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View Full Version : Ask a GM [08/12/08]: Making Failure Cool



Farcaster
08-13-2008, 12:03 AM
BruceSheffer asks,

On the sons of kryos podcast a guest said, 'When you succeed on a roll, something cool should happen. When you fail a roll, something cool should happen!"

How do you make failure a cool thing to happen for the players?

gdmcbride
08-13-2008, 12:04 AM
This is a great question.

First of all it addresses one of the great problems with many roleplaying campaigns -- the idea that the PCs never really lose. D&D (both 3.x and 4th edition) has lead the way in this design decision to embrace the slow, inevitable advancement as our heroes win time and time again never suffering significant setback, slowly accumulating more wealth, more experience, more magic items. If they do suffer a setback (like one of them dies), don't worry -- spend a little money -- poof! All is well.

Imagine if you read a novel or watched a movie where this was true. Imagine if James Bond never got captured by madmen or betrayed by hotties. What if Frodo never had to flee from the Ringwraiths and always managed to resist the influence of the One Ring? Stormbringer finally defeats and consumes Elric. Conan is crucified and rips the head off a vulture picking at his wounds. Heroes need defeat, they need tragedy to really be heroes.

Failure is the hero's chance to shine. Everyone can be great in triumph. It is the mark of heroes to be great in defeat. Without failure, victory becomes assumed, predictable. Soon enough it just becomes a slow, grind of gaining levels and one meaningless victory after another.

Don't get me wrong -- heroes need victory too. James Bond eventually blows up the enemy base. The One Ring gets cast into the Fire. Elric defeats Yrkoon with the black blade's help. Conan claims the throne of Aquilonia, greatest of the kingdoms of the dreaming west.

But their triumphs are only meaningful because they suffered hardships along the way. So, when they fail that roll -- its time to shoulder a little hardship. Betrayal, death of loved ones, captured by your direst enemy, fleeing with barely your life, perhaps merely gaining a scar -- they all have their place. True heroes endure for true heroes never give up.

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what."
-- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Gary

Grimwell
08-13-2008, 12:04 AM
Making failure "cool" is a great way to introduce a lot of fun, excitement, and wonder into your game. If you think about your favorite action movies
some of the best moments are scenes when things don't go entirely right, but the heroes make do and thrive despite the challenge.


I'm just as guilty as the next GM in that I've had more than my share of failures met with responses like "You drop your sword at your feet." "Your weapon jams." or "You trip and fall flat on your face!"

Those are easy answers that make sense and allow you to quickly adjudicate a situation and move on to the next active player; but they are not overly heroic or exciting for anyone involved. We all give those responses because they are easy, and fit the situation. How do you make it cool instead?

"Rothlgar swings his sword in a wide arc over his head, bringing it down hard toward the drow's shoulder plating; just before the satisfying crunch of metal, bone, and ripping flesh can be heard, the drow snaps his sword up in his defense and locks hilts. He then twists his wrists and shifts his feet to pull Rothlgar close and spits a curse into his face."

"You spray half a clip of rounds from your AK-47 at the guards in the barracks with a howl of glee. Luckily for the guards none of your bullets find their mark; their faces slowly begin to shift from a look of shock to... laughter at something above you? Looking up you see the bottom of a shelf of supplies, riddled with bullets that must have ricocheted from your shots at the guards. The skid is starting to spill fuel down around you. One of the guards pulls a lighter out and says "Flick my bic?" with sardonic glee..."

"Gwindle gets a running start and then begins to bound back and forth between the trunks of the two trees climbing fast with her acrobatic skills. About seven feet up her foot lodges itself nicely into a squirrel hole and sticks. The elf now has an upside down view of the forest, and a throbbing ankle!"

While those aren't great "off the cuff" answers, they do have a bit more pizazz in them than the default answers for failure, and will spark the imaginations of your players. How does Gwindle get out of that tree? Does one of the players shoot the lighter out of the guards hands to prevent him from burning them? Will Rothlgar attempt to bite the nose off of his enemy now that they are face to face? That's up to the player to decide.

I think the easy key to making failure cool is to focus on changing the environment with it, and not to the instant advantage of the player. That keeps it firmly in the realms of "failure" but does not overly punish the person for one bad roll; and does not give them success.

By making changes to the environment, you keep the combat arena dynamic, and give people new opportunities to manipulate the battle field. Perhaps in the second setup, the next player responds by grabbing the guard with the lighter and pulling him under the spilling fuel?

The real challenge is that you can't plan for failure ahead of time. Well, I suppose you can, but if you plot every setup for every contingency, you are going to spend a lot of time in the process that could be spent on long term story, player goal fulfillment, being with your spouse, etc. :)

Instead, use failure as an opportunity to wing it and you will find yourself getting better and better at it over time. You'll know this because your most devious friends at the gaming table will start rooting for failure just to see what happens. Remember that the "bad guys" can fail too, and you can be just as dynamic with them if possible.

Also remember that it's still OK to just say "You drop your weapon!" from time to time. Especially when you don't feel the mojo and have no idea how to twist it. If you don't, then every failure will force you to create a new distraction -- which isn't always a good thing; and your players won't be as surprised by it.

cplmac
08-13-2008, 12:04 AM
When I first started playing AD&D 2E, whenever somebody rolled a 1 on their attack roll, it was always explained that they dropped the weapon that they were using. Now to a bunch of new players, that might be a good enough explanation, but as the group progresses, it gets a little hard to believe that a higher level character is going to drop their weapon, especially if they have a rather high strength ability.

As for how to make failure "cool", the posibilities are really endless. Let's say that the fighter is in a heated sword battle. On his turn the misfortune of rolling a 1 (or whatever the worst possible outcome is for the system that you are using) on his attack roll. You tell the player that in the heated battle that has been going on, the ground has been getting scuffed from the feet of the combatants and now there is loose items likes stones, sticks, clods of dirt and such laying around. Unfortunately for your fighter, he/she has stepped on a rather large loose stone that has caused you to slip and fall on your butt (or other descriptive word that would be appropriate with the group that is playing).

Now, you have just put the ball in the player's court, to see what their response is as to what they do when the opponent tries to take advantage of the situation. If you are lucky, the player will do more than just try to roll out of the way of the oncoming sword. I had one player say that they swing a leg around to try and trip the opponent. Another one took a hand full of dirt and threw it at the opponents face.

Now just take what the current situation is and be creative as opposed to just saying, you missed, you dropped your weapon, or your weapon broke, all of the time. If someone is picking up an item off of a table, they could misjudge the distance and accidently knock it off of the table and it breaks (so much for that crystal ball). There are just a few examples, but to give every example possible would take up way to much space. We don't want to make Farcaster have to launch P&PG II.

Zeneak
08-13-2008, 02:00 AM
when things are difficult i often try to elaborate some sort of impact if the failure was below five. when a critical slip comes about i ask for a second roll of a d20. with it 1-5 nothing but failure happens 6-10 is a mediocre failure 11-15 is a rather bad failure, and last but most interesting is 16-20 which is a critical slip as much as it can go.

Ramzei
08-13-2008, 12:04 PM
To expand slightly on this topic, failure doesn't have to be in combat. Often times, parties will plan something out to a "T". It makes the game very interesting when planning that took an entire session is null at the offset.
We had a plan to pull off an assassination for the thieves guild. The distance was far, so we decided to shift to the astral and then shift to where we needed to go on our prime. We had a rock-solid plan, or so we thought. Upon shifting to the astral we were enveloped by a color pool. It happened to be a one way ticket to the Abyss! Not only did we have to find a way out, we had to figure out how to smooth things over with the thieves.
We learned quickly with this GM that a good plan was usually better than a "perfect" one. Simply put, we would have been satisfied pulling it off. However, the failure was more fun.

chosenderrick
08-13-2008, 03:04 PM
I think the DM/GM should be as descriptive as possible even when failing checks or saves. For example, in my campaign recently, a group was trying to pilot a ship when the main pilot was shot in the back. The pilot had to make a fortitude check to remain concious because of the massive damage that he sustained. Well needless to say, he failed the check. So I described the pilot to the other players as being drapped over the flight controls after being shot in the back. The other players assumed that he was dead! One of the players who also had ranks in pilot threw the "limp" body out of the drivers seat. (not bothering to check whether or not the guy was actually dead) cool? Wait it gets better!...lol

Well the guy had ranks in pilot, but kept rolling 1's on the pilot check. Sounds like failure to me.....and after rolling three consecutive 1's, he lost total control of the ship and to make a long story short, the ship crashed into a docking bay killin 100's of people.

