D&D 5E Assaying alternative rules for Success at a Cost and Degrees of Failure

Fanaelialae

Legend
Let me arrange it this way

Fail Forward == Parity Outcome
------------------------------------
Success == Success (even roll that is at least the DC)
Fail Forward == Success with complication (odd roll that is at least the DC)
Fail == Fail with no complication (even roll lower than the DC)
Botch == Failure with complication (odd roll lower than DC)

Example, climbing
S == progress
FF == progress, with complication - we're spotted scaling the treasury wall
F == no progress
B == we fall (or it could be something else, but the most obvious is fall)


EDIT Contrast with

Fail Forward == Parity Outcome
------------------------------------
Success == Success (even roll that is at least the DC)
Succeed Forward == Success with complication (odd roll that is at least the DC)
Fail Forward == Fail that is interpreted to be success with complication (odd roll that is at least the DC)
Fail == Fail with no complication (even roll lower than the DC)
Botch == Failure with complication (odd roll lower than DC)

You can see that SF and FF are identical.
That's not how fail forward works.

Let's say the DC is 10.

Your proposed system:
Success (roll 10+ and roll is even)
Success with complication (roll 10+ and roll is odd)
Failure (roll 9- and roll is even)
Failure with complication (roll 9- and roll is odd)

Contrast that with Fail Forward:
Success (roll 10+)
Success with complication (roll 9-)

Can you see how these two are not the same? There is no actual failure state in fail forward. Fail Forward is intended so that progress isn't halted by a bad roll.

Your proposal has nothing to do with fail forward. It's not really degrees of success either (because that would arguably require being able to do better than just a success with no complications). It simply adds the potential for complications.
 

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Dessert Nomad

Adventurer
The decision to make 'getting an odd result' just bad is going to interact in odd ways with some mechanics. Someone with a bardic inspiration die might well spend it just for a 50/50 chance at not getting stuck with the 'odd results are bad' penalty. Rogues high enough level for reliable talent will need to play with bonuses so that their total when they 'treat a roll of less than ten as a roll of ten' doesn't always result in a penalty for any skills they use routinely.

I'm also not clear on what this is supposed to accomplish, other than making things generally more difficult for characters that use skills.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
That's not how fail forward works.

Let's say the DC is 10.

Your proposed system:
Success (roll 10+ and roll is even)
Success with complication (roll 10+ and roll is odd)
Failure (roll 9- and roll is even)
Failure with complication (roll 9- and roll is odd)

Contrast that with Fail Forward:
Success (roll 10+)
Success with complication (roll 9-)

Can you see how these two are not the same? There is no actual failure state in fail forward. Fail Forward is intended so that progress isn't halted by a bad roll.
I'm not duplicating fail forward, I am including fail forward among other outcomes.

Success with complication == Success with complication
(roll 10+ and roll is odd) =/= (roll 9-)

What changes are the odds, but we were changing the odds anyway. That is intentional.

Your proposal has nothing to do with fail forward. It's not really degrees of success either (because that would arguably require being able to do better than just a success with no complications). It simply adds the potential for complications.
Such little faith. Where does one start? With the whole rocket, or a test engine?
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
The decision to make 'getting an odd result' just bad is going to interact in odd ways with some mechanics. Someone with a bardic inspiration die might well spend it just for a 50/50 chance at not getting stuck with the 'odd results are bad' penalty. Rogues high enough level for reliable talent will need to play with bonuses so that their total when they 'treat a roll of less than ten as a roll of ten' doesn't always result in a penalty for any skills they use routinely.
This is where the question of - should it be the roll, or should it be the result - comes in. Were it the roll, making the roll 10 guarantees no drawback. Were it the result, making it 10 is problematic because on odd ability check modifiers the rogue is punished. Hence perhaps it must be the roll. Same question for Bardic Inspiration. If it is the roll, then using inspiration seems okay.

Bottom line, it probably must be the roll. That accords better with looking for natural 20s, so perhaps ends up okay.

