Do you like to lose?

Tally Ho and Cakes and Ale are superb both for failure being entertaining rather than annoying, and for failure opening up completely new scenes and plotlines.

I think this is me too. I’m not too worried about stats when playing and for CoG games at least, I tend to get good or mixed-positive endings; I haven’t encountered any endings that soured me on the game (even though I’ve never managed to make a really good film in Hollywood Visionary, heh). In Lies Under Ice, which was the last stat-heavy game I played, I had plenty of failures along the way but it was an interesting story and I managed to pull it together to get a very feelgood climactic scene, even if my colony wasn’t perfect.

Definitely not, I don’t like replaying games in quick succession because it’s too fresh in my mind so I will just carry on and see what happens.

I don’t mind that really, but I mind more when it feels like there isn’t an option that suits my character personality wise.

lol, it doesn’t piss me off at all! I get that it can be annoying to fail. I try to make it clear why the PC has failed and where possible not be overly punishing for it; if someone’s failed at a critical moment - as opposed to a more minor situation - I try to give other opportunities to improve the situation and at least partially succeed. So for example I might include 3 tests to resolve a big problem, where failing all three results in a worse outcome, but succeeding at least once means it can be mitigated or cancelled out.

Not really. I tailor my games’ difficulty so there is a decent chance of success the majority of the time (at least via the randomiser) and that there is a reasonably even spread of the stats that are being tested. There are rare points where I will make a test more difficult if it’s some sort of incredibly impressive feat; but more often, I’ll give the player something extra if they succeed at that very difficult one, rather than giving them problems if they don’t.

That’s really kind and I don’t mind at all - I very much appreciate your comments and am pleased that it kicked off a conversation :smiley:


I always approach IF with a CYOA mindset, as in, I want to choose what happens and when it happens. I’m fine with failing after a solid run just to see what happens, and if I really like a game and interesting possibilites lie on failed routes I will make multiple MCs where failing makes narrative sense for them at certain spots. But that also means I struggle a lot with dice rolls/chance mechanics. I love BG3 and DE, but I can’t shake my save-scumming habits. Perhaps I have control issues ( ;´・ω・`)


You saying this just made me realise this isn’t a new question for me. Back in the old school cyoa book days I was always the kid that kept a finger on the previous page just in case I didn’t like how the choice turned out. Although the Fighting Fantasy books were always much more brutal about setting you up to fail very early on and not letting you know until the end.


What choice is that? I haven’t come across one, and I’ve played it several times. So far as I remember, there’s only one competition (the jungle trek) and there’s a way to win.

In CYOA books I would always stick my finger whenever a choice came up. I guess I never grew out of that phase… :grimacing:
Having said that, in War of 2022 I wrote different paths for failing at different points in the hope that someone like me would be willing to go on after failing just to see what would happen.

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I don’t mind a little failure – it can make for a more interesting story – and while I’m not exactly a fan of bad endings, I know they have their place. My problem is when a game is balanced so that a single bad choice will put you onto a “failure path” where you’re not rewarded for the success, and so fail the next stat check, so don’t get the rewards for that and eventually you end up with the bad ending, purely because of one bad choice early on.

Failure’s not bad in and of itself, but you need to be able to recover from it.


From a reader perspective:

It depends on the execution of the failure and the purpose of whatever led to that failure.

If it is a narrative failure that leads to a different branch of the story or variants that still will allow me to succeed, I am okay with that, as long as it is executed in the game okay.

If it is “failure” due to a random die roll, I get angry with those, again, the exception being a well executed plot feature.

Most puzzles and “challenges” are frustrating and “petty” to me, meaning I get turned off by 99% of them in any game.

From a writing perspective: I am reluctant to offer a “game over” type of failure, unless the plot calls for such in a meaningful way.

A failure that leads to success via another route is a device I will use as long as I can feel I pull it off in execution.

