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View Full Version : The bane that is Fumble, and why do people like them?



Suzaku
05-01-2009, 04:48 PM
So I was wondering why do people like fumbles? To me it distract from the game and ruins the setting or dramatic tension.

Imagine this scenario you're perusing an evil mage who has harassed your party, killed your romantic interest or kids only to raise them as undead while sealing their soul into a gem so you can't raise them. You managed to track down the mage to his lair and after a long and arduous dungeon crawl you managed to make it to his lair. The tension in the air was so thick it could cut with a knife as the mage finishes playing the organ and turns faces the party. His undead army slowly rises as the mage begins to fly into the air and points his finger as he starts casting a spell designed to sap your strength which could make you immobile in your heavy armor. However as the mage finished the casting of the spell it blows up in his face because he rolled a 1.

A simple fumble has ruined the drama tension built up for multiple session and from that point on in the fight the mage would like a fool in the eyes of the party. If the above happened in a movie or show would you think he would be a creditable threat? Would you say if someone like Chuck Norris does a kick and fumbles resulting in kicking himself in the face?
Now imagine you create a paladin to be a shining knight whom is both chivalrous and skilled fighter. You see your friend being threatened by a mountain of a man, so you move and step in between your friend and the enemy. When you attack you managed to get swung around stabbed your friend. Next round you attack tossed your sword from your hand from an errand swing. Wouldn’t this result in your paladin going from shining knight to a bumbling idiot?

Usually when dms include fumbles I tend to feel like the end of this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmzWd0eik44&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo.google.com%2Fvideosearch%3 Fclient%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial%26channel%3Ds%26hl%3Den%26q%3D&feature=player_embedded) ;).

kirksmithicus
05-01-2009, 05:09 PM
Other than the fact that they are generally hilarious, you forgot the #1 rule. Which is, only PC's fumble. ;)

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
05-01-2009, 07:13 PM
If used correctly, it adds to the setting and dramatic tension. So put me down for a vote of benefit.

It's the DM's responsibility to see to it that the fumbles aren't ridiculous. I have fumble charts for bladed, pointed, slashing, etc, for weapons. I find when using fumble charts, for both the players and the baddies, it adds enjoyment to the game. I don't, and never cared for weapons with seemingly permanencies placed upon them. Swords and bowstrings, for example, do break from time to time, and it keeps players on their toes.

Windstar
05-01-2009, 07:37 PM
Fumbles happen in real life, even to professionals. ie I saw a video of models falling off the runway, have seen other real fumbles too. I think it is a benefit and my #1 rule is npc or pc a nat 1/20 is a fumble/crit.

Suzaku
05-01-2009, 10:08 PM
Fumbles happen in real life, even to professionals. ie I saw a video of models falling off the runway, have seen other real fumbles too. I think it is a benefit and my #1 rule is npc or pc a nat 1/20 is a fumble/crit.

They're memorable because they're rare they certainly don't happen 5% of the time. Much less so in Heroic fantasy...

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
05-01-2009, 10:14 PM
Actually, a fumble can be a simple delayed attack, unnoticed in real life due to a slight imbalance. Not all fumbles lead to disastrous results. Just an fyi.

Etarnon
05-02-2009, 12:08 AM
It's a plot twist.

It actually adds to the drama, because what was leading to protagonist victory, is not a whole hell of a lot harder.

At that point, you show your mettle:

Complain that the game / world / setting is unfair, or draw steel and press on to victory.

My PCs always carry a backup weapon, or more than one.

Any outcome that is certain is boring.

nijineko
05-02-2009, 11:46 AM
we typically apply fumbles equally across the board. i know we've been saved by a crowd of bad guys when one fumbles and gives us an unexpected opening.

when used appropriately it can certainly heighten the story. when used sparingly it can be effective for many story purposes.

Oldgamer
05-02-2009, 02:14 PM
I like the fumbles myself. I use a Fumble chart that is a separate roll on a d100. Nothing is major, mostly it's something like "Character hits ground hard enough to jar weapon loose from hand" or "Character trips in mid attack and sticks weapon in ground, to retrieve, receive an AoO from adjacent opponent", I think there's one that's similar to "Character twists ankle in attack, movement reduced to half for 10 rounds" They just kind of add a little flare that can't be used by a grouchy player that blames the DM for his misfortunes, blame the Fumble Chart instead :lol:

1958Fury
05-02-2009, 02:37 PM
They're memorable because they're rare they certainly don't happen 5% of the time. Much less so in Heroic fantasy...

This. I wouldn't mind fumbles if I was rolling a d100. But on a d20, that's a little too often. I don't believe a trained fighter would drop his sword (or cut himself, or some other humorous thing) every 20th time he swung his sword. I'm not trained at all, but I do have a sword, and I guarantee you I can swing it 20 times in a row without anything silly happening.

