Five Rules for Being a Good Dungeon Master

Five Rules for Being a Good Dungeon Master

If you are a battle-hardened dungeon master, then you probably already know these rules. But if you are new behind the screen, then you need to know what to do.

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Nobody's going to die if you make a bad call at the gaming table.

Nah, that's what happen when you make a GOOD call. :D

And I would put as probably the most important rule: You are the Narrator but it is their story. Trying to herd players is like trying to herd cats. No wait, strike that. Herding cats is easier. So don't even try. The role of the DM is to determine events and progression that is out of the players hands. Everything from the enemy attacks to large scale political conflicts are the DM's turf, but if the players are involved, then they are the ones guiding the story. It's not the DM's responsibility to control the story, simply the outcome of their choices for good or ill.

These seem like well-considered rules. I would make a small personal addendum to number two, though: before you run a game, read the core rulebooks once, cover-to-cover. Some of it may be boring, and as the author states, you don't want to get to rules-lawyer level of specificity, but you should know if rules for a particular situation exist, even if it's only in a "oh, right, I remember seeing that" sort of way. You don't want to discover there are existing rules for a skill roll against Guns while researching Medieval Siege Weaponry or man-sized creatures grappling a giant octopus after you've fudged out something of your own, especially if it's going to come up more than once. If you do decide to come up with something of your own for dealing with that situation rather than use what's in the book, that's fine- but you should know ahead of time, and so should the players, if only so the player who spent her skill points in Medieval Siege Weaponry Research doesn't get put out when it should be her time to shine.

I don't disagree with rule three, but I feel that rolling the dice behind the screen is a good thing.

It lets you fudge the numbers... and cheat.

Which doesn't have to be in your favor. The players aren't going to have fun dying all the time, sometimes that save vs death spell that hit your players will amp the excitement when they "passed".

It's about knowing what's good for the game.

I support a screen because otherwise players might metagame in fights if they see the results. Did you roll a 27 because you rolled high and got lucky, or because it's a badass creature and you actually rolled really low? A player will alter their decisions depending on what they see. The Rogue getting in position for a flank might make suddenly back out if he works out you have +17 to hit or whatever. I know well because I have done things like that. The desire to play straight and make in-game choices clashes with me not wanting to make a bad decision that puts my character in way more risk than i am comfortable with. It's hard NOT to act on the info. So yeah, I am okay with a screen for things like that, as long as I trust the DM. I am not as comfortable with it if a DM feels too rail roady or too killer.

Draconalis:
I don't disagree with rule three, but I feel that rolling the dice behind the screen is a good thing.

It lets you fudge the numbers... and cheat.

Which doesn't have to be in your favor. The players aren't going to have fun dying all the time, sometimes that save vs death spell that hit your players will amp the excitement when they "passed".

It's about knowing what's good for the game.

Agreed. Screens are also great for hiding what you prepared for a session as well as the tables that are usually on them. It's a great too, not just for hiding die rolls.

I tried screenless once, and players acted differently to how they would normally act in combat, actions were more specific and effective because they knew the deal what the details of what they were fighting were.

Comic Sans:
Snip

Perfect example of what I am talking about :D

Rule Number Three: Play Fair

Hahahahaha, no.

See, here's the thing about most RPGs, particularly D&D: one series of bad rolls can wipe a party. Who wants that? No one. I don't, my players don't, it just isn't any fun. So when that trap goes off and gets, somehow, 10 sixes on a 10D6 roll, nobody makes their DC 13 save (come on, guys!) and suddenly even the barbarian is dead, you want deniability. You want to be able to say, "43 damage, guys", knowing that it will knock out everyone except the barbarian and rogue (improved evasion), and they can drag the rest the party to a cleric.

And nothing is worse than reversing a roll they've seen to save their asses.

Beyond that, the whole "play fair" style assumes a competition between players and DM, and good DMs aren't in competition with their players (that's what Descent: Journeys in the Dark is for). A good DM is a facilitator, and sometimes the rules and probability get in the way of facilitating a good campaign, which is why every RPG I've ever seen has, as one of its core rules, "the GM gets to fudge whatever s/he wants."