I think that's a cool way to describe failure in the dice rolls. By the way, the players were sorry the people died, but thought the action and drama was amazing.

nijineko
08-13-2008, 08:12 PM
i'm very fond of the idea of descriptive failures. i've had players take it and run, turning it into an advantage somehow in the next few rounds. not only does it make for awesome plot and story, the players really get the feeling of having wrestled with fate... and won! whenever i get stuck for ideas, i just pull out the old rolemaster crit charts. not only are they great for some laughs, but they have lots of ideas for how people succeed and fail. (they had crit charts for blowing an enemy away with an awesome move, and for failing abysmally.



personal favorite: "you trip over the body of a deceased invisible non-existant turtle and fall prone. you are stunned 'x+2' rounds, you're opponents and allies are helpless laughing for 'x' rounds. reroll initiative."


(or something pretty close to that. ^^) in the above situation, the laughter makes for a perfect opportunity for change-up from combat to diplomacy. makes it a little harder to just "kill-the-bad-guys" if they honorably wait until you are recovered before resuming hostilities. if combat is unavoidable, perhaps this could turn into a negotiated one-vs-one with conditions for the winner and loser spelled out.

since i'm in the habit of spicing up combat with descriptives, and encouraging players to do the same, it makes it easier to stick with non-standard results to critical failures and successes. practice makes perfect!

Webhead
08-14-2008, 04:11 PM
This is a very good topic and one that typically gets little special attention by players and GMs. Heroes need failure, as gdmcbride mentions, because without failure, victory is meaningless. If you already know you're going to succeed, why even bother in the first place?

The real trick to using failure in your games is to keep it present but also that failure should not be the "end" of a story, but rather the impetus for another, interesting and challenging part of that story. It should be clear that failing will make things worse for the players, but not that a single failure will ruin the whole campaign.

The "bottomless pit" is a great example. The setup seems pretty straightforward: the PCs have to cross the pit and either they succeed and the story continues, or they fail and the story ends. But that's actually pretty boring and more than a bit trivial. This tends to lend itself to a few resolutions, none of which are appealing in the long-term:

1) The GM might decide to make the difficulty of crossing the pit really easy, thus limiting the likelihood of PCs failing and falling to their deaths. This defeats the purpose of the pit. If the pit is so easy to cross, then it really provides no sense of danger in the first place and the whole scenario is futile. The pit may as well not even exist as it was never really a meaningful obstacle to begin with. The PCs will cross and promptly forget about the pit because it was in no way memorable.

2) The GM might decide to be lenient and allow PCs who fail when crossing the pit additional chances to overcome it. They slip and fall and the GM allows them to make a check to catch themselves, or another PC catches them by the hand and drags them back up, or they only stumble a little but don't completely lose their footing. These are much more common occurances and really serve as a sort of "saftey net" when the GM sees that something bad is about to happen. "Whoops, I didn't expect him to fail that roll and fall to his death...I'll let him roll that again/I'll fudge the results a bit". This is not a great solution because its use tends to ruin the suspension of disbelief and kills some of the sense of risk. Often times, players will react to this thinking, "the GM wouldn't let my character die, so even if I fail, I'm probably safe". This is not good for your game.

3) The GM will decide it's just best to "play it by the numbers" and not risk ruining the suspesion of disbelief. If the roll fails, the PC falls into the pit...wham, bam, the end. Congratulations! Roll up a new character. This method maintains the greatest sense of risk, but it is also really demanding on your game and your players...and it's not a whole lot of fun (for player or GM).

The trick to really making the best of your adventures and encounters is that while success should obviously be exciting, failure should also be as well and should create new and more dangerous challenges.

So, if you have a "bottomless pit" scenario in your game, how do you make failure exciting? As an example, instead of failure meaning a PC falls into the pit and dies, perhaps when the PC slips and falls and thinks all is lost as he disappears into the depths, he suddenly falls into a big pile of sandy earth at the bottom (and probably is a little worse for wear from the sudden stop). Lighting a torch, rubbing his head and looking around, he sees a bunch of skeletal remains at the bottom of this pit and a large tunnel dug into the wall near him. Inspecting further, he learns that this tunnel was carved by some kind of large insects and guess what...they're still home and view the PC as an intruder/meal. Perhaps another end of the tunnel emerges into a nearby room above where the other PCs (who didn't fall) are and they can try to come to his rescue.

As you see, in this scenario, if the players succeed, the story continues as usual, but if the players fail, it's not over...it's just the beginning of a new, unexpected challenge.

Failure should complicate the PCs lives, not bring an abrupt, random, pointless end to them. Every failure should leave your players thinking, "Uh oh! How are we going to get out of this one?" That's when failure is cool, because that's when the PCs can really test their mettle.

At the same time, be sure to keep failure alive in the minds of your players and keep them feeling as if they are in danger. If there is no sense of danger and no risk of losing things to failure, then there is no value to success.

nijineko
08-14-2008, 09:36 PM
one of my favorite resolutions to the "bottomless pit" (pardon me if i take you somewhat literally) involves figuring out how such an "impossibility" could physically exist. i usually place a teleporter of some type down below the bridge with the exit portal focused well above the bridge. this creates an effectively bottomless pit, and makes for an interesting time trying to catch or other wise stop the person from falling. another fun variation is to play with gravity in a tube or cylinder of some type.

one variation i introduce is to have the teleportation effect be imperfect, dealing 1d6 pattern distortion damage each time they pass through the effect. this introduces a countdown effect that heightens tension nicely.

at higher levels i will also introduce gale force+ winds to exceed the normal 20d6 cap on falling velocity. that'll discourage any "i'm tough enough to take 20d6 attempts to splat on the bridge." alternately the bridge can break from the impact, especially if it's a beefy fighter-type. ^^

the party when first crossing the bridge will wonder at the winds, and probably think that they are to knock people off the bridge. i will obligingly have the winds thrust across the bridge causing a save versus bull rush attack. once someone does fall, if they fall, now they have to try to dodge those gusts bull-rushing them into the side of the bridge!! plant a dimensional anchor under (or inside) the apex of the bridge whose radius just misses the teleporter down below and the exit portal up above to handle any extraneous attempts to teleport... the winds will make flying very difficult... loads of fun. the anchor inside the bridge option makes it so that you have to break the bridge to cancel the dimensional anchor... perfect job for the barbarian or extraneous hireling or halfling or gnome.

and if the party is really high level, i might toss in a few incorporeal beings or up the pattern disassociation damage to make things more fun. but really, making the players sweat while they take a tiny 1d6 every unit of time until they figure out a way to defeat the challenge is much better than just clobbering them with lots of damage. ^^ more elegant.

for the cruel and unusual dm's, just slip in a cd of a clock ticking or the theme song to a certain well-known game show. ;D or you can use an egg timer to time when they take damage. watch them jump every time it dings.

TAROT
08-18-2008, 01:35 AM
Going back to the original quote, I think that the most important thing that you can take from the statement, is that unless something cool is about to happen, you shouldn't be using dice at all. They interrupt the flow of the game, so the result of their use -- either way -- should be something that is worth the effort.

Webhead
08-18-2008, 10:27 AM
one of my favorite resolutions to the "bottomless pit" (pardon me if i take you somewhat literally) involves figuring out how such an "impossibility" could physically exist...

I was really just using the "bottomless pit" as an analogy for any "save or die" situation. Basically any scenario in which results are either: 1) succeed on the dice and the game continues or 2) fail on the dice and the game stops.

