In our game of Mouse Guard the other night, there was a new concept the players had a hard time accepting at first. It wasn’t the idea of the three-round turns, or the four types of actions you could take during your round. It wasn’t even the separation between the player’s turn and the GM’s turn. It was this: Failure is an option.
In D&D, Savage Worlds, and pretty much any other game, players hate, hate, hate to lose. A failed dice roll is never a good thing.
But in Mouse Guard, failure creates conflict, which makes for a better story.
And though the mechanics exist in Mouse Guard for giving benefits to failure, that doesn’t mean that that philosophy shouldn’t carry over into other games.
For instance: What’s a better story in D&D: The one where your rogue walks through the market and picks a dozen pockets without getting caught, or the one where on the 12th pocket, he picks the pocket of a very large half-ogre who happens to notice the lightening of his purse and decides to pick a fight?
Failure adds drama, and in a role playing game, drama is always a good thing.
Just think: In Indiana Jones, how boring would it have been if he had measured the right amount of sand in that bag and switched out the statue, just to walk out of the temple without any problems? Boring.
As a GM, try thinking about more situations you can incorporate into your game which allow for failure on your players’ part which allow for better role play.
As a player, make sure you remind your self that sometimes, failure is fun.