DMs, GMs, STs: Do you fudge rolls?


  • Coder

    Though I missed most of the action, apparently there was a hot argument on reddit drummed up by a GM-type saying that he often would fudge rolls to enhance his story. I figured we could use some focused, constructive arguing here, so I wanted to bring the topic over!

    When you are controlling the story, NPCs, etc, do you fudge rolls?

    Obviously you cannot do it quite like you can in real life, where you roll dice behind a screen and lie about the results. But on my MUs, I will give people numbers to beat, difficulty modifiers I made up right then, and or simply tell PCs their powers failed, or the like. The goal is to enhance the story as I see it. Generally speaking, I will warn players before I do this that I am doing it. Even if I don't, it's not like I can really fudge the results of a roll I put on screen.

    I've had players get pretty upset with me on and off over this. People who need to see the dice and demand I follow the rules. Alternately, I've had a good many players who get quite agitated when I put checks on their nigh limitless powers (eff off, mages! this is my reality not yours!). So, what do you all think?



  • In tabletop I do it on and off as the story needs or to preserve the 'players feel like heroes' aspects if it won't compromise the rest of the story for anyone else.

    As a ST on a MU. I think adhering to the rules more or less as written in the books or listed as interpreted by the MU in source - be it in help files, on a wiki, etc - is the better alternative because it saves you cries or accusations of cheating. Now. If I were inclined to fudge a roll be it to someone's help or my detriment - I'll be quite up front about it. Let the room know - and maybe tell them why. If for example I learn mid-combat my statted NPC is a bit more powerful than I anticipated for the people - and he hits someone with a death blow, I will let them know. Or give someone a non-standard roll or something.

    I think it all boils down to the players and perspective though. Just be up front about it, I believe, and that saves you most of the corollary problems from rules lawyers and people who are quick to assume things.


  • Politics

    @skew said:

    When you are controlling the story, NPCs, etc, do you fudge rolls?

    It depends on the situation and the players, and the system.

    I know that doesn't help, but remember that MU*ing, like gaming on a tabletop, is a collaborative effort. You have to know the expectations going in of the players. If they are the type that prefer story over mechanics, fudging would be fine if it helps the storyline move. If they are the type that prefer the mechanics, then stay hard on the rolls and don't fudge. Some systems are more forgiving (WoD) than others (Earthdawn) when it comes to good and bad rolling.

    The hallmark of an experienced GM is in making these calls on the fly, but it does start with the situation, players, and system.



  • There is this game out there, I played on it when I first learned how to Mu* and it gave me a real taste of the kind of people that are in this hoppy. You know the kind with their friends that play and they all staff and makes things happen together... Maybe you don't because hopefully games don't allow people to use their staff bits to forward and assist their PC bits and those of their friends and co-staffers.

    I played on this game, learning the 1e rules of WoD and was a master of the rules! In scenes STs (staff) would take control and make hidden rolls and inform you of the outcome. It was a blast! Until I looked behind the curtain and became staff...

    No one knew the real rules in nWoD they were all from oWoD and just kinda winged it. If they rolled it was more for a binary result of fail or not that didn't have to use the correct dice. Worse yet the number of times dice were never rolled because it would be funny/cool/lead to some epic whatever was staggering.

    In my mind that was the worst betrayal ever. Why spend the time building up my PC if I'm going to get in PVP with someone else and not even end up using my stats? But I guess that's the extreme end of things and its always soured my experience. Since playing there I like to see the rolls and the results.

    On the flip side of things, if we're not using dice and just playing around or if the ST were to ask "Psssst, hey man so for fun would you mind..." or if I got the inkling to do so "Psssst, hey ST would you mind if..." That's all fun and games.

    Picture below for @Thenomain because I know he loves when I post graphics:
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  • Pitcrew

    I've fudged, but always to the benefit of the players and the story, and always with publicly alerting the people in the scene. Most of the time that means giving characters pay-off for cool or epic choices when they have bad luck with a roll. Sometimes that actually means modding a baddie NPC up a little to provide a better fight -- with the interest of giving the characters a more epic battle. Of course, these were all PvE type environments; if it came to a PvP situation, I feel like you have to be a lot more strict, because then there's players on both sides of the equation.

    But also note that I've either GMed without stats or a system or with FS3, so I don't have any WoD experience.


  • Coder

    I've gone back and forth on this one, a little. Like @Jaded said, if you do fudge, I think you need to be up front about it. Like @Ganymede said, knowing your players and what they prefer is key.