Azuaron:
that's what Descent: Journeys in the Dark is for

I prefer Call of Cthulhu, myself. Then I get to turn them insane first.

OT: I agree with most of this, though learning exactly what your group is looking for is incredibly difficult. Some players are perfectly happy to follow railroad tracks, and will feel lost without them. Others, you want to put more on a road trip; set a few stops and let them figure out the roadmap. Some of the worst ones will force you to design your games like the Roman highway system, constantly revising your plans to incorporate the bizarre and contradictory choice they make to make sure that they end up in the dungeon you designed eventually, since that's where all the content is.

As for don't hide your rolls, it's a matter of opinion. Some groups won't respect a DM who's hiding their rolls, but tbh, I find that groups that have that mentality are also thinking of the game in terms of them vs the DM, so it's usually a sign that you're being too antagonistic. I prefer to hide my rolls very specifically because I don't know how well or poorly my group is optimized, and throwing a level 4 party consisting of a Healer, sword-and-board Fighter, Rogue, and utility-specced Sorceror into a fight with a beholder is a completely different battle than throwing a level 4 party consisting of a Transmuter-specced Wizard, a Divine Metamagic cleric, a conjurer archivist, and an artificer who's had months to prepare up against it.

Frankly, I find this: http://angrydm.com/ to be much more helpful.

I have to agree with the article when it comes to never cheating the dice or fudging the rolls. In the moment it's obviously tempting, one character dying, or even a full wipe from an unlucky roll can severely derail a session. But the flipside is you've completely defanged your game, the players realise they are never in any danger and thus nothing you do can ever generate tension. You might as well remove every combat and trap from your gameworld after this point.

This leads to another rule of mine. Never roll dice if you aren't prepared for any result that could come up. Way too often I see gms give players an easy roll, and then immediately backtrack when they fail it. I'm quite fond of the apocalypse world system when it comes to this because it constantly prepares you to set the stakes for failure as well as success. That something players and gms should always be doing in my opinion.

Rack:
I have to agree with the article when it comes to never cheating the dice or fudging the rolls. In the moment it's obviously tempting, one character dying, or even a full wipe from an unlucky roll can severely derail a session. But the flipside is you've completely defanged your game, the players realise they are never in any danger and thus nothing you do can ever generate tension. You might as well remove every combat and trap from your gameworld after this point.

Your players only know that if you tell them you change results. So it's the GM's fault if that happens and his/her players take advantage of that.

chozo_hybrid:

Rack:
I have to agree with the article when it comes to never cheating the dice or fudging the rolls. In the moment it's obviously tempting, one character dying, or even a full wipe from an unlucky roll can severely derail a session. But the flipside is you've completely defanged your game, the players realise they are never in any danger and thus nothing you do can ever generate tension. You might as well remove every combat and trap from your gameworld after this point.

Your players only know that if you tell them you change results. So it's the GM's fault if that happens and his/her players take advantage of that.

I think you might be underestimating players there. First up if you're rolling behind a screen players are naturally going to expect shenanigans, you have to convince them you aren't fixing dice rolls rather than expose that you are. Secondly it's pretty easy to spot surges of luck while you're in a desperate situation. Lastly it's really hard to cover up that you're fudging dice. There will normally be a beat as you decide what the outcome of that bad roll will be, whether you need to fudge it, if it's worth fudging it, how much you need to fudge it by and how much to actually fudge it. Even if it only takes you a tenth of a second a player reduced to low hit points by a big attack is going to spot that a mile off.

With rule 2, I've a set policy, that I always let players know, "I may not know all the rules, but I know where to find them, quickly."
It works well. I've don't have a lot of rules arguments with know it all players.

you really do have to know your players,not just what sort of games they expect interest wise, but also the level of rules.

you dont have to follow the rules 100%, if something gets in the way of a good story dump it, make house rules and its good to change things up and give them something unexpected. ive had a group that loved combat and they were so stunned when the adventure ended and there wasnt a single fight

Azuaron:

Rule Number Three: Play Fair

Hahahahaha, no.

