Fudging Rolls: Why the game has meaning

I saw a twitter post today about fudging rolls. It’s not like I don’t typically see people asking questions like this on the daily, but there was just something about seeing it as a yes/no poll that kinda set me off on wanting to talk about it? I tried to do a messy 20-tweet-long rant until I realized: wait, this is why I have a fucking blog for this stuff.

Alright so anyway.

My main point: Fudging rolls are complicated! It can’t be summarized as a yes/no binary!

What I mean by this is that there’s no definitive ‘you should fudge’ vs ‘you should never fudge’ because there’s honestly a time and place for each.

Fudging dice rolls, for anyone unaware of this, is the act of rolling a value then either finding reasons to reroll it OR outright lying about the result.

While it is typically associated with gamemasters, it isn’t exclusive to them. I’ve seen plenty of players roll dice off tables then see the result to only decide between “it fell off so I’ll reroll it” and “oh hey a 17!” This can also come up when a die rolls on an uneven surface and the answer changes between “the 13 is more face-up than the 1” and “we should just reroll.” Sometimes a player will even just roll a poor result and go “oh sorry, the die slipped” or “I rolled wrong” and reroll it. This doesn’t even cover playing online and having people roll physical dice when everyone else agreed to roll digital. Yeah, I don’t doubt you can roll 19s, but when you roll 3 nat20s in a single night and have failed nothing, even the most trusting of individuals are going to squint their eyes at this.

When a gamemaster(GM henceforth) does it, it’s typically assumed that they’re doing it because the game is more engaging if a certain result occurs. I’ll be honest in saying that a boss missing 4-times in a row isn’t very interesting and that I, personally, will just have them hit once in a while to make it resemble even a modicum of a challenge.

But neither explanation of ‘why we fudge dice’ is the point of the article.

Secondary point: If the game has no meaning, you shouldn’t be playing!

I don’t really talk about it much but I’m a big fan of the show Community. In season 2 there was this one episode where the study group picks up a game of Dungeons & Dragons in order to cheer up Fat Neil(actual character name). One line, in particular, stood out to me when Pierce stole the Sword of Ducain and ran off with it, and Jeff asked if the DM could just kill Pierce and give back the sword:

“I’m the Dungeon Master, I have to be impartial or the game has no meaning.”
— Abed, Community S2E14 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

I still think about that line.

What is the point of a game?

– To have fun with your friends? You can play video games or other activities to the same effect.
– To experience a good story? Go read a book.
– To feel emotions? I can enjoy a sad movie EASY.

Honestly, there’s some combined amalgamation of engagement and enduring interest in the shared narrative, as well as the idea that the choices you make matters, that make the game worth it—to me, at least. There’s a kind of unwritten social contract that player and GM enter that they’re making choices that ultimately have some sort of meaning in the grand scheme of things. You’re not just trying to tell a story: you’re trying to tell a story together.

If a single player wanted to have complete control of the narrative-spotlight and go on a quest entirely about him coming to terms with his destiny, yeah sure he can do it but if the others aren’t on board then they’re being kind of an asshole. In the same vein, if a GM wanted to tell their story without player engagement, then they should write a fucking book. The meaning comes from that we all agree to go at this together and allow the Fates to decide when we have no clue where to go with a narrative.

I think fudging rolls, at least in the most common case of ‘wanting to succeed instead of fail’, breaks that narrative contract. It’s saying to everyone “fuck the promise we had to share this together, my victory narrative is way more important.” Note that that’s mostly targeted towards players. In the case of players: I don’t think there’s a single case where a player should fudge a roll.

A GM, however…

So yeah, I know I was JUST talking about how the point of the story should be the shared narrative element of it, that no one should be pushing their narrative above the others, and that if the GM wanted to push their story instead of players they should write a book. But also there’s a plausible exception to all of this: the GM should fudge rolls only to enhance the player’s narratives.

What I mean by that is that I don’t think a GM should ever fudge rolls to push characters into a narrative by force. I don’t make all of a Boss’ attacks hit or crit because I want the players to lose. I make a Boss’ attack hit because they’ve missed 4-times in a row and the players are starting to get bored. In that same vein, if I’m rolling, say, a death save for an NPC, I might choose to have it succeed or fail based on whether that’ll be more engaging for the players. Succeed, so they have a few last words. Fail, to have a tragic death that was ‘too soon.’

As a quick aside: I will never EVER fudge a die that rolled the minimum or max value. In d20 systems, the nat20/nat1 is a sign that the Fates(if you so choose to believe in em) have decided this should/n’t be ignored. In World of Darkness or Savage Worlds, where dice explode, this could be sealing the fate of a character and the GM shouldn’t be pushing that onto the players.

