Failure is a thing that happens all the time in games. Obviously it’s something we aim to avoid. That’s what makes it a game.
"Not getting what you want" happens all the time in games.
"Having something happen that's not supposed to happen ever
" should not happen all the time in games.
What? So you’re saying you’re not supposed to get scored on in soccer, or fold In poker, or get found in hide and seek, or lose pieces in chess, or…?
Those aren't fail states
. They are, yes, undesirable outcomes. That's not the same as a failure state
A failure state is something like your car breaking down
. That's not supposed to happen. It's not like "you are low on gasoline, and need to get more." That's an undesirable outcome, yes. It's not a failure state.
Failure states are absolutely supposed to happen in games. They give you something to play to avoid.
Er...what? These two sentences are completely at odds here.
If you play to avoid it, then play should result in it not happening
. If you play and that's one possible undesirable
outcome, then whatever, undesirable outcomes happen. But if it's a failure state
, it shouldn't happen.
The failure state of a machine is a thing that should not happen with that machine. The failure state of an organization is something like collapse or civil war. These things are not supposed to happen
and it is very bad
when they do.
That's what failure state means; as far as I was aware, that's what it's always
meant. You, as a player, have failed if you allow a failure state to occur. You should never permit a failure state to occur if you have any ability to prevent it, and it should be considered a serious problem every time a failure state does occur. It's bad
. It should absolutely be avoided, at all costs.
You should maybe consider starting at third, or even fifth level if this bothers you. Levels 1-3 are intentionally designed for PCs to be very vulnerable, because that was a thing a significant portion of the fanbase wanted. It has always been advised that groups who don’t want that vulnerable early game experience start at 3rd.
Believe me, I tried. With all but one of the DMs in question. I tried every argument I could come up with. They absolutely, positively, completely refused
to consider playing at anything higher than first level. Because first level is first
. Why would it be first
if it's not where you're supposed to start
Such experiences, particularly because they've happened several times, are why the "just start at higher level!" arguments lost even the little bit of credence I was once willing to give them.
You didn’t bold anything. But, yes, PCs are supposed to treat the dungeon with caution, and perhaps even fear in this style of play. The risk is what makes the potential reward so much more satisfying. Much like how in Soulslike games you expect to die a few times as you learn a new area or boss, and the victory is that much more rewarding for it. In this style of play you expect a few characters to die before you get one to that tipping point where you’re significantly less vulnerable (in my experience, around 4th or 5th level), which makes it all the more satisfying of an achievement.
Pardon, I'm tired. Have had...a lot of life events these past two weeks. The part I meant
to bold was "old-school push-your-luck dungeon delves." I think that was clear from context, given what else you've said.
It probably won't surprise you that I find "Soulslike" games literally physically painful. Just the thought
of trying to force myself through such a depressing, frustrating, soul-crushing experience is enough to put me off for a bit. I similarly cannot stand 99% of "roguelikes" or "roguelites" because, as stated, I get incredibly frustrated and depressed. Eventually I reflected and realized, "I keep playing this...but why? I'm not having any fun. I'm not accomplishing anything. I'm not learning or growing. I've hit a hardcore wall, and nothing has changed
in the past...I literally don't know how many runs anymore. I don't want to play this anymore."
The only "roguelite" games I've been able to play and enjoy are Desktop Dungeons (mostly because of its incredibly robust tutorial and overall very mild difficulty curve) and Hades (because they made death part of the story
, ameliorating the pain of failure.) I tried really hard
to like Rogue Legacy, for example, and it just wasn't to be. I'm not able to find joy in that process. Any difficult task that takes too long to complete ruins the joy of victory for me--instead of feeling pumped because I overcame it, I feel burned out and hollow, like "yay, all it took was flagellating myself into next week....."
<example snop> Otherwise, they would need to take the risk of climbing up barehanded, or give up on climbing and try to find another way up, both of which are undesirable outcomes that could potentially be totally avoided.
As noted above, "undesirable outcome" is not what I consider a "fail state." A fail state is you have screwed up and a really, really bad thing is going to happen. Because you failed.
Failure is bad
. Failure should not happen
. Undesirable outcomes, well, you'd prefer they didn't happen. But you can handle it when they do.
Exhaustion every time you hit 0 HP is not just an undesirable outcome. As noted above, the whole point
is that you have nothing, LITERALLY nothing, zero ways to manage that problem. You can manage HP loss. You can manage other conditions, either waiting out their duration or finding a treatment for them. There's nothing
you can do about exhaustion except retreat. And it happens with an event that, mathematically, is going
to happen. A lot. Essentially every combat, especially
if those combats are "deadly" the way almost all 5e DMs think they absolutely positively HAVE to be.
Fail states can be graduated. There is a spectrum of failures between "nothing wrong" and "total party kill." Having to risk a stealth check because you didn't find a way to draw a guard away from his post is just a little slap on the wrist, but you still want to try to get around the without a check if you can find a way to do it.
Yeah that...again sounds like "we're going to use the term
'failure state,' but what we mean
is 'undesirable outcome.'" A failure state is at the extreme
far end of 'undesirable outcome.' It should, if literally anything
can be done, never, ever happen; it should be avoided at absolutely all costs
, like you should be willing to accept grievous issues in order to avoid it because those grievous issues will almost certainly be better than whatever the fail state is. Like having your car transmission explode. (That happened to my parents once. Thankfully it was covered by auto insurance, but it meant we were in a precarious vehicular situation for like a week or two.) Or, y'know, failing
at something. Better to temporarily sacrifice your sleep schedule and social life to get your grade back on track than to get an F.