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Silva Stormrage
2011-05-17, 05:15 PM
Hello, I was talking to some of my players outside of a session today and the subject of wether the party should always win in a campaign, baring any really stupid mistakes made by the players or just really bad luck. I was of the opinion that the DM is supposed to provide challenges for the pc's that they are able to overcome but they have a decent chance of failing at while my players seemed to think that the players should win 100% of the time.

I am wondering what the playground tends to think about this.

snoopy13a
2011-05-17, 05:38 PM
I think the players should win as long as they play well. Of course, bad luck is always going to be a factor that can upset the best-laid plans. I agree with you more but you're going to need to come to a consensus with your players. You may even need to perhaps defer to them and make the campaign easier if that is what they want.

Bobby Archer
2011-05-17, 05:43 PM
I think this is one of those things where you'll get vehement opposition on both sides. It's one of those eternal debates. Buckle up.

Personally, I like having the possibility of failure in the games I play. It makes succeeding all the more sweet knowing that TPK (or the end of the world, or whatever the worst case scenario is) is a valid possibility. I've played a lot of games where a happy ending was (in reality) a forgone conclusion and have enjoyed those games, but I prefer those where victory is not the default state. To me, winning feels most earned when losing is possible.

Having said that, if I intended to run a game where failure was an option, I would make sure my players were aware of it well before we started because I know that, for some players, getting all the way through a campaign only to be defeated at the end taints the whole game.

Kilbourne
2011-05-17, 05:48 PM
I believe that the party should always have the chance and possibility to win. This does not mean that the game should be designed for them to win every time.

What I mean is that very smart and skilled characters, who are also lucky, will win every time if they do their very best every time. However, because of the fickle fortunes that adventurers have, they will fail sometimes -- but not without the possibility of winning.

peacenlove
2011-05-17, 05:51 PM
Depends.

One shot games: 100% should win.
Longer games: Chance of failure should increase the more mistakes they make, and the more enemies take note of them and view them as threats.
Likewise it should decrease for really spectacular results.
After all death and failure are part of stories, as long as players can recover from them with reasonable effort.

Kilbourne
2011-05-17, 06:03 PM
Depends.

One shot games: 100% should win.
Longer games: Chance of failure should increase the more mistakes they make, and the more enemies take note of them and view them as threats.
Likewise it should decrease for really spectacular results.
After all death and failure are part of stories, as long as players can recover from them with reasonable effort.

Yes. Failure, if it does occur, should only ever contribute to playing the game; the pain of failure followed by the catharsis of ultimate triumph.

Accersitus
2011-05-17, 06:04 PM
I can think of several scenarios where the party loosing could work out just fine.

The ending can become the beginning of the next campaign, set in a darker version of the same setting where the old PCs failed to save the world, but might have managed to do something helping future heroes. The PCs would then become NPCs or maybe legends who died fighting impossible odds buying enough time for parts of the world to be saved from whatever BBEG/Disaster happened.
If you are playing the correct sort of character, a heroic death against impossible odds might make a better ending than winning.
The PCs could end up joining the BBEG towards the end when they realize they have no hope for survival, making perfect Lieutenants for him in the next campaign.

The story could also become better if the ending is unpredictable, just make sure to not just pull something out of a hat at the end. The ending would have to be hinted at. Have several layers of information about what is happening towards the end, giving the players more choices for what to do at the end the more the players figure out. If they manage to piece together the entire plot, they can make the best informed choice, if they are missing pieces make it a lesser victory, but still a victory. Hopefully, if they figure out the campaign, they will feel good about it, and if they don't figure everything out they still get a victory, but maybe not exactly what they were hoping for.

In any case, the PCs should make a significant impact on how the campaign develops, but the degree of impact should vary based on their choices.

One concept we have had great success with in our group, is that the GM/DM writes a small epilogue for each character after the campaign ends, detailing how the character lived out the rest of his days (or at least the immediate future), or what stories/legends were told about the characters end. Even though the characters might not win, a well written epilogue about the impact they did have can be even better.

Kaun
2011-05-17, 06:06 PM
Depends.

One shot games: 100% should win.


Not a CoC player im guessing.

Personally i think the players should get outcomes that are a result of their actions.

I dont like throwing things at them that they will win or loose.

I will throw thing that i view as being easy or hard but at the end of the day lady luck can be a b&^#% sometimes.

I think when as a DM you start deciding the outcome of things before the players have had any influence over them you are removing a lot of the fun from the game.

Ranos
2011-05-17, 06:18 PM
One shot games: 100% should win.
What makes you say that ? I actually tend to be much harsher in one-shot games. Players are much less involved in their characters than in a long-running campaign, so losing is less of a problem.

Look at it this way : One the one hand, you have a movie where the protagonists end up losing. That's far from unheard of. On the other hand, you have a long-running TV show that ends abruptly when the protagonist dies to a mook in the middle of an episode. Much less satisfying.


In a campaign though, I like the idea of giving the players a plot armor, some sort of metagame ability to get themselves out of trouble of the terminal kind. Each time they use it, it would come at the cost of losing something else. Escape the BBEG, lose the macguffin. Faint and get captured instead of killed. And when comes a time where they must really put everything on the line, they can get a boost in power at the cost of their "plot armor" for the scene.

dsmiles
2011-05-17, 06:19 PM
Not a CoC player im guessing.

Personally i think the players should get outcomes that are a result of their actions.

I dont like throwing things at them that they will win or loose.

I will throw thing that i view as being easy or hard but at the end of the day lady luck can be a b&^#% sometimes.

I think when as a DM you start deciding the outcome of things before the players have had any influence over them you are removing a lot of the fun from the game.This, except I'm a firm believer in the 5% rule. Fully 5% of encounters should be WAY above the level of the PCs, and this unwinnable by any means short of a miracle. It even says so in the DMG.

Accersitus
2011-05-17, 06:20 PM
One shot games: 100% should win.


Usually when we play one shot games, each player has his own objectives, and they are usually mutually exclusive (but not always). It becomes a game of figuring out what is happening at the same time as you have to figure out the other players' powers and abilities while concealing your own.

Most of the times, one or two players manage to complete their objectives, while the others die or escape. The games are set to encourage people to wait until they have their objective in sight before acting against the other players, making the PvP fight the last part of the story.

Jude_H
2011-05-17, 06:21 PM
Good question.
I was going to hedge this with a 'depends on game' response, but when trying to think of a game where the players should win, I completely drew a blank.

In a tactical game: No.
In games like Savage Worlds, D&D or any system established pre-'90s, the GM has two hats: scene-setter and opposing player. If the GM pulls punches as an opposing player, most of the game's substance evaporates. The conflicts that are supposed to build up over the plot arc become a series of gimmes that the players' skill no longer meaningfully affects.

In a narrative game: No.
Failure is the entire premise of a few rpgs. A story isn't interesting if it has no meaningful obstacles or complications. A character is shallow and dry without faults or a threat of failure/disaster. There's just no hook, if there's a mutual agreement that everything is going to work out in the end.

