When we were doing the Sons of Kryos show, I said the following:
If you are fudging die rolls, your game system is failing you.
From the response, you’d have thought I said, “If you fudge dice, you are obviously a baby-eater who denies the holocaust ever happened.” Some folks freaked the eff out. Others e-mailed me thanks and shook my hand when they met me. Those two responses made me think I had said something, right or wrong, that needed saying.
Basically, the DA ttRPG said something like:
Sometimes it’s a good idea to make certain tests secretly, so the players don’t necessarily know the result. This is usually the case for any sort of test where the characters don’t immediately know whether they’ve succeeded or failed. For example, you may want to make Perception tests secretly. If the test succeeds, the character notices something. If it fails, then the player doesn’t know whether it’s because the character failed to notice something or there just wasn’t anything there to notice in the first place.
On occasion a particular die roll may result in an anticlimactic or just plain dumb outcome. In such a case, feel free to change things a little to make the outcome more interesting or more in line with how the game should go. This is called “Game Master Fiat,” since the judgment of the GM overrides the strict letter of the rules.
We could go the normal route and talk about trust and power dynamics or some bullshit but I am going to forgo that and just get to what those kinds of games do to me, as a GM. I know what I do with a system that asks me to whip out my Rule 0 at the table. I willfully avoid the rules and do everything I can to avoid the dice.
I was pretty good at it and it was mostly my buddy, Jason who noticed. It was stressful. I hated it.
I want games where failure doesn’t mean the game will go into the crapper, games that are admittedly, written to my strong suits. That episode of Sons of Kryos was recorded years ago; I stand by the basic idea. If I wanted to re-phrase it to be more diplomatic maybe I could say something like:
Games that demand I fudge the die rolls failed for me, maybe you have a technique that makes that work for you but it just makes my GMing experience stressful and my playing experience flat out not enjoyable.
GM’s have a whole lotta juggling pins in the air and it takes a bunch of energy and concentration to do that job well. I want my energy focused on coming up with cool consequences for the players’ actions with confident knowledge that when we go to the dice, it will help the game along, rather than hinder fun and damage or destroy what we have all built together.
EDIT II electric bugaloo: Conversation is also happening in this SG Thread