But your ideas are very interesting and I will probably have to steal them for use at some point. :D

MythGnomer
08-19-2008, 10:08 AM
I have a couple of tools I use for failures that I have drawn from fiction writing.

The first is the use of the "and/but" extension. If a character fails, you can let it be just that: "You fail." To make things more interesting, you can transform this by adding "and" or "but." As in: "You fail, and..." or "You fail, but..."

Using "and" piles on more trouble. "You fail to pick the lock, AND you've managed to snap off one of your tools in the keyhole." Using "but" mitigates the failure somewhat. "You fail to pick the lock, BUT you notice the mechanism is loose and could possibly be pried open."

Using this technique naturally introduces complications and developments to help the story along. This can also be applied to success as well ("You succeed, but..." or "You succeed, and...").

Another device I use is to give the player/character a choice of negative outcomes when a failure occurs. "The lock you are trying to pick is jamming up. You can try to force it and risk breaking your tools, or you can continue attempting to finesse it, but you'll leave markings that will make it obvious that the lock has been tampered with."

These tricks go a long way toward making the game more interesting for me and my players.

Chi
08-20-2008, 11:04 PM
What how does failure become good?

nijineko
08-22-2008, 12:04 AM
well, in games, people blow rolls sometimes, and the character fails. the discussion is that these are not just average joes, these are heroes! so failure, when it happens, should be just as cool as a success. this mutes the fact that they failed, and gets them thinking cinematically.

example: what do i do when i blow a dex check and fall down? typically, i get back up. what does a hero do? they spin-kick the feet out from under a villain or minion!

that kinda thing. we don't mean that you should inflict failures upon the heroes... although there are suitably dramatic points where it fits the plot to do so now and again... more along the line of how to make it really cool when it does happen. ^^

Webhead
08-22-2008, 11:14 AM
It's just the idea that failure should keep the game exciting the same way that success does. The same way the players cheer when they succeed, they should also be filled with suspense and uncertainty when they fail.

Ghoulsick
08-23-2008, 09:16 PM
We are playing a game here. The goal is to win and beat something or someone. When something fouls up it should make a situation not only dangerous but funny.
When there is a faliur in my campaigns I tend to put it in a slap stick form of delivery " OOOH GREAT, Sparticus turned to fight the next foe but hit his partner square in the jaw with the blunt end of his spear. He goes flying to the ground in a ruined hump unconscious. All action in the room stops as everybody sniggers and look at each other. Then the chaos resumes"
Have fun gaming.

MortonStromgal
08-27-2008, 02:40 PM
When I think of cool failures I always think of Conan the Barbarian when the bad guy hits the pillar and part of it lands on him.

spotlight
08-27-2008, 04:39 PM
The really cool part is teaching your players to describe their actions more, better, elloquently, exactingly, with feeling, boastfully, with adverbs, with adjectives, ect. The higher thier describtions, the better the GM's responces, the more intence the game. I learned how to do this in a campaigne where the GM gave special XP to whomever "brought something new to the character" each session. It made even role-plying a competion of sorts.

CelestialBarbarian
08-31-2008, 09:05 PM
cplmac read the following excerpt from my campaign invitation thread and suggested I post it here:


Later Yamirus scryed on his uncle Marius, who had raised Yamirus after what Yamirus thought was the death of both of his parents. Finding Marius in his crystal ball, Yamirus had the party teleport to rescue Marius from what turned out to be a Castorian slave labor camp in the middle of the Wemic Savanna. Marius confessed later that Yamirus' mother is still alive--sold into slavery by the Castorians and now trapped in the Labyrinth on the island of Minos. The Minotaur, they have discovered, is a bastard child of Zeus, stripped of his divine rank and imprisoned in the Labyrinth as punishment for his crimes as king a millennium ago. Marius told them that it's a trap the Castorians laid for him years ago: anyone scrying on Yamirus’ mother gets teleported into the Labyrinth. The magic works like a maze spell, so Marius was able to escape back to the location from which he'd been scrying.

Yamirus went to the Royal Library in Maralig (the capital of Maradenne), to which one of his contacts, the Volencian wizard Benedictus Clementius, in town had gotten him access, and did some research on the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, which is located toward the south end of the Graikoí island chain. So Yamirus and the party hired Lindir, an expert treasure-hunter, to help them with the tricks and traps they anticipate in the Labyrinth, and they all held hands while Yamirus scryed on his mother. To their surprise, only Yamirus teleported to the Labyrinth and his crystal ball remained behind with the party! Yamirus found himself chased around the Labyrinth by some minotaurs—both dead and alive—until he made his Intelligence check and returned to his point of scrying.

Oops! ;)

cplmac
08-31-2008, 09:37 PM
Nothing like having a plan and it blows up in your face. Would have been neet to see the look on the rest of the players faces when they were told that they are all still standing there and Yarimus is gone. Of course, then there is the player of Yarimus when he is told that he's the only one at the Labyrinth. Running around trying to find the way out and not get killed in the process.

CelestialBarbarian
08-31-2008, 09:54 PM
Nothing like having a plan and it blows up in your face. Would have been neet to see the look on the rest of the players faces when they were told that they are all still standing there and Yarimus is gone. Of course, then there is the player of Yarimus when he is told that he's the only one at the Labyrinth. Running around trying to find the way out and not get killed in the process.

Caerwyn's player is pretty quiet and as I recall he said, "Um... ." I think Yamirus' player swore. He wasn't really alone, however as he had living and dead minotaurs for company! :D

cplmac
08-31-2008, 10:03 PM
Caerwyn's player is pretty quiet and as I recall he said, "Um... ." I think Yamirus' player swore. He wasn't really alone, however as he had living and dead minotaurs for company! :D


OK, running around trying to find the exit while saying, "Oh shit!" Did he say it before or after the minotaur welcoming committee?

CelestialBarbarian
09-01-2008, 10:52 AM
OK, running around trying to find the exit while saying, "Oh shit!" Did he say it before or after the minotaur welcoming committee?

Actually, as I recall, it was ... both! :lol: I just emailed them both to see if they can recall their responses.

I'm not sure it's in the campaign teaser, but when they fought the wear crocs, it turned out that Caerwyn's mentor had been turned into one too. When they went to his farm, he was sitting in a tree shooting other werecrocs who didn't want to follow his rulership. He was in half-elven form, and the party didn't realize he was a werecroc too. Later he led them into a swamp where he and some of his followers tried to eat the party! I thought that was going to end in a TPK, but they prevailed. :biggrin:

CelestialBarbarian
09-01-2008, 11:08 PM
OK, running around trying to find the exit while saying, "Oh shit!" Did he say it before or after the minotaur welcoming committee?

Yamirus' player said it's been too long for him to recall exactly what he said, but that he thought Yamirus' general mindset was, "I've got a bad feeling about this," which is funny because that's an expression that characters used in Star Wars, usually right before they got into big trouble--cool failure, as we might say on this thread. :D

Holocron
09-16-2008, 03:35 AM
Interesting topic... something I sort of have some experiance with. I'm reminded of something my brother once told me in my early days of GMing; that his style was to keep the players poor, and with a feeling of being "on the run"... After he pointed that out, I realized the game had been much more exciting because I had always been "scraping by" as a player. I had enough money to buy food, but when we had to stock up for the long journey, we would be close to broke again... looting enemies that had no exceptional equipment still felt like we were finding awesome treasure, because if they had any kind of weapon of even "regular" quality, or armor, we could sell it to the next black smith we came across and make enough that we could eat again for another few weeks!! :)

The feeling of being above average, but not super-powered kept things exciting, because if we managed to survive against the enemy, who was often more powerful than we were, we felt lucky that we had cheated death yet again!

I recall one particular fight, our entire party had been ko'd except for me, and it was just the arch-villain and me left, we were both badly injured, but I finally failed the health roll to stay conscious and passed out. I woke up later to realize that the enemy failed his roll right after I did, but luckily I had woken up first!

