D&D General Dice Fudging and Twist Endings

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
There are good DMs and bad DMs. There are DMs that run a style of game that won't be a good fit for some players. But I will never tell people that they're running a game wrong solely because they run a different style of game. It may not be a style I personally care for but that just means they aren't the DM for me. Bad DMs can justify bad decisions based on any number of reasons, not just a stylistic choice.
As my repeated references to "game design" were intended to communicate, those comments were about game design, not how someone runs a game.
 

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DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
That's cool. It's your table and your campaign. I don't know the context or anyone involved. I point out that you are imposing yourself as the judge of what result is fair and what is not.

All I can say is that I eventually discovered that, at my own table, I was imposing my own view of what should happen for the story and what was best for the players, and when I stopped doing that, the players appreciated it. I found that rolling my dice openly, just like the players, seemed to increase their agency at my table. It was putting their fate in their hands, rather than mine.
Their fate isn't in their hands or yours, though, it's decided by a random number generator. That's not a criticism, just an observation. I think that's the biggest disconnect in these arguments -- roll purists see a player vs. dungeon master conflict, and the rest of us see a collective table vs. artifice conflict.

Still, as the dungeon master, you do have a better perspective on what is best for the table than anyone else at it. Your knowledge of the game is fundamentally different, due to an undeniable, if limited, clairvoyance and precognition. Bias presents a challenge, as it does in all human endeavor, but we strive to overcome it here as we do in every other instance of our lives. Dungeon mastery is not exceptional in this regard.

I still remember a game I ran years ago where, due to a number of lucky rolls on the part of the enemy, there was 1 PC left standing with single digit HP fighting the last enemy. The group was on the verge of a TPK. The surviving PC dove under a table to get cover (they were a caster with minimal AC), one of the fellow PCs rolled a 20 on their death save and came back to consciousness in the nick of time.

The players at the table cheered when the last enemy went down. I can't imagine that happening if I had been fudging dice. It's those encounters that are most memorable to me and it's something you don't generally get when the DM is obviously holding back.
I get cheers all the time, so I'm not sure what to say, other than that you are obviously speaking about a style of play in which you do not engage and on which you therefore cannot have a frame of reference.

100%.

'It's for the good of the game, it increases everyone's fun. However if they ever found out, it would cause big problems.'
For the record, I explain my attitude towards the dice at every Session Zero, and the reaction I get more often than not is shock and dismay that anyone would expect the dungeon master's rolls to be absolute. "Why have a dungeon master, then?" they ask, and I just smile and shrug.

I think this is the biggest issue I have with fudging. I feel cheated as a player; if I'm guaranteed to succeed then success is meaningless.

In my game yesterday, one of the players wanted to do something incredibly risky by "improving" the McGuffin that we needed to achieve the current goal by tinkering with it. If it had failed (and success would not have been particularly helpful), it would have meant the campaign would effectively be over. When my PC went to stop him their response was "Even if I fail I'm sure the DM will figure out a way to keep the game going." I was a bit confused by this especially when the other player kept insisting, despite the DM's confirmation that they could indeed break the McGuffin and the campaign would be over. I never assume the DM will guarantee that we win the day.

I view DM fudging dice rolls much the same way. If I didn't want a chance of failure, I wouldn't play D&D. Playing with a deck stacked so much in my favor that I cannot lose is simply not fun.

P.S. If I ask how many HP you have left, it's because I'm trying to figure out if the bad guys are going to focus fire on your PC to take one of you out. :devilish:

I ran a game of WFRP 1e last night where the group were attacked by a frenzied troll. I rolled everything out in the open and declared the relevant stats when they came up. As it played out one PC got badly hurt and then an allied NPC got the death blow on it before anything worse could happen. It felt genuinely exciting and uncertain in a way that no stage managed sequence ever could be.
Apparently, this bears repeating:
Roll purists are incapable of having this conversation without shouting down a two-stage straw-man argument, which is that if a dungeon master considers ignoring the results of die rolls acceptable, they must consider it acceptable to ignore the results of any die roll, and that by extension they must ignore the results of die rolls most of the time.

None of this is true. 99% of the time, a responsible dungeon master who ignores the results of die rolls lets the dice fall where they may. That's how the game works. A responsible dungeon master only ignores the result of a die roll when doing so would improve the table's shared narrative, which is something they can recognize and know and the dice cannot.

You are having an argument with yourself.

I think you may be reading me too literally. I'm not saying you, DEFCON 1, need to do a thing to correct yourself. I'm saying, if "someone" (the universal "you") wants to let the dice decide, all "someone" need do is create stakes the group is happy with whether it's success or failure. Then no matter which way the dice go, it's all good.
No one is reading you too literally, you are just doing a poor job of concealing your disdain.