See, here's the thing about most RPGs, particularly D&D: one series of bad rolls can wipe a party. Who wants that? No one. I don't, my players don't, it just isn't any fun. So when that trap goes off and gets, somehow, 10 sixes on a 10D6 roll, nobody makes their DC 13 save (come on, guys!) and suddenly even the barbarian is dead, you want deniability. You want to be able to say, "43 damage, guys", knowing that it will knock out everyone except the barbarian and rogue (improved evasion), and they can drag the rest the party to a cleric.

And nothing is worse than reversing a roll they've seen to save their asses.

Beyond that, the whole "play fair" style assumes a competition between players and DM, and good DMs aren't in competition with their players (that's what Descent: Journeys in the Dark is for). A good DM is a facilitator, and sometimes the rules and probability get in the way of facilitating a good campaign, which is why every RPG I've ever seen has, as one of its core rules, "the GM gets to fudge whatever s/he wants."

When it comes to fudging things, I prefer Bennies, Action Points, Fate Points, etc. It's something that breaks the system, but does so in a consistent and expected way. The most important thing a GM has to do is to get the players to trust that they are going to be fair with them, that they aren't going to arbitrarily screw them over. On the other hand, they also have to keep faith with the system your group is playing with; if you fudge things to let players survive one time but do not do so another, they won't learn anything about the system or the capabilities of their characters. If the campaign you want to run can't stand characters dying, or even a TPK, then it's up to you as a GM to find a less lethal system, rather than lying to the players about what's happening.

If the party gets 60 points of damage when they would only be able to take 43, then they should have some sort of cushion to shield themselves from the uncaring dice. If they've spent that cushion already, then they know that and chose to face the danger anyways, rather than saying, "Yeah, I think Jim's in a good mood tonight, so he'll put in a way for our characters to survive even if we shouldn't." If the GM fudges whenever they want, then it's at their discretion what happens, and you might as well play freeform because you're saying to yourself (and your players, when they inevitably catch on) that the rules don't matter if you decide you'd rather see something else happen.

On a related note, I disagree with #2 (knowing the rules). As the GM, you're likely the only person who has read the rulebook cover to cover. While fudging things can work (and is often the easiest thing to do in the middle of the game), you should write down when you fudged something and go back later to see if there are rules that actually cover that situation. With any luck, the game will have been designed and playtested, and the official rules are probably sturdier and more complete than anything you come up with on the fly. For instance, if a PC wants to start a merchant company, you should look to see if there's anything more detailed than just saying, "Roll Diplomacy to negotiate prices," as other economic rules will give more depth and options to the player.

Really, Rule #1 should be "Have fun". Too often DMs and players lose sight of that and the game falls into PvP, DM vs PCs and all sorts of bad things.

Thunderous Cacophony:

Azuaron:

Rule Number Three: Play Fair

Hahahahaha, no.

See, here's the thing about most RPGs, particularly D&D: one series of bad rolls can wipe a party. Who wants that? No one. I don't, my players don't, it just isn't any fun. So when that trap goes off and gets, somehow, 10 sixes on a 10D6 roll, nobody makes their DC 13 save (come on, guys!) and suddenly even the barbarian is dead, you want deniability. You want to be able to say, "43 damage, guys", knowing that it will knock out everyone except the barbarian and rogue (improved evasion), and they can drag the rest the party to a cleric.

And nothing is worse than reversing a roll they've seen to save their asses.

Beyond that, the whole "play fair" style assumes a competition between players and DM, and good DMs aren't in competition with their players (that's what Descent: Journeys in the Dark is for). A good DM is a facilitator, and sometimes the rules and probability get in the way of facilitating a good campaign, which is why every RPG I've ever seen has, as one of its core rules, "the GM gets to fudge whatever s/he wants."