    When I was on Firan, I rolled openly whenever possible and never fudged rolls. When running games with friends, I'd fudge or toss out dice if they weren't doing what I wanted them to in the name of making players more awesome. On the Transformers game I staff now, I not only roll openly, but I've changed the code to be even more transparent.

    A lot of this has more to do with the game culture, and the game history of the players, than it does my own feelings. Both Firan and (past) Transformer games had strong PvP elements and a real problem where players had good reasons not to trust staff. Unfortunately, GMs are all too often dealing with borderline hostile, mistrustful players -- and I can't really blame them. Players need to be able to trust you, which is why I shoot for transparency, first. If I'm gonna fudge, I'm telling them.


  • Coder

    @ThatOneDude That definitely sounds like a pretty toxic environment.

    I definitely always aim to make any fudging for the sake of the story, and hopefully for the enjoyment of the players, but it's always hard to say. There's those players that want to go on an adventure, and then those players that want to win. I guess the biggest issue is when you are dealing with the former, and mistake them as the latter, because they really, really want to win this one time.

    Ex: You build your character to be an internet sleuth, with a specialty in finding real world locations for people who post things online. Then staff decides if they just gave you this person's address/etc, it would make the story too short, so they make your findings inconclusive. Staff has just neutered your core concept.

    I think I might be slightly tainted from STing on The Reach, where players had huge xp pools and could effectively do anything. No one had just that one specific thing they were good at. Finding a spot where they failed became a matter of fudging, or using crazy powerful NPCs.



  • @skew But in terms of the Reach, would adjusting to power level at some point be fudging or just the nature of the game?

    I mean if you are a 800XP vampire searching for your foe who also in theory is an 800XP NPC, wouldn't that foe potentially have better ways of obfuscating his tracks than say a 100XP NPC? So with the powerlevel going up the difficulty goes up as well, right?


  • Coder

    @ThatOneDude said:

    @skew But in terms of the Reach, would adjusting to power level at some point be fudging or just the nature of the game?

    I mean if you are a 800XP vampire searching for your foe who also in theory is an 800XP NPC, wouldn't that foe potentially have better ways of obfuscating his tracks than say a 100XP NPC? So with the powerlevel going up the difficulty goes up as well, right?

    Note quite. A 800XP vampire is still an 800XP vampire. They are immensely powerful, and there really ought not be that many of them. Too many and you start to break the theme (which, yes, is an indictment of the whole high XP MU as a whole). But, besides that argument, yes I could make an 800XP boss bad guy. But that doesn't help against the mortals that stand between you and them, or the common criminals, or the police, or whatever.

    I've tried to make goons that are useful and add to the story. Goons that you cannot just wave a hand and have them all perish. If you stat them up, players howl about it being totally unrealistic, totally unacceptable, etc etc. If you keep them at levels that would be logical and realistic, they cannot do a single thing at all. Mind, I'm not trying to kill off PCs. I just happen to know that most people enjoy a story that isn't a cake walk, that isn't short and pointless. Most players enjoy going back home with a bullet hole in them, it gives you a story, RP fodder, etc. Issue is... to get that single successful shot, I'm either rolling chance dice, or I have a goon that has 10+ attack dice (Which, for the audience that is not WoD-savvy, that's the max stats a human can have).



  • There are many forms of fudging the roll:

    You can literally ignore the roll.
    "Roll stealth plus dex." notes failure "Okay the guards don't react when you sneak by." hopes players never ask.

    You can literally ignore the result.
    Especially if you don't announce what a roll is for. "Make a stealth roll." "Oh, you failed." nods, writes something. "Make another roll" That note might be someone saw you approach the area, even though usually the rolls are only against the direct opposition. It doesn't have to be used.

    You can ask for another roll to mitigate the original result.
    "Okay not a great stealth approach, make an Int + Security check to notice the flaw in your effort."

    You can give stronger or weaker consequences.
    "A guard going home from work stumbles upon you. How do you take him out?" This guard is off the clock, unarmed,and isn't in a position to be trouble or set off alerts.

    You can alter circumstances so the results don't play out as long or as effectively, or cut them short later on.
    "The first set of guards alert the second, but they don't call it in." or "The police are delayed by the crowd around the dead homeless guy." "The police find no clues, and they let it go after a week."

