RogueJedi

Failure when you must succeed

122 posts in this topic

Just now, whafrog said:

You guys seem to be arguing, but ending up in the same place.  Whether the failed lock picking results in stormtroopers coming out on patrol right then, or the PCs have to find another way in is still "failing forward".  Roadblocks are when there is no alternative:  where the secret door must be found or you can't get into the treasure vault, the contact must be charmed because only she has the information, the chasm must be crossed because the enemy is faster but they can't jump because they're snakes.

Either of your approaches work because they adapt to the situation.

I have picked up on that, but what I'm arguing against is the lack of risk of failure. I don't like the idea that the first thing I try is going to advance the plot regardless of whether it works or not. Adapting to the situation is the player's job, and when the GM takes that position over, that really raises my hackles.

I'm an obsessive nut who plans contingency after contingency after contingency; if I can't pick the lock, I want to try something new. It also allows me to adapt to unexpected behaviors from players when I'm running a game - not because I have every possibility accounted for, but because I'm well acquainted with how disappointing it is when you don't get a chance to try an alternative solution out. It makes me more want to make sure there are multiple avenues to success, and that what I've planned is flexible enough to allow for stuff I wasn't expecting. I also put challenges that require more consideration to get around, and have little pity for people that won't try anything but beating their head against it.

"Life is hard, but if you're stupid it's really hard." - probably John Wayne

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28 minutes ago, whafrog said:

A triple post? What are you, ******?

Crap! It was an accident, I swear!

Edited by Degenerate Mind

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7 minutes ago, Degenerate Mind said:

I have picked up on that, but what I'm arguing against is the lack of risk of failure.

Oh, I agree there should be risk, complications, etc.

8 minutes ago, Degenerate Mind said:

Crap! It was an accident, I swear!

lol

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6 minutes ago, whafrog said:

Oh, I agree there should be risk, complications, etc.

lol

Oh dear God, I somehow managed to make three identical posts. I think I'm going to be sick...

Edited by Degenerate Mind
Three, not four. I don't know what's going on with me today.

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1 hour ago, Degenerate Mind said:

Making a situation where there is only one path forward is the problem. As I explained in another post, if your character is unable to pick a lock on a door, he is perfectly capable of looking for another way around - a window, stealing a key, holding someone who knows the password at gun point, or even just breaking the door down. I would much rather have an opportunity to look for a more effective solution to the problem in front of me than for the GM to arbitrarily decide that my failed check was a success and to just tack on some slap on the wrist. This is especially true when the system is literally built to give you options outside of simply saying the check failed, with the advantage/threat system.

Let's take your example: players crossing a chasm. Your wording seems to imply that they are trying to jump across it, but I could be reading too far into that - if so, I apologize and request that you clarify your example. From a game master's point of view, the chasm could be there for one of two reasons: you either want your players to cross it, or you don't. The specific circumstances and the specific canyon are most likely tailored to the purpose: a ten foot gap through the middle of a room in a long-forgotten temple is clearly there to be crossed, while the canyons on either side of a pirate outpost with anti-aircraft guns are most likely there to discourage your players from taking that path.

If you are jumping across the chasm in the aforementioned temple without any kind of gear, even though the Vigilance skill and Destiny Points are both there to let you just say you have the right gear on you, and some characters will even be able to cobble together a bridge or just pull a grapnel launcher out of their pocket through class features, you clearly haven't thought things through. If they fail, I'll hide my disappointment in their short-sighted decision, and deal a bit of damage based on their degrees of failure. They are now at the bottom of a pit, and need to find a way out. With threat, there is a grumpy animal or two at the bottom, and they think you look tasty. A despair means you're in quicksand, cause a small rockslide that leaves you cut off from the rest of the party, or suffer from whatever suitable environmental hazard works for the situation. Possibly with grumpy animal(s) if you got two despairs. Failure does not mean you get across but with consequences, because there is already a rule system in place for that. Now get up, dust yourself off, and use your head to puzzle this challenge out. Better yet, spend a destiny point to remember that grapnel you completely forgot about.

If, on the other hand, you try jumping the canyon, I'm just going to break your leg and knock you unconscious about fifty feet down, because that's what happens when you try to jump over a canyon. Idiot. Now the challenge is 50 feet of a sheer slope, and the goal is to save the mouth-breathing invalid who thought he could jump over a canyon before he dies from exposure to the elements. I don't reccomend a straight athletics check.

I'm arguing that there needn't be pre-set paths because I'm not running a dungeon expedition game. In fiction, how a character overcomes an obstacle and how the obstacle is defined is only relevant in how it supports the underlying themes of the narrative. The only thing that matters is that obstacle is overcome and that the effort in overcoming the obstacle has a potential cost in time, talent, and/or treasure. In fiction, the most engaging actions are those that have a cost because if there's a cost, there's drama associated with it.

FFG Star Wars isn't inherently designed around a player making decisions to satisfy predefined goals in the face of adversity. The dice mechanics are too loose to support that and the suggestions in both the core books and in supplemental materials defy it. FFG Star Wars focuses on character motives, placing characters into situations where those motives conflict, and making their decisions the driving force.

In my experience, adult gamers have been exposed to enough fiction that they're capable of recreating both the tropes and narrative beats of various genres. We all inherently know that The Empire Strikes Back would have been an incredibly bad movie if the Millennium Falcon had smashed into an asteroid at minute 45 and killed everyone inside. Yet, for some reason, it's deemed "acceptable" that Joe Smith, playing his PC Han Solo, can, while being chased by TIE fighters blasting away at him, critically flub a high-speed Piloting: Starship roll resulting in the destruction of his ship, killing all the characters aboard, and ending the campaign.

