[for my prior posts see this and this...you might also want to check the comments as they elaborate on some of my thoughts/points. I mean, if you care about the elaboration of these things...]
"Is that a note of frustration I detect in your blogging, JB?" Yes. Yes you do.
BA wrote his own blog post on fudging yesterday, in which he lists many examples of which NONE I find to be "fudging," not even the one he claims is...at least it is not "fudging" in the way the term is generally used (and the way in which the original blogger of this subject intended the use of this term). However, in the comments on BA's post WQRobb gives a perfect example of fudging:
In my last gaming session I fudged a couple of to-hit rolls by the monsters the PC's were fighting because everything was just going so freaking badly for players that session. In the end the players still had a rough time and barely came out on top, but showing a small bit of mercy in the name of fun and keeping a game going isn't that big a deal in my mind.
THIS is what is meant by fudging. The DM made a decision that things were going "freaking badly" for the players that session, and so "fudged a couple of to-hit rolls by the monsters" (presumably calling attacks misses when hits were rolled) in order to show "a small bit of mercy in the name of fun." As WQRobb explicitly writes, in his own mind this wasn't a big deal. And BA would seem to agree.
I agree with BA that fudging one (or more) dice roll will not result in "The End of Days" nor prevent a person from getting to their particular afterlife. But I absolutely disagree that it's not a deal...a big deal...when it comes to a game that uses a fortune mechanic (i.e. dice rolling) to determine objective outcomes of play. WQRobb's fudging on behalf of his players has several effects:
- It declares that the result of the dice don't really matter.
- It declares that the rules of the game don't really matter.
- It declares a lack of trust in the players to deal with game consequences.
- It prevents players from learning from the experience of game play (becoming better players).
- It denies players a potential victory on their own earned merits (i.e. a real victory).
- It can break players' trust in a DM to be fair and impartial (depending on how aware they were of the DM's fudging).
- It can generate false feelings of accomplishment leading to poor play in the future that will in turn require more fudging (reinforcing the above points).
When what should probably be happening is the DM should be learning their own lessons from the incident. Not a lesson of "crisis averted, fun had" but lessons of how to be a better DM:
- Maybe the players were having a hard time because monsters appearing were inappropriate (too tough) for their characters.
- Maybe the DM was failing to communicate the necessary information to the PCs that would allow them to escape death or determine a path to victory.
- Maybe the DM needs to develop a different mindset then "attack until all the players are DEAD." Maybe the monsters should have offered quarter, agreed to take a bribe, sought to have prisoner for ransom, or requested the PCs perform some task (like aiding the monsters against a different foe) in exchange for their lives.
- Maybe the DM needs to be a better teacher of the game to the players.
And it's certainly possible that after the session WQRobb took all those thoughts to heart and will adjust his methods of running games in the future to account for all these things. Possible...but probably not. After all:
"...showing a small bit of mercy in the name of fun and keeping a game going isn't that big a deal in my mind."
or so he wrote. Which to my mind sounds like a justification to just 'keep on keeping on.' Though I admit I'm making an assumption that the comment reflects his honest attitude and outlook.
I've gone back now and read Cavegirl's post multiple times, and the more I read it, the more asinine I find it. She has two main conclusions that are just...awful. I just want to address them one at a time:
#1 Fudging isn't inherently bad because it's a matter of individual taste whether or not one wants to fudge the dice.
Let me substitute something else for "fudging" and see if that logic makes sense:
Drinking and driving isn't inherently bad because it's a matter of individual taste whether or not one want to drink and drive.
Or how about:
Kicking your dog isn't inherently bad because it's a matter of individual taste whether or not one wants to kick their dog.
Or how about:
Posting hate-filled rhetoric on a personal website isn't inherently bad because it's a matter of individual taste whether or not one want to post hate-filled rhetoric.
But JB, you argue, that's different! You're hurting (or potentially hurting) people in all those examples! Am I?
- To my shame, I've driven many times when (probably) over the legal limit for alcohol consumption...never crashed, hurt myself (or anyone else), and never been pulled over.
- A person's dog is their personal property, and I am legally allowed to euthanize the animal at any time. Would that be preferable?
- Hate-filled rhetoric? Don't read it if you don't like it.
But okay...maybe all those examples are too despicable for the subject at hand. How about voting for a political candidate that's a climate science denier, anti-vax/-masker, who wants immigrant children jailed in caged isolation to teach their border-crossing parents a lesson? That's just a matter of personal opinion right? Nothing wrong with helping to get that guy elected...by whatever means necessary. Just exercising my right to vote. You can't tell me my choice is a poor one...it's just a matter of individual taste.
#2 Players should be allowed to fudge dice rolls because default assumptions of GM authority (i.e. traditional allocations of narrative responsibility) is kind of bullshit and anyway if the GM can fudge, why can't players? What's the big deal...it's not like they'll wreck the game or something.
Setting aside the underlying worthlessness of the premise (the given: "fudging is okay for GMs")...while I can see SOME logic in the conclusion ("why can't they fudge when I do?"), this is still a preposterous doubling-down on rule violation with regard to many RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons in particular. AD&D, at least, is explicit in that final control and authority lies in the hands of the DM. There are other RPGs where this is not the case (even games without a "GM" figure: see Fiasco, Polaris, Blood Red Sands, etc. for examples). In games where narrative authority is not firmly established in the instructions...sure, reasonable minds might agree to portion out some responsibilities to the players. But, again, it is the underlying premise ("fudging is okay!") that derails the whole of the discussion.
And that last bit gives me a chance to segue into the end of this post on a dumb subject (and to be clear, when I said it was stupid, I mean I'm being stupid for even writing about it...I sincerely doubt I'm going to change many minds here). There are many role-playing games other than D&D on the market...perhaps folks should be taking a closer look at what's out there.
Because a lot of this fudging subject seems to be a "D&D thing" or an issue for procedural RPGs of D&D's ilk. Does it not dawn on folks that D&D was designed a particular way to accomplish particular objectives? And that if you want it to play differently than the solution is to redesign the thing to meet your specific parameters? Why do folks continue to try pounding square pegs into round holes?
All that means: change the rules, not the dice results.
Fudging is BAD. Fudging is WRONG. Fudging, by definition, is violating the rules of the game, which is the epitome of CHEATING. Regardless of whether or not fudging is okay with your "personal taste."
Have I fudged a die roll before? Yes, more than once. And on BOTH sides of the screen. And for all the usual stupid, wrong reasons. I've done LOTS of bad things in the past that I'm not proud of. As I get older and (somewhat) wiser, I'm trying to do better. To not do wrong. That's the best I can do.
Not fudging dice rolls any more is one of the easier fixes.