On the flip side, as a GM I sometimes use player's failures as ways to introduce new and interesting elements into the game. For example, I want to introduce a new high level enemy, so I provide an adventure where the players fight the minions and eventually find their way to the new elite enemy. Having made their way so easily into the heart of the enemy territory, the shock is even more rewarding when they find that the mastermind isn't just a medium level crime boss, he's actually a dark side lightsaber duelist at the master level... The players wonder how such a powerful enemy can still exist without them having known about it... so they manage to barely escape, but not uninjured, and having lost their lightsabers during the fight...

They were unsuccessful at beating the enemy, but they survived, and now are obsessed with trying to discover the origins of the new enemy.

Or... one or some of the players get captured... while they're captured maybe they're interrogated by an enemy that they hadn't known about before... maybe the players can't resist the interrogator's tactics.. but they've learned about the interrogator who is a high level boss as well... the players seem to be losing, but they're learning from their mistakes and becoming more powerful, or at least more knowledgable and are slowly peicing together the network of the hidden enemy leadership...

Grumpy Old Man
09-21-2008, 01:59 PM
Failure is just a challenge for a role player to find a way to beat or live with the bad roll and if there weren't any the game would be booooring. Campaign I am in now my rookie fighter and his companions a Dwarf Sorcerer and a Halfling Rogue are sneaking through the woods to get past a large encampment of Goblins in the middle of the highway. Walking very stealthily we creep through the bushes, my character is a woodsman, is light on his feet and agile so what can go wrong. Well (3) 1's can be wrong. At first level I didn't have enough bonus to offset that and it seems my character drops his bag, it opens up spilling the contents, he falls flat on his face and slides forward getting a mouth full of dirt and ends up with his head in a cooking pot.

When he gets his head out of the pot he sees a sizable gathering of well armed Goblins surrounding me and the leader making the obvious statement, "So you are sneaking around us to avoid paying the toll huh?" Whats a young fighter fresh off the farm going to do, especially when no companions are in sight. I spit out the sod from my mouth which is still half full of dirt and disingenuously ask "Whuff a toll?" When the Goblin starts to answer my stupid question they get attacked from the flanks and since the attention is on me they take a big hit to the group. Attention turned from me gives me a chance to leap to my feet and attack them from their new flank and they take another big hit.

I'm not as sure we would have won that engagement as easily if at all if they hadn't been distracted by my colossal failure to 'Move Silently'. It is also a good thing to see the DM at a loss for words for a few seconds before he could come up with an equally dumb response. Kind of like watching rocket scientists and school teachers with large IQ's and fancy degrees fail miserably on "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader." The dumbest answers are the best ones.

CelestialBarbarian
09-21-2008, 10:13 PM
Failure is just a challenge for a role player to find a way to beat or live with the bad roll and if there weren't any the game would be booooring.

That's very insightful. One period a few years ago the party in my campaign got sort of stuck in a figurative cul-de-sac where every time they tried to approach the Great Bridge they got ambushed by kobold elite scouts and although victorious every time, ended up having to retreat to their starting point on the other side of the last arm of the Wildwood to rest up for the night again. Approaching, fighting and retreating happened session after session for weeks. We had a huge group then, and I think we lost 4-6 of the players during that period, players who were all big on roleplaying and turned up their noses at week after week of kobold combat.

They saw it as my problem, but it never occurred to any of the great roleplayers that their problem was insisting on seeing the kobolds as a combat problem. Here's what happened: The party first came to the Great Bridge and found the kobolds there in control as they had on the First Bridge, but with a much, much larger contingent. The party found some Castorians (evil human wizards) there, and a large Northern Blothfolk (i.e. Norse) character they'd met long before strode right up through the kobolds and the meteor swarms, and one Castorian wizard got on his advanced griffon and knocked the character off the bridge. The party decided to charge, but cooler heads prevailed and the party reassembled and went in spelled up. The kobolds and Castorians really beat the stuffing out of them, although they managed to kill the Castorians before fleeing the kobolds. The party fled all the way back beyond the last arm of the Wildwood.

So the kobolds knew the party had come and fled, and figured that the party would return. The kobolds had an army on the bridge and sent out scouts into the arm of the Wildwood to waylay them. There was simply no way the party could win by combat at that level. Oh, I suppose if they'd spent a few months they might eventually have leveled up enough going back and forth through the Wildwood fighting kobold elite scouts, but that would have delayed their mission.

The funny thing is that it wasn't until the roleplayers left the group that the alleged combat-mongers figured out that they actually had, not a combat problem, but a transportation problem, and then solved it. Someone realized that Caerwyn comes from the half-elven side of the Great Ravine, and he just described a place beyond the Great Bridge where Yamirus and Elvira could teleport the party. It took about four spells, but they just teleported everyone (and a wagon and two horses) right past he kobolds. The party didn't return to the Great Bridge until they'd gained, oh, maybe 5 levels or more and could seriously take on the whole kobold army stationed there.

The party could also simply have cut south into the Wemic Savana for two or three days and then forded the river well below the Great Ravine. The party had a big, strong half-celestial barbarian, who could simply have flow each party member, one at a time, across the Great Ravine, well out of sight of the Great Bridge. The party could even have just climbed down one side and up the other, again out of sight of the Great Bridge. So teleporting didn't even represent the only option for avoiding the kobolds--just the best option. :)

Holocron
09-22-2008, 03:30 PM
Thats amazing! For weeks, nobody thought of anything other than fighting their way through the army of kobolds?? I try to put my players in situations where they're in over their heads as far as combat, but they usually figure it out eventually and know when to back off.

CelestialBarbarian
09-22-2008, 03:40 PM
Thats amazing! For weeks, nobody thought of anything other than fighting their way through the army of kobolds?? I try to put my players in situations where they're in over their heads as far as combat, but they usually figure it out eventually and know when to back off.

It is amazing, isn't it? Week after week of the same thing, hoping that the next time it would work out differently. I have to laugh too at all the great "roleplayers" who couldn't roleplay enough to have their characters say, "Hey, isn't there some way around the kobolds?" I guess they were too busy running around saying, "What's my motivation?" like two-bit actors, and metagaming ("Oh, this DM is so bad, he just has combat") instead of actually roleplaying their characters. I mean sometimes it's annoying when the power-gamers argue rules instead of playing their characters, but it's laughable when so-called roleplayers do it. :lol:

Foki Firefinger
09-25-2008, 07:03 PM
Failure can be fun!!!! In my group we use a fumble chart for combat and it can lead to many hilarious adventures and often many hours or slapstick gaming. In another system (Aftermath) in a critical fumble, I have the player roll on the % dice to determine just how serious the blunder is-- scaling from a minor irritation to maybe blowing up the entire group (the higher the roll, the more serious is the failure). Of course the NPCs have to go by the fumble chart or % die. Nothing is mre sastisfieing that having your opponent impale himself on his own weapon, while you take the credit. An example of a failure gone to hilarious is one of the players in my group who was very good at fumbles. In a shoot-out in an underground garage (all cement and steel pillars or steel supports), she proceeded to used a pistol to shoot at the enemy. Unfortunately her character had no skillls with firearms and she also rolled a fumble at the first shot. A couple of die rolls later..... the bullet bounce around because of the steel girders and finally ended up behind the group, in which it finally was laid to rest in the buttock of one of the other players. We nicknamed her "Grandma Pasidena".

CelestialBarbarian
09-25-2008, 09:03 PM
Failure can be fun!!!! In my group we use a fumble chart for combat....

I use a fumble table based on a d30. I own four of them, but we use the clear one as the Die of Doom. I used to use the fumble automatically on the roll of a natural 1 on the d20 attack roll, but one of my players objected that professional combatants shouldn't fumble a full 5% of the time. I decided to use the fumble only when someone rolls a natural 1 followed by the roll of another natural 1 on a d20. Since that drops the probability from 5% to 0.25%, we rarely use the Die of Doom anymore.