I'm also not clear on what this is supposed to accomplish, other than making things generally more difficult for characters that use skills.
That's not the overall intent. It's only the starting point. If parity can be successfully used this way, then that might be crafted into a more nuanced mechanic.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I'm not duplicating fail forward, I am including fail forward among other outcomes.

Success with complication == Success with complication
(roll 10+ and roll is odd) =/= (roll 9-)

What changes are the odds, but we were changing the odds anyway. That is intentional.


Such little faith. Where does one start? With the whole rocket, or a test engine?
I see, you're not using fail forward according to its standard usage, you're just using it to be synonymous with "success with a complication".

To be clear, under the standard usage of that term, there is no fail state as it is normally defined in D&D. Failure becomes a success with complication. Because your proposal allows for the possibility of failure, it isn't fail forward in the sense of how the term is normally used.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I see, you're not using fail forward according to its standard usage, you're just using it to be synonymous with "success with a complication".

To be clear, under the standard usage of that term, there is no fail state as it is normally defined in D&D. Failure becomes a success with complication. Because your proposal allows for the possibility of failure, it isn't fail forward in the sense of how the term is normally used.
I agree with your framing. Looking at the outcome we include an outcome synonomous with fail forward. Looking at other aspects of the mechanic, for sure it differs.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I agree with your framing. Looking at the outcome we include an outcome synonomous with fail forward. Looking at other aspects of the mechanic, for sure it differs.
How do you figure?

There are four outcomes under your system:
Success
Success with complication
Failure
Failure with complication

Under fail forward there are two possible outcomes:
Success
Success with complication

Or do you just mean that your proposal includes the outcomes that fail forward allows for?

If so, I think I should point out that fail forward is distinguished by what it excludes. Specifically, it excludes failure. You can include all kind of success states in fail forward (exceptional success) and it is still fail forward. But once you introduce an actual fail state (failure) it no longer is.
 

aco175

Legend
I believe I started the fail forward usage. In my usage it means success with complication, or that is how I used it to mean, but only only to the amount before you actually failed. If you missed the DC by less than 5 you fail forward and if you missed by more then you just fail. I never mean that there is no chance to not fail. This is more how I play, but we are discussing even/odd rolling.

I also seemed to think that this system has success as separate than succeed with complication. I thought that if you succeed, even if you roll odd, then you succeed and never have a complication. My interpretation though.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
How do you figure?

There are four outcomes under your system:
Success
Success with complication
Failure
Failure with complication

Under fail forward there are two possible outcomes:
Success
Success with complication

Or do you just mean that your proposal includes the outcomes that fail forward allows for?

If so, I think I should point out that fail forward is distinguished by what it excludes. Specifically, it excludes failure. You can include all kind of success states in fail forward (exceptional success) and it is still fail forward. But once you introduce an actual fail state (failure) it no longer is.

How do you figure?

There are four outcomes under your system:
Success
Success with complication
Failure
Failure with complication

Under fail forward there are two possible outcomes:
Success
Success with complication

Or do you just mean that your proposal includes the outcomes that fail forward allows for?

If so, I think I should point out that fail forward is distinguished by what it excludes. Specifically, it excludes failure. You can include all kind of success states in fail forward (exceptional success) and it is still fail forward. But once you introduce an actual fail state (failure) it no longer is.
Actually, you are right. I was mistaken. Thanks!

Or perhaps not, if @aco175 is :)
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
Some D&D modules already have complications written in if you fail a check by more than 5 or succeed by less than 5. That seems like a way to handle it that is easy to use, doesn't crop up too often, and harmonizes with D&D's general way of resolving things.
 

Now we are introducing masterwork picks or mithral picks as a mechanic. Players would want it to get around the penalty and other penalties would have the same thing like, instead of picks keeping breaking, maybe hinges make a lot of noise to alert the bad guys. Not I have oil and tell the DM every door that I'm oiling them.

I'm not sure if a chart of failures would help with rolling a d10 and reroll for each failure that has been negated. I do not think that a masterwork pick tracking failures chart is good, but maybe advantage to a save from breaking. Not sure how big the rabbit hole would be.

