Failure isn't interesting?

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Treebore
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Failure isn't interesting?

Post by Treebore »

This is in response to this.

http://rivetgeek.blogspot.com/2013/04/f ... sting.html


I've been aware that a lot of gamers out there really dislike, even hate, failures, deaths, pretty much anything "negative" in their games. To the point where they do anything they can think of to lesson them, or even out right eliminate them.

I do agree. Failure sucks. It can piss you off. Its a real downer. Even so, I'll never get rid of it. I'll never get rid of failed rolls, PC death, instant death, or any of it. I do try to lessen it. Which is why I use Luck points and God Calls.

Why won't I get rid of it? While I agree RPG's are "games", I have never played a game that didn't involve losing, or even death of your token, your side, etc... (Not that they don't actually call it that, but when your wiped out in Axis and Allies, or lose at Chess or Checkers, your side got wiped out, IE dead.) Even card games have a winner and a "loser".

Even so, all those games are not why I will never get rid of "failure". In a "role" playing game you are playing a character. I don't care if you are a horrible role player, because even then I am still seeing how that particular player reacts to things. Guess what? Just like in real life you see the real measure of a "character" when they face adversity. Failure is among the biggest kinds of adversity you face. Plus there is all kinds of failure. Failing to save the life of an NPC from a group of Carnivorous apes. Failure to free the boat load of slaves. Becoming a slave yourself. Losing a limb. Losing your PC life. Plus there are plenty of other examples.

I also get a glimpse into my players minds and heart. Because how they handle these challenges does give me a glimpse into their deeper selves. Nothing truly defining, but it is a glimpse of the truer "self" that is my players. I am glad to say I like what I see. Granted, I have had players where I did not like what I glimpsed. I am happy to say they are a part of my past.

So to me Failure is never boring. I never find it to not be interesting. Even when it is me who is doing the failing. After all, if I can't properly handle the failure of a fake character, how the heck am I going to deal with real failure when it really matters? If I can't handle losing at Chess, Axis and Allies, Spades, Gin Rummy, saving the lives of imaginary villagers, etc.... what does that say about me in real situations?

Those of you who know me know I have already faced some very serious adversity. I have had some very serious set backs and losses. In real life, not a game. I can agree those failures involved in all that were painful. Very painful. Very unpleasant. I would never, ever describe them as not being interesting. They were not boring. I hated them. They made me incredibly angry. They were incredibly painful. They were completely unfair. Even so they were never, ever boring.

So in RPG's where your characters are adventurers, and face challenges all the time, failure will always be apart of that experience. I will stick to the dice rolls. If a character dies, loses a limbs, or fails a thousand times, then so be it. Its part of the whole experience. After all, your role playing a fake life. The character does not really feel any of the pain from the thousands of blows they may have taken. It doesn't feel any pain, period. Not even from failures. Any thing felt is all on the part of the player. Which a player does feel. When you invest hours and hours into playing a character, some kind of attachment is going to occur. Psychologists even have names for it. They also have names for people who cannot form such attachments. People with those labels are not people I want to deal with.

So for me, failure is part and parcel of playing games, even RPG's. That possibility of failure is what makes the successes so much better. Its why players give those great shouts when they make a good roll at the right time. It is why the adrenaline gets flowing, even in pretend games.

To me, failure is what makes the games worth playing.
Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
Sounds obvious to me! -Gm Michael

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Treebore
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Re: Failure isn't interesting?

Post by Treebore »

I am actually chatting with that blogs author. His point was really that failure is uninteresting because of people not coming up with good descriptions for those failures.

For example,

Like if they roll a "1" against that orc, they don't drop their weapon or fall because there was grease on their weapon handle or a banana peel got underfoot. They lost their weapon because the "1" indicated the orc got in such a good parry that it knocked your weapon out of your hand, or the orc found a good enough opening that they were able to get in and trip you, throwing you to the ground.

So his point is that we should put in the effort to make those failed rolls interesting by giving plausible descriptions as to how they failed with that roll. Descriptions that may show it was more of a factor outside of their control that caused their failure. Which to me makes perfect sense, since the dice roll represents luck, and a failed roll, to me, always indicates luck was against you. Success means that luck, combined with your skill, was on your side.
Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
Sounds obvious to me! -Gm Michael

Grand Knight Commander of the Society.

Just Jeff
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Re: Failure isn't interesting?

Post by Just Jeff »

Treebore wrote:I am actually chatting with that blogs author. His point was really that failure is uninteresting because of people not coming up with good descriptions for those failures.
That was my guess, given his use of "you fail."

But to your response, I don't find success in a game interesting without failure. I usually don't want my character to die, but I get a lot more enjoyment out of a game if I believe my character can die. The easiest way to believe that is to lose some characters. I'm looking for long-term enjoyment of a game and will happily sacrifice some short-term enjoyment to get it.

I've know some diceless gamers who'd argue that failing is the most interesting part of rpgs.

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Sir Ironside
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Re: Failure isn't interesting?

Post by Sir Ironside »

Just Jeff wrote:I've know some diceless gamers who'd argue that failing is the most interesting part of rpgs.
I've played a couple of dice less games and I've played way more regular rpg's. So,I don't know why you'd asngle out dice less games as the sessions I ran wasn't a whole lot of difference.

I personally think that the last decade or so there has been a real emphasis on winning. I'm guessing us old Grognards view failures as a plot opportunity and are skilled enough to use them and properly relate to the players that not all failures are monumentally bad.

Over the years I've developed a "prep" talk before we start gaming. This is simply a talk about how I like to GM a game and is helpful, in that, there are no misunderstanding during the game.

