Fudging Rolls: Yea or Nay?


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Ryan Freire wrote:
Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Xaimum Mafire wrote:

Fudging rolls to keep the players alive? Yes.

Fudging roll to keep NPCs and monsters alive? No.

I'm not so sure.

There might be a story reason why a monster or NPC needs to die in the next chapter or be killed by a different party member.

eh, in that case i dont fudge die rolls, i just apply more hp.

I just alter the story. Did I plan for the mook to divulge his master's plan after surrendering? Yes. Did the raging Barbarian critically hit the mook with his greataxe? Yes. Is the party still going to learn about the BBEG's plan from the mook? Only if they search his body and make a Linguistics check to decipher the note he was carrying.


Xaimum Mafire wrote:
Ryan Freire wrote:
Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Xaimum Mafire wrote:

Fudging rolls to keep the players alive? Yes.

Fudging roll to keep NPCs and monsters alive? No.

I'm not so sure.

There might be a story reason why a monster or NPC needs to die in the next chapter or be killed by a different party member.

eh, in that case i dont fudge die rolls, i just apply more hp.
I just alter the story. Did I plan for the mook to divulge his master's plan after surrendering? Yes. Did the raging Barbarian critically hit the mook with his greataxe? Yes. Is the party still going to learn about the BBEG's plan from the mook? Only if they search his body and make a Linguistics check to decipher the note he was carrying.

Oh i dont do it for mooks, or methods of gaining information, just plot centric folks with a dramatic comeuppance or confrontation with a pc rival headed their way.


My personal take:

If it keeps a PC alive at a critical moment (maybe they just got screwed over by bad luck when they were winning) then I'd definitely do it.

If it keeps an NPC alive after they get screwed over? Nope. Their ultimate job as NPCs in combat is to be killed by the PCs.

What my players don't know can't hurt them.


So I've covered this before, the short answer is "depends on the GM". One guy I'd trust to do whatever he feels like (even diceless). The other I double-check all the rules. However, there's one comment I felt I had to call out.

TheGreatWot wrote:
What my players don't know can't hurt them.

They know. I haven't met a GM yet who's actually managed to keep it hidden. Some may take longer but it's basically Godwin's law. The longer you fudge the more likely you get caught. Tense moments actually increase the chance of getting caught, I think, as players are more attuned to the little stuff then. And once they suspect something every action is going under the microscope. Heck, if you're unlucky they might start attributing bad/good luck to fudging. Personally I roll in the open for that very reason. Keeps everything honest. Has led to some disappointing fights (and dramatic character deaths) but I haven't had any complaints yet. Both times were axes and lucky x3 crits from melee brutes.


Bob Bob Bob wrote:
I haven't met a GM yet who's actually managed to keep it hidden. Some may take longer but it's basically Godwin's law.

Godwin's law? Isn't that the one where the longer this debate goes on, the more likely it is someone will say, "You know who else fudged dice rolls? Hitler!"


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Wow. Looks like I came late to this rodeo.

"Fudging" die rolls is highly problematical. As this discussion (and other similar discussions) illustrates. If when a player "fudges" his die rolls, it's called cheating, why shouldn't it be the same thing for the DM?

Personally, I don't "fudge" die rolls as the DM. I don't use a screen. All my die rolls are out in the open. I let them fall where they may. My philosophy is that a DM doesn't *need* to "fudge" dice. Where you "fudge" isn't with the dice. It's where you decide what actions the NPCs or monsters will take. If you need to give the PCs a little breathing room, you choose suboptimal actions for the NPCs or monsters. Maybe they waste an action gloating. Or they cast a spell that seems vaguely appropriate but doesn't involve killing PCs. Maybe they decide to run. Maybe they decide to do soemthing else.

Short version: the DM doesn't need to "fudge" and should't ever have to do it. It breaks the pact. It threatens the entire game. Too much "fudging" and our dear RPG becomes a game of "bang, you're dead!"


Matthew Downie wrote:
Bob Bob Bob wrote:
I haven't met a GM yet who's actually managed to keep it hidden. Some may take longer but it's basically Godwin's law.
Godwin's law? Isn't that the one where the longer this debate goes on, the more likely it is someone will say, "You know who else fudged dice rolls? Hitler!"