    This is part of why I favor strongly organized approaches to play (by tradition or the rules), so you know what a roll is, how many will likely be made. This is also why i favor systems that measure level of success over pass fail. Many pass fail games keep the chance to fail fairly high to maintain tension and suspense, but it does lead to failing a basic check. I also favor systems that allow for some sort of "fix" to a roll. Something that says you always get at least average results, or need not roll when difficulty is Normal or less, or a limited number or re-rolls, or modify the roll after the fact. (These are in a way a form of skill situation "hit points" and you can see them running out, and the tension rises, the the players are gently reminded that the rolls are getting closer and closer to real, no change results.


  • Politics

    I fudge sometimes. I generally only fudge in favor of the player or of the story. Mages make the latter difficult, but that's just because it takes a lot more work to create an intriguing and difficult mystery for them.

    I had Theno make "rolling blind" possible on Eldritch both to keep the mystery, and also because of this, somewhat.

    However, if your character does something monumentally dangerous, that is obviously so, with prior warning, and they suffer for it--no fudging. If a character dies outright, I don't tend to fudge rolls; I may fudge time constraints, etc., if they are, say, "bleeding out" or whatever.

    One thing that CofD has that makes this super easy is Conditions, basically because if I have to fudge a roll, I can, and then I can give the player who's (allegedly) getting the shaft a beneficial Condition.

    Sure, your perception roll would have ruined my scene so I fudged it so you wouldn't see something--but now you have the Attentive Condition, which you can resolve next time you're going to be ambushed to avoid the effects of being surprised (i.e. you'rfe so attent to your surroundings you apply your Defense against a succesful ambush attempt) You also gain a beat when you Resolve it.

    So yeah, I fudged--but you got something out of it.



  • If I'm relying on dice rolls for some sort of outcome, I try to never fudge a roll. If there's a chance that something awful would happen that I as DM couldn't deal with, I wouldn't even involve dice and just dictate a certain outcome.

    I have a table top GM that rolls behind a screen, and it's obvious that he's fudging rolls and it's the most boring thing ever, the game has become 'let's make the situation so outrageous that we couldn't possibly survive' and then watch how we're all knocked to 1HP and then all of a sudden the bad guys can't hit anything for 10 rounds while we eek out a victory.

    The only time that I'd toss away a die roll is if I discover I've majorly screwed up on the rules for a situation, and then I'd probably re-roll it with the correct rules being applied.



  • I don't fudge rolls without telling players I'm doing it, i.e., OK I'm disregarding the results of that roll, and I'm not doing it unless someone's dice are ruining what would otherwise be a super cool moment. I.e., @roz can't fucking roll to snipe a shot to save her life.


  • Pitcrew

    I fudge sometimes, but usually to correct my own errors in designing an encounter or adventure, or when the random number generator has become actively unfun for players. So, if I've accidentally created an NPC that is murdering the PCs, I will quietly tone it down, or have them not use some power or ability that I know would finish off one or more PCs (as always - this is based on the type of game it is...if this is an old school dungeon crawl, then I'm much less inclined to 'pull blows'). Likewise, if the PCs are just /killing the hell/ out of a villain that I'd planned to be the Big Bad, I usually won't give it a get-out-of-death-free card (because that's annoying), but it WILL turn out that the villain was a henchman all along or will leave a clue hinting at a bigger, badder conspiracy. I try very hard, though, not to cut short PCs victories, or invalidate them, or give people powers/abilities that it's flat out unrealistic that they should have. Random nameless gangbangers are not going to have 10-dice pools for combat, or Willpower to spend against the PCs - if the PCs are going to plow through them, /that's okay/, because the PCs are usually better trained/more powerful than your average teenager with a street-bought pistol.

    Another thing I will do that might qualify as fudging is completely change the outcome of the adventure when the PCs come up with a more interesting idea than I had, or when the PCs clearly /like/ their idea better than they would like mine. I might write up the adventure involving a human trafficking ring that's simply selling human victims to a mad scientist who is trying to perfect immortality by creating people-shoggoths, but if the PCs start putting together the clues and come up with, "The smugglers are worshipping a Thing in the sewers that is giving them monstrous flesh minions in return for regular human sacrifices, and that's so cool!' then...yeah, sure. That is exactly what is happening, and the lone mad scientist gets quickly rewritten as the high priest of the Thing-worshipping cult. Why not?

    But extemporaneous GMing is one of my strong points, so rewriting an adventure on the fly (or writing one in the first place - it's not uncommon for me to start a plot with the idea of a single scene, and then just build everything from there based on what the PCs want to do) isn't a burden for me.



  • @Pyrephox >Likewise, if the PCs are just /killing the hell/ out of a villain that I'd planned to be the Big Bad, I usually won't give it a get-out-of-death-free card (because that's annoying), but it WILL turn out that the villain was a henchman all along or will leave a clue hinting at a bigger, badder conspiracy.

