GM's - how often to you "cheat?"

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djk1971
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GM's - how often to you "cheat?"

Post Thu Nov 21, 2013 3:56 pm

Several months back I was taking a party through an adventure. Towards the end, they were faced with what was supposed to be a simple encounter. Unfortunately, the dice rolled the way of the monsters and not the PC’s. Though they came out on top of the encounter, they were severely weakened (hit points, spells, etc.). Moments later they were face to face with an overwhelming force (by design) and the chase was on as the party quickly retreated and searched for cover. Rushing down a hallway the lead character hit a trap door and missed his saving throw, plunging him into the darkness of a deep pit.
Now, had the character been at full strength, he would have easily survived the fall. Thus, setting up a tense scenario and climatic finish to the evening with the party trapped between a gaping pit and trapped colleague, and marauding orcs closing fast.

The down side was that the previous encounter had drained this particular characters hit points to nearly nil. By roll of the dice, the fall easily ended our hero’s life. As I described the scene unfolding, the players' head sunk into his hands; he knew, barring some sort of dice god’s miracle, his character was toast. What also grabbed my attention, though, was how the demeanor around the table changed as well. Everyone pretty much knew it was game over for that character and with that their will to continue fighting, or put together some sort of alternative escape plan, almost immediately diminished.

Seeing this I quickly adlibbed, turning the pit into a pit with a bottomless body of water. A quick saving throw to get out of the armor before drowning (and thus, surviving…but losing his magical armor and weapon to the depths) saved not only the character, but the session.

Now, I have no issue killing off a character. Adventuring is a dangerous business with a short life expectancy. I will also admit that I take a slightly guilty pleasure in sending a character to the Promised Land because of fool hardy actions, or some “I’m too much the hero to die” bravado. But in that particular moment, our hero needed to survive and live to fight another day regardless of what the dice rolled.

As a GM, how often (if ever) do you advance the story line, regardless of a dice roll or rule? And in all fairness, that can go either way. I’ll also admit to, on more than one occasion, having a natural 1 rolled behind the GM screen being “magically” turned into a natural 20. :-)
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SmootRK
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Re: GM's - how often to you "cheat?"

Post Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:08 pm

I am guilty of cheating as GM, but generally with the side of giving the players some rather passive assistance. I rarely change die rolls during combat, but may instead tweak down the monster HPs, numbers encountered, treasure found, etc. with the ultimate goal of moving things along and keeping the tension level reasonable. I prefer the game to move along with characters as heroes overall, and not as oppressed fellows just barely scraping by the skin of their teeth.

Then again, when the characters are steamrolling through too much stuff without any sense of challenge, I will up the ante and make encounters a scoach more challenging. Again, done in the spirit of keeping the game interesting, challenging, and allowing the characters to do their "hero thing".

Overall, I do not let the die rolls rule me (as GM). They just provide me guidance. While during combat I generally stick to things as rolled, but I am no slave to die rolls. Often if I need to 'cheat' for players, I do so within the role-play side of things... an npc makes his way into the scene, an odd occurrence makes the monsters roll morale (again), an extra potion of healing found somewhere, or whatever.
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Solomoriah
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Re: GM's - how often to you "cheat?"

Post Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:28 am

I "cheat" very little when I run a properly prepared adventure. When I ad-lib, it's hardly cheating, now it it?

Sounds like your solution to the situation was entirely acceptable. However, I'd like to recommend you reconsider rolling in front of the players... not because it makes it easier to "cheat" but because it potentially reveals info they shouldn't have. Like when a character steps on a trapped space, but the trap doesn't fire due to your die roll... the players should not have any way to guess what you were rolling for.

Every now and then, pick up a die or two and roll them, and pretend to be interested in the results.
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JVWest
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Re: GM's - how often to you "cheat?"

Post Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:55 am

I've been thinking about this topic lately too.

In the past, I was EXTREMELY guilty of fudging. When I ran AD&D 1st edition in high school I barely cracked the books. I was a "wing that mother" kind of judge.

But more recently I've been running some Dungeon Crawl Classics games and in that system, if you're familiar with it, you are encouraged to never fudge a die roll, regardless of the outcome. So I have been running my games under that philosophy.

If these weren't 0-level characters I'd probably be more inclined to go easy - at least a little bit.

Food for thought. My tone has become "harder" in a sense, but I'm seeking the middle way here. I want the dice to have meaning but I want the game to be fun.
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Jandolar
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Re: GM's - how often to you "cheat?"

