Sunday, December 16, 2012

DM Fiat Over Skill Rolls For the Win!

My Were-Troll Under the Bridge Was a Bit Taller - and My Party Avoided as Best They Could ;)

Yes, DM Fiat was definitely a big win in last night's AD&D 1e.

Now, let me explain what I mean by DM Fiat in the context of last night's game: I improvised required rolls for actions (or required no rolls for actions) such as:

Required no roll, just effective roleplay, to conduct a fairly successful interrogation of two surviving slavers

Trying to grab a flaming torch held by a magically held bugbear - as the party just had 40 gallons of oil wash down the stairs they were climbing, getting the flaming torch out of the areas was a good thing, especially as two more bugbears had just joined the fray.

Throwing a party member from a bridge into a river by a huge were-troll - not by grabbing the party member sneaking across the bridge all alone, but by grabbing the rope tied to his waist and trailing behind him (which the rest of the party had failed to hold or tie off)

Deciding on the proper saving throw for said "now in the river PC" when the party's cleric cast a Command spell and ordered the were-troll to "Dive" (as it had to take orders from it's master  I assumed it had a basic knowledge of the Common tongue) - said were-troll failed it's save and dove in the only direction it was capable off - the PC in the water. It's a damn good thing he saved.

Required no roll to successfully throw said waterlogged PC a new rope and extradite him from the river with the now floundering were-troll.

Last night had a certain energy to the session which a rules heavy system like 3 / Pathfinder would have held back if run as written IMO. I'm not saying AD&D 1e isn't rules heavy, it certainly is and has a lot of baggage I willfully ignore. It does, however, put more trust the DM to improvise in a fair and even handed manner than later editions of the game which try to have a rule / roll / throw preset for nearly every possible occasion. Are all DM's fair and even handed? Of course not.

I suspect it is easier to run a 3x or 4x game of D&D if the DM has a strong grasp of the rules than it is to run an earlier edition. Or rather, it is easier for an inexperienced DM with a strong grasp of the rules. More experienced DMs tend to allow play that is outside the predefined ruleset, but as the later editions have more defined rules to cover a much larger assortment of possible actions, the ability to go "outside the rules" is greatly decreased. If there is a rule for an action, players expect you to use it. If there isn't a rule for the action, players are usually happy with a well thought out, balanced, improvised ruling.

Last night was a good session of hopefully well thought out, fairly balanced, improvised rulings.

Alright, less DM Fiat than DM Improvisation Ruling ;)


  1. Awesome stuff. As your examples show, not only do old school games trust referees, they empower them to come up with creative solutions that can make for better gaming sessions.

    I am my group's primary referee, but time constraints necessitate that I rely a great deal upon modules written by others. For that reason, I love the trust/empowerment of old school games. It affords me a greater ability to creatively contribute to each session and, in effect, *play* the game.

    Also, because I take an active interest in improving my skills and, thereby, my games, I feel more pride in successful sessions than I think I would if we played games where I was simply moderating more defined rules.

  2. I was satisfied with the rulings. Even the one that appears to have cost us a suit of magical studded leather armor.

    Backstab me you little bastard? Yeah, me and my magic axe are gonna have a little talk with you, possibly long past your ability to listen.

    I am a trifle disturbed by just how vicious this guy can be. He might be well-served by some anger management courses.


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