This is a continuation, of sorts, of my last post.
Let’s assume that the primary point of gaming is to have fun. You might disagree with this, but if you do… well… then what you and I do when we game are wholly different activities.
In any situation, some things can make a gaming experience more fun and some things can rob it of fun. Presumably, we generally want to do what we can to maximize the former and minimize the latter.
So… what about those situations in which a group of PCs find themselves in over their heads? I think that these situations cease being fun as soon as the players realize that their characters have no hope of accomplishing anything meaningful. Are the characters really facing certain death? Who is that fun for? The fun of such situations is facing certain death… and then surviving by luck or cleverness. (OK – some situations exist when facing certain death and dying can be fulfilling… when the death itself is meaningful and accomplishes something. I’m not talking about those situations.)
Some GMs enjoy slaughtering PCs who don’t stand a chance. Sure. That might be fun if you are an antisocial sadist. As a GM, I prefer to put PCs up against long odds and then seeing them find their way to succeed (or at least persevere) despite them. If the PCs fail, then we are all disappointed. It is a difficult balancing act, and I can’t get it right all the time… but if the PCs die meaninglessly, then a significant portion of the blame is always on me as the GM.