Game Mastery

Game Wrap – Hold the fudge

by on Sep.05, 2011, under dnd4e, GM, observations

I’ve previously advocated the use of fudging to fix die rolls.  This game changed my mind.

Early on, around the 4th or 5th session I put my players in a gambling situation.  It didn’t seem right to choose the outcome.  I didn’t want to outright screw the players out of their GP.  I also didn’t want them to think that there had been no risk when they put forward all their money.  So I put down the screen and rolled legit.

The dice behaved terribly and I loved them for it.  I can’t recall how exactly they rolled, which is probably for the best because stories that depend on dices rolls are usually pretty terrible, but on that night, those dice had no respect for the laws of probability.  Had I been fudging, I’d never have kept those rolls.  And if the players suspected I was fudging they’d never have believed I made those rolls.

What I realized was happening though was that when I was fudging I was blocking out aberrant results.  I didn’t allow the lower or upper 10% of possible results into my game.  Instead I only permitted average values to show up in the game.  Why would I do that to my story?  Rolling dice in the open and sticking to those dice gave me the freedom to let weird shit happen in the game.

4e was an especially good system for open rolling.  I’m not sure I could have managed it in 3.5.  4e’s encounter XP budget was balanced as well as anything I’ve ever seen.  I was incredibly lazy in writing combat encounters.  I pretty much just looked at a creature’s flavor and role, and picked enemies until I ran out of XP.  With a few exceptions, the combats behaved reasonably.  Compare this to 3.5, where I couldn’t trust CR one bit.  Because monsters in 4e performed so consistently, I was able to refrain from fudging dice.

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