Another case of GM dice fudging that I do actively enjoy is what I call the ‘Withstanding Blow’, or: increasing or lowering the damage to be more engaging to the narrative. If a player has 27 hp and I rolled 29 on a fireball, I sometimes might ‘make it only roll 26.’ This still has the players placed into a bad position, but gives the players one last chance to change the scene’s outcome. Maybe they go in for a strike, hoping it’ll be just enough and they can feel like a badass. Maybe they run, hoping to live to see another day.

I love those kinds of situations because you can truly see the mettle of a character(or at the very least the person playing them).

What was my point again?

I suppose I’m saying that, at the end of the day, fudging dice rolls isn’t some yes/no poll. No, players should probably never be doing it. Yes, sometimes the GMs should sometimes do it but only if it enhances and lifts other people. But also no, they shouldn’t do it to push a narrative onto the players because failing to be impartial is destructive to the whole point of playing tabletops.

Good lord, I almost tweeted all of this too.

[SW] Savage Clocks ft.Blades in the Dark

Blades in the Dark, or BitD, is a system I like to regularly borrow ideas from. I took its inventory system and turned it into my current ‘Narrative Inventory System’ or “NIS Kits,” and here I want to talk about an innate synergy between two mechanics the systems have to resolve complex situations.

To cover over Progress Clocks you can actually read up all about it [here](https://bladesinthedark.com/progress-clocks) on the Blades in the Dark SRD! As yall might know, I absolutely love SRDs and this is no exception. If you don’t have the time to go over it, however, let me sum it up: Progress Clocks are geometric representations(ie, a circle) of a problem divided up in segments.

Progress Clocks represent the layered and complex intricacies of any given obstacle or problematic situation. Typically Progress Clocks can be divided in any fashion that requires multiple stages, so it can be split up in any way you might split up a circle. The following however are fairly common: 4(complex), 6(complicated), 8(daunting). For every stage it progresses, you fill in a segment of the clock. When all the segments are filled up, the obstacle or event attached to the clock triggers.

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[Worldsong] Race Overview

So I made a buncha races for my “Worldsong: A Requiem for the Industrialization of Illivia” setting. Yes, I know the title is long but I like light novels and their absurd naming schemes.

Point is I have a bunch of races.

You can find the full document: [here]


Kisi
> Versatile, intelligent, and light on their feet, the humans of Illivia, named the kisi, are ready to take whatever is thrown at them. Their skin tone and thickness adapts to the climate they settle in, allowing them to acclimate to new locales quickly.

Harpies
> Beings of wing and battle, the monosexed harpies are abrasive, ferocious, and fearless, both in love and in combat. Harpies are rarely concerned about others, finding it hard to look past their egos.

Lipsa
> Harpies always give birth to other Harpies. It is simply a fact. However, there is always an 8% chance a half-harpy, or one with kisi-like arms and legs and incapable of flight, appear. In the harpy tongue, these beings are called the ‘lipsa’ or ‘failures’. Through years of discrimination, lipsa have become empathetic and strong.

Puddles
> No one knows much about the viscous, water-spirit like race except that it is said they have existed even before the creation of the gods. Despite the air-headed nature of most of the race, the puddles are fierce and creative allies.

Wyva
> It was said a long time ago, before the age of gods, the race were known as elves. However, due to centuries of enthrallment to dragons, the wyva have come out more than altered by their relationship. Their skin is often decorated with scale-like markings.

Zhn
> When a wyva with blight has children, the child born is sometimes a ‘zhn’ or a wyva born with dragon-like features. The zhn are said to have a stronger connection to their Guardian Dragons than their wyvan parents.

Urzori
> The uzuran have been around for a long time, but yet not many know much about them. These hip-tall bears curl into balls, rolling along on the hard scales on their back, and can be seen zooming through the plains.

Dyr
> The dyran are a varied beastfolk race, but share enough similar traits that they chose to band together as one. Primarily kisi-esque, the dyr are known for both their minor animalistic features, as well as a love of story-telling and drama. The elska, or eldyr, are of the deer tribe; the lioa, or lidyr, are of the ox tribe; and the skera, or skedyr, are of the cat tribe;

Spinnea
> Paranoid, patient, and prophetic, the spinnea are a wary race of spider-like people. They can scale buildings with ease and release webbing for use but are slow to trust outsiders.

