Treasure Tables posted an article, complete with lengthy commentary, on fudging die rolls. As has been mentioned in that article, the topic of fudging is something of a hot-button in the RPG world. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Why is it so important that other people game the same way you do? There is no “right” way to game, and ultimately any group is going to game in whatever way works for them, regardless of what forum-goers think. I think a lot of the argument comes from (on one hand) the misconception that GMs are always fudging die rolls against the players, and (on the other hand) that GMs are simply allowing players to die willy-nilly because it’s what the dice told them to do.
I’ve already made my opinions clear as far as fudging goes, but I’m going to expand on that a little bit now. My previous post aside, saying that I’m “pro fudging” or “pro cheating” is a gross oversimplification. Ninety-five percent of the time I roll the dice, and I go with the result. Sometimes, though, the result of the dice would either bog down the game and ruin it for everyone, or kill the players and bring the game to a halt. Is this the result of poor planning on my part? Maybe. I’m not perfect, and I don’t profess to be. Regardless, my players shouldn’t suffer for my poor planning if there’s something I can do about it in the moment.
There’s also the fact that (I suspect) many people who would balk at fudging die rolls wouldn’t have a problem with making an NPC attack a different PC when the one they’ve been pounding on is almost dead. Is this different? I don’t think so. Ultimately, when I’m running a game, I’m always thinking about what I believe will be most fun for everyone. If the result of the dice is going to cause one of the players to not have a good time, then I consider that a failure on the part of the dice, and I’ll correct it. If the result of the dice would serve to heighten dramatic tension in the game, then I’ll let it stand; this is what happens most of the time, as I’ve already mentioned.
I guess the bottom line, as far as my way of thinking goes, is that I’m not infallible as a GM, so I use dice to resolve most disputes (since they’re impartial). However, dice aren’t infallible either (since they have no capacity to perceive how much fun the players are having), so sometimes I bend the results a little. I should note that it’s very, very rare for me to ignore the dice completely. If a monster scores a critical hit that would kill a PC outright, I won’t turn that into a miss. Instead, I’d probably cause that hit to significantly cripple the PC for the rest of the fight, but at least the PC would get the opportunity to live to fight another day.
One final thought: it’s a common argument that, while GMs think it’s OK for them to cheat, they don’t allow their players to cheat. My counter-argument is that a good GM (particularly one who’s open to fudging) should either be cheating on behalf of the players at least as much as on behalf of the NPCs, or should allow the PCs a mechanic that allows them to “cheat within the rules”. This is exactly why I use mechanics like story tokens, even when such mechanics aren’t in the core rules of the game. If I give the players a means by which they can pull their own bacon out of the fire, then I don’t have to do it for them when they make a silly mistake or bite off a little more than they can chew.
At any rate, that’s how I GM. And if it’s wrong, then I don’t wanna be right.