Fudge Factor

Fudge Factor

When to play it straight, and when not to!

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I think I agree with this article much more so than most! I think the important point of 'do not fudge important dice rolls' is generally true. There is nothing quite as climactic as the big DM die of Doom rolling, and everyone at the table knows that if it is 8 or better, Lollie the bard is going to die. There is power in such a gameplay moent.

It is also generally accepted that sometimes, you have to save the players from stupid stuff the DM did. Like, not realizing that the monster he had created would be as effective as it was, or that he shouldn't have had quite so many. This was meant to be an easy combat, and you didn't want to kill someone!

I think fudging dice can be useful for getting past meta gameplay. The players think the encounter was random, but in reality this is the important reveal of So and So the wise, who they will demask at the conclusion. Or the random trap they triggered is set up to be a pit trap where they discover a dead adventurer... and the curious volume of dark magic he was carrying. These aren't attempting to remove importance from the players actions, but rather keep them off guard on 'what they are supposed to do'.

The whole idea of DM fudging is very VERY important to be honest. It can fix your mistakes, or draw extra drama into any encounter. Just make sure that you use it subtlely, since players will get whiff of it, and start assuming you are doing it for all the wrong reasons :).

Thanks for the kind words!

Zechnophobe:

Just make sure that you use it subtlely, since players will get whiff of it, and start assuming you are doing it for all the wrong reasons :).

I agree with this. It's a good thing to do sometimes but I have had a DM be obvious about it before and all I could do was think that he was cheating and wonder how many other rolls he fudged, it ruined the session.

When ever I read these articles it makes me wanna grab a group and start playing again.

I've just started tabletop gaming within the past year. Since very few of my friends role-play, I've been the exclusive GM each time. It's been a very daunting task not only to familiarize myself with new games and systems, but to be responsible for bringing everything together without a frame of reference to work from! Check For Traps has been invaluable in helping form a plan for my sessions. My Serenity RPG group finished its first campaign this weekend, and these articles have played a huge part in making the game a success.

Has The Escapist given any thought to publishing a selection of these articles as a book? I wouldn't mind having a copy of that on my shelf!

As for fudging dice, the first scenario definitely comes up a lot for me. Using Serenity as an example, the system allows most characters to take a great deal of punishment before going down, so even a one-sided fight can drag on longer than necessary. When the fight itself isn't really going anywhere, it can be much easier for everyone involved if I fudge the dice so the opponent passes out, and we can move on to something more interesting.

kalt_13:

When ever I read these articles it makes me wanna grab a group and start playing again.

Exactly the same. I really like this column and it just makes me want to put it in practice.
Also, is there anyone who knows a nice DM community where a 4e Rookie like me would be welcome? (Or is there something like that already on The Escapist? I don't know.)

I definitely have given thought to doing the collected articles as a book, yes! I will let you know if it happens.

Fanghawk:
Has The Escapist given any thought to publishing a selection of these articles as a book? I wouldn't mind having a copy of that on my shelf!

These articles are fantastic. They've greatly improved my DMing skills.

I've encountered a situation like that last one presented. The climactic battle in the campaign was a fight against a Liche, however since the characters were levelled high enough to ignore his aura of fear I ignored it. I had forgotten that it would affect the pets of certain party members and upon reflection a pet that would have simply run at the first sight of the Liche played a pivotal role in the encounter. It was a tough call to make but I allowed the game to continue without changing after asking my players. It became a rather trivial encounter, but I think the players would have been frustrated if I had decided to change it.

Sometimes, it is a lot of fun to embrace the randomness. I was running a bit of modern horror in the savage worlds system (mistake if you don't want camp) with an explanation of the weirdness being a selection process for the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I had 4 players, and you know where I was going with this.

The catch occurred when one guy decides he wants to go out in a blaze of glory. He's in melee with a sentient undead entomologist, his improvised flamethrower is useless at this range... he pulls a grenade, flicks the pin, and prepares to take the fiend with him to hell in a dual explosion.

The damage roll was pathetic. Not enough to wound the human, let alone the monster. I had been trying to figure out what minor benefits of being an aspect of War was going to do to that player... it was a good excuse to make defense part of it, and make the incident a piece of foreshadowing.

The Fudge can be important. I usually end up needing to make minor adjustments when I send seldom used monsters against players. I don't always remember all the extra attacks or abilities until mid battle.

Anyway Great article with lots of good ideas.