Post Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:45 am

I love using a DM screen just for this reason. There are times when a group has been doing everything right and the dice just don't do them justice. I'll "fudge" a bit to keep them rolling along but I'll also "fudge" the monsters rolls to kind of keep it fair. In you scenario it made 100% sense to keep the character alive. I've seen the kind of moral killer that you spoke of when you said the player put his head down... it will destroy a game. Much better to shuck that armour and lose that magical weapon than to lose a life.

Had a situation several years ago with an Elvin Paladin and her Elvin Ranger consort. The Paladin made a serious misjudgment call and ended up doing a slide down 150' of "razor tube". When she hit the ground outside she was breathing but bleeding out at a rate of 10hp/round. By the time her companion and the NPC Dwarven guide got to her she was well beyond death. The moral of the consort went to poop... he had nothing left. I pulled a little "Gods blessing" on her since she was a Paladin (complete BSing on my part) and her soul was "in stasis" until they could get her prepped for healing by the NPC who happened to be a 12th level cleric. Yes it was "cheating" but it saved the game and we continued for several weeks afterwards with those characters. The one thing I did do was make sure that the Elf who was resurrected by the Dwarf had a craving for Dwarf ale and large steaks, the Dwarf Cleric also gained an affinity for fine wines and bathing.... the saving of a life takes and adds to the souls of both the saved and the savior. Turned out to be a great "ad-hoc" decision.

Do what you can to save the game, cheat a bit of you have to but at later times cheat a bit for the monsters as well just to keep the PC's off balance. If you get the chance throw in something fun like I did to remind the PC's that cheating death has some everlasting consequences.
Last edited by Jandolar on Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Oypeen- 30/30 Hp AC 24
Rykken- 24/24 Hp AC 20
Hermia- 39/39 Hp AC 18/20
Giovanni-40/40 Hp AC 22
Ravoneth-35/35 Hp AC 18
Maephina-30/30 Hp AC 16/18
http://mapmatic.basicfantasy.org/index. ... &mapid=360
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LibraryLass
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Re: GM's - how often to you "cheat?"

Post Sun Dec 22, 2013 5:31 am

I don't. But I do try to make sure that unless my players are completely reckless they have some way to get out of trouble.
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Joe the Rat
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Re: GM's - how often to you "cheat?"

Post Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:20 am

Solomoriah wrote:Every now and then, pick up a die or two and roll them, and pretend to be interested in the results.
This needs to be included the the GM section of EVERY game, in bold print.
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Solomoriah
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Re: GM's - how often to you "cheat?"

Post Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:30 am

Jandolar wrote:The Paladin made a serious misjudgment call and ended up doing a slide down 150' of "razor tube". When she hit the ground outside she was breathing but bleeding out at a rate of 10hp/round.
Egad. What was this, Tomb of Horrors? No "normal" dungeon should contain something that lethal, unless it is in fact an intentional "killer dungeon" like the aforementioned module.
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djk1971
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Re: GM's - how often to you "cheat?"

Post Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:23 pm

Solomoriah wrote: However, I'd like to recommend you reconsider rolling in front of the players... not because it makes it easier to "cheat" but because it potentially reveals info they shouldn't have.
Solomoriah, I put a lot of effort into my BFRPG GM screens for this very reason. I used Scott Abraham's DM screen download for my charts. Professionally printed on card stock, laminated and bound. No one knows what is is going on behind closed doors. ;)

Also like your statement:
Solomoriah wrote:
Every now and then, pick up a die or two and roll them, and pretend to be interested in the results.
I do it all the time. I also like to add a little smirk and chuckle in from time to time when I do this, just to mess with the group. :)
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Jandolar
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Re: GM's - how often to you "cheat?"

Post Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:44 pm

Joe the Rat wrote:
Solomoriah wrote:Every now and then, pick up a die or two and roll them, and pretend to be interested in the results.
This needs to be included the the GM section of EVERY game, in bold print.

INDEED!!!
Oypeen- 30/30 Hp AC 24
Rykken- 24/24 Hp AC 20
Hermia- 39/39 Hp AC 18/20
Giovanni-40/40 Hp AC 22
Ravoneth-35/35 Hp AC 18
Maephina-30/30 Hp AC 16/18
http://mapmatic.basicfantasy.org/index. ... &mapid=360
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