Grimwell
05-02-2009, 04:06 PM
Actually, a fumble can be a simple delayed attack, unnoticed in real life due to a slight imbalance. Not all fumbles lead to disastrous results. Just an fyi.

This. :D

Fumbles are an improvisational opportunity. They need not yield a disaster, but they definitely can yield unexpected results. Going back to the original setup:

His undead army slowly rises as the mage begins to fly into the air and points his finger as he starts casting a spell designed to sap your strength which could make you immobile in your heavy armor. However as the mage finished the casting of the spell... the force of the energy blasting from the tip of his finger pushes him backwards in the air as the energy sapping spell washes over you.

This puts the NPC further behind the lines than he wanted, but may be a good thing. Now he's harder to reach. Or perhaps he gets tangled up in a chandelier and has to spend a movement action to untangle himself in the next round... inconvenient but not a disaster.

Fumbles as disasters grew from the notion that a '20' is a critical hit and does awesome amounts of damage. Clearly a '1' should do awesome amounts of suck? I think not. I like to think of fumbles as those moments you see in the movies that add to the tension and excitement, but don't immediately mean someone is dead!

Suzaku
05-02-2009, 04:52 PM
This. :D

Fumbles are an improvisational opportunity. They need not yield a disaster, but they definitely can yield unexpected results. Going back to the original setup:

His undead army slowly rises as the mage begins to fly into the air and points his finger as he starts casting a spell designed to sap your strength which could make you immobile in your heavy armor. However as the mage finished the casting of the spell... the force of the energy blasting from the tip of his finger pushes him backwards in the air as the energy sapping spell washes over you.

This puts the NPC further behind the lines than he wanted, but may be a good thing. Now he's harder to reach. Or perhaps he gets tangled up in a chandelier and has to spend a movement action to untangle himself in the next round... inconvenient but not a disaster.

Fumbles as disasters grew from the notion that a '20' is a critical hit and does awesome amounts of damage. Clearly a '1' should do awesome amounts of suck? I think not. I like to think of fumbles as those moments you see in the movies that add to the tension and excitement, but don't immediately mean someone is dead!

Getting stuck in the chandelier would still make him look like an idiot and ruin the scene. I would much rather have it where the fighter simply dodges the ray, as it still keeps the dramatic tension. Also you don't see fumbles in movies as they remove the tension and excitement and are only used for comedy.

Regardless I'm not playing in a game with fumbles...

1958Fury
05-02-2009, 05:10 PM
If you already play "1 always misses, 20 always hits", then having a 1 always fumble should mean 20 always does something spectacular. (More spectacular than just some extra damage, IMO.) I expect a trained fighter to do something really cool every 20th swing or so, but I think it's a bit unbelievable for him to do something silly every 20th swing.

For the record, I don't really mind fumble charts, as long as there's some good stuff on there too. Roll a 1, and you get to roll a d100 on the fumble chart. Some of the lower outcomes suck, but some of the higher outcomes might actually still let you deal some damage. The chart for the second roll could be something like:

1 - You damage yourself greatly, maybe even lopping off a limb.
2-10 - Damage yourself in various funny ways.
11-40 - Various types of tripping/stumbling, and you lose a turn recovering. (Could mean you take a round to stand up, or maybe your sword got stuck in a tree and you have to pull it out, etc.)
41-90 - You miss with your swing, but suffer no ill effects.
91-95 - You recover your balance or whatever, don't end up fumbling at all. If your enemy's AC is low enough to where a 1 would hit them, you still hit them.
96-99 - You recover and have time to try again. You get to reroll your attack roll.
100 - You turn your stumble into a feint, surprising your enemy so that you get through his defenses. No need to roll another attack roll, just roll for damage.

Grimwell
05-03-2009, 01:01 AM
Getting stuck in the chandelier would still make him look like an idiot and ruin the scene. I would much rather have it where the fighter simply dodges the ray, as it still keeps the dramatic tension.

That was my essential point though. That a fumble allows for GM improve to say what happens in a way that works best for the game. The chandelier was just an idea for one possible 'fumble' that does not involve blowing up the fumbler's world. :D

I don't have a fumble table in my game either, but I can see how they could be a useful tool for those that do.

tesral
05-04-2009, 08:25 AM
Other than the fact that they are generally hilarious, you forgot the #1 rule. Which is, only PC's fumble. ;)

No, I would never. The universe doesn't know who is a PC. Ergo all rules are applied equally. The day I see they are not, I walk from a game.



They're memorable because they're rare they certainly don't happen 5% of the time. Much less so in Heroic fantasy...

Much, much rarer. One reason I will not use fumbles in a d20 game is the coarseness of the die rolls. Also why I want conformation on critical hits. 1/20 is too often. Back to my basic argument. Would use us a tool that had a one in twenty chance of biting you in the ass?