At first, I balked to say that an interesting character or plotline should be genuinely risked through gameplay. After thinking about it, I believe they should. A western hero might have a plot trajectory that looks like it will resolve by overcoming alcoholism to save the day. In the game, he could give up the liquor, stand up to the villains, get shot down, curtain close. If the character's interesting enough, that shouldn't be unsatisfying (though it could be disappointing).

I've had plenty of D&D games where the villain's beaten the party, but we were interested enough in the plotline that we rolled up new characters and continued the narrative from a different angle. I don't think anybody was too upset. It could be interpreted as the GM letting the players win by continuing, but the characters definitely didn't get any help.

If there are conflicts that risk narrative failure that players don't think are meaningful enough to the fiction to be interesting, the players and GM are probably not on the same page in terms of what sort of game they're playing.

For example, narratively meaningless fight & challenges are a vital part of wargames and dungeon crawls, but in a story-driven game, they're just ugly editing. If players are upset about failing unsatisfactorily in such a fight, the GM is probably trying to play a game with a much less stringent narrative focus than the players are.

Edit: I... I think I just advocated GNS.
Huh.

E2: Also, in the "Tactical Game" thing, I left out something important: as a scene setter, it's the GM's job to pose interesting challenges. These should be winnable (or playable in a way to avoid total campaign failure), otherwise there's no point.

Remmirath
2011-05-17, 06:32 PM
I think the party should always have a reasonable chance to win, and a reasonable chance to fail.

What I mean by that, is that if they can come up with some way to win - even if they weren't strictly supposed to be able to - it ought to work. Likewise, if they somehow manage to fail spectacularly even though they were supposed to win, they should lose.

I am always happier if a character I like ends up winning, true; or at least, if they don't die permanently. I don't mind a res or a stay in a cell or fleeing a battle or anything like that, but permanent death's a downer. However, I like the risk of death, and if it seems like that character really should've died I want them to die rather than pulling some illogical escape move at the last minute (or especially rather than 'okay, you're going to die if I hit you... the orc moves on to Dirk the Fighter instead').

I'm personally of the opinion that one-shot games are best ended by everyone dying, but I do realise not everyone agrees with that. If you're not attached to the characters, why not kill them off in creative ways? :smallamused:

If the DM pulls a few strings in a longer running game to have some PCs survive, particularly for plot-related reasons, I don't mind - so long as it isn't obvious. It's annoying if it's obvious. At the end of a long-running campaign, however, all gloves should be off in my opinion.

Although, I must add that if I'm DMing and I know I have players whose enjoyment of the game is severely hampered by having their characters lose or die, I will try to set things more in their favour - after all, the fun of the game is the single most important thing. I will probably try to find different players after such a campaign, however.

Silva Stormrage
2011-05-17, 06:47 PM
I agree with most post here, good tactics and good luck should result in a fairly definite win. The problem for me is when players want to "Auto-attack" (use one spell or just full attack to the exclusion of all else) and expect to win. Usually they start complaining when the boss or whatever they are fighting adjusts their strategy >.>.

Also what about an encounter that if the party loses means the campaigns over. Such as a Doomsday Cultist triggers a ritual that destroys the world. Should the chance of the party losing go down? This is of course assuming the party doesn't want to run a campaign in the ruins of the world.

KillianHawkeye
2011-05-17, 06:53 PM
I think the outcome should always be uncertain. The DM's responsibility isn't to create a situation where the PCs will always triumph, but neither should he create a situation where the PCs will always fail.

After all, why else do we have dice?

MrRigger
2011-05-17, 07:13 PM
The campaign should have a satisfying conclusion, whether that means winning or losing. If the players win, even though it doesn't make any logical sense for them to have won, that's not satisfying in my book, since the DM wasn't able to present a good story, and the players were handed a win without really earning it. But if the PCs lose without a chance to win, that's not satisfying either (unless the DM pulls off some epic storytelling, and even then, it's not really cool). So if your PCs encounter an Ancient True Dragon in a cave on their explorations that you intended to have force the party to work for, only for the party to impale with a Feather Token: Tree (50 foot ceiling, instant 50 foot tree from under its belly, one dead dragon), they should get away with it. You might want to take a break so you can go burn your campaign notes, but what's more satisfying? The players getting to tell that story about how their level 7 PCs overcame a CR 20 encounter, or a DM fiat where the dragon evasions out of the way, even though it couldn't do something like that in the space provided?

MrRigger

rayne_dragon
2011-05-17, 08:09 PM
Depends on what you mean by "win" exactly. Do you mean they need to succeed in every battle they take part of? Or do they just need to beat the final big bad to "win"?

Winning doesn't mean much if you can't loose. There has to be some risk to make victory rewarding. Some games don't lend themselves well to being won, like Call of Cthulhu or Paranoia. There's nothing wrong with ending a Call of Cthulhu game with a brutal defeat or a sense of hopelessness. And in Paranoia the fun is more from losing rather than winning. Plus I like to think that the point of RPGs is to have fun with friends rather than 'win' the game. As long as the game is suitably awesome, there's lots of fun to be had 'win' or 'lose.'

Telasi
2011-05-17, 08:24 PM
The PCs should never be permitted to win if they don't earn it. For me and most people I play with, a hard-fought defeat would be more satisfying than an easy victory, or worse, a fight the GM throws so we win.

In my own game, I expect the players to know when to run from a battle they can't win. I've told them that I don't believe in the idea that PCs are somehow special, and that I'm going to kill their characters if they don't play intelligently. On the other hand, I've also promised to not use cheap tricks on them and to refrain from pushing "I win" buttons they don't use. I sometimes give them enemies they can't defeat, but my NPCs are mostly reasonable people with goals beyond screwing the party, so they have the option to talk. All told, I've had four PCs die in ten levels from bad planning, a retributive strike, tactical error/bad luck, and draconic vengeance, respectively.

Gamer Girl
2011-05-17, 09:38 PM
Hello, I was talking to some of my players outside of a session today and the subject of wether the party should always win in a campaign, baring any really stupid mistakes made by the players or just really bad luck. I was of the opinion that the DM is supposed to provide challenges for the pc's that they are able to overcome but they have a decent chance of failing at while my players seemed to think that the players should win 100% of the time.

I am wondering what the playground tends to think about this.

No. Not even close. This is a typical view though.

Just think, would you play any game(Chess, Risk, Football, Soccer) if you knew that it would be a 'challenge', but at the end you would win? How much fun would any game be if you knew you would always win? Why even play a game you have rigged to let you win?

I see the Role of the DM as more world crafting. The DM makes the world to game in. But when I make the world, I just make it the way I want it. At no time do I say 'well to make this a fair challenge to the party I'll change x, y or Z'. Everything is mostly 'set', and does not change with the groups level or power.

I'm known as an Official Killer Dm, no character is safe in my games. Anything can kill a character, at any time. They don't need to make a mistake, it's just a dangerous world.

