Should the Dungeon Master be fudging rolls in D&D?

fudging rolls

Fudging rolls in D&D (changing the result of a roll) is a hotly debated topic in the Dungeons and Dragons community. Should you be fudging rolls in D&D or should you just let the dice land where they may? Here is the truth:

Fudging rolls in D&D is a hotly debated topic. It depends on the person and the group. Sometimes, it is better to fudge. If you must, fudge properly.

I know that this may not be clear cut but if you want to find out if fudging dice rolls are bad or good for you and your group then read on!

When you must fudge

There are almost universal times for fudging rolls in D&D. I myself hate fudging rolls and will be extremely mad if a dungeon master ever fudges rolls for my character. That being said, there is one universal time that fudging rolls are okay.

Crit. Crit. Crit. Crit. Dead. You don’t need to roll 4 crits in a row but when you roll two, three, or are even just rolling insanely hot and the group is not rolling well at all you need to consider if you should fudge. No one likes a game where they died not due to bad strategy, their own decisions, or making a gamble that didn’t pay off but instead because of stupidly horrible luck. This scenario is just stupid.

Imagine a level one group goes and faces four goblins. The party rolls poorly on heals, attacks, and one goblin is left who is rolling hot. This one goblin has dealt 30 damage by itself and going to kill a player with another crit. No one likes this scenario and the dungeon master should be fudging rolls in D&D here.

The only universally accepted time for fudging rolls is when the dice act like this. This is dumb and not fun for anyone. If the dungeon master does not fudge dice rolls everyone will think that the dungeon master is out to get the players even if they are not. Please fudge during these times I beg you.

Fudging rules and who you can fool

If you’re ever are fudging rolls in D&D you need to know one simple rule.

NEVER LET THE PLAYERS KNOW!

If the players ever know that you have fudged rolls or even suspect it your game will fall apart. The players will lose any sense of agency and become disheartened quickly. You cannot ever let the players know.

That being said your players will find out if they are mechanically oriented.

If your party is into how their characters and the rules work those players will catch the dungeon master. If you have any of these players and you chose to fudge be extremely cautious. It is almost better to tell them that you are fudging since they will understand and agree with you if you are honest. If you do not tell your players and they catch you the game is practically over for them. They have no agency and there is no point in their mind.

If your players don’t really try to optimize or care that much about the rules you can fudge all day. If you need to you can be fudging rolls right in front of them and they will not notice. A skeleton rolled to hit and always added +4 to hit for 6 swings but is now only adding +1 to hit. Nothing new or suspicious here! These types of players will not catch the change since they aren’t really paying attention and are not mechanically oriented.

Know your group and who you can fudge in front of. If you are concerned that your players will catch you fudging rolls they most likely will. Tell them that you are changing a roll instead. Especially if these rolls have been crit crit crit or something stupid.

Why we fudge

Most of the time dungeon masters are fudging rolls in D&D because:

Rule #1The encounter that the dungeon master made was too difficult.
Rule #2 The dungeon master doesn’t want a character to die.
Rule #3 It makes the game more fun.

We will go into the reasons why you would want to fudge and not fudge for each rule.

Reason to fudge #1

‘The encounter that the dungeon master made was too difficult.’

This happens a lot with newer dungeon masters but it also happens when some players don’t show up or an encounter just proved too difficult.

Unlike a goblin rolling hot, dungeon master’s could have the party face a minotaur at level 1. This is probably a bad idea to make a level 1 party face a minotaur but just in case this happens how do you fix it? Most likely that minotaur will destroy the group so should you be fudging rolls inD&D?

The answer to this is a simple no. If you are in a fight and you see that the monster is too strong change the monster’s stat lines. Players do not know what the total hp, ac, saves, or even attack/damage is. Make sure that you change the stats instead of the rolls.

