Generally speaking, Roleplaying Games are games where you don’t necessarily win or lose. You just move the plot further through either success or failure. There are many plot devices and narrative tools that a DM can use to move the plot along, some of these can be shared with the players, others… not so much.
Today I’d like to talk to you about “fudging dice rolls”
Dominic: Ok guys the enemy mage fires a fireball, roll me a dexterity save.
Patrick: ok… 3
Vanessa: Ugh… 6
Jules: I got this… ok, no I don’t…8
Nataniél: 9… oh wait no… that’s a 6
At this point Dominic has a choice to make. He can let the dice fall as they may, and call the full damage of the fireball on his friends. Or he can roll the dice and give his friends a chance to regroup and mount a strategy by calling part of the damage rolled by the dice. You might think “But why would he do this? Dom needs to put his big DM pants on and roll like he means it” And in a way you’re absolutely right.
However, like I’ve said before, D&D are games that revolve around telling a story, and sometimes you may need to help the story along. Or you just simply don’t want the story to stop. A couple of bad rolls on the player’s side, and a couple of good rolls on the DM’s side could end very quickly on a Total Party Kill (TPK), meaning your players would all need to get their act together, create new characters, make new backstories, and you would have to explain how these new characters are filling in for the dead ones. Depending on the type of game you’re playing this means you might have to change the story a bit, a lot, or not at all. You might want to fudge the roll only to keep the current game going. You might also want to see how far these characters can defy the odds
Now, how do you fudge dice?
|Words to live by|
You’re the DM and don’t need to give out explanations for every roll you make, let’s start with that. Also if you don’t want to use a DM screen then fudging is out of the question. Let’s see how Dominic handles the situation:
Dominic: Ok… the mage raises his hand, points a finger at you, and shoots a small bead of fire towards you. You are all unable to react in time and the fireball explodes close to where you all are, dealing… (Rolls 3d6 behind the screen, the outcome is 15, which would kill all 4 lvl1 characters) 7 fire damage!
Patrick: Well I’m almost dead, my character only has 1 hit point!
Vanessa: My fighter still has a potion and could probably cover you guys, but I’m going to need some healing… only 3 HP left
Jules: I’m down to 0 hit points. Shit… do I roll death saves now or at the end of the round?
Nataniél: Hey wait… I’m a Tiefling, I have fire resistance. He only does 3 damage to me! I can heal Vanessa with Cure wounds. Just make sure you hit that mage with all you’ve got before he fires again!
Dominic: Well you guys seem to have things under control *smiles evilly* Roll me a death save Jules…
So Dominic does not kill the party outright, but he does put them in a challenging situation that might end up either in a TPK or in an amazing victory, that depends on what the players decide to do next. As you can see, fudging dice is simply handling the dice results in such a way that keeps engaging the players to come up with different strategies and ways to beat the obstacles that you present to them.
The alternative? Well you could just kill them and narrate the dramatic events that follow the heroes’ failure to beat the evil mage. In the end, the decision to fudge or not to fudge the dice roll depends on the type of game your players want to play. Maybe they specified that they preferred a more hardcore experience, where all traps are deadly and every single room has at least one vampire in it. If this is the case, then by all means, roll every single dice in front of them and watch them fall like flies.
Thanks for reading