When it comes to fudging things, I prefer Bennies, Action Points, Fate Points, etc. It's something that breaks the system, but does so in a consistent and expected way. The most important thing a GM has to do is to get the players to trust that they are going to be fair with them, that they aren't going to arbitrarily screw them over. On the other hand, they also have to keep faith with the system your group is playing with; if you fudge things to let players survive one time but do not do so another, they won't learn anything about the system or the capabilities of their characters. If the campaign you want to run can't stand characters dying, or even a TPK, then it's up to you as a GM to find a less lethal system, rather than lying to the players about what's happening.

If the party gets 60 points of damage when they would only be able to take 43, then they should have some sort of cushion to shield themselves from the uncaring dice. If they've spent that cushion already, then they know that and chose to face the danger anyways, rather than saying, "Yeah, I think Jim's in a good mood tonight, so he'll put in a way for our characters to survive even if we shouldn't." If the GM fudges whenever they want, then it's at their discretion what happens, and you might as well play freeform because you're saying to yourself (and your players, when they inevitably catch on) that the rules don't matter if you decide you'd rather see something else happen.

On a related note, I disagree with #2 (knowing the rules). As the GM, you're likely the only person who has read the rulebook cover to cover. While fudging things can work (and is often the easiest thing to do in the middle of the game), you should write down when you fudged something and go back later to see if there are rules that actually cover that situation. With any luck, the game will have been designed and playtested, and the official rules are probably sturdier and more complete than anything you come up with on the fly. For instance, if a PC wants to start a merchant company, you should look to see if there's anything more detailed than just saying, "Roll Diplomacy to negotiate prices," as other economic rules will give more depth and options to the player.

What does a player learn when you roll 3 20's in a row? That Insta-kills are possible? Geeze, lesson learned. Thanks DM for wasting my time!

If the party takes 60pts of damage when they should be able to take 43, than that means it is the GM who has screwed up balancing the encounter. The screen is designed to hide the GMs fuckups as much as anything else.

Rule #1 is "Have fun." If crummy strings of dice rolls mess that up, then the players aren't having fun. I've tried both ways, and have over 15 years of GM experience now. If the players aren't trusting you just because you have a screen up, than maybe, just maybe, there is something ELSE going on at the table that has little to do with the screen.

All that said, yes, be fair. Be fair in how you DO rule things, by being consistent. If you allow a PC to make a save to avoid falling off a cliff, you damn well better be ready to allow another PC the same thing in a similar situation. Players get FAR more upset about unfair rulings than they have EVER because the GM fudged a dice roll that they never saw.

In one campaign, at the penultimate boss, (a pitfiend), with a GM who rolled openly. The pitfiend couldn't roll higher than a 4. It was hilarious in all the wrong ways, trivialized the encounter and everything the party prepared for. They joked about it for years, in a "oh man remember this awful stupid that happened." The players NEED to be challenged.

In the epic level handbook it pretty much admits the mechanical problems of DnD, it breaks down at higher levels because of the amount of randomness in die rolling, where the difference between one result and other is life and death. YOU may want a more random system, but my parties have almost universally prefered Roleplaying instead of Rollplaying.

Yozozo:

Thunderous Cacophony:

When it comes to fudging things, I prefer Bennies, Action Points, Fate Points, etc. It's something that breaks the system, but does so in a consistent and expected way. The most important thing a GM has to do is to get the players to trust that they are going to be fair with them, that they aren't going to arbitrarily screw them over. On the other hand, they also have to keep faith with the system your group is playing with; if you fudge things to let players survive one time but do not do so another, they won't learn anything about the system or the capabilities of their characters. If the campaign you want to run can't stand characters dying, or even a TPK, then it's up to you as a GM to find a less lethal system, rather than lying to the players about what's happening.

If the party gets 60 points of damage when they would only be able to take 43, then they should have some sort of cushion to shield themselves from the uncaring dice. If they've spent that cushion already, then they know that and chose to face the danger anyways, rather than saying, "Yeah, I think Jim's in a good mood tonight, so he'll put in a way for our characters to survive even if we shouldn't." If the GM fudges whenever they want, then it's at their discretion what happens, and you might as well play freeform because you're saying to yourself (and your players, when they inevitably catch on) that the rules don't matter if you decide you'd rather see something else happen.