The Die of Doom (the fumble table) has various results, both good and bad. One result says that you fumbled so hysterically that everyone who sees you starts laughing and misses their next turn. One result says that you score a successful critical hit on your closest ally, even if that means your weapon left your hand. As I recall, a roll of a 30 means that you accidentally fling your weapon, hitting every enemy within 30 feet, before your weapon bounces back into your hand. (If you're casting a spell or firing/throwing a missile, nothing bounces back to your hand.) Once a 30 fumble saved the party's collective behind. :biggrin:

Holocron
09-26-2008, 11:45 PM
Hmm... interesting stories with the fumble charts... I used to use the crit hit and miss tables for gurps when I was playing gurps fantasy, and then there was another table for crit success and failures for spell casting.

If it was something other than a combat or spell roll, I'd usually try to make the result make sense, but it wouldn't always cause significant setbacks. Often the result is just misinformation, or incomplete information. So sometimes the players never even found out the result of the failed roll...

nijineko
09-27-2008, 08:22 PM
i use the rolemaster charts for inspiration for crits and fumbles. my personal favorite fumble? "you trip over a deceased, invisible, non-existant turtle and fall flat on your face." my favorite critical is much harder to pick... for the crushing damage my favorite is, "try a spatula." for the lightning crits it's, "complete cellular dismemberment." for the lance type weapons it's, "you catapult yourself 30' off your horse and fall prone." there are many more great ones. ^^

Arkhein
09-27-2008, 11:46 PM
There was a game I ran where failure just wasn't just cool, it turned out to be the driving force behind the campaign.

The players were supposed to thwart an invasion against their kingdom by the bad guy nations. The first rp didn't go so well. A bar fight led to a chase by city guards, which led to and attempt to create a diversion using fire, which led to . . . a string of bad failures . . . and the PCs inadvertently burnt down most of the town. Ooops.

My carefully crafted plan went out the window. The campaign quickly dissolved into an 'on the lamb' adventure, in which they tried to stay one step ahead of the wanted posters. The sounds of city alarm bells signaled that the party had been identified and it was time to leave to the next town.

After a year or so in real time, the group did save the kingdom from the evil invaders and was pardoned for their atrocities by the king. When the players told me they felt that the pardon was a good capstone to the adventure, I was surprised, but it made sense. The characters and party had been forged by adversity, and to not have their own kingdom wanting them dead . . . well . . . it just seemed boring. So the whole party retired on their reward money en masse and we moved on to another campaign.

Recalling that got me thinking - my favorite Star Wars movie is Empire Strikes Back. There are a lot of reasons for that, I am sure, but one is probably the sheer amount of failure of the protagonists. Nothing goes right, and it ends with a hand being lopped off, the bad guy turning out to be daddy, and the most likeable character turned into a popsicle and delivered to a giant slug. Talk about a bad day. But a great adventure.

So yeah, failure can be made very cool. Even by accident. :)

-Ark

Holocron
09-28-2008, 03:34 AM
Ark, very nice... I agree with the adversity making the game interesting. I think I posted earlier about how being on the run made the game exciting. I so agree with your comments about Empire strikes back, and how being on the run can make the game really great.

Actually, in my Star Wars campaign, the friend that plays the most has probably had more failures than anyone else. Not because he's not a good player, its probably more because he's a really smart player, so I usually end up stacking the opposition against him to keep things challanging... You know how they say you learn more from your failures than your successes? This guy has gotten a lot of learning done. I'm having to develop really elaborate traps so that they'll actually work. His power has grown so much from all that learning (and playing a lot) that his enemies have needed to resort to using his less powerful friends as leverage.

Another interesting thing that I started experimenting with at my brother's recommendation was the implementation of "villain points". This was in our GURPS fantasy game, the idea was that any time any of the players did something that was really amazingly stupid, and ended up getting the party into massive trouble for no reason (picking a fight with the local Baron's son for no reason and ending up killing him and or several of the town guards before finally being captured and thrown in prison for a while... or escaping or whatever...), there would be a villain point awarded secretly to my brother (who wasn't actively gaming with my players). The villain points wouldn't be awarded casually, these are for really really stupid acts that also get the group in massive trouble, or a player's character killed needlessly.

So then, when my brother felt like acting on the villain points, he would create an arch-villain, and get 100 pts to make that character for each villain point that had been accumulated. So if they had a run of really stupid stuff, he could make several master mind villains, or one super powerful enemy or whatever... We never actually got to see that idea into fruition though because we stopped playing GURPS fantasy before the villain could be generated introduced into the campaign. We had gotten up to 4 villain points though, for up to a 400pt enemy... We had ideas about making the arch villain the Dark Elf Princess... but, never got that far...

Moritz
09-29-2008, 08:51 AM
I'll put in my two cents.

A dwarf was trying to identify a red crystaline stone laying within a display of various stones. He rolled a 1 (absolute failure) and I told him that it was one of the most rare of all stones, that it possessed amazing magical qualities and was coveted by all.
He had no clue about the stone, but believed it was something else.
The greedy Mystic Theurge grabbed the stone and it exploded. 16d6 damage. Killing at least two of the party who were all standing around the display.

Well, maybe I'm the only one that thought it was something cool to come out of it. :)

CelestialBarbarian
09-29-2008, 09:02 AM
I'll put in my two cents.

A dwarf was trying to identify a red crystaline stone laying within a display of various stones. He rolled a 1 (absolute failure) and I told him that it was one of the most rare of all stones, that it possessed amazing magical qualities and was coveted by all.
He had no clue about the stone, but believed it was something else.
The greedy Mystic Theurge grabbed the stone and it exploded. 16d6 damage. Killing at least two of the party who were all standing around the display.

Well, maybe I'm the only one that thought it was something cool to come out of it. :)

A natural 1 doesn't automatically fail on a skill check, but I still laughed. I have to confess though that as a DM I laughed at the DM laughing at something that the players wouldn't find too funny. :biggrin:

Webhead
09-29-2008, 09:54 AM
I'll put in my two cents.

A dwarf was trying to identify a red crystaline stone laying within a display of various stones. He rolled a 1 (absolute failure) and I told him that it was one of the most rare of all stones, that it possessed amazing magical qualities and was coveted by all.
He had no clue about the stone, but believed it was something else.
The greedy Mystic Theurge grabbed the stone and it exploded. 16d6 damage. Killing at least two of the party who were all standing around the display.

Well, maybe I'm the only one that thought it was something cool to come out of it. :)

There are many stories of very similar scenarios from Gamma World campaigns involving a hapless party and a photon grenade. Instant vaporization... :rip:

Holocron
09-30-2008, 04:18 AM
An exploding stone? Who would put something that dangerous in a public display without a warning label on it? The blast must have destroyed all the other stones nearby it too. And who would trust the GM's word after rolling a 1 on the ID roll??

Oh well, I have an interesting story that just occured...

I just finished a session of D6 starwars via IM, and the jedi player was using telekinesis to fly past a mob of thugs stunning the heck out of him as he flew by...

In D6 starwars, you can spend character pts to reduce the damage, and this guy not wanting to get captured again spent 47 pts reducing stun damage so that he wouldn't get knocked out... That's more pts than you can normally earn in 3 really good rounds of gaming. I decided that since he had spent so many pts reducing damage, that he had gained some insight into the force from the experiance, and learned the new force power lesser force shield. Basically gives an extra die to resist damage when its up. I felt like it was kind of a small consolation after spending that many pts, but he was super stoked about it and considered it a really good deal. He was like "Yes! I've been trying to find a way to learn that one for years!"

So if he hadn't have gotten himself hit so many times he wouldn't have had to spend all those pts reducing damage and would never have learned the new power...

Grimwell
09-30-2008, 09:18 AM
An exploding stone? Who would put something that dangerous in a public display without a warning label on it?

Perhaps a villain? Who was planting a trap? We weren't told where the dwarf was, or why he was looking at these gems / stones.

Webhead
09-30-2008, 10:21 AM
...And who would trust the GM's word after rolling a 1 on the ID roll??...