Baykuu
> Tall owl-like beings with feathered coats, the baykuu are gatherers of knowledge and have a vanity that exceeds that of the harpies. Baykuus become more attractive—their coats improving in coloration and luster—the greater their knowledge, and act as librarians, historians, scholars, and information brokers.

Ceann
> The ceann, often referred to as the unliving, are the souls of powerful and great beings brought to a new sort of ‘life.’ They often form their material bodies with various debris, but many prefer to just inhabit suits of armor.

Ignae
> Small and stout, the ignae look childlike compared to the other races. However, with the blessings of flame and metal spirits at their aid, they have turned out to be the most industrial of the races as many hands make for far lighter work.

Why We Aren’t Friends

Screenshot 2019-12-31 at 12.44.11

A tabletop/writing-experience about pitting your OCs into conflicts with each other.

Why We Aren’t Friends is a solo—or in other words, single-player—gaming experience that challenges you to explore the various conflicts and positions that your original characters might find themselves in. In Why We Aren’t Friends, you pit your plethora of characters on opposing sides of conflicts, challenging them to defend their position. It is called a game in the same avenue of other diceless writing experiences such as Microscope or The Quiet Year, as it is still adjudicated based on various prompts and random elements such as card drawing and rolling to resolve outcomes.

It’s free so have at it.

Link: [https://dicequeen.itch.io/why-we-arent-friends]

Band of Blades: Forging into familiar woods

From the fires of the Forged in the Dark games, Evil Hat brings in another game using their now prolific system. Second in line to the Forged in the Dark series, alongside with Blades in the Dark, Scum & Villainy, and the upcoming Girl by Moonlight, Band of Blades has flavor bursting the seams of the pages. It tells the tale of “the surviving remnants of the Legion” constantly escaping a horde of the undead, where you’ll need to use tactics and maneuvers to stay away what seems to be inevitable.


The Makings

The game is identical to Blades in the Dark where you roll a small pool of d6 dice to determine the outcome. It uses Attributes to resist harm, as well as determine Actions. If you know how to play Blades in the Dark you’ll know how to play Band of Blades. There are some setting-specific mechanics, such as a series of Specialist Actions to be added to the base ones. There’s also a series of mechanics such as ‘Double-Duty Rolls’ that accomplish the actions of assisting NPCs.Read More »

Endeavor Engine OGL

Cover

“Victory in the light of great adversity. That is what it means to persevere, to Endeavor.”

The Endeavor Engine is a skirmish-style tabletop roleplaying game with a focus on defensive-combat. It is a class/archetype based game with a heavy emphasis on multiclassing and tactically complex but simply-executed combat. 

As this is an engine, and designed to be the core of more games in the future, this document has very little fluff and flavor. It’s currently designed to get you through the basics quickly so you can run and create your own games in Endeavor.

Where to find it:*

*as a game under OGL, it’s COMPLETELY FREE so you don’t have to buy squat.

Mechanical Highlights

Action Focused: Everything is actions! This is to simplify the execution of the system while allowing for deep and complex gameplay.

Defense Minded: Most attacks in Endeavor assume the player successfully attacks their opponent; no more pesky to-hit rolls! Instead, it’s all on the target to successfully defend against their attacker through a number of Defensive Options.

Multiclassing Galore: Endeavor has a simple class/archetype-like system that allows you to pick up pieces of different classes at different times, encouraging a unique variety of characters!

Push-Your-Luck: The game has several mechanics than allow you to push your luck in combat and control the flow of battle. Do you take it slow, waiting for the enemy to respond, or do you and your allies want to go for an all-out attack?

Epithet Erased for ICRPG v2.0

So I know Epithet Erased is based on Anime-Campaign, a system Jello and their friends ran with. But while reading through it I felt it was kind of difficult to follow with how Stamina and Proficiency worked and everything around that. So I decided to transcribe it to a system I was very familiar with and it kinda really works out?

  • Epithet ICRPG reference document(v2.0): [here]
  • The less colorful Epithet ICRPG PDF(v2.0): [here]
  • Epithet ICRPG reference document(v1.9): [here]

I know it’s kinda niche and not too many people know ICRPG—or Epithet Erased for that matter—but the system is really clean and easy to pick up and the setting is remarkably fun to play in.

Enjoy!

~Di.


I also run a Podcast using Epithet ICRPG. If you wanna see it in action give it a listen.

EpithetRPG: [https://epithetrpg.podiant.co/]

On EpithetRPG the group meets at the Stelland Institute of Epithet Research or SIER. Here they research Epithets and why they manifest. Just recently SIER received a relic known as the Prometheus Amulet, an amulet said to grant Epithets. Little did they know a certain organization has its sights on something hidden inside the facility…

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