Or Nazis. A more relevant example for us would be "As the length of an alignment thread approaches infinity the probability of someone saying the paladin should have fallen approaches 1". Certain things are inevitable, basically. And if you're not going to stop doing it at least be more mindful about it, in the case of Godwin's law.


blahpers wrote:
Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Xaimum Mafire wrote:

Fudging rolls to keep the players alive? Yes.

Fudging roll to keep NPCs and monsters alive? No.

I'm not so sure.

There might be a story reason why a monster or NPC needs to die in the next chapter or be killed by a different party member.

It's not the GM's job to write the story.

/lights a faux-cigarillo

Yeah, it is.

It's not his job alone, but it's totally the GM's job. A tabletop RPG is a collaborative effort to create an awesome story. The GM certainly has a role to play, there. Most of the roles, actually.


Xaimum Mafire wrote:
Ryan Freire wrote:
Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Xaimum Mafire wrote:

Fudging rolls to keep the players alive? Yes.

Fudging roll to keep NPCs and monsters alive? No.

I'm not so sure.

There might be a story reason why a monster or NPC needs to die in the next chapter or be killed by a different party member.

eh, in that case i dont fudge die rolls, i just apply more hp.
I just alter the story. Did I plan for the mook to divulge his master's plan after surrendering? Yes. Did the raging Barbarian critically hit the mook with his greataxe? Yes. Is the party still going to learn about the BBEG's plan from the mook? Only if they search his body and make a Linguistics check to decipher the note he was carrying.

Ah, you don't fudge the dice. You just fudge other stuff.


Honest question: What's the difference between dice fudging for enemies and non-dice fudging?

In practical terms, what's the difference between "fudging the Ogre's Reflex save" and "giving the Ogre 20 more hit points ad-hoc to replace the ones lost from Fireball"? What's the difference between "he saves against Phantasmal Killer" and "he dies, but reinforcements hear his scream"?

I'm against doing both, for the record, but I can't understand people who like one and dislike the other.


Don't fudge rolls. There's a way for PC's to counter everything in this game except for a TPK (and there's even counters for that too) and removing the necessity for the PCs to go find that counter makes them a worse player in the long run.

Just as you don't feed the bears or they'll become reliant, you shouldn't fudge rolls or the PC's will become reliant.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

One thing you definitely shouldn't do is fudge so much that the players can rely on and plan around your dice fudging.


There's clearly two different things going on, which is I think very much driven by the wide variety of players who all come together to play the "same" game.

I think it comes down to what your players want. Hopefully you have a group that all has similar expectations for the game, and that helps determine how you as a GM operate.


Late to the party but.
I am not a fan of it. Not on rolls anyway. I don't much mind if a GM alters a NPC or item within reason (preferably between sessions but sometimes in a session if highly approriate (rare). )
But never rolls. Part of the cooperative storytelling that is RP requires the randomness for me.
I could be planning a very specific amazing plot point.
but if we're playing with crit fails, and the guy with a +20 special acrobatic amazing NPC villain rolls a 1... then that's fate. He's gonna slip fall off the wall and break his neck in front of the NPCs. We'll just have to work around it.

Its that spark of life that the RNG brings me that I value which is why I'm opposed to fudging.

Tha and it just feels weird when one sidei s allowable and the other isn't. for me personally.


blahpers wrote:
It's not the GM's job to write the story.

I disagree with you sir, the game master does write the tale, the players then collectively tell the tale.

Comparisons would be a music composer on one hand and an jazz band on the other or an algorithm and a given implementation of it in a given language.

Shadow Lodge

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Zwordsman wrote:
but if we're playing with crit fails, and the guy with a +20 special acrobatic amazing NPC villain rolls a 1... then that's fate. He's gonna slip fall off the wall and break his neck in front of the NPCs. We'll just have to work around it.

So there's a difference to me between fudging and that. Changing a critical success or failure isn't fudging, that's blatantly ignoring the dice rolls. Fudging is when a player rolls a 22, but the DC was 23 and you tell them they succeed because that success would make a cool moment in the game. Fudging the way I use it is a little nudge, slight modifiers here and there to help with the flow of the story, make things more exciting, and to keep players in the game.

I think a lot of it comes down to trust, which is another reason why I'll fudge for home games, but not for pfs.

Zwordsman wrote:

Its that spark of life that the RNG brings me that I value which is why I'm opposed to fudging.

