Thread: Fudging is not your friend
Thursday, 4th October, 2012, 11:08 PM #1
Fudging is not your friend
For years, I was a player under a variety of GMs, and the finally, I ascended to the other side of the screen. Fromm there, I started by looking at the GMs I'd played under, and came to a hard choice: I wanted to see what a campaign looked like with no fudging.
No last moments saves or bailouts, no NPCs who were un-statted that could totally trounce the party, everything above board. Well, at first it was...............................
a bit of train wreck, as a number of PCs died.
It might have ended there, save that one of my gamers' light bulbs came on. They'd just gotten used to a certain flow of game, and just needed to get out of the rut.
Suddenly, plans would start going, and the party's overall unity increased. They started digging in, and formulating new strategies. Combats became more tense, because even a kobold encounter could end up going south if they weren't on point.
Monsters that were cowards ran away (i.e. kobolds), creatures made use of all their abilities, and as the PC death rate increased, a rather interesting thing happened: They were more engaged, and started talking more in-character. Whole plots developed out of their own actions and interactions, and they felt like it was more about them than other campaigns had been.
The reach for magical items changed as well. All of the sudden, boots of springing and striding and rings of sustenance became of greater value than most magical arms and armor, because they removed impediments, or allowed greater tactical movement.
On my side, villains were made more sinister as I had to pull together in-game ways of doing what would normally have just been fudged by the GM. Instead of the party calling BS when I did something, they might say something like, "Wait, he shouldn't be able to do that."
Me: "I know, right?"
and the KNOW that I'm being serious.
My skills as a GM improved by the simple omission of the easy way out. If someone was at 1 hp, and got nailed with a massive crit, it went through, most likely killing them. If they found a weakness in one of my villains, and capitalized on it, they would win. Depending on the villain, however, there might be consequences and repercussions to just snuffing him like that.
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Grandmaster of Flowers (Lvl 18)
- Join Date
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- Colombus, OH
ø Ignore Celebrim
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Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)
If that's the way you wish to roll, go for it.
I, on the other hand, prefer another path. Sometimes, I feel like I've got to say "to hell with the dice. Let's have some fun instead."
Why are the dice not involved in your fun? They should be the first thing included in the festivities. I've had perfectly fun times, as has the entire group, without having to cut any part of the game out, or fudge on anything. I don't see how the two are mutually exclusive goals.
Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)
Sometimes I don't agree with the results of the dice. I will change them when that occurs, and I will not be dissuaded otherwise.
Calm down soldier - he's talking about a fun experience he's had putting the dice in charge, you respond with a one-liner and he makes a light hearted comment in reply. I think you're reading offence in here where none is intended, and it is better for everyone if they avoid doing this. Thanks. Plane Sailing, ENworld admin
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
- London England
ø Ignore S'mon
Me, I don't like fudging. I don't like doing it as a GM, and I don't like GMs who do it. I won't necessarily leave a fudging game, but it certainly saps a lot of the fun. Most of the GMing advice that recommends fudging is bad advice, IME.
On the other hand, I'm perfectly fine with the GM making a judgement call rather than rolling the dice for everything, if they are adjudicating what the best in-genre or most-realistic outcome should be, rather than to railroad down a particular pre-ordained path. But if they roll the dice they should stick to the result. And if they use overpowered monsters, they should not have them mysteriously fail to take actions in combat (I've seen that) or otherwise not use their abilities. If the GM really screwed up, then at least apologise to the players if you're going to nerf your monsters. But don't say "I lowered their hp to let you win!" afterwards - also seen that.
In general, using stupidly overpowered monsters in railroad scenarios seems to go hand in hand with fudging. Don't do either. Give the players choices, use plausible and/or balanced monsters, and if you roll them, then let the dice fall where they may. If you think your game is too lethal, better to (a) adjust threat level or (b) at worst use a metagame mechanic like Fate Points, not fudge to ensure PC victory or NPC survival etc.
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Scout (Lvl 6)
- Join Date
- Aug 2003
ø Ignore Wycen
An example of when fudging works.
The Pathfinder sandbox campaign I play in uses Paizo's crit cards. Rarely, the crit as described on the card doesn't fit the situation. When that happened, we picked another card and used the more appropriate result.
Now, I suppose someone could ask, is that really fudging?
I'm personally ok with it, but if it become regular and I KNOW it is happening, that might irk me. Sometimes the DM just needs to keep quiet. Players too
Magsman (Lvl 14)
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
ø Ignore Li Shenron
In my early days of DMing I used to fudge the dice quite often. The reason was that I was afraid. I was never sure if I was making an encounter or a trap too hard or too easy, and I didn't trust the CR system of 3ed very much, so I often relied on fudging the dice up or down.
Later I think I became more aware that the players should be responsible for their PC's fate more than the DM. If the DM throws a too hard or even impossible encounter (whether by mistake or on purpose), it's the player's responsibility to realize they are losing and get the hell out of the encounter instead of getting killed one by one by stubbornly continue to fight.
The real problem is that there are situations when they don't have time to figure it out! We all know that e.g. save-or-die spells and abilities are one danger against the ability of assessing whether an encounter is too difficult.
Another fundamental thing I became aware about the game is that my plan is not better than random's plan If I had planned for a certain course of the story where the PCs storm castle X, kill BBEG Y and destroy artifact Z to save the world, this is actually not going to be really more fun or interesting than a course where either X, Y or Z goes wrong. Maybe some DM is as great as a movie director, but I strongly believe that 99% of us are not better than a mediocre novelist or a B-movie junior director, and our "great" campaign ideas are almost always the same 2-3 stories. Hence, letting the dice pick the course does not really makes the campaign overall worse than it is when everything goes the way I planned
[addendum: what makes a campaign truly great is not the story, which is always the same, it's the memorable details, descriptions, anecdotes and social situations around the table!]
But the final caveat is that different people (and I don't mean just DMs, I mean different players in the same group) have different concept of fun.
I was never of the idea that a game of D&D should be for me as relaxing as watching a TV series from my couch, where I expect that everything ends up nicely for the protagonists. But maybe some of my players do... maybe they don't want a challenging game, they want an easy relaxing game, perhaps some of them are even the types that regularly used cheat codes in computer games to get through the story and beat the game easily.
So the hardest part for a DM is making compromises between what is everybody's different expectations and concept of fun, and this is why I haven't completely ruled out the idea of fudging.
Last edited by Li Shenron; Friday, 5th October, 2012 at 09:24 AM.
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