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Consequences of Failure

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This is an entirely fair point, both because it can't be adjudicated without knowing more, and because answering examples give fodder for people who just want to argue.

On the other hand, taking the scenario as a starting point and then filling in the prep details in order to illustrate different techniques (which is what I attempted to do) can stimulate conversation.
I'll leave that to others because down that road often lay quibbling over the added details which doesn't further the conversation.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
So in the scene I presented, the PC is examining the standing stone and gives some backstory to aid the DM in determining why she might be extra good at said task. In this way, perhaps it is not a strict “knowledge check”, but an Investigation with the player option to flavor it as History or Nature or Religion...
Sure, but it still seems like you’re operating with the assumption that a check will need to be made and working to find an in-fiction reason to justify it. I’m reminded of the Sherlock Holmes quote about theorizing without data “one inevitably begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.” Only in this case, we’re twisting actions to suit checks instead of checks to suit actions.

One possible adjudication:
DM: I’m going to ask you for an Intelligence check here. What proficiency would you like to add?
Player: My PC will use her History proficiency because [reasons]
DM: sounds great. This will be a DC 17. If you succeed the task will not take much time and I’ll tell you what the stones say. If you fail, the task will take longer and I’ll tell you what the stones say as the grove reacts to your lingering presence.
That’s certainly possible, assuming the action that lead up to this check had a reasonable chance of revealing whatever information the player is looking for, and a reasonable chance of failing to. So far, we’ve been discussing this hypothetical under the assumption that the player’s goal is to identify a connection between these standing stones and the ones out back of his childhood family farm, and his approach is giving them a thorough visual examination. Personally, I don’t see much room for uncertainty there. If the stones do look like the ones back home, his goal doesn’t really have a chance of failure - he looks at them, sees that they look the same, goal accomplished. If they don’t, it likewise doesn’t really have a chance of success - he looks at them, sees that they don’t look the same, no connection identified, goal failed.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Certainly. I guess I was leaving the prep up to the imagination of the DMs here. That said, I bet I'm not the only one that would find it extremely valuable to see your prep notes! WWID
This is a screen cap of my notes for one area of the entrance to a dungeon. It's a little more verbose than I would normally just prepare for myself, but I expect other DMs that I hang out with to want to run it for other groups, so it's a bit more spelled out. For stuff that only I intend to run, I can be much more scant in my notes and improvise quite a bit more with descriptions.

oneshotopener.JPG
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
Sure, but it still seems like you’re operating with the assumption that a check will need to be made and working to find an in-fiction reason to justify it. I’m reminded of the Sherlock Holmes quote about theorizing without data “one inevitably begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.” Only in this case, we’re twisting actions to suit checks instead of checks to suit actions.


That’s certainly possible, assuming the action that lead up to this check had a reasonable chance of revealing whatever information the player is looking for, and a reasonable chance of failing to. So far, we’ve been discussing this hypothetical under the assumption that the player’s goal is to identify a connection between these standing stones and the ones out back of his childhood family farm, and his approach is giving them a thorough visual examination. Personally, I don’t see much room for uncertainty there. If the stones do look like the ones back home, his goal doesn’t really have a chance of failure - he looks at them, sees that they look the same, goal accomplished. If they don’t, it likewise doesn’t really have a chance of success - he looks at them, sees that they don’t look the same, no connection identified, goal failed.
All good points. An example on the forum fails again! Well, not completely. I've been picking up bits of solid info for honing my DM skills. Thanks to you (and others) for that.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
How is this different from not asking, though? That's my hangup -- if the consequence is "you don't know" then this is just furthering the status quo; it's not a consequential change to the fiction.
My point is that the result-of-failure 'consequential change in the fiction' doesn't have to happen right now or be immediately obvious to the PCs/players; it can manifest sometime down the road and still be every bit as consequential or even more so.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I broadly dislike analyzing games in terms of being somewhere on a spectrum. It is true that many games defy easy categorization because they do not fit easily into broad categories. However what you get when you combine elements of play priorities and techniques of one type of game with elements of play priorities and techniques of another is not something that is between the two. What you get is something that is an alchemy of the two sets of play priorities and techniques. Something completely different from either.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
There are a few reasons. One is that this is the kind of failure state that kills momentum. Like the example earlier in the thread where my friend who’s learning to DM called for a Perception check to find a location that we needed to find to progress. Being more experienced than my friend, I build my adventures in such a way that if one avenue gets cut off there are other ways to proceed, but these situations can still really take the wind out of the players’ sails.
Taking the wind out of their sails is not at all a bad thing, in that it's the sort of thing that'd happen now and then if these were real people doing these explorations in real life.

