Failing in RPGs - Page 2 - Myth-Weavers


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Failing in RPGs

   
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Besides, what do you do when there's a TPK? Just end the campaign?
yep that is a possibility. i would ask them to make new character (if they died), roll stability checks to see who gets to wake up again and go from there. since most heroes drop before death actually occurs the "realistic" possibilities are nearly limitless. they could wake up in a cage, or wake up nude; their armor and cloths stolen by the bandits. there is a reason why they don't die right away after going below 0 HP. use that rule to spawn a new short story.

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Isn't that terribly dull of a conclusion to any sort of story? "And then the heroes were killed by bandits. The end."
since i prefer the journey rather than the destination i don't find it dull at all. i think of it as a game over a story; if i wanted a story i would simply write a book and have it happen any way i want: they (the heroes) would die in a blaze of glory that would bring a tear to my eye and evil would cover the land. thus the way would be open for new heroes to rise from the darkness afterwards. (sounds like a nice game after a TPK, right?)

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Sure, it might be "realistic" (even though it's as realistic to have the bandits do something else that doesn't outright kill the PCs), but is it fun for the players to just drop the entire game because a bandit had a lucky crit four times in a row?
it is not realistic. never realistic; i am usually sporting pointed ears and tusks. sure the bandits could do other things but if forced to fight the PCs are going to fight to the death; it won't occur to them that the bandits would do nothing less than kill, and if that does occur they will believe the GM won't allow such to occur or that it won't occur to him.

who says you have to drop the game once dead? advance the game a few days or months; make things worse of course. and try again.

You could actually reload the game, in fact. Most likely that would be an OoC thing ("Sorry I killed you all - fancy trying again?") but it could be part of the story (death not being death again, I suppose), like some kind of D&D Sliding Doors thing. Which, actually, gives me a cool idea for a game...

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
.....(death not being death again, I suppose) ..... Which, actually, gives me a cool idea for a game...
i was once toying with the idea of dumping the PCs (who suffer TPK) onto the river of styx in hell (or was it a different plane?) and let the natural (for D&D) cycle of souls take form. giving, thus far, a D&D "realistic" end and an original adventure rolled into one...

Quotes! Quotes! Quoooooootes! Eeeeeeverywheeeeeeereeeee!~

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
That depends on the story, the situation, and the player. The player may be quite happy to go down all guns blazing, and even if it's an ignoble death, he may appreciate it - indeed, just as an outside observer might enjoy to read a novel like Game of Thrones.
And, if you have read my Concession mechanic example, you'd realize that it allows for players to do that, but it happens on their own volition, not something that is forced upon them. Those who want can go out guns blazing, and those who want to survive but still be defeated can do that.

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
The "player gets kidnapped" example sounds cool in theory but tends not to work so well in practice (I've been there).
It was a quick example, but the idea is what is important, not the theoretical execution of said idea.

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
It depends what you consider to be major, or random, and anyway it's by the by, although...

But that's just off the top of my head, and anyway, it's sort of getting off the point...
That's not random. It's a perfect example of one character showing how bad they actually are. It's unexpected, but it's not random.

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
No. I'm saying that a lot of the time, and without qualifying this in any way, I would say most of the time, threat of death on failure is realistic. Most of your examples were like that. Bandits? Players may get the opportunity just to give them their gold (which is an even lamer kind of failure - if there's one thing players fear more than dying, it's losing their stuff), but any bandit who doesn't take an opportunity to put an arrow through a target's neck first is a pretty stupid bandit.
The threat of death can be there, but it shouldn't be the primary consequence for failure. And, in failure, there are dozens upon dozens of things that can happen to prevent the character from dying. Like falling down a ravine into a river after being defeated, where the bandits don't want to pursue because it's more trouble than it's worth and "nobody could survive that fall". Of the bandits decide that they better get off with what they have (for example, they managed to loot the hypothetical carriage the PCs were traveling with in the hypothetical encounter) rather than face death. The PCs lose something that matters, but they don't die.

