Fudge: It’s Not Just for Brownies Anymore

Sometimes #RPGChat on Twitter inspires me to write about a particular topic on the blog. Last night’s chat was no exception.

To Fudge, or not To Fudge? That is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to say “to hell with THAT!” and give the Big Bad extra hit points during a fight with the PCs?

There are those who will proclaim that it isn’t fair to fudge in the Big Bad’s favor. There are those will will say that it is breaking the rules. But really, what’s the better story here: “our group trounced the monster in the first round before it even got the chance to move”, or “it was an epic struggle, the battle waged on and on, and then I bit Cerberus’ balls off!”?

(Yes, this actually happened.)

You really need to consider carefully before you fudge. Sometimes the PCs do something that is just so incredibly epic that letting them kill that baddie so fast is just the right thing to do. For example, years ago when a friend of mine rolled a critical hit – decapitation instant death and killed a dragon in the opening shot of an encounter (a fight he was supposed to avoid mind you)… as a first level character… that was a pretty big moment and the GM absolutely let him have it. He should have had that moment. It’s a great story!

Other times the fight ending early is just anticlimactic. The first time we brought the Mages and Werewolves together to fight a big bad evil spirit we severely underestimated the amount of damage they could do. When we constructed the baddie we didn’t build a high enough defense for it because we wanted to make sure it was possible for them to hit it. They had ludicrous rolls with all kinds of roll-ups and it wound up totally spent before the end of the first round. Sure it happens to all guys every now and then, but does that mean they want to tell their friends all about it for years to come? Hells no! So my co-GM and I exchanged a quick glance, tripled its original hit points, and continued the fight. The players never even knew. (Well… they know now.) “Cerberus” (we never explicitly called it that, but the legend comes from somewhere!) got to try out a few nifty abilities, the PCs were battered around a bit, and yes… the fight ended when a Werewolf castrated him with his teeth. Two years later we still talk about it!

The fact of the matter is that those stats: the Defense, the Hit Points… they were just numbers we chose. Sure they were based on various other stats, but we made up those stats too! We could just as easily have made up higher numbers to begin with, and truth be told we almost did but wanted to make sure the PCs had a fighting chance. No matter how hard you try sometimes you get it wrong. Sometimes you need to adjust on the fly. What’s important is to remember that everyone is at the table to have fun, and in the case of RPGs (generally speaking) to tell a good story. If you err in the service of those two goals then chances are you’ll be forgiven if you get caught.

Just remember… next time you give that baddie more hit points! And better armor… and minions…

Mages Make Me Cry


Posted on November 4, 2011, in Gaming, Mage Awakening, MtAw, RPG, White Wolf, WoD, World of Darkness and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Aenaiyah (The Acanthus)

    Let’s face it–if a GM WASN’T supposed to fudge every now and again there wouldn’t be GM screens.

    I fudge if it tells a better story. I know at least one GM who says sometimes he rolls the dice to make it *sound* like he’s doing something when he’s already decided the outcome.

    Also, most of the GMs I know have to improvise entire plotlines because of insane player antics. What’s a fudged roll or stat here or there compared to making up an entire story for your entertainment on the fly?

  2. I’ll allow some leeway with the idea of the DM/GM fudging things… If it makes things more interesting, leads to epicness, makes the story better or more fulfilling, etc. then its all good with me.

    Fudging things so that Orcus magically appears on the table because you’re sick of your players is not a good thing. Nor is deciding to completely disallow a player’s epic moment because you have plans for your baddie and the PC’s shining moment would ruin yours.

    This is pretty much never an issue with any of the people who run the games I play in… but I’ve heard some horror stories.

    • I am absolutely not in favor of fudging to deny player epicnosity. If I was I never would have allowed a certain Seer of the Throne to blow her sense motive roll so completely. Think of all the awesome that would never have ensued if I hadn’t! Fudging needs to be in the name of awesome!

      • Aenaiyah (The Acanthus)

        That was a pretty awesome Epic Fail, really.

        And Mike? Keep the mentions of that Demon Prince of hth Undead to a minimum, otherwise you might jinx the Pathfinder game I’m in. Guess who’s the Big Bad we’re trying to prevent from manifesting on the earth?


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