Not knowing something is also a dissatisfying end state, because it only maintains the status quo. It’s the same outcome as if you just hadn’t rolled, except that I guess now you know you don’t know.
And more importantly, you have to proceed under imcomplete (or wrong!) information, possibly leading to consequences downstream.

In my games, if a PC is literate with the script and fluent in the language it’s written in, they can read it with no uncertainty.
Ditto.

If they know the script but not the language (not typical, but can happen with exotic languages that use the same scripts as common languages, and when the writer intentionally used a different script to disguise their message), that can be translated with enough time, and a successful check if time is a limited resource. The translation will be imperfect, however - I’ll give the general meaning of the message, but not the specific phrasing.
You're nicer than I am if the writer used a different script, or a code. At best I'd give a check here, and depending on how disguised the message was that check might be very difficult indeed. :)
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I broadly dislike analyzing games in terms of being somewhere on a spectrum. It is true that many games defy easy categorization because they do not fit easily into broad categories. However what you get when you combine elements of play priorities and techniques of one type of game with elements of play priorities and techniques of another is not something that is between the two. What you get is something that is an alchemy of the two sets of play priorities and techniques. Something completely different from either.
Specificity is soul of narrative.

I'm having trouble following you here- can you give an example of combining these elements and getting something completely different?
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I haven't check the thread over a weekend and come back to 30+ pages of new content. Can somebody throw me a bone and let me know what we're talking about today?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Taking the wind out of their sails is not at all a bad thing, in that it's the sort of thing that'd happen now and then if these were real people doing these explorations in real life.
Yeah, but it’s a game, so having the wind taken out of the sails is a bad thing, realistic or not.

And more importantly, you have to proceed under imcomplete (or wrong!) information, possibly leading to consequences downstream.
Sure, but you don’t need a check for that to be the case. If they know, they know, if they don’t, they don’t. I don’t see a check as necessary for that, and in fact asking for a check there could undermine the players’ understanding of what checks are for.

Ditto.

You're nicer than I am if the writer used a different script, or a code. At best I'd give a check here, and depending on how disguised the message was that check might be very difficult indeed. :)
A check would certainly be needed to decode the message if time was a limited resource, and in that case it might be a very difficult check, depending on the writer’s aptitude fod encoding. But this comes back to our differing opinions on how best to handle repeat checks. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I suspect if the player failed the check, you would say that the roll represents their best effort and they cannot “try again,” they’ve already tied the best they are able and under the current circumstances it is beyond their capabilities to decipher. Me, I can’t stand that kind of “Schrodinger’s difficulty.” To my mind, anything less than a natural 20 is less than the best that character was capable of. Therefore, assuming the DC is achievable for them, they will get it eventually given enough time. So, if time is not limited, we skip to the part where they eventually got it. If time is limited, each attempt will cost a certain amount of time. If you fail, you make no progress. You are welcome to try as many times as you like, but each attempt will use up precious time.
 
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Elfcrusher

Adventurer
A check would certainly be needed to decode the message if time was a limited resource, and in that case it might be a very difficult check, depending on the writer’s aptitude fod encoding. But this comes back to our differing opinions on how best to handle repeat checks. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I suspect if the player failed the check, you would say that the roll represents their best effort and they cannot “try again,” they’ve already tied the best they are able and under the current circumstances it is beyond their capabilities to decipher. Me, I can’t stand that kind of “Schrodinger’s difficulty.” To my mind, anything less than a natural 20 is less than the best that character was capable of. Therefore, assuming the DC is achievable for them, they will get it eventually given enough time. So, if time is not limited, we skip to the part where they eventually got it. If time isn’t limited, each attempt will cost a certain amount of time. If you fail, you make no progress. You are welcome to try as many times as you like, but each attempt will use up precious time.
I haven't always played like this, but these threads have convinced me it's the way to go.

