As mentioned on GnomeStew’s Facebook page, I committed an act of fudge last game. I’m not terribly proud of it, but it’s done, and has given my group a lot to talk about (and given me a lot to write about). I’ve got a few articles of material here, so this one is primarily about what happened, and why.
Without telling you all about my campaign, a few facts are pertinent.
- The party decided to “take the fight to the enemy” by creating a portal to the hometown of their most recent member, which was being searched by the Bad Guys (as described in his backstory).
- Portal mechanics are well-established; after hours of ritual, they stay open for a few seconds. They go both ways, but the magic is visible on both sides as the ritual is being conducted. (And now the party knows that…)
- The dwarven clanholds that the party portaled to/from have reinforced “airlocks” around the portal endpoints: two sets of heavy doors, with arcane wards and locks on the opposite side from the portal. If something big and nasty comes through, it shouldn’t get in to the rest of the clanhold.
The party jumped through, checked the immediate room, and had a tough time opening the door to the next room (no handles on this side of the “pull to open” door). Finally prying it open, they saw that a heapin’ helpin’ of badness awaited on the other side: dozens of skeletons, a few lesser demons, one major demon, and two Shepherds (undead priests of the Dark One).
Pictures added. They’re from an iPhone, so excuse the quality…
This was (and should have been) a tough fight. Looking at it from the Bad Guys’ side, they knew that someone had managed to escape through a portal, possibly with Something Important, and had good reason to suspect that he might return, or that he might have come back for Something Important.
The fight started well; the two casters handily dealt with all but one of the skeletons, and the party focused their fire on the major demon. The major demons are supposed to be badass, and their ability to go Berserk (+2 to Fighting, Strength, and Toughness; ignore all Wound penalties) makes them nigh invulnerable.
One of the things that sets Savage Worlds apart from most games is its highly random nature. Goblin Mook #37 can take out Immortus the Godlike with one hit, if the dice say so. And tonight, the dice (and even the initiative cards) were on the GM’s side.
So when one Shepherd summoned another major demon into the rear echelon of the party, it got ugly. When said demon one-shotted the arcanist into unconsciousness, it was all over but the crying.
The party did not give up, however. As badass as the demons were, a Shepherd took the party’s tank from uninjured to death’s door in one hit. The party finally started to focus on the Shepherds, but the dice were having no part of it. One Shepherd made three Incapacitation checks, and stayed standing.
As I watched the damage-dealers fall one after another, followed by five months of established story (and untold months of background prep), with no escape for the party, I decided that Something Must Be Done.
In a movie, the action would freeze, and my thoughts would be voiced for the audience to understand what I was thinking. Doubts began to race past… Did I overestimate the party’s abilities? Were the demon’s defenses just too much? Had I forgotten anything? For those who consider fudging as a sign of weakness, this is where I blinked.
- The major demon dropped out of berserk mode, becoming hittable again. I have no rationale for this action, and it’s the bulk of my fudging. It’s also almost certainly what saved the party’s hide.
- The Shepherds suddenly caught up on their injuries (that I had originally forgotten to give them), suffering movement and stat losses. Ironically, these penalties did little to nothing in terms of the fight.
- The minor demons popped back home as the last Shepherd fell. There’s a bit of a reason for this, but it’s not a terribly strong one.
I gave the party a fighting chance. And they’re not out of the woods just yet. Most of them are suffering from permanent injuries (reduced speed, reduced stats, etc). They are deep in hostile territory, and have been spotted by reinforcements.
As far as fudges go, this was not a major one, but it was a fudge nonetheless. And I’m not terribly proud of it.
Did I do the right thing? After fretting over it for almost a week, I still don’t know, but it’s done. I’ll have more analysis of this over the next week or so.
What about you? Do you have any dark episodes of fudging in your past? How do you feel about them? Do you regret not fudging when you had the chance? Are you up front with your fudging, or do you keep it hidden? Sound off in the comments, and let us know!