Tha and it just feels weird when one sidei s allowable and the other isn't. for me personally.

And there's another aspect of it. If the game you play has two sides, players and gm, then fudging equals cheating because you are playing a competitive sport. The dice determine who wins so they must be rolled fairly. The game I prefer to play has one side, we're all players telling a cooperative story. In this game, the dice are an aid to add randomness to the story. Tweaking that randomness to fit is just part of good storytelling.

So depending on the type of game you play, it is either an anathema or a useful tool.


gnoams wrote:
we're all players telling a cooperative story. In this game, the dice are an aid to add randomness to the story. Tweaking that randomness to fit is just part of good storytelling.

Hugs to you! - or friendly accolades if the former makes you uncomfortable -


InvisiblePink wrote:
In practical terms, what's the difference between "fudging the Ogre's Reflex save" and "giving the Ogre 20 more hit points ad-hoc to replace the ones lost from Fireball"?

One difference is that in order to do the first, I'd have to start rolling dice behind a screen, and that takes away the fun of seeing the dice come down on a natural 1 or natural 20 or whatever. But I don't like the second one either.

InvisiblePink wrote:
What's the difference between "he saves against Phantasmal Killer" and "he dies, but reinforcements hear his scream"?

The latter is much less detectable. Players will eventually notice if it's impossible to defeat a boss villain with a Save or Die (unless the party is already losing). Reinforcement show up? That's pretty much indistinguishable from something that was going to happen anyway. The castle is full of guards who could have been anywhere; why not there, where it's most exciting for them to be, unless that would be too hard, or would make the battle take too long when everyone wants to go home?


gnoams wrote:
Zwordsman wrote:
but if we're playing with crit fails, and the guy with a +20 special acrobatic amazing NPC villain rolls a 1...
So there's a difference to me between fudging and that. Changing a critical success or failure isn't fudging, that's blatantly ignoring the dice rolls.

I was under the impression that most people's definition of 'fudging' includes ignoring dice rolls completely. "I rolled a natural 1 for the bad guy. But it could equally have been a natural 19, and the game would be more exciting if I pretended I did. They're only a couple of millimetres apart on this d20, so it's a minor fudge."


gnoams wrote:


I think a lot of it comes down to trust, which is another reason why I'll fudge for home games, but not for pfs.

You couldn't pay me to play PFS.

To be honest, i cant see playing this game outside of home games with people who are friends outside just rpgs. That definitely colors my opinion on roll fudging, and when and where its appropriate.


I’m of the opine you should only fudge a roll as the GM to help the characters not harm them. Example you know letting the dice roll as they land will lead to a TPK (when the players did everything correct ) You maybe don’t fudge the hit but maybe that critical didn’t confirm to give them at least one more round to do something about i t as that will bring the game to a halt then you have to spend hours to help your party build new characters (or at least review them) If they can’t fix it next round I tend to let the dice kill them. This isn’t a save the party every time something is hard either but I will either fudge a roll or “the gods feel for your trouble” and at the last second you spot a chest that wasn’t there (normally holding an item that can help but doesn’t mean auto victory)


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Sounds like people assumed a standard definition for fudging which we clearly don't have.


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When I do it, it's fudging. When you do it, it's cheating.


Matthew Downie wrote:
When I do it, it's fudging. When you do it, it's cheating.

Perks of being the guy behind the screen.


I'm not against fudging personally, but I've seen a lot of people call it a 'useful' tool. It's not that.

A useful tool is one you go to first, my 10 in 1 screwdriver is a useful tool.

Fudging is more like that weird pair of pliers at the bottom of my tool bag that I never use except that once in a blue moon situation where it's better than my normal pair.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I don't fudge dice rolls. The dice are always rolled in the open.

That being said, the NPCs stats exist on my head and the players never see them, so who is to say that his modifier wasnt a +5 or a +6 or a + whatever I needed it to be to make the encounter fun for the players. Same with hitpoints. Pretty much all npc HP stats are like: "This monster has between 150 and 250 HP and goes down when dramatically appropriate."


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Saleem Halabi wrote:

I don't fudge dice rolls. The dice are always rolled in the open.

That being said, the NPCs stats exist on my head and the players never see them, so who is to say that his modifier wasnt a +5 or a +6 or a + whatever I needed it to be to make the encounter fun for the players. Same with hitpoints. Pretty much all npc HP stats are like: "This monster has between 150 and 250 HP and goes down when dramatically appropriate."

