DMs Corner: Fudge It!
Updated: Aug 7, 2018
The epic moment has arrived! The Red Dragon roars, its colossal girth swaying in the chamber. Only one party member remains standing. Summoning his courage, he makes one last, desperate attack. A hit! The blow lands with a deafening roar of steel on scale. The hero checks his dice; 14 Damage! You look down at your sheet and see the Dragon’s health…
15 Hit Points remain…
As the Dungeon Master there often will come a moment where your duty is first to the better telling of the story, and less to the specific machinations of the rule set. Today, we look at times when it is appropriate, even beneficial, for the DM to bend the rules, ever so slightly, to better tell a climactic story.
In the above example, even though our colossal red dragon would certainly be very much alive at 1 Hit Point, and could almost certainly annihilate the last hero causing a wipe, this is a moment when the DM can “Fudge It.” To Fudge a Dice Roll means to adjust the outcome by a small margin to obtain a desirable result. In this case, allowing the 14 Hit Points to Kill the 15 Health Dragon, that likely started well over 750 Health, is a minor concession.
Consider the outcomes. When following the letter of the rules, the Dragon survives, the players perish, the campaign ends in utter defeat. Your friends leave the game dejected, downtrodden and disheartened to have come so close yet be so far.
Alternatively, your friends slay the dragon with their last desperate attack! Elation erupts from the table! Players embrace, their heroes saved, their mission complete, and a story is told between them of the time they bested a colossal red dragon by the skin of their teeth.
The story is better served, the player experience enhanced, and the game enjoyed more thoroughly by the Fudged Roll. Remember that the mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons, like all RPGs, are primarily meant to serve as guidelines. You as the DM should implement house rules, including fudging dice results and health scores, in order to better serve the experience of the story.
This can be done in many ways. You might allow a successful perception check to fail in order for the player’s Rogue to move into position to gain a plot item. You might turn a roll that would incapacitate a player into one that trips him instead, leaving him disarmed with a more desperate situation to snatch victory from. You might allow an area of effect spell like a fireball encompass an extra target or miss an important story item that would otherwise be incinerated. The possibilities are endless.
This is not to say you should forego following the letter of the law in consulting rule books entirely. Rather, it is to remind you that your roll as Dungeon Master is first to facilitate a memorable and enjoyable gaming experience, and second to ensure the rules are followed strictly. Experiment, and find your own mix of house rules. Every situation is different, trust your instincts, and let the story grow to its mighty crescendo!
In what ways have you implemented house rules or bent mechanics to better serve the story? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget that every Wednesday is RPG Night at Pawn & Pint! Mention this article at the door and you will receive a token featuring our own house rule, allowing you to Re-Roll one Dice in your RPG Tonight. And as always, remember the number one rule of any RPG:
. . .
Originally published by Donald