Very true about the work on the part of the DM. I personally do the best I can but realize that many times I don't have a great idea and I try to move on until I do. It's always a balance between tools and opportunities.Your opening notes about "Failing to Fail" are spot on, and I think its a common mistake for new and veteran DMs alike. Its easy to want to throw a check in there, but sometimes you just start the scene with "and you all see X, person Y tells you Z, and you keep going".
The other option is the "failure advances an alternate plot". If the party doesn't get the clue, the adventure isn't over, but it might change radically. Its a cool way to go but generally a lot more work on the DMs part.
I'm not really sure what that means. I doubt you mean the campaign ends but maybe? Failure can be an end to that strategy, but there has to be come place to go with the game.Good stuff, though I will always keep "failure is an end" in my repertoire. Sometimes, it makes no sense for any story to go on based on the nature of the failure.
This is a problem in pure railroad games. If the PCs get off the tracks, the DM has to get them back on or there is no place to go.But if the story DOESN'T go on, do you end that nights session and send the players home?
This seems as though it might be learned behavior, perhaps from campaigns where there was one and only one path the PCs were expected and allowed to take past obstacles. I guess maybe you could get them to believe you weren't running such a campaign if, early on, you flat-out told them so. Suggested they look around for other approaches, and had those other approaches work.I tend to find the problem isn't "The players fail, and now they have nowhere to go."
It's "The players fail, and there are potential other ways to go, but they assume failure means it's pointless to continue and go do something else entirely."
Example: The Rogue fails to pick the lock, but there are high windows that the party could - at greater risk! - climb to.
But the players assume "Huh. I guess we aren't supposed to get into the tower. We bail on rescuing the princess, lets go kill some kobolds."
That's the point though. The OP is discussing how failure can impact the game, but making it so certain situations basically slam things to a halt rather than making them harder or forcing alternate approachesSometimes things don't go the way they should, and while using the occasional DM intervention to keep things going is fine, players need to accept the consequences for their mistakes.
I don't think this is as "new age" as you're saying, and I think stuff like "never truly fail" is, to be charitable, a pretty big misunderstanding on your part. Not gating the critical path on skill checks or the like isn't "not allowing failure", it's basic and sensible design for more linear adventures (which not everyone runs).Hiya!
From the article...:
"The first order problem many DMs have with failure is introducing it at the wrong time. Mystery scenarios are a great example of this, where players must uncover a clue to move the game forward."
Old Grognard Voice: Whell, thar's yer problem!
(Emphasis mine) That's, to me, a "new-age DM" mentality. Where the thought that the game is going to "stop" or "fail" or otherwise "stall unrecoverably". It doesn't. That's the beauty of RPG's: There IS no 'end'.
In the case of the mystery scenario, if the PC's don't uncover some specific clue that they somehow 'must' discover or the final chapter simply won't occur...we, then that final chapter doesn't occur. The game keeps going. The players keep playing. The DM keeps playing the NPC's/Monsters according to what the PC's do or don't know. The game does, in no way, "fail".
Old time DM's like me are well-versed in the "...well...uh...ok guys. Give me 5 minutes...", and then everyone takes a 5 minute break while I quickly jot down some interesting notes and ideas about how the main plot just changed. Note I said changed, and not "failed", "stopped", "ended". When a plot hook is missed, or, more often, misinterpreted, all that does is change the story. THIS IS A GOOD THING! The game is best played (imnsho) when it is the Players that make the choices that determine the outcome of some particular story element...and not the DM trying to come up with new rules or outright "fudging" them in order to keep the "written-in-stone plot line" from unraveling.
So, again IMHO and IME, the article in question oozes "New-Age DM'ing". This isn't necessarily a bad thing, if everyone enjoys it and the Players are happy knowing that they will never truly 'fail' at anything important. That sort of game just isn't my cup of grog, at least as far as D&D or most RPG's go. Some RPG systems I have no problem with it and even enjoy it (ex, Dungeon World where a roll of 7 - 9 is "Success, but...").
At any rate, just wanted to get my 2 coppers in to point out that I think the idea of the "fail forward" type of DM'ing does a disservice to the Players and DM because it robs everyone at the table of discovering a completely new story or event that otherwise would never have come out of it. That's, as I said, the beauty of RPG's: That the game never truly "ends" or "stops".
Paul L. Ming