Aside from being hemmed in to accept natural 1s and 20s, this isn't a real difference.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Bill Dunn wrote:


Aside from being hemmed in to accept natural 1s and 20s, this isn't a real difference.

Pretty much. I fall firmly in the "making it fun over making it correct" camp.


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I think asking if a DM fudges dice rolls or not and if they should or not is akin to asking a magician if they use hidden wires or not.

Magician 1: I use hidden wires all the time, it's one of many tools I use.

Magician 2: that's disgusting. hidden wires are so dishonest, I use smoke and mirrors and my audience enjoys my act better knowing I don't resort to hidden wires.

A good DM can enhance a game experience by bending the rules. While it's easy to compare this to videogames, claiming its what makes tabletop gaming better. The fact is even videogames have taken a page from tabletop rpgs and will "bend the rules" in the player's favor because it makes the game more fun (eg. "coyote time" and deceptive health bars).

That being said, players do enjoy the game more if the world seems to follow a logical set of rules. If you're breaking a rule in a way that would be obvious to the players you either:

Need to let the players know
or
Find a less rule breaking method to accomplish what you're trying to do.

why roll dice at all?

its a decision making tool for the DM. I don't want to have decide on the spot if an attack hits or not 99% of the time. I can use dice and modifiers to give a simulation of how effective a creature is supposed to be at attacking the PCs. I still wouldn't want my players to see my dice rolls since it will allow them to metagame how effective the monster is at hitting them. Is it missing because i'm rolling bad or just because it has a poor bonus to hit? If the combat goes on long enough the players will "figure it out" but its from assuming my misses and/or hits are the result of me mostly rolling between 8 and 12, even if behind the scenes the thing can actually hit them on a 3 or better and I'm just having trouble rolling that high. Unless I'm telling them otherwise, on a subconscious level they assume that how much they're getting hit is a reflection of the creature's skill not my dice rolling ability.

Unseen dice also raise tension. In a recent game I wanted to make a trap "seem" incredibly deadly while in reality being level appropriate. I designed the trap to do 10d2 damage. This meant the character getting hit heard/saw me grab and roll a ton of dice for damage. They then sighed a breath of relief when they took only 15 dmg and everyone scrambled for cover. They then tried to figure out how to deal with it without exposing themselves, lest they not be so lucky next time.

As long as everything "seems" relatively consistent and fair, players will enjoy your game even if you're literally just rolling rocks behind your screen. Just never use "unkillable" NPCs, regardless if combat is supposed to happen with them or not. Its bad form and always makes it less fun for the players no matter how much the NPC is "integral to the plot"


Bill Dunn wrote:
Saleem Halabi wrote:

I don't fudge dice rolls. The dice are always rolled in the open.

That being said, the NPCs stats exist on my head and the players never see them, so who is to say that his modifier wasnt a +5 or a +6 or a + whatever I needed it to be to make the encounter fun for the players. Same with hitpoints. Pretty much all npc HP stats are like: "This monster has between 150 and 250 HP and goes down when dramatically appropriate."

Aside from being hemmed in to accept natural 1s and 20s, this isn't a real difference.

Depends on how consistent and plausible the GM is. If I roll a d20, get a 10, and declare that I got 30 to hit, that reveals the attack bonus of the creature is +20. If it suddenly gets better or worse at attacking, the players are probably going to notice.


One thing worth considering for people who have "all rolls are in the open" as a hard and fast rule-

Pathfinder 2nd edition has rolls that by RAW must be made in secret by the GM. Generally these are rolls which, if the player could see the die, knowing that the number was high or low could be used to infer success or failure which is metagame knowledge that player should not have. For example, if you are searching for traps and you roll a 2 and the GM says "you don't find anything" you're not going to conclude "well, I guess it's safe" if you knew the die came up 2. Or at least knowing those two facts puts an uncomfortable tension between "roleplaying" and "wanting to succeed."

So it might be worth thinking about means to improve GM/Player trust that do not rely on 100% transparency since that transparency has a negative cost from time to time.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:


Depends on how consistent and plausible the GM is. If I roll a d20, get a 10, and declare that I got 30 to hit, that reveals the attack bonus of the creature is +20. If it suddenly gets better or worse at attacking, the players are probably going to notice.

