Thursday, April 13, 2017

There's No Such Thing as Fudging

From time to time, I read articles, blog posts, and forum discussions on the topic of "fudging."

In RPGs, fudging is when you alter an outcome that has already been determined by the dice rolled.

Just yesterday, I read another post about this particular practice.  Not only did the "feel bad about yourself" thing make me wince (don't ever feel bad about yourself when gaming), but I disagreed with the basic premise behind fudging.

I mean, fudge is supposed to be delicious.  You can combine it with nuts (as shown), peanut butter, and all kinds of yummy stuff.  So, if you want to keep referring to it as "fudging," then let it a positive thing, a force for good in the universe.

If I actually bothered to put people into circles, I'd put +Zak Sabbath in the same circle as RPGpundit aka +Kasimir Urbanski - people who I respect for their many contributions in the RPG industry, but radically diverge from their opinions on various subjects.  I have a lot in common with both, yet in many ways we're extremely different.

Anyways, this article is my own interpretation of fudging - that there's actually no such thing.  FYI, you can dive even deeper into my philosophy with How To Game Master Like A Fucking Boss and Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss.  Enjoy!

Nudge, Not Fudge

Like most gamers, I frequently use the result of dice rolls to gauge what occurs in a session that I'm running.  Dice are a very useful and obvious way to find out what's happening.  It's expected.  The players look to the GM and the GM looks to the dice.  Everyone wants to know - does that guy hit, does the other guy miss, will the trap take your character's hand off?

The dice are like an oracle.  They know things.  They even have the benefit of know things that I don't.  The dice reveal, inspire, obscure, and resolve.  In some ways, they are the Game Master's greatest assistant.  And yet, the dice occasionally fall short.  After all, even oracles make mistakes... usually, because they don't know the full story.

If I choose to, I'm perfectly happy allowing the dice to determine pretty much all the randomness within a game.  I liken it to putting a ship on autopilot.  Autopilot is capable of handling the normal procedures of take-off, landing, and getting from here to there.  Unless there's an issue, autopilot - or the dice, in this analogy - are just fine adjudicating all the important decisions.

If there's an asteroid field in the way, I'm not just going to sit idly by and let the ship's autopilot muddle through as best it can.  No, I'm going to grab the wheel and steer, maneuvering in whatever manner I see fit.  I believe that's what Game Mastering is all about.

Similarly, issues crops up throughout a campaign.  Maybe it's a problem with continuity, realism, story, pacing, etc.  The last three encounters all turned into fights for various reasons, and I roll the dice, coming up with a negative reaction roll.  Is it going to be yet another battle to the death?  Well, that's for me to decide, ultimately.  Same goes with little things in combat - when the dice are supposed to matter most... and they do.  Nevertheless, I have the final say.  The ogre may have too many hit points, those orcs might have too few, Percival misses his saving throw by one, and so on...

That's when I decide to intervene, putting my oar in the water... to shape the game's reality because it's going to make the game better or more in-tune with my personal vision.  Let me be clear, my unorthodox interpretation or undue influence (depending on your view) is not always to the players' advantage.  Sometimes, it goes against them.  I strike a balance between the two, when possible, nudging the narrative in certain directions.  Again, that's my prerogative as Game Master.

Amidst the aftermath, if the game was ho-hum and the players didn't have fun, I'm not going to sit there behind the screen and blame the dice.  Nope, if the game sucks, it's the Game Master's fault.  Even if it's not really his fault, that's the impression.  The buck stops here!


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