Plus, your example again shows the D&D way of thinking. D&D is loot focused so losing loot is a huge deal and nobody likes that because the system assumes they have a set amount of stuff with them. In a system that doesn't have so extensive of a focus on loot it can be far more interesting and meaningful. And it can be something else than loot. The bandits manage to run off with the Princess the PCs were escorting. That's a definite loss for the PCs.

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
Wolves? How can you "fail" that encounter and not die?
Lets say the characters are trekking through the wilderness towards place X, whatever it is. They have some supplies with them, and horses to carry them. There's a pack of very hungry wolves that are desperate for food. They see your horses and think they're easy prey. They attack at some point, with the objective of "acquire food". The characters retaliate by the goal of "drive off the wolves before they can accomplish their goal (acquiring food)".

The wolves win if they acquire food, which can be anything from killing the horse, raiding the supplies of the characters and so forth. The players fail in that they lose supplies, something that they require to make their trek smoothly, and must then resort to other means, something that should also be made important. If the players win they are able to drive away the wolves, killing one or two in the process likely.

Keep in mind a system-agnostic approach. Don't try to apply D&D rules to these situations, as D&D is rather poor at dealing in anything else than battles to the death.

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
Your example seemed to be driving the wolves off, but that's an alternative win condition (it's the wolves failing and not dying, not the other way around).
That distinction is meaningless. One side succeeds and the other fails. Goals are, most often, opposed to each other in a way that one party succeeding means the other fails. Exceptions exist but they're just that: exceptions.

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
Most of the others were just "you can flee" which ought to be an option most of the time, but is hardly the epitome of encounter design.
Yeah. "You can flee" is a terrible failstate too, because there's no consequence to fleeing. Which is what I've been saying. If there is a tangible consequence to retreat, like the enemy being able to do something that you don't want, then it's a lot better.

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
Which, in fact, was largely my point. I'm actually quite a fan of allowing people to "fail" in interesting ways - as part of allowing them to fail at all, and if that means death, so be it. That can be fun - as I've said countless times, it really does depend on what sort of game you're going for. However, I disagree that all encounters should necessarily be like that, or that an encounter with an imminent threat of death is somehow "less good", necessarily less imaginative, or worse encounter design than one without.
Encounters which are made to have a degree of failure should have another failstate than "you die". "You die" can, and in many cases should, be a possible failstate, but it should never be the only, or even primary, failstate. And, once more, I have not said that there shouldn't be a threat of death. See my example about Fate's Concession mechanics. Again.

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
Even a "free win" encounter may be less interesting overall than another, but that doesn't mean it's a waste of time - much of the RP and non-combat stuff that players engage in has a forgone conclusion, too - and indeed, anything where the narrative forces them to win has a foregone conclusion, even if you manage to open up a few different options for how they get there - but it can still be fun. Otherwise, why would people play anything?
I'm directly opposed to "free win" encounters that masquerade as having some sort of significance. Scenes that are there to establish something about a character, like how powerful they are or setting a scene, are fine even if they have a fairly foregone conclusion. They have a point for existing. But having encounters that are there only to either kill the players or to just grind them down without any other particular reason is just boring. It's also a thing D&D likes and encourages, which is yet another reason I'm not too fond of the system.

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
Although, if you want failures which don't result in death, death can still count - in D&D, there is resurrection magic, for example.

If you look at something like Eclipse Phase, that's pretty cool. Die, and you just "reload" (very like a PC game) from a backup. "Death" isn't really true death, which is a lot harder to come by.
I'm glad you brought this up. With Eclipse Phase, death has very little meaning so a GM is forced to come up with more stakes than just the characters' lives, because those are just so easily replaced. There's no tension in a scene where failure is dying and dying just means coming back to life again with minimal penalties.

