decision is to decide why are we gathered around the table in the first place. If we are all there to pit the GM against the players in a knock down drag out fight to the finish, then yes everyone rolls the dice in plain site and the GM’s rolls stand as rolled. Alas, most of the games I have been in or run have been a tale of travel and adventure, where the plot is unraveled, and the bad guy trounced. Although sometimes the players to not like defeating the bad guy and seeing that same bad guy return as a revenant with translucent skin and blood vessels pumping as it attacks with mysterious strength.

    I would say Gregory that your players, if they stay knowing that you have fudged the rolls a few times, show more trust in you as a Games Master. That trust is in that you will not let a random happenstance spoil the game. Your story will follow through, sometimes with a little guidance by troop of trolls passing by, “Um, we should not go there” or a shining light from a distant door that your players will liken to, like a rouge to treasure.

    I have several times ran a game session when a good game was ruined by a roll that missed by +/-1. Once I ran a Cyberpunk game where I did in fact fudge the dice. My players wanted to run a group of Solos, so I ran them against a few random rouge cyborgs to save the company’s CEO. Now, to be honest, I should have known something was amiss when I asked if they had armor piercing ammo loaded in their weapons and they replied, “You didn’t tell us we needed that.” However, we continued and everyone would have died, except the medic who had lost consciousness as the ‘borg turned around and not being a threat at that time, was left for dead. Since the rest had also finagled their way into the hospital, they went back to seek revenge on that poor misbegotten cyborg Booma. (To be honest, he was a very bad Booma.)

    Now if we had been playing World of Warcraft, yes a team wipe would have been a healthy learning experience that the players were not prepared. However, they were new players who did not have the Solo mindset and were in fact not prepared, but we were there to tell a story, have the Heroes defeat the Black Hats and save they day. In the end, everyone knew I had fudged the rolls, but they also knew that being a Solo is not just going out and punching the Bad Guy in the face.

    Should you always fudge your rolls? No. Should you always NOT fudge your rolls? Well, maybe, but I say, “Not really.” Each session brings with it new times and as you pointed out, we all are human and I know I use the game sessions to sometimes get me out a funk that I have been in. It is my stress release session. Far cheaper than a psychiatrist visit. If I were to only play or run a game when I am in top form then I would not play that often.

    Besides sometimes player tend to push their GM’s like children pushing to see how much we can get away with. Sometimes GM’s snap. We are all human. I have played against the machine, they are not much fun, as they have no imagination. What. So. Ever.

    Dum nos Lorem, et fruamur

    Liked by 1 person

    • Addendum, I wrote this before going back and catching up on the original “Fudging Dice” post. Nothing more to add or change, just it does seem out of context, now that I have gone back to read the previous posts.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Peanut Butter Fudge (or Let the Dice Fall Where They May) | World Engineer

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