Is this cheating / bad DMing?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


If you have 2 (or more) NPCs fighting, and the PCs are just observers, is it "ok" to rig the fight so one side automatically wins (either by fudging dice rolls or just not rolling dice at all?)


Not rolling dice and just narrating the fight (preferably quickly) is fine, fudging dice rolls just looks bad.


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If I'm following you, yes. The DM can certainly stage a fight for the PCs to witness and make the outcome turnout any which way they wish. And in any manner they wish from totally rolling it out to just telling the blow by blow as a story/narrative. A DM really can not cheat, which is not to say that not following the rules (i.e. cheating or fudging things) is necessarily a good idea.

By the way usually the individual losing the encounter should be wearing some sort of red shirt or uniform :P


I want to go a bit deeper here. If it is 2 NPCs fighting without the players intervening then whatever you say goes. Don't bother fooling the players by rolling. Just slowly describe what happens to give the players an opportunity to jump in.

Or alternatively have it suddenly end to prevent them from jumping in. Sometimes you need a certain outcome. Make sure you explicitly tell the players that the story narrative needs this. Do not make a habit of doing this. Use this sort of forced story very sparingly. Players need to feel like they can change and shape the outcome of the story (game).

In most cases you should invite and welcome player participation in narrative events. After all, the game is for their enjoyment and its no fun when they can't influence the outcome.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

I agree with everyone else so far.

This isn't any different from "you find a dead body." You didn't have to roll the combat that resulted in the dead body... it's narrative.

BUT... if this is a long fight (ie. more than one round), the PCs realistically <i>should</i> have the right to intervene. If you describe a 60-second fight as "just as you come around the corner, you see..." then it's really, really frustrating. You'll have players feeling "but... I have a spell I can cast in a single standard action that can stop this!" Have the situation resolve before they can ask for initiative because they don't realize what they're seeing.


In that situation, if I want to get the PCs a chance to jump in I would do everything except rolling the dice, even stating how much damage is dealt if I wanted to emphasize how dangerous and/or pathetic one of the two combatants is.

IMO it gives the players more agency, as it helps drive home that things will play out a certain way if they sit back and do nothing. As soon as the PCs jump in I would of course start rolling and follow normal combat procedures.

Also, I don't feel like it's cheating since for all they know you pre-rolled the fight and are just giving a summary of what happens. Though to save time, if after a few rounds of combat, its apparent that the PCs are content to simply watch, then I would wrap it up with something like

"after several more rounds like this, Combatant A is victorious after decapitating their opponent"


If the outcome has already been decided and the PC are not involved it is best to use a narrative instead of actually running the combat. I would consider actually running the combat as being bad DMing. The reason being is the game is supposed to focus on the characters not the NPC’s. By actually running the combat takes a lot longer and leaves the players with nothing to do. Nothing is more boring for a player than sitting around and watching a GM roll dice without their characters being involved. Wasting valuable playing time for something that could be handled in a short time by simply describing it is a much better way to handle it.

Meirril is right about letting the players know, when it is a plot device that they should not interfere with, and that it should be rare.

Scarab Sages

Im not going to disagree in saying that just narrating the fight would be quicker and make it go smoother, but running the fight wouldn't really be a bad idea in case you've got a PC who actually WANTS to interfere. Now, as the GM, if you don't want them doing that, narrating it would be the best way to go. Though it still doesn't prevent your PCs from interfering.


Meirril wrote:
Don't bother fooling the players by rolling. Just slowly describe what happens to give the players an opportunity to jump in.

To expand on this, I would probably nerrate it in a way that sounds like a turn-based battle. If the PCs want to intervene, initiative gets checked.


Going to ask since no one has...

What kind of fight? Is this a betting fight? Are they placing cash on it? Or is this a robbery? Or a duel? A lot of people here are assuming it's a street fight they can jump in on. You said just observers. I'd like to know because if they are placing cash on it you could at least roll some dice.


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The only time you ever roll dice is:

-when there is a chance for a PC to fail

AND

-when there is a penalty for failure.


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Quixote wrote:

The only time you ever roll dice is:

-when there is a chance for a PC to fail

AND

-when there is a penalty for failure.

I think there are many more examples than that, but I agree with the principle that one should have a reason to roll.

Basically, rolling dice is a way of choosing between multiple narratives which are all interesting to some degree. If PCs go into a bar to look for the bartender, perception checks aren't necessary because not finding the bartender isn't interesting.

