Monday, January 25, 2010

Failure Rocks!

I don't always agree with Alexis, over at The Tao of D&D. But today, is he ever on to something:
Yes, it is a major bitch that my character's constitution is so low that eight hours of marching leaves him so weak that he can no longer lift his quarterstaff, much less gather together the magical forces necessary to sweep his enemies aside - but I want my weakness, I want to have it to bitch about, to torture the other party members with, to insist again that we have got to stop and rest because my feet hurt! I'm not interested in running a perfect being. Powers are not the whole game - flaws must count at equal value!

Amen to that.

My DMs think I'm weird because I get all excited when terrible things happen to my character. And maybe I am weird. Sure, I like success as the next gal, but you know what? Getting captured or attacked by slaadi or brainwashed or whatever, it's something to play with. It's fun. Even if it's because my character sucks, it means that the game is focused on my character. When my character gets charmed, or ends up stumbling around exhausted because she hasn't slept in over twenty-four hours, it's something to play off of, to respond to, to deal with.

That's really what I care about. Not success or failure, but getting to play.


  1. Amen. I had a Bard back in 3.5 that was an absolute failure at everything he did. He sucked at skills, fighting, negotiating, and was even branded with several socially unacceptable labels. But, man, was he entertaining to play. I still relish when I rolled natural 1s on his thrown weapons, and the groan around the table at more unintended friendly fire.

  2. Failure or crisis drives drama, so it's a great storytelling tool. One of the cool things about RPGs is that they're usually a team thing. Individual failures can be overcome by the successes of the other players. So, a taste of failure now and then, to spice up the drama, doesn't have to equal defeat for the team.

  3. No-one remember the string of 16-18s, right equipment at the right time, omnicompetent man of iron with affection.

    Losing is Fun. ;)

  4. I think D&D 4e had lost me by page 17 of the Player's Handbook, when it became obvious that random attributes were being de-emphasized in favor of "optimized" point distribution.

    A while back I posted an old Dragon magazine editorial in praise of characters with average to low attributes that echoed your sentiment here--the most memorable characters are the flawed characters.

  5. I've ditched the 3-18 altogether and just use advantage/disadvantage for stats. Characters get one ability as an advantage, and another for each disadvantage ability they take.

    My group made characters on Saturday and the disadvantages defined the characters as much as the advantages. :)