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D&D 5E DMs, how do you fudge?

This is how I, as DM, most commonly fudge during our 5e D&D sessions (choose up to 3):

  • Dice rolls in favor of the PCs

    Votes: 27 22.5%
  • Dice rolls in favor of the monsters/NPCs

    Votes: 9 7.5%
  • Monster/NPC HP during combat

    Votes: 46 38.3%
  • Monster/NPC AC during combat

    Votes: 7 5.8%
  • DCs

    Votes: 17 14.2%
  • Other (comment below)

    Votes: 25 20.8%
  • I don't fudge - what is prepped is what there is

    Votes: 35 29.2%
  • I don't fudge - fudging is cheating

    Votes: 24 20.0%
  • I don't fudge - I prefer other deserts

    Votes: 19 15.8%

Vaalingrade

Legend
This is a False Equivalence, though. Video games cheating is not the same as a DM fudging in limited circumstances. First, there is no real intelligence fudging in a video game. Second, it's usually some sort of glitch, and nobody wants to lose to a glitch. Third, video games have win/lose situations, so people playing them are going into video games with a different mindset than tabletop RPGs.

I'm sure there are more reasons that they are not the same and shouldn't be equated, but those three are more than enough.
Games have things like the first shot from enemies will always missing to give you a chance to react, or your last sliver of health counting for more. All sorts of hidden psychological tricks to make games playable or even bearable. Even Dark Souls does this.
 

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billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
One of your players has missed his attack three rounds in a row. He rolls a 15, you look at your notes, that monster had an AC of 16. But you just decide to fudge the result and make the monster AC a 15. "You hit!". I may come from a good place, but I think this is destructive to the contract between DM, players and the game. If I fudge things to make them have success sometimes, how they can they be sure what when they truly succeed it was because of either their choices/their rolls?
The die roll is impersonal and arbitrary. Why would their rolls have anywhere near the significance of their choices? That's a major disconnect I have about the people who take anti-fudging stands as if they were sacred. The die cares less about the players' choices than I, as DM, do.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
The die roll is impersonal and arbitrary. Why would their rolls have anywhere near the significance of their choices? That's a major disconnect I have about the people who take anti-fudging stands as if they were sacred. The die cares less about the players' choices than I, as DM, do.
Because, in most cases, their rolls are a result of a choice. If everything went well, they have some information and decide to act upon it. You translate it and say "give me a something something roll" or "roll to hit". They willingly took a risk, and it succeeded. It's a gamble, but one they willingly take.

If you start fudging things, and they learn of it, whether it's through changing or refusing the outcome of your own rolls or tweaking a number like in the example you quoted; then the lesson you're teaching them is that when they're making a decision and take the risks and go through a gamble, it is not really one. Or, at least, not always one. You might be in the mood for things to happen directly. They make a choice where they will face the consequence, but you get a say in it.
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
I fudge for one reason and one reason only: to bring to an end combats that have outlived their purpose, and even then only if there's no other out.

I played in a 4e combat against an enemy with ridiculously high defenses. We cleared out their backup and the battle basically ended anything interesting after about a half hour. It took us damn near another hour of constantly whiffing before we finally brought it down.

Never again. Not on my watch, anyway.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I fudge for one reason and one reason only: to bring to an end combats that have outlived their purpose, and even then only if there's no other out.

I played in a 4e combat against an enemy with ridiculously high defenses. We cleared out their backup and the battle basically ended anything interesting after about a half hour. It took us damn near another hour of constantly whiffing before we finally brought it down.

Never again. Not on my watch, anyway.
Aid Attack sounds like a good strategy when faced with such an enemy in D&D 4e. Four PCs doing that plus flanking is a +10 to the attack. It reduces the overall attacks per round, but the attack has a much better chance of landing for damage plus any riders. (Or do some some combination of attacks and Aid Another.)

Of course, the specifics here aren't that important. I only mean to say that often these sorts of situations can be dealt with by the players changing their tactics rather than the DM ending the fight or fudging in some way. It puts more focus on the meaningful decisions of the players and its impact upon the game.
 

Hex08

Hero
the lesson you're teaching them is that when they're making a decision and take the risks and go through a gamble, it is not really one. Or, at least, not always one. You might be in the mood for things to happen directly. They make a choice where they will face the consequence, but you get a say in it.
I think you seem to be overlooking the possibility that there are people who fudge and their players don't walk away with the lessons you think they are. If it would break the game in the way you consistently claim then those of us who do it would no longer have a gaming group. You really should take the time to realize that not everyone is going to have your gaming philosophy and not every player or gaming group is going to react the way you seem to think they will. People (DMs and players) are going to have different ideas about what makes a fun game. You need to accept that some tables are different than yours.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
I fudge based on what's best for the Story and the Drama because the dice exist to make the story more interesting, not the other way around.

Sometimes it's Monster HP getting a little thicker so the fight isn't quite as short as it might otherwise be. Sometimes it's fudging bad rolls for the NPCs to threaten the PCs more. Sometimes it's fudging those NPC rolls down to make the enemy on a hot streak not wipe the party anticlimactically.

Sometimes it's having an unannounced DC for a skill check that the player is going to pass unless they roll a natural 1 because it makes a better story if they do the cool chandelier swing.

And sometimes... It's fistfuls of dice which mean absolutely nothing.

I'm loving the WOIN/Level Up Countdown mechanic and plan to use it to spur drama both in my own games and in my writing. Things like NPCs having a slow countdown (only removed on a 6) with 5 dice while the players have a 5 dice medium countdown (remove on a 5 or 6). Or even fast countdowns on the part of NPCs that block off ancillary chambers as the building the players are escaping collapses (subtly showing them where not to go). Or even having a Countdown that does... nothing. It involves rooms the players have already run past getting filled with rushing water and the players were never in danger but describing the big flood and rolling fistfuls of dice makes them feel like something is coming...

And it is. Just not for -them-. At least sometimes.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
I think you seem to be overlooking the possibility that there are people who fudge and their players don't walk away with the lessons you think they are. If it would break the game in the way you consistently claim then those of us who do it would no longer have a gaming group. You really should take the time to realize that not everyone is going to have your gaming philosophy and not every player or gaming group is going to react the way you seem to think they will. People (DMs and players) are going to have different ideas about what makes a fun game. You need to accept that some tables are different than yours.
I already know all of this.

Don't worry, I'm not going to barge in your gaming room to catch you by the wrist if you're about the fudge a roll. I think you should take for granted that I'm obviously speaking all the experience I was apart of or the experiences I was a witness to.

But we're having a discussion, so I'm sharing my philosophy, why I think fudging is bad and giving out examples. I'm hoping it'll lead to further discussion about why people don't think it harms what I think is core to the experience of TTRPGs, or why they think it doesn't matter (if they partially agree with me).
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I think you seem to be overlooking the possibility that there are people who fudge and their players don't walk away with the lessons you think they are.

And also, since when is D&D a game where the DM is supposed to be teaching lessons to his players ? Isn't it a game that everyone, players and DM, play just for fun ?

I always respect my DM, but I would not play with a DM who came to the table thinking that he is there to teach me anything. Fortunately, I have never encountered that kind of attitude in a DM.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I'm somewhat confused by the conflation some people seem to have between this is a challenging fight and this fight took a decent chunk of player resources away. What makes something challenging or difficult is the mental effort required to succeed at the endeavor or use your resources wisely. An encounter that strips player characters of more hit points yet does not require more mental effort or skill to achieve success is not more challenging. It might feel more tense, but it is not actually presenting any additional obstacles for players to overcome.
 

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