Allowing "Bad" Choices for Role Playing Purposes?

Hey gang, so on the Choice of Games blog, Dan recommends creating choices where one isn’t clearly better than the rest. I think that’s fantastic, sensible advice. However, I wonder about occasionally breaking that rule in order to allow players/readers to play the type of character they truly want. Here’s an example:

In my WIP, the MC is the first born of a royal house and is sent to meet with diplomats of a foreign faction. Along the way, an ally asks if the MC has knowledge of the meeting’s purpose, and if not, would they like to know. The MC is unaware at this point. It’s early on in the game, and the obvious best choice is to reply “I don’t know” and receive a bit of helpful exposition in order to prepare. Realistically though, I assume some people will want to play an heir who doesn’t care/is self-centered/etc, so I’m considering writing in a response to that effect. It will possibly leave the MC confused and disadvantaged in the meeting, so is less than ideal gameplay-wise, but it opens the door for more nuanced roleplaying.

Similarly, I’ve given thought to allowing the MC to be cowardly or otherwise less than heroic in other circumstances where the player is more interested to see how consequences play out than to make a “good” choice. To clarify, I’m not speaking in terms of morality here, but in regards to a choice that is objectively better from a stat perspective than another choice which may better serve roleplaying.

What are your thoughts? Is anyone interested in choices of that nature? Are there examples in previously released CoG/HG of something along these lines?



To your left lies a pool of lava. To your right lies a path leading to a nice hot spring a mile up.

Where do you wish to bathe?

(Player chooses lava.)

Achievement: Stupidity
You have died.


I am all for roleplaying choices! Just as long as those choices actually have some effect on the game.


One option here would be to give the reader a different stat bonus for making the “less than heroic” choice. Maybe a bonus to wisdom might be appropriate if they aren’t always rushing heedlessly into danger, or a charisma bonus for talking their way out of fights? Because otherwise, the reader who’s chosen to role-play a less reckless character might well feel short-changed.

Similarly, allowing the reader to refuse advice before the negotiations could be used to sign-post that they’re playing a character who would already have extensively prepared. Or that their negotiating style relies heavily on their natural charm and showmanship.

I think it’s fine for some choices to be sub-optimal compared with others, but they’re more likely to present interesting dilemmas if every option gives the player at least something positive.


I think you’ve possibly misunderstood slightly. Choices can be “bad” for roleplay value (ie you could choose to be cowardly or evil for the sake of the story). What they don’t wan’t (my understanding of it anyway,) is they don’t want unbalanced choices like choice: you have 1 wish, do you wish for a puppy, a car or a million dollars. Obviously you’d pick the money because you can buy both the other choices with change to spare. I also think they don’t seem to be wild about there only being a right and wrong choice. Like if you go left you die. If you go right you live. Or if you choose to go outside you get a chapter of story, if you choose to stay home, it skips.

In saying that that is for COG, for HG you can do as you want, but those guidelines are there for a reason so it’s probably good to use them where possible.


You have one wish.
What do you wish for?

A Billion Dollars.

You now have one billion dollars.

Also, a meteor strikes the earth. The aftermath of the devastation means that money is now worthless.

World Peace.

A meteor strikes the earth. The aftermath of the devastation kills everyone on earth. The world is at peace.

Infinite Wishes.

You now have infinite wishes… in your mind, for you are trapped in a dream which you will never awake from.

I think these choices are pretty balanced. :wink:


In the specific scenario listed, it might be useful to differentiate between ‘I, the character, don’t care enough to want to hear this’ and ‘I, the player, have already read this info and would like to skip it this time please’.

Otherwise I’m all for allowing sub-optimal choices, even ones that are obviously so, as long as you plan to do something interesting with them. Interesting to me defined as either entertaining in its own right or allowing for character development or consequences in a fun or dramatic direction.

After decapitating the last goblin you loot the bodies and then check to see how the rest of the party is doing. Jano seems to have been stabbed in the arm with a rusty spike.

1.) Turn back and seek out a healer in town.
2.) Camp here for the evening and have Silverspring treat it to the best of her ability.
3.) Just stop the bleeding with one of these goblin’s loincloths and keep moving, it’ll be fine.


I wouldn’t mind playing a game that has choices occasionally that accomplish nothing or put you into an disadvantageous position, as long as they’re varied, ie, if you only get disadvantageous results when taking cowardly/morally wrong choices it’d be bad, but if you for example have two moments in the story when you can make a choice to rush into a battle, and in one of them doing that yields you a good result, while in another it yields you a poor one. That would IMO, be a nice addition.

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Remind me not to make any wishes in any games you happen to write @Carlos.R :smile:


Nothing that one-sided, Carlos.R! Haha! Something more along the lines of what Protagonist and Moxie have suggested for sure.

I definitely agree Varroth- it’s not that I intend to make all cowardly choices disadvantageous. Running is sometimes a completely legitimate and wise decision!

I really appreciate the responses thus far. It’s giving me ideas to mull over. Thanks everyone!


As they say; careful… :wink:

Say, you wouldn’t happen to have used my brain, would you? :thinking:

Me, I love tough choices - that is what makes me sweat in games like Choice of Rebels, for instance; me, and my character, knows what they want to do, but is it the best for everyone else, or themselves? When are you allowed to be selfish and when must you be prepared to sacrifice? Not morally, but for sanity, welfare, morale and such tiny details. :sweat_smile:

Or games where you can play a tough, confident character as well as a shy, reserved one - or in-between. Can’t think of an example at the moment, but possibly Seven Heirs WIP on here? :thinking:

“I wish you couldn’t count” “-granted…wait, how many wishes do you have left?” “Many”


‘I wish I could grant my own wishes, as many times as I want’ seems like a good way to take out the middle man.

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“Wish granted. I have turned you into an earthworm, so that you no longer have the mental faculties to desire any more wishes.”


That would be not granting the wish, thus voiding the transformation.

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No, it’s absolutely granting the wish.

You can grant your own wishes, as many times as you want. You’re just no longer capable of desiring any more wishes. Because you’re an earthworm.


earthworms are actually pretty clever.

Honestly, i’m okay with any kind of choices as long as they are consistent with story and setting author created. This is fiction after all.

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Exactly. The point of fiction and the goal of every player isn’t necessarily simulating a scenario where everyone always does everything right. The tale of a dysfunctional screwup is much of the time more interesting imho.

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I like the idea of playing a character who can have a bad day or have emotions run high from time to time. We all make bad decisions in real life that add an extra layer of drama, and that’s kind of what I was thinking here.

Along those same lines, I don’t want to make it to where once you start down a particular path (whether skill-wise or personality-wise) you’re forced to keep playing that way or face impossible stat checks.