Oh its absolutely a developed skill. Being able to read the room is an absolutely critical skill for a GM. Once I notice the PCs have calculated a number in their head, the modifier generally gets locked in.

I let the players know that I don't mind fudging for their enjoyment, but at the same time I am careful to never let the players know precisely when that fudging happens. That combined with rolling the dice in front of them generally leads to them wondering if I'm (or assuming I'm not) actually fudging after all, even though I told them I would be doing so.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Depends on how consistent and plausible the GM is. If I roll a d20, get a 10, and declare that I got 30 to hit, that reveals the attack bonus of the creature is +20. If it suddenly gets better or worse at attacking, the players are probably going to notice.

Most of the time, I add a d5 random circumstance modifier going from -2 to +2 to the DC on a given player offensive roll - so not to their saves for example. It adds a bit of granularity and prevents the players from guessing the AC of the attacker until the end of the second round or the beginning of the third, by which time usually a big chunk of the combat is already in the past.

They know about this die and they know I sometimes use a d3 or a d7, what they don't know is which die I am using on a given day.

- I had forgotten to mention that this die is always rolled hidden -


So here's an example where I feel like "secret rolls enable die fudging" is a positive.

Suppose the PCs come across what is essentially a series of levers puzzle which is needed to progress, and the PCs correctly infer that each lever corresponds to a letter and the correct string is "the pet name for the favorite daughter of the mad king who built this place" which is a fact one can just access with a sufficiently high knowledge roll. While the dungeon has some more clues in it, the party has someone with a moderately high modifier for that skill so they decide to just chance it. So you roll in secret, and they get a 1. Now the adventure says "suits of armor in the hallway become animate and attack" if the wrong code is entered, but suppose you don't feel like running that combat which you fear will be tedious, or you think the PCs have undergone sufficient resource attrition for this section, or you just want to move forward in the story. I feel like a GM should feel content to just tell the player the correct name, have the puzzle door open and move on.

A significant part of the time when I fudge dice is when the PCs are working through a puzzle or a mystery and call for a knowledge check to recall some specific fact, and I roll a die because a check is asked for, but I just fiat that they succeed because "not making progress" isn't fun for anyone.


Agénor wrote:
blahpers wrote:
It's not the GM's job to write the story.

I disagree with you sir, the game master does write the tale, the players then collectively tell the tale.

Comparisons would be a music composer on one hand and an jazz band on the other or an algorithm and a given implementation of it in a given language.

Unless you're running on rails, that's backwards.

Follow-up: Not that there's really anything BadWrongFun™ with running a game on rails such that the GM writes the plot and the players just act it out if that's what people signed on for. But in my experience most players want a bit more agency than that.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

So here's an example where I feel like "secret rolls enable die fudging" is a positive.

Suppose the PCs come across what is essentially a series of levers puzzle which is needed to progress, and the PCs correctly infer that each lever corresponds to a letter and the correct string is "the pet name for the favorite daughter of the mad king who built this place" which is a fact one can just access with a sufficiently high knowledge roll. While the dungeon has some more clues in it, the party has someone with a moderately high modifier for that skill so they decide to just chance it. So you roll in secret, and they get a 1. Now the adventure says "suits of armor in the hallway become animate and attack" if the wrong code is entered, but suppose you don't feel like running that combat which you fear will be tedious, or you think the PCs have undergone sufficient resource attrition for this section, or you just want to move forward in the story. I feel like a GM should feel content to just tell the player the correct name, have the puzzle door open and move on.

A significant part of the time when I fudge dice is when the PCs are working through a puzzle or a mystery and call for a knowledge check to recall some specific fact, and I roll a die because a check is asked for, but I just fiat that they succeed because "not making progress" isn't fun for anyone.

Why bother having all of those things as things that are supposed to happen if you've already decided how things should turn out? Why have animated suits in the first place if you can't be bothered to do your job and play them out? If you want to decide that the player knows a particular detail, why roll and then lie about it instead of just telling them that their knowledge is sufficient to know it without rolling?

If players become utterly blocked on your puzzle or mystery simply because they failed a Knowledge roll, you gave them a badly designed puzzle or mystery. If there are other clues available but they actively decided that they can't be bothered to look for them because "I have a moderately high Knowledge skill", then that's on them. Not that it should matter--if they fail their skill check, they don't misremember--they just don't know, so they can still fall back on looking for more clues instead of pulling random levers.


