Tonight was a good night. The party finished the fight with Irontooth. They won by a hair--Scourge, the warlock, gambled his last action point on an extra attack rather than getting the heck away, and eldritch blasted the goblin down to exactly 0 hit points before the four unconscious members of the party started failing their third death saves.
And then the whole party cheered.
First time that's ever happened in a game I ran. But their lives were on the line, in a way that isn't usual in my games. They were smart--they have the tank wall plus snipers strategy pretty much down now, are learning their powers and how to use them to help each other, and and made some really rather inspired use of readied and delayed actions. And they were lucky--Stonefist, the dwarven fighter, rolled three 20s on his death saves, allowing him to keep Irontooth at bay just long enough to deal sufficient damage.
"We should have all encounters be like that," his player said.
Their one casualty was Liam, the elven ranger, who has now been replaced with a doppelganger wizard who has convinced the party that he actually is Liam, that he was only pretending to be dead. And a ranger. I have to wonder just how intentional that was; Liam died because he charged Irontooth, without backup, and was a striker, and the player had a back-up character on hand and ready to go.
It's actually good, because now that player has a weirdness schtick that doesn't annoy the rest of the party like going off into the woods and shooting at things did. And the party is now at the platonic six-person configuration of one of each role, plus an extra defender and an extra striker.
The best part of it all is: no fudging. I was tempted. Oh, how I was tempted. Not to fudge the rolls, because I'm doing them in the open, partially to remove that option. (I have been known to misinterpret the dice, taking advantage of player inattention, but not this game.) But I seriously considered knocking a few hitpoints off the dragonshields, or to "forget" Irontooth's regeneration.
But I didn't. No fudging. They could have run, but they decided they could take it, or were willing to risk it. All on their own terms.
The defeated Irontooth. And they earned it.