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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    BlackDragon

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    Default How to encourage risky gameplay

    So I was thinking about how to encourage my players to take bigger risks. Maybe a secret bonus or something. I'm aiming for more cinematic action instead of carefully planed.

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Relonious View Post
    I'm aiming for more cinematic action instead of carefully planed.
    Steal Exalted's stunting mechanic? It's literally 'bonuses for cool description'. Plus of course bringing in the idea of 'more risk=more reward'.

    As for reducing planningm, I'm not sure. Time limits on planning sessions? Asking nicely? IME unless given an active reason not to groups slowly move towards long planning sessions, and it can be hard to justify not doing this (even Conan planned).
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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    The key is to actually let those risky attempts pay off. Especially if it's the first time it's tried.

    My basic policy is that if you propose something cool that doesn't totally break the rules (ie there's at least one way it could work), I'll generally let it slide. If it needs a roll, it won't be prohibitively hard, and you'll generally get some result even if you fail. This tolerance only happens once per stunt, however. If it becomes a pattern, no dice.

    People stop doing risky things and start focusing on the tried-and-true because their risky things get either shot down by the group or because they're sure it's going to leave them worse off than doing nothing.
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    What I often do won't fly with every group, so use some prudent judgement before you commit to this suggestion. I'll often be somewhat frank with the meta mechanics of the players' situation. Obviously this can detract from their suspension of disbelief, but can also be a godsend for beginners. Saying things like, "That obstacle doesn't look like it can be surmounted with this tool. You may have to get creative." or "Well, that didn't work. What else do you have on your character sheet?" or possibly even " Are you sure? Remember what happened last time you tried that?"

    Of course, those kind of hints are better for beginners struggling who might benefit from creative solutions than for veteran power gamers in a boring rut.

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    People can avoid unknown risks. They have no clue their chance of success, so they do not take the risk. Is it 10 or 80% I fail?

    If risky things are less risky, it is not as much of a risk. "Bonuses chance of success for cool things" lowers the risk of failure.

    Increase the reward. The slow and tried method could work, but they can gain a lot with a more risky path.

    Reduce the punishment. It is a fun idea to swing across the chandelier, but if the risk is the character is effectively removed from combat, die, or suffer debilitating injuries. Those stairs do not look so bad anymore.

    The safe way is often the most effective. Some people don't like doing stupid stuff to look cool.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    A: letting those risks pay off.
    B: not making failure in those risks only mean permadeath or rerolling.
    Last edited by False God; 2020-09-04 at 08:31 PM.
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    A: letting those risks pay off.
    B: not making failure in those risks only mean permadeath or rerolling.
    These, combined with lost opportunities, will serve you well.

    This really is just an expansion of "A: letting those risks pay off," but the method is key: Have rewards that are obvious, but have to be obtained quickly or otherwise through risky means, and have the opportunity to obtain them be fleeting. So they have to move fast, and they can't deliberate over it long. They have to go NOW to get them. Sure, they can get lesser rewards the long and safe way, but you want the risky plays to pay off and to feel pressured to go get them RIGHT NOW.

    B is also crucial; having failures carry penalties that sting is fine, even good, but they should be recoverable. And make sure the risks are not quite as risky as they look. That is, let them succeed and feel like they pulled off a miracle even if they had closer to 40% than 10% as their chance to win. They'll take more risks, because they'll think them less risky, but if you do it right, they'll still feel like they're just being bold.

    Because the reality is, people are risk-averse because risks don't pay off often enough, and cost too much. You have to change that.

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Make failure acceptable to them.

    Once, the party of third levels at the top of the stairs were being attacked by gnomes running upstairs toward them. One player wanted his character to jump over the gnolls to attack them from behind. He rolled to low on his jump check.

    I decided that it was a cool move, and said, “You land behind the gnolls where you intended, but you twist your ankle. You can’t move more than five feet per round until you get healed.“ This made the failure real, but the stunt was still worth doing.

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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Are you locked into a system? One problem with the big systems that have dozens of sourcebooks is the "there's a rule for that" in 3.x it was often "there's a feat for that" when martials wanted to do cool things. These rules often make cool stuff near impossible if you didn't invest in it meaning you essentially had to plan to replicate a cinematic scene weeks or months before when you were building your character. It also meant you were invested in a particular stunt for mechanical benefit and would probably try to replicate it well point of diminishing returns in coolness/fun for the rest of the table.