I guess what I don't share is why it is necessarily a "disappointing encounter." My experience is that the players never seem to mind that they smashed some villain or another to bits easily.
Failure is disappointing, and it is completely bizarre to me that anyone could think that the context of tabletop roleplaying changes that for anything approaching a majority of people.

Is it letting the dice fall where they may when it is a choice each time to change it?

Accepting the result of the roll is still deciding what the roll is if there is a choice.

It's like the trolley problem. Not switching the tracks is still a choice.
I agree completely. It is always a choice, even if you never opt to change or ignore the result. A choice the dungeon master is granted the privilege and responsibility to make by the table.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
No one is reading you too literally, you are just doing a poor job of concealing your disdain.
Except I have no disdain regarding this matter. I have no strong feelings either way that would cause me to have contempt. I just find the incentive to fudge is obviated when approaching the game in the ways I've stated.

Failure is disappointing, and it is completely bizarre to me that anyone could think that the context of tabletop roleplaying changes that for anything approaching a majority of people.
What failed in what you are quoting? The players succeeded, and easily, where that exchange was concerned.
 

Oofta

Legend
Their fate isn't in their hands or yours, though, it's decided by a random number generator. That's not a criticism, just an observation. I think that's the biggest disconnect in these arguments -- roll purists see a player vs. dungeon master conflict, and the rest of us see a collective table vs. artifice conflict.

Still, as the dungeon master, you do have a better perspective on what is best for the table than anyone else at it. Your knowledge of the game is fundamentally different, due to an undeniable, if limited, clairvoyance and precognition. Bias presents a challenge, as it does in all human endeavor, but we strive to overcome it here as we do in every other instance of our lives. Dungeon mastery is not exceptional in this regard.


I get cheers all the time, so I'm not sure what to say, other than that you are obviously speaking about a style of play in which you do not engage and on which you therefore cannot have a frame of reference.


For the record, I explain my attitude towards the dice at every Session Zero, and the reaction I get more often than not is shock and dismay that anyone would expect the dungeon master's rolls to be absolute. "Why have a dungeon master, then?" they ask, and I just smile and shrug.




Apparently, this bears repeating:



No one is reading you too literally, you are just doing a poor job of concealing your disdain.


Failure is disappointing, and it is completely bizarre to me that anyone could think that the context of tabletop roleplaying changes that for anything approaching a majority of people.


I agree completely. It is always a choice, even if you never opt to change or ignore the result. A choice the dungeon master is granted the privilege and responsibility to make by the table.
We all have preferences, different DMs have different styles. Personally I don't fudge dice. When I play I accept that sometimes my PC's fate is left updating to luck and the roll of the die. That aspect of the game, sometimes gambling and taking a chance is a big part of the fun for me. Take that away, even if it means my PC dies, and the game is less enjoyable for me. A game without a chance of failure means nothing my PC does really matters.

That doesn't mean I believe in one true way. Just that I don't want fudging no matter which side of the DM's screen I sit.
 

No one is reading you too literally, you are just doing a poor job of concealing your disdain.
No need to be so hostile.
Failure is disappointing, and it is completely bizarre to me that anyone could think that the context of tabletop roleplaying changes that for anything approaching a majority of people.

Not always. Failure can be quite fun.
 

On an extremity you got the lead designer Crawford who say openly in a video that you can add or remove hit points to a monster during a fight.
Mabye they should print this advice in the DM guide?

On the other side you got the many ways a DM can make a fight easier or harder without even fudging : Selecting target, using or not focus fire, call for retreat or reinforcement, forget to roll a recharge dice, use suboptimal spells or features, strike or not unconscious PC, setting the DC of unusual task in favor or not of the PC. You don’t need to cheat on dice to influence a fight.

Said that the next step is to know players expectations on challenge and harshness of the game. Once you know that the DM adapt the game for the players.
 

Oofta

Legend
On an extremity you got the lead designer Crawford who say openly in a video that you can add or remove hit points to a monster during a fight.
Mabye they should print this advice in the DM guide?
While they don't talk about changing HP they do discuss rolling the dice openly so people know you don't fudge your roles versus rolling behind a screen so you can fudge under and why you would without judgement.
On the other side you got the many ways a DM can make a fight easier or harder without even fudging : Selecting target, using or not focus fire, call for retreat or reinforcement, forget to roll a recharge dice, use suboptimal spells or features, strike or not unconscious PC, setting the DC of unusual task in favor or not of the PC. You don’t need to cheat on dice to influence a fight.