It doesn't matter whether or not the player believed the GM, his character was positively convinced that he was correct and so he had to role play it that way! That's the beauty of critical failures/botches! :D


...In D6 starwars, you can spend character pts to reduce the damage, and this guy not wanting to get captured again spent 47 pts reducing stun damage so that he wouldn't get knocked out...

Wow! I've never even known a character that had 47 CPs saved up at one time! That's about 6 or 7 sessions worth of character points in one of my campaigns, assuming the player didn't spend any to increase skills or spend some during the other sessions. I guess he really, really didn't want to get knocked out. And it sounds like he was getting gang moshed! That's 5 stun attacks he had to ward off at the very least! :eek:

Moritz
09-30-2008, 01:31 PM
It doesn't matter whether or not the player believed the GM, his character was positively convinced that he was correct and so he had to role play it that way! That's the beauty of critical failures/botches! :D

Yeah, what Webhead says. Otherwise you're allowing OOC events to influence your IC actions. And that's just cheating. :)

Holocron
10-01-2008, 02:58 AM
Well... thats true, players should roleplay based on the information that their character knows, but thats a pretty steep penalty for a botch, unless the DM had already decided in advance that particular stone was a trap. And, just because he thought the stone was exceptionally valuable doesn't mean he would try to take it, unless his personality was a kleptomaniac... then it would make sense.

Yeah, I'm a little generous with the point awards, up to 15 pts per session if its a really good one, more if I've missed awarding points for a while. And yes, he hadn't been raising any skills for quite a while. He's worried about turning to the dark side, so he doesn't want to increase his skills any more too quickly.

Again, you're correct webhead, he was trying to escape some really nasty guys, and there was a mob of 23 thugs stunning the snots out of him, only 21 got hits though...

Webhead
10-01-2008, 01:29 PM
...Again, you're correct webhead, he was trying to escape some really nasty guys, and there was a mob of 23 thugs stunning the snots out of him, only 21 got hits though...

Ouch! :lol:

Well, at least he managed to make it out!

Still, setting weapons to "Stun" is a great way to take out your enemies with no muss and no fuss. ;)

Holocron
10-02-2008, 02:38 AM
hehehe, actually he managed to get himself re-captured, and he's in the middle of a mess as we speak...

DarkKiaser
10-22-2008, 08:13 PM
about having a cool failure this is a example of what happened to one of my char to give an example:

I had char a human male named bastard (real name sir Sanchez)he had the nick name because of his background history.
he was a lvl 1 fighter lvl 3 wizard lvl 3 cleric lvl 7 spell sword and lvl 3 mystic thurg. ( red mage from final fantasy)
he was also a inventer. hey invented alot of new game stuff. I followed the rules to D&D too a T for that.

being a spell sword he can catch spells using his sword arcane or devine. but he wanted to do more. so he tried catching phyonic powers too with his blade and according to the rules it isnt totally imposible to do. so one time he tried but failed totally and blew off his right arm and right leg and scared his face in the back lash. witch wasnt good for him at all. so sence he was an inveter and crafter he made a arm of nyre(sorry for spelling) for his right arm and then using the same tech. and invented a leg of nyre (again sorry for spelling) and before u say it they didnt stack i know that he just needed a new leg. after he made both and put it on he took more time studed more and such. so next time he succeded.

so my dm made a failure fited for my char and that he knew that my char would take it as a challage and make him go back and try again for his goal.

this is my personal exp. as a cool failure i posted it to give ideas
ty very much
and have a good day :)

Rook
05-22-2009, 09:38 AM
Descriptive failures add fun, excitement, realism and theatrics.
One of the easiest combat related failures is "you slip on the blood-slicked floor and..."
I also enjoy using failures as near misses that place the character in a difficult circumstance. I have had many characters in my campaigns get their foot stuck in a crack in the floor, have their cloak or tunic catch on a nail, just miss a jump or slip on a climb and find themselves dangling from a ledge.
Failures can also be used to endanger other PCs of course, though I avoid having a failure cause the death of an "innocent" PC out of fairness (Eg. a character rolls a "1" while wielding his vorpal blade might accidentally destroy his comrades helm, cleave his bow, or cut so close to hitting him that he loses an action or two envisioning his own death, but I would actually have him actually decapitate anyone).
Another element to failures that I encorporated into my games was the "happy accident." Anytime a failure was rolled, the character would then roll on the failure chart which would give me an idea as to the nature of the failure. One possibility was the "happy accident" in which the characters weapon slips from their grasp but happens to strike another enemy or their stumble causes their foe's next attack to miss over their head.

MrFrost
05-25-2009, 10:45 AM
On Critical Fails I tend to make fun and strange things happen.

Like failing their attack roll and end up flinging their weapon across the battle field or fail their Dex check only to fall flat on their face. All depending on what their attemping I try and keep it fun and realistic. Just as a skateboarder trying to dish out a mad trick only to slip and break their head.

Theted
06-04-2009, 07:57 PM
From my perspective the most difficult challenge in this regard as GM lies in how to make failure cool in terms of total party wipeouts. Does anyone have any tried & true methods for making this kind of failure cool??

templeorder
06-04-2009, 08:04 PM
Making failure cool is very easy - because its real. Its part of whats adds excitement and part of what makes success so sweet. You can make failure cool by adding dramatic flair, you can make it cool by making it bittersweet - you may have done right, but innocents, died. Failure just is part of an adventurer's career in my book. Weapons, and armor go bad, plans fail, luck falters. Good PC's know when to cut and run, take their failures and learn, and come back to fight again. Lose all your stuff? Its just stuff... Not defeat the bad guy? If you're alive you can try again. Dead? Well, ok, maybe thats not a good situation to examine - but were you stupid and thats why? I always try and be dramatic about failure - emphasizing just how close the PC's came and how desperate things were... and even use it as a intrigue device when failure gets back to superiors and sponsors.

Karithay
08-28-2009, 11:47 AM
The first responder answered this question well; though, I would offer that it wasn't a complete answer.

How you manage failure, whether to make it more fun or whatever, mainly comes down to the type of game you are running and the expectations you wish to set for your players both for the game as a whole and the individual scene. The next big contributing factor is your dynamicism or ability to adapt as a Game Master.

This is ultimately a personal choice, so mileage may vary. For myself failure is important. As has been said previously, a person's journey is defined by the hardships they overcome. A walk in the park becomes boring compared to a rollercoaster ride. Characters are meant to suffer (and sometimes die), but hopefully they will triumph (and not always in the way that I or the players originally envisioned). I won't hand them victory, but I won't be a dick about it either.

If you are running a lethal game where you want players to understand that there will be permanent personal consequences to their actions, then you may be apt to kill them in however glorious or ignoble way. Alternatively you may take or destroy something of value to them. Whatever the choice, it should have an impact upon that player or the others in your group

On the flip side, if you are in a campaign where you are really just letting your players carve up everything in sight, you will likely ignore or work around dumb decisions or poor dice rolls. This can also happen if its just late or you want to shuffle the party on to the next event. Where I feel that is generally poor for a campaign, I can also understand that it has its place depending upon the situation or group.

If you are looking to teach your players lessons, but not necessarily lethal ones, then you just make them hurt. This can be physical (your sword misses and kathunks into the tree, its stuck) or social (they're all laughing at you). It could be comical or serious. This seems to commonly come up when people are He-Manning it (a single player thinking that his character is good at everything) and you, as the GM, try to teach him that he's not and that he should let other players play to their strengths/niches or spend time developing those areas.

I should also note that in such a situation, you are generally setting the target up to fail. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. How you handle it makes it good or bad for your game and group.

One off occurrences, like the vaunted critical fumble can ultimately be whatever you want, but I find them to be as much as a distraction as a useful tool to add to the overall story. It falls to you to have the wit to adapt to the situation and choose results that are best. Sometimes the results are so drastic you need to change whole story arcs.