    A looser system where everything is a stat check might serve you better a powered by the apocalypse game like dungeon world, Fate, or OSR. Even 5e can even do a lot of this if you default to cool stuff being a simple Athletics or Acrobatics check.

    Planning sessions can be the worst from both sides of the table. Cinematic plans are done in montage. Consider adapting the core concept from some of the newer heist games and give players "planning" to spend as the adventure unfolds. Hiring a sniper, selecting a location for them on the map and writing out complex if/than instructions them might be exciting to the player doing it, but would be boring for the rest of the table probably including the gamemaster. Suddenly having a Deus ex Machina sniper shot save the party and then taking a minute to describe the sniper's hiring and placement is thrilling.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    I'm… not really sure *what* behavior, exactly, we're trying to encourage here. However, *how* to encourage it? Depending on the behavior, you may not be able to encourage it directly. If it falls into that category, your best bet is to add another player who plays that way, and *show* the players that it's OK to play in that risky style.

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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    You don't want a secret bonus. If you don't tell the players, they won't know to try. Try talking to them about it.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Daemon

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by GeoffWatson View Post
    You don't want a secret bonus. If you don't tell the players, they won't know to try. Try talking to them about it.
    I agree. Agency requires information.

    "How do I encourage <X>" or "How do I discourage <Y>" questions usually have answers that begin with "Talk to the players like adults about it." And then continue with "follow through on your statements". If you want more risky behavior and less endless planning,

    1. Tell the players that, outside a session. And discuss.
    2. Tell them that you're going to make those risky things pay off more, disproportionately to the risk incurred (so a small increase in risk leads to a large increase in reward). This is needed because people are naturally risk averse--psychologically they weigh risk more heavily than reward.
    3. THEN FOLLOW THROUGH. And point out cases where they take risks and get rewards from it.
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    I agree with pretty much almost being said here, especially the part about rewards. You should make them obvious, concrete and something the players want. Tempt them, but make the rewards actually attainable and more than worth the risk.

    Another method that works great in conjunction with that is putting them under pressure: when you have lots of time to plan and observe the situation, you are likely to favor the cautious approach or at the very least weigh all your options before picking one. If you're on the edge of your seat and have no time to think, instincts will take over and that can lead to riskier behaviour.

    A practical example would be the difference between describing a room with a strange rune on the floor and asking the players what they want to do, and describing a chase scene in which you keep a frantic rhythm and lead players to answer quickly to prompts. The mood that's set by a GM can really change how players approach situations.

    A very cool game to try this out is Ten Candles: without spoiling much, the game is divided into ten "scenes", and each scene ends when one of the ten candles on the table goes out. It doesn't matter what put out the candle (it simply burnt, the GM put it out to mark the end of the scene, or if a player did it or if it was just a gust of wind). When all the candles go out, it's game over.
    Since it's a very cinematic game, at the start you'll go nice and slow and players will be able to consider their options. Until the GM pulls out the threats: monsters, aliens, bad guys with guns, collapsing roads, a fire... Doesn't matter, as long as it fits the game. But the moment a problem is there, you act rash and do whatever it takes to survive until the lights go out (this is also partially encouraged by the dice mechanic). And as the game progresses, every candle is more likely to burn out in the middle of an action, so you must think and act quick.

    Also, as an addendum, I'd echo the sentiment of being open with your players about what type of mood you are looking for. Sometimes it's just as easy as saying "hey, want to play a game where we pull crazy stunts and take big risks for big rewards?"

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    B: not making failure in those risks only mean permadeath or rerolling.
    That certainly seems like a good start.

    Threads like this are very in line with what i want as a DM, since i generally find players choosing to fail or choosing to risk likely failure a thousand times more fun than forcing them to fail, which is easy but boring. In 5e you can attempt to use inspiration to encourage this a bit, but that only goes so far.
    Last edited by NorthernPhoenix; 2020-09-05 at 12:34 PM.

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    The thing I did that worked the best was to tell my players 'you're heroes - you're literally meant to do heroic stuff. Don't be afraid to try, I'm not going to punish you for taking initiative.'

    Of course, what I'm really saying there is 'taking risks is essentially risk free - it may not succeed, but it won't kill you either.' Not everyone is going to agree with that approach, I guess =)

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    The way this usually goes is like this.