Starship combat is the prime example of why a failure on a roll cannot have a prescribed end result. We all, reasonably, accept that the vacuum of space is a 100% unforgiving environment. Seeing as how most players don't enjoy seeing their characters meeting an untimely end, it's perfectly within the spirit of the game to take a forgiving approach to an unsuccessful action. Otherwise, players will be so risk averse to dog-fighting that they will never engage in it.

In movies, it's commonplace for characters to leap from rooftop to rooftop while fleeing an overwhelming force. I'm not going to penalize a player who plays to genre tropes simply because he doesn't hit his die roll to make a graceful landing by applying eight stories worth of falling damage. That's, frankly, ridiculous as it sets up PCs with impossible choices and discourages daring, interesting behavior. Stay, fight, and probably die or jump and probably die because your character's not "statistically likely" to hit a success threshold is a dumb place for a game to be in.

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41 minutes ago, Concise Locket said:

I'm arguing that there needn't be pre-set paths because I'm not running a dungeon expedition game. In fiction, how a character overcomes an obstacle and how the obstacle is defined is only relevant in how it supports the underlying themes of the narrative. The only thing that matters is that obstacle is overcome and that the effort in overcoming the obstacle has a potential cost in time, talent, and/or treasure. In fiction, the most engaging actions are those that have a cost because if there's a cost, there's drama associated with it.

FFG Star Wars isn't inherently designed around a player making decisions to satisfy predefined goals in the face of adversity. The dice mechanics are too loose to support that and the suggestions in both the core books and in supplemental materials defy it. FFG Star Wars focuses on character motives, placing characters into situations where those motives conflict, and making their decisions the driving force.

In my experience, adult gamers have been exposed to enough fiction that they're capable of recreating both the tropes and narrative beats of various genres. We all inherently know that The Empire Strikes Back would have been an incredibly bad movie if the Millennium Falcon had smashed into an asteroid at minute 45 and killed everyone inside. Yet, for some reason, it's deemed "acceptable" that Joe Smith, playing his PC Han Solo, can, while being chased by TIE fighters blasting away at him, critically flub a high-speed Piloting: Starship roll resulting in the destruction of his ship, killing all the characters aboard, and ending the campaign.

Starship combat is the prime example of why a failure on a roll cannot have a prescribed end result. We all, reasonably, accept that the vacuum of space is a 100% unforgiving environment. Seeing as how most players don't enjoy seeing their characters meeting an untimely end, it's perfectly within the spirit of the game to take a forgiving approach to an unsuccessful action. Otherwise, players will be so risk averse to dog-fighting that they will never engage in it.

In movies, it's commonplace for characters to leap from rooftop to rooftop while fleeing an overwhelming force. I'm not going to penalize a player who plays to genre tropes simply because he doesn't hit his die roll to make a graceful landing by applying eight stories worth of falling damage. That's, frankly, ridiculous as it sets up PCs with impossible choices and discourages daring, interesting behavior. Stay, fight, and probably die or jump and probably die because your character's not "statistically likely" to hit a success threshold is a dumb place for a game to be in.

You might have had a point if failure on that piloting check meant instant death; it does not. In that case, the... *ahem* proscribed result of failure would result in a minor collision, or potentially a major collision if they fail badly. The only way the party would be instantly killed from such a sollision would be if they managed to roll a 154 or higher on the critical table; to pull that off, you would need to roll at least a 94 after having already suffered six different critical hits. If the ship has active shields, more crits will be required to make instant death possible.

As for the rooftops example, I have no problem with making jumping from building to buildinga check that can result in falling on your face and getting caught. Making a check for every rooftop is ridiculous, particularly in a game with no actual battle mat, but not every character is Jason Bourne; an easy check is more than fair for such a situation, and a character with one point of strength and no points in athletics deserves to fall on their face if they decide they're going to start practicing parkour halfway through a run-in with the cops. As for a character with good strength and athletics failing his check in defiance of the laws of probability, well then that's unfortunate; a poorly-shingled house has unceremoniously dumped you into the streets and a small squad of stormtroopers surround you. Roll initiative, or surrender! The next phase of the adventure can be a prison break, those are always exciting.

Edited by Degenerate Mind

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18 hours ago, Concise Locket said:

I'm arguing that there needn't be pre-set paths because I'm not running a dungeon expedition game. In fiction, how a character overcomes an obstacle and how the obstacle is defined is only relevant in how it supports the underlying themes of the narrative. The only thing that matters is that obstacle is overcome and that the effort in overcoming the obstacle has a potential cost in time, talent, and/or treasure. In fiction, the most engaging actions are those that have a cost because if there's a cost, there's drama associated with it.

FFG Star Wars isn't inherently designed around a player making decisions to satisfy predefined goals in the face of adversity. The dice mechanics are too loose to support that and the suggestions in both the core books and in supplemental materials defy it. FFG Star Wars focuses on character motives, placing characters into situations where those motives conflict, and making their decisions the driving force.

In my experience, adult gamers have been exposed to enough fiction that they're capable of recreating both the tropes and narrative beats of various genres. We all inherently know that The Empire Strikes Back would have been an incredibly bad movie if the Millennium Falcon had smashed into an asteroid at minute 45 and killed everyone inside. Yet, for some reason, it's deemed "acceptable" that Joe Smith, playing his PC Han Solo, can, while being chased by TIE fighters blasting away at him, critically flub a high-speed Piloting: Starship roll resulting in the destruction of his ship, killing all the characters aboard, and ending the campaign.

