Monday, August 18, 2014
Every Roll has Consequences
Too many times, when the party wants to make a Check, if one PC fails, someone else chimes in, "I'll try it." The player must be thinking, "After all, why not, there's no risk in failure so I might as well try too."
In Dungeon World, every roll can result in a success, a partial success, or a failure. A partial success leads to a hard bargain or tough decision. A failure means that the GM can make something bad happen. That means, the player needs to think twice before they flippantly decide that they want to make a roll.
In practice, this led to interesting developments in my previous Dungeon World game. One of the characters rolled to explore some ruins, and another character decided to roll to aid them. The aiding player rolled a failure. In D&D this usually just means, too bad, you couldn't help. In Dungeon World, it meant that the player suffered a debility as he sprained his ankle trying to navigate some difficult terrain while he tried to help. After that experience, the player didn't offer to help again.
These consequences add tension and *decision making* into the game. It makes it a decision whether to make a roll or not, rather than a "why not."
In the D&D Next playtest packets, there was even an optional mechanic that formalized this, the Hazard rule for Ability Checks. If you rolled a certain number below the required DC, something bad happens. I hope that this optional rule survives in the DMG!
I'll be adopting the Hazard rule for 5e. If the player fails a Check by more than 5, something bad will happen. For example, if they're exploring a swamp and someone makes a Knowledge Check, and fails by 6 or more, the party might here some loud croaking sounds in the distance. This foreshadows the presence of Giant Toads in the area. This is akin the the Signs of Doom advice from Dungeon World.
Consider using a "Hazard" style rule in your games to keep the tension level high, and make each roll a DECISION and not a "why not".