    GM: I want you guys to take bigger risks and do cooler stuff than just say "I hit it with my sword".
    Players: OK. That sounds fun.
    GM: So the goblin wolfriders are charging you. What do you do?
    Player 1: Ok. I'm going to try to step aside at the last second and grab one of the riders by the neck, lift him up in the air with a barbaric yawp, and slam him to the ground like I'm spiking a football!
    GM: Whoa! That's awesome! It's tricky though, so you'll take a -5 penalty.
    Player 1: Dang! I missed by 4.
    GM: Too bad. The goblin stabs you for 8 damage as he rides by you. What about you?
    Player 2: Uh... I hit it with my sword.

    If you want them to do more, then the risks have to be a net gain for the players. If bigger risk = bigger reward, then the bigger reward has to be more than the risk. If the risk is doubled and so are the rewards and penalties, it's a net gain of zero but with swingier results. If you double the risk, you should give them triple or more reward to make it tempting.
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    From my experience players avoid risks not because the rewards are too low, but the cost of failure is too high.

    For example. you are playing a sci-fi game with a geavy shooting element to the combat. Your character is in cover but if she moves normally she cannot the to the next bit of cover that will allow her to take out the boss. She can try a stunt to extend her move to the cover. If the stunt fails she will be left in the open where all the bad guys can shoot her up. No matter how cinematic the cool move would be the cost of failure, even if she has an 80% chance of success, is too great.

    As a GM you really can’t do anything to change that. If she fails her roll she is going to suffer significant penalties, possibly character death. That is the consequence of failure in that example. Doing anything else will be dumbing the game down to easy mode.

    People are more willing to take risks when the penalty for failure isn’t catastrophic. Which means most players will tend to take risks in situations where either it is safe to do so (eg against low level opponents) or where safer ways will result in failure anyway due to a ticking time bomb in the scenario.

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Thanks for all your replies. I'll take your advice in consideration.
    There was a webcomic, The Dungeon Master of the Rings (I think), and one issue has Legolas describing an awsome action to fight the ollifants, and the DM defaulted to hit it's legs, because the difficulty was to high.
    That is the idea I want to avoid.

    PS. Writing with a spanish autocorrector is frustating.

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    another aspect is
    how are we talking about talking the low risk path here?

    by which I mean is this a matter of being cautious in a round to round idea of not pulling off cool stunts, etc type of thing or are we talking about a larger scale caution...where the whole game is being bogged down in excessive information collection, gaining small advantages to bring to main event (often equipment or allies) etc?

    one thing that I find helps is make it clear that a lack of action is clear choice with costs....players spending too much time deliberating what they are going to do next round so each round takes an hour? Put them on a chess clock or egg timer for action calls. If they take too long so does their character. give penalties for "hasty" actions for a bit then they just loose their round. When people have the sense of "do SOMETHING" they will tend to fall to a risk extreme, either very safe or high risk. After a few times of high risk stuff paying off and just becoming socially normalized around the table people are more likly to make those decisions anyway.

    on the large scale...give them a different sort of ticking clock. a plot based one. and don't necessarily tell them about it. imply there is a rush and then if the dilly dally let there be consequences. Perhaps they can not save the hostage but can still avenger them but make that a lesser victory...

    ...let their low risk choices have negative consequences.

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Relonious View Post
    So I was thinking about how to encourage my players to take bigger risks...
    How do you get anyone to take risks, ever?

    A big problem with RPGs is that players will often think of their characters as themselves, to a greater or lesser extent. This isn't bad, per se. On the positive side, it generates investment in the character, and thus, the game.
    Negatively, however, this means that needless complications, injury and potentially even death, are bad for the player, not just the character. I've had players cry when their character died-and-was-made-unrezzable. Maybe it's my cold, dead heart...But really? Okay... Point is, risks aren't taken, because consequences exist. (How do you get anyone to take risks, ever?)

    If you can convince your players that their characters are simply fictional characters and it doesn't actually matter if they die - let alone simply 'fail' - then it goes a long way towards promoting fun risky game-behavior since the players are now less averse to the consequences to their characters, and are thus more likely to take actions that they otherwise wouldn't take.
    It's okay to die. It's a game of make-believe. It's not real. Just roll a new character and you're back.
    On the flip side; It might lower investment, because now nothing matters and just do whatever you want and lets run our characters purposefully into meat-grinders 'cause we'll just roll a new one?