Starship combat is the prime example of why a failure on a roll cannot have a prescribed end result. We all, reasonably, accept that the vacuum of space is a 100% unforgiving environment. Seeing as how most players don't enjoy seeing their characters meeting an untimely end, it's perfectly within the spirit of the game to take a forgiving approach to an unsuccessful action. Otherwise, players will be so risk averse to dog-fighting that they will never engage in it.

In movies, it's commonplace for characters to leap from rooftop to rooftop while fleeing an overwhelming force. I'm not going to penalize a player who plays to genre tropes simply because he doesn't hit his die roll to make a graceful landing by applying eight stories worth of falling damage. That's, frankly, ridiculous as it sets up PCs with impossible choices and discourages daring, interesting behavior. Stay, fight, and probably die or jump and probably die because your character's not "statistically likely" to hit a success threshold is a dumb place for a game to be in.

 

So...ah, **** it, I'm going to regret wading back into this...

So...I'm not sure why you're citing the rules for fiction.  I mean, of course I am, but that seems to me to irrelevant, at least to what I'm looking for in an RPG.  If I want to write fiction, I write fiction (and I do, as it happens).  If I want to do that with friends, I'll do that (and have done, in the past).  But I'm playing a game.  A roleplaying game, sure, and one in which narrative is a powerful force, but still a game.  And so while I agree that having the game END with the Millennium Falcon being smashed by an asteroid, I'm not averse to having that collision itself take place - we actually have collision rules, unless I'm much mistaken, so there's no reason why that should end the game, to be honest.  (Sidenote: there's no reason why that would have ended the movie, either.  The rock might have disabled the Falcon, Han and Leia would have been captured on a Star Destroyer instead of on Cloud City, and Luke would have had to rescue them from there instead.)

As for discouraging players to engage in cool trope-appropriate but dangerous actions...well, first, if my players are being cool and trope-appropriate then they get boost dice.  Second, I want to reward players for XP spent, so you can bet your womp rat I'm going to require a Coordination or Athletics check for leaping across rooftops - it gives my players reason to care about their skills.  (See above, "game, not movie".)

Now, having said that, I probably WOULDN'T have failure mean that they fall 8 storeys.  Because if a character is dashing across rooftops, it seems to me that they're either chasing something or running from something.  In which case, I already have a meaningful failure point built into the check.

 

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4 minutes ago, edwardavern said:

So...ah, **** it, I'm going to regret wading back into this...

 

Holy crap, this forum does its own censoring?  It even censors "****"?  Here I've been carefully watching my language for months, and I could have been swearing quite happily without any repercussions.  ****.

Edit: Huh.  Apparently "crap" is not covered by the censors.

Edited by edwardavern
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4 hours ago, edwardavern said:

So...ah, **** it, I'm going to regret wading back into this...

So...I'm not sure why you're citing the rules for fiction.  I mean, of course I am, but that seems to me to irrelevant, at least to what I'm looking for in an RPG.  If I want to write fiction, I write fiction (and I do, as it happens).  If I want to do that with friends, I'll do that (and have done, in the past).  But I'm playing a game.  A roleplaying game, sure, and one in which narrative is a powerful force, but still a game.  And so while I agree that having the game END with the Millennium Falcon being smashed by an asteroid, I'm not averse to having that collision itself take place - we actually have collision rules, unless I'm much mistaken, so there's no reason why that should end the game, to be honest.  (Sidenote: there's no reason why that would have ended the movie, either.  The rock might have disabled the Falcon, Han and Leia would have been captured on a Star Destroyer instead of on Cloud City, and Luke would have had to rescue them from there instead.)

As for discouraging players to engage in cool trope-appropriate but dangerous actions...well, first, if my players are being cool and trope-appropriate then they get boost dice.  Second, I want to reward players for XP spent, so you can bet your womp rat I'm going to require a Coordination or Athletics check for leaping across rooftops - it gives my players reason to care about their skills.  (See above, "game, not movie".)

Now, having said that, I probably WOULDN'T have failure mean that they fall 8 storeys.  Because if a character is dashing across rooftops, it seems to me that they're either chasing something or running from something.  In which case, I already have a meaningful failure point built into the check.

 

Gaming, especially narrative gaming, is another form of fiction. It's a structured form of oral story-telling. Stories have rules because human psychology only allows us to understand stories within a certain set of parameters. Hollywood cracked that formula a long time ago. 

We can go around and around what our preferences are but, without exception, RPG rules prioritize certain aspects of gaming over others. In terms of FFG Star Wars, the focus is on simulating Star Wars and driving character motives. The opposite end of the spectrum is D20 Saga which also focuses on simulating Star Wars but it also focuses on having players satisfy predefined goals... because that's what Dungeons & Dragons rules are designed to do.

The words Success, Failure, Advantage, Triumph, and Threat are more nebulous than "succeed on a DC15 die roll." Most games have a clear cut and binary success/fail state. If the player fails the roll, the player has to give up or do something else and the rules offer no other resolution. FFG SW does not offer must-follow rules interpretation for a die roll, with the exception of "Did I hit it and how much damage did I do?" in combat. Successes and Failures are absolutely open to interpretation and the FFG devs have said so on multiple occasions. And the "How to spend Advantages/Disadvantages/Threats/Triumph" charts on the GM screens are all listed as suggestions, not dictates.