A lot of the people respond very well to a deadly game. They know that if they can make it through a session, that is an accomplishment. Even more so compared to a character that plays the game on 'cruse control', safe in the knowledge that they will win and be happily ever after.

valadil
2011-05-17, 09:50 PM
Umm. Depends on what the win condition is. There are battles that can be lost, without causing the game to end. I don't think I could game with anyone who believed the PCs should defeat every challenge. But a party with a "show must go on" attitude could work.


baring any really stupid mistakes made by the players or just really bad luck

This is a very loaded statement. There are a lot of players out there who pick fights with everything they see because that's what the game is about to them. Whether or not you count fighting the ancient red dragon as a stupid mistake or not depends on your play style The players I've seen who argue in favor of being able to win everything are also the players who believe that anything the GM puts in the game is a challenge thrown down by the GM. If I'm running the game, that dragon is not just keeping loot warm for the players. Choosing to fight him is a stupid mistake, although the players may not agree.

Force
2011-05-17, 09:54 PM
For me, the party gets an even chance. I try to allow death only happen when it's epic and/or appropriate (that means I try to avoid Random Orc Warrior #1 critting and taking out the fighter in the battle just prior to the BBEG)-- but that's only when the players are working with a modicum of intelligence.

If, for example, the party decides to assault their Great Wyrm Gold Dragon patron in his den for no IC reason, they get what they deserve. If the party's looking for a mole in their organization, and decide to take their patron (a merchant factor) into custody, but said merchant happens to be the Great Wrym who's been working behind the scenes... they get a more even chance to make good their mistake.

lady_arrogance
2011-05-18, 01:58 AM
Depends on what you mean by "win" exactly. Do you mean they need to succeed in every battle they take part of? Or do they just need to beat the final big bad to "win"?

Winning doesn't mean much if you can't loose.


Rayne_Dragon said what I was thinking.

In larger scale, like in a whole campaign, I have noticed, that things go pretty dull, if there is no anykind of "loses". Like in real life, the downs you face make the ups feel better, when they come by.

I was playing bit over 2 years in gritty Dark Heresy Game (aren't they all gritty, by default?:smalltongue: ), where the characters were -if not underdogs, but at least in a really unfavorable situations most of the time. But it made the high-points - "winning" - so much sweeter.

And even if I don't say that every campaign should end with characters succeeding in their agenda, for most of games "winning" in the end makes the whole experience of roleplaying kind of reaching it's peak. Like in the end of a good book, when one puts the book down, happy to let it end, because things have got "proper" ending. Or at least to me, the campaigns that end players "losing" aren't feeling like really finished. Like I'd be left waiting for a sequel that never comes up.

Silva Stormrage
2011-05-18, 02:28 AM
Rayne_Dragon said what I was thinking.

In larger scale, like in a whole campaign, I have noticed, that things go pretty dull, if there is no anykind of "loses". Like in real life, the downs you face make the ups feel better, when they come by.

I was playing bit over 2 years in gritty Dark Heresy Game (aren't they all gritty, by default?:smalltongue: ), where the characters were -if not underdogs, but at least in a really unfavorable situations most of the time. But it made the high-points - "winning" - so much sweeter.

And even if I don't say that every campaign should end with characters succeeding in their agenda, for most of games "winning" in the end makes the whole experience of roleplaying kind of reaching it's peak. Like in the end of a good book, when one puts the book down, happy to let it end, because things have got "proper" ending. Or at least to me, the campaigns that end players "losing" aren't feeling like really finished. Like I'd be left waiting for a sequel that never comes up.

I didn't specify what winning was because my players took different opinions of what "Winning" is, which of course is fair. One player thought that when the campaign is over the PC's side or group should have accomplished its main goal and the villian's should have lost no questions asked. He didn't care if it was hard getting there but they should win definitely at the end. The other player thought that player deaths were bad dming and that unless the players did something really stupid (really stupid being walking up to a great wyrm and poking it's eye at lvl 1) they should win with relatively little threat. Though encounters should be challenging... we had to stop before I could ask him how encounters that are no threat could be challenging though.

Malkav
2011-05-18, 02:37 AM
I have a policy in my games: If you make a stupid decision I am going to try to kill someone.

It makes people aware that I have no qualms taking a character sheet mid encounter and lighting it on fire.

John Campbell
2011-05-18, 03:30 AM
WIthout the depths, the heights are meaningless. There is no victory without the possibility of defeat.

Knaight
2011-05-18, 03:33 AM
Given that the party not always winning means they must lose, how it is they lose is worth evaluating. At the simplest, one could look at losing as setbacks, failures, and bad endings. Each of these warrants being viewed in a different way, and moreover there are multiple styles of interaction within each of these, and when dealing with these one must paint with the broadest of strokes. Nonetheless, within these parameters, these are my opinions.

Setbacks are universally warranted. In this case, a set back is denoted as a failure in part of a process for a larger task, with the implicit understanding that the process is then modified to account for this failure without altering the fundamental nature of a task. Stories have these, and they almost always need them, with the only real exceptions being shorter stories with only failures. As such, a game should have them as well. To provide an example, if the party is attempting to overthrow a kingdom, and their army is smashed in a battle, there is a set back, as they can regroup, recruit more people, or if worst comes to worst attempt an overthrow in another manner.

Failures are more contentious. In this case, these are defined as an end to an individual extended task in which the task is rendered impossible to accomplish. While the possibility of these should be present in almost every case, there are exceptions. In some cases, there is less a possibility than a guarantee of failure, cases like these must be a part of the social contract of the game, and understood by all, but under those parameters guaranteed failure can be a lot of fun, as it is more a matter of how one fails, or what one accomplished despite ultimately failing. Likewise, situations where failure is impossible, and there are only set backs can be used, this is one possibility for a longer campaign, particularly if said larger campaign is based around a single extremely extended task. However, both of these are edge cases. For clarification purposes, an example of a failure could be a party trying to uncover a political plot before they lose something dear to it, where they act too slowly and that something dear is forever lost.

Bad endings are another contentious case. These mark the end of the characters, the campaign, and the story being told, and do so in such a way that the efforts of the characters are rendered irrelevant, it is essentially failure writ large, where the game ends entirely. I'd consider the possibility of these common, with the assumed good ending as an eventuality somewhat more likely than the equivalent for mere failure. Certainly the "try until it is finally done with failures along the way" method works for many videogames, which are probably a fairer comparison to RPGs than inherently competitive sports or board games. However, there is also the concept of doom, where the ending will eventually be bad and its how the characters act in the light of that that drives story, which is a proven narrative style. It is an extreme edge case, but structuring a game around that is entirely reasonable, though the caveats applied to guaranteed failure still apply.

Mastikator
2011-05-18, 03:46 AM
No. I've heard somewhere that 75% is the golden ratio of win/lose. If you do less then the players get frustrated, if it's more then it gets boring. From a "keep players happy" perspective then aim for 75% victory.

And lets not forget that "win" and "lose" are subjective terms that depend entirely on your goals. If you merely hope to survive an ordeal then you've won even if you had to flee. If your goal is to destroy your enemy then if you die in the process if killing your enemy you still may count it as a victory.

Kurald Galain
2011-05-18, 04:19 AM
I was of the opinion that the DM is supposed to provide challenges for the pc's that they are able to overcome but they have a decent chance of failing at while my players seemed to think that the players should win 100% of the time.
Well, I suppose both are valid playstyles, but my own preference is strictly the former. I get bored pretty quickly if I know ahead of the time that I'm going to win anyway.

