Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Winning and Losing

The abuelos left town Monday night and as of yesterday are back, safe and sound (if a little sad) in Orizaba, my wife's hometown. We were able to "zoom" with them while watching the Sounders kick the heck out of Leon in in the inter-League cup quarterfinals. 

[no, we didn't end up watching game shows last night...nor did I grill. Cooked up a big old slab of corned beef brisket with garlic roasted red potatoes and asparagus on the side and a heaping helping of steamed green beans. Good stuff]

Sad as it is to see them gone, it means that a lot of our lives are back to normal (well, the "new normal"): less road trips, more cooking in, less visits to local breweries, more gaming. Blood Bowl is back on the table.

Literally. It's exploded all over my dining room table.

Last night featured the wood elves (Diego) versus the orks (me) in the first game of our "mini-BB World Cup." It was pretty tight and hard wife at one point called from the other room, "Take it easy on him!" My son and I just looked at each other and guffawed. 

"Mom, he can't take it easy on me...I'm winning!" However, the laughter was at even the suggestion that anyone would be 'going easy.'

Another dead elf is a
poor substitute for a TD.
Well, he did end up winning in the end...the wood elves' "prayers to their barky god" seemed to have been answered. But I gave it a good go. I got the tying touchdown in the last minutes of regulation to make the score 2-to-2. We decided to play overtime, and by the end of the match there were only three wood elves left on the pitch (two K.O.'d and seven outright casualties). Against the full might of my squad, he just managed to dislodge the ball from my ork blitzer just four squares from the end line, and in his last turn of the match, pulled off a desperate maneuver that would allow him to win the game on a Long Bomb throw to a standing wardancer in the opposite endzone. This required multiple dodges, multiple "go for it rolls," and an incredible pass-n-catch...all without re-rolls...with one turn left to succeed. Amazingly, the elves managed to get just about everything right.

Then they fumbled the pass.

So, overtime ended and the game was decided on "penalty kicks" (I'm not sure GW really understands how Gridiron football works), which in BB means both players roll a D6 and whoever scores higher gets the win. I rolled a 1; Diego rolled a 2. Absolute joyful pandemonium (on the part of my child) ensues.

I bring this up in light of yesterday's post on fudging dice rolls. Noisms had a good take on the subject today with regard to the difficulty people have being objective when it comes to things they care about: it's damn tough. I love my children: it gives me no joy to see them crestfallen and unhappy when results aren't as expected, not even if I'm winning (at their expense). And my son, especially, who becomes VERY emotionally invested and is generally hyper-competitive...well, he really wanted to "fudge" that last die roll to complete the pass. "Wait - I didn't roll right! Wait - the die hit the box at the wrong angle! Wait...!"

As such, we have pretty strict house rules regarding dice rolls in my home. All dice are rolled inside an empty box top; once they're rolled, it's done. Dice that bounce OUT of the box requires the whole result to be rerolled (even if one die lands IN the box). Once the dice come to a rest it's done. And only one set of dice are rolled at a time (with no other person's dice being allowed in the box during the roll). These firm strictures (which we use for ALL our games: D&D, Monopoly, Blood Bowl, etc.) are well understood and prevent any disagreements over dice results.

And it prevents me from fudging dice rolls in my kids' favor. Because I want them to win...I like watching them win. But you can't win all the time and losing, while hard, can be good for you. Not only can it help you learn and grow from your mistakes, but it is humbling, and most of us could use a bit more humility in our lives. It's also good preparation for future losses; we watched a LOT of Little League baseball the last couple months, and while the Spring season saw a lot of wins, the Summer ball had nothing BUT losses (the latter team was, frankly, terrible). And the All-Star tournament in-between? Ooo...that was a rough one.

Losing, of course, also helps one appreciate the wins more...hell, it even helps appreciate the ties more. D's summer ball team was so bad they didn't even get a tie till the final game (the game had to end because of the time), and man were those kids ecstatic!

