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5771Re: [icons-rpg] Rescues and Consequences

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  • John McMullen
    Feb 25, 2014
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      I was listening to the Ken And Robin Talk About Stuff podcast, and they introduced a concept they call "fail forward" which seemed appropriate to me for this sort of situation.

      The idea is that it's not a failure at the task at hand, it's a complication that happens in the story. So your Batman-esque superhero is picking a lock and fails the roll. That doesn't mean he fails to pick the lock (though he might) but the failure at the roll signals something else, possibly associated with the task. Maybe he accidentally triggers the security alarm so the subsequent task is suddenly time-limited. Maybe you decide that the failure means they have attack dogs roaming the compound. Maybe you take this as a sign that this exact moment is when his girlfriend calls. Maybe she doesn't reach him, maybe she does, but in either case, it plants seeds of doubt in her head that he's not where he said he would be.

      You don't do it all the time, of course: sometimes he just fails to pick the lock. But sometimes it's not dramatically appropriate for him to fail at the task. You might decide not to have him roll (which is also a fine choice, narratively: "Oh, it's just a Yale six pin lock with mushroom pins; medium high security but you can pick it if you take a little extra time") or you can decide to place a fail-forward condition ("Look, you can get the guy out of the burning car, but I'm going to make you roll, and that will determine whether you have a tough night tonight or an easy night").

      Maybe the character has a Challenge that will flare up (or has a temporary Challenge if he fails the roll).

      I agree, it would be nice to see a few options like this in games, so the GM can apply other possibilities. (I have to admit that I'm really good with Probability Control until about halfway through the session, and then my wellspring of ideas goes dry for good luck or bad luck, and the descriptions start getting painful.)

      John McMullen (Searching for a .sig--drat, it's under the couch)

      From: Soylent Green <gsoylent@...>
      To: icons group <icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 9:34 AM
      Subject: [icons-rpg] Rescues and Consequences

      This was prompted by reading the Cold War Conundrum adventure, but really it applies to all sorts of adventures in which the heroes are called to rescue people from natural or no so natural disasters.

      At the very start of the Cold War Conundrum the reader is presented with a large number of rescue challenges for the characters. Without going into the details the is a pile-up on a bridge with various complications and civilians in mortal peril like a motorist trapped in a flaming wreckage. 

      The scenario states difficulties for the Test to rescue the motorist.  It doesn't really explain what happens if test fails.

      From a player agency perspective it is important that there be consequences for a failed test. If the motorist is going to be rescued anyway, regardless of whether the test succeeds or fails, then what is the point of the test?

      From a genre emulation point of view, well that's a bit of a can of worms, but generally heroes succeed in save the civilians. It may take a few tries and there may be a lot of grunting, possibly even a flashback involved but the final outcome is rarely in doubt. When the do fail, it is usually an important plot point, the sort of event that triggered Marvel's Civil War.

      So the real cost of failure, assuming one cares for both player agency and genre emulation,  is likely to be a complication.  If the final outcome is not seriously in doubt every failed attempt at the rescue should cost the character something otherwise, as stated above, what is the point of rolling for the test?

      Some example costs for a failed can include things like Stamina (the character suffers fatigue, loss of confidence or actual damage) Determination (as per the Determined Effort rule) or just time (each page the character is tied in resucing a specific civilian is a page he is not doing something else). 

      Note however, in largely abstract scenes time does not usually doesn't really matter all that much. If the GM just keeps throwing challenges to the character until they've had enough, then it hardly matters if your character heroically saved 1 or 12 civillians. If on the other hand your character is trying to rescue a civilian while the rest of the team are fighting a big bad guy, then clearly the sooner the characters succeeds in his rescue the sooner he can help his teammates. 

      Maybe this is all very obvious, but this is the sort of thinking and extra value, I'd like to see in published adventures.

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