J.Gellert
2011-05-18, 04:24 AM
Basic storytelling; a defeat early on makes for more interesting victories later.

In fact, all that a DM owes his players is a realistic, believable outcome based on their actions. Sometimes that's a victory, at other times a defeat. The important thing is; whichever one it is, the players should be able to see it coming.

So no, they shouldn't always win.

Earthwalker
2011-05-18, 04:24 AM
For me and my group this is very system / setting dependant and not a simple answer.
Forexample in Call of cathulu having an ending with everyone dead or just a brain in a jar is perfectly acceptable and no players would be upset with this kind of ending.
In DnD I think my players want to beat the bad guy at the end, and want the win. The difference here is that mainly if they don’t beat the bag guy, if they get killed then that’s ok, it just means that wasn’t the end. Death not being the big disadvantage it used to be an all. So Its true that in the end the PCs will win, of course there is no telling when the end will be.
Playing Torg and running around with a belly full of posibilities and a head full of hope, of course the PCs are always going to win against mooks, it just a case of how many posibilities they had to burn to get there.Then against the big bad they can lose and die but odds are still on their side. Of course if I send them to Orrorosh in which case all bets are off.
I do think the players should know up front what expectations are so they can play accordingly. It certainly seems to help.

Dr.Epic
2011-05-18, 05:17 AM
It all depends on how smart the players are. They do things right, they should always come out one top and victorious.

lesser_minion
2011-05-18, 06:08 AM
No, they should not.

Advances and setbacks are a fundamental part of any game. Take away the setbacks and you are left with absolutely nothing of interest.

Even overall victory shouldn't be inevitable -- in fact, it doesn't even have to be likely. Whether or not you had fun is vastly more important than whether or not you 'won', and even a TPK has more entertainment potential than absolute victory.

OverdrivePrime
2011-05-18, 06:33 AM
A very large part of what makes the game fun is knowing that you can fail if you take the wrong approach.

And sometimes you just run into things that are bigger and badder than you. A party should know when to cut and run. The existence of failure - and sometimes it's bitter taste - is what makes or breaks verisimilitude in a game. Skipping through a sugar-coated world is fun once in a while, but most mature players quickly grow bored if they don't think there is the opportunity to fail if plans go awry.

valadil
2011-05-18, 08:30 AM
One player thought that when the campaign is over the PC's side or group should have accomplished its main goal and the villian's should have lost no questions asked.

So I think your initial question needs more clarification. Not just to redefine win, but to redefine party. I don't think the character party should always win. But I might buy that the player party should. If they wipe out trying to take down the main boss, let them roll up a new party and try again. As long as they keep making new PCs, they can eventually learn from their stupid mistakes and win the game. If that's what your player is suggesting, I can't really disagree with it.

Knaight
2011-05-18, 08:34 AM
So I think your initial question needs more clarification. Not just to redefine win, but to redefine party. I don't think the character party should always win. But I might buy that the player party should. If they wipe out trying to take down the main boss, let them roll up a new party and try again. As long as they keep making new PCs, they can eventually learn from their stupid mistakes and win the game. If that's what your player is suggesting, I can't really disagree with it.

I'll happily disagree with it. Fundamentally, for any goal other than "accomplish this eventually", there exist failure conditions other than death, imprisonment that doesn't involve an escape, etc. Consider your example of a party that was wiped out trying to take down what is presumably a leader of some sort. Whoever comes after them can benefit from the ground work ahead of them, but they still need to be able to mount an assault on said leader, and that means either waiting for conditions to work, arranging a change in conditions, or most likely a mix of both. If the objective is to prevent this leader from doing something, and not just to kill them said leader might well accomplish their objectives before group 2 can do anything about it, in which case they didn't eventually "win".

Jay R
2011-05-18, 08:41 AM
I was of the opinion that the DM is supposed to provide challenges for the pc's that they are able to overcome but they have a decent chance of failing at while my players seemed to think that the players should win 100% of the time.

If it is guaranteed to happen, regardless of what they do, then why call it winning?

When I buy snacks for the game, I don't say I "won" them, because the store clerk had no choice - he has to give them to me after I paid for them. When I drive to the game, I don't say I "won" the drive, because, barring a real tragedy, I knew I was going to get there. If I know my character is going to get to Mount Doom with the Ring why is that any more a "win" than the drive to the game or the store purchase?

If I pay a dollar for a lottery ticket, and it turns out to get me a million dollars, I won. But if I pay for a Coke and get a Coke, I didn't "win" a Coke; I bought it.

A team can win a game, because they might have lost it. But they don't "win" a practice.

When my character completes his D&D assignment, I won, since he might have failed. But when I complete a work or school assignment, I didn't "win"; I just did what I was required to. I do not want my D&D game reduced to the level of a work or school assignment.

[If people want to indulge in wish-fulfillment joint narrative fantasies, in which their character always gets the treasure and the glory, then why not? It's harmless fun. But it's not "winning", and it doesn't require dice or a DM.]

Totally Guy
2011-05-18, 08:45 AM
In my head the games I run are ironic tragedies.

In practice they might not be.

But until they're over it's not really possible to tell.

valadil
2011-05-18, 09:00 AM
I'll happily disagree with it. Fundamentally, for any goal other than "accomplish this eventually", there exist failure conditions other than death, imprisonment that doesn't involve an escape, etc. Consider your example of a party that was wiped out trying to take down what is presumably a leader of some sort. Whoever comes after them can benefit from the ground work ahead of them, but they still need to be able to mount an assault on said leader, and that means either waiting for conditions to work, arranging a change in conditions, or most likely a mix of both. If the objective is to prevent this leader from doing something, and not just to kill them said leader might well accomplish their objectives before group 2 can do anything about it, in which case they didn't eventually "win".

I don't disagree with that. I'm okay with a game being unwinnable, especially if you're the only heroes in the world who can stop BBEG from taking over.

I could see someone running a game like I described, where once a TPK happens, allies of the PCs unite to continue their work. I think that game could be challenging and interesting. I would have no interest in playing or associating with the players of a game where the PC you create at level 1 is guaranteed to slay the BBEG 20 levels later.

As a compromise I could also see a game set up where most of the time the PCs can be replaced, but there are a few pivotal moments throughout the game where a TPK is game over. Call those your boss fights. Include one every 4 or 5 levels, and definitely at the end. Let the players know going in that if they fail, it's over. But the rest of the time let them be replaced. This is inspired by 7th Sea. I don't remember the exact rule, but I think players who fell in battle were unconscious rather than dead, unless there's a boss in the fight. During boss fights, the kid gloves come off and anyone can die.

Altair_the_Vexed
2011-05-18, 09:20 AM
I look at it like this: there needs to be something cool for the players no matter whether they win or fail.

The cool thing may be a big awesome description of the end of the multiverse, or it may be a continuing campaign bent on putting right the errors of the failure, or it may be that everyone is happy and goes home for tea.

I recall hearing of a Star Wars campaign setting where Luke missed his shot on the Death Star.
The Death Star is still out there, now with a properly protected exhaust port. The Rebel base and everyone there was destroyed.
The Empire cruelly rules the Galaxy and only Yoda remains of the Jedi.