    I've done this a couple of times. In my dark heresy game, one of the clerics one shotted Gortax the Champion of Khorne and we all had a big laugh as he took out the mighty chain sword carapace armour wearing guy with bleeding eyes with a gas can pulled from a chimera.

    After we finished laughing at the death of poor Gortax, we had his evil twin brother Xatrog arrive and we had the epic fight everyone was craving.


  • Pitcrew

    I don't fudge rolls or ignore them--but I do require when people make them that they include how they're going about doing something (unless it's just a straight up thing). Sometimes this gets me fussing from some players "What? I've never had to tell anyone how I'm going about investigating, I just want to make my roll and then I get information," or "I don't know how I'm going to persuade/intimidate does it matter? I just want to roll and be done with it." Not very often though. Most folks are happy to do that, because it means the response is personal. Creativity is rewarded--if someone can sell me on what they want to try, I'll let them, even if that means that none of my plots ever goes quite to plan.

    If I'm having issues with the bad guys being too weak (I've never had the opposite occur) against the PCs, I will throw in other compounding circumstances. There's an unexpected hostage situation. One of the mundanes goes through an unexpected change under the stress. Things are booby trapped on the next floor. There are bystanders that hit in the feels. There's a new or several shinies that are discovered, so it's a matter of focusing/picking. A new layer on the presenting situation.

    My ST notes are never linear (I don't think hardly anyone's are), they're more like a cloud map. There is a base story that the PCs know, I have my goals/aspirations/projected outcome for the scene listed in a box to the side (with lots of room for additional notes/changes). If something is a hard goal (like it's a becoming scene) then that is underlined and not waivered on--but that's always something agreed upon in advance with the person who's asked me to run the scene, and my own personally-generated PrPs /never/ have hard unchangable "forced" goals, ever. I will have personalities and motivations for all of the NPCs ran across as well as several otehrs on hand for crowd/on the fly ones. I will have stats for them as necessary. I have a pretty good cheat sheet (that I modify according to the players in the scene) so that I can handle pc thinking out of the box and just being able to roll with it instead of "you can't do that." However, if PC ends up in my scene that I'm totally not familiar with their splat (like Mage or some of the more fringe ones) then I will chat with that player ahead of time and let them know that some of their stuff may be unavailable if it would end things for everyone in 5 minutes, so I ask for their help in helping to avoid that, or I understand if they'd like to opt out. Since most of my PrPs are not really combat things (they may involve it but it's not the focus) and I have been given feedback that the quality tends to be on the good side, most folks seem to be okay with it. Even people with mages, if they didn't choose to drop out, and those folks have always been willing to walk me through some of their cool stuff so that we can figure out how they CAN use some of their neatokeen abilities without squishing everyone else. I've met far more people willing to do that if it means getting to have fun and contribute to fun than not.


  • Admin

    If I don't want to adhere to a roll's result I won't ask for it.



  • "You can't do that" is a terrible thing to have to say as a GM. I feel like the longer I do this the more I learn to deal with players running off on tangents I don't expect and I'd so much rather come out at the end of a TP with a story we built together than force the herd of cats to do what I want. It's definitely something that has taken some learning, though, since I started.


  • Admin

    @saosmash said:

    "You can't do that" is a terrible thing to have to say as a GM.

    There's however a flipside to it - the player who believes they can do anything if only they make some form of roll. Anything at all.

    Encounter a completely new supernatural phenomenon with zero information about it? Let me roll wits+occult-5+willpower (when they know on average they'll get at least one success this way).

    When it comes to IC actions there's nothing my players can't try. But there is very much such a thing as a task they can't - at the time - succeed at.



  • @Arkandel said:

    @saosmash said:

    "You can't do that" is a terrible thing to have to say as a GM.

    There's however a flipside to it - the player who believes they can do anything if only they make some form of roll. Anything at all.

    Encounter a completely new supernatural phenomenon with zero information about it? Let me roll wits+occult-5+willpower (when they know on average they'll get at least one success this way).

    When it comes to IC actions there's nothing my players can't try. But there is very much such a thing as a task they can't - at the time - succeed at.

    That is a very annoying but true corollary -- "I can so do that" is basically players asserting "you're not the boss of me" and there are times a gamerunner needs to crack down. I am bad at this and it's why I very rarely run for my tabletop group anymore (a more rowdy and rambunctious group of purposeful derailers you never did see).

    I guess you could say it's a balance.


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