I agree with Dannyboy; generally I allow the incredibly abnormal to happen, and just go through great lengths to meld it into the original story. Just recently, I had a 1/10,000 roll

The group was bringing a bounty back through an 80 mile tunnel that connected the largest city in the nation and nearest outpost. On the random encounter table I wrote up for this campaign, 100 is "natural disaster", in this case an earthquake. So of course, I roll 100, then roll 92 on the Magnitude table, putting it at a healthy 8.8 magnitude. Amid the chaos of the cave crashing around them, the bounty (thanks to actions the party took earlier, such as giving him back his possessions), slips off the manacles, and stumbles down one of the tunnels. Ultimately, he got away, the cave structure is now completely rewritten, and it opened up some wonderful plot points for a few months to a year from now, depending on how much effort they put into clearing the mines and finding this guy. Now I just need to decide if the earthquake was shifting teutonic plates, or if it was something much more sinister...

I look forward to reading these every time they show up! They are my favorite read on this site and often inspire me. My favorite is the article on D&D's alignments. My group has fully adopted the way the alignments were defined in Check for Traps.

OT: The most common fudge I make is reducing critical hits to normal hits. Some nights you just get on a roll and simple encounters become WAY TOO DANGEROUS.

Thank you for the article, fudging dice is something I've always made my own judgement calls on without a real frame of reference. Now I have one!

Though, I find the second example a hilariously silly idea. Really, you're going to drop down a dragon because you decided to have a random encounter and that was what you rolled? Be willing to think outside the box people! The module should be used as a guide, not a damned bible!

Sooo...is this a board game? I'm not joking I've never heard of this.

Panayjon:
Thank you for the article, fudging dice is something I've always made my own judgement calls on without a real frame of reference. Now I have one!

Though, I find the second example a hilariously silly idea. Really, you're going to drop down a dragon because you decided to have a random encounter and that was what you rolled? Be willing to think outside the box people! The module should be used as a guide, not a damned bible!

You obviously haven't read the rest of my columns, but that's ok. Suffice to say that, yes, I absolutely do allow random encounters to occur based on what the dice roll, and I recommend that other GMs do the same. The links in my article above explain why in considerable detail.

Jyggalag:
Sooo...is this a board game? I'm not joking I've never heard of this.

You've never heard of, e.g., Dungeons & Dragons?

Archon:

Jyggalag:
Sooo...is this a board game? I'm not joking I've never heard of this.

You've never heard of, e.g., Dungeons & Dragons?

I know theres an mmo but thats it. Do they still sell these things? Is it a computer game that uses dice?

Jyggalag:

Archon:

Jyggalag:
Sooo...is this a board game? I'm not joking I've never heard of this.

You've never heard of, e.g., Dungeons & Dragons?

I know theres an mmo but thats it. Do they still sell these things? Is it a computer game that uses dice?

*head explodes*

I'm really glad these articles are back, they are among few of the really great stuff on Escapist, I become GM literary because of them. I used to play a little table-top not just DnD but various stuff, but after reading few of these I took up some GMing, first with just running some scripts for games, and later I begun creating my own games, in no small thanks to you. I discovered that GMing is as much fun as playing, maybe even more (we don't won't that to pass around because soon it won't be any more players :))

I try to follow what you have written, and tend to adjust you instruction to the type of games I run and experience I want to achieve.

You literary made me GM. Thanks.

Archon:
I definitely have given thought to doing the collected articles as a book, yes! I will let you know if it happens.

Fanghawk:
Has The Escapist given any thought to publishing a selection of these articles as a book? I wouldn't mind having a copy of that on my shelf!

Yes, it would be great if you collected all of these into a book. I have to say I enjoy your column a lot. As a long time player only recently making a foray into running games, I've found these very helpful and useful. It's always a treat to see a new one up and I wish you'd write them with more regularity.

One thing I'm slowly realizing, that I think all of columns touch on but you've never (or at least i don't remember), is that the GM needs to be confident. This is your world, so own it. Fudging is just an example of that. If you have an idea for a creature that doesn't exist in the monster manual, make it up. If you want something to happen, make it happen. Nothing can ruin a game experience faster than a GM trying to make excuses for why what's happening is happening. Well, except a very outgoing player bending that GM to his wants. That'll ruin it faster. So a good GM never gets into that position.

Thanks again for these wonderful columns, I look forward to the next one.

Srdjan:
I'm really glad these articles are back, they are among few of the really great stuff on Escapist, I become GM literary because of them. I used to play a little table-top not just DnD but various stuff, but after reading few of these I took up some GMing, first with just running some scripts for games, and later I begun creating my own games, in no small thanks to you. I discovered that GMing is as much fun as playing, maybe even more (we don't won't that to pass around because soon it won't be any more players :))

I try to follow what you have written, and tend to adjust you instruction to the type of games I run and experience I want to achieve.

You literary made me GM. Thanks.

Did he leave for a while? I was so depressed when Check For Traps didn't show up on the main page for such a long time.

Anyway, I love these articles. I started DMing early last year and your articles have really helped me adjust my own games.

