Thursday, 29 May 2014

More On Fudging: Ookla the 26

"This is a valid argument, right?"
This thread on Dragonsfoot has recently been brought back from the dead, and it is worth checking up on again if you are interested.  In any event, the comments left by Mock26 require a bit more space to answer than is generally considered polite on a gaming forum.  These comments are interesting not only from the standpoint of gaming theory, but they are interesting from the standpoint of the "dumbing down" of rational discourse.

Also, frankly, I find it impossible to answer Mock26 properly while meeting the politeness guidelines expected of posters on Dragonsfoot.

Part I

At 6:55 pm on 28 May 2014, Mock26 takes issue with material from this post. I will ask you to indulge me in reading both the post, and his response to the post, before we continue.  I ask this because, I hope, it is clear to you that Mock26's questions are revealing of nothing more than failure to understand context.  There is nothing terribly unique in this - if you go back upthread, you will note that Mock26 has been attacking the argument without bothering to read or understand it all day.

The post in question is a response to Greg Barry, who is asking specific questions related to two examples.  The context of the questions is that If A, Then B, Therefore C.  If A occurs, then B will occur, therefore C should occur (in this case C is fudging).  The responses are demonstrations that B need not occur as a result of A, and therefore A need not lead to C.

Mock26's question amounts to asking, "Even if B need not follow A, what if B does follow A?"  In the listed cases, it is assumed that B (i.e., that the game grinds to a halt, either because of an inability to move forward or because the party is killed by a lich) is worse than C (fudging).

And, of course, you may well agree that B is worse than C.  But, this doesn't make C good; it just makes B worse.  This is akin to saying, "Isn't it okay if I sometimes punch you, if the alternative is that I shoot you instead?"  It is a false dilemma; it is neither okay to punch or shoot you, and it neither B or C is demonstrated herein to be a good idea.

The basic assumptions upon which the argument is built (meeting a lich automatically ends in a TPK; destroying a single item prevents all play) are flawed.  It does not matter whether or not Mock26 is able to avoid these problems.  The question is not "What traits are shared by poor GMs?"  It suffices merely to demonstrate that these situations offer no dilemma for a good GM, and that there is no need for a good GM to fudge.

Mock26 is, however, correct in that this particular blog post does not demonstrate why fudging is bad; it is merely an answer to why fudging is not necessary in the cases described.  I would lay down good money that over 90% of the readers of this blog were able to understand that from the context.

Part II

At 6:56 pm on 28 May 2014, Mock26 takes aim at this post.  Again, feel free to read both the post and Mock26's questions.  If nothing else, it will supply some context.  Then jump up to 3:26 pm, where I wrote
Well, technically, I think there is a real difference between set-up and play. In set-up, one is looking for inspiration, and personally I don't care if you fudge during that time. I have said the same in the past (I believe in this very thread, although I am not going to go back to look for it), and I am sure that I will say the same in the future.
because once you have done so, you will realize that Mock26's first salvos in this post again miss the mark.

Later on, at 8:00 pm, Mock26 posts again, and again fails to hit the mark, using my above quote to again suggest that I somehow do not agree that the GM has a right to alter a roll during set-up.  I do say
The reasoning that, say, introducing a Vorpal Sword at 1st level will somehow doom the campaign/milieu, however, is one that I strongly disagree with.
Even when dicing for inspiration, though, I think it occurs far too often that the GM in question will decide "That doesn't fit" far too soon....better/more creative work would result from asking "How does that fit?" a bit more often than may occur. When I choose to use die rolls to help in creation, I have noticed that it is the unusual results that give the milieu depth, and make it seem less like the work of a single mind....because that mind is forced out of its rut.
and Mock26 seems to believe that the material he quoted from Gary Gygax is a counter to that.  He also seems to think that Mr. Gygax's advice to other DMs (many of which, based upon other sections of the book, Mr. Gygax addresses as if they have not yet learned the craft) suggests that Mr. Gygax himself would have been unable to place a vorpal sword in a 1st level adventure and make his own campaign more interesting thereby.

I doubt that is the case.

I fully accept that neophyte GMs, Mock26, or others, might be unable to place a vorpal sword without spelling disaster for their games, and I have repeatedly stated that rolling for inspiration is not the same as rolling for outcome during the game.  Others may disagree with that assessment (others do in the thread), but once again, Mock26 is knocking down straw men of his own devising.

Part III

Jump now, if you would be so kind, to Mock26's post of 7:36 pm on 28 May 2014.  Or don't.  Mock26 is attempting to set up a situation in which the GM fudges, but in which we are supposed to describe why fudging is bad without referencing the situation in which the fudging occurs.


