Punishment that matters

Hey there! Having been here for a quite time, and having the opportunity to play a lot of CoG games. I stumbled on one thing.

What is the best punishment? What will make the reader curse and go restart the game, or better, take time to choose and think of the backwash?

I don’t mean death. For me it is the worst, having spend so much hours and suddenly because of one bad choice, i need to replay everything.

I have encountered some games that do it very nicely. But for some reason i can’t think of them! I am trying currently write a small code, for exercise. But when i am thinking that if you chose χ it will lead to ψ, but that will have an impact and you will have to face the punishment, i can’t think of one.

For starters, i can’t let you blow up the whole game and let you sit in dungeon and throwing a huge game over in your face, neither i want to make your head chop off, giving you another game over.

I want to give you a second chance, that the next time, you will think double before throwing yourself at a giant salamander that breaths fire thru its eyes with your wooden sandals while dressed in your underwear.

So, what you guys think?

Losing the trust and love of a cherished companion? Or even losing a friend, or a friend’s respect.

Losing an opportunity is a good one as well.

But maybe don’t think in terms of punishment, but an alternate path. Where does the adventure go? How can you make it equally fun even when your character fails?


Honestly, the only thing that would seriously make me consider restarting a game is when I’m romancing someone and I take the wrong turn and can no longer do it, especially if I was so keen on romancing them or becoming their best friend. stares at Fenris from DA2.

One thing I like about these types of games is that even if you choose something horrible, it’s just part of the game and adds to the story and experience. So unless I die, I don’t really like restarting.


Yep i was thinking of that, but to make it work i will have to build a relationship. Or an interesting encounter, that will make you wanna try and use it or something.

And for a new adventure, so true! But unfortunately it could lead to a whole new level, maybe even book! Maybe a little bit smaller! Like ya did in your game! God i loved it!

I definitely will have these kind of adventures!! And maybe after building the relationships and all, i will start and take one by one when the big choices arise!


Definitely losing an ro I’m really fond of, as I’m already the kind of player who will pass up opportunities in favour of ro’s I really like.


I play “nice” builds, so the worst punishment is getting someone else on my team killed. Especially an RO or a friend. Well-written NPCs have an active bearing on the story and narrative flow, so (especially when you’