Master Mines

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Success = Failure

I was listening to the Sons of Kryos last night interviewing John Wick.  They were discussing “Houses of the Blooded,” and mentioned a mechanic in that game that basically goes like this:  If I roll and succeed, I get to decide if the action succeeds or fails.  If I fail, the GM gets to decide.  This idea really intrigued me, and I think it would fit well in the feel of Human Events, but I recognize that I don’t completely grok this concept.

I’m having difficulty thinking of many cases where I would choose to fail and more, but still not many, cases where the GM would allow the action to succeed.  They also discussed that this means the person in control gets to decide “how” the action succeeds or fails.  I think this is the part I’m not picturing correctly and I was hoping those of you with more narrative-control experience can help me get my head around the concept.  Once I do that, I can decide if this is something I want to include in Human Events.


November 9, 2007 - Posted by | Human Events


  1. Hi Ben,

    I think it may be a case of gaming style, as I can totally see it working, failure can be very interesting drama-wise, so let’s see if I can help.

    Rather than thinking of success and failure being hardcoded for each participant, the player and the GM respectively, think of it being about a narrative stick passed around the fire. At interesting points in the story we vie for who gets the stick and gets to continue the story. We’re each trying to make the most interesting story, and the contention is over whose vision gets put on the story. Am I making any sense?

    Comment by iamclyde | November 9, 2007 | Reply

  2. It may also help to understand that success & failure aren’t binary. I haven’t listened to that SoK episode yet, but I was tinkering with a design some time ago where there was failure was, quite literally, not at option. But, I still had a roll for that, in order to see what consequences would happen and who got to dictate those consequences. Example: “I kill the man I’m dueling” could easily succeed, but if the player rolled in a particular way, I could say “Ah, social consequence and my narration, so, uh, ‘And that starts a blood feud between your two families, as they decree that the duel was unlawful and thus what you did was murder.'”

    I don’t know if that makes sense, but hopefully it illustrates the power of consequences. Failure can also be awesome, but most “traditional” games punish failure rather than make it work in a story.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | November 10, 2007 | Reply

  3. It’s basically a resolution system that is 100% narration. Whoever wins the dice conflict says what happens, period.

    Comment by robertbohl | November 10, 2007 | Reply

  4. I agree with Ryan, because if I wanted to fail (at the action), then it’s not really a failure. It’s a success if I win the roll…

    Comment by commondialog | November 12, 2007 | Reply

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