Fudge in roleplaying games…how do we fell about it? Now I know what you’re thinking; “Fudge? I dunno, bro, those dice are weird looking!” Well, yes they are, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Also, why are you calling me bro? Also also, not what I’m talking about.
An interesting conundrum has recently nestled itself in the squishier bits of my mind. Well, interesting to me, if it’s not interesting to you, then don’t friggin’ read it, you ill-mannered bucket of sh…sorry, I get testy sometimes. Anyway. I was sitting around the game table one recent night, sipping brandy and cracking wise about pee-pees, playing a rousing game of D&D. After a particularly harrowing combat where I survived by the skin of my teeth, something that concerns me because I’m pretty sure skin shouldn’t be there, my compatriots and I were exchanging high-five and discussing how close a call it was. After the encounter, the DM remarked that I should have been dead several times over by now. I asked him what he meant by this, and he said that he had fudged the results so I didn’t meet my hard-fought demise. This led to a an internal conflict. Getting your character killed, especially in something as arbitrary as combat, is rarely fun. That being said, walking into every fight knowing that you’ll be walking out takes some of the sense of danger from the experience. As I looked back on all the times I clearly should have eaten shit, I decided to tuck it away and ponder it later. After all, it was four in the morning and I had more dick jokes to make before I returned home to my wife…to make more dick jokes.
Days went by, and I was in the midst of running my weekly Shadowrun game, when one of my players takes an axe to the face.
“I’m dead.”, he proclaimed.
I paused, surprised. “You can spend edge to hang on.”, was my retort.
“I can, but I’m going to spend it to get one last action and kill the guy with a lightning bolt!”
“…ok”, I retorted, my mind reeling from the whole ordeal.
Clearly, this guy wasn’t terribly worried about his character becoming a fresh ghost, but it got me thinking back to the previous week’s incident. He then whipped another character and proclaimed “I made a Troll. I get 40 dice for damage resistance tests now.” My jaw slowly fell open into an expression that I imagine looked like I had just watched my new puppy raped and then kicked into traffic, but that’s a different story. (There is no puppy, by the way.)
This experience got me thinking about the nature of characters and their mortality. I empathized with my DM from earlier. I don’t particularly enjoy killing of people’s characters. I’ve gotten a fair share murdered in my day. So many so that I used to be known as the king of the dirt nap. My getting killed skills were legendary and our DM had no sympathy for us back in those days. Often it was in hilarious fashion, thus cushioning he blow, but it always stung a little, and was kind of a pain in the ass having to roll a new character and start over. This new DM softened the blow a little bit by keeping us at least a little safer. But at what cost?
I’ve been known to fudge a time or two. Usually unless I’m running XCrawl, I try to at least give the players a chance, but this leads to a slippery slope. Where does that perfect balance lie? The balance of “shit happens” and “your lives matter”? I’m starting to favor the more bloodthirsty approach, letting the dice determine the fickle finger of fate, but it rarely feels good to feed someone’s effort and imagination into the yawning void. Unless you manage to overcome a 40-dice resistance test. Then you’ve earned it.
Where do you fall in this situation? To fudge, or not to fudge? That is a question. Not the question though, there are others. Like how does Robocop poop?