Yes, we have collision rules. But the rules don't mandate that a collision must be the result of a failed roll. Unless you're the kind of GM that is slavishly devoted to prewritten adventures, the GM is the one setting up the situation so it's reasonable to assume that the GM has latitude in how the players resolve the situation. The GM has a lot of power in this game but with that power comes a great deal of responsibility for ensuring that players are both having fun and are engaged. That means both applying and removing pressure on-the-fly as warranted. I don't go "easy" on my players because that would make a boring game. But I'm also not going to treat the game like a D&D session, which boils down to an adversarial "guess what the GM is thinking/weird chess" meeting. That becomes exhausting over time and kills campaigns, with the exception of the campaigns played by the most hardcore and dedicated of gamers. That's why I'm always encouraging GMs to treat the game like an ongoing conversation. It's easier to measure player engagement if you aren't simply staring at your notes for the entire session. 

I've run a lot of games and game systems and I've never met a player who didn't care about his skills. But there's a difference between caring about your skills and being so slavish to skill rolls that every roll is preordained. If you want to give boost dice for being cool, that's your prerogative, but, as people like WhaFrog and I have hammered on ad infinitum, is that single failure points are the quickest way to stop a game in its tracks.

If GMs want to be traditionalists and want to run FFG SW as a traditional game, that's their prerogative. But they're also introducing the same old issues that traditionalist games are always saddled with - single failure points that derail the game, over-prepping a bunch of material that's never used, and making the game adversarial rather than cooperative.

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6 hours ago, edwardavern said:

Holy crap, this forum does its own censoring?  It even censors "****"?  Here I've been carefully watching my language for months, and I could have been swearing quite happily without any repercussions.  ****.

Edit: Huh.  Apparently "crap" is not covered by the censors.

Fun fact: not only does the forum censor ****, but it also censors *****. While both were 4 letters long, the second one became 5 asterisks.

Edited by Degenerate Mind

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2 hours ago, Concise Locket said:

Gaming, especially narrative gaming, is another form of fiction. It's a structured form of oral story-telling. Stories have rules because human psychology only allows us to understand stories within a certain set of parameters. Hollywood cracked that formula a long time ago. 

We can go around and around what our preferences are but, without exception, RPG rules prioritize certain aspects of gaming over others. In terms of FFG Star Wars, the focus is on simulating Star Wars and driving character motives. The opposite end of the spectrum is D20 Saga which also focuses on simulating Star Wars but it also focuses on having players satisfy predefined goals... because that's what Dungeons & Dragons rules are designed to do.

The words Success, Failure, Advantage, Triumph, and Threat are more nebulous than "succeed on a DC15 die roll." Most games have a clear cut and binary success/fail state. If the player fails the roll, the player has to give up or do something else and the rules offer no other resolution. FFG SW does not offer must-follow rules interpretation for a die roll, with the exception of "Did I hit it and how much damage did I do?" in combat. Successes and Failures are absolutely open to interpretation and the FFG devs have said so on multiple occasions. And the "How to spend Advantages/Disadvantages/Threats/Triumph" charts on the GM screens are all listed as suggestions, not dictates.

Yes, we have collision rules. But the rules don't mandate that a collision must be the result of a failed roll. Unless you're the kind of GM that is slavishly devoted to prewritten adventures, the GM is the one setting up the situation so it's reasonable to assume that the GM has latitude in how the players resolve the situation. The GM has a lot of power in this game but with that power comes a great deal of responsibility for ensuring that players are both having fun and are engaged. That means both applying and removing pressure on-the-fly as warranted. I don't go "easy" on my players because that would make a boring game. But I'm also not going to treat the game like a D&D session, which boils down to an adversarial "guess what the GM is thinking/weird chess" meeting. That becomes exhausting over time and kills campaigns, with the exception of the campaigns played by the most hardcore and dedicated of gamers. That's why I'm always encouraging GMs to treat the game like an ongoing conversation. It's easier to measure player engagement if you aren't simply staring at your notes for the entire session. 

I've run a lot of games and game systems and I've never met a player who didn't care about his skills. But there's a difference between caring about your skills and being so slavish to skill rolls that every roll is preordained. If you want to give boost dice for being cool, that's your prerogative, but, as people like WhaFrog and I have hammered on ad infinitum, is that single failure points are the quickest way to stop a game in its tracks.

If GMs want to be traditionalists and want to run FFG SW as a traditional game, that's their prerogative. But they're also introducing the same old issues that traditionalist games are always saddled with - single failure points that derail the game, over-prepping a bunch of material that's never used, and making the game adversarial rather than cooperative.

I can't help but notice that every argument that has been posed to me so far is based on a straw man of a traditionalist who petulantly shrieks "rocks fall, everyone dies" the instant a his super-special-awesome, game-deciding check is failed.

The irony of this is delicious: every argument against my "traditionalist" approach has been predicated on the ridiculous belief that failing even one check outside of combat means death or derailment, and that the players MUST get across a rough patch in the terrain or through a random door if there is any hope for the game's survival.

I have argued is that failure is only a game-stopper in unrealistically binary scenarios set up by lazy GMs. The responses have, unsurprisingly, consisted of unrealistically binary scenarios that could only be created by someone trying to put a game-ending moment into their campaign.

I'm going to go a step further now, and say that checks I can't actually fail might as well not even include a roll, because the GM has apparently already decided whether or not I'm going to do what he wants. If getting through this doorway is guaranteed, why even bother rolling? It might as well be unlocked. Why have an asteroid field in this system if I don't actually have to worry about crashing into a rock while flying through it? And so on and so on.

Edited by Degenerate Mind
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18 hours ago, Concise Locket said:

If GMs want to be traditionalists and want to run FFG SW as a traditional game, that's their prerogative. But they're also introducing the same old issues that traditionalist games are always saddled with - single failure points that derail the game, over-prepping a bunch of material that's never used, and making the game adversarial rather than cooperative.

 

I...I don't think that's what I said. *checks*.  Nope, definitely didn't say that.

