4E Failure stakes for a travel Skill Challenge - Page 3
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  1. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by darkbard View Post
    I think you misunderstand me, or perhaps I have misrepresented myself. I have no script in play, as GM, though I am speculating about potential scenarios and their range of outcomes. However, the players have expressed intent which will surely play out as action declarations, and I wish to honor a fail forward mentality in engaging those declarations.

    Now, certainly, PC actions, successful or not, may change the direction of the current fiction, but there is nothing about player-facing principles that works at odds to a fail forward framework. Story Now, to me, does not indicate a lack of goals or destination; instead, it means destination is determined through player exploration of their characters and that mechanics, rather than GM-scripted plot, determine how and if the PCs achieve those goals.

    Essentially, what you are suggesting is that "play to see what happens" and fail forward are at odds, and I do not believe that must be so.
    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    @AbdulAlhazred, @darkbard - interesting discussion!

    If the players declare that their PCs are heading for X by striking out through the wilderness, then we have intent and task. It seems that there are several possible ways this can unfold at the table.

    (1) The GM simply says "yes" and narrates the arrival, perhaps with a bit of travel drama laid on top. Ipso facto there can't be anything of significant cost here. This is how most travel in my Prince Valiant game, and some of the travel in my 4e and BW games, happens.

    Cortex+ Vikings is a bit different, because the PCs tend not to have a particular destination in mind, and the travel is punctuated by me dropping in appropriate action scenes (this actually gives it more of an "Arthurian wanderings" feel than Prince Valiant, where we use the map of Britain on the inside cover of the Pendgraon hardback that shipped as part of the PV kickstarter).

    (2) A version of (1) where the GM "bargains" with the players - you arrive fine, but knock of XYZ, where that might be money, rations, healing surges, etc. I'm sure I've done this in 4e but can't recall an occasion at present. Traveller also lends itself to this - where XYZ is purchase of a high passage - but in my game the PCs have only ever travelled using their own starship.

    (3) Successful arrival is put at stake, and so some sort of check has to be made. What counts as "successful" is pretty crucial here. It may require fleshing out the intent behind the task.

    If what's at stake is arrival per se, then maybe the stakes are whether or not the PCs arrive at all!

    But if "success" means arriving on time, or arriving at a refuge, or arriving so I can reconnect with my loved ones, then it seems that the stakes might be some sort of threat to those things - arriving late, or failing to prevent a "Scouring of the Shire" situation, or loved ones being under threat (which could be as simple as, say, a drought).

    In 4e, a complexity with these sorts of stakes is that it's not always straightforward to frame them into a check. Whereas some systems have (say) a relationship stat which would factor into a check where the intent is to reconnect with loved ones, 4e tends not to have that sort of thing. So it would make sense to try and make sure stakes, stats/mechanics and resolution framing are all well-aligned.

    Obviously there's a lot more that could be said, and lots of possibilities, but I think I've got enough for a post!
    Just generally replying to you guy's input in these two posts above:

    Actually, rereading the thread opener, I DO find that the assumption is that the journey will end successfully, and that was in fact the default assumption in the analysis which took place on page 1. Now, @darkbard phrased it as an assumption "I presume a "fail forward" ethos, and so simply not arriving at their destination or getting lost is off the table." This was the core of my original analysis.

    Now, when I responded to @pemerton, I thought I was going a bit on a tangent by applying a more classic story now, play to see what happens kind of a process to elucidate how it might contrast with the "party must reach Winterhaven" sort of starter post assumption. Admittedly this assumed that there was some degree of 'script' (IE maybe they were playing out KotS or something like that) vs simply "the players set this as their goal." In the later case, then play to see what happens could allow for either "play to see how they get there" or it could allow for "play to see IF they get there." Again, the above quoted bit from the post lead me to assume that the former case was more prevalent, though IIRC I did touch on both in my story now post.

    I think what this shows us is that there are a wide range of things that could be in play here, depending on exactly what desires the players expressed. Given that darkbard states this is a type of narratively driven play without any set plot lines, either of @Manbearcat's or my points can be further developed.