Because in my preparation I might have thought things would go differently than they did go and I wanted to make a mid-session course correction?

Plus, rolling a 1 on a recall a fact check in PF2 is not "you recall nothing" but "you recall erroneous information".


blahpers wrote:
in my experience most players want a bit more agency than that.

Players need to feel they have agency. Whether they indeed have it is another question.

A good way for players to feel they have agency is indeed for them to have it but is definitely not the only way.

Also, in most games, the scenario is already written and then prepared by game master before the game session begins. It is by no means an improvisation of the moment by the game master who would have almost perfect knowledge of the in-game universe and could make it react in real time to the actions of the P.C.s. Hence there is already a level of railroading that everyone accepts and enjoys.

I feel like you discard this and place the baseline zero of railroading at the beginning of the first game session of a scenario. I say the game begins when the game master starts preparing.


Agénor wrote:
blahpers wrote:
in my experience most players want a bit more agency than that.

Players need to feel they have agency. Whether they indeed have it is another question.

A good way for players to feel they have agency is indeed for them to have it but is definitely not the only way.

Also, in most games, the scenario is already written and then prepared by game master before the game session begins. It is by no means an improvisation of the moment by the game master who would have almost perfect knowledge of the in-game universe and could make it react in real time to the actions of the P.C.s. Hence there is already a level of railroading that everyone accepts and enjoys.

I feel like you discard this and place the baseline zero of railroading at the beginning of the first game session of a scenario. I say the game begins when the game master starts preparing.

Further, even if we go into the zany world of pure improvisation, at the end of the day GM's the guy doing majority of the work. A player can say he wants to open a shop on the frontier and that's all well and good but he doesn't get to say the shopkeeper he hired is really a cultist of Rovagug or that bulettes will invade in three days. That's stuff the GM's writing.

Okay, I guess the player could say that, but its not like he has any real power to make that happen beyond the GM humoring him or he's really a L18+ caster mashing miracles/wishes and is playing a character that is some stripe of completely insane.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

Because in my preparation I might have thought things would go differently than they did go and I wanted to make a mid-session course correction?

Plus, rolling a 1 on a recall a fact check in PF2 is not "you recall nothing" but "you recall erroneous information".

Sweet, another rule change that nobody wanted.

Question: Why do it matter to you how things go?


Agénor wrote:
blahpers wrote:
in my experience most players want a bit more agency than that.

Players need to feel they have agency. Whether they indeed have it is another question.

A good way for players to feel they have agency is indeed for them to have it but is definitely not the only way.

We're back to trust as a foundation. If I can't trust you, the GM, why would I commit a significant fraction of my life to playing with you?

Quote:
Also, in most games, the scenario is already written and then prepared by game master before the game session begins. It is by no means an improvisation of the moment by the game master who would have almost perfect knowledge of the in-game universe and could make it react in real time to the actions of the P.C.s. Hence there is already a level of railroading that everyone accepts and enjoys.

The situation is already written. The plot is not, or at least it's written only inasmuch as things would progress without player intervention. Players are there to intervene. GM's are there to adjudicate how that intervention plays out.

Quote:
I feel like you discard this and place the baseline zero of railroading at the beginning of the first game session of a scenario. I say the game begins when the game master starts preparing.

That's some weapons-grade conflation of the term "railroading", but sure, if you like. The game doesn't begin until the players are present and able to choose their course. Everything before that is preparation. If the players don't show up, there is no game, just as if players don't show up to play CataN, there is no game, no matter how neatly you stacked the tiles, grouped the resource markers, and otherwise arranged the play area.


Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Agénor wrote:
blahpers wrote:
in my experience most players want a bit more agency than that.

Players need to feel they have agency. Whether they indeed have it is another question.

A good way for players to feel they have agency is indeed for them to have it but is definitely not the only way.

Also, in most games, the scenario is already written and then prepared by game master before the game session begins. It is by no means an improvisation of the moment by the game master who would have almost perfect knowledge of the in-game universe and could make it react in real time to the actions of the P.C.s. Hence there is already a level of railroading that everyone accepts and enjoys.

I feel like you discard this and place the baseline zero of railroading at the beginning of the first game session of a scenario. I say the game begins when the game master starts preparing.