I point a gun at you.  Why should I not fire the gun?  Please answer using only a description of the process of pulling the trigger.

If you cannot see the problem with pandering to this type of discourse, I cannot help you.

Part IV

Back up to the 6:56 pm post, where Mock26 makes his only intelligent contribution to the conversation.

In response to my posting "It should be noted that the percentage of GMs who believe that they can make the players believe this while fudging is quite a bit higher than the percentage of players who believe that they do not know. Likewise, the majority of players seem to prefer, as do you and I, that the GM does not fudge.", Mock26 asks:
Have any actual numbers to back up this claim of yours? Because I, for one, would love to see the evidence you have that allows you to make this claim.
That's actually an intelligent question, and one anyone should ask when confronted with any sort of data.

For the record, though, given a poll sample of 112 votes (which, admittedly, is not large enough for firm conclusions), 14% of respondents preferred (2% strongly) that the GM fudge, and 55% (41% strongly) preferred that the GM not fudge.

In another poll, 61% of 41 respondents felt that, as players, they know when the GM is fudging.

Until better data comes along, the majority believe that they know when the GM is fudging, and the majority would prefer that the GM does not fudge. Better than a third of players feel strongly that the GM should not fudge. But better data should be a goal, and it might change the above conclusions.


For those who claim that this is all simply opinion, and any opinion is as good as any other, that is simply untrue.  Reasoned debate doesn't work like that (although, granted, shouting into the wind does work like that, and there are always folks who will listen to whoever shouts the loudest).

An "answer" to an argument in an analysis of that argument, showing where it stands up and where it does not. It is not simply an "opinion".  For instance, if I said, "2 + 2 = 4 because a cow is in the field", your answer could well be that (1) 2 + 2 = 4 regardless of whether or not a cow is in the field, and that (2) the cow in the field has no rational connection to the mathematical operation being performed. Note that this does not mean that 2 + 2 =/= 4, but merely that my reasoning is incorrect. Note also that, while I may then say that "The cow making no difference is just your opinion; there's no correct answer here", that does not make it true.

Likewise, the reasons giving for why fudging is good, on examination, turn out to be cows in the field that are supposedly affecting the math. The answers, specifically, are why the given reasons that fudging is worth doing do not actually appear supported when examined. You may have good reasons for fudging, but the reasons given thus far do not support examination. That the examination is not being addressed is evidence of its validity; you cannot counter the argument, so you declare it all mere opinion.

YMMV because (1) you may be right that fudging is good for the game overall, but have not articulated an argument as to why this should be so, just as 2 + 2 = 4 regardless of the cow explanation's obvious failure, or (2) your motives in fudging may be seated not in the good of the game overall, but in a different motivation.

My experience tells me that fudging is a bad idea overall, but my experience is (while wide) perforce limited. That no one to my knowledge, least of all Mock26, has yet to develop a thesis that explains why fudging is (or can be) good, which also holds up under rational scrutiny, reinforces my experience. I am willing to accept that (obviously) my experience may not apply to all cases, but I am not going to make the assumption that it does not apply without a counter-example or line of reasoning that can stand up to examination.

I don't believe in bigfoot; I am willing to change my mind if evidence presents itself that changes the balance of probability that bigfoot exists. Whether or not bigfoot exists is another example where all opinions are not of equal value.

Even with all that said, though, it is fundamental that what you want out of the game may differ from what I want, and that whether or not you articulate your position in a way that stands up to rational scrutiny, your position may still be as valid as, or more valid than, mine. I just have no reason to come to that conclusion.

Add your own sound bite in lieu of a rational statement here.
As long as you can get a single player to buy into your game, you should run what you want the way you want to run it. Analysis of the pitfalls and/or values of various approaches is useful in helping GMs and players discover what they want, and take steps that bring their goals to fruition.

If you want to paint your house green, but are instead using red paint, it is worth noting. If you want your house to be red, but are saying you want it to be green, by all means you should continue to use red paint even though we note that (1) your house will not be painted green, and (2) your actions will not help you meet your stated objectives. And, of course, we are fully justified in cautioning others who might take your methods and stated aims at face value that using red paint is highly unlikely to result in a green house.

If one then claims that it is only opinion that using red paint will not result in a green house....well, one is entitled to make that claim.  But that "opinion" will not be as good as one that actually examines what colour red paint results in, no matter how loudly you scream into the wind, and no matter how many idiots then wonder why their houses are red despite following your instructions.


  1. A strong statement worth reading:

  2. I always wondered what Ookla had to say about fudging.