    Given the statements about "travel is dangerous" I would be likely to take it that a "man against nature" type of conflict is in play here, with the stakes being a risk to whatever goal the PCs have which is driving them to travel to Winterhaven, plus whatever resources they might stake on it. They might also stand to gain things, XP and treasure perhaps at the least.
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  2. #22

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    Let me just say how grateful I am to have interlocutors here who help me examine my own assumptions and ways of thinking about gameplay, and further who are generous with their creativity in brainstorming exercises such as this.
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  3. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by darkbard View Post
    Let me just say how grateful I am to have interlocutors here who help me examine my own assumptions and ways of thinking about gameplay, and further who are generous with their creativity in brainstorming exercises such as this.
    No worries - and at least in my case, it's not entirely selfless! I'm happy to talk about how to improve my game.

    I've posted a few times now that the onworld exploration element of Classic Traveller is the weakest part of that system, but I'm sure it's going to come up again in my CT campaign at some stage. And in Prince Valiant, the PCs are soon to set off to Byzantium!

  4. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by darkbard View Post
    Let me just say how grateful I am to have interlocutors here who help me examine my own assumptions and ways of thinking about gameplay, and further who are generous with their creativity in brainstorming exercises such as this.
    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    No worries - and at least in my case, it's not entirely selfless! I'm happy to talk about how to improve my game.

    I've posted a few times now that the onworld exploration element of Classic Traveller is the weakest part of that system, but I'm sure it's going to come up again in my CT campaign at some stage. And in Prince Valiant, the PCs are soon to set off to Byzantium!
    I'm going to refer you guys to The Perilous Wilds supplement for Dungeon World (by Lutes, Strandberg, and Widjaja)

    Its an $8 PDF or $12 PDF and soft cover.

    Its beautifully put together and absolutely brilliant.

    Thought its for PBtA, it has great cross-system applicability (particularly those with conflict resolution mechanics, roles, and complications/costs/Fail Forward) as it cogently goes into wilderness conflicts, threats and obstacles therein (both as an input to conflict and as an output of role resolution), and the nature that Discovery and Danger plays.

    It also has some other great stuff in there (I use its Hirelings and Followers rules for DW and all of its Journey rules).

    Its a robust 66 pages.
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  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Manbearcat View Post
    You recommended this book to me some weeks ago, and I held off buying it then because I wanted to support a brick-and-mortar establishment, but this is only available POD online. In any event, this conversation has changed my mind about the matter. Ordered; PDF downloaded, awaiting softcover!

  6. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Manbearcat View Post
    I'm going to refer you guys to The Perilous Wilds supplement for Dungeon World (by Lutes, Strandberg, and Widjaja)

    [...]

    Thought its for PBtA, it has great cross-system applicability (particularly those with conflict resolution mechanics, roles, and complications/costs/Fail Forward) as it cogently goes into wilderness conflicts, threats and obstacles therein (both as an input to conflict and as an output of role resolution), and the nature that Discovery and Danger plays.
    This book is a treat to read, and I agree: there is much good advice on general principles that can apply across systems. I wonder, though, if and how you have implemented any of the mechanical devices of DW play presented therein for a 4E game.

    As overarching principles, Discoveries and Dangers seem a fruitful starting point. And I think the Forage, Make Camp, Stay Sharp, Scout Ahead, Navigate, and Manage Provisions Moves might be usefully adapted in some way into a Perilous Journey Skill Challenge for 4E, but I'm not sure yet how one might do so within the existing 4E SC mechanic.

  7. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by darkbard View Post
    This book is a treat to read, and I agree: there is much good advice on general principles that can apply across systems. I wonder, though, if and how you have implemented any of the mechanical devices of DW play presented therein for a 4E game.

    As overarching principles, Discoveries and Dangers seem a fruitful starting point. And I think the Forage, Make Camp, Stay Sharp, Scout Ahead, Navigate, and Manage Provisions Moves might be usefully adapted in some way into a Perilous Journey Skill Challenge for 4E, but I'm not sure yet how one might do so within the existing 4E SC mechanic.
    Here is one way to organize it in 4e:

    1) Every day of a Perilous Journey by default costs a cumulative 1 Healing Surge to each member that they cannot regain until the Perilous Journey ends.

