Yesterday, I got this answer from Helene de Marcellus:
"See, I do fudge the dice rolls. And I will continue to do so. See, I'm running a campaign with at least 9 pcs at a time, and I have to work a lot to balance the monsters. Oftentimes, they end up being a few challenge ratings higher. The group's besting this monster, and then, on it's turn, it one-shots a pc. Or it would, if i didn't fudge the roll so the pc is merely unconscious. Call me a bad DM for not balancing the monsters right, or the traps, but sometimes I need to fudge stuff to keep the game moving. As long as the players don't see me fudging the rolls, the reality is not broken. I do NOT use fudging as a means for lazy story-telling. I use it to fix my mistakes. Sometimes, if i didn't fudge, I'd have TPCs [sic] on my hands, and that would not be good."
This is an excellent example of the level of hubris that exists as many gaming tables around the world. The depth of privilege this indicates makes it far more interesting as a deconstruction opportunity that it does for a responding rant.
Take, for instance, the self-accusation that the writer makes, suggesting that I would call her a "bad DM." That entirely misses the point. In the post above the comment, I stress how obeying the rules doesn't allow for the sort of 'solution' that's being proposed here. Obeying the rules demands innovation, improvement in oneself and in the level of the game being offered. Taking short cuts, such as the justification for fudging die rolls offered above, makes for a bad game, not a bad DM.
Pause and consider the same words above be used as by a sports referee to explain the importance of making bad calls - in order to ensure that the "game" between the opposing teams is "better" because it "keeps the game moving." Imagine this being the argument because one team is vastly more talented than the other. Imagine the ref saying, "I call penalties in order to fix my mistakes."
The key, however, is this: the DM here has convinced herself that the players don't know. She says so blatantly: "As long as the players don't see me . . ."
This is the cognitive dissonance at the bottom of the problem, because the players do know. Of course they know. Refs or umpires who think they're pulling the wool over the eyes of the players and the crowd exist - and they are absolutely the worst, because it represents a specific kind of blindness: the one that argues that they're the only people with brains.
Consciously or sub-consciously, it doesn't take long for anyone invested in the game to recognize that something is wrong - particularly when the party is fighting something huge that, somehow, doesn't seem to kill five or six characters in the party. Or that the rolls seem to 'mysteriously' favor the party. Nor does this take long. We're most of us familiar with all kinds of games long before we come to D&D. We have an intuitive understanding of how random success works. The link describes how participants were tested against the authenticity of different decks of cards, red vs. blue - and while it might be surprising to some, it took a mere 10 draws from the bad decks before participants in the study began to react physically to their use; by 40 draws, the problem was consciously understood.
No one "saw" the decks being stacked. "Seeing" wasn't necessary. The DM who thinks that the screen or any other tactic can hide fudging is suffering from self-delusion. All the players know - even if they say nothing. For those who have played the game before, the acknowledgement of the game being fudged is there as soon as the screen goes up.
And while many, many people in the game accept this, the truth is that fudging substantially reduces the value of the game. The players never "succeed" on their own. It is always with the DM's help. This undermines their general feeling of triumph . . . tainting every achievement, making the game a dull grey mess.
Get rid of the screen. Let the players see the dice, just as they would at a craps table. Accept that losing is part of the game. Don't use the dice to "fix" your monster selection for encounters. Rather, "fix" your monster selection by playing out as many TPKs as you need until you learn.
Until we understand that we're not better than our players, Our Games will never be better than we are.
If you read this post and liked the sentiment of opposing fudged die rolls, or you'd like to see me go on writing posts like this, donate $5 or some such consideration through my blog or become a Patreon supporter, giving me some small stipend a month that you won't notice affecting your bank account.