RULES . three c’s of failing forward

Image by Rifle Infantry


Failing forward is a nice phrase. But when it comes to a moment of abject character failure will we, the game master, know what to do? With my impervious strategies, The Three C’s of Failing Forwards: COST, COMPLICATION, and CLUE, you will never have to wonder again.

Image by me

The First C: Cost

The universal currency of your game isn’t just for barter and bribes. Gold, credits, junk, water . . . they have gained another use. Spend, spend, spend to redeem those failures! But why use just currency? Get players to destroy weapons, armour, magical items, prized possessions and see how quick success comes their way.

Did that falchion-lunge miss the harem eunuch’s neck by a foot? Well, your waterskin fell during the attack and spilled all over the marble floor and now he slipped towards your blade.

Did that robot maintenance end up in a few crossed wires? Well, seems that there’s just the spare part you need in the firing action of your lasgun.

Did that emissary of the slug-chieftains dislike your suggestion? Well, your treasured family trinket caught her eye.

Image by me

The Second C: Complication

“Yes, but . . .” might be one of your favourite mantras. And for good reason. Let the player get what they want. But the reward isn’t what it seemed at first glance.

Did that spear make it past the tight-packed dragon scales? Well, now your weapon is stuck.

Did that quad-laser finally fire on the enemy? Well, now it won’t shut off and your heat sink is melting.

Did that sentient tornado listen to your pleas to leave? Well, now it’s heading for the nuclear ammo dump.

Image by me

The Third C: Clue

A non-success doesn’t have to end in a fudging of the results. Keep the result! But throw in something else. A small morsel of information that will leave the thirst for adventure keen in the player’s throat.

Did that sword-swing end in glancing off the blackguard’s shield? Well, you catch a glimpse of a weak spot in his breastplate.

Did that terminal hack end in a lockout from the database mainframe? Well, you did see that the update patch is old – it’s from twenty years ago.

Did that persuasive assertion fall flat on the she-ogre? Well, they did talk about their mother’s recent funeral.

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