Failing a single check - actually failing it, so that you do not succeed at your intended task - does not have to stop the game.  When a PC misses the trandoshan bounty hunter with their blaster rifle, we don't all pack up and go home, any more than we would when they fail to convince the majordomo to let them into the Hutt's palace, or when they fail to, yes, navigate their way through an asteroid field without taking damage.  Instead, we work out the consequences for failing (the trandoshan escapes, the PCs must find another way into the Hutt's palace, the ship suffers damage and will need to be repaired) and then I say "So, what do you want to do?"  And my players have to deal with the new situation. 

That doesn't feel adversarial to me, or radical, or excessively traditional.  That is literally the premise for tabletop RPGs.  I'm not saying there aren't other ways to do things, but I don't feel that I'm ruining the game by doing this, or that FFG's Star Wars is notably different in this respect.

Now, of course, it is possible to DESIGN games whereby there is only one way to do something.  You could write in a cliff that blocks the way to the PCs' destination that can only be overcome with a successful Athletics check.  And, if they fail that check, it will leave you with a bunch of material you never got to use, and a crappy game.  But that's not an issue with RUNNING the game - it's a design problem.  Now, that can be avoided by fudging the results and saying that "Failure=Success-but-you-feel-bad-about-it" (sorry, that was petty of me), but to my mind a better way is to design environments, situations, NPCs, plots and whatever else that (a) are robust and detailed enough to handle alternative methods and (b) are active, not static, so that nothing ever "stops".

What I find kind of weird is that what I'm saying here seems to align with what you've posted elsewhere: Isn't the whole point of designing situations where there are limited chokepoints (and where unavoidable chokepoints have "at least three ways" that the PCs can overcome them) that you can then deal with PC failure?  Or have I misunderstood that?  (I hope not; I really liked that article.)

 

18 hours ago, Concise Locket said:

Yes, we have collision rules. But the rules don't mandate that a collision must be the result of a failed roll.

 

This is, of course, true.  And GMs are entitled to adjudicate that as they see fit - maybe they decide a collision only happens on a Despair, or if the PCs fail multiple checks, or something.  But, if there's no chance of hitting an asteroid, why put them there?  Or, if you absolutely have to have them there for flavour/atmosphere, why bother rolling?  If nothing bad can happen, just narrate the PCs' progress and move on to the next encounter.  Of course, if nothing bad can happen there either...

 

15 hours ago, Degenerate Mind said:

If getting through this doorway is guaranteed, why even bother rolling? It might as well be unlocked. Why have an asteroid field in this system if I don't actually have to worry about crashing into a rock while flying through it? And so on and so on.

 

This is basically my point.  If you just want to tell a story about how the players win...well, you can tell that story.  Sounds great.  I write a lot of fiction, and I like to send it to my friends.  I don't make them roll dice, though.

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21 hours ago, Degenerate Mind said:

I can't help but notice that every argument that has been posed to me so far is based on a straw man of a traditionalist who petulantly shrieks "rocks fall, everyone dies" the instant a his super-special-awesome, game-deciding check is failed.

The irony of this is delicious: every argument against my "traditionalist" approach has been predicated on the ridiculous belief that failing even one check outside of combat means death or derailment, and that the players MUST get across a rough patch in the terrain or through a random door if there is any hope for the game's survival.

I have argued is that failure is only a game-stopper in unrealistically binary scenarios set up by lazy GMs. The responses have, unsurprisingly, consisted of unrealistically binary scenarios that could only be created by someone trying to put a game-ending moment into their campaign.

I'm going to go a step further now, and say that checks I can't actually fail might as well not even include a roll, because the GM has apparently already decided whether or not I'm going to do what he wants. If getting through this doorway is guaranteed, why even bother rolling? It might as well be unlocked. Why have an asteroid field in this system if I don't actually have to worry about crashing into a rock while flying through it? And so on and so on.

Interesting. I've been hit with repeated strawman arguments that moving the story along in a logical fashion when the PC fails to hit a task check is equivalent to "success." I don't know how many different ways I can rephrase this:

  • Failure = Cost.
  • Failure =/= Stop Sign. 
  • Cost = Loss of something valuable (time, in-game health/sanity, treasure).
  • Stop Sign = Me saying "That didn't work. Think of something else to do/guess again at what I'm thinking" or (at the extreme end) "You fall, you die."

If I'm going to throw up a Stop Sign, I'm not going to bother playing a narrative game as the narrative is being sidelined in service to combat encounters and short-term problem solving. The combat and problem encounters are in service to the narrative in a narrative game. BTW, the narrative isn't pre-scripted in my games. No one is going along with my narrative as I don't pre-script it; I set up situations not plots, because otherwise I'm wasting my time by writing a Choose Your Own Adventure. I don't know how the situation is going to be resolved going into the game. That's on the players. Thus, I'm not going to have a handy resolution to every choice they make. And often the choices they make aren't so big that they require an alternate solution - do the players get captured or not? - but aren't so small that they don't require an element of random chance - doing something physically risky.

A player elects to have his mostly healthy character leap onto another rooftop to escape his heavily armed pursuers. Do I:

  • play Jiminy Cricket and inform the player that he is making a less-than-optimal choice, thus reducing his character's agency in the game world?
  • let his character do something physically risky and inject tension into the game?

The risk doesn't pan out. Do I:

  • kill the character, thus discouraging any future risk taking at the table?
  • seriously hurt the character, thus taking away resources he might need in the future?

