On Success from Failure, and Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About It

I heard someone say this the other day: “I mean, I’m not a story gamer or anything, but I’ve been fiddling with the mechanics of my game to allow for some form of success with a failed dice roll.”

I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. The first thing I asked myself was this: Why is story gamer treated like a bad word? I got the impression that the guy who said this felt bad or guilty about doing something that he thought would make his game better. I’m mainly thinking of skill checks and the like rather than combat here, but it seems like there is a belief that slavishly sticking to the result of a die roll even if that result has a negative impact on everyone’s fun is somehow noble or correct. That’s stupid. We’re playing a game, not taking a statistics final. Now, I’m not suggesting that you routinely ignore the results of dice rolls and just make stuff up (but hey, if you want to do that and everyone at the table enjoys playing that way then go for it; there’s no wrong way to have fun), and a lot of the time failed die rolls will add just as much or more excitement to a given situation. What I’m saying is don’t let the game suffer for arbitrary reasons. I think it’s ok for failures to lead to second chances sometimes, or to even be successes with added complications, and I’m saying you don’t have to be playing a game like Fate, where this type of thing is built into the rules, to do it. Trust your instincts. Do what makes sense for your group, and have fun doing it.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “On Success from Failure, and Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About It

  1. “it seems like there is a belief that slavishly sticking to the result of a die roll even if that result has a negative impact on everyone’s fun is somehow noble or correct. That’s stupid.”

    Uh-huh. When it seems like a lot of people believe something stupid, it *might* be a sign you’ve misinterpreted the belief. 🙂 Not knowing the full context, I can’t say what is going on, but my hunch would be it’s something like the two groups are looking for fun in different places. The story gamers want to see plots move along and conflicts resolved in a way that fits the character concepts etc. — storytelling as it occurs in fiction. The non-story-gamers see failed rolls and failure as part of the conflicts and ‘story” and find fun in resolving conflicts/overcoming obstacles etc. Being gamers, both groups ostracize the other as doing it wrong, but I think they just are taking points of view regarding the story. A failure to communicate.

    So maybe the belief embodied by the rejection of ‘success in failure’ mechanics is not that “slavishly sticking to the result of a die roll even if that result has a negative impact on everyone’s fun is somehow noble or correct,” but “don’t roll if the outcome will derail/ruin the game if it is the wrong outcome.” Because those are guts are thinking: “if you are just going to veto the dice, don’t roll them in the first place.”

    I for one don’t have a negative view of “story gamers,” I just don’t agree about where the fun is. I do get annoyed when they misrepresent the other side, but that’s all too common in all kinds of areas of discourse these days. 😦

    1. I agree with the statement “don’t roll if the outcome will derail/ruin the game if it is the wrong outcome.” This is solid, unassailable advice. When I think of the “success from failure” mechanic, I think of situations that have a gray area, or where multiple variables could come into play that have the potential to make the situation more interesting. I’m not advocating a “veto” of the die results so much as an interpretation of events based on the die roll that falls outside of a binary success/failure interpretation. In situations like this I communicate beforehand what the possible outcomes may be based on the degree of success or failure. It was not my intention to malign or misrepresent anyone here; sorry if you took offense.

  2. ““I mean, I’m not a story gamer or anything, but I’ve been fiddling with the mechanics of my game to allow for some form of success with a failed dice roll.”

    I see nothing wrong with that either. House rules are also part of the game.

    I think a GM has to watch and see what the players enjoy most. Some groups love to play role playing focused adventures, while others like hack and slash while others enjoy a mix of the two. Hell, it can change from session to session for some people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s