I was reflecting on this a bit (duh), and I came to the idea that perhaps one key component that's missing for some folks (who might be proponents of "fudging") is quantity of play. After all, if you play a LOT of a particular game (any game) you'll see lots of wins and losses. If you roll lots of dice, you'll see plenty of "hot streaks" and "cold streaks." Last night I saw plenty of both in our stupid-stupid troll continuously rolled "1s" for his stupid roll and did almost nothing the entire game...meanwhile, every time I landed a block with one of my blitzers, a wood elf would end up folding like a paper hat (landing that block was tough, though). 

[for the most part, though, my dice were pretty icy, and it was mainly elven attrition that kept me in the game]

When you're a Seattle baseball fan and you're used to the futility, it's far less aggravating (though still frustrating) to see the Mariners combust and burn out round about the end of the've seen it so many times, you're used to it. If you play B/X D&D regularly and you're inured to a random arrow wiping out your 1st level character, the sting just isn't there, and the rolling up of the new PC registers about the same as ordering a beer from the bar or opening another bag of potato chips. We can become accustomed to the whims of fate, the wins and the losses, if we Just Play More...and then the outcome of die results, the successes and failures, can be far less important than the play of the game itself.

This is what I've been trying to instill in my son this summer. I keep telling him how fortunate he is to even play baseball at all. Not only because of last year's pandemic wiping out the entire Little League, I've been trying to instill in him the understanding that one day he won't even be able to play Little League at all. At some point he'll be too old. And even if he goes on to play in high school or college or professionally or whatever, there will come a day when even that will end. So enjoy it now. Enjoy every minute of it. Every chance to swing a bat or catch a pop fly or hang out in the dugout chewing gum and spitting and snarking with other ten year old kids. 

Yesterday, Diego's eyes got so lit up when we opened the Blood Bowl stuff. "Man I LOVE Blood Bowl!" he exclaimed...multiple times. And he does. Even when I was pounding his team into the dirt and prompting exclamations of "you suck" and "I hate this team" and whatever (in the moment) he still kept coming back to "I love this game." And he loved having the chance to play it again. Winning was just the cherry on top. 

And I know he feels much of the same about D&D and (other) role-playing games. 

I realize that much internet ink has been spilled over the debate of whether or not D&D (specifically) is "about telling stories." I know which side of that debate I'm on, and I also know that folks on the other side probably ain't going to be swayed much from their stance. So be it, yada-yada. For people on MY side, there should probably be no question as to the awfulness of fudging dice rolls ("cheating"), but I have to say that I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND the urge to do just cheat the system, to get a result other than what is revealed through our oracular polyhedrons. Because we don't play enough. We don't get 162 games a year like a pro-baseball team does (I certainly don't!). We don't have so many swings of the bat that the sting of striking out has faded to a dull pain, easily brushed off with the hopeful "I'll get 'em next least I get to play this sport!"

Maybe we just need to play more. With our family, with our friends, with our "community of gamers." Maybe we need to play enough and often enough that we (and those we play with) don't get hung up on the result of a particular roll of the dice. Because there will be more dice to long as we keep playing. And there's always the hopeful thought: I'll get 'em next time.

Okay. Time to go buy some coffee.


  1. One way I prep players for the reality of PC death is to inform them that historically the best PCs in my campaigns were once NPCs. When a PC gets killed in the middle of a dungeon, that player takes control of an NPC hireling or henchman so that they won't be stuck doing nothing at the table. Inevitably, the player adopts the NPC as their new PC. Of course, this does assume that the game will be played often enough for the NPC to get adopted...

  2. Fudging rolls in this context is what I would tell my kids is cheating! The dice are unbiased random arbitrators for the game and IMO there for a reason, I've never fudged or thought about it (as an adult) because you need them to determine outcomes outside of the players' hands. Otherwise what's the point?

    I am all about the "telling stories" stuff but firmly believe that if you're going to fudge, why roll? Either the outcome is resolved in the conversation or the dice decide in my book.

  3. I think that you're on a roll here. I agree completely about not fudging rolls. Why roll at all if you're just going to make up the result? Why forgo the possibility of failure just to meet an expectation of story? Learn to embrace the anticlimax as well as snatching victory from the jaws of defeat (and I mean that in both senses: last-minute failure and the overplanned attack that has covered all bases and so literally can't fail—I've had both happen).