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    Lightbulb [Doomhat’s Chewy D&D Mechanics]:Making Failure Fun (skill checks)

    Let me say first off that this thread is a modified version of an older one, not related directly to the Chewy D&D project. Here’s the previous edit, containing a rant on the subject of why rewarding failure is so important.
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    Introduction: Why I feel this is a problem that needs fixing.
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    The overwhelming majority of RPG’s on the market are Adventure games. In D&D, characters are often referred to as Adventurers! Persons who Adventure.

    Here’s how my Word Processor defines the word:
    ad·ven·ture [əd vénchər]
    n (plural ad·ven·tures)
    1. exciting experience: an exciting or extraordinary event or series of events
    2. bold undertaking: an undertaking involving uncertainty and risk
    3. involvement in bold undertakings: the participation or willingness to participate in things that involve uncertainty and risk
    Where's your sense of adventure?
    Now, there is a rather serious problem here. Most Players shy way from risk.

    Actually that might be understating it. Players spend hours agonizing through character creation, trying to figure out how to realize their character concept without feeling useless when the time comes to roll dice. Then, they dodge situations that fall outside their narrow specialization like the plague.

    Why? They’re supposed to be playing Adventurers! Risk should be what they crave!
    Well, its because Failure is punished.

    This seems reasonable on the face of it. Risk (and thus Adventure) isn’t rewarding without the danger of potential consequences.

    So the question is, how can we make Failure fun for the Player, without detracting from the misery of their Character?


    Whenever a player fails a non-contested Roll they may choose between 3 consequences.

    Hesitate: If the stakes are high and going through with the action would result in injury or otherwise loss of vial resources, the Character stops just short of going through with it. They may not make another attempt for several (in game) minutes or unless something restores their confidence.
    Examples: Leaping a chasm, Lying to a King, Attempted to catch something that could potentially shatter/explode in your hands.
    {This option is unavailable if the goal of the Roll is to avoid or counter something actively effecting the character, such as; A saving throw to resist a spell effect, outrunning a bear, dodging falling debris}

    Sacrifice: The character succeeds after all, but at a price or with some caveat.
    Examples: You pick the lock but the noise of your efforts draws unwanted attention, You just barley make it to the other side and are now clinging on for dear life, The DM gives you two pieces of information from your knowledge check but you don’t know which is false.
    {This option is unavailable if the DM feels the action you are attempting is to far outside your abilities to reasonably expect success of any kind.}

    Fumble: Everything goes horribly wrong. In exchange for the player having the gusts to pick this option, the DM awards them a small (but tantalizing) amount of Exp..


    What is Doomhat’s Chewy D&D?
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    I think there shouldn’t be a dividing wall between Fluff and Crunch.
    When ‘Fluff’ has no real effect on Crunch, it’s utterly meaningless. (I hate that)
    When ‘Crunch’ fails to serve, live up to, or even have Fluff, that’s recreational math. (Terrible!)
    I want to play some D&D 3rd/Pathfinder, but I want more ‘Chewy’ mechanics. I want Fluff and Crunch that flow together until one is nearly indistinguishable from the other.
    I’d like you to help me come up with some. Here are the ground rules;
    1. It’s not about what the player CAN do, it’s about what they Will do.
    Strange abilities and tasty skill bonuses are not an End but a Means of rewarding players for interesting Roleplay. In other words, it’s not about just throwing fireballs. It’s about hating someone or thing so much that you’re willing to wad a reeking lump of sulfur and bat poop between your palms in order to make them explode.
    2. Write Good rules for Good Players.
    I don’t care what Twinky McPowergame might do with these rules, he’s not even invited. If anything these rules might help ease them into the concept of Roleplaying in the first place. RPG’s are a social game driven by collaboration and imagination, making the spirit of a rule clear is all that matters. We fear no lawyers here.
    3. A Plug-in, not a Patch.
    We’re not trying to ‘fix’ the game, or reinvent the wheel. Part of the fun of this project is to make D&D a more narrative focused game without removing a single word from the Player’s Guide.


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    Here are the rules for task resolution Copy Pasted out of the Pathfinder SRD.
    Skill Checks
    When your character uses a skill, he isn't guaranteed success. In order to determine success, whenever you attempt to use a skill, you must make a skill check.