Further, even if we go into the zany world of pure improvisation, at the end of the day GM's the guy doing majority of the work. A player can say he wants to open a shop on the frontier and that's all well and good but he doesn't get to say the shopkeeper he hired is really a cultist of Rovagug or that bulettes will invade in three days. That's stuff the GM's writing.

Okay, I guess the player could say that, but its not like he has any real power to make that happen beyond the GM humoring him or he's really a L18+ caster mashing miracles/wishes and is playing a character that is some stripe of completely insane.

Sorry, it's been a long week and I'm pretty dense at this point, but where is this going? I don't think I said that the players have Cosmic Powers of Fate and decide what happens in the game world. The levers the players are given are pretty well-defined; they act through their player characters and have commensurate influence on the world around them.

(That being said, if my players decided that they really wanted a secret cultist shopkeeper and thought that fighting off a bulette invasion was their idea of a good time, who am I to say no?)


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blahpers wrote:
Question: Why do it matter to you how things go?

Because as a GM it is my job to make sure the people at the table are having a good time, and over like 20+ years of doing this I have learned to read the room. So if I'm picking up something like "nobody really feels like another fight here" then there's not going to be one no matter what I wrote down or what the dice say. If an "exploration scene" or "talking scene" or "puzzling scene" would go over better than a combat scene, then that's what's going to happen.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
blahpers wrote:
Question: Why do it matter to you how things go?
Because as a GM it is my job to make sure the people at the table are having a good time, and over like 20+ years of doing this I have learned to read the room. So if I'm picking up something like "nobody really feels like another fight here" then there's not going to be one no matter what I wrote down or what the dice say. If an "exploration scene" or "talking scene" or "puzzling scene" would go over better than a combat scene, then that's what's going to happen.

Do your players know that you've been lying to them and negating their agency based on your perception of what they're thinking but not saying?


blahpers wrote:
Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Agénor wrote:
blahpers wrote:
in my experience most players want a bit more agency than that.

Players need to feel they have agency. Whether they indeed have it is another question.

A good way for players to feel they have agency is indeed for them to have it but is definitely not the only way.

Also, in most games, the scenario is already written and then prepared by game master before the game session begins. It is by no means an improvisation of the moment by the game master who would have almost perfect knowledge of the in-game universe and could make it react in real time to the actions of the P.C.s. Hence there is already a level of railroading that everyone accepts and enjoys.

I feel like you discard this and place the baseline zero of railroading at the beginning of the first game session of a scenario. I say the game begins when the game master starts preparing.

Further, even if we go into the zany world of pure improvisation, at the end of the day GM's the guy doing majority of the work. A player can say he wants to open a shop on the frontier and that's all well and good but he doesn't get to say the shopkeeper he hired is really a cultist of Rovagug or that bulettes will invade in three days. That's stuff the GM's writing.

Okay, I guess the player could say that, but its not like he has any real power to make that happen beyond the GM humoring him or he's really a L18+ caster mashing miracles/wishes and is playing a character that is some stripe of completely insane.

Sorry, it's been a long week and I'm pretty dense at this point, but where is this going? I don't think I said that the players have Cosmic Powers of Fate and decide what happens in the game world. The levers the players are given are pretty well-defined; they act through their player characters and have commensurate influence on the world around them.

(That being said, if my players decided that they really wanted a secret cultist shopkeeper and...

What I'm getting at is you said the GM isn't the guy writing the story which...I really don't know how else to interpret besides the players having weird cosmic fate powers where they can just say the local macguffin is in the Underdark rather than Atlantis. Players can pull all the levers they like, but the guy determining/writing the effects that go with those pulls is the GM hence the general point the GM is basically the primary 'writer' of the game as far as responsibility/workload goes.


blahpers wrote:
Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Agénor wrote:
blahpers wrote:
in my experience most players want a bit more agency than that.

Players need to feel they have agency. Whether they indeed have it is another question.

A good way for players to feel they have agency is indeed for them to have it but is definitely not the only way.

Also, in most games, the scenario is already written and then prepared by game master before the game session begins. It is by no means an improvisation of the moment by the game master who would have almost perfect knowledge of the in-game universe and could make it react in real time to the actions of the P.C.s. Hence there is already a level of railroading that everyone accepts and enjoys.