You're arguing that GMs are lazy if they set up binary scenarios, like the one above or however you want to define it. The big problem that your argument ignores is that we're trying to simulate Star Wars here and Big Stakes binary choices are a major part of the narrative structure. Chases can be parsed into some granular options but they still boil down to "caught" or "not caught." Fights boil down to "stand" or "fall." Morality is "good guy" vs. "bad guy." Every film in this franchise has the scene where the protagonists are being pursued by the Empire (or battle droids) and they're stopped in their tracks by something in the way - a pit or whatever. They do that thing where they look back, make a snarky remark, mentally debate standing their ground, and 100% of the time leap or swing for safety. I can't successfully simulate Star Wars if players are afraid to take those kinds of chances.

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29 minutes ago, Concise Locket said:

Interesting. I've been hit with repeated strawman arguments that moving the story along in a logical fashion when the PC fails to hit a task check is equivalent to "success." I don't know how many different ways I can rephrase this:

  • Failure = Cost.
  • Failure =/= Stop Sign. 
  • Cost = Loss of something valuable (time, in-game health/sanity, treasure).
  • Stop Sign = Me saying "That didn't work. Think of something else to do/guess again at what I'm thinking" or (at the extreme end) "You fall, you die."

If I'm going to throw up a Stop Sign, I'm not going to bother playing a narrative game as the narrative is being sidelined in service to combat encounters and short-term problem solving. The combat and problem encounters are in service to the narrative in a narrative game. BTW, the narrative isn't pre-scripted in my games. No one is going along with my narrative as I don't pre-script it; I set up situations not plots, because otherwise I'm wasting my time by writing a Choose Your Own Adventure. I don't know how the situation is going to be resolved going into the game. That's on the players. Thus, I'm not going to have a handy resolution to every choice they make. And often the choices they make aren't so big that they require an alternate solution - do the players get captured or not? - but aren't so small that they don't require an element of random chance - doing something physically risky.

A player elects to have his mostly healthy character leap onto another rooftop to escape his heavily armed pursuers. Do I:

  • play Jiminy Cricket and inform the player that he is making a less-than-optimal choice, thus reducing his character's agency in the game world?
  • let his character do something physically risky and inject tension into the game?

The risk doesn't pan out. Do I:

  • kill the character, thus discouraging any future risk taking at the table?
  • seriously hurt the character, thus taking away resources he might need in the future?

You're arguing that GMs are lazy if they set up binary scenarios, like the one above or however you want to define it. The big problem that your argument ignores is that we're trying to simulate Star Wars here and Big Stakes binary choices are a major part of the narrative structure. Chases can be parsed into some granular options but they still boil down to "caught" or "not caught." Fights boil down to "stand" or "fall." Morality is "good guy" vs. "bad guy." Every film in this franchise has the scene where the protagonists are being pursued by the Empire (or battle droids) and they're stopped in their tracks by something in the way - a pit or whatever. They do that thing where they look back, make a snarky remark, mentally debate standing their ground, and 100% of the time leap or swing for safety. I can't successfully simulate Star Wars if players are afraid to take those kinds of chances.

How many times have we seen the protagonists get captured? I can think of film PCs being captured no less than four different times because they decided that a risky escape appropriate to an action movie was a terrible, unjustifiable idea. Two of them were in the same film!

I stand by my statement that binary pass/fail checks are bad for games. There is no good reason why your game should boil down to whether or not Duke's gunnery check can sink a proton torpedo into a hole on the Extermination Station. That's great for a movie focused on a single character's journey where he is not subject to the predations of the dispassionate and impassive Dice Gods, but at a table with four to six people collaborating on a excercise in communal creativity, that is nothing short of a lazy GM trying to amp tension up with an arbitrary check that cannot be failed, because if it does, then the campaign is over.

Here's a part that I wantedto draw particular attention to:

"A player elects to have his mostly healthy character leap onto another rooftop to escape his heavily armed pursuers. Do I:

  • play Jiminy Cricket and inform the player that he is making a less-than-optimal choice, thus reducing his character's agency in the game world?
  • let his character do something physically risky and inject tension into the game?

The risk doesn't pan out. Do I:

  • kill the character, thus discouraging any future risk taking at the table?
  • seriously hurt the character, thus taking away resources he might need in the future?"

This is a strawman. I have already told you what I would do in such a situation: knock off a couple of wounds, and have the guys the player was running from catch up. However, because arguing against a strain of killer DM that hasn't existed in large numbers since 2nd edition D&D was in print is easy, you have ignored my response in favor of your preferred opposing argument.

With all due respect, if your argument is dependent on creating your own imaginary opponent, it's a pretty pathetic argument.

Edited by Degenerate Mind
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6 hours ago, edwardavern said:

I...I don't think that's what I said. *checks*.  Nope, definitely didn't say that.

Failing a single check - actually failing it, so that you do not succeed at your intended task - does not have to stop the game.  When a PC misses the trandoshan bounty hunter with their blaster rifle, we don't all pack up and go home, any more than we would when they fail to convince the majordomo to let them into the Hutt's palace, or when they fail to, yes, navigate their way through an asteroid field without taking damage.  Instead, we work out the consequences for failing (the trandoshan escapes, the PCs must find another way into the Hutt's palace, the ship suffers damage and will need to be repaired) and then I say "So, what do you want to do?"  And my players have to deal with the new situation. 

That doesn't feel adversarial to me, or radical, or excessively traditional.  That is literally the premise for tabletop RPGs.  I'm not saying there aren't other ways to do things, but I don't feel that I'm ruining the game by doing this, or that FFG's Star Wars is notably different in this respect.

