Fudging die rolls – good or bad?

It’s a common question in gaming discussions online. Should I, as the DM, fudge die rolls? It crops up with distressing frequency. I have a standard answer, and I’m sick of typing it out over and over again, so I decided I’d toss it on my blog and refer to that from now on.

Should you fudge die rolls? OF COURSE YOU SHOULD. Don’t be absurd. Put another way, asking “Should I fudge die rolls?” is asking “What should I consider more important? The story, or what number faces up when a Platonic solid stops moving?”

That you’d ask the question at all is evidence that you’ve lost sight of the premise of role-playing games in the first place: Role-playing games are about telling a story.

That’s all it is. It’s collaborative storytelling.

The DM sets out a framework for that story, and the players live through their characters to flesh out and affect that story. You don’t need dice for that. You don’t even need rules for that.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: The dice rolling is just to give the players of D&D – including the DM – something physical they can hold on to. Dice are a sham. They always were.

You’re the DM. You’re the referee. Nothing happens in your game that you don’t want to happen. If one of your players rolling a crit and killing your carefully-crafted baddie on round 3 of the boss fight doesn’t fit with your plans, DON’T LET IT HAPPEN.

I’m not saying you should tell the player her shot doesn’t land, or even that it doesn’t have an adverse effect on the baddie. That’s robbing the player of the satisfaction of her character doing something which impacts the story.

am saying you shouldn’t let the interaction of dice and an arbitrary, abstract number called hit points dictate what happens in the story.

Say your critting player is an archer, and crits with an arrow. By the dice, your baddie should be dead. But there’s no drama in that, so screw it. You have options. Let the crit blind the baddie in one eye, which reduces its AC on that side, but which enrages it, such that it has a bonus on its melee attacks. Or something. Use the crit to ratchet up the tension rather than end the game early.

That’s an example of not being a slave to the dice but using the dice to make the game more dramatic, more intricate, more interesting.

The one and only time you should let random clattering of Platonic solids dictate what happens at your table is when the result makes the game more interesting and exciting. Roll until you’re blue in the face, but ignore the results unless the result gives you the opportunity to make the story more compelling.

The sooner you recognize that die rolls don’t matter a damn unless you want them to, the sooner you’ll stop asking, “Should I fudge die rolls?”

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