D&D General Dice Fudging and Twist Endings

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
The decision not to abide by the result of a hidden die roll is a terrible responsibility, one that requires the explicit trust of everyone at the table and should still only be used at the uttermost end of need. But when that end is reached, that decision should absolutely be made. The fairness of dice and the reliabilty of rulebooks are illusions, no more real than any of the campaign's fiction.

It's the dungeon master's job to ensure everyone at the table is treated fairly and has fun, and we do this ceaselessly without any aid from dice or text. So why are we so quick to abdicate that responsibility as soon as a cheaply-manufactured lump of plastic is hurled against the tabletop or a sentence written years ago and hundreds of miles away suggests that we should?

No. We run our games, and we do so because our players trust our judgment. If that judgment includes devotion to what passes for random number generation and the word of game designers that have never met your players or laid eyes upon your table, then so be it, but be not misled that it is the way the game is intended to be played, or even how it used to be in the "old school." It is a stylistic choice, nothing more.

Gary Gygax, from the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide:
You do have every right to overrule the dice at any time if there is a particular course of events that you would like to have occur. In making such a decision you should never seriously harm the party or a non-player character with your actions.

Know the game systems, and you will know how and when to take upon yourself the ultimate power. To become the final arbiter, rather than the interpreter of the rules, can be a difficult and demanding task, and it cannot be undertaken lightly, for your players expect to play this gome, not one made up on the spot. By the same token, they are playing the game the way you, their DM, imagines and creates it.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It's the dungeon master's job to ensure everyone at the table is treated fairly and has fun, and we do this ceaselessly without any aid from dice or text. So why are we so quick to abdicate that responsibility as soon as a cheaply-manufactured lump of plastic is hurled against the tabletop or a sentence written years ago and hundreds of miles away suggests that we should?
Because it's not necessary to consult the dice if you're going to ignore the dice anyway. Just say what happens if you're going to do that. This isn't abdication of responsibility at all. It's just setting stakes that everyone at the table can live with and following through with whatever the dice says.
 

Arilyn

Hero
Because it's not necessary to consult the dice if you're going to ignore the dice anyway. Just say what happens if you're going to do that. This isn't abdication of responsibility at all. It's just setting stakes that everyone at the table can live with and following through with whatever the dice says.
Most GMs fudge dice rarely, and so the dice results will be followed the vast majority of time. It doesn't make sense to me to just make things up because every once in a while a die roll gets altered.

It really is a tool that many never use, and some find handy once in a while. Different styles, different tables and all that.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Most GMs fudge dice rarely, and so the dice results will be followed the vast majority of time. It doesn't make sense to me to just make things up because every once in a while a die roll gets altered.

It really is a tool that many never use, and some find handy once in a while. Different styles, different tables and all that.
Except the DM is setting the stakes anyway, so nobody would be going out of their way here. All they have to do is make sure that both success and failure are fun and memorable for everyone (even if it sucks for the characters). This isn't even really about avoiding fudging so much as creating a fun game no matter what. Making fudging pointless is a side effect. If DMs aren't making both success and failure fun and memorable for everyone, why not?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Stakes here is really a shorthand, a statement of intent.

That runs contrary to how I generally see the word used in RPG context.
Intent is what the character attempting the action wants the ultimate result to be.
Stakes are what the cost might be if the intent is not perfectly fulfilled.

Intent: to cross the chasm safely.
Action: Jump across the chasm.
Stakes: If you don't succeed, you take damage for falling 30' to the floor of the chasm, and have to find a way back up.

So, the action declaration is something like, "I attempt to leap across the chasm, hoping to land safely on the other side."
The GM declaring stakes would be, "Okay, but if you fail, it is a 30 foot drop, and you'll take damage from that and have to find a way back up to the cavern to continue on your path. Do you still want to try it?"
 

Arilyn

Hero
Except the DM is setting the stakes anyway, so nobody would be going out of their way here. All they have to do is make sure that both success and failure are fun and memorable for everyone (even if it sucks for the characters). This isn't even really about avoiding fudging so much as creating a fun game no matter what. Making fudging pointless is a side effect. If DMs aren't not bothering to make both success and failure fun and memorable for everyone, why aren't they?
The 20 sided dice can be swingy. D&D is the only game I've ever fudged in and that was in earlier editions. 5e has a lot of safe guards. Once again, it's a tool, and if the GM is caught off guard by weird rolls a quick nudge might work for them. Not everyone is prepared for all contingencies, not everyone will think of creative solutions on the spot to avoid a death no one wants, etc. Everyone has different skill sets and different approaches to GMing. Maybe it's a bit more of a useful tool for a new GM who is finding their feet?

It's nuanced and "never fudge" is not a position that can be be stuck under the Never Do This column, as broad advice, of course. It's obviously in your Never Column. 😊
 

ad_hoc

(they/them)
It's not my job as a DM to be honest with the players. It's my job to give them a fun story. I manage my games you obviously simply adjudicate them. Your strategy is fine if you do nothing beyond dungeon crawls and monster encounters but then it's really a complicated board game. You might as well set up cards shuffle them and do the encounters as they pull up.
I'd your job is to tell a story then why play a game?

Just tell a story.

Probably won't be getting people to show up for that though.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Turning a crit into not-a-crit and obscuring that fact from the players is by definition fudging.

The question still remains for me - why are you rolling the dice and playing with critical hits as a rule, and character death for that matter, if you don't want that outcome to be a possibility? Just take those rules away.

Because of sometimes.

The rule may be a great thing most of the time, but sometimes not be so great.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The 20 sided dice can be swingy. D&D is the only game I've ever fudged in and that was in earlier editions. 5e has a lot of safe guards. Once again, it's a tool, and if the GM is caught off guard by weird rolls a quick nudge might work for them. Not everyone is prepared for all contingencies, not everyone will think of creative solutions on the spot to avoid a death no one wants, etc. Everyone has different skill sets and different approaches to GMing. Maybe it's a bit more of a useful tool for a new GM who is finding their feet?

It's nuanced and "never fudge" is not a position that can be be stuck under the Never Do This column, as broad advice, of course. It's obviously in your Never Column. 😊
That's my point though - the d20 is swingy. So whether it rolls low or rolls high, it's still up to the DM to say what those good or bad results will be prior to the roll. So why choose something that nobody wants, only to be forced to ignore it if the die rolls that way? This seems pointless to me.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Personally, I do not find anything is gained for me by having hard-and-fast rules.

By leaving things open it allows me to do whatever I need whenever I need it. Even if it turns out I do do something the same exact way 99.999% of the time... I still won't pigeonhole myself into a corner by saying it's a rule I HAVE to follow for myself (even if the result are such that I pretty much am.) Because who knows... at some point I might do it differently.

But then again... even if I did do something that I always said I didn't and that it was a "personal rule" for me... nothing is lost by going against that oath or code or rule I had set up for myself other than any personal ego thing-- where I have to admit to myself "Self, I SWORE I would never do X! And I did do X! Now I have to live with that!"

So for everyone who says they don't fudge and swears that they will never fudge... if at some point in the future you DO end up fudging, no one is going to care except for maybe yourself. :)
 

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