On a related note, I disagree with #2 (knowing the rules). As the GM, you're likely the only person who has read the rulebook cover to cover. While fudging things can work (and is often the easiest thing to do in the middle of the game), you should write down when you fudged something and go back later to see if there are rules that actually cover that situation. With any luck, the game will have been designed and playtested, and the official rules are probably sturdier and more complete than anything you come up with on the fly. For instance, if a PC wants to start a merchant company, you should look to see if there's anything more detailed than just saying, "Roll Diplomacy to negotiate prices," as other economic rules will give more depth and options to the player.

What does a player learn when you roll 3 20's in a row? That Insta-kills are possible? Geeze, lesson learned. Thanks DM for wasting my time!

If the party takes 60pts of damage when they should be able to take 43, than that means it is the GM who has screwed up balancing the encounter. The screen is designed to hide the GMs fuckups as much as anything else.

Rule #1 is "Have fun." If crummy strings of dice rolls mess that up, then the players aren't having fun. I've tried both ways, and have over 15 years of GM experience now. If the players aren't trusting you just because you have a screen up, than maybe, just maybe, there is something ELSE going on at the table that has little to do with the screen.

All that said, yes, be fair. Be fair in how you DO rule things, by being consistent. If you allow a PC to make a save to avoid falling off a cliff, you damn well better be ready to allow another PC the same thing in a similar situation. Players get FAR more upset about unfair rulings than they have EVER because the GM fudged a dice roll that they never saw.

In one campaign, at the penultimate boss, (a pitfiend), with a GM who rolled openly. The pitfiend couldn't roll higher than a 4. It was hilarious in all the wrong ways, trivialized the encounter and everything the party prepared for. They joked about it for years, in a "oh man remember this awful stupid that happened." The players NEED to be challenged.

In the epic level handbook it pretty much admits the mechanical problems of DnD, it breaks down at higher levels because of the amount of randomness in die rolling, where the difference between one result and other is life and death. YOU may want a more random system, but my parties have almost universally prefered Roleplaying instead of Rollplaying.

I've tried both ways as well, as both player and GM, and I can agree that whether or not the screen is up doesn't matter. I trust the people I play with to be fair and even-handed with the rules regardless of where they roll, and a big part of that is abiding by the rules that everyone agrees to at the start of the game, the system that governs what happens. And a big part of most systems is that there is a level of randomness in them; in a well-balanced game, everything tends towards the mean where individual character stats are the most important determining factor, but it does leave open the possibility that things might not match up mathematically. You might learn, for example, that death can still be a sudden event even at high levels if you don't make your saves; important information for the players, though in-game characters likely don't think they've passed some arbitrary line and become immortal. People might roll high, or low, and it might push the situation in a new direction.

Which means that yes, some unusual results might come from it. You might find that the fighter is off their game and slips down the pit onto the spikes, or that the boss monster gets diced like ham. As the DM, it's your job to explain WHY something happened and let the rules say WHAT happened. OOC, you might know that it's because the dice gods are unhappy, but in character the fighter's old Blood Bowl injury acted up at just the right time, or the pitfiend had exhausted himself earlier that day fighting in the Blood War. It doesn't matter if you fucked up in encounter design, your players are in the situation NOW, and someone with your experience likely knows that it is far better to play things how they land and try to salvage something rather than saying, "Tonight's a wash because I fucked up on the math."[1] You don't lie to the players about what is going on mechanically, because literally everything else is in your hands as the GM, and fucking with their only reliable way of dealing with the game world is an excellent way of making sure they don't know how to reliably deal with the game world.

If you and your group can't roleplay and have fun when results are determined semi-randomly, then systems with random elements are not for you and your group. I recommend Amber Diceless, Nobilis, or the Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game for enjoyable games where random factors aren't involved in task resolution.

[1] That said, if you are a GM who really did screw the pooch, it might be better to call the session early and try a quick board game or something if you have absolutely no idea what you did wrong mechanically or storywise that has apparently fucked your players over to no end. I've done so trying a new mechanics-heavy system that I didn't understand properly, though never for story reasons.