My number one problem, that practically occurs every game is character knowledge vs. player knowledge which spins into a character doing something, that the rest of the gamers have heard and try to plug in the gamer knowledge when dealing with the person in question.

My second is easily playing to your stats. The three most abused stats, I'm sure nobody is surprised, is Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma, with Charisma alway being called the "dumped stat. Now I'm not going to pin this one directly on the Players, the GM plays a part also. Giving even time or at least more time dedicated to the stat and reminding the character/player info can create a much different experience.

I completely understand that a lot of rpg's are written for reward rather good role playing. Which is completely fine in my books. Anyone having fun with their game is never a bad thing. I just like to remind that player that gave Intelligence an 8 wouldn't be able to untie that Gordian knot no matter how much they tried. They would also have a hard time coming up with good tactics, strategy or detecting traps. Unlike the Gordian knot the dump player could "accidentally" supply some decent information of those three it would be just harder to get there. I guess what I am saying is not all players are on even ground when figuring out puzzles when it comes to dumber players. It is common for all players are given an equal chance in the discussion, regardless of the characters stat.

So, in my prep talk, the above is handled the most just because of what I've said and try to relieve them that not all loses are bad, they are just good role-playing opportunities.

Quick example.

The players are discussing about searching for a trap on a chest that they found. The discussion turn a little heated which disguises the dumb players action and thought process goes something like this.

Dumb players is tired and confused about the dicussion and a little bit bored. He figures the easiest way is just to open the damn chest. Before anyone recognizes he is gone, from the circle, it is too late and the dumb character just opens the chest. Either there was a trap and he sets it off creating a knew campaign plot or he opens it and nothing happens, making that 15 minute argument null and void and still creates a new campaign plot. Whatever happens the GM should give equal time in describing the action for better or worse and make them both interesting.
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Just Jeff
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Re: Failure isn't interesting?

Post by Just Jeff »

Sir Ironside wrote:I've played a couple of dice less games and I've played way more regular rpg's. So,I don't know why you'd asngle out dice less games as the sessions I ran wasn't a whole lot of difference.
Because all of the gamers I've known who said failure is the most interesting part of a game were advocates of diceless drama-driven games.

Lord Dynel
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Re: Failure isn't interesting?

Post by Lord Dynel »

I've always been of the opinion that failure makes the game more interesting, at the very least. Failing at a task provides me, as a GM, more options. I'm sure players never want to "FAIL" at anything they do, but - to me - going though the game without the realization that there may be some things they attempt that they're simply not going to be able to accomplish would be foolish. And I've had players like that. Sure, I understand that's it's a roleplaying game about the players being the protagonists and heroes of the story, but if I feel they're attempting something "unrealistic" (in terms of the game) there's a chance that they won't be able to do it. Fortunately, most of my players know it. They understand that the gutsier the move, the bigger chance of it failing. Thank goodness they also understand that failing just means a new set of options are available to them. They don't strive to find out what options those are, but understand that they're there.
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alcyone
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Re: Failure isn't interesting?

Post by alcyone »

Just Jeff wrote:
Sir Ironside wrote:I've played a couple of dice less games and I've played way more regular rpg's. So,I don't know why you'd asngle out dice less games as the sessions I ran wasn't a whole lot of difference.
Because all of the gamers I've known who said failure is the most interesting part of a game were advocates of diceless drama-driven games.
This sort of runs counter to my experience. While it may be true that the drama-driven gamer is more likely to embrace failure, it seems it usually has to be a failure of their own design and not outside agency or complaints of destroying their carefully plotted character arc arise.

Anyway, I like a game where the dice make things happen to you. Some days you do everything right (sort of, I mean, you DID go into a dungeon or a den of thieves or a wyvern's nest...) and you still get screwed. Sounds like life to me. I am not tempted to fix it by ascribing meaning to the failure. If the player wants to do something interesting with the failure, that's fine, but I'd get pretty annoyed if I was expected as CK to trot out a new plotline for every stubbed toe. I know that's a bit of a straw man, but that'd be the worst case I'd hate to become the norm.
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Arduin
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Re: Failure isn't interesting?

Post by Arduin »

You don't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need. (referencing PC's)
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mbeacom
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Re: Failure isn't interesting?

Post by mbeacom »

I think the biggest lesson I learned years ago is that dice are not a good arbiter of binary situations.

Example:
Player: "I want to climb the wall."
CK: "Give me a DEX check to climb"
Player: "I rolled a 7 prime"
CK: 'You fail"

How is this more interesting?

Player: "I want to climb the wall."
CK: "Give me a DEX check to climb"
Player: "I rolled a 17 prime"
CK: 'You succeed"

The answer is, it's not.

The problem isn't failure. It's how you use the dice and what you let them tell you.
Does this mean we shouldn't roll dice to arbitrate success or failure? Of course not. The correct answer is that we need to make sure the situations are not binary. That's what's boring and honestly, even success is boring when it's a binary situation.
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Just Jeff
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Re: Failure isn't interesting?

Post by Just Jeff »

Aergraith wrote:This sort of runs counter to my experience. While it may be true that the drama-driven gamer is more likely to embrace failure, it seems it usually has to be a failure of their own design and not outside agency or complaints of destroying their carefully plotted character arc arise.
Among those I knew, the GM was the agency, and he might say something like, "Tell me why you fail," which would both inform you that you'd failed and give you an opportunity to show something about your PC. (I'm told "Because what I was attempting to do ran counter to the GM's carefully constructed plot" was not considered an appropriate response.)

serleran
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Re: Failure isn't interesting?

Post by serleran »

Failure is not interesting. At least, not when it is all the time. The fun is in the struggle, to be defeated but to come back and win.

Likewise, success is not interesting if it all that happens. One has to be beaten to enjoy the taste of their own blood.

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