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Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
You could actually reload the game, in fact. Most likely that would be an OoC thing ("Sorry I killed you all - fancy trying again?") but it could be part of the story (death not being death again, I suppose), like some kind of D&D Sliding Doors thing. Which, actually, gives me a cool idea for a game...
This is actually interesting. In the last D&D campaign I ran, I explicitly made this a thing. All the players were undead ala Dark Souls, and if they died they came back to life at the end of the encounter with cumulative penalties for each death. It allowed me to ramp up the difficulty of the encounters significantly. Granted, said campaign was just a series of linear encounters with an assumed victory on the PC part, so hey: pot, kettle, black.

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Originally Posted by Rena_ishtar View Post
yep that is a possibility. i would ask them to make new character (if they died), roll stability checks to see who gets to wake up again and go from there. since most heroes drop before death actually occurs the "realistic" possibilities are nearly limitless. they could wake up in a cage, or wake up nude; their armor and cloths stolen by the bandits. there is a reason why they don't die right away after going below 0 HP. use that rule to spawn a new short story.
Or, you know, I could use rules that are made specifically for these sort of situations that involve all the players, not just the GM dictating what happens and how.

And besides that point, I don't play D&D so using D&D rules as examples isn't really that helpful.

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Originally Posted by Rena_ishtar View Post
since i prefer the journey rather than the destination i don't find it dull at all. i think of it as a game over a story; if i wanted a story i would simply write a book and have it happen any way i want: they (the heroes) would die in a blaze of glory that would bring a tear to my eye and evil would cover the land. thus the way would be open for new heroes to rise from the darkness afterwards. (sounds like a nice game after a TPK, right?)
I prefer having more than just the combat parts of the game interesting with their conclusions, and that means building up a narrative and going on with that, making the "why" of encounters more interesting than the "what". When this is done, cutting an entire narrative short because all the players died is disappointing to everyone involved.

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Originally Posted by Rena_ishtar View Post
it is not realistic. never realistic; i am usually sporting pointed ears and tusks. sure the bandits could do other things but if forced to fight the PCs are going to fight to the death; it won't occur to them that the bandits would do nothing less than kill, and if that does occur they will believe the GM won't allow such to occur or that it won't occur to him.
Which is a massive failure of the system and assumptions of the players.

Rena's got a great point in that this is a game, not a novel. I think I'd pretty much agree with that.

There's a lot of ways to fail outside of combat. They could fail to protect a valued NPC, or to achive an important objective. I think this sort of thing could enhance the campaign.

The APs often include GM inspiration for what happens if the PCs fail the entire campaign (IE, get TPK'd) My favorite in in Wrath of the Righteous, where The 'failstate' at the end of Curse of the Crimson Throne was pretty good, too.

As for death not being realistic, where my group is in the game, failure would definitely, realistically include death. Probably a fate worse than death, come to think of it. It would result from a non-plot essential, careless mistake as well. Hope it doesn't actually happen but...

Goddamn that box, Cai. Who would have guessed it was filled with a Hellwasp swarm? Not my poor barbarian, that's for sure...

By the way, just to put some perspective on this, I'm glad you chimed in, my friend. I've been in your Jade Regent game for...what...a year now? More? Little less? Either way, from level one to level six, I've played the same PC and have grown to care about him and his friends very much.

Now, let's say that, tonight, the Hellwasp swarm rolls high, we roll low, and it kills my guy. Will I be sad? Sure. Will I be mad at you? No. Will I want to keep playing, whether by rolling up someone new or being assigned an NPC to take over as a PC? Of course I will. And, quite frankly, I'm not sure I could ever completely trust any DnD/tabletop player that would say otherwise. If Tkuk dies tonight, I'd ask you for the fastest way to get back into the game to keep having fun with this story. If that meant I roll up a PC at a lower level, fine. If that meant I took over an NPC who isn't even sort of optimized, because he just so happens to put most of his skill points into Craft:Basket Weaving, fine; I'll run the best basket-weaving bastard Golarion has ever seen.

All this talk in this thread makes me believe others quite vociferously disagree with me on this one. And, honestly, that worries me a little. Because, in the end, if you care more about a single character than the entire story - whether you're playing a game or writing a book - you're doing it wrong.

