Moderate Dice-Fall-Where-They-May, or Challenging w/ Tweaks?

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Would you prefer a campaign with moderate difficulty where the GM always "let the dice fall where they may" and never changed/tweaked anything mid-battle, or a difficult campaign where the GM tweaked a few things mid-battle (removing a high-damage power, having a monster flee instead of doing a kamikaze run to kill a PC, etc) if he thought the enemies were curbstomping the players? Which one would you think was more hardcore?
Would you prefer a campaign with moderate difficulty where the GM always "let the dice fall where they may" and never changed/tweaked anything mid-battle, or a difficult campaign where the GM tweaked a few things mid-battle (removing a high-damage power, having a monster flee instead of doing a kamikaze run to kill a PC, etc) if he thought the enemies were curbstomping the players? Which one would you think was more hardcore?

What do you mean by hardcore? I prefer the "dice fall where they may" approach, but not because it's "hardcore." Even if the dice fall horribly and the characters fail spectacularly, it's not like they're going to die. Even if they do die, it's not like they can't be quickly raised or replaced.

Edit: What's the point of it being challenging if it would always get tweaked back to something that wouldn't defeat the characters?

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Edit: What's the point of it being challenging if it would always get tweaked back to something that wouldn't defeat the characters?



It could still defeat the PCs, but it's tweaked from "curbstomping" to "close fight". Killing blows are still rolled, PCs can potentially die, but such tweaks are done in two cases:


  • The GM evaluates how the fight is going so far 2-3 rounds in and decides that, short of an unbelievable lucky streak, there was no way the PCs could've won the battle as originally planned, AKA he accidentally made a challenging encounter nigh-impossible and made the chance of failure much higher than he wanted.

  • The resulting tweak would not change the course of a combat, but spare 2-3 PCs some unnecessary grief. For example, the last monster of an encounter has 10 HP left and is facing two fully-healed PCs and 3 unconscious PCs. It could either set off the AoE, kill 2-3 PCs, and die in the subsequent round, or flee and leave everyone alive. The PCs win the battle either way. It chooses to flee.

It could still defeat the PCs, but it's tweaked from "curbstomping" to "close fight". Killing blows are still rolled, PCs can potentially die, but such tweaks are done in two cases:

Do you know what "curbstomping" is? Don't describe it here, if you do, but I feel like if people knew what it meant they wouldn't use the term.

    The GM evaluates how the fight is going so far 2-3 rounds in and decides that, short of an unbelievable lucky streak, there was no way the PCs could've won the battle as originally planned, AKA he accidentally made a challenging encounter nigh-impossible and made the chance of failure much higher than he wanted.

I don't think a DM can or should try to judge that.

I also think it's interesting that this is put in terms of "chances of failure." "Chances" only make sense when you're talking about something that is going to be repeated a large number of times. Then one can evaluate "chances." If there was any "chance" of failure, and the players are failing (which means at some point victory is not just nigh-impossible, but actually impossible), then it's operating as designed. If the DM can't handle failure occuring, then it shouldn't be an option. And if it's not an option there's not a tremendous amount of reason for the encounter to be played out.

I get that there's a difference between an absolute route of the characters and a hard-fought battle that could have ended in victory of defeat. I don't think it's advisable to "tweak" encounters to try to bring about the "close fight." What happens when the DM tweaks and then the players turn things around on their own? Tweak it back? What if the DM tweaks too far and the PCs lose? They'd be right to call shenanigans. No, at some point the DM needs to let go and let it run, come what may - but what may come can be arranged in advance to be nothing the players won't enjoy, whether they succeed or fail.

The resulting tweak would not change the course of a combat, but spare 2-3 PCs some unnecessary grief.

This right here is the issue: the DM set up a scenario with possible outcomes that could cause  "grief" for the players. If there's no possible outcome that could cause "grief" or any other problem, then there's no need for the DM to tweak anything.

This can be arranged if the players are fine with their characters dying, or if failure for the PCs and victory for the monsters does not involve the characters dying.

For example, the last monster of an encounter has 10 HP left and is facing two fully-healed PCs and 3 unconscious PCs. It could either set off the AoE, kill 2-3 PCs, and die in the subsequent round, or flee and leave everyone alive. The PCs win the battle either way. It chooses to flee.

That's not necessarily a tweak. That could just be the monster doing what it would do, for in-game reasons. If the DM arranged those reasons in advance, to give the monsters a reason to prioritize their survival or some other goal over the PCs' deaths, then it's proper for the monsters not to bother killing the PCs.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I personally prefer Difficult Campaign...bordering Mission Impossible, with Let the dice fall where they may. Wonder what that makes me. I just really enjoy challenge and "chance" being part of the challenge. Let the dice fall where they may...bring it.  I'll figure it out, plan it, execute it in a way to stack Lady Chance on my side. I succeed at end roar. I fail or die trying...roar.  Thats how I like to play DnD.
My buddy who dm's my game rolls dice secretly so as to tweak if necessary to avoid tpk.  I hate that.  Roll in the open. If you crit me and I die instantly, its Ok.  Im good with it.  Lady chance wasnt on my side and I placed myself in that position.  I prefer that then being baby'ed. 
    The GM evaluates how the fight is going so far 2-3 rounds in and decides that, short of an unbelievable lucky streak, there was no way the PCs could've won the battle as originally planned, AKA he accidentally made a challenging encounter nigh-impossible and made the chance of failure much higher than he wanted.

I don't think a DM can or should try to judge that.

I get that there's a difference between an absolute route of the characters and a hard-fought battle that could have ended in victory of defeat. I don't think it's advisable to "tweak" encounters to try to bring about the "close fight." What happens when the DM tweaks and then the players turn things around on their own? Tweak it back? What if the DM tweaks too far and the PCs lose? They'd be right to call shenanigans. No, at some point the DM needs to let go and let it run, come what may - but what may come can be arranged in advance to be nothing the players won't enjoy, whether they succeed or fail.



But the GM can tweak encounters to try and bring about the "close fight", he just doesn't tweak that encounter. He tweaks future encounters. He has an unlimited number of fights and monsters to challenge the party with, and he can tweak each one to be stronger than the previous one until he either achieves that "close fight" or snaps the PCs like twigs.

I personally prefer Difficult Campaign...bordering Mission Impossible, with Let the dice fall where they may. Wonder what that makes me. I just really enjoy challenge and "chance" being part of the challenge. Let the dice fall where they may...bring it.  I'll figure it out, plan it, execute it in a way to stack Lady Chance on my side. I succeed at end roar. I fail or die trying...roar.  Thats how I like to play DnD.

My buddy who dm's my game rolls dice secretly so as to tweak if necessary to avoid tpk.  I hate that.  Roll in the open. If you crit me and I die instantly, its Ok.  Im good with it.  Lady chance wasnt on my side and I placed myself in that position.  I prefer that then being baby'ed.


What would you do if you joined a campaign that was difficult, but the GM pubically tweaked a fight or two? Would you immediately demand he play it as-written and TPK the party, even if the other players argued against it? Would you demand he change his game style later? Quietly leave the group? Or shrug and keep playing because it's still difficult even with the tweaks?
 
What would you do if you joined a campaign that was difficult, but the GM pubically tweaked a fight or two? Would you immediately demand he play it as-written and TPK the party, even if the other players argued against it? Would you demand he change his game style later? Quietly leave the group? Or shrug and keep playing because it's still difficult even with the tweaks?




Ill just roll with it, whatever.  I am actually easy player. I go with the flow, dont take nothing serious.  Its my preference though. Hard no kitty glove campaign or adventure is what I prefer, but not demand. Just preference and taste.
Would you prefer a campaign with moderate difficulty where the GM always "let the dice fall where they may" and never changed/tweaked anything mid-battle



This. A clever DM, however, makes it so the stakes the players are facing as to the outcome of the scene are never outside of their expectations.

Which one would you think was more hardcore?



Such a distinction would be pointless and devisive.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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What would you do if you joined a campaign that was difficult, but the GM pubically tweaked a fight or two?



Ouch!

Would you immediately demand he play it as-written and TPK the party, even if the other players argued against it?



No, that's uncouth.

Would you demand he change his game style later?



I'd have an out-of game conversation to reassess our expectations and collaborate on solutions. If an accord cannot be reached, then perhaps I'm not the best fit for that group.

Quietly leave the group?



No. Someone who sets aside his or her time to create a game largely for my enjoyment deserves the decency of an explanation. Even if it makes me uncomfortable.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

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What would you do if you joined a campaign that was difficult, but the GM pubically tweaked a fight or two?



Ouch!



It's actually an issue with online Maptool campaigns. Every enemy roll is public: attack rolls, damage rolls, recharge rolls. It also breaks down the roll's modifiers, so players can tell if you're giving certain rolls a -5 they shouldn't have. That leaves two ways to tweak fights that the players wouldn't notice:


  1. Not use a power the monsters haven't used yet. Tough to do with enemies that only have 1-2 powers, and if the players look up the monster on the Compendium afterwards, the jig's up.

  2. "Forget" a recharge roll or opportunity attack and hope the players don't notice.


It also lets the players save logs, so they can go over the sessions afterwards with a fine-toothed comb and see whether the GM's tweaking the fights when they're not more concerned with surviving the fights. It's really tough to pull one over on a player that does that. It's even worse if they start noticing your tactical errors and assume that's you tweaking the fight in their favor.
It also lets the players save logs, so they can go over the sessions afterwards with a fine-toothed comb and see whether the GM's tweaking the fights when they're not more concerned with surviving the fights. It's really tough to pull one over on a player that does that. It's even worse if they start noticing your tactical errors and assume that's you tweaking the fight in their favor.

Yes, trust once lost is hard to regain, and being suspected of or proved to have gamed fights just kills trust. I try to avoid it.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

It's actually an issue with online Maptool campaigns. Every enemy roll is public: attack rolls, damage rolls, recharge rolls. It also breaks down the roll's modifiers, so players can tell if you're giving certain rolls a -5 they shouldn't have. That leaves two ways to tweak fights that the players wouldn't notice:


  1. Not use a power the monsters haven't used yet. Tough to do with enemies that only have 1-2 powers, and if the players look up the monster on the Compendium afterwards, the jig's up.

  2. "Forget" a recharge roll or opportunity attack and hope the players don't notice.


It also lets the players save logs, so they can go over the sessions afterwards with a fine-toothed comb and see whether the GM's tweaking the fights when they're not more concerned with surviving the fights. It's really tough to pull one over on a player that does that. It's even worse if they start noticing your tactical errors and assume that's you tweaking the fight in their favor.



So don't tweak combats midstream?

I rolled in the open long before I started playing online. Fudging is no good in my view. It devalues the choices of the PCs, the outcome of dice, and suggests the DM is not fulfilling his agenda of playing to find out what happens. If you've made a mistake of some kind and you realize that during the encounter, admit it to the players and ask how they think it should be resolved.

Also, if you're still using Maptools, consider switching to Roll20.net!

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I rolled in the open long before I started playing online. Fudging is no good in my view. It devalues the choices of the PCs, the outcome of dice, and suggests the DM is not fulfilling his agenda of playing to find out what happens. If you've made a mistake of some kind and you realize that during the encounter, admit it to the players and ask how they think it should be resolved.



Why do you think asking the players to resolve it is better than fudging the rolls? What player is going to just let their PC die to an imbalanced battle the GM forced them into? At least the fudge still gives them a chance of failing; most PCs will just handwave a narrow victory if asked to resolve it and your "suspension of disbelief" is crushed anyway.

Shouldn't the proper "let-the-dice-fall-where-they-may" response be to play the battle out as-is and crush the PCs regardless? After all, it's not the GM's fault he tossed an overpowered encounter at the players; it's the players' fault they couldn't handle it regardless.
Why do you think asking the players to resolve it is better than fudging the rolls?



Because in the exchange you quoted it was established the DM made a mistake of some kind in designing the encounter, making it unfair. I would resolve the situation as DM by admitting the mistake, what it means as far as the encounter goes, and ask what the players think would be best to do about it. They might say "let the dice fall where they may" or "take off those minions" or "why don't we say we just ran away" or "what if we could accomplish some other goal than killing these guys to win." Whatever they do say comes with their inherent buy-in. If I just assume it'll be okay to fudge, I'm hoping that comes with their buy-in and that they won't think it cheesy. I don't choose to view "hope" as a good strategy when I can resolve it directly and honestly.

What player is going to just let their PC die to an imbalanced battle the GM forced them into?



A player who, after asked directly what to do about the situation, says exactly that. Otherwise, probably nobody.

At least the fudge still gives them a chance of failing; most PCs will just handwave a narrow victory if asked to resolve it and your "suspension of disbelief" is crushed anyway.



I'm not sure what you mean by this. Clarify?

Shouldn't the proper "let-the-dice-fall-where-they-may" response be to play the battle out as-is and crush the PCs regardless? After all, it's not the GM's fault he tossed an overpowered encounter at the players; it's the players' fault they couldn't handle it regardless.



That sounds odd in the context of the DM having made a mistake as established. An encounter can be overpowered and still fair in terms of game mechanics. It might just mean brute force isn't the most assured path to victory.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Why do you think asking the players to resolve it is better than fudging the rolls? What player is going to just let their PC die to an imbalanced battle the GM forced them into?

Probably not many, but death is not the only option for failure.

Death is not the only option for failure.

At least the fudge still gives them a chance of failing;

Don't say "failing" when you mean "dying."

most PCs will just handwave a narrow victory if asked to resolve it and your "suspension of disbelief" is crushed anyway.

Not necessarily. Players don't like their suspension of disbelief crushed either, and have plenty of incentive to come up with a way to fail that make sense in context.

Shouldn't the proper "let-the-dice-fall-where-they-may" response be to play the battle out as-is and crush the PCs regardless?

If "crush the PCs" is the only plausible outcome the DM planned for, yes.

After all, it's not the GM's fault he tossed an overpowered encounter at the players; it's the players' fault they couldn't handle it regardless.

It's the fault of anyone who agreed to a risk involving stakes they weren't willing to lose.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Shouldn't the proper "let-the-dice-fall-where-they-may" response be to play the battle out as-is and crush the PCs regardless? After all, it's not the GM's fault he tossed an overpowered encounter at the players; it's the players' fault they couldn't handle it regardless.

If I as a DM made a design mistake on an encounter, obviously way too hard on the party with certain result of TPK... I wouldn't try to fix it by fudging rolls.  Rather I would utilize my sweeping DM power to change the encounter setting mid-stride, either change the opponants goal from "kill the pc's" to "injure the pc's" or "capture the pc's" or create a way out for the pc's, or intervene with another "npc" to assist...  Since I got the authority to change the setting, environment, conditions, npc (opponants) goals and motivations, actions & reactions, I would resort to those things I have control over (which players know and agree I have control over) and not the actual dice roll which no one has control over.  IMO.
 
Shouldn't the proper "let-the-dice-fall-where-they-may" response be to play the battle out as-is and crush the PCs regardless? After all, it's not the GM's fault he tossed an overpowered encounter at the players; it's the players' fault they couldn't handle it regardless.

If I as a DM made a design mistake on an encounter, obviously way too hard on the party with certain result of TPK... I wouldn't try to fix it by fudging rolls.  Rather I would utilize my sweeping DM power to change the encounter setting mid-stride, either change the opponants goal from "kill the pc's" to "injure the pc's" or "capture the pc's" or create a way out for the pc's, or intervene with another "npc" to assist...  Since I got the authority to change the setting, environment, conditions, npc (opponants) goals and motivations, actions & reactions, I would resort to those things I have control over (which players know and agree I have control over) and not the actual dice roll which no one has control over.  IMO.
 

This is exactly the thought process I went through. But since I don't like secretly changing things unilaterally (I'm a rotten liar) I went to "I'll modify what I have control over to make the monsters have a non-lethal goal in advance, so I don't have to change anything if I made a mistake with the difficulty." And that led to "I can make all the mistakes I want to with the difficulty!" It turns out that tossing the encounter creation guidelines leads to some pretty awesome encounters.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

This is exactly the thought process I went through. But since I don't like secretly changing things unilaterally (I'm a rotten liar) I went to "I'll modify what I have control over to make the monsters have a non-lethal goal in advance, so I don't have to change anything if I made a mistake with the difficulty." And that led to "I can make all the mistakes I want to with the difficulty!" It turns out that tossing the encounter creation guidelines leads to some pretty awesome encounters.

This is a good plan. To already have a alternate plan in place incase encounter is going TPK.
This is a good plan. To already have a alternate plan in place incase encounter is going TPK.

Thanks. In fact, I never come close to a TPK, because the monsters' primary goal is something other than killing the characters. Even if they did happen to take out a few characters, the monsters would just continue toward their goal, leaving the PCs to make death saves or heal each other.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Short answer:
I prefer all dice to be rolled in the open. As a dm i don't feel the need to disclose the mob's exact attack bonus, as player i don't expect  the dm to tell me the bonus.

But i do enjoy seeing all the nat 1'a and nat 20's rolled.
Also, fwiw, i play 4e so i know most of the time a roll over 13 will hit either way, and a roll under 6 will miss either way, so even then, there is very little actual metagame knowledge to be had.


Difficulty wise, i prefer difficult (but possible) games. I like every victory to feel like it was earned (I even get upset when an encounter is too easy because the dm rolls a string of 1's)... 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis


It's actually an issue with online Maptool campaigns.




Talking of Maptool ...

I used to tweak die rolls quite a bit, especially at dramatic moments, but since using Maptool I have stopped and use the dice as they land.  A couple of times now, the dice have produced dramatic situations I would never have allowed to come into being if I had been able to easily tweak the dice results.

I would also add (for the benefit of people that don't use Maptool) that where JeffGroves says its an issue with "Maptool Campaigns" he means its an issue with how people have built functions for an individual game.  Its certainly possible to build a D&D Maptool campaign where the DM's rolls were invisible to the players.  If you wanted

Whatever the difficulty lv, I always prefer letting the dice fall as they may. 
That's part of the fun of these games.  You don't know how the story will develop until you see what the dice give you....
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