Dungeons & Dragons Online

DMs: If a PC is going to fail please don’t let it be boring

Content of the article: "DMs: If a PC is going to fail please don’t let it be boring"

We've all been there before, right?

You have an awesome idea in mind. You spring into action. The whole table is hyping you up and…

You roll a 2 and have to sit there and sheepishly laugh at yourself because your awesome plan just fizzled out without a single sound. The DM gives you a sad smile and says:

"Sorry, it doesn't work. Your attack misses." And then moves onto the next turn in combat. Such a FANTASTIC fun idea wasted and without even a chance to defend itself.

Recently, I was playing a game in a similar situation and started thinking: Man, I wish SOMETHING had come of that idea even if it were bad. That would feel better then me just sitting here sheepishly until my next turn in combat, right?

I know some DM's tend to not want to shine the spotlight on a player's failure, which is truly admirable as you don't want to embarrass them, but I'm here to make the argument that in this case fading into the shadows is worse than failing in the spotlight.

I think it's far more interesting to narrate the player's action in detail, making it seem as if even despite the bad roll the outcome of the event is in question. After all, from your characters' perspective, they have no idea how this will turn out. Make it seem like they might succeed, rack up a bit of suspense, and then (and this is the most crucial part)… Explain WHY they fail.

Why is this step so important? Well, think about it! Your character is a highly competent individual! Even if they have terrible stats, they've been adventuring! They've been fighting! Killing! They are, by circumstance, far more competent than the average commoner. So they shouldn't just 'fail' like some pathetic coward who just didn't do it right. Something had to have caused this.

Read:  What to do about players that constantly recognise and call out narrative tropes?

I would take this chance to really play into the atmosphere. If they're fighting a powerful enemy and they fail their grapple check, explain that they do everything perfectly but the enemy catches their arm without even looking. If this is a goofy encounter, explain that the player misses because the goblin saw something shiny and accidentally ducked out of the way of their perfectly placed swing. If they are in a deadly situation, describe how the character is desperately trying with everything in them to break the paralysis spell that's clutched their muscles but the magic is just TOO powerful!

In short, make it clear that failure isn't just because they got unlucky. Really hammer in that the dice determine how the story plays out, not the capability of an individual (after all, capability is described by the stats, not the roll). Even if they fail, they should feel their character is trying their hardest, and not just failing because of some accidental clumsiness.

TL;DR: Don't ignore your characters' failures so you don't have to feel bad that they rolled a 1. Instead, describe what in the game world caused their usual competence from not being enough this time, and increase the suspense in your game.

Source: reddit.com

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