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Originally Posted by Raistlinmc View Post
.... you're doing it wrong.
You had me up until this. There is no such thing as "doing it wrong", provided the GM and players agree on the method of "doing it". Games where that agreement is not reached, true, tend to end rather spectacularly or ignominiously.

Back on the topic, in the big picture I think that succeed-or-die is really the ultimate crux of the game in most cases. GMs can put off the -or-die part somewhat indefinitely by establishing alternate outs for losing each encounter. However, all this is doing is giving the PCs another chance, skewing the expected result toward the "succeed" option. And that's fine, depending again on how the players and GM agree on what makes the game "fun".

I think it just goes back to the game's origins. Originally, it was a table-top wargame, but some of the miniatures were so compelling the players wanted to make up stories about why they were fighting these battles. RPGs were born.

That's not to say that RPGs can't be something else, but IMHO moving too far away from the idea of a narrative-supported wargame makes for less of a game and more of a writing exercise. I enjoy the tactics, use tokens and maps in most battles, etc. I like the game as much as the story. It's the fusion of the two that keeps me coming back for more.

I don't even find it limiting, storytelling wise. Paizo has gone a long way to show that you can tell an epic story while still rolling plenty of dice and facing a wide variety of opponents. My players and I add to them organically as the game goes on, making the story a more personal one than just reading an AP would suggest.

The way I see it, if the players are emotionally engaged with the story, the NPCs, and of course their own characters, then the game is succeeding and everybody wins.

I knew I'd lose folks by saying that, Mordae. I wrote it, deleted it, re-wrote it mulled it over...and then hit post. Why? Simply put, because in this case, I believe I'm right.

Whether you are writing a novel, a short story, a poem, a newspaper op-ed, an essay or an RPG post for Mythweavers, those same words can be applied: If you care more about one single character than the overarching story, there's a problem. I know blanket statements of right and wrong don't sit well with many RPGers on this site, but that doesn't feel like a terribly controversial statement to me. I believe you'd be hard pressed to find an author at any level - from amateur to professional and everywhere in between - who disagrees.

All right, too much of the text. I'm not going to pick up on specific points because, good grief, we'll be here all day.

One thing I've repeatedly said, though, and which connects with what Cailano has just said, is that a lot of it boils down to playstyles. If you're playing a game as some kind of wargames super-chess, then the aim is to win, and there should be a very real (if not necessarily high) chance of losing, which will often mean dying. If you want some sort of more freeform-esq narrative, where the players are more or less destined to do XYZ, then cutting "free win" encounters down to the minimum to paint the scene - or even making them diceless and just narrating them, for the most part - may make more sense. But, depending on the system, that starts to move away from that and towards freeform or something similar.

Most games are a blend of the two.

Now, a scenario where players can fail and it simply leads to an alternative "story arc" (e.g. fail to keep the NPC alive), that can be very cool. I would agree, in fact, that they tend to be more interesting. I don't, however, believe that all encounters should necessarily be like that, or that fighting for your life is somehow "bad design". Ideally, a DM would create situations which feel more dangerous and lethal than they are - you don't really want players to die too often, but they need to feel as though it's possible. And it should be possible - otherwise, yeah, we get back to this "pre-won" fight. If it's a challenge, it should be a challenge, and overcoming it should mean something.

If you want a "narrative" perspective for it, you can also consider that me mercilessly killing a PC with random bandits is establishing the setting as grim, gritty, and one in which PCs can and will die regardless of whether they think they're meant to auto-win a random encounter or not.

Point being - interesting failure options? Yes, good. Fight to the death? Not necessarily bad. If it's only fight to the death, yeah, that's a bit unoriginal - but still not necessarily bad. A mixture of the two, on the other hand, might be the best of both worlds.

As for the side discussion about character vs story... isn't the character part of the story? So I'm not sure how to reconcile that. Anyway, I disagree. Especially seeing as the player makes his/her own character, one might get quite attached to one without necessarily finding the DM's present plot hook all that interesting.







 

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