Is there a simpler way to fail forward? Do you ask the player what happens? Is it just a time penalty to keep simple such as 10 minutes per point missed by.
I don't see why you need a 'chart of failures', the GM should easily enough be able to make a 'hard move'. You set off the trap, you're poisoned. You make noise, the guards attack you. You fall off the ledge, take damage. These are all pretty vanilla sorts of basic 'hard' consequences. The GM can invoke a softer consequence too when it makes narrative sense. You try to bribe the guard, he has you thrown in the lockup.

I would couple this with some other sorts of disciplines though. One might consider a 'one and done' kind of resolution style. So, in a given 'scene' or 'task engagement' once you roll a check, say Stealth, then there isn't a need to keep making that check over and over every time you describe your character moving. Its possible some specific element of the situation will eventually trip you up (your roll didn't beat the Perception of Eagle Eye Harry, he nabs you) but the check stands for the whole scenario. Meanwhile a consequence may just come up one time, so if it is a 'success with consequence', you can sneak through the orc camp, but at some point you're going to need to climb over a wagon to stay hidden, make a check for that too. Or if its a failure, then not only did some guards hear you, they're right in your face!

I think the '20 is a great success' (crit basically) is OK. Given that the GM decides how many and when checks happen, this isn't really doing much work anyhow. You may get to avoid another check due to big success, but there's some undefined number of more checks to accomplish your goal either way, so it is hard to say it was really beneficial. Obviously that will depend on the GM and how he feels about the situation, but this is kind of a general flaw in the way 5e's check system and GM adjudication works, but that is a whole other discussion...

What I think works about even/odd is it doesn't change the overall odds, but it adds some nuance. It should be quite easy and natural to check it, everyone knows instantly if a number is even or odd, and generally you will not instantly forget your roll, so if you roll 17 and say "17, I hit!" then you do your normal stuff, and the GM says "what did you roll?" you're player is going to know.
 

How do you figure?

There are four outcomes under your system:
Success
Success with complication
Failure
Failure with complication

Under fail forward there are two possible outcomes:
Success
Success with complication

Or do you just mean that your proposal includes the outcomes that fail forward allows for?

If so, I think I should point out that fail forward is distinguished by what it excludes. Specifically, it excludes failure. You can include all kind of success states in fail forward (exceptional success) and it is still fail forward. But once you introduce an actual fail state (failure) it no longer is.
I'm not sure I agree with you IN PRACTICE. While you can define FF as you are doing here, I don't know of ANY RPG which literally makes the concept of overall failure to achieve your goal impossible. It might allocate it into some other area (some form of skilled play perhaps) but it is rare to find a game that is just working only with complications at all levels. So, it doesn't seem to me to be some big leap to call the 'success with a complication' a 'fail forward'.

I'd note though, there are certainly many successes with complications that do NOT feel like 'failures'. Dungeon World for example never talks about it in those terms, 7-9 is always considered a 'qualified success' and often the consequence is just getting less of what you wanted (IE Discern Realities, you only get one question to ask vs 10+ gives you three), or Volley, where you have to choose lower damage or using up ammo. This would be a possible approach in 5e as well, though its lack of some abstractions of resources like 'adventuring gear' limits some of the options there a bit.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I'm not sure I agree with you IN PRACTICE. While you can define FF as you are doing here, I don't know of ANY RPG which literally makes the concept of overall failure to achieve your goal impossible. It might allocate it into some other area (some form of skilled play perhaps) but it is rare to find a game that is just working only with complications at all levels. So, it doesn't seem to me to be some big leap to call the 'success with a complication' a 'fail forward'.

I'd note though, there are certainly many successes with complications that do NOT feel like 'failures'. Dungeon World for example never talks about it in those terms, 7-9 is always considered a 'qualified success' and often the consequence is just getting less of what you wanted (IE Discern Realities, you only get one question to ask vs 10+ gives you three), or Volley, where you have to choose lower damage or using up ammo. This would be a possible approach in 5e as well, though its lack of some abstractions of resources like 'adventuring gear' limits some of the options there a bit.
Fail Forward isn't typically used to design an entire skill system, it's true. It's typically used situationally, when failure would otherwise bring the game to a halt. The closest I can think of a skill system designed around fail forward would be Gemshoe wherein, iirc, investigation skills always succeed but the GM can ask for a roll to see whether there is a complication. But non-investigation skills can still fail outright in Gumshoe.

