Last week I asked a somewhat random question on Twitter, “GMs: If you strongly object to dice fudging, do you equally strongly support data transparency, such as visible enemy stats & Powers?” The answers I got were interesting and informative and have left me thinking.
So, to step back, the reason for my asking was this: I understand that dice fudging is a hot-button issue for many people, but one reason I don’t assign much weight to it is that there are so many other ways for the GM to cheat, (many of them good, desirable techniques) that focusing on dice fudging to the exclusion of these other methods is counterproductive at best, and deceptive at worst.
Of course, I say deceptive like it’s a bad thing, but I don’t actually mean it as such. As the purpose of non-jerkish fudging is to improve the game, part of that is that it can’t be obvious and the GM can’t get caught. To that end, almost every GM should say they’re opposed to fudging, whether or not they really are, for the same reason magicians should espouse a belief in magic.
That’s neither hear nor there though. To come back to the question, I saw a few broad trends in the answers: First off, some GMs fudge, and are ok with it. No shock there. More curious was the split between the non-fudgers. Some support “radical” transparency (something I took, probably inaccurately, as a shorthand for no cheating within mechanics). All well and good, but the other group was the one that really got me thinking: almost every “no fudge/no transparency” answer had some manner of qualifier in it.
Saying it that way makes it sound somewhat more defensive than it was, many of the qualifiers were useful insights, but by and large, I got a sense that responders realized there was a discrepancy. This impression was exacerbated by the fact that this group was also most likely to couch the issue in emotional terms (honesty and cheating most notably).
Now, I don’t draw any conclusion about fudging itself from this. It’s going to be a contentious issue pretty much forever, and it’s a fool who thinks that making the argument for his position on it is going to sway people with its mighty logic. But it does leave me thinking about dice.
I don’t think anyone would argue that dice aren’t important to us, as a community. They’re a central part of our identity, possibly more central than any other single idea I can think of. Even rpgs without dice define themselves by their absence. And I think that in turn informs on why this is such a charged issue. Discussions of dice fudging are rarely discussions of techniques and achieving particular ends. I think it’s hard to talk about fudging without talking about who we are.
1 – The other reason is that I spent many years playing dicelessly, mostly with the Amber Diceless RPG. That departure meant that when I returned to using dice, it was to serve specific needs, not because I needed them in general. That arc resulted in me viewing dice usage much like any other technique.
2 – Though one of the rare civil discussion sprung up at gameplaywright.