    Each skill rank grants a +1 bonus on checks made using that skill. When you make a skill check, you roll 1d20 and then add your ranks and the appropriate ability score modifier to the result of this check. If the skill you're using is a class skill (and you have invested ranks into that skill), you gain a +3 bonus on the check. If you are not trained in the skill (and if the skill may be used untrained), you may still attempt the skill, but you use only the bonus (or penalty) provided by the associated ability score modifier to modify the check. Skills can be further modified by a wide variety of sources—by your race, by a class ability, by equipment, by spell effects or magic items, and so on. See Table: Skill Check Bonuses for a summary of skill check bonuses.
    [Table]
    If the result of your skill check is equal to or greater than the difficulty class (or DC) of the task you are attempting to accomplish, you succeed. If it is less than the DC, you fail. Some tasks have varying levels of success and failure depending on how much your check is above or below the required DC. Some skill checks are opposed by the target's skill check. When making an opposed skill check, the attempt is successful if your check result exceeds the result of the target.
    You may notice that something rather important is missing here. How do you define failure? Success is a pretty strait forward proposition but Failure could mean anything from wasted time to lost limbs. This is less than ideal!
    So let’s flush that out and while we’re at it, give player’s a little more control over their own destinies.

    Failure:
    Whenever a player fails a roll, they choose one of the following three results:

    • Hesitate: You pull back at the last moment, saving face and avoiding injury. Depending on the nature of the action you’ll typically have to wait a couple minutes or until next round to try again.
      Examples: Suddenly skidding to a stop at the lip of that chasm instead of the ill-advised leap you were planning, lying to the King might not be the best option after all, On second thought if you did catch that thing it might shatter/explode in your hands.
      {This option is unavailable if the goal of the Roll is to avoid or counter something actively effecting the character, such as; A saving throw to resist a spell effect, outrunning a bear, dodging falling debris}

    • Compromise : The character succeeds after all, but at a price or with some caveat.
      Examples: You pick the lock but the noise of your efforts draws unwanted attention, You just barley make it to the other side and are now clinging on for dear life, The DM gives you two pieces of information from your knowledge check but you don’t know which is false.
      {1. This option is unavailable if the DM feels the action you are attempting is too far outside your abilities to reasonably expect success of any kind.}
      {2. If this is a Contested roll you'll have to work out the terms of the Compromise with the winner. However, as this is typically the DM, no change.}

    • Fumble: Everything goes horribly wrong. In exchange for the player having the gusts to pick this option, the DM awards them a small (but tantalizing) amount of Exp..
      (About CharacterLevel X 50exp.?).
    Last edited by DoomHat; 2012-05-22 at 04:18 AM.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    You deserve a cookie.

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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    Quote Originally Posted by Scotchland View Post
    You deserve a cookie.
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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    I intend to use this "mechanic" when I DM next. If I ever do again.
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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    how much is a 'tantalizingly small' amount of xp? I have not had much experience.
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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    Quote Originally Posted by The Pressman View Post
    how much is a 'tantalizingly small' amount of xp? I have not had much experience.
    You have to find the sweet spot that makes it feel like a decent compensation while at the same time not being to much of a reward to encourage players to go hog-wild crazy.
    And unfortunately this amount probably differs from person to person.

    I'd likely start with something small, like 1-2% of the total amount you need to progress to the next level. Between one level and the next, you might reasonably expect to accumulate maybe half to 3/4 of an encounter's worth of failure-exp. Playtesting with various groups, of course, would be required.


    On the other side though, not all players are totally risk averse. In fact, some people seem to enjoy playing chaotic-stupid characters who's only goal in life is to die (and frequently get their party killed to boot) in the most creative and unexpected way possible.
    Like the time my group managed a TPK as 5th and 6th level characters in a village where the most powerful person besides us was the level 3 NPC Adept.
    Last edited by Deepbluediver; 2012-03-14 at 08:25 AM.
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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    I support this concept! And I will attempt to use it if I ever run something applicable. I'm glad that this was posted.

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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    Seems pretty slick, though I worry a bit about Hesitate being abused as a way reroll if restoring confidence is easy, which it can be depending on how lenient/hardassed your DM is.
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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    Okay, this? This is REALLY cool. This idea is fantastic, the best part being how, even in failure, the way it is played out is at least partly based on the player and how they feel their character should react to it. I don't know what may or may not need tweaking, but this idea certainly is something I would want to try to work into a game I played.
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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    I've edited the OP to clean up the language some and associate it with this bigger thing I'm working on.

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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    I actually like this option... I use a homebrew version of Action Points, so with that I've hybridized it into zesty option.

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    Skillcheck failure resolutions.

    -Hesitate (1AP): You pull back at the last moment, saving face and avoiding injury. Depending on the nature of the action you’ll typically have to wait a couple minutes or until next round to try again.
    Examples: Suddenly skidding to a stop at the lip of that chasm instead of the ill-advised leap you were planning, lying to the King might not be the best option after all, On second thought if you did catch that thing it might shatter/explode in your hands.
    {This option is unavailable if the goal of the Roll is to avoid or counter something actively effecting the character, such as; A saving throw to resist a spell effect, outrunning a bear, dodging falling debris}

    -Compromise (1AP): The character succeeds after all, but at a price or with some caveat.
    Examples: You pick the lock but the noise of your efforts draws unwanted attention, You just barley make it to the other side and are now clinging on for dear life, The DM gives you two pieces of information from your knowledge check but you don’t know which is false.
    {1. This option is unavailable if the DM feels the action you are attempting is too far outside your abilities to reasonably expect success of any kind.}
    {2. If this is a Contested roll you'll have to work out the terms of the Compromise with the winner. However, as this is typically the DM, no change.}


    By removing the fumble option, and charging 1AP/resolution it retains the boldness and lack of punishment for failure, but does not make it seem like a global DC reduction-- AP in my campaigns are quite complex, are highly versatile and provide party-wide luck bonuses while unused.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by Hanuman; 2012-05-22 at 05:12 AM.