I hit on several of these points in my above post but there are a few other things I want to point out that you may not be considering:

You're conflating micro actions ("escalation builders") with macro actions ("story movers"). I don't know what the context is of the hit on the Trandoshan but I'm assuming it's a major situational point in the game. Yes, for goodness sake, if the player misses the headshot and the Trandoshan needs to die to satisfy the narrative, the players can and should have alternate options. A failed assassination attempt is a part of Star Wars. That's a macro action in that it moves the story. I think it's also safe to say that 99% of players will have a backup plan or can create one on the fly. 

If the GM wants to introduce a problem that the players need to overcome in order to make another shot at the Trandoshan, which is a pretty reasonable thing to do in order to simulate the stress of setting up a second hit, that would be a micro action. He doesn't have to introduce a micro action but he risks boredom if he doesn't as the players will end up making the exact same dice rolls multiple times in order to accomplish a major situational goal. The roof top jump to pursue the Trandoshan isn't a macro action and thus doesn't warrant alternative courses of actions because it isn't integral to the narrative. It's just one of those tension ratcheting devices that Star Wars and other action films use. If players are hit with Strain and Wounds from failing a micro action in pursuit of the macro action, that's a good thing and a GM isn't going easy on them by not outright killing them from a fall.

Quote

What I find kind of weird is that what I'm saying here seems to align with what you've posted elsewhere: Isn't the whole point of designing situations where there are limited chokepoints (and where unavoidable chokepoints have "at least three ways" that the PCs can overcome them) that you can then deal with PC failure?  Or have I misunderstood that?  (I hope not; I really liked that article.)

No, you didn't misunderstand. Those unavoidable chokepoints are definitely subject to the Three Clue Rule because those chokepoints are basically gateways to further macro actions. If a GM hasn't set up multiple ways to broach the problem in a situation, he hasn't actually set up a situation. However, we shouldn't conflate every risky action a player might take with a chokepoint, else we'll never be prepared enough. Also, chokepoints shouldn't be the only part of the game where the players feel it's appropriate to take risks.

Quote

This is, of course, true.  And GMs are entitled to adjudicate that as they see fit - maybe they decide a collision only happens on a Despair, or if the PCs fail multiple checks, or something.  But, if there's no chance of hitting an asteroid, why put them there?  Or, if you absolutely have to have them there for flavour/atmosphere, why bother rolling?  If nothing bad can happen, just narrate the PCs' progress and move on to the next encounter.  Of course, if nothing bad can happen there either...

In this example, asteroid collisions whittle down limited resources. For example, instead of a strike destroying the ship, the strike can simply eliminate the ship as a future means of transportation for the PCs. The GM can rule that after the PCs safely land, a compensator melts down from the temperature differential, causing a flash fire that destroys not only the engines, and the engine compartments, but the majority of they ship's integrated circuitry and fusing the weapons. For all intents and purposes, all that's left is a hull filled with slag and a few salvageable parts. The PCs are alive, which they wouldn't be if they fell into the vacuum of space. They're where they need to be to continue the story but they'll need to find a way to leave.

Quote

 If you just want to tell a story about how the players win...well, you can tell that story.  Sounds great.  I write a lot of fiction, and I like to send it to my friends.  I don't make them roll dice, though.

"Winning" implies narrative RPGs have winners and losers. The only games I've played that have that level of built-in adversarialism are light wargames like D&D and Pathfinder or painfully strict mystery games like Call of Cthulhu. But most modern traditional gamist RPGs don't take that approach; they assume the PCs will succeed in their goals. Paranoia is very lethal but you get a clone bank to replace your character which helps avoid TPKs. The unknown part is the cost of success. 

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29 minutes ago, Degenerate Mind said:

How many times have we seen the protagonists get captured? I can think of film PCs being captured no less than four different times because they decided that a risky escape appropriate to an action movie was a terrible, unjustifiable idea. Two of them were in the same film!

I stand by my statement that binary pass/fail checks are bad for games. There is no good reason why your game should boil down to whether or not Duke's gunnery check can sink a proton torpedo into a hole on the Extermination Station. That's great for a movie focused on a single character's journey where he is not subject to the predations of the dispassionate and impassive Dice Gods, but at a table with four to six people collaborating on a excercise in communal creativity, that is nothing short of a lazy GM trying to amp tension up with an arbitrary check that cannot be failed, because if it does, then the campaign is over.

Here's a part that I wantedto draw particular attention to:

"A player elects to have his mostly healthy character leap onto another rooftop to escape his heavily armed pursuers. Do I:

  • play Jiminy Cricket and inform the player that he is making a less-than-optimal choice, thus reducing his character's agency in the game world?
  • let his character do something physically risky and inject tension into the game?

The risk doesn't pan out. Do I:

  • kill the character, thus discouraging any future risk taking at the table?
  • seriously hurt the character, thus taking away resources he might need in the future?"

This is a strawman. I have already told you what I would do in such a situation: knock off a couple of wounds, and have the guys the player was running from catch up. However, because arguing against a strain of killer DM that hasn't existed in large numbers since 2nd edition D&D was in print is easy, you have ignored my response in favor of your preferred opposing argument.

With all due respect, if your argument is dependent on creating your own imaginary opponent, it's a pretty pathetic argument.

At this point I literally have no idea what position you're arguing other than trying to jam in the last word on a subject. And since I just spent the last six months setting up a campaign and blogging about the process, it's pretty clear you haven't been paying attention if you think I'm a "lazy" GM.

I question how much actual experience you have with RPGs. I went through five Pathfinder campaigns in two years, each run by the book, and each campaign was abruptly ended by a total party kill. Considering that Pathfinder and D&D make up the vast, vast majority of all tabletop RPGs played, killer DMs and the carry-over attitudes are bred into this hobby.