I feel like you discard this and place the baseline zero of railroading at the beginning of the first game session of a scenario. I say the game begins when the game master starts preparing.

Further, even if we go into the zany world of pure improvisation, at the end of the day GM's the guy doing majority of the work. A player can say he wants to open a shop on the frontier and that's all well and good but he doesn't get to say the shopkeeper he hired is really a cultist of Rovagug or that bulettes will invade in three days. That's stuff the GM's writing.

Okay, I guess the player could say that, but its not like he has any real power to make that happen beyond the GM humoring him or he's really a L18+ caster mashing miracles/wishes and is playing a character that is some stripe of completely insane.

Sorry, it's been a long week and I'm pretty dense at this point, but where is this going? I don't think I said that the players have Cosmic Powers of Fate and decide what happens in the game world. The levers the players are given are pretty well-defined; they act through their player characters and have commensurate influence on the world around them.

(That being said, if my players decided that they really wanted a secret cultist shopkeeper and...

If the player decides the shopkeeper is secretly a cultist, what kind of secret is that? I take great pains not to use player information but it’s a bit much to expect me to act surprised that the shopkeeper is a cult member when I was the one who decided the shopkeeper is a cultist. And even if I’m perfectly capable of acting surprised, the fact is that I am not surprised.

I don’t feel that I’m deprived of player agency because the GM has a general plan for how the game will go, I don’t feel that populating the GM’s world for him enhances my player agency in any way, I don’t feel that fudging a die roll or two in a session during which the dice are rolled dozens and dozens of times is detrimental to my player agency, and I don’t feel the GM can rob me of player agency in a single act like it’s a switch between all or nothing.

I do feel your position is extreme and your test of player agency incredibly rigorous—I doubt many GM’s are up to your standard if 100% honesty is your standard considering 100% honesty is not a social norm or a reasonable expectation or a thing that people actually appreciate when it happens.


Watery Soup wrote:
Corathonv2 wrote:
I'm just the referee.

You're more than just the referee.

You have the freedom to decide whether the orcs are dumb enough to fall for the very obvious trap your PCs have set; you have the freedom to decide whether the mastermind your PCs were supposed to fight will accept an unexpected offer of truce.

Also, as the GM, you have the freedom to make mistakes. And if you accidentally allow a second AoO in Round 2 which ends up killing a PC in Round 5, it seems weird that you should feel helpless.

The feeling of helplessness is all in your imagination. I could try to influence the things for (or against) the party, I choose not to.

You're right that I can decide if the orcs are stupid or the mastermind accepts a truce. I have no problem making rulings, but I try to rule fairly, without concern for whether it favors the party or not.

If I do make a mistake, I will try to make it good, though.


blahpers wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
blahpers wrote:
Question: Why do it matter to you how things go?
Because as a GM it is my job to make sure the people at the table are having a good time, and over like 20+ years of doing this I have learned to read the room. So if I'm picking up something like "nobody really feels like another fight here" then there's not going to be one no matter what I wrote down or what the dice say. If an "exploration scene" or "talking scene" or "puzzling scene" would go over better than a combat scene, then that's what's going to happen.
Do your players know that you've been lying to them and negating their agency based on your perception of what they're thinking but not saying?

Do you seriously think players are going to mad they didn't have to do something they didn't want to do and instead got to do something they wanted to do. That still challenged them and required them to use their characters?

I know I wouldn't be.

But hey having fun, in the game I am playing, for fun, is more important to me than being safe in the knowledge that the game went exactly as was planned by the DM to the detriment of fun. I don't understand your agency objection.

Being faced with a different challenge than was originally planned doesn't hurt my agency. My character still acts as I want my choices, still matter in that new scenario, its just a more fun scenario.

If a DM can't adjust his plans to enhance the fun at the table then I think I'm completely lost in this argument.

DMs aren't meant to make fun anymore, they just meant to lorde over some weird simulated reality that people don't need to enjoy, they simply must trudge through at all costs!


born_of_fire wrote:
I do feel your position is extreme and your test of player agency incredibly rigorous—I doubt many GM’s are up to your standard if 100% honesty is your standard considering 100% honesty is not a social norm or a reasonable expectation or a thing that people actually appreciate when it happens.

That . . . that's a pretty cynical post, and that's saying something coming from me. You okay?

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