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

On 2017-06-19, rabalias wrote:

I think you’re talking about two separate things.

First, failure in the immediate moment which forces you to come up with an interesting alternative (or leads to adversity). That’s the “Elric can’t get it up” situation. I think that’s pretty easy, actually: you describe it above as “your roll is your best shot” (which means now you have to try something else) and also, in PBTA, you design it as “you fail, something interesting happens” (which covers the times Elric fails and is dragged off somewhere or whatever).

The question in that case is: how can we ensure that failure happens in a situation where it will be interesting instead of just randomly cropping up and potentially being really dull? Michael Moorcock has the advantage of being able to think out the alternatives and choose something cool. So do you! Just as long as the dice aren’t set up to make things a binary choice. Like, I dunno, Psi*Run, you need a system that gives you randomness that you can then make choices with, or maybe just make it diceless.

The second situation is the thing with the boat, which is just entirely different. That’s immediate success that later turns out to have been failure. Seems like you could put the failure to one side and unleash it at a future date. You failed your “design boat” roll, but I don’t want you not to go to sea, so instead of making my move straight away, I write “your boat will fall apart the moment the water gets choppy” on an index card, and place it face down with an evil grin on my face. Or perhaps I just inform the players that’s what’s happened, but tell them their characters don’t know. This requires me to have some foresight and the players to be willing to go forward despite knowing something bad will happen when they do, but that doesn’t seem all that difficult.


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