That said, I think that using fail forward to mean "success with a complication" is somewhat confusing, given it's established usage. Especially in this case where the success with a complication isn't a failure to begin with (it's a success that rolled an odd number, which introduced a complication).

Success at a cost is also an established term (DMG pg 242). This isn't really the same thing, but rather success with a complication. The proposal doesn't enable a failed roll to succeed, it just introduces the possibility of a complication to an already successful roll. Hence why I've been referring to it as Success with a Complication, rather than Success at a cost. They're not really the same thing.

I would distinguish fail forward and success at a cost based on the idea that you can't fail when using fail forward. However, there are cases where you might with success at a cost. For example, if you offer the choice to the player and they refuse the cost, or if the player rolls too low to trigger the option.
 

Fail Forward isn't typically used to design an entire skill system, it's true. It's typically used situationally, when failure would otherwise bring the game to a halt. The closest I can think of a skill system designed around fail forward would be Gemshoe wherein, iirc, investigation skills always succeed but the GM can ask for a roll to see whether there is a complication. But non-investigation skills can still fail outright in Gumshoe.

That said, I think that using fail forward to mean "success with a complication" is somewhat confusing, given it's established usage. Especially in this case where the success with a complication isn't a failure to begin with (it's a success that rolled an odd number, which introduced a complication).

Success at a cost is also an established term (DMG pg 242). This isn't really the same thing, but rather success with a complication. The proposal doesn't enable a failed roll to succeed, it just introduces the possibility of a complication to an already successful roll. Hence why I've been referring to it as Success with a Complication, rather than Success at a cost. They're not really the same thing.

I would distinguish fail forward and success at a cost based on the idea that you can't fail when using fail forward. However, there are cases where you might with success at a cost. For example, if you offer the choice to the player and they refuse the cost, or if the player rolls too low to trigger the option.
Well, this is of course a whole 'nuther dimension to the potential design space is if you start introducing ideas like "pay extra to up your result" or "pay extra to reduce the complication", either of which might be viable rules you could layer on here. Another area would be something akin to how in FitD you get dimensions of riskiness and of effectiveness.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Fail Forward isn't typically used to design an entire skill system, it's true. It's typically used situationally, when failure would otherwise bring the game to a halt. The closest I can think of a skill system designed around fail forward would be Gemshoe wherein, iirc, investigation skills always succeed but the GM can ask for a roll to see whether there is a complication. But non-investigation skills can still fail outright in Gumshoe.

That said, I think that using fail forward to mean "success with a complication" is somewhat confusing, given it's established usage. Especially in this case where the success with a complication isn't a failure to begin with (it's a success that rolled an odd number, which introduced a complication).

Success at a cost is also an established term (DMG pg 242). This isn't really the same thing, but rather success with a complication. The proposal doesn't enable a failed roll to succeed, it just introduces the possibility of a complication to an already successful roll. Hence why I've been referring to it as Success with a Complication, rather than Success at a cost. They're not really the same thing.

I would distinguish fail forward and success at a cost based on the idea that you can't fail when using fail forward. However, there are cases where you might with success at a cost. For example, if you offer the choice to the player and they refuse the cost, or if the player rolls too low to trigger the option.
Under standard PHB we know that we only call for a check when something is at stake. Let's call what is at stake a "cost". I think the PHB modalities for an ability check are then -
  1. Succeed
  2. Fail and pay the cost
Or, where there the cost is paid upfront
  1. Pay the cost, and succeed, which could include reclaiming an upfront cost
  2. Pay the cost, and fail, which may include paying an additional cost
Notice that there is no fail state that doesn't include a cost: we only call for a check when there is a cost.