Rack:

chozo_hybrid:

Rack:
I have to agree with the article when it comes to never cheating the dice or fudging the rolls. In the moment it's obviously tempting, one character dying, or even a full wipe from an unlucky roll can severely derail a session. But the flipside is you've completely defanged your game, the players realise they are never in any danger and thus nothing you do can ever generate tension. You might as well remove every combat and trap from your gameworld after this point.

Your players only know that if you tell them you change results. So it's the GM's fault if that happens and his/her players take advantage of that.

I think you might be underestimating players there. First up if you're rolling behind a screen players are naturally going to expect shenanigans, you have to convince them you aren't fixing dice rolls rather than expose that you are. Secondly it's pretty easy to spot surges of luck while you're in a desperate situation. Lastly it's really hard to cover up that you're fudging dice. There will normally be a beat as you decide what the outcome of that bad roll will be, whether you need to fudge it, if it's worth fudging it, how much you need to fudge it by and how much to actually fudge it. Even if it only takes you a tenth of a second a player reduced to low hit points by a big attack is going to spot that a mile off.

I've never had a situation where I've had to convince my players of that, I've had PC's die and had no complaints about rolls etc. I've only ever fudged three rolls as far as I can recall, each were to do with the fact that I screwed up the balance of the encounter. Plus die rolls are random, there are runs of good luck and runs of bad, how is it any less believable when it happens to a GM, that just seems a bit silly.

If players are always going to be suspicious of the GM running their game, maybe they should find another game. There should be a mutual respect between GM and players, and I feel I have that with my group.

I can already tell we're probably going to have to agree to disagree, but every role playing group is different, so that's no surprise :)

I disagree with points 2 and 3. #2 because its wording implies that anyone who actually likes attention to detail and rules lawyering is inherently the person in the wrong; at one point I had a group of people who had as much fun debating the rules minutiae as playing the actual game. Yes there are times its better to break the rules, but you have to know if your players will actually feel that makes the game better or not.

As for #3 I'd argue if your group doesn't trust you to be fair you have far deeper problems than the scope of this article covers. Rolling badly or greatly once in a while to make something fantastic and memorable happen is OK, but if someone in your group fails 5 tests in a row its gonna kill their investment real fast, and sometimes you need to help the game along a bit. or a lot.

I'm totally against fudging dice rolls, if you're going to decide when people should or should not die why even pretend that the dice play a part. Sometimes you get total part wipes, that's a shame but no one can blame you for it and everyone will remember the time the group ran into a dungeon and proceeded to slip up on random rocks, falling into a group of goblins who had just come back from their "Lets fuck up these adventures" lesson.

But I will add that I dislike combat in general, if it goes on for longer than say 30 mins i'm probably already checking out (I just try to make those first 20 mins as brutish and violent as possible)

I'd also point out I primarily use Dungeon World, where my the DM doesn't actually roll so much due to the way the rule-set works (Combat is almost hit for hit reciprocal and players roll to avoid damage rather than DM rolling to deal it)

I love the screen but not to hide dice rolls, they happen out in the open. No, the screen is invaluable for hiding your notes from player's sitting near you.

I have to somewhat disagree with the negative connotations about rules lawyers. In most games I *am* the rules lawyer, mostly because of my better than average memory for trivial details, but also because I have no problem arguing either side regardless of my own character's stakes in the outcome.

Most people who get labeled 'rules lawyers' aren't worthy of the title and are really min-maxers, metagamers, or outright jerks whose only loyalty is to their own entertainment, no matter who else is inconvenienced.

The one rule I always try to follow when debating a point of detail is "will this make things more fun for everyone?" heavily modified by "Is this fair to everyone?", and if both answers aren't 'Yes' then I'll punt it back to the GM with minimal commentary.

One of my GMs asks for rules info all the time. The response goes one of two ways:

Option 1- What page is that on?
GM: Hey, what's the usual rule for (not quite defined situation)?
Me: Generally you would (mostly appropriate rule) but you could also (less appropriate but still applicable option) instead.