I don’t have expectations on whether readers will or will not be accepting of my efforts until I get actual feedback, and I feel that getting feedback and adjusting the failure is key in executing my writing well.


It’s this one, I believe. I’ve added another option in my local version which will go up at some point; when I do my draft revisions it’s something I’m going to check through - the four-option choice sets that test opposed stats don’t tend to have overlap, which means someone with bad luck has a small chance of not having any of the required stats above/below 50.

Agreed, this can really feel miserable!

I think this makes a lot of sense. My experience doing choices that include die rolls in non-ChoiceScript games is that you have to make it very clear how difficult the choice is to succeed before taking the choice - I’m thinking of something like Fallen London or the Sunless games - because if you don’t, it feels unjust and you also lose the excitement of succeeding at a near-impossible roll.


Oh well, I didn’t even look at that choice as a pass/fail thing, it was just a conversation to me :slight_smile:

Actually now that I think about it, I always chose the last one because I wouldn’t have wanted to tell her parent how to parent, and I would have said “your mother/father” instead of “Fiore” so I didn’t choose that one either.

So the only choice that made sense to me was the last one, because her well-being is my priority :slight_smile:

Agreed; randomness works well in tabletop games in part because you’ve got so much more latitude to think outside the box and bounce back from it (plus usually, you’ll have teammates to take up the slack of your bad roll, as the more rolls there are, the more likely they are to even out to something reasonable). In console RPGs like the aforementioned Baldur’s Gate, randomness can work in combat, because (again) you’ll generally be rolling enough that your successes will balance out your failures.
In IF, on the other hand, (and the more IF-like parts of CRPGs) the amount of randomness is generally far lower, so a single bad roll will have far worse consequences for the overall story (or at least whichever part of the story you’re playing), and your player can only react in ways the writer has already written, so thinking outside the box is literally impossible.


No. I’ve played all sorts of games in which loss/failure was advertised (either thru marketing material or word of mouth) as fun/interesting/opening up new story branches/totally worth it/etc. Only once has that been true - in Cakes and Ale. Mostly, I think, because it’s a comedy (and because the author puts a lot of effort into making everything fun).


I’ll play a failure through, but if it’s a game with sequels, I won’t carry said failure forward unless I’m playing a “screwup” character. So, not my cup of tea, I guess.


I too really dislike failling, and try to avoid it. I sometimes even restart a game and try again, only because I failed a stat check. The only games that actually managed to make me start failing on purpose is Tally Ho and Jolly Good. The failure results in those games where just to funny not to experience.


I know that Tally Ho has this reputation of being the one game that makes failure fun, but I still found it way too failure-heavy for my liking, to the point where I’m yet to play past the second chapter. You could say I’m just bad or a sore loser, but my playthroughs don’t usually go that bad and I’ve been able to enjoy “disaster runs” even in less intentionally humorous games.

Well, I did rage at Choice of Rebels failure spirals too, but that’s not because of failure specifically. I did survive the winter on my first attempt, I just couldn’t bear how obnoxious the mules were in that game. My burning hatred for mules is a borderline running gag on my discord server by now.


I think the key (for the way I like to structure things, anyway) is that what is being called a “failure path” should not be readily identifiable as such.

So, for example, in Cakes and Ale, there’s a bit in Chapter Four where you can fail to notice something if your Observe stat is too low.

Failing to notice this thing in Chapter Four gives you a new scene in Chapter Six. So the reward for success in Chapter Four is better for the character, but gives the player a bit less content.

That’s one way I like to do a failed stat check. The other way is the sudden realization that a failure is preferable. So in Chapter Two of Tally Ho, you can miss the train. In doing that, you open up a completely unique Chapter Two route where you hang out with different people and learn things/make connections that you don’t if you had succeeded. Indeed, if you hope to join the Inner Circle, it is actually greatly to your advantage to miss the train.