I'm drawn to the simplicity of the following
  1. Player descides what they do (PHB)
  2. If something is at stake, DM sets a DC and says what abilities may apply (PHB)
  3. If there is an upfront cost, player pays it (PHB)
  4. Player makes an ability check (PHB)
    1. Succeed, which could include reclaiming an upfront cost (PHB)
    2. Fail (not quite PHB fail, because we're not yet committed to paying the cost)
  5. If number rolled on the die is odd, DM describes a cost or complication (new rule)
So here we are not committed to their being a cost on failing: the new rule allows for soft (progressive) and hard (costed) fails. From what I am reading from other posters, a decent alternative might be (from step 4.)
  • Player makes an ability check (PHB)
    1. Succeed, which could include reclaiming an upfront cost (PHB)
    2. Fail (not quite PHB, because we're not yet committed to paying the cost)
      1. If number rolled on the die is odd, DM describes a cost or complication of failing (bringing back the other half of PHB fail, sometimes)
So in this case, no added costs end up on a success because parity is ignored for successes. (Upfront costs are still paid.) That might resolve the sticking point you've outlined. What do you think?
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Under standard PHB we know that we only call for a check when something is at stake. Let's call what is at stake a "cost". I think the PHB modalities for an ability check are then -
  1. Succeed
  2. Fail and pay the cost
Or, where there the cost is paid upfront
  1. Pay the cost, and succeed, which could include reclaiming an upfront cost
  2. Pay the cost, and fail, which may include paying an additional cost
Notice that there is no fail state that doesn't include a cost: we only call for a check when there is a cost.

I'm drawn to the simplicity of the following
  1. Player descides what they do (PHB)
  2. If something is at stake, DM sets a DC and says what abilities may apply (PHB)
  3. If there is an upfront cost, player pays it (PHB)
  4. Player makes an ability check (PHB)
    1. Succeed, which could include reclaiming an upfront cost (PHB)
    2. Fail (not quite PHB fail, because we're not yet committed to paying the cost)
  5. If number rolled on the die is odd, DM describes a cost or complication (new rule)
So here we are not committed to their being a cost on failing: the new rule allows for soft (progressive) and hard (costed) fails. From what I am reading from other posters, a decent alternative might be (from step 4.)
  • Player makes an ability check (PHB)
    1. Succeed, which could include reclaiming an upfront cost (PHB)
    2. Fail (not quite PHB, because we're not yet committed to paying the cost)
      1. If number rolled on the die is odd, DM describes a cost or complication of failing (bringing back the other half of PHB fail, sometimes)
So in this case, no added costs end up on a success because parity is ignored for successes. (Upfront costs are still paid.) That might resolve the sticking point you've outlined. What do you think?
Calling what is at stake a cost is odd semantics. It's a consequence. If I try to pick the lock and fail, the consequence is that I can't get into the room (or at least must find alternate means). If I "fail" the check and the outcome of the check is that I am able to open the lock anyway, then I haven't really failed.

As for the upfront "cost", cost is reasonable language but it might be more accurate to refer to it as a requirement. I can't try to melt the lock with acid if I don't have any acid. I can't try to climb up to a rock floating in the sky if I don't have any rope.

By referring to requirements and consequences using "cost", you're muddying the waters. They are distinct conceptually, not the same. I require a motor vehicle in order to operate a motor vehicle. It's literally impossible for me to operate a motor vehicle if I have no means to obtain one. I could operate a motor vehicle that I do have, but there might be consequences for doing so (such as getting into an accident).

So it's actually:
1. Succeed
2. Fail and suffer the consequences

Or, if there is a requirement:
1. Meet the requirement and succeed
2. Meet the requirement and fail, and suffer the consequences

You say that your failure state "is not yet comitted to paying the cost". I'm not clear how you intend to have a failure without a consequence. Perhaps if you give an example?
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Calling what is at stake a cost is odd semantics. It's a consequence. If I try to pick the lock and fail, the consequence is that I can't get into the room (or at least must find alternate means). If I "fail" the check and the outcome of the check is that I am able to open the lock anyway, then I haven't really failed.