You need to have some sort of back up plan for the cool game that can happen if the players do mess up.

Delwugor
2011-05-18, 10:04 AM
For me concentrating on winning or losing detracts from playing a good game.
As a player I want to say "Awesome" no matter what.

As a GM I follow a basic guideline, if the campaign is character oriented I avoid deaths unless it works well with the player and story, if it's combat oriented then hey "live by the sword, die by the fireball".

TheEmerged
2011-05-18, 10:57 AM
I'm from the school that says that without a chance for failure, there is no success. One important cavaet, though, is that success has to be possible as well -- and the difference between them should never hinge on a single dice roll.

Jay R
2011-05-18, 11:34 AM
I look at it like this: there needs to be something cool for the players no matter whether they win or fail.

OK, I'll bite. Why?

Why is this one game so different from chess, checkers, baseball, soccer, Chutes and Ladders, fencing, archery, Parcheesi, or any other game in which one has to earn one's cool moment by doing something cool?

valadil
2011-05-18, 11:44 AM
OK, I'll bite. Why?

Why is this one game so different from chess, checkers, baseball, soccer, Chutes and Ladders, fencing, archery, Parcheesi, or any other game in which one has to earn one's cool moment by doing something cool?

Because D&D is a game/story hybrid whereas everything you've listed is just a game.

Delwugor
2011-05-18, 11:54 AM
OK, I'll bite. Why?

Why is this one game so different from chess, checkers, baseball, soccer, Chutes and Ladders, fencing, archery, Parcheesi, or any other game in which one has to earn one's cool moment by doing something cool?
Those games are designed to be competitive on some level and have rules which define winning and losing.
RPGs do not define (or should not if they do) winning and losing for the game as a whole. Specifics on resolution of conflicts, yes, but not for the entire game.

Lhurgyof
2011-05-18, 12:10 PM
I don't think so. I think the party should always have a chance (even if extremely slim) to win.

Even if the story says the party has to lose, it's important to give them the thought or feeling that they could win.

You can always make it easier/harder based on what you and your players want, but the chance to fail/succeed should always be there.

some guy
2011-05-18, 12:37 PM
I make campaigns/adventures with the expectation that the players will win. Most encounters will be challenging, some easy, some hard, some oh-my-god-nooooooo. If my players act smart and have luck, they will probably win. If they take dumb decisions, have bad luck, failure is becoming an option.


Like in real life, the downs you face make the ups feel better, when they come by.


I keep reading that as:


Like in real life, the clowns you face make the ups feel better, when they come by.


I... I guess I have a Problem?

Mark Hall
2011-05-18, 01:49 PM
The party should have a reasonable chance of winning. There should be several avenues available to winning, even if it all comes down to the same thing in the end; i.e. you may always have to "Kill the bad guy, Baddy McBossypants"*, and killing the bad guy may always involve the Sword of Absolute Awesome, but it should not be that the only way to accomplish this is by following a single, set path, and it certainly should not fall to a single PC, and never, ever, EVER fall to a single NPC.

That said, however, the party should also have a reasonable chance of failure. For every group that slays Baddy McBossypants with the Sword of Absolute Awesome, there are scores that got stuck in a TPK in the Dungeon of Ridiculously Easy Monsters and One Horrid Grudge-Beast.

If you play computer games, think of it this way: Every time you reload, that's another party who's trying to accomplish the exact same thing you just died at.


*The bad guy's resemblance to Tina Fey is completely coincidental.

Jay R
2011-05-18, 03:43 PM
Those games are designed to be competitive on some level and have rules which define winning and losing.

D&D combat is designed to be competitive. We're just competing with NPCs, and the game defines winning treasure and losing lives.

Or if you prefer, consider sports such as gymnastics or figure skating, in which you don't directly compete, but somebody won and others lost. Or consider challenges like a ten-mile hike, a marathon, a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku, in which you do or do not succeed at your task.


RPGs do not define (or should not if they do) winning and losing for the game as a whole. Specifics on resolution of conflicts, yes, but not for the entire game.

If RPGs don't have winning and losing, what are we talking about? Losing specific conflicts that kill the entire party is exactly what started this discussion.

Baseball also has rules for winning specific encounters (games), but not for winning baseball as a whole. We start all over the next day.

Delwugor
2011-05-18, 11:30 PM
D&D combat is designed to be competitive. We're just competing with NPCs, and the game defines winning treasure and losing lives.
You are correct that combat in D&D is competitive but that is only a portion of gaming. As a whole I do not take D&D or any other RPG I've played as competitive, in fact I would not play them if they where.
Subsystems - yes. Game as a whole - no.


Or if you prefer, consider sports such as gymnastics or figure skating, in which you don't directly compete, but somebody won and others lost.
Those are competitions even if not direct face to face. They also have absolute rules on who wins, mostly based on judgement.


Or consider challenges like a ten-mile hike, a marathon, a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku, in which you do or do not succeed at your task.
I don't equate a challenge with win or lose situation. Similar challenges are something I do to improve myself so even a lack of success today means I know more or better myself to succeed later on. I consider that a completely different scenario.


If RPGs don't have winning and losing, what are we talking about? Losing specific conflicts that kill the entire party is exactly what started this discussion.
Losing a conflict even if resulting a TPK is a part of the game but IMO far from the entirety of it. And from my previous post winning/losing is not the way I look at gaming.


Baseball also has rules for winning specific encounters (games), but not for winning baseball as a whole. We start all over the next day.
World Series doesn't count?

Jerthanis
2011-05-19, 12:10 AM
Assuming you mean 'always win' in the context of the end of a campaign, I don't think every victory should be absolute... but I also don't think you should ever have an absolute failure.

If the PCs do fail, they should never fail in such a way that their actions and choices never mattered. They should force the enemy to face a bittersweet victory, they should allow vital information to escape the clutches of the enemy, they should have saved the lives of at least one other person. They should never provide with their corpses nothing but the pavement for the jackbooted rulers on their way to conquering everything.

Drama doesn't need to arise from "There's a chance we might fail utterly in spite of our best efforts", it can also arise from "What will we need to sacrifice to achieve something like victory"

Knaight
2011-05-19, 12:15 AM
If the PCs do fail, they should never fail in such a way that their actions and choices never mattered. They should force the enemy to face a bittersweet victory, they should allow vital information to escape the clutches of the enemy, they should have saved the lives of at least one other person. They should never provide with their corpses nothing but the pavement for the jackbooted rulers on their way to conquering everything.

This I agree with. Whether they ultimately fail or ultimately succeed, or even are doomed to failure from the start, they should certainly have exerted influence over something, and in some genres this means influence over a great deal.

Jerthanis
2011-05-19, 01:05 AM
I will also say though, that including a game with a bad ending just so people won't take good endings for granted is probably bad form. If you give the players a bad ending just to give them a bad ending, the players will probably just be unsatisfied. If you explain that it was there to 'balance the books' or make them 'keep guessing', then they'll probably take away from it that sometimes they'll be in games which are doomed to success, and other times in games that are doomed to failure. This isn't that different than thinking you're always going to triumph in the end, and I think it's actually a little worse for building tension in those games where you plan for a mostly happy ending.