Calling it a “failure” path is slightly misleading, I think, because it implies punishment of the player. Granted writing this sort of structure can be a bit easier, tonally, in a comic genre. If it “feels bad” to the player, then something has gone wrong from my perspective. Ideally, whenever you fail a stat check and something unexpected happens, I want the player to feel like they fell from a height and then got caught in a comfy and unexpected safety net.

The disadvantage is that you have to actually write these variants, and that takes forever and is a lot of work to think along those parallel paths. But the advantage is that it makes it possible to both write a stat-heavy game (in the sense of lots of stuff being tracked) and also encourage the player to just close the stat screen and play because it’s going to be fine, and that the game design has your back.

In my fantasy there would be some graphical way to represent the new path that you just got rewarded with by rolling with the punches–a map of the game, and the new path you opened up glows, or something.


I get kind of frustrated if I don’t understand why I failed at something; usually that’s when something different is being tested than I thought.

I also feel kind of bad/unhappy if I lose a chunk of friendship with a character for failing, for instance trying to reassure them but oh they thought you were insincere so relationship penalty.

Occasionally I might restart if I fail something, but usually only if it feels really critical to my character and how I’m roleplaying them. Otherwise I try to roll with it.


I remember watching this video essay about call of duty 4 and the nuke scene it had where you basically get nuked and sorta struggle around before dying, basically the closest thing to forcefully failing without a “Aha we fail here to succerd later” type like the villain escaping with broken teeth.

And they showed some interviews with the developers, and to paraphrase a bit from my memory, it went along like "When we first made that scene and showcased it. Reaction was mixed, people said “What the fuck? That’s it? I don’t even fight or anything?”

And they’d also played around with having you fight enemy soldiers in that area but they obviously rejected that idea eventually.

I think it shows an interesting thing with how people just kinda like to win, some are even opposed to writing you losing.

Which is a shame because really, losses are often times great tools to make your later victory greater. Not that you need to step more than 2 feet into any combat focused discord text RP to see people pull the biggest mental gymnastics and get overly mad because they are losing as opposed to just, losing and playing with that concept.


I really like this perspective, especially the last bit that you don’t have to worry because any way you play it’s going to turn out just fine. This is how I try to approach things, too.

Personally, I don’t mind failing as long as it leads to interesting places and encounters. As a writer, I try to make test failures gentle and encouraging (i.e. don’t worry, you’ll get there), and make “failure paths” at least as interesting as those in which the player succeeded.

In Their Majesties’ Pleasure, the paths where the player “fails” at becoming a knight are, in my opinion, way more fun than the ones where they’re the kingdom’s champion. I actually had to go back and edit those stat checks to make them harder so players would get to those paths, which offer more interaction with certain characters and a chance to show their strengths, as well as more chances to be a rebel, which is my preferred role as a player.

Would I enjoy a game that made me feel bad for failing a stat check or sent me down a demoralizing/discouraging path? Absolutely not. But if the game is fun to play no matter what and the results are engaging regardless of my choices, I don’t mind if I fail and my secondary stats go down. Just take me somewhere interesting and let me hang out with the characters I like and I’m good.

Great topic, btw. I’m enjoying reading these replies.


I like to lose if it’s as a result of my actions in the game. Like taking a few extra minutes to talk to an npc which ends in my character missing the bus, trusting the wrong person, forgetting what door the mysterious old man at the cave entrance told me to take, or me otherwise messing up in some way. Not so much when it’s hard coded into the story unless it’s for a major plot point in which case I’d like to decide how my character fails.


See, I definitely wouldn’t call that a failure path. Sure, you have to fail at one very specific point to get onto it, but when I use the term “failure path”, I mean a path where your failures just lead to more failures, and it’s almost impossible to start succeeding again, usually because success rewards you in some way (often by raising your stats) and you need that reward to succeed in the future. If anything, your example (where failing might actually be more beneficial in the long run) is the exact opposite of that. :sweat_smile: