Number Fudging or the Art of Shortcuts

Dungeons and Dragons isn’t always the fastest game and it’s not always the smoothest game.  Sometimes it can be downright tedious with all the numbers, items, and stories you have to keep track of.  What is a poor overworked DM to do when his Mountain Dew addled brain can barely hold that information anymore?  Well, you can fudge the numbers.  Here are some shortcuts you can take to help make your game smoother.

 

  • Stop keeping track of experience points.  Before you start to think I’m crazy, think about this.  Who tells the players how much XP they get?  Who tells the players what value they level up at? You.  That’s right; you essentially tell the players when they level up.  So why bog yourself down with numbers?  Getting rid of that minor bookkeeping not only frees up time during your game it also frees up your writing.  When you get rid of the need to track XP, it bursts the doors wide open.  You can write the encounters you want, at the levels you want, when you want.
  • Make monster HP less constant.  Sometimes, a monster just won’t die.  It keeps on fighting long after it logically would, the players won’t let it run away, and the encounter just won’t end.  This is the time when you, as DM, should take over and let the monster die.  This gets you out of those times when a combat is just spinning the tires.  The converse also applies.  Players love to break the game, it’s what they do, and sometimes you get that player that optimized the character just right so the dragon dies in one hit.  This is not okay.  That dragon is supposed to be more than a speed bump.  As DM, it’s your right to say it doesn’t die and reduce the damage done.
  • Make Artifacts, Diseases, and Curses more abstract.  These are three things that add so much to the story of your campaign, but drag it down so much with the things you have to keep track of.  A PCs sickness can quickly get forgotten under the shuffle of all the numbers you’re required to keep track of.  The concordance of Artifacts bogs down combat and sessions by making you track it.  And curses don’t get me started on curses.  If you unlock these things, they become tools for you to expand and enhance the narrative experience you give your players.  The fighter recovers from his malady just in time to save the rest of the party, the players go to an isolated tower to lift the curse on the wizard’s tome, the mysterious and unknowable powers of the ancient artifact change the fate of the party.  These are a few of the limitless possibilities you give to yourself when you make these things more that a set of rules.

So don’t let rules decide how you run your game.  You’re the one who controls your sessions.

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