It's like... horror movies tend to end with "Haha, you thought this was going to be a happy ending?" or as I call them, "**** you for having watched" endings. These don't add tension to other horror movies just by existing, because you know that a horror movie is going to end positively or negatively at the whims of the writer. It's actually the rare horror movie which overcomes the fact that the genre so frequently cleaves to this strategy and actually manages to generate tension in spite of this tendency.

So yeah, if you want a story to end with failure, do it for real, good story reasons. Don't do it because you think that if you don't punch them in the face every once in a while, they will stop appreciate not being in pain.

Knaight
2011-05-19, 01:11 AM
I will also say though, that including a game with a bad ending just so people won't take good endings for granted is probably bad form. If you give the players a bad ending just to give them a bad ending, the players will probably just be unsatisfied. If you explain that it was there to 'balance the books' or make them 'keep guessing', then they'll probably take away from it that sometimes they'll be in games which are doomed to success, and other times in games that are doomed to failure. This isn't that different than thinking you're always going to triumph in the end, and I think it's actually a little worse for building tension in those games where you plan for a mostly happy ending.

...

So yeah, if you want a story to end with failure, do it for real, good story reasons. Don't do it because you think that if you don't punch them in the face every once in a while, they will stop appreciate not being in pain.

I'd like to point out yet again that a campaign in which the characters are doomed to failure can be fun and rewarding, though the players should know about it ahead of time. For instance, my entire group is looking forward to this (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nOu3Lb3u6Gzdd3TmMew-wzAHreqlyqk6Arg4ZDPwbuY/edit?hl=en&authkey=CL6-9ZQJ#). Naturally, everyone also gets to look at said document.

mint
2011-05-19, 06:45 AM
But winning implies that losing is a possible outcome.
I want the party to win. Because I want the story to be told.
Having the game end because of a bad few rolls is not satisfying to me.
But if there is no threat of failure, well I don't like that so much either. Less.
What I think is that winning or losing should never be determined by a singular event.
I think the fact that the party wins a fight should mean more than that they get to fight again. I think the sum of their victories and defeats, all the stuff they did should matter when the conclusion is finally tempered.
I think "the party should always win" is the precursor to questions like "how do you make losing fun?"

Daimbert
2011-05-19, 07:01 AM
Just think, would you play any game(Chess, Risk, Football, Soccer) if you knew that it would be a 'challenge', but at the end you would win? How much fun would any game be if you knew you would always win? Why even play a game you have rigged to let you win?

Yes, lots, and because that's the best sort of game for me to play.

These are the sorts of games I prefer, to be honest: games where I play and have a good time playing the game, but know that in the end at least most of the time I'm going to win and not have that frustrating losing feeling, especially if that loss is from things that I can't control. If I have to choose, I'll choose a game where I always win easily over a game where I lose most of the time, but where it's challenging. The ideal, as I said, is somewhere in between.

Why would you not think that a game that's a challenge but where you always will win isn't fun? You get the challenge of playing -- and have to play well, to get that win -- while pretty much knowing that unless you screw up, you'll win the game.

And this doesn't even count games where you're playing to participate in a story, where losing can hurt your immersion in the story and add frustrations as you try to overcome challenges to get to the next fun part, which is seeing what comes next in the story. If you make combat too difficult and your players prefer story to combat, you end up making them go through -- maybe repeatedly -- things they don't like in order to get to what they do like, which is not conducive to fun for most people.

And this doesn't even take into account what character death can do to a story.


A lot of the people respond very well to a deadly game. They know that if they can make it through a session, that is an accomplishment. Even more so compared to a character that plays the game on 'cruse control', safe in the knowledge that they will win and be happily ever after.

Yeah, that'll work for people who play to get a sense of accomplishment. What percentage of players play mostly for that reason, or as their primary goal? I don't, for example, quite markedly ... and there are others like me.

Earthwalker
2011-05-19, 07:31 AM
As the debate rages on I would like to throw this thought into the debate. One common recurring thread on new MMO boards is that MMOs have got easier (usually followed by why this is bad). I do believe that MMOs have got easier, now lots of games let you get to high level even if you are no good at the game, unlike old school stuff like harsh death penalties and corpse runs which meant some people just weren’t going to get to that end game and “win” so to speak.

Now with games like WOW its assumed that you will “Win” the game and get to max level, all you need to do is keep playing. No more crushing defeat or losing every item you had as your corpse decays. No more dieing and going backwards on the xp bar.

Oddly this outlook and change of design, did not in fact make WOW unsuccessful compared to games where you might not win. If you judge the game on units sold and subscribers I would say this new style of game where you are guaranteed a win seems to be quiet popular.

Daimbert
2011-05-19, 08:17 AM
But winning implies that losing is a possible outcome.

In theory, yes, but that doesn't have to be possible in practice. For example, if Michael Jordan was playing one-on-one with George W. Bush, we'd still say that MJ won if he beats him. We'd even say that we EXPECT him to win, and no one in their right mind thinks that MJ losing is really a possible outcome.

For maximum fun, to extend the example for me the ideal situation is that MJ spots GW just enough points so that MJ has to TRY to win -- he can't slack off or get really unlucky or he will lose -- but if he does try to win he's almost certainly guaranteed to win. That way it feels enough like a challenge without really risking that losing feeling and frustration that ruins fun.

Now, in head-to-head games with another person, that's not possible. But the DM in an RPG isn't really an opponent. They're a facilitator, and so there's no reason for them to feel bad if their players win or happy if they lose, and so he can set it up so that they're MJ to GW above, forced to try to win but safe in the knowledge that if they try, they will win.

hoff
2011-05-19, 09:44 AM
There was this one comic I read that the very last comic of the series had the heroes saving the world. The problem is the villains planned for the heroes to save the world in order to get their plans accomplished (they basically held the gods hostage), so saving the world ended up making the villains win. If the heroes didn't save the world everybody would lose though (the heroes, the villains and the gods).
It was quite a surprise indeed, very good ending for the series.

oxybe
2011-05-19, 12:00 PM
depends on your definition of "winning" and "losing"

note that in D&D a large part of the conflict involves combat.

usually deadly combat. that potentially involves fireballs, swords made of lightning and the undead (or in the case of golems, the never-lived).

losing a combat like that generally means death and dead parties tell no tales. tales are told of them, but that group is effectively seeing the big "game over" screen in the sky.

now, D&D has at it's roots always been heroic fantasy. princess gets captured > party travels onward & outward > fights dragon > victory > dance party.

or some variation of that sort. you generally expect the good guys to win, or at least struggle a bit after a wrench has been thrown into their plans. a lot of the time it's not "will the guys in the with the white cowboy hat win?" but "what do they need to do/get through to get there?"

and to some extent this is a good thing. real life, quite frankly, sucks. at least life as a tech support guy kinda sucks. the co-workers are the ones who make it bearable and actually enjoyable at times.

the work itself though? not so much.

