|Jiggy RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32|
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I'd actually say that the above is the default, and that players who want it differently would have to negotiate to change that.
I'm gonna type my way through a train of thought that I haven't figured out the end of yet:
The norm for games in general is that "the default" is whatever is written in that game's rules. Deviations are houserules, and can't be assumed to of anyone who hasn't agreed to them. When you say "Let's play game X", by definition you're agreeing to go by the printed rules of that game.
So, what rules are printed for Pathfinder?
Well, one rule that's printed for Pathfinder is how saves work: roll a d20, add a specific modifier, and the result has to equal or exceed the DC in order to save.
So if that's what's printed, then that's "the default", right?
Now lemme dig out a quote that I don't remember very clearly... ah, here it is:
Most Game Masters have a number of “house rules” that they use in their games. The Game Master and players should always discuss any rules changes to make sure that everyone understands how the game will be played.
So here we have a printed acknowledgement of the possibility of houserules, with a printed expectation that any such houserules are discussed in advance.
So, "the default" for Pathfinder is that the rules are followed as printed except in such ways as the group discusses in advance. Since this is "the default", then this is what is reasonable to assume a player will be expecting.
Therefore, that whole "the GM is entitled to do whatever" sentiment that you said was "the default" is, well, not. That is, unless the GM discusses that notion with the group in advance.
So, a reasonable expectation is that a player comes to your game with the knowledge that you might have some houserules, and also that anything not discussed will be assumed to be done "by the book".
So if we're talking about "the default", the GM has a social responsibility to openly discuss his/her desire to run a game in which he or she can alter/fudge the game's mechanics. If you fail to mention it, players have a right to be surprised and upset when they later find out, because it wasn't reasonable to assume they'd be expecting that.