    Second, a lot of players simply aren't aware of their options:
    I've had a number of encounters, where after DMing a tough fight, I'll say something like "I don't understand why you didn't just..."
    and the players' response is simply "Wait, we can do that!?"
    Additionally, a player might have an idea in their head, but it's 'dumb', so why say it out loud? ...Except that 'dumb' idea was actually a really good one and the player just has no confidence.

    My players didn't 'take risks' or take 'unlikely actions', because it simply didn't occur to them to do so...They're unlikely, after all. That, or maybe my players aren't very...Smart, I guess. And that's why I'm the DM. That said, I've ran a number of modules where I'm reading through it and a boss or encounter has secret bonus/win conditions, and I'm like "What? How the **** are they meant to figure that out?" (Always read your modules before the session starts. )

    But ultimately, it's your players' game. You can't encourage them to play the way you want to DM them.
    I'd love it if my players did [X, Y and Z]. But they don't. Because that's not the way they play the game. I could set up an encounter that forces the gameplay I want, but then they wouldn't have fun and then they'd quit.
    Last edited by Cheesegear; 2020-09-07 at 06:48 PM.
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Cheesegear View Post

    But ultimately, it's your players' game. You can't encourage them to play the way you want to DM them.
    I'd love it if my players did [X, Y and Z]. But they don't. Because that's not the way they play the game. I could set up an encounter that forces the gameplay I want, but then they wouldn't have fun and then they'd quit.

    I think this is very unhelpful advice to give. Not only because the DMs fun matters too (an incredibly important fact that all to often gets forgotten on these forums), but because there is a middle ground between just going with the flow and forcing behavior, which is what the thread is all about. Encouraging behavior.

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernPhoenix View Post
    I think this is very unhelpful advice to give [...] there is a middle ground between just going with the flow and forcing behavior, which is what the thread is all about. Encouraging behavior.
    I didn't think the part you quoted was particularly helpful. It wasn't meant to be.
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    I encourage my players to do things all the time. What am I supposed to do if they just don't do what I want them to do? There's nothing to do. That's just the way it is.
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    The key is to actually let those risky attempts pay off. Especially if it's the first time it's tried.
    Very much this. But also, limit the info available before the action.

    If you particularly want to spend less time in planning sessions, feel free to judiciously remind the players that they had a good plan for a similar situation last time and maybe they should make that SOP? If they do, you should actively avoid setups which might feel like a trap for the SOP
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    In general, I try to get my players to plan things out more. Then I introduce a series of complications that they didn't plan for once their plan is being executed, which forces them to adapt on the fly and make in-the-moment decisions.

    In addition, I think the key to players settling on more "risky" courses of action is to make all other courses of action less desirable. You will inherently adopt more long-shot odds plans if no better odds are available, or any plan with better odds is seen as unacceptable.

    Also, "Planned" and "Risky" are not opposite ends of the same axis, and are largely unrelated to each other.
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Duff View Post
    Very much this. But also, limit the info available before the action.
    I disagree.

    Risk-averse players tend to be even more careful if the situation is less known and the risks can't be gauged.

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    Risk-averse players tend to be even more careful if the situation is less known and the risks can't be gauged.
    One of my players tells a story about his last group that took an hour to open a door.

    Check to listen to the other side of the door? Fail.
    Search for traps? Fail.
    ...Guess they just don't open the door, now? Session over.

    ...He doesn't play with that group anymore.
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Basically, the main rule is to let risky options be genuinely worth the risk (that is to say, the rewards are good, and the penalty you risk is not completely out of whack), and to facilitate going with them. People tend to respond to reinforcement far more than suggestions.

    Since speaking in terms of whole scenarios would make this post pretty long, let me make a comparison to a very low level but similar thing: do you know how many GMs complain endlessly that all their players do is go "I attack"... but then whenever their players want to do something silly like swing off the chandelier, they immediately ask for an acrobatics check as difficult as landing the attack in the first place and if the character miss the check they make them take fall damage and end up prone in front of the enemy from falling, or something of that stripe, while beating the check gives them, like, a +2 modifier to their attack? And never seem to realize why their players stopped bothering years ago?