Players, however, aren't always as convinced. They're fine with being told yes, but "No, you don't know." is often followed by "What? Can't I even roll?"

When you get used to playing a certain way, changes can seem...wrong.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yeah, but it’s a game, so having the wind taken out of the sails is a bad thing, realistic or not.
I put gamist concerns a fair way down the list of things I care much about.

Sure, but you don’t need a check for that to be the case. If they know, they know, if they don’t, they don’t. I don’t see a check as necessary for that, and in fact asking for a check there could undermine the players’ understanding of what checks are for.
Can't see why. Checks or rolls of any kind are for resolving uncertainty...and in the case of most knowledges, the uncertainty comes from not having played through every second of each PC's life before it started adventuring, and thus not being sure of what it might have learned ot not learned during that unplayed time.

A check would certainly be needed to decode the message if time was a limited resource, and in that case it might be a very difficult check, depending on the writer’s aptitude fod encoding. But this comes back to our differing opinions on how best to handle repeat checks. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I suspect if the player failed the check, you would say that the roll represents their best effort and they cannot “try again,” they’ve already tied the best they are able and under the current circumstances it is beyond their capabilities to decipher.
Absolutely.

Me, I can’t stand that kind of “Schrodinger’s difficulty.”
Where it's fine with me, as something that might be difficult for one person might be easy for another even with ALL other things being equal - one person just happens to 'get it'. Happens all the time in real life.

This falls apart when a DC (or equivalent) is hard-coded as a set target number.

To my mind, anything less than a natural 20 is less than the best that character was capable of.
Yeah, complete difference in philosophy - to me the actual roll represents the best that character is capable of in this particular situation...which means that yes, it's still possible to fail at something that would normally be pretty simple.

Therefore, assuming the DC is achievable for them, they will get it eventually given enough time. So, if time is not limited, we skip to the part where they eventually got it. If time isn’t limited, each attempt will cost a certain amount of time. If you fail, you make no progress. You are welcome to try as many times as you like, but each attempt will use up precious time.
Yep - this sounds just like the justification for 3e's 'take-20' mechanic, which I've always detested. :)
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I haven't always played like this, but these threads have convinced me it's the way to go.

Players, however, aren't always as convinced. They're fine with being told yes, but "No, you don't know." is often followed by "What? Can't I even roll?"

When you get used to playing a certain way, changes can seem...wrong.
Agreed. I recounted in another thread how hard it was to first start playing Amber; it felt completely wrong given the games I had played up to that point.

But after using it for a while and getting used to it, I ended up incorporating some Amber back into D&D, because the D&D didn't feel quite right. :)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I put gamist concerns a fair way down the list of things I care much about.
While my distaste for GSN terminology is fairly well documented, it is clear that you and I have different priorities regarding “realism.”

Can't see why. Checks or rolls of any kind are for resolving uncertainty...and in the case of most knowledges, the uncertainty comes from not having played through every second of each PC's life before it started adventuring, and thus not being sure of what it might have learned ot not learned during that unplayed time.
I just don’t see it as uncertain at all. Again, they know or they don’t, and sure we may not know every moment of the character’s life, but their Background and Proficiencies give me enough of an idea. Or you could take the Iserith route and have the player call out the backstory element that they think might be relevant to the situation as part of the action declaration.

Yeah, complete difference in philosophy - to me the actual roll represents the best that character is capable of in this particular situation...which means that yes, it's still possible to fail at something that would normally be pretty simple.
I find this leads to weird results, like the strong character of the group being capable of incredible feats of strength some 60-odd percent of the time and randomly incapable of opening a jammed door the rest of the time. And it still leads to the frustration of “what do you mean that was my best effort? There are 17 other numbers that would have been a better effort!” It’s almost like the d20 roll sets the actual difficulty, to which the DC is a modifier.. It’s weird.