But what if you have an attentive player and are rolling in the open? Make the change seem natural. No one knows the monster’s hp so just adjust it down. As for attack and damage make the monster be hit in an arm from an attack. Make a big show out of it and then your players who are paying attention will not question the attack or damage going down. Instead, they will get excited and start to be more creative with their gameplay.

Reason to fudge #2 (the good)

‘The dungeon master doesn’t want a character to die.’

No one wants their character to die in a stupid way. No one wants a character to die that is fairly low level and some people just do not want their characters to die no matter what. We all want to keep our characters alive but sometimes bad things happen. That is why there is a good side of fudging rolls in D&D to keep characters alive.

These campaigns are fairly lighthearted and the players have an emotional attachment to their characters. I know that we are supposed to have an emotional attachment to our characters but sometimes we just want to try something new or tire of a character. That is perfectly fine but if a player really really wants to keep their character the dungeon master might want to fudge a little bit.

The reason to be fudging rolls is fairly clear here. Keeping a character alive is generally a good thing and we don’t want to just start new characters every session. The game would be pretty bad if we did that.

Reason to fudge #2 (the bad)

‘The dungeon master doesn’t want a character to die.’

There are some players out there that would rather have their character die than have the dungeon master fudge rolls. I am one of these players and here is why I and some others would rather have our characters die than fudge rolls.

(I have a bit more on the bad since most people don’t know why you would not want to fudge a roll in order to save a character. Remember, these apply to players who wouldn’t like fudging rolls in D&D and who you can fool.’)

I deserved to die because of decisions made.

If a party member had a chance to stabilize me and they did not, that is a good reason for why I died. People made a choice and suffer the consequences. We decided to underestimate our enemies and walked in extremely cocky. Someone died because of this and it is our fault.

Mechanically minded players do not want to diminish that death or the game by actively cheating. It is not fun for us and I would rather have that character die so that we learn and become better players.

Don’t take away my agency.

If you decide to make a character not die just because you do not want that character to die then all the player’s choices are worthless. The player has plot armor and should punch every guard in a castle along with the lord and lady. After that they should tie an arm behind their back and just beat all of them or be thrown into a prison instead of having a sever sentence.

In that moment when a player realizes their character was saved from death and they are not okay with fudging rolls, you have lost that player. Do not take away the player’s agency or the game has absolutely no meaning.

How much has this happened?

If a player who doesn’t like fudging rolls sees a blatant cheat, they will start to wonder how much of this has happened? Did the party really earn those memorable victories or were these all just machinations from the dungeon master?

This is a bit extreme but if a player sees fudging a few times or even too much that makes them start to wonder. Fudging happens most around character death, and this is when fudging rolls is most noticeable.

Rule #3

‘It makes the game more fun.’

Fudging rolls in D&D can make the game more fun by creating an epic moment. A bluff that shouldn’t have passed worked, or a person barely survived from death even when all odds were against them. These are some situations that can be enhanced by a simple fudge here and there. Should you fudge in these situations?

You really need to look at your group. Does your group care about the rules and consequences or do they want to just have fun? If you can answer these questions you are able to find your answer.

Conclusion

Know your group. If it has mechanically minded people who care about consequences you should not fudge di rolls. This includes if a character is about to die. If your group is having fun and doesn’t care about the rules feel free to fudge whenever.

Only fudge when unrealistic situations happen (crit crit crit) and make sure that your players do not catch you. I cannot stress this enough, make sure your players do not catch you and if you are afraid that they will catch you your players will catch you.

Fudging isn’t something that should be done often but with the right group it can be beneficial. Just make sure that fudging rolls is a good thing for your group if you plan to fudge some rolls.

What do you think about fudging rolls in D&D? Did you learn something new? How often do you fudge rolls and why?

If you want to hear about how to properly use fudging as a tool, read The ID DM’s article.

If you want to hear about why fudging is good, watch Matt Colvile’s video.

If you are fudging to make your encounters more interesting read this article instead to help you improve your encounters.

This has been Wizo and keep rolling!

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