Content of the article: "Confession: I lie about damage rolls (and other things) constantly. It works out great, and my players love it. And you should, too!"
D&D is swingy. Encounters are often unbalanced and unpredictable. You see a lot of experienced DMs on here worried about how that volatility often interrupts a DMs best-laid plans for an exciting, dramatic campaign by killing off level one characters and delivering a bookshelf of "unbalanced adventures." Here's what I do about this "problem."
Lie. And lie in real time!
As a DM with a little experience, I'd like to think I can tell when my players would not be served, for example, by killing their players during the first session of a long, story-driven campaign. And so I don't kill them, even if the dice tell me to!
It looks a little something like this:
Me: "The bugbear swings his morningstar downward <...rolls a hit...> onto your shoulder, dealing…
Player, with 11 hitpoints: "Oh no…"
Me, lying: "10 damage! Brutal, he drives in close to the bone, and yet you're still standing. But just barely, and he's rearing for more…"
That player doesn't report feeling unchallenged — hell, he's damn near close to death. Instead, the story rolls on, they think of it as a close scrape, and no one dies during the first session of Lost Mines of Phandelver. And this goes in the other direction! If I think they're breezing through their final fight for the session, I'll straight up knock it in the other direction, ratcheting up the damage during the boss fight and adding HP if I think the players need to keep cranking.
This may seem like cheating the system, but even D&D's own game designers and most famous DMs advocate this kind of fudging when it serves the story — check out this Sly Flourish interview with Mike Mearls, starting after about 22 minutes in. I'm not saying you should make the dragon's breath weapon deal 6 damage just because you can't bear to kill a character, but there's no need to wipe your party because your goblin ambushers get a few good rolls in!
Get good enough at managing dramatic tension over the course of a campaign, and "This part of XYZ pre-published adventure is unbalanced" becomes mostly irrelevant, because you can rebalance the adventure live… with your sweet, sweet lies!
tl;dr: Don't be afraid to fudge things like damage, for better or worse. If it serves the game, it's a good call, and your players don't know either way. Re-balance on the fly!
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