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I think it happens to the best of us. I'm not the best of us, so I get to goof a bit more often. The specific example I'm going to mention was using Dresden Files (a derivative of FATE for those who don't know) but I think this could happen to anyone.

So it's the second session of our new Dresden Files game. It's me (The GM who's DMed a few scenarios before and played a bunch with a different group, but everyone in that group knew the game) and four players, two of whom have read the books, one that's watched the show. None of them have played this before.

Middle of combat. I remind one player that he can't tag the same aspect twice in a roll, but then combat seems to be going well. The bad guys dogpile one of the players, and everyone pushes all out to stop them before they can really wreck him. Just as they drive them off, the heavily foreshadowed cavalry arrives- for the bad guys. The wizard throws up a shield, and they all run. As they're running, he decides to cast a spell to boost his senses. Several turns later, he asks if the party is being followed, and I say he can't see them. He reminds me of his super senses spell, which I had forgotten, and I say nobody is in sight. Play continues, and he continues to make good use of the supersenses spell. We have a good old time.

It's not until a few days later, looking up a completely seperate rule, I notice that it specifically says that spells end the round after they're cast unless extra power is put into them. Probably because the ability to stack spells on yourself forever would be hugely broken.

He's going to want to do that again next session. Thing is, the senses isn't really that bad- it was cool, and like I said we all had a good time. But I know this guy, and I know that he has a knack (as well as perverse enjoyment of) breaking games. If he tries that with armor or shield spells, or stat boosts to something other that Alertness, this could go badly. As a DM, how do you correct a mistake that you let slide for almost a week before noticing it?

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I'm not sure if "Act like reasonable adults" is worth submitting as an answer. –  okeefe Jul 20 '12 at 5:38
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@okeefe It is pretty much a vital part of any answer to this issue. –  doppelgreener Jul 20 '12 at 5:58

4 Answers 4

up vote 36 down vote accepted

In real world answer: Guys, I got it wrong, it should have been like this... Then just either retro-fit the deeds or just run with what happened.

In game world answer: Your character suddenly realises that something wrong happened. The whole thing should never have panned out the way it did. Something had messed with with reality. What happened? How did it happen? Maybe more importantly, why? Now, you as a GM, have just added another layer in the cake that is the game. The player will have an interesting thread to follow and build something on it.

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In the game world, for the given example you could say the wizard only thought he had super-senses. After awhile he realised he was deluding himself and all those uses of his super-senses were worthless.

Tougher to fix if you kill an enemy but you really shouldn't have able to. Possible solution say the players thought they killed the enemy but it was playing possum and ran away.

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I've done this a few times. Sometimes there's nothing you can do but say "I stuffed up. You got a freebie. You can't do that in future." If possible, add some rationalle that accounts for the inconsistancy so they don't feel their achievements are cheapened. In your case, if he had the power points to spare, he used them without stating it.

Playing Savage Worlds recently, Alphonse hacked an armed aerial drone that was hunting them. The drone had "Security" level encryption (as in belonging to a security contractor), giving -6 to hack. Alphonse succeeded and used the drone against the enemy. One round later, Aardin played a card allowing a player to ignore one enemy's immunity. We decided Alphonse could ignore the drone's hacking defences, making his capture of the drone more secure.

Hacking isn't a standard skill in Savage Worlds. I had previously come up with a rule set but had forgotten about it this session. I forgot that the hacking penalty was doubled in this situation (hacking from an external network.) Next session, I politely informed them of my mistake, and accounted for the discrepency. I decided that Aardin's card brought down the firewall in that circumstance (ignoring the fact it happened a round later) reducing the hacking penalty, and please don't expect it to be that easy in future.

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Tell your players that you realized the group was doing it wrong, and while you're not going to go back and retcon stuff (i.e. say that something else happened), going forward you're going to use the correct rules.

If they raise a stink about it, tell them you may let people continue doing it the wrong way, but if it looks like it's being abused then you're switching to the right way.

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Yes. A bit of, "We're all learning this game," can help too. And if that doesn't, "Well, I don't want to be unfair to you PCs, but if you insist… After all, enemy NPC spellcasters outnumber you and changing that rule favours the side with more casters…" –  SevenSidedDie Jul 20 '12 at 6:35
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To be honest, if they raise a stink about it then I would question why. Everyone makes mistakes, and if any of them think they could do better then let them have a go. My policy as a GM is to avoid retconning unless absolutely necessary, but I have no issue with clarifying or correcting a rule that has been played wrongly in the past. –  Phil Jul 20 '12 at 8:11
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If players create a Stink about it, it is normally because they have lost an advantage. Tell them that the NPC will start to use it that way if they are unwilling to change. That is demonstrate the problem in its full glory. –  David Allan Finch Jul 20 '12 at 8:21
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Oh and I agree with no retcon, if the players lost a battle or some resource over the mistake, let they find a twinkly thing or Beenie (hero point etc) as compensation. –  David Allan Finch Jul 20 '12 at 8:23

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