CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

Using Loses to Help Advance Your Story

A lot of times when going to see a film people are expecting the happy ending. Except for maybe a handful of horror movies the villain doesn’t win. Empire Strikes Back is my favorite of the three original films because it leaves us with the villain out ahead. So why don’t we see the big bad actually being the victor in most games? Is losing that bad for the heroes? There’s an old adage about learning more in defeat than in victory. So can your heroes learn from a decisive loss to your antagonist?

I think it all depends on how you frame it. A loss shouldn’t be the end result of an entire campaign. But one or even multiple losses during the middle part of a game can often compel the heroes to do better. In the search for pieces of an artifact what if the big bad’s minions get there first and make off with some of the pieces. This happens often but in most games I find the heroes are always winning the day. But they still have a chance to defeat the villain before he can actually put the artifact to use, even if he has collected all the pieces.

One of the other hurdles I see is that many groups will fight to the death at every instance. Especially when a GM usually fudged die rolls or doesn’t allow character deaths, the players will just try and persevere. It often needs to be impressed upon the players early in a campaign that it’s ok to flee. Or even if the bad guy has the ability to kill the players he choose not to. Let them know that they would have died but he thinks their beneath him and so he doesn’t finish them off.

Capturing player’s is a difficult method of handing the party a loss. If we look at the end of Empire Solo’s capture is part of the party’s defeat. But in a game the player of solo would now be out of a character and that can be unfair. I find capturing important NPCs works better for this type of defeat so that the group still has some one to rescue but one player doesn’t need to make a new character.

The last issue is the sparing use of defeat. If the players feel like they are being stymied at every turn then they’ll feel like they have no chance. In wrestling the bad guy will often beat on the good guy for a while building up hatred in the fans. But the good guy needs to get a little back, even if he gets cut off again not to soon after. This is called the hope spot and you need to give your players hope.

The ebb and flow of the games drama can be seen in victories and losses. And it’s ok to have more losses than victories because if the player’s succeed in the end all that heartbreak will be vindicated. The question becomes what is the right win to loss ratio for your group. That’s something you’ll have to figure out for yourself. But if you can find the right balance you can really enhance your story telling.

I’ve used defeats in my game but how have you used them in yours? How many losses are you willing to give your players? How do you guide your players to a setback without killing them? What kinds of failures are your group able to handle?

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