Option 2(far too often)- Oh man, my wife is gonna kill me if her elf dies..
GM: Hey, my lack of planning has put me in a position where I have to make a potentially unpopular decision, what should I do?
Me: Well, you could do (options 1-4), none of which look promising.
GM: So which should I do?
Me: It's your game, amigo. I'm just here to sign the death certificates.

Good article.

...because I'm a g.m. at heart, I'm going to add my sixth rule to this list.

6. Stay flexible.
Your players can be mercurial creatures in both mood and goals. Be ready to follow where they lead. We all know some of the best adventures can be found when you wander off the path.

Pffft, you forgot the most important rule:

Go straight for the jugular!

Crush the players! See them driven before you! Hear the lamentations of their women!!!!

Seriously, my friends only want let me DM when they're in the mood for a challenge. :3

To-date, they've never completed one of my campaigns. Much like Dark Souls, however, there's fun to be had in overcoming an astoundingly brutal challenge, so they do enjoy it none-the-less.

chozo_hybrid:

Rack:

chozo_hybrid:

Your players only know that if you tell them you change results. So it's the GM's fault if that happens and his/her players take advantage of that.

I think you might be underestimating players there. First up if you're rolling behind a screen players are naturally going to expect shenanigans, you have to convince them you aren't fixing dice rolls rather than expose that you are. Secondly it's pretty easy to spot surges of luck while you're in a desperate situation. Lastly it's really hard to cover up that you're fudging dice. There will normally be a beat as you decide what the outcome of that bad roll will be, whether you need to fudge it, if it's worth fudging it, how much you need to fudge it by and how much to actually fudge it. Even if it only takes you a tenth of a second a player reduced to low hit points by a big attack is going to spot that a mile off.

I've never had a situation where I've had to convince my players of that, I've had PC's die and had no complaints about rolls etc. I've only ever fudged three rolls as far as I can recall, each were to do with the fact that I screwed up the balance of the encounter. Plus die rolls are random, there are runs of good luck and runs of bad, how is it any less believable when it happens to a GM, that just seems a bit silly.

If players are always going to be suspicious of the GM running their game, maybe they should find another game. There should be a mutual respect between GM and players, and I feel I have that with my group.

I can already tell we're probably going to have to agree to disagree, but every role playing group is different, so that's no surprise :)

Maybe, if you've only fudged dice three times then I'd guess we have pretty similar views on this one. if you fudge rolls that infrequently it's going to be very hard to spot, and even if it is spotted it's not going to ruin trust at the table. It's more frequent interferring with the results that I think causes problems.

Rack:
Snip.

Looks like we agree then :D Fudging die is a tool the GM has, but it needs to be used wisely if at all. If you do it all the time, why bother with dice.

I find rule 4 (Know what your players want) to be critically important, and probably the reason why there are so many arguments about gaming. If your players want a brutal, merciless game, then GMing that way is fine. If your players just want to feel like bad-asses while crushing the opposition handily, then the former way of GMing is going to be zero fun for them. Do your players want a story driven game, or do they just want a dungeon crawl with zero narrative?

The best way to ensure everyone has fun is to know the answer to such questions when you sit down, because nothing will ruin the fun at the table like a mismatch of expectations.

Would add a rule 6: The best laid plans often goes right out the window, with cake.

Nothing is going to go exactly as planned, and no matter how well you prepare, you will find that players have a knack to come up with things that not even Nostradamus could see coming. That's how the strange, but memorable sessions are made. Like, they snuck into a ball in disguise to spy on the villain, and wouldn't attack someone unarmed, right? How would I prepare for the fighter using the huge birthday cake at the evil countess' party as a shield and bullrush it into her face and run her off the balcony, resolving the conflict waaaay prematurely? Had to rewrite a lot of prepwork to make it fit with this new direction. But it was well worth it.

I will forever remember his grin when he rolled that critical natural 20 and went "Happy Birthday!"

 

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