The other thing to look at with the question of failure is the expectations of players. Gaming culture has progressed from one where characters were just numbers on a sheet (albeit lovable numbers) that were used to solve puzzles and encounters to fully fleshed out personalities set within a rich story. The first bred in a competitive "do what you can to win" attitude, and the latter softened the harshness, making the "win" easier. This has created an expectation, if not a sense of entitlement, of success with many gamers. Failure can easily be seen as not just a threat to this, but something of an arms race with the Game Master.

The best way to combat this mindset is to ensure that your players and you are on the same page. Make sure everyone has the same general expectations going in. If nothing else, make sure you have their trust. If they trust you they will allow you to do the craziest things to their characters.

There will still be those personalities that fudge their dice rolls or who milk mechanics for every possible "win", but the more mature players will actually work with you, cooperating in their failure as much as they cooperate with you in your success.

Jayzilla
09-02-2009, 11:14 AM
I once had several players quit because every time they rolled a natural one, I made them fall prone or drop their weapon.
True story.

CelestialBarbarian
09-02-2009, 11:21 AM
I once had several players quit because every time they rolled a natural one, I made them fall prone or drop their weapon.
True story.

That's amazing. I once had a player who started a monk at 2nd level (the campaign had been under away for a little while and everyone had leveled up) who took the Power Attack feat even though at 1st level when he had to take it he didn't have the prerequisites. Another player called him on it so I suggested he take another feat at 1st and just wait until 3rd to take Power Attack. He wrote me an email after the session asking if he could use a rule that one of hte 3.0 designers had discussed on a website, but when they hadn't incorporated into 3.0, allowing you to leave a feat slot "open" until some later time when you meet the prerequisites for a feat you want. The player who had called him on it in the first place was a horrible rules abuser, and I know that if I allowed this unofficial rule it would open the floodgates to an endless torrent of attempted rules above by the second guy, so I denied the player of the monk his request, stressing that he'd soon reach 3rd level and be able to take it anyway. The player of the monk quit and never spoke to me again. Amazing, isn't it?

Jayzilla
09-02-2009, 05:32 PM
heh, that is pretty hilarious. My players, well, they got some bad luck, rolled 3-4 '1's' in as many minutes. I can understand them being mad, but one guy was ready to fistfight and everything :p

Another time I had two players quit over a rules argument: and the rule in question wasn't even happening in the game, it was a hypothetical situation. I said that it was possible to 5-foot step as a move action and then take another move action to run away, thereby avoiding strikes of opportunity.

He said that that was abusing the 'rules.' I told him that it's perfectly supported. He neversaid another word or came to another session. In fact, to this day the guy avoids me on the street. :D

I wasn't too bothered, however, as he was the kind of player who'd pop open his monster manual every time I described an encounter, looking for a good classification that he was fighting against. When I saw this I almost subconciously started throwing monsters/enemies at them that were listed in other books, or heavily converted. Every time he couldn't find the monster in his book he'd throw up his hands in the air and imply that this encounter was 'a joke.'

CelestialBarbarian
09-03-2009, 04:40 AM
heh, that is pretty hilarious. My players, well, they got some bad luck, rolled 3-4 '1's' in as many minutes. I can understand them being mad, but one guy was ready to fistfight and everything :p

Another time I had two players quit over a rules argument: and the rule in question wasn't even happening in the game, it was a hypothetical situation. I said that it was possible to 5-foot step as a move action and then take another move action to run away, thereby avoiding strikes of opportunity.

He said that that was abusing the 'rules.' I told him that it's perfectly supported. He neversaid another word or came to another session. In fact, to this day the guy avoids me on the street. :D

I wasn't too bothered, however, as he was the kind of player who'd pop open his monster manual every time I described an encounter, looking for a good classification that he was fighting against. When I saw this I almost subconciously started throwing monsters/enemies at them that were listed in other books, or heavily converted. Every time he couldn't find the monster in his book he'd throw up his hands in the air and imply that this encounter was 'a joke.'

Wow, that was a bad ruling, as the rules make clear that you can take a 5-foot stop only if it's your only movement for the round! I've played in groups though where the DM made even worse rulings without quitting, although I confess I would have had trouble trusting that you knew what you were doing when you made such a patently false ruling. Still, at one time in my 3.0 group we made a similar mistake of thinking that you could combine a 5-foot step with other movement, until someone pointed out the correct rule to me. A DM should put following the rules above saving face so that the players can trust that he (or she) won't abuse them. That's one of the reasons that they made 3rd Ed so much more rules-intensive than earlier versions--to protect the players from DM abuse (and in some cases to protect the DM from player abuse, though it ran that way less often since the DM runs the game).

In my campaign if the player thinks I'm running something wrong, I always say, "Look it up." I can't say that I entirely blame him for not wanting to come back if you just ignored the clear rule and told him that your false rule was perfectly supported by the rules. If you'd had a house rule to about 5-foot steps that you'd thought out and announced in advance, that would be one thing, but maintaining a wrong rule in the face of clear evidence to the contrary is simply bad DMing. I wonder if he quit not because you got one rule wrong but because you were abusive about insisting that your patently fake rule was right?

Like I said, I've played with worse rulings than yours. One DM insisted that Cleave worked only when you attacked during your own turn--that you couldn't Cleave off an attack of opportunity. That ruling clearly disadvantaged fighter-types (including my barbarian who had it). He was an old-style "pimp-out" DM who'd been playing about as long as I had (about a quarter-century back then, since original D&D in the 1970s). Back in the day "pimp-out" meant to screw over, not to gussy up or improve, as it's come to mean today. I guess today maybe someone would use the term "killer DM" which to my mind doesn't really convey the full abusiveness of that sort of DM, who gets his jollies hurting the players. My first DM was a pimp-out DM, and it was months before I had a character who survived past 1st level, and then he managed to screw up that character royally too.

Anyway this more recent pimp-out DM wouldn't let my character cleave off his attack of opportunity, and it nearly resulted in a total party kill as he did some other abusive things as well, letting the bad guys take about five actions before allowing us to even respond, like in the bad old days. I told him that as DM he could change the rule, but that he was simply running the rule wrong. When I got home he emailed me and asked me not to return, which was fine, because I didn't plan in it. At one point in the session one of the younger players had asked an innocent question, and he'd said, "Are you really stupid enough to have to ask that question?" I have no interest in playing with abusive jerks like that. I would probably have returned despite the bad ruling on Cleave, but not with him abusing players like that. There's no call for a DM insulting players who ask an innocent question.

My first 3rd Ed DM routinely broke all sorts or rules to give advantages to her two best friends in the group and screw over players she didn't like. I probably should have quit long before I stopped going (when the group switched to "Charley's Angels Call of Cthulu" and I was preparing to move out of the state) but in that small town it was about the only long-term game in town. (Also when we switched to Star Wars d20 with one of her best friends running it, it turned into a better group, as he wasn't a cheater like she was.) At one time in my current group, a fellow whom I didn't even like very much said that I was the fairest DM that he'd ever seen. I wish more DMs--and players--cared so much about fairness. :p

As far as the popping the Monster Manual open, I agree that while it can be tough to separate character knowledge from player knowledge at times, opening the Monster Manual during an encounter clearly crosses the line; indeed, it's so far over the line into abuse that you can't even see the line from there! :biggrin: I had a player do that once and I just stopped him. He said he just wanted to see the picture of the thing so I opened my Monster Manual and showed the picture to him from across the room.

Anaesthesia
09-03-2009, 01:26 PM
I probably left a post a long time ago, but since I've picked up The Black Company Campaign Setting. They have a table if someone rolls a natural 1 during Advantage or Initiative.

I'm GMing a short pbp game for it, and posted the table for the group to refer to incase one of them did roll a natural one (the GM would have to roll a % for the table to "give" to the player(s)). I'm adapting the table for my regular 3.X game (instead of the Advantage one, listed at the top, I'm replacing it with "Animal Panicked"-in which case the character's cohort/familiar/companion becomes panicked as in the DMG)

Here is the list:
http://barroks-tower.net/forum/showpost.php?p=43118&postcount=2

cplmac
09-03-2009, 02:01 PM
I personally don't like to use an actual table that basically has a set number of possible outcomes. I prefer to make the failure fit that particular situation.