    That's a micro version of what I mean. Doing the "cool maneuver" adds a massive possible failure penalty, but the benefit of succeeding is minor compared to just doing the baseline safe thing: textbook case of "not even slightly worth it". And players pick up on this. It is extremely easy, as a GM, to fall into this mindset on the macro level - especially if you have simulationist tendencies, when you set up situations you risk worrying so much about making the risks "realistic" and "make sense for the enemies" that you forget thinking about the important bit: what am I trying to transmit and reinforce, here?

    If you want players to take risky decisions, you need to massage the failure penalties such that they become actually commensurate with the payoffs, or give outs - the ability to back off if **** starts going sideways, or use resources to shore up momentary missteps so that the whole thing doesn't come crashing down due to one bad roll, help a lot to make people willing to take the chances.
    Last edited by Drascin; 2020-09-08 at 02:55 AM.

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Drascin View Post
    Basically, the main rule is to let risky options be genuinely worth the risk (that is to say, the rewards are good, and the penalty you risk is not completely out of whack), and to facilitate going with them. People tend to respond to reinforcement far more than suggestions.

    Since speaking in terms of whole scenarios would make this post pretty long, let me make a comparison to a very low level but similar thing: do you know how many GMs complain endlessly that all their players do is go "I attack"... but then whenever their players want to do something silly like swing off the chandelier, they immediately ask for an acrobatics check as difficult as landing the attack in the first place and if the character miss the check they make them take fall damage and end up prone in front of the enemy from falling, or something of that stripe, while beating the check gives them, like, a +2 modifier to their attack? And never seem to realize why their players stopped bothering years ago?

    That's a micro version of what I mean. Doing the "cool maneuver" adds a massive possible failure penalty, but the benefit of succeeding is minor compared to just doing the baseline safe thing: textbook case of "not even slightly worth it". And players pick up on this. It is extremely easy, as a GM, to fall into this mindset on the macro level - especially if you have simulationist tendencies, when you set up situations you risk worrying so much about making the risks "realistic" and "make sense for the enemies" that you forget thinking about the important bit: what am I trying to transmit and reinforce, here?

    If you want players to take risky decisions, you need to massage the failure penalties such that they become actually commensurate with the payoffs, or give outs - the ability to back off if **** starts going sideways, or use resources to shore up momentary missteps so that the whole thing doesn't come crashing down due to one bad roll, help a lot to make people willing to take the chances.
    I think you're onto something in that the culture of simulationism (or over-simulationism, even) from earlier games definitely encourages very careful and cautious play. Getting older players coming into newer games to break this habit is in my experience a lot harder than newer players who are generally more malleable to whatever direction you positively reinforce.

    As for rewards and penalties, rewards are fairly easy to make good, but penalties are a bit tougher. A risk should, in my mind, result in relevant penalty if you fail (otherwise it's not a risk), but there are, in this context, helpful (for reinforcing behavior) and non-helpful penalties. Just as a start, i find penalties that embarrass the character or otherwise prevent them from being cool but don't stop the game (or their game) entirely in it's tracks work best. Sort of an extension of the "fail forward" concept.
    Last edited by NorthernPhoenix; 2020-09-08 at 07:55 AM.

  29. - Top - End - #29
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    If you make sure good things happen when the risk is taken, and reduce the penalties when it fails...

    Is it really risky gameplay any more?
    Last edited by Democratus; 2020-09-08 at 10:23 AM.

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    OldWizardGuy

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    Aug 2010

    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Ultimately, it's just risk vs. reward.

    If risk > reward, then players won't do the things. So you need to either reduce risk, or increase the reward. Or the perception of either.

    This is going to get into one of my personal hobby horses that death shouldn't be the primary consequence of failure. It's a good one, to be honest, and should be used appropriately.

    But consider this.... what if you always let characters run away, or surrender (when running isn't possible)? IOW, what if you made it so that death was only on the line if the players insisted on playing it out til the last, and were willling to put their lives on the line?

    Now, the consequence of loss is, what? Make it something in the story/world level. So if the players have to fight some guards to get into a castle to do whatever, the consequence of losing isn't that they die.... it's that they don't get in the castle. And, ideally, it also means that something else bad happens, and possibly that the guards are now aware of them and the bad guys are going to do different or more proactive things.

    These things can be bad, but they're not the end of the game. And having that in place can allow players to be more open with the risks that they take.
    "Gosh 2D8HP, you are so very correct (and also good looking)"

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