Content of the article: "Players caught me fudging enemy damage – what should I do?"
TL;DR My Roll20 macros stuffed up, and my players saw me heavily fudge a damage roll in their favour during a big fight. Even though the fight was actually close, I'm worried their victory won't feel fully deserved, and wonder whether I should bring it up with them (and how).
I've been running a 5e campaign in Roll20 since March. Before this, I didn't have a huge amount of GM experience – just a few one shots.
Since the campaign started, I've had trouble with encounter balancing – I use Kobold Fight Club (KFC), but a good number of "Hard" encounters have been trivialised by environmental factors or players hitting save-or-suck spells.
Last session I ran a big, arc-ending fight. I threw in tonnes of enemies for variety, included environmental hazards (periodic AOE damage) to increase tension, and presented alternative goals to stop it being just a hack-and-slash.
Overall, I think it went pretty well. But here's my issue.
I have Roll20 macros set up for NPC attacks and saves. All enemy rolls are supposed to be visible only to me (the GM).
But my macros weren't written properly. My players could see them all.
At the apex of the fight, when a heavy-hitting enemy targetted one of the squishier PCs (Level 5), the enemy landed two attacks for a total of ~35 damage.
This would've knocked out the PC, and there was a decent chance of a TPK/character death if that did happen.
I fudged the damage, saying that both attacks hit, but that the total damage was 16. The PC stayed up (barely). But he, and every other player, saw the true damage roll, and knew that I'd fudged the damage roll significantly.
There was a moment of silence, before the player taking the attacks acknowledged the 16 damage. Nobody mentioned that they could see the rolls, even though I'd asked them in the past to let me know if they could see DM-side rolls (this is the second time this has happened).
And even though the fight was legitimately close (this was the only roll I fudged), I worry that this one fudge will make the victory seem less deserved to them, or question how much I lie about what happens behind the screen.
I want to bring it up with them, and honestly admit that I'm still learning how to balance things in 5e. I want to promise that I won't fudge rolls again, or at least I won't unless I'm correcting for a significant design error on my side.
But is this a good idea? Players aren't meant to see behind the GM's screen, so should I even acknowledge the fudged roll? More than anything, I'm concerned that bringing it up would make my players too aware of how things work on my side of the screen.
So sorry for the long post, but I'm genuinely not sure how to approach this one. If anyone has any input, it'd be really appreciated. Thanks 🙂
- Fudging your dice is holding you back as a DM. Here’s three reasons to roll in the open
- In Defense of Boring Monsters
- Fudging is more nuanced than that
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