This isn't necessarily related inherently to randomness, but more to the last point in the article about remedying wrongs and the general point about consistency. In running a game of Legend of the Five Rings--a system where the level of success of an action is dependent on player decision before the roll on how awesome they're trying to be, rather than watching the die and waiting for a 20--I ruled in the first session that a player character had essentially a critical success due to an absurdly high roll result. So awesome that we basically got him an Ally advantage to follow with the nature of the success I described. Normally, advantages can't be bought after character creation, but hey, it was the first session, and he had the experience unspent to devote to it anyway, no big deal.

And then I remembered the part about the height of a roll not determining level of success. Oops.

Thus was instantiated the Max Advantage, a one-shot bonus named after the aforementioned player, which every character in the game received at the beginning of the next session. Anytime someone happens to roll super-high and didn't declare an attempt for an outstanding result, they can blow their Max Advantage to get a spectacular success and the chance to purchase a character-sheet advantage of my selection based on the situation.

So far we've had two other players pop their Max Advantage, one gaining a bloodline Advantage for the Fortune of Thunder, since his spectacular success was on a spellcasting roll the first time he cast Fury of Osano-Wo, a flashy lightning spell. Another one used his Max Advantage to cleanly cut off a demon's arm (and bathe one of its allies in its corrupted blood, knocking him prone), and he bought the Sacred Weapon advantage to receive a way better katana next time he was in front of his lord.

Way better than simply setting things right, this oh-no moment early in the game has made things significantly more fun in the long run, and has given me something long-term to express a sense of longevity in the campaign. And it's also given me an out for other times I screw up with the system--we have a Travis advantage, too, though it's much less interesting for the purposes of this discussion.

Otherwise on the topic, I shall just note that I also GM in a system where the book advocates that you should fudge the rolls any time (and every time!) that it makes the result more fun.

That's probably what I do most often, though I must admit to a bit of fudging to prevent new players from dying very early on to stop them from being discouraged.

Archon:
Check for Traps: Fudge Factor

When to play it straight, and when not to!

Read Full Article

I think another very occasionally important moment is the one in which you (in a sense) allow the player to fudge a bit. This may involve the player using some special trinket they received from the GM to alter the results of a near miss... or just a perceptive GM realizing how disappointing a random result really was.

It's important to let the dice stir up unpredictability, and to simulate risk. Both of these must include the possibility of failure. However, we've got to remember that failure itself is almost never "fun."

Perhaps a player is near death, and the dice say "Here comes the death blow." The player was giving his/her best effort, playing the story very well... and it just wouldn't do the players much good for that player's character to die. You could fudge the result to allow the character to survive... or throw an NPC party member in the path of the deathblow--the party still suffers a major loss, but the player has the opportunity to continue. And "survivor's guilt" is a more effective character development tool than "death" in most cases...

The most important principle, of which I constantly remind myself, is that dice are impartial. This is their greatest strength and greatest weakness. It means they are objective, but also that they are apathetic. They do not care if your game goes badly, or if the story suffers, or if the players are miserable. They have no personal investment in the success of the session or the story.

The players do. Sometimes they need to be given the feeling that their expectations for the story carry just a little more weight than a few plastic polyhedrons. Sometimes, we've got to fudge things in their favor. And sometimes, just once in awhile, let your players fudge, too.

Archon:

Panayjon:
Thank you for the article, fudging dice is something I've always made my own judgement calls on without a real frame of reference. Now I have one!

Though, I find the second example a hilariously silly idea. Really, you're going to drop down a dragon because you decided to have a random encounter and that was what you rolled? Be willing to think outside the box people! The module should be used as a guide, not a damned bible!

You obviously haven't read the rest of my columns, but that's ok. Suffice to say that, yes, I absolutely do allow random encounters to occur based on what the dice roll, and I recommend that other GMs do the same. The links in my article above explain why in considerable detail.

I have read some of your other articles and they have all been very interesting reads. Those that I haven't read are usually due to the title not grabbing me as something I ever care about, like alignment. I'm also not opposed to random encounters using dice, I'm just not a big fan of "by the book" inflexible games.

Granted I have unusual tabletop origins. I started by creating homebrew systems with my friends that were rules-lite and relatively simple. So, many of the games were half beta tests and half actual sessions. Nowadays I'm playing with a group of traditionalists with their DM screens and figs and chessix mats; its kinda nice to have a fixed structure and not spend an hour hammering out the kinks or laughing at how absurdly broken X or Y mechanic turned out. However, I feel like the a lot of the imagination and creativity gets lost when everything is spelled out; might as well not have a DM and just collectively read the module.

i've only once played and Table Top RPG and it was fun but I left the country.. read continent before much rapport could build up with the fellow gamers. I think it was 2 sessions. But reading this makes me want to find a group here or start something up

Did you used to write for the Mirage Arcana team? I read this same article over there months ago. I think it's had a rewrite but the main points and the examples are the same.

Mirage Arcana seems to have shut down now which is a shame as they had some good stuff.

Anyway, still a great article, many good points raised.

 

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