This post was inspired by this thread; the question is very simple: should you abide by the rolled results or should you fudge the dice? Tricky question, and one which easily escalates in a bitter war between supporters of different playing styles.
In my opinion, a rolled die should never be fudged. It’s not just a matter of OSR: it’s a matter of fairness and freedom of choice. Dice are a sort of earthly agents of chance, and chance, that great (and much reviled) equalizer, is the foundation of the contract between DM and players. You need reciprocal trust, of course, and honesty and the desire to have fun together, but chance is what makes people on both sides of the screen equal. Even if the players have just their characters and the DM the rest of the world, a d20 unsurprisingly has the same number of sides for everyone, and the same odds to roll 1 or 20.
There is, of course, the matter of helping an unlucky player whose character is about to die, and I know this is one of the main reasons for fudging the dice (that, and saving the time required for creating a new character), but a good DM knows how to be lenient without fudging, if leniency be the appropriate solution (it could sound a bit ruthless, but I have my doubts about this: maybe the unlucky player should just have a good laugh and get ready to roll a new set of characteristics. After all, freedom of choice is also freedom to make “wrong” decisions).
Am I too strict? Insensitive? I hope not. I grieve with my players when one of their characters meets an untimely death, and rejoice with them when their adventurers triumph against all odds. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I could have saved the deceased character by fudging the dice, or if the triumph had been marred by my “benign” intervention.
And now, gentle readers, I take my leave. Let me thank you for visiting my blog, and please feel free to confute my opinion (or agree with it, if you prefer).