    2) Every day of Journey requires the completion of a C1 Skill Challenge (level being that of the Journey):

    a) Quartermaster (folding Make Camp/Forage/Manage Provisions into one)
    b) Navigate
    c) Scout Ahead (Possibly Group Check)
    d) Group Check of Take Watch

    3) If all 4 are successful, then there are no complications (with Quartermaster success meaning the HS cost for the day does not apply) . You describe the day's journey in a travel montage and move on to resolve the next day's journey (should there be a next day) or you arrive at the destination.

    4) If there are any failures, then you deploy a role-related complication (whichever seems most fitting; most grave, most relevant, most exciting) that the PCs must deal with. If the PCs reach 4 Successes in handling their complications at any point, the day's journey is complete, describe the change in gamestate and proceed to (3) above.

    5) If the PCs fail the challenge of any given day, the consequences could be myriad:

    * Next day's SC increases in level (with attendant fictional positioning)
    * Healing Surge for travel increases
    * Some sort of significant travel obstacle or setback emerges (weather, geographical, inhabitants, something exogenous, some relevant Character Theme problem is made manifest)
    * Attack by the Condition/Disease Track
    * Perhaps the journey was more arduous/misjudged and will require another C1 SC to resolve (begin at step 1).
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  8. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Manbearcat View Post
    Here is one way to organize it in 4e:
    ...
    Fold this in with defined regions using these* as starting points, and you've got yourself an extremely well tooled sandbox going on.

    * Legendary terrain : article 1, article 2
    * Terrain as an obstacle : post

    You can get a pretty good : "We'll take the pass of Karadrass - I will not risk the path beneath the mountains" going with character knowledge informing party decisions on paths to take/avoid by having some paths presenting greater difficulty or harsher penalties - which adds a very powerful decision and building lever : which is always an excellent thing (IMO).
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  9. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by MoutonRustique View Post
    Fold this in with defined regions using these* as starting points, and you've got yourself an extremely well tooled sandbox going on.

    * Legendary terrain : article 1, article 2
    * Terrain as an obstacle : post

    You can get a pretty good : "We'll take the pass of Karadrass - I will not risk the path beneath the mountains" going with character knowledge informing party decisions on paths to take/avoid by having some paths presenting greater difficulty or harsher penalties - which adds a very powerful decision and building lever : which is always an excellent thing (IMO).
    Yup.

    C1 SC could just be the default.

    Some sort of significant travel obstacle or setback emerges (weather, geographical, inhabitants, something exogenous, some relevant Character Theme problem is made manifest)
    ...can change the complexity of the Skill Challenge to C2 or C3, adding new "extra-role" obstacles that the PCs have to deal with (that will create new emergent "journey story" and possibly snowball into "extra-journey" story).

    The Pass of Caradhras could be C2, Level+2 (with particular Dangers the players would be made aware of beforehand; eg Healing Surge +1 Cost, Exposure, etc) while "The Path Through Khazad-dum" could be a C3 with an unknown level beforehand, but with maybe 1 or 2 possible Dangers (unsteady infrastructure spanning the depths, legend of "the Dwarves delved too deep") known beforehand. Enter decision-point.
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  10. #30

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    I might offer a different implementation. Consider the whole dangerous journey to be a single SC. Each area that the PCs must travel through provides a challenge of some sort. The swamp might challenge one's Navigation, the Cliff one's Logistics, etc. Multiple paths can exist (and here Scouting Ahead might actually be more of a support function which lets you know the possible choices before committing to one). Success means the party moves through the current locale without incurring any particular difficulty (they could still expend resources, and each choice of path might have a different obligatory cost). Failure would indicate that the particular path has proven to be impassible, the party is lost, etc. This would impose some sort of extra consequence and require possibly backtracking or divergence onto a new path.

    The main issue here is dealing with overall SC failure. One option is to simply design the trip carefully so it either succeeds or fails with the party unable to proceed by the time they reach either 3 failures or N successes (this is possible, if you map things out in specific ways, but not all possible maps might naturally allow for this arrangement). The other option would be to simply allow unlimited failures, with the party themselves deciding when 'enough is enough'.

    The roles outlined in the book could be assigned to PCs in the same way as @Manbearcat's suggested technique, though exactly what the checks are against might vary depending on the situation.

    This would be an interesting technique in that you'd draw up a sort of semi-abstract map to handle the journey, with each location requiring certain checks, costs, possibly opportunities, secondary check possibilities, etc. It is one of the few instances where I can see a fairly pre-built and fully structured SC being the best option.
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