"If the goal of the game is "fun", as Frank Mentzer suggests, then wouldn't the GM be better off, say, following the preference of the majority of gamers in this regard? " - Personally I'm far more interested in the preference of the gamers at my table (who prefer me to control the game as GM rather than be relegated to the role of monster A.I. that some games are pushing nowadays) than anyone else out there in the world. I wouldn't care if 99% voted for no fudging, it's the four others at my table I care about.
We don't all play the same way, and the moment someone forgets that and tries to apply a gamestyle choice across the board problems will happen. Every table is unique, and the best thing we as GMs can do is tailor our own game to fit the needs of our table.
I play a "story trumps rules" game, and play it with similarly-minded people. I don't usually play RPGs to get into math puzzles, or into tactical game scenarios pretending to be combat, or into winning and losing, or even into games of chance. I play RPGs to get a group of people together to tell a story and to explore the ways their characters interact with the game world, to see how they think and feel, and to find out how they react to various situations.
For example, if my players face down the BBEG and are defeated, I'm happy fudging the dice and rewriting rules on the fly so they survive the encounter. Not to make them win, just to keep them alive so we can keep telling the story of how their characters cope with the aftermath of their failure. That's usually a far more interesting story than having them all killed and a replacement party gathering to try again.
Dealing with consequences is a good goal to have. Sometimes fudging the dice is the thing that allows you to tell that story of how those consequences were dealt with, rather than shrugging it off as a TPK and starting again.Matt, obviously the players at your table matter more than hypothetical players. And, as I have said repeatedly, so long as you can get even a single player, you should run the game the way you want to. Nonetheless, let's break it on down.
You play a "story trumps rules" game; I play a game in which the "reality" of the game milieu trumps the "reality" of the ruleset.
It is strongly my position that my job as GM is to supply players with context, from which the players make choices, and then I adjudicate the consequences of those choices. This adjudication, which includes both success and failure, as well as every grey shade between, creates a new context from which additional choices are made.
The players' choices do not come from a menu. Every ruleset embodies certain default choices within a framework of rules, but that does not mean that players cannot have their characters attempt anything, even if that "anything" requires an adjudication from outside the rules or modifies the rules themselves. The players are not guaranteed to succeed, and I will keep the rules in mind, but if the players come up with a reasonable means to fuel a spell with a major sacrifice, in keeping with the game context, why wouldn't I allow it? The "reality" of the game milieu trumps the "reality" of the ruleset.Now, while math puzzles, games of chance, and tactical play may occur as part of this, they are not the overall goal. The goal is to enable the players to partake in the associative game.
You bring up, not for the first time in this series, the false dilemma of choosing between fudging and a TPK. Not surprisingly, the answer is the same: this is a false dilemma.
Even the premise that even a TPK prevents you from exploring how the characters deal with their defeat in a fantasy game is a false dilemma. As Joseph Goodman points out in the Dungeon Crawl Classics core rulebook, you can always pick up the action in Hell.
And, again, you should run the game however you want, so long as you can get a single player. However, your post doesn't eliminate the pitfalls of choosing to fudge, and it doesn't demonstrate that it is a good idea.
However, there is a big difference between saying, "Yes, these drawbacks exist, but I will accept them in order to get what I want from the game" and saying "some DMs ARE good enough to avoid the negatives that are described....(Sorry you've never seen a game that good.)". One denotes an understanding of the issues involved, and a conscious choice to accept some negatives to gain what you view as a positive. The other is douchebaggery.
(I am sure that I have engaged in similar douchebaggery from time to time, so you can accept that as the word of an expert if you like.)
Allow me an analogy: Once upon a time, folks thought that it was possible to have the perfect physique. Eventually, though, it was discovered that various forms of exercise not only build muscles in certain ways, but inhibit building them in others. You can have a perfect swimmer's build, or a perfect weight-lifter's build, but you can't have both at the same time.
I am putting forth an image of the game that is analogous to the swimmer's build. You are putting forth one that is analogous to the weight-lifter's build. I am pointing out how the distribution of muscle mass is going to inhibit your swimming. You are saying that it is more important to you that you can lift heavier weights.
That's fine; it's important to know what you want. Your desire to lift heavier weights doesn't change the validity of my point about swimming, and you could make a claim that a swimmer's build inhibited weight lifting.
Frank is claiming that he has both builds at the same time. And then, when called on it, he claims that he doesn't concede swimming is a sport anyway.
So, while your post hasn't demonstrated that you need a weight-lifter build to lift the weights you discuss, neither does it suggest that you are unaware of the negatives that result. If neither you nor your players are bothered by those negatives (and my research on the topic indicated that most fudging GMs were of the opinion that their players were not bothered, but polling their players had unexpected results for the majority) then my opinion shouldn't matter.
Finally, having said this before repeatedly, let me again say: If you can get even one player, run the game you want the way you want to. If not fudging would take the joy out of the game for you, and you have even one player, then do what brings you joy....even if the player(s) would prefer you do not fudge. Ultimately, if you are not enjoying the game, there is no reason to play.
Just don't expect me to agree with you, or play in your game.