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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    What you're doing is still essentially reducing the risk. The real problem you identified isn't in the amount of risk, but in how much risk the players want. In short, if the players are trying to avoid a situation where their characters have a non-negligible chance of getting killed, they're choosing not to play a real adventure (by the definition you gave), and nothing in the rules will change that.

    I'd say an approach that fits better with your stated goals (but is far more challenging) is to set up the game so that the players enjoy it even when their characters die (but enjoy it more when the characters survive, of course).
    Last edited by Yitzi; 2012-05-22 at 10:10 AM.
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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    ...
    ...
    Um.
    ...
    ...
    Where to begin? This is sheer brilliance, and I am in awe. I don't say that lightly: I'm a battle-hardened homebrewer and homebrew critic, and I've got the scars to prove it. See? *raises shirt, revealing the livid wound suffered when attempting to review a terrible case of attempted Tier 1 Fighter imbalance*

    Anyway, this is fantastic. I hadn't thought of opening up failure itself to player choice, but the concept is genius, and really opens up hundreds of new options with skill design in RPGs.

    I don't think your execution of the concept is perfect by any means, but that feeling really doesn't detract at all from the brilliance of this homebrew. It just means there is room for improvement on something already phenomenal, and I can't possibly imagine that being a bad thing.

    With your permission, I'd like to toss this idea around a bit, and see whether or not I can come up with anything I'd consider to be an improvement. 'cause I like this idea so much that I really want to implement it in...well...any system that I homebrew. And it's so close to something basically perfect (for me, at least) that I can almost taste it.

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    biggrin Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    Quote Originally Posted by Hanuman View Post
    Thanks!
    Your welcome!

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    What you're doing is still essentially reducing the risk. The real problem you identified isn't in the amount of risk, but in how much risk the players want.
    It's important to remember there is a difference between what the player wants, and what their the character wants.

    The goal of these rules it to let the player feel comfortable placing their character in a perilous situation.

    @Djinn_in_Tonic

    Thanks for the praise!

    But don't give me to much credit, this isn't really a new idea. I've spent the last couple years doing a lot of research into collaborative story telling and brought/read a lot of indie RPGs.

    This is basically a slight more ridged version of how Burning Wheel, octaNe, and Houses of the Blooded do task resolution. (More people should buy these!!)

    So with that in mind, of course you can toy around with this! That's why I posted it on the internet! As though I could stop you if, for whatever inane reason, I wanted to.

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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    His secret, is exploring and testing new systems. Nudge nudge wink wink.

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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    Quote Originally Posted by DoomHat View Post
    The goal of these rules it to let the player feel comfortable placing their character in a perilous situation.
    I suppose that makes sense. Although it still feels to me that making risk more appealing without decreasing it at all would make for a better play experience, if it can be done.
    Last edited by Yitzi; 2012-05-23 at 09:46 AM.
    My general 3.5 balance fix.
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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    I suppose that makes sense. Although it still feels to me that making risk more appealing without decreasing it at all would make for a better play experience, if it can be done.
    I can think of one particular system, that starts with an E, where handing out easy Experience Points would not be a good thing. I would find it difficult to do. But I love the basic theory behind this little mini-system. Fumble, I might not be able to use all of the time, but the other two? Probably.

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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    Quote Originally Posted by Story Time View Post
    I can think of one particular system, that starts with an E, where handing out easy Experience Points would not be a good thing.
    I never said it would be.
    My general 3.5 balance fix.
    My psionics remix.
    My common-sense houserules.
    More minor homebrew (weapons, races).

    Complete system remake (under construction, barely started)

    Ever want to try your hand at optimizing, but dislike heavy emphasis on splatbooks and/or the rocket tag phenomenon?
    Come visit the Core Coliseum today, for a totally different style of optimization.

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    Default Re: Making Failure Fun [A Simple Change to Basic Task Resolution]

    My observation really wasn't meant to be personal. I was trying to note that in games where Experience Points are based heavily or solely on role-play that a failure mechanism like the Fumble one would mean something different than say, D Twenty Modern.
    Last edited by Story Time; 2012-05-23 at 09:57 PM. Reason: Mood

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