Yep - this sounds just like the justification for 3e's 'take-20' mechanic, which I've always detested. :)
I think take 20 is pretty dumb too, but for different reasons. To me it comes across as an attempt to take solid DMing advice - don’t call for a roll when there aren’t consequences for failure - and attempts to turn it into a player-facing mechanic. And in doing so it produces a result that’s the worst of both worlds.
 
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My point is that the result-of-failure 'consequential change in the fiction' doesn't have to happen right now or be immediately obvious to the PCs/players; it can manifest sometime down the road and still be every bit as consequential or even more so.
Sure, and the check could be postponed to that point when it does matter.
So you don't lose the drama/uncertainty, and avoid the player drawing conclusions/taking precautions/whatever based on the roll being particularly good or bad.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I haven't always played like this, but these threads have convinced me it's the way to go.

Players, however, aren't always as convinced. They're fine with being told yes, but "No, you don't know." is often followed by "What? Can't I even roll?"

When you get used to playing a certain way, changes can seem...wrong.
This is a real struggle, and it’s why I often prefer playing with new players than experienced ones. They don’t have preconceived ideas about how the game is “supposed” to work that you have to get them to unlearn.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
While my distaste for GSN terminology is fairly well documented, it is clear that you and I have different priorities regarding “realism.”
I've no use for 'GSN terminology' either, hence the small 'g' on gamist.

Put another way: I see the game as more of an exercise in trying to simulate* the game world and how these things would happen in it, rather than as a game for its own sake (as opposed to most games where the game for its own sake is the only reason you're playing it).

* - where reasonably possible, in full knowledge that no simulation can ever be anywhere near perfect.

I just don’t see it as uncertain at all. Again, they know or they don’t, and sure we may not know every moment of the character’s life, but their Background and Proficiencies give me enough of an idea. Or you could take the Iserith route and have the player call out the backstory element that they think might be relevant to the situation as part of the action declaration.
You could, but this very quickly (i.e. immediately!) runs into issues with players taking unfair advantage and always just happening to be able to justify having the required knowledge. No thanks.

I find this leads to weird results, like the strong character of the group being capable of incredible feats of strength some 60-odd percent of the time and randomly incapable of opening a jammed door the rest of the time. And it still leads to the frustration of “what do you mean that was my best effort? There are 17 other numbers that would have been a better effort!”
Yeah, to me this is a problem with 3e-and-forward's overly-elaborate skill system.

And yes, sometimes a strong person can fail on a relatively easy strength check just by bad luck or not getting the leverage right or whatever, and then have the not-so-strong person nail it in one and make the strong guy look like a fool. It happens - I mean, how many times have you struggled and failed to open a jar and then had someone who you know to be weaker than you come along and pop it on the first try?

It’s almost like the d20 roll sets the actual difficulty, to which the DC is a modifier.. It’s weird.
Not quite. The d20 roll sets the limit of how well your character can possibly do in this situation, against a set difficulty that just sits there.

The difficulty of a particular task doesn't change, but the PC's ability to overcome it isn't set in stone. (and yes this means PCs fail far more often than if take-20 was in effect, but I've no problem with that). Put another way, a PC might blow through some DC 17 task (e.g. opening a stuck door; roll adds to 23) and then two hours later completely fail on a very similar DC 17 task (roll adds to 10) and need to find a plan B.

Narratively, all this tells me is that whatever approach was used at the first door for some reason doesn't work here. Were the order of the rolls reversed it'd be even easier: lessons learned from the first door were successfully applied against the second. :)

I think take 20 is pretty dumb too, but for different reasons. To me it comes across as an attempt to take solid DMing advice - don’t call for a roll when there aren’t consequences for failure - and attempts to turn it into a player-facing mechanic. And in doing so it produces a result that’s the worst of both worlds.
That does match with general 3e design philosophy, though, in that they intentionally tried to turn more mechanics over to the player side. Not that edition's best selling feature, IMO. :)
 
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