thread: 2017-06-07 : Failure in RPGs (by Paganini)

On 2017-06-08, Paganini wrote:

This is a great thread! I will try to participate by not babbling in an unknown tongue, although I am low on sleep and high on flight time.

What started me thinking about this in the first place is that I was reading Moorcock - Elric on the Seas of Fate, or something like that - and Elric is on a ship in some alternate plane being chased by one of his ancestors on like this giant magic powered barge thing. Elric tries to summon up Arioch for help and he can’t do it. His magic doesn’t work well on this plane. So he fails, and exhausts himself. When I read that I thought “now wait a minute, what was the point of that? I just read a page and a half of Elric howling and dancing and freaking out his companions, and the situation hasn’t changed.”

Now an idea is taking vague and hazy shape in my mind. If I imagine “what would have happened if Arioch had shown up?” and rewrite the rest of the story, then that scene is substantially different. So, the whiff doesn’t actually do nothing. It Closed a Door. It… narrows the situational focus I guess. So that when the conflict eventually does resolve and Elric actually has to make a thematic decision, those circumstances are different than they would have been if Arioch had shown up.

And on the other hand, if Elric just hadn’t tried at all, then maybe the readers would be going “well, hey, why doesn’t Elric just have Arioch come and dispatch this turkey?”

I think with the Ra Expeditions there’s also an emergent element that would be cool to capture. We make our ship-building roll, and we think it’s a success. We sail on some calm waters and everything is fine. It’s only later when we face tougher adversity that we discover the flaw.

This makes me think of danger dice in Danger Patrol, and rollover bonus dice in Sorcerer.


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