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1 hour ago, Concise Locket said:

At this point I literally have no idea what position you're arguing other than trying to jam in the last word on a subject. And since I just spent the last six months setting up a campaign and blogging about the process, it's pretty clear you haven't been paying attention if you think I'm a "lazy" GM.

I question how much actual experience you have with RPGs. I went through five Pathfinder campaigns in two years, each run by the book, and each campaign was abruptly ended by a total party kill. Considering that Pathfinder and D&D make up the vast, vast majority of all tabletop RPGs played, killer DMs and the carry-over attitudes are bred into this hobby.

Ah! You got me, I completely missed your previous six months of activity while I wasn't a member of this forum. I've only been here for about a week, and have little to nothing to go on for most people's reputations. Now, as for you accusing me of being inexperienced...

I've been in tabletop gaming for a bit over two years. I was first introduced to Call of Cthulhu and 4e D&D (talk about a strange combination right there). I've run a couple games, mostly 4e & 5e, and I've participated in everything from the aforementioned Call of Cthulhu for multiple campaigns to a couple sessions of 3.5 D&D. I've collected a crapton of PDFs from out-of-print systems, and I even tried a short-run campaign of Rogue Trader that ended up falling apart due to people's schedules not synching up. I'm not a greybeard by any stretch of the imagination, but this hobby has captured my imagination like nothing before it, and I have put many long hours into it. I have yet to be on either end of a TPK, so I must not be running my games traditionally, besides still counting a failure as a failure.

As for my position, that's probably a question you should have asked before joining a resolved debate: my original argument was with 2P51 over whether a failed Skullduggery check to pick a lock should still open a door. He believed it should, I believed that it shouldn't. We said our parts and explained our reasoning, and decided to drop the argument when it was proving not to be fruitful.

Then you showed up, spent a few posts accusing me of being a traditionalist killer GM, ignored my responses to your own proposed scenarios, and are now wondering what my actual position was.

If I must explain it word-for-word, then so be it: it is ridiculous to have a failed check still accomplish the primary purpose it was meant to just because it moves the plot forward. If a failure is a failure for a crafting check, a combat check, and any non-plot check, then it should be a failure for a check attached to the plot as well. If that check failing means that the campaign cannot advance further, then the GM has made a horrible mistake in setting up that part of a story by making his game dependent on a single linear point for the plot to advance. This has applied perfectly to 2P51's locked door, to your chasm, and to your CoC research check. The parkour check and the piloting check appear to be a misinterpretation of the original argument you butted into without knowing what was being argued, in light of this last post.

Edited by Degenerate Mind
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14 hours ago, Concise Locket said:

You're conflating micro actions ("escalation builders") with macro actions ("story movers").

1

Are these terms from somewhere?  I think I understand what you're saying, but these seem like quite specific terms; just wondered if you'd pulled them from somewhere.

 

14 hours ago, Concise Locket said:

In this example, asteroid collisions whittle down limited resources. For example, instead of a strike destroying the ship, the strike can simply eliminate the ship as a future means of transportation for the PCs. The GM can rule that after the PCs safely land, a compensator melts down from the temperature differential, causing a flash fire that destroys not only the engines, and the engine compartments, but the majority of they ship's integrated circuitry and fusing the weapons. For all intents and purposes, all that's left is a hull filled with slag and a few salvageable parts. The PCs are alive, which they wouldn't be if they fell into the vacuum of space. They're where they need to be to continue the story but they'll need to find a way to leave.

1

So, I think this is part of what was annoying Degenerate Mind earlier.  Nowhere did he or I disagree with you on this.  We never said that failing a piloting check and hitting an asteroid would instantly TPK the party - that was, I believe, a scenario you assigned to this side of the debate.  Instead he (and, subsequently, I) were simply suggesting that failing, and thus colliding, should be possible.  Which you seem to agree with here...

Now, having said that, I do think that character death should be possible, either as a result of intense and perverse stupidity in the face of GM advice, or through creeping progress towards that event, or through a narratively appropriate player-decision.  To my mind, any and all of those are valid ways for character to be killed.  Similarly, I think it should be possible for a PC to fail in their ultimate goal.  Now, at first glance, that may seem to fly in the face of the "rules of fiction", but it doesn't have to - if the PCs fail, but the players still want to reach a satisfying conclusion, they must amend their goals to deal with the new situation - what might have been the end of the story was, in fact, just the end of Act 1.  Is your PC's motivation to protect the R2 unit carrying the Death Star plans and get him to the Rebel Alliance command?  It should be possible to fail.  R2 gets blown up, or captured, and the PC now has a new mission - whether that's revenge for R2's destruction, or recovery of those files from another source, or whatever.  The story hasn't ended because the PC failed - it's just taken a new direction.

 

15 hours ago, Concise Locket said:

"Winning" implies narrative RPGs have winners and losers. The only games I've played that have that level of built-in adversarialism are light wargames like D&D and Pathfinder or painfully strict mystery games like Call of Cthulhu. But most modern traditional gamist RPGs don't take that approach; they assume the PCs will succeed in their goals. Paranoia is very lethal but you get a clone bank to replace your character which helps avoid TPKs. The unknown part is the cost of success. 

2

"Winning" was, perhaps, the wrong word.  "Accomplishing their goals" might perhaps have been more appropriate.  But as I said - I do believe it should be possible to fail.

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20 hours ago, edwardavern said:

So, I think this is part of what was annoying Degenerate Mind earlier.  Nowhere did he or I disagree with you on this.  We never said that failing a piloting check and hitting an asteroid would instantly TPK the party - that was, I believe, a scenario you assigned to this side of the debate. 

That's correct, I was incredibly annoyed by his pathetic strawman argument.

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