Master Mines

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Failing Big = Awesome Later?

I’ve been chewing over the concept of failure in Mythender, and while failure is (ideally) rare, I wonder if the gamer instinct to mitigate failure will crop up still.  Along with that, I’m thinking that failure needs to *do* something.  I have an idea in mind about the GM giving out “Failure Points” (for lack of a better term) to Heroes who Fail Big.

“Fail Big” is something I’m not completely sure about.  I’m not sure if I want to handle it like getting Hero Points in PDQ (total GM fiat) or Compels in SOTC (up-front GM offering). In typing this, I think I’ll lean towards a hybrid — a “yes, and…” offering, building on how the Hero failed, with a caveat that if the Hero Fails Big on his own, you could just reward without the “yes, and…” offering.  Failing Big means taking even more damage or losing more than you risked.  It is the Hero who Fails Big who is driven stronger by something inside him — mechanically, that’s what Failure Points are.

“Failure Points” (man, I do need a better name) are like super-potent versions of Mythic Power.  Think about activating a Limit Break in Final Fantasy — after taking so much damage, your next attack is freakishly powerful.  That’s kinda what I want Failure Points to do, but am I devaluing the concept of “Heroic Failure” here by making it a vehicle for future empowerment?

That’s the question I have to ask my fellow Master Miners.

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December 21, 2007 - Posted by | Mythender

12 Comments »

  1. >am I devaluing the concept of “Heroic Failure” here by making it a vehicle for future empowerment?

    If I were to give you an answer based on the source material you’re drawing from, I’d say no. In most myths, failure is an integral part of crafting a more exiting and climactic success down the line. I think the “yes and” mechanic fits well here. The key is to make sure that if the players decide to push their failures further to get points, there are serious consequences to that, either story-wise or mechanical, that either equal or outweigh the benefit. My personal opinion is that having story consequences would be more fun, but you have to decide that as everything pans out.

    Comment by jhimmelman | December 21, 2007 | Reply

  2. I totally dig what you’re saying, Jeff.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | December 21, 2007 | Reply

  3. If you want to make failing part of the game, you really need to put players at ease and get their buy-in. Describe the story and mechanic benefits of this approach.
    I think Mythender could have trad gamer appeal. But if you don’t explain failure as a story option and how you’re doing Limit Breaks, a trad gamer, used to the DM vs. Player model, will lose interest. I speak from past experience. Heck, I’ve been that guy.
    Don’t forget, this is a small market. Having trad gamer appeal is a good thing. Plus, it is always a way to expand horizons.

    Comment by orklord | December 22, 2007 | Reply

  4. Good call, Rich. My zeroth drafts tend to heavily focus on the hows rather than the whys. I’ll keep this in mind when I write that part of it.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | December 22, 2007 | Reply

  5. Failing big isn’t devaluing failure, because a) it has to be big and b) it isn’t really failure anyway. This is fiction and we know the heroes are going to do well, or at least do interesting.

    Comment by robertbohl | December 24, 2007 | Reply

  6. Robert, could you unpack what you mean by “it isn’t really failure anyway?”

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | December 25, 2007 | Reply

  7. Ryan,

    Definitely go with the “Yes and…” approach it seems to fit. However, is there a way to advance towards a Limit Break by succeeding or is the only way to be truly powerful to fail?

    Comment by commondialog | December 29, 2007 | Reply

  8. However, is there a way to advance towards a Limit Break by succeeding or is the only way to be truly powerful to fail?

    Also through success, and even through grandstanding, but, I think Failing Big does more, if you’re willing to take it up. To point it down to terms I’m not actually using in the game, to remove those terms from the concept:
    A regular success yields 1/4 point of Awesome, though it’s not without risk.
    A grandstanding success yields 1/2 point of Awesome, though with increased risk.
    Failing Big yields 1 point of Awesome, but at a price.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | December 30, 2007 | Reply

  9. Ryan, I think that’s definitely the way to go. The system felt incomplete if the only way to Limit Break was via failure, especially when you’re playing all-powerful warriors.

    Comment by commondialog | December 30, 2007 | Reply

  10. Robert, could you unpack what you mean by “it isn’t really failure anyway?”

    You’re essentially having a fictional failure, but at the choice of the player, and thus it does not represent a failure from the point of view of the player. That’s what I meant. Did I misinterpret something about Failing Big?

    Comment by robertbohl | January 3, 2008 | Reply

  11. Robert,

    Failing on its own isn’t the player’s choice. Making it an option is, but having that option occur is up to the dice.

    Failing Big is player choice, once failure is certain. But it’s a choice to hurt yourself more than failure alone and alter the story.

    I’m not sure if I’ve explained this right, but I find it hard right now to see how that’s not failing from the player POV. Did my post on the paradigm help at all?

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | January 3, 2008 | Reply

  12. It did, yeah.

    Comment by robertbohl | January 3, 2008 | Reply


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