D&D General How do players feel about DM fudging?

How do you, as a player, feel about DM fudging?

  • Very positive. Fudging is good.

    Votes: 5 2.7%
  • Positive. Fudging is acceptable.

    Votes: 41 22.4%
  • Neutral. Fudging sure is a thing.

    Votes: 54 29.5%
  • Negative. Fudging is dubious.

    Votes: 34 18.6%
  • Very negative. Fudging is bad.

    Votes: 49 26.8%

  • Poll closed .


Anticlimax is a good reason to fudge. As a general rule I don’t want any the BBEG to be a SWEG (Small Weak End Guy). Sure every so often it’s fine for the Players to take down a foe before they get to act, but I do think it’s anti-climactic when that is anything but rare. As both a player and a DM

Suspense is a good reason to fudge. The mystery scenario can fall flat when the player just happens to look in the right place and happen to check for the right thing, for no other reason than dumb luck (or having cheated and read the notes). Session over, sorry guys time to finish for the night.

Training is a good reason to fudge. It’s not a problem to go easy on a new character while they find their stride. You can reduce is as they learn the rules. That second crit on the first round of combat that takes the new player out before they have acted isn’t necessary.

Common Decency is a good reason to fudge. If you’ve heard the phrase, don’t kick a man when he’s down. The wizard has a fireball left but casts a scorching ray because if he casts fireball that downed character who was taken out on the first round and who has failed two death saves is dead. It’s gratuitous, it isn’t necessary

Balancing other Players Excesses is a good reason to fudge. If one player is spamming abilities and overshadowing players maybe resistance, appropriate spells, immunity to conditions etc might appear on the monsters stats.

These are my reasons I sleep just fine at night.

It is a basic principle of writing not to write more than you need to develop the adventure. I see some people here who plan out meticulously worlds just waiting for players to drop in. Most people don’t have the time or inclination for this. Neither is it particularly efficient, balanced or - in the case of massive power disparity - fun. So a lot of DMs make up their notes as the go or wing things on the fly. It’s why we have lists of NPC names waiting to go. If your notes aren’t written down the only person who knows you’ve changed things is you!
There is a lot of overlap between fudging and improvising. If the players miss the clues that set up the next part of the adventure - through bad luck or maybe I was too obscure - then I improvise another encounter that can point in that direction. The only difference between me doing it after the fact rather than before is that I have saved myself some time had they not needed the extra encounter.

There are definitely some things that I don’t think it’s good to fudge.
  • Fudging to cause a character to die
  • Fudging to stop a player dying (unless they are new, or have only just died, or it would be unfun to do so)
  • Fudging AC… this is really transparent and can be worked out by players, it’s also easy to forget and get wrong.

Most other things are on the table as acceptable.

Now of course the posts are my point of view as a player because as a DM I never do any of these because I don’t ever fudge and would never fudge. 😉😉

That said don’t think it’s good or bad, it’s just a necessary corrective tool. A means to an end. A safety net.
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Fair enough on the point about dishonesty. But, let's not forget, that about 50% of people here are not morally opposed to it. It might not be a great thing for the DM to do, but, going into the whole "YOU ARE CHEATING!!!!" thing is a bit of an over reaction too.

I mean, I know that DM's have fudged. I know that I've done it. I also know that I've never seen anyone get terribly fussed about it to be honest. I mean, I remember once years ago admitting that I'd fudged a couple of rolls during an encounter to a player in an after session gab session and he told me that he'd rather not have known. That knowing made it cheap.

I think way back in the day fudging was just seen as something that was done by DM's. It wasn't terribly controversial. Then again, I'm talking back in the pre-3e days when the mechanics of the game were so opaque that half the time no one knew what the actual rules were anyway. :)

I wonder though, if there isn't some correlation with the rise of the primacy of the rules and the much stronger reaction to fudging. Since we now play with rule sets that actually work instead of cobbled together frankengames that we used to play with, there's a stronger expectation by players to follow those rules, which include following the dice.

I dunno. Like I said, as far as changing actual numbers, I really can't very easily on the VTT. Well, I suppose I could, I think Fantasy Grounds has a way to do it, but, I actually don't know how. So, for me, it's not really a tool in the box.

Although... that being said, I could certainly adjust encounter numbers before I drop them. Simply remove a couple of baddies from the encounter before I place them on the table would be pretty easy. Or adjust stuff before it hits the table like AC or HP. But, then, I roll random HP, so, half the time, I have no idea how many HP a monster has before it hits the table anyway. :D

5e is forgiving enough that it's pretty rare that there is a need to fudge really.

The thing is, fudging is such a controversial tool, I think it’s better not to use it at all, unless you’ve talked to the players about it and gotten all of their consent. Now, maybe that means a discussion about it during session zero - seems like a lot of folks are fine with it, and if you know that all of your players are, then yeah, nothing wrong with keeping that tool in the box. That said, I don’t know about you all, but that’s not a subject I have typically seen come up in session zero. I don’t think I’ve ever had a DM ask if we are all ok with fudging. I am 100% sure I have had DMs who fudge though.
The reason why a DM may not bring it up in session 0 is that you may find players justifying fudging from their side and at times where the DM is not even aware. What is good for the goose is good for the gander kind of reasoning. I'm not saying its right, I'm saying it can happen. Humans are special that way.

What I’m trying to get at is, there seems to be something odd going on where people don’t appreciate the action itself (fudging) when they know about it, but are ok with it when they don’t know about it. The action is exactly the same, but hiding it seems to make a lot of people here more ok with it, which doesn’t really make sense to me. I think if the players wouldn’t like me doing something if I told them I was doing it, doing it and not telling them seems very disrespectful.