so when some of us want to go galavanting of in some Faurope setting as a half-orc bandito/wizard armed with a wheel-lock pistol, an elven wizard modeled after the calm & collected butler of a certain caped crusader, a mortician who raises the lawbreakers into undead monsters and enslaves them until they've paid their debt to society, a once-gypsy who's soul was dragged through hell and is going through his "darker and edgier" phase, or whatnot we're kinda doing the whole "escapist fantasy" thing.

we don't have the chances to be zipping around as a group of D-list avengers and fighting evil or protecting metro city from the monster of the week in real life, so it's nice to be able to win. cathartic even, since most of us spend our 9-5's (10-7's in my case) doing generally uninteresting work RPGs allow us time to unwind and be the Big Damn Heros.

now that's not to say bad stuff doesn't happen. we all know John McClane is going to win when we step into the theater, but we also know he's probably going to get shot at and wounded several times or have christmas held hostage or something. either way it ain't going to be a walk in the park.

that once-gypsy was the life of the party and wandering minstrel type before the whole "dragged through hell" thing happened he's a little more dour then he used to be (this was RP between him & the GM and allowed him to rebuild his Sorc into more of a Swordmage/Gish/whatever). my character (the bandito/wizard) had his mentor, the first real person to treat him like an actual human (well, demi-human), whisked off by an enemy group alongside one of the ex-PCs (the guy moved 2 provinces away & his PC stayed in town as an NPC contact) yesterday and we're pretty steamed about it.

our group's trigger happy church inquisitor upon seeing my actions said "that was cold dude". then again, they decided pissed off a wizard who carries around a golem in a portable hole.

we've had a few deaths in the party too. but even though bad stuff does happen to us, but we generally expect the PCs to win in the end.

is it realistic? no, but neither are half-orc bandito-wizards who carry a golem like it's a pokemon and fire off magic missiles from a wheel-lock pistols.

Jerthanis
2011-05-19, 01:07 PM
I'd like to point out yet again that a campaign in which the characters are doomed to failure can be fun and rewarding, though the players should know about it ahead of time. For instance, my entire group is looking forward to this (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nOu3Lb3u6Gzdd3TmMew-wzAHreqlyqk6Arg4ZDPwbuY/edit?hl=en&authkey=CL6-9ZQJ#). Naturally, everyone also gets to look at said document.

Yeah, but that's not just having a game where the players lose just to have the players lose so they won't take future successes for granted. It's telling a story about loss, and it's clear you're taking into account themes of self destructive motivations and so on. I have the image in my head of the horror movie where the characters struggle to escape or overcome their obstacles, but at the last minute the monster just appears and kills them anyway.

I really like the Michael Jordan versus George Bush analogy.

dsmiles
2011-05-19, 02:16 PM
On of the campaigns that my players remember the most fondly is one where they lost. Things were going so well, they were just destroying their way through this dungeon (well, a dungeon-style headquarters for a loose demon prince), taking on encounters at EL+3 and EL+4 easily. Then came the beholder. The EL-2 beholder. Through a series of bad rolls and one bad tactical choice, the beholder TPK'd the party. This allowed the demon prince to take over a large section of the world, and made an awesome segue into the next campaign. They lost, but their choices made an impact on the campaign world. (This is the same group that, in another thread, I mentioned when we were discussing players actually having an interest the campaign settings they play in.) I've played in campaigns where we've "lost," and I can speak from experience, here, too. Having that kind of impact on a campaign setting really makes it feel like you didn't lose at all.

Knaight
2011-05-20, 01:39 AM
I have the image in my head of the horror movie where the characters struggle to escape or overcome their obstacles, but at the last minute the monster just appears and kills them anyway.

On this point we agree. A deus ex machina that causes a "loss" is at least as bad as one that causes a "win"

Roderick_BR
2011-05-20, 06:18 AM
I think this is one of those things where you'll get vehement opposition on both sides. It's one of those eternal debates. Buckle up.

Personally, I like having the possibility of failure in the games I play. It makes succeeding all the more sweet knowing that TPK (or the end of the world, or whatever the worst case scenario is) is a valid possibility. I've played a lot of games where a happy ending was (in reality) a forgone conclusion and have enjoyed those games, but I prefer those where victory is not the default state. To me, winning feels most earned when losing is possible.

Having said that, if I intended to run a game where failure was an option, I would make sure my players were aware of it well before we started because I know that, for some players, getting all the way through a campaign only to be defeated at the end taints the whole game.
</thread>
This says it all. Possibility of failure, and have players "earn their happy ending", avoiding railroading to both winnable scenarios (except maybe on particular scenes meant to move the story forward, if well made, not campaign ending), or nerf-weapons games.
I've thrown some very difficult scenarios at my players, and the rewards feels better when they know thet CAN fail, but manage to succeed on their own merit. If it fails, well, game over, moving on.
I do hate to waste good plots where the players didn't go too far, though, but those can be re-used, I guess.

Specific games can give different results, of course, like Call of Chutulu and Paranoia where players are meant to fail horribly by default.

Earthwalker
2011-05-20, 06:32 AM
On of the campaigns that my players remember the most fondly is one where they lost. Things were going so well, they were just destroying their way through this dungeon (well, a dungeon-style headquarters for a loose demon prince), taking on encounters at EL+3 and EL+4 easily. Then came the beholder. The EL-2 beholder. Through a series of bad rolls and one bad tactical choice, the beholder TPK'd the party. This allowed the demon prince to take over a large section of the world, and made an awesome segue into the next campaign. They lost, but their choices made an impact on the campaign world. (This is the same group that, in another thread, I mentioned when we were discussing players actually having an interest the campaign settings they play in.) I've played in campaigns where we've "lost," and I can speak from experience, here, too. Having that kind of impact on a campaign setting really makes it feel like you didn't lose at all.

Reading this weeks roleplaying tips, it asked what is a campaign. If you have different characters in the same campaign world is it a new or just a continuation of the same campaign.

I bring this up to ask, if the PCs died but the world carried on with the same players with new characters undoing what went wrong for the first group of adventurers. Did they lose, or mearly postpone winning ?

dsmiles
2011-05-20, 07:43 AM
Reading this weeks roleplaying tips, it asked what is a campaign. If you have different characters in the same campaign world is it a new or just a continuation of the same campaign.

I bring this up to ask, if the PCs died but the world carried on with the same players with new characters undoing what went wrong for the first group of adventurers. Did they lose, or mearly postpone winning ?
Well, my players and I define "campaign" as a single story arc (to include all side quests/background info quests and such). On that note, the same characters can participate in multiple campaigns, one after the other.

That one is where that particular party lost (which is the topic at hand). The players postponed winning, but the party definitely lost. At least, I'm pretty sure a TPK counts as a loss.

Can I get a show of hands on that one?

Earthwalker
2011-05-20, 08:15 AM
A TPK can certainly count as a loss.

In some system being dead isn't the big disadvantage it used to be. Pre-paying for a true res at a certain level and setting up something where if you aren't heard of for a week or having someone using divinations weekly to find you all dead and makes you better is a possibility.

With the same situation you could have the PCs dead but then on another plane trying to get back and then deal with the mess they made. More challenges until they win.