As for the upfront "cost", cost is reasonable language but it might be more accurate to refer to it as a requirement. I can't try to melt the lock with acid if I don't have any acid. I can't try to climb up to a rock floating in the sky if I don't have any rope.

By referring to requirements and consequences using "cost", you're muddying the waters. They are distinct conceptually, not the same. I require a motor vehicle in order to operate a motor vehicle. It's literally impossible for me to operate a motor vehicle if I have no means to obtain one. I could operate a motor vehicle that I do have, but there might be consequences for doing so (such as getting into an accident).

So it's actually:
1. Succeed
2. Fail and suffer the consequences

Or, if there is a requirement:
1. Meet the requirement and succeed
2. Meet the requirement and fail, and suffer the consequences

You say that your failure state "is not yet comitted to paying the cost". I'm not clear how you intend to have a failure without a consequence. Perhaps if you give an example?
Examples: I attempt to climb, fail and make no progress. Nothing bad happens. Nothing good happens. I stayed where I was. I am allowed to try again. I attempt to pick the lock, fail and make no progress. Ditto. One can say it takes time, and time is a cost where time is relevantly limited.

"Cost" was suggested simply as a broad label. Not getting into the room is a cost if I cannot retry, or if each try has a cost. If I can open the lock anyway, but have some added problem to deal with, that too is a cost. I'm surprised to hear that objection from you, due to our earlier conversation about failing forward.

On the other hand, a cost cannot be a requirement. If I must have a rope, albeit none is consumed in the attempt, there is no cost. One way to think about is is that costs will accumulate with repeated attempts. If costs won't accumulate - repeats are free - then there was no need to make a check in the first place. (Retracting the right to make further checks is a cost, whatever the cause of that retraction.)

So (PHB checks) must be corrected to:
1. Succeed
2. Fail and pay a cost (meaningful consequences are a "cost")

Or, if there is a cost:
1. pay the cost, and succeed
2. pay the cost and fail, and potentially suffer additional costs

Say I fall. The cost is reversed progress and damage. Say I make a tremendous clatter. The cost is that my clock suddenly runs down (if the attracted foes will be overwhelming) or I will be engaged by foes. An engagement risks consumption of resources - that is why it matters (to show that, imagine conversely that the engagement requires zero resources, then it is for colour only - fun, but not a cost.) Requirements are not costs, unless they are consumed.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Examples: I attempt to climb, fail and make no progress. Nothing bad happens. Nothing good happens. I stayed where I was. I am allowed to try again. I attempt to pick the lock, fail and make no progress. Ditto. One can say it takes time, and time is a cost where time is relevantly limited.

"Cost" was suggested simply as a broad label. Not getting into the room is a cost if I cannot retry, or if each try has a cost. If I can open the lock anyway, but have some added problem to deal with, that too is a cost. I'm surprised to hear that objection from you, due to our earlier conversation about failing forward.

On the other hand, a cost cannot be a requirement. If I must have a rope, albeit none is consumed in the attempt, there is no cost. One way to think about is is that costs will accumulate with repeated attempts. If costs won't accumulate - repeats are free - then there was no need to make a check in the first place. (Retracting the right to make further checks is a cost, whatever the cause of that retraction.)

So (PHB checks) must be corrected to:
1. Succeed
2. Fail and pay a cost (meaningful consequences are a "cost")

Or, if there is a cost:
1. pay the cost, and succeed
2. pay the cost and fail, and potentially suffer additional costs

Say I fall. The cost is reversed progress and damage. Say I make a tremendous clatter. The cost is that my clock suddenly runs down (if the attracted foes will be overwhelming) or I will be engaged by foes. An engagement risks consumption of resources - that is why it matters (to show that, imagine conversely that the engagement requires zero resources, then it is for colour only - fun, but not a cost.) Requirements are not costs, unless they are consumed.
If there is no consequence for failure, then don't roll. Are you just going to endlessly force the player to reroll while trying to pick the lock, to see if a complication comes up each time? With a 50% chance of complication, how long before that gets old?

