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 .


Follower of the Way
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.
Okay. I don't really understand the relevance here. You don't like someone going into detail as to how the sausage is made. We have already recognized that "don't tell me you're fudging" is a stance people take.

But, if we're using this sausage-making analogy, do you think if there's some kind of controversial ingredient your host tends to put in their sausage, it would be a good idea for them to confirm, in advance, whether eating food containing that controversial ingredient is acceptable? This isn't a play-by-play analysis when the food is literally sitting in front of you. This is, for example, "Hey, I use pork in my sausage, do you have any issues with that?" (Considering over two billion humans have explicit reasons to never consume pork, this seems like a good question to ask in general.)

log in or register to remove this ad


Morkus from Orkus
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.
Is it dishonest to create new monsters or switch up old ones without talking to the players first? How about adding secret doors to a dungeon? Or deciding that dragons are more rare in my game than normal D&D? Or... Or... Or...

Fudging is just a tool in the toolbox and it's not dishonest to use the tool that are available to make the game more enjoyable for everyone. Luck(bad and good) is part of the game. Extreme bad luck is a detriment to the game. I've played with anyone happy to lose a PC because they did everything right, but couldn't roll higher than single digits for an entire encounter.

I want to address a hypothetical that has come up in the thread a couple of times: brand-new player rolls up this first character, whiffs on their first attack, gets crit to zero on the monster’s first attack. (For ease of reference, I will assume party of 4 against a CR 2 ogre). Wouldn’t transforming that crit into a simple hit be better for a newbie player? Avoid discouraging him and wasting the effort to lovingly create his first character? I disagree.

Here is how I see the scene going.
DM: “All right, Ragnar the fighter has walked up to the ogre, but the ogre’s club smashes into Ragner’s chest. Ragnar crumples to the ground. He’s breathing, but it doesn’t look good. What does the rest of the party do?”

Sure, maybe the rest of the party flees leaving Ragnar to his fate. That teaches a lesson as well, but a rather bittersweet one.

IME, you tend to see something more like this.
Cleric: “Screw this, we don’t lesve a msn behind. I go up to Ragnar, load him on the back and attempt to retreat.”
DM: “You are opening yourself up to an attack of opportunity.”
Cleric: “I’ll try anyway.”
Rogue: “$&&, the ogre’s going to go after the cleric. Can I somehow keep the ogre from pursuing?”
DM: “I don’t know. What do have?/What do you try?”
Rogue: “Well, I do/don’t have caltrops. I know, I’ll insult his intelligence to try and draw fire away from the cleric. Yo, Ogre, your mamma was a hill giant!”

Maybe the game ends in a TPK anyway, but damn if the party didn’t learn a lesson about who has your back when things get rough.


Morkus from Orkus
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.
Players can't fudge. They can only cheat. The DM cannot cheat, because 1) the rules serve him, not the other way around, and 2) fudging is an officially endorsed table rule in the DMG.

Players can't fudge. They can only cheat. The DM cannot cheat, because 1) the rules serve him, not the other way around, and 2) fudging is an officially endorsed table rule in the DMG.
Fair enough, but I'm sure you get my drift. :)

I have given XP to people from both sides of this argument as both parties have made valid points - and I'm pretty neutral on the topic.

The times where I can recall amending something in the heat of the moment are when:
(i) rolling for random treasure (and it not making sense, being too powerful or too weak or too many duplicates):
(ii) beefing up a monster's hit points (but still keeping it within the allowed parameters based on HD); and
(iii) a player makes a bad skill check roll and I decide a success with consequences is the best way to adjudicate the failure for that particular situation.

In (i), I don't feel like reading the through pages of magical items so I use the die for shortcuts, but it sometimes backfires.
In (ii), I feel justified in that I'm still keeping to the min-max of the hit points of the monster and players do not know.
In (iii), it's the DM's prerogative in how to adjudicate a particular skill check (failure, degrees of failure, fail-forward, success with consequences, success, degrees of success).

Otherwise I don't fudge rolls. A hit-is-a-hit, a miss-is-a-miss, and a save-is-a-save. And unless there is an in game logical reason for who the monsters attack, I also roll openly for that, announcing the parameters just before I roll.

Having said all that, I'm sure the DM's who do fudge on occasion or often, know their tables and are successful, but personally I would not want a DM fudging rolls in combat if I were a player.
Last edited:

Thomas Shey

The possibility that an improbable string of extreme rolls can lead to unpredictable outcomes is part of the point of using dice though. You (and by you, I mean I) want some unpredictable stuff to happen. You just don’t want it to happen often. Dice accomplish that nicely.

That doesn't mean all unpredictable outcomes are desirable. Most modern games buffer this by having some kind metacurrency as a drop-back, especially if the core system has a lot of swing (like D20 and D100 games do). But again, if you they don't, people aren't required to just find "let the chips lay as they land" acceptable.

Thomas Shey

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.

Context. People can want the gamesmaster to be honest about how he's going to approach things outside the game, and still find doing so in the middle of it disruptive. Its not that hard to understand the difference, even if I don't share it.

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.

Again, I think you're missing the issue that in many cases its not having to deal with it in the moment that matters to them.

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.

I know it has a dirty name, but illusionism is a thing. Having the illusion that things are going normally, even if they intellectually know that at least some of the time it isn't, is important to some people. If you can't wrap your head around that, afraid people are going to just keep talking past you here.

Thomas Shey

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.

Well, wouldn't be the first thing GMs take as a given that should likely be talked about at the start of a campaign.

Thomas Shey

Yeah, this is the exact issue I have.

I have likewise never--not once--had a DM mention fudging in any way during a session zero, or anything analogous to it (e.g. a "let's get a game together" thread). Given threads like this one, though, I am likewise convinced I have almost certainly had DMs that fudge dice. That would seem, as you have said, to be where deception specifically turns to dishonesty: doing the deed without seeing how people feel about it in the abstract.

Well, it probably doesn't help that a lot of games take it as granted that a GM should do that sometimes. So likely a lot of GMs never think to say anything about it because they assume its the default case.

Thomas Shey

Point being: even if we presume this poll is MASSIVELY over-representing players outright opposed to fudging, the odds someone will be upset if you do it without telling them are sufficiently high that it should be something people talk about. But they don't. I have been told repeatedly in threads like this one--one of them on this very forum--that the DM should not tell their players that they fudge, ever, no matter what. That it should be a secret the DM keeps to their grave.

Though this gets into kind of a Pascal's Wager problem; as I noted in my breaking down the three options, at least when things go seriously off the rails, its not improbable that someone in the group will have a problem with any of the three. Its not just fudge/don't fudge, its fudge/step back and fix/let it happen, and none of those three are noncontroversial. Fudging is just the most visible.

Remove ads


Remove ads

Upcoming Releases