I am not saying I want the players to always win. I do feel that its a valid play style, certainly not for all.

I prefer a lighter side of play where given time the PCs will overcome, becuase it allows me more scope on what kind of character I want to play. That and I aren't that gifted at tactical combat.

dsmiles
2011-05-20, 08:27 AM
As a player, I, personally won't "pre-pay" for a true resurrection. Personally, I dislike having such low-level resurrections. I prefer the Iron Kingdoms style, where Raise Dead is a 9th level spell, and a very dangerous one at that.

On the flip side, none of the players in my group have ever "pre-paid" for a true resurrection, and I seriously doubt that they feel any different than I do about it. We like it a little grittier.

Earthwalker
2011-05-20, 09:18 AM
As a player, I, personally won't "pre-pay" for a true resurrection. Personally, I dislike having such low-level resurrections. I prefer the Iron Kingdoms style, where Raise Dead is a 9th level spell, and a very dangerous one at that.

On the flip side, none of the players in my group have ever "pre-paid" for a true resurrection, and I seriously doubt that they feel any different than I do about it. We like it a little grittier.

See in your example and using those rules the TPK was definatly a loss.
In my game at that level a TPK would be a set back but not a loss. I have never played iron kingdoms but I aren't sure I would like the changes to ressurection for 3.5 or Pathfinder. With so many spells, effect and abilities that are basically BAM your dead, I need an effect that is BAM your alive.

dsmiles
2011-05-20, 09:24 AM
See in your example and using those rules the TPK was definatly a loss.
In my game at that level a TPK would be a set back but not a loss. I have never played iron kingdoms but I aren't sure I would like the changes to ressurection for 3.5 or Pathfinder. With so many spells, effect and abilities that are basically BAM your dead, I need an effect that is BAM your alive.
On the flip side of that, most SoD spells are Necromancy (IIRC). Necromantic spells cause the caster damage in Iron Kingdoms. The higher the level, the more damage incurred. So it's even more rare than regular magic (which is fairly rare to begin with). IK is a pretty low-magic setting, relying on steam-tech and firearms.

Just_Ice
2011-05-20, 10:15 AM
The party shouldn't always win, but there really shouldn't be any situation where they're slated to lose.

There are of course, exceptions to this, and even killer DMs will find on occasion that players are more dangerous than they can possibly anticipate. As other DMs will attest, players can also mess up the easiest ruddy tasks, like "Go through a door". It's all a bit of a crapshoot, and partially depends on the quality of the players and sanity of the DM.

Delwugor
2011-05-20, 02:35 PM
The players postponed winning, but the party definitely lost.
Nicely put!

M.c.P
2011-05-20, 02:47 PM
Best way to put the answer to the OP question is as follows:

Win or Lose, what happens to the party should be interesting. Events should lead to other events, and its up to the party to turn them into favorable ones.

In the context of losing a fight, I would say that a simple TPK is the least interesting thing that can happen. What's left for the players then? The story is over for their PCs, whats left is at best a restart and at worst a wasted evening. Let the characters live after a particularly bad fight, perhaps rescued and healed by allies, but put the loss in the context of the greater campaign. I mean, there was a reason they were fighting, right? Make it known what impact their failure has on the plans of the Bad Guys or the PC's plans, then let the players decide what to do next.

There's a tendency to let the PCs have their way for a lot of DMs, because they run under the assumption that failure=death and the end of the campaign. It doesn't have to be, and when you expand the consequence of failure you create a much more interesting game that can still challenge your players without making losses frustrating and boring.

Grendus
2011-05-20, 04:04 PM
Without a doubt, the party should always have a chance of winning, and ideally it should be something akin to 100% if they play intelligently (don't jump into the statues mouth, have the rogue check for traps, then go down the tunnel with a 10 foot pole anyways, use crowd control and buffs, don't do the 15 minute workday, etc). The only times players should die are if they hit a string of bad luck (if the beholder consistently rolls 20's and the party consistently rolls 1's, no amount of strategy will win short of using no-save-just-die or save-and-die-anyway effects) or if they do something genuinely stupid (see Saph's RHoD campaign journal for a good example, mistaking two adult dragons for a gnome with a volume enhancement spell). If they players do everything right and still lose, they feel cheated.

Of course, as has been pointed out, losing isn't necessarily bad, especially in a continuous world. If they lose and it has effects on the next campaign, it still feels like they accomplished something.

myancey
2011-05-21, 09:35 PM
The current campaign I'm DMing involves the potential destruction of the world through the coming of the time of madness (sort of Cthulhu inspired). I created this so that the party could potentially fail, and it would have disastrous consequences on my homebrew world.

baileykruse
2011-05-26, 02:23 AM
I do not think so. I think the party should always have a chance to win. I also agree with Delwugor and he is right for this topic. Id want to point out yet again that a campaign in which the characters are doomed to failure can be fun and rewarding, though the players should know about it ahead of time.

Luckmann
2011-05-26, 07:20 AM
If your party isn't perpetually losing, the game isn't brutal enough! :smallannoyed:

The trick is to make losing fun. :smalltongue:

Severus
2011-05-26, 11:56 AM
"A decent chance of failure" = what? say 10%?

If this isn't in the players' control, then roughly on average every 10 adventures they fail. If that fail is TPK, then you are going to have trouble putting together a campaign because you're killing your players too often.

I'm of the school that if the players play well, they can always win barring horrible luck. The point is to challenge them, not to kill them.

prufock
2011-05-26, 01:27 PM
The GM walks a fine line - it's his job to craft fair and fun challenges. If there is no chance of failure, there really isn't a challenge. Poor decisions and poor luck are both fair game for failure, though as a GM I'm more likely to be forgiving in the latter case.

At the same time, the story is important too. It's not always about "winning" or "losing." I have crafted stories where nobody really wins.

Example: In a Mutants and Masterminds game, setting similar to X-Men in that mutants were reviled by large portions of humanity, there was an organization devoted to collecting data on mutants and killing those that were deemed threats to society. The heroes, working for a federal "metahuman task force" were tracking down these baddies. They find the hideout and the leader, but are threatened that if anything happens to him, his followers have orders to release ALL the data (including names, addresses, powers, casualties, damage) to the public. They take him in. The information is released. So they won the battle, but the overall outcome was a world where mutant hatred increased for the time being.

Knaight
2011-05-26, 02:24 PM
The GM walks a fine line - it's his job to craft fair and fun challenges. If there is no chance of failure, there really isn't a challenge. Poor decisions and poor luck are both fair game for failure, though as a GM I'm more likely to be forgiving in the latter case.

At the same time, the story is important too. It's not always about "winning" or "losing." I have crafted stories where nobody really wins.

Its worth noting that what is behind these are fundamentally different motivations for playing. One is the desire to overcome challenges with a character, another to play in a good story with a character. Add to these the desire to explore an idea through a character, the desire to explore a personality through a character, and a bunch of others and you might just get into all the reasons, and the relevance of winning is tied up in these. I personally don't care that much about overcoming challenges with a character, overcoming challenges is something I get through other hobbies, so winning and chance to win means something entirely different for me than it would for someone who considers overcoming challenges the point.