Fumbles might be "amusing" but amusing is not appropriate at all times.

cplmac
05-11-2009, 02:17 PM
Like I said in the chat, some people like to have them in the game and some people don't. If you want to make sure that they are not in the game, then be willing to step up and take the DMs seat. Then you can not have fumbles in your game.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
05-11-2009, 02:30 PM
I've always made it a habit to bring my critical hits and fumbles over to any new game i wasn't DM'ing. More times than not, the DM's response was no.

Conversation always goes something like this:

Me: Just look at the list.
DM: No. I know what it says.
Me: Hey everyone(else in the group), who's interested in using crit hit/failures.
DM: Eyes get wide.
Me: Look at the list before deciding.
DM: Looks at the list and comments, this isn't what i expected.
Me: I know. There is quite a bit of misunderstanding on what is actually listed on the internet.
DM: Yeah, sure, I'll use it. Can i keep this list.
Me: Sure.

This is basically how it goes every time.

Valdar
05-11-2009, 03:22 PM
Haven't used them for a while, but players still say "critical miss" when they roll a 1. I've given up on correcting them at this point.

Moritz
05-11-2009, 06:40 PM
Item Breaks, player rolls 1d6 and takes that in damage.
Item Breaks, player takes no damage.
Item Partially Breaks, future attack rolls suffer –3 damage to target.
Item stuck in environment, ˝ action to unstuck
Item stuck in environment, 0 action to un-stick
Drop Item, ˝ action to recover
Drop Item, 0 action to recover
Critical Miss, friend takes ˝ damage from attack (roll for which friend)
Critical Miss, friend struck, no damage taken, but friend’s action disrupted
Injure Self, take ˝ damage from attack
Critical Miss, other enemy takes ˝ damage from attack (roll for which)
Critical Miss, other enemy hit, no damage taken, but enemy’s action disrupted
Got something in eye, ˝ action to recover (unless able to blind fight)
Critical Miss, slip and fall on your butt, ˝ action to recover
Throw Item 180 degrees from target, ˝ (or distance) action to recover.
Throw item, item lost until able to find it /after/ battle.
Muscle Strain, -2 to AC, skill roll, or attack bonus until recovering 1 point of magical healing, or resting for 7 days.
Major Muscle Strain, -4 to AC, skill rolls, or attack bonuses until cure serious wounds cast upon subject or rest for 1 month.
Weak Spot Exposed, opponent gains +5 dmg next round.
Bad Footing, foot stuck in terrain, ˝ move to unstuck.


I really think I've posted these somewhere else. But here ya go, this is the greatness of why Critical Failures rock. I also use critical successes. If a person rolls a natural 20, there's a significant bonus to the events desired.
PS: These were numbered when I put them here, 1-20.. guess this forum doesn't like numbers.

templeorder
05-11-2009, 06:54 PM
Well, almost everything's already been said. My own personal viewpoint it, that random stuff DOES happen. However, i play games that use action points. Many game systems have them and if not, its easy to tack them on. In my own game, an action point can be used for 1) re-roll, 2) a +4 on a roll, 3) a simple success (no crit, etc). My system has a trait of Good Luck - this grants the character a single AP during a game session. I also grant them for really good playing. Players can then use these to offset moments like this. If they have none... well then, i don't feel so bad, because i provide a way to not get caught purely by chance. If they have used all theirs... then either fate IS against them or they've not used them perhaps as wise as they should have. Of course, each of my major NPC's all get 1 action point to use as well in encounters. Because i have this mechanism in play, when random events are forced to play out like that and there is nothing anyone can do, i feel ok in letting it happen. Of course i'll fudge rolls though to enhance the drama, especially because i can then do the same in the favor of the party.

Baldwin Stonewood
05-18-2009, 03:42 PM
I really like the fumble rules. It is an unexpected equalizer that adds a bit of spice and drama to combat. A sweaty, blood soaked hand tends to slip.

Moritz
05-18-2009, 05:21 PM
However, i play games that use action points.<lots of snipping>

Action Points sound familiar. I seem to remember M&M having something similar. Or maybe I'm just having some false memory (it happens). But I recall the GM giving out tokens, such as those glass pips that Magic the card game used. And if a player wanted to mess with the outcome, they would surrender a glass pip for things like reroll.

Again, could be false memories. But otherwise a decent idea.

Oldgamer
05-19-2009, 11:46 AM
They are utilized in the Eberron setting as a Core rule and a Variant to the D&D general rules.

Rook
05-21-2009, 10:22 AM
I've always used both critical hits and fumbles and believe they both add to the tension and drama. I distinctly remember the unreal elation I felt when my ranger rolled a pair of 20s and critically injured Lloth in the Demonweb Pits. It was just as much fun when my paladin rolled a 1 at the end of Tsojcanth, lodging his bastard sword in the side of the coffin and forcing him to grapple with the vampire. The instances of phenominally good and bad luck (rolls) make some of the most memorable moments in the game.