Said that the next step is to know players expectations on challenge and harshness of the game. Once you know that the DM adapt the game for the players.

The point about the discussions in the DMG on different options is there's no right way or wrong way. I don't fudge, I'd rather my DM didn't fudge. If my PC jumps onto the back of the dragon so that the rogue can get sneak attack damage, I'm okay with my PC risking death. It would have been a glorious death helping his friends and allies. As it turned out they survived (I was a bit surprised), but there wouldn't have been much tension if I had been guaranteed to survive. That tension made the game more enjoyable for me.

So find your own style as a DM. Talk to your players about what type of game they want. Find your own groove and enjoy your game without passing judgement on how others have fun playing.
 

While they don't talk about changing HP they do discuss rolling the dice openly so people know you don't fudge your roles versus rolling behind a screen so you can fudge under and why you would without judgement.


The point about the discussions in the DMG on different options is there's no right way or wrong way. I don't fudge, I'd rather my DM didn't fudge. If my PC jumps onto the back of the dragon so that the rogue can get sneak attack damage, I'm okay with my PC risking death. It would have been a glorious death helping his friends and allies. As it turned out they survived (I was a bit surprised), but there wouldn't have been much tension if I had been guaranteed to survive. That tension made the game more enjoyable for me.

So find your own style as a DM. Talk to your players about what type of game they want. Find your own groove and enjoy your game without passing judgement on how others have fun playing.
The interview
interview on challenging encounter
check 4:00 to 6:00
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
On an extremity you got the lead designer Crawford who say openly in a video that you can add or remove hit points to a monster during a fight.
Mabye they should print this advice in the DM guide?

On the other side you got the many ways a DM can make a fight easier or harder without even fudging : Selecting target, using or not focus fire, call for retreat or reinforcement, forget to roll a recharge dice, use suboptimal spells or features, strike or not unconscious PC, setting the DC of unusual task in favor or not of the PC. You don’t need to cheat on dice to influence a fight.

Said that the next step is to know players expectations on challenge and harshness of the game. Once you know that the DM adapt the game for the players.
The D&D 5e DMG does discuss rolling in the open or rolling behind a screen, the latter so you have the option to fudge. Notably, this is in the section for Table Rules, which aren't the rules of the game, but something the DM and players will need to decide for themselves. The DMG suggests (1) not fudging very often and (2) don't let anyone know you're doing it. (And a similar warning not to overuse the phantom dice rolling trick.)

Personally, I avoid all of those concerns by playing the game in a way that doesn't create the urge to fudge or try to "trick" players with rolling for things that don't actually matter.
 

I still remember a game I ran years ago where, due to a number of lucky rolls on the part of the enemy, there was 1 PC left standing with single digit HP fighting the last enemy. The group was on the verge of a TPK. The surviving PC dove under a table to get cover (they were a caster with minimal AC), one of the fellow PCs rolled a 20 on their death save and came back to consciousness in the nick of time.

The players at the table cheered when the last enemy went down. I can't imagine that happening if I had been fudging dice. It's those encounters that are most memorable to me and it's something you don't generally get when the DM is obviously holding back.

This implies that for each round of cheering, there are 19 times where the party suffered a TPK and were unable to keep roleplaying their characters. So either you do indeed kill entire parties with high regularity, or you do something as a GM which means that the players are more likely to succeed than the dice odds would indicate. Whether that is dice fudging, making adjudications that favor the players, or ignoring a piece of the world for a bit, there’s the irrefutable fact that either players must have many miserable experiences for each “golden roll of excitement” experience, or you are doing something to bias in the players favor.

For me, the way I usually bias in the players’ favor is by being generous in adjudication. So if the players are in a tough situation and one says that they want to distract the monster, I might look at the DC25 for the recommended levels and think that the distraction plan is a good one, so make that a DC20 instead. To me, as a statistician, I don‘t really see a lot of difference between a GM modifying a dice roll by +5 and determining a target number at -5. As a GM, I’m asking subjective decisions all the time that can be life and death to the party (“how thick are the walls between your scuffle and the guardroom”, “how dense is the fog”. “How high is the drop to the valley floor”, ”does this household have a dog”) and it would be ludicrous to think I can be completely objective when I make these decision, so I know I’m already fudging in the players favor. Picking one aspect of the GM’s toolbox and saying ”this I will not be subjective on” should not make a GM think that when a TPK occurs, they have no responsibility for it at all. You made a dozen decisions that lead to it; it’s not the dice that killed them, it’s you
 

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