As for players having their Monster Manual opened to the page of the creature they are fighting, if they haven't encountered the creature yet, then they wouldn't know anything about it. Now if they were fighting something that one of the character's race knows about, I would be sure to let that character check it out. This way they could have their character pass on the knowledge that they know. If it is a creature that has been encountered before, I keep track of what all they know from the previous encounter and will be sure to allow them the access to that information, but sometimes they don't know everything about the creature. Especially if when fighting the creature, it didn't use a particular ability.

Holocron
09-04-2009, 02:21 AM
Wow, its hard to imagine people quitting over issues like that. Then again I only ever played with my closer friends, so little things rules discrepancies wouldn't ruin our relationship.

The partial move in a turn thing sounds like a good point to bring up in the rules lawyer forum, because it revisits the importance of clarity in the rules, or at least understanding between players and GM/DM or whatever about how the game will go.

Hahah, that's a funny story about the player looking everything up in the monster manual. I never really got into D&D, but when I played Gurps Fantasy things like that were never an issue, but I think that's a difference of GM and play style.

Basically, the players hardly ever ran into "monsters". The adversaries were almost always people, and with a system like GURPS that doesn't have classes there was no real way to judge the person you were up against other than the visual description, and that would only give you a vague idea of their ability based on individual interpretation. I feel like thats realistic though, so I liked it.

If it was me though in that situation, I would either throw the most well known monsters at them to make it pointless to look them up, or make it a surprise attack or situation that doesn't give them a lot of time and force them to declare actions right away so that they would forfeit a few turns of action if they bothered to look up the monster. OR, just make a ruling that they can't look up monsters during play, "unless their character happened to sacrifice starting money/equipment so that their character could own a monster manual too... The other thing that comes to mind is charging xp for monster look ups. They're using information their character wouldn't know, which is bad roleplaying, so you could deduct xp for every instance of them looking up a monster, or even using information about the monster that would somehow help them defeat it if their character shouldn't have known it.

Angelus_Nox
09-04-2009, 04:29 AM
I think making failure cool is pretty much a matter of creativity and enthusiasm. With enough creativity to come up with something interesting, and the enthusiasm to try, you can have bad things happen to characters, yet the players will forever have fond memories of the incident.
Like that one time the character peed his pants in front of the mob boss, thus being able to escape and defeat the boss.
Or that time when the new character got pounded into a pulp and had to be saved by another player who he then formed a party with.
Or that one time when my character finally teleported through a door and held her scythe to the door warden's throat, only to discover that hundreds of more guardians were there and arrested her.

Sure, you'll get the occasional "You drop your gun" or "You shoot yourself in the foot" (that was not a very lucky campaign for my scythe-wielding teleport chick... ahem) or "You stumble face-first into the baddy's fist". Failure doesn't always have to be cool or even memorable. I don't even think it has to be most of the time, otherwise it wouldn't be memorable.
Making the ones that are very impressive/ cool however? You should. It really isn't that hard.

CelestialBarbarian
09-04-2009, 04:34 AM
Wow, its hard to imagine people quitting over issues like that. Then again I only ever played with my closer friends, so little things rules discrepancies wouldn't ruin our relationship.

The partial move in a turn thing sounds like a good point to bring up in the rules lawyer forum, because it revisits the importance of clarity in the rules, or at least understanding between players and GM/DM or whatever about how the game will go.

Hahah, that's a funny story about the player looking everything up in the monster manual. I never really got into D&D, but when I played Gurps Fantasy things like that were never an issue, but I think that's a difference of GM and play style.

Basically, the players hardly ever ran into "monsters". The adversaries were almost always people, and with a system like GURPS that doesn't have classes there was no real way to judge the person you were up against other than the visual description, and that would only give you a vague idea of their ability based on individual interpretation. I feel like thats realistic though, so I liked it.

If it was me though in that situation, I would either throw the most well known monsters at them to make it pointless to look them up, or make it a surprise attack or situation that doesn't give them a lot of time and force them to declare actions right away so that they would forfeit a few turns of action if they bothered to look up the monster. OR, just make a ruling that they can't look up monsters during play, "unless their character happened to sacrifice starting money/equipment so that their character could own a monster manual too... The other thing that comes to mind is charging xp for monster look ups. They're using information their character wouldn't know, which is bad roleplaying, so you could deduct xp for every instance of them looking up a monster, or even using information about the monster that would somehow help them defeat it if their character shouldn't have known it.

On the Wizards boards a few years back I noticed a persistence of the problem where the player gives his character all his player knowledge. In particular players were bragging about how easily they took out a tarrasque, and at relatively low levels. Under the Knowledge rules, however, a group of 17th level characters couldn't even roll high enough on Knowledge (arcana) check to know even 1 thing about the tarrasque must less all it's strengths and its weakness. Their DMs, furthermore, seemed to alert them in advance so that they could have their characters prepare all the right spells and get all the right items, etc. It really does reduce or eliminate the challenge if the players use all their player knowledge and the DM alerts them in advance.

Sascha
09-04-2009, 06:21 PM
This article (http://www.glorantha.com/support/na_defeat.html) for Hero Quest has some mine-worthy suggestions on making failure interesting.

I especially like Rule #1: Failure Doesn't Mean the Character Looks Bad. (Unless your hero (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mal_Reynolds) is also your chew toy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asahina_Mikuru) or butt monkey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaker_%28muppet%29), in which case, go for broke; those tropes operate under the Rule of Funny (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main.RuleOfFunny), anyways~)

I also rather like Rule #2: Failure leading to new consequences. Cue up any of the original trilogy Star Wars films and notice how many times Han Solo succeeds in bluff attempts. (Same with Indiana Jones, 'specially the "tapestries" scene in the third. Seems to be a running meta-gag with Harrison Ford characters and Lucas/Spielberg ;))

Naturally, all of these suggestions hinge on one's own definition of "cool," so flavor to taste :P

WhiskeyFur
09-10-2009, 06:17 PM
BruceSheffer asks,

On the sons of kryos podcast a guest said, 'When you succeed on a roll, something cool should happen. When you fail a roll, something cool should happen!"

How do you make failure a cool thing to happen for the players?

Dunno about just a roll.. but my party in the game I'm playing now, we JUST had our collective ass handed to us by a black dragon. And I mean served up with the garnish and everything. It was a couple steps short of a total party kill.

It happened mostly because we made some assumptions, and you know the defination of assume (makes an ASS of U and ME). That and it got us good with an illusion of a blue dragon, so guess which elemental affinities we worked ourselves up to be immune from...

Now? We're licking our wounds and will be looking soon for a round two. You can bet I'm going to start working on those dragon bane arrows, and I'm putting that worm's name on every single one of them!

templeorder
09-11-2009, 01:08 PM
I should have remembered, but in digging through some old notes a lot of memories came back. Some players do not want this, in fact are against it. I had a few games i ran where any failure was simply skipped - the player would just say no and move on. 1 away or 100 away from a target attempt made no difference. I was told once to even "forget it" when i tried to be dramatic about their attempt. Everyone else loved it, this guy did not want to hear about it. I think it was because they were hyper-competitive... but no matter how epic i tried to make failure, it was just something to be glossed over for them.

CelestialBarbarian
09-11-2009, 01:32 PM
I should have remembered, but in digging through some old notes a lot of memories came back. Some players do not want this, in fact are against it. I had a few games i ran where any failure was simply skipped - the player would just say no and move on. 1 away or 100 away from a target attempt made no difference. I was told once to even "forget it" when i tried to be dramatic about their attempt. Everyone else loved it, this guy did not want to hear about it. I think it was because they were hyper-competitive... but no matter how epic i tried to make failure, it was just something to be glossed over for them.

That's too bad. It can tough to have someone like that in the group. Possibly he just saw your attempts to make it dramatic as further humiliation. Did he stay with the group long?