I would even extend this to PC battles. Sometimes during the boss fight, the BBEG goes down before the last minion. It's uninteresting to play out the remainder of the battle, even if there's a chance for failure.


If the players/PCs aren't involved and don't plan to be involved then there's no reason to roll dice unless you want randomness to decide something. Single roll for the battle, contesting rolls for a blow-by-blow, whatever you want randomness to decide. Or you can just skip it and narrate what happens if you already know what you want. Think of it like video game cutscenes with player interrupts. If they don't click a button it plays out the way you say. If they click a button then they can change the results. Just keep in mind the same problem with video game cutscenes, don't make the characters more awesome/powerful than they actually are. Nothing quite as disappointing as finally getting that awesome character as a party member... and realizing they're weaker than you and can't do anything they did in the cutscene.


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Watery Soup wrote:
I think there are many more examples than that...

Such as?

Watery Soup wrote:
If PCs go into a bar to look for the bartender, perception checks aren't necessary because not finding the bartender isn't interesting.

True, but it's also because "not finding the bartender"--assuming he is actually in the bar and is not actively hiding from the PC's--isn't a reasonably possible outcome. If you fail your roll, you just roll again. And keep rolling until you succeed.

Same with gathering basic information, breaking down a door or picking a lock. Without other elements present, none of these things are an "encounter". All you need is time and you'll succeed.

Watery Soup wrote:
Sometimes during the boss fight, the BBEG goes down before the last minion. It's uninteresting to play out the remainder of the battle, even if there's a chance for failure.

Is there a chance for failure, though? I mean, beyond technically? If I was a lackey of Baron Von Murderfire and I just watched some vagrants cut the good Baron in half, I certainly wouldn't be sticking around to get in one more swing. And even if I was mindless/fanatically devoted to the point that I would stand my ground, I am like as not a very minor threat to anyone who could take out the guy who signed my paychecks until a moment ago, especially since it would be uninteresting to play out the rest of the fight.

Really, that just shows how important it is to know when an encounter is over. An encounter involving combat is NOT over when the very last goblin is hunted down and slain. It's over when the tension created by the encounter (or that created the encounter) has been resolved.


Quixote wrote:

The only time you ever roll dice is:

-when there is a chance for a PC to fail

AND

-when there is a penalty for failure.

(....)

An encounter involving combat is NOT over when the very last goblin is hunted down and slain. It's over when the tension created by the encounter (or that created the encounter) has been resolved.

Sir, allow me to send you hugs!


Yqatuba wrote:
If you have 2 (or more) NPCs fighting, and the PCs are just observers, is it "ok" to rig the fight so one side automatically wins (either by fudging dice rolls or just not rolling dice at all?)

Like many of the contributors on this thread, I find myself wondering why this scenario would ever come up: why would you even be running a combat in front the players, without the players, then roll it blow-by-blow as if they were in the combat even though they aren't? Sounds boring. It would be most unusual circumstances where that would be the way to run the encounter, and even then, I'd probably let the other players temporarily take over the roles and rolls of the combatants.

So, that being said, fudging is legit for a GM to do if a particular outcome is important to the story line and would result in the most fun for the most players.

Silver Crusade

A cut scene can be used to give the players important information that they will need later:

Hell's Rebels Spoiler:
At the start of the very first encounter of Hell's Rebels, the PCs see Lady Nox get a dagger in the throat; she pulls it out and the wound heals right away. This tells them that:
a) She's too tough for them to fight right now.
b) She has fast healing.

They can also hear a rumor that she's a half-devil, so they can guess that she probably has DR/silver, and that fire is not likely to be terribly effective against her. In addition, they see her holding a glaive — a x3 crit, two-handed reach weapon. Putting that all together gives them information that they can use, to plan for when they meet her later on.


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Scott Wilhelm wrote:
...fudging is legit for a GM to do if a particular outcome is important to the story line and would result in the most fun for the most players.

"Fudging" a roll almost certainly means alerting a roll that directly affects a character, yes? So if this combat is purely speculative in nature, then there's no need to roll.

Otherwise, every time a GM hand-waives the Ride check for a merchant guiding his cart down the road in the distance or the Profession check for a pub owner while he's serving the PC's dinner or the Fly check for a pigeon the characters startle as they turn the corner, the GM is guilty of "fudging."

And that way, I do believe, lies madness.

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