As for a requirement being consumed, that's situational. My rope will be consumed if I fail to recover it. It won't be if I can recover it. We might not know whether or not I am able to successfully recover that rope until several sessions from now (when my character comes back this way).

A vial of acid will be consumed, unless the DM rules that only a negligible amount is necessary.

Requirement as "cost" is typically about framing. It's consumed if it makes sense for it to be consumed within the context of the fiction. If you can find a way for it not to be consumed (substituting the Acid Splash cantrip for a vial of acid) then it won't be. It's a requirement. Yes, some requirements may involve limited resources based on fictional positioning, but that's not terribly relevant. If I have a Rope of Climbing, then suddenly I don't need to worry about whether or not I will be able to recover the rope, since it does this automatically.

I don't think that your failure without consequence is a good mechanic. It creates a situation where a player may be rerolling over and over because they keep rolling even numbers that fall below the DC. That's not an interesting result. You might as well replace failure with "retry". They're functionally the same in most scenarios.

IMO, even if you use your system of added complications, you should continue to follow the advice in the DMG of not rolling unless something is actually at stake. A complication isn't a stake, it's something that might layer on top of the stake (it can also happen on a success). Having a 50/50 chance that nothing happens on a failure is simply making half of the rolls at your table have no real stakes.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
If there is no consequence for failure, then don't roll. Are you just going to endlessly force the player to reroll while trying to pick the lock, to see if a complication comes up each time? With a 50% chance of complication, how long before that gets old?
Good. We are agreed then that in vanilla-PHB, failing an ability check comes with a consequence. That's why we called for a check in the first place.

As for a requirement being consumed, that's situational. My rope will be consumed if I fail to recover it. It won't be if I can recover it. We might not know whether or not I am able to successfully recover that rope until several sessions from now (when my character comes back this way).
My word, but this is splitting hairs. Yes, if your rope could be consumed or will become unavailable for several sessions, then it can become a cost as well as a requirement.

I don't think that your failure without consequence is a good mechanic. It creates a situation where a player may be rerolling over and over because they keep rolling even numbers that fall below the DC. That's not an interesting result. You might as well replace failure with "retry". They're functionally the same in most scenarios.
Solid criticism. What that points to is that it is correct to have drawbacks on odds for both failure and success. Else all that happens is we dilute the cost of failure (roughly halving the wager).

IMO, even if you use your system of added complications, you should continue to follow the advice in the DMG of not rolling unless something is actually at stake. A complication isn't a stake, it's something that might layer on top of the stake (it can also happen on a success). Having a 50/50 chance that nothing happens on a failure is simply making half of the rolls at your table have no real stakes.
Something is at stake. I mean, one does not say in gambling that nothing is at stake just because I might not lose. Roughly, the method can be said to halve the wager. Where loss on a fail was guaranteed, now it is guaranteed half the time. On the other hand, sometimes I now pay a price with success. There is no abandoning of stakes, only a rearrangement of how they fall.

I understand that coming to this from vanilla-PHB, one feels like "success with a cost" isn't "failing forward" even though the outcomes are isomorphic. And that we're used to success being unadorned succes - I got what I wanted, no drawbacks - and failure to always have a drawback. In intent, that is what the DMG options do. "Fail" by 5 or less? No drawback. "Fail" by 2 or less? Actually that's a success, but here's a drawback. The list of outcomes implementing the DMG options puts on offer, is the same as the list of outcomes with this method. Even while the methods and probabilities differ.

I don't dismiss the importance of semantics, but in designing mechanics I am thinking about what the mechanic genuinely does. Success at a cost == success at a cost even if in the past we might have called that a "failure" that turns into a success with a cost.
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
Well, this is of course a whole 'nuther dimension to the potential design space is if you start introducing ideas like "pay extra to up your result" or "pay extra to reduce the complication", either of which might be viable rules you could layer on here. Another area would be something akin to how in FitD you get dimensions of riskiness and of effectiveness.
Also adds clear water between ability checks and saving throws.
 

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