What I don't get is how you cannot get this. The GM constantly makes all sorts of adjustments and decisions they're not telling about to the players, let alone ask their permission for them. And it would be incredibly jarring and annoying if they would. I gave you a related example earlier:

No, I really don't need or want GM to be 'open and honest' about their reasoning for how the things run behind the curtains. I don't want the GM to strop the game and ask "It seems this fight is not going well for you, would you mind if I had some allies to come to your aid?" or "This session is starting to get a tad boring, would you mind if I sprung some bandits or a goblin ambush on you?" Seriously, just run the game the way you think is the best, I trust you, and I don't want you to ruin the game by explaining your decisions and asking permission.

It's the same thing. Do you constantly discuss all your GMing decisions with the players when you run a game? I seriously doubt that you do.

In my experience, TPKs are extremely rare, even in a no-fudging game. I think often people fudge because they’re afraid the results they’ve rolled won’t lead to a fun experience, but I find that D&D tends to be a fun experience regardless of the results of the rolls.
I want to second this. Cases I’ve been tempted to fudge? The party has succeeded without fudging. Because human beings are resourceful creatures and 5e characters are resilient creatures, and when their backs are against the wall, they will pull out every stop to succeed.


Three-Headed Sirrush
Right, there’s this undercurrent of “well there’s nothing wrong with it if the group agrees to it,” and sure, I agree. If the group agrees to it. How many folks here have ever actually had a group agree to it though? I certainly never have. I’ve never even been asked how I feel about fudging in the context of an actual D&D game. I don’t think that’s common practice, though maybe it should be. I think if it was, folks would find that it’s not very often that everyone in the group is actually willing to give the DM the power to override dice rolls (or adjust monster stats mid-combat or what have you) whenever they want without notice.
I discuss my DMing style (either together or individually) with every new player before a campaign. I occasionally experiment with other styles, but in the usual case I'm discussing how I run improv-heavy sandboxes where the game rules are flexible and my notes are just potential material--until a detail has been introduced into play it isn't fixed, and even then things may not turn out to be what they seem. I explain that sometimes this flexibility will be visible to the players (e.g. I decide to resolve a player action declaration by some method other than the rules might suggest, and I explain why at the time) and sometimes it won't be (e.g. revising my notes in favor of a new idea, ignoring or changing dice rolls that I think would make the game less fun). I explain that after the fact I'm happy to discuss how things were done at my end, but I ask people to be sure they want to know before they ask.

Admittedly I'm sure I'm a lot less concise about the discussion when it's done in person, particularly because there are more details about my style that I communicate in advance (such as, for D&D, not using CR or balancing encounters to the party's level). But I do make sure that everyone is onboard before the game, and as far as I can remember I've never had an actual player express reservations or objections beyond something like "that's not my usual style, but I'm interested in trying it out!" That isn't chance though: I invite people who I think would enjoy the type of game I run, and I don't volunteer to run for a pre-existing group if I don't think everyone there would enjoy my style.

A number of which people would have the same objection to as outright fudging. If its obvious you're deliberately underplaying the opposition that's better in what way? Same for parachuting in assistance. They're functionally indistinguishable; fixing the problem with main force. So, yeah, I'm kind of willing to lump most of those in with either B or C.
It’s conplicated. Some people would consider underplaying the opposition or parachuting in assistance fudging. Or having the successful enemies not fight to kill. Those people are themselves split into pro-fudges and anti-fudges.

Admittedly, it is a bit hard to keep track of who stands where and different axes.


Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I mean, it is generally confusing to me that people can both

A. Consider open and honest communication between the DM and the players an important thing, and

B. Be ok with the DM secretly fudging rolls.

I do understand why people wouldn’t want the DM to openly fudge rolls (I wouldn’t want that myself!) But to me, the only difference between open fudging and secret fudging is that the latter is also dishonest, which only makes it worse in my opinion. I think both are bad, but doing it in secret is even worse because it adds deception on top of the fudging.

What I’m trying to get at is, there seems to be something odd going on where people don’t appreciate the action itself (fudging) when they know about it, but are ok with it when they don’t know about it. The action is exactly the same, but hiding it seems to make a lot of people here more ok with it, which doesn’t really make sense to me. I think if the players wouldn’t like me doing something if I told them I was doing it, doing it and not telling them seems very disrespectful.
For a lot of us, it's not just fudging we don't want to know about while playing. Lots of players, including myself, don't want to know how many hit points the monster has, or its attack bonuses, or how much damage it can do. All of those just emphasize the game mechanics at the cost of viewing things from a character's perspective and making choices from a PC's perspective about whether to get out the big guns or cutting and running from a fight. Fudging is just one of several things that, being too explicit about, is focusing WAY too much on how the sausage is made and not the tastiness of the sausage.

Anticlimax is a good reason to fudge.

Suspense is a good reason to fudge.

Training is a good reason to fudge.

Common Decency

Balancing other Players Excesses
Anticlimax is a good reason not to fudge: if the characters have done a lot of work to leverage the combat to their benefit, it is unfortunate if the DM retcons that by buffing up the BBEG.

Suspense is a good reason not to fudge. If you roll out in the open, players know that if you roll a 20, their character might die, heightening suspense.

Training is a good reason not to fudge. A d20 can be very swingy. Exposure to the swinginess allows players to adjust. It is also good training for the DM. Only roll the die if the result is in doubt and would be interesting. Not all encounters need to lead to combat and not all combats lead to TPKs.

Common Decency is a good reason not to fudge. Or rather, because fudging can be somewhat deceptive, I will not engage in fudging without bring it up to my players in Session Zero.

Balancing other players excesses is a good reason to address the root cause of the problem. While I can honestly see why someone would want to fudge in other cases, fudging to address character imbalance does not seem like a good idea, but YMMV.

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