Inspired by a pointer to an ENWorld discussion
here, and also a recent thread here
--what is it that people mean by Fiat? I'm not a big fan of the term myself. I've used it in the (distant) past, but now I think I see implications that wouldn't have occurred to me.
Possibilities (probably not exhaustive):
--Fudging or overruling dicerolls when they produce an unwanted effect
--Overruling rules when they yield a nonsensical effect
--Making on the spot rulings to bridge holes in the rules (like, how long does it take to get across the lake in a rowboat, assuming that matters)
--Making on the spot rulings to bridge holes in preparation (like, is there a doctor in town?)
--Judging whether a particular rule applies to a given situation
--Judging which factors apply to a given situation
And does it matter what the GM's motive or criterion is for doing any of these things? E.g., is it "GM Fiat" to rule that a struggle for possession of a gun will be governed by a straight comparison of two characters' Strength? Or is it only "Fiat" if the GM would choose Dexterity if it led to what was, in the GM's judgment, a more satisfying direction for play?
Does it matter if the GM's ruling has only a partial effect on whatever the player/group cares about? E.g., the GM states that characters who fall off a cliffside during a fight will die, automatically. But players can still influence whether their characters die--by avoiding falling offf the cliff.
Does it matter if the GM's ruling comes before or after the execution of a resolution mechanic? I.e., in the previous example, is it Fiat if the first time a character falls off the cliff, the GM goes "He's dead, dude", when the players hadn't been told explicitly that it was a 1000 foot drop, with no handholds, onto sharp rocks?
Obviously I'd like to hear what people think, but my feeling at the moment is that "GM Fiat" is one of those terms whose flexibility of meaning hinders communication rather than easing it. In my opinion it'd be far better for people to be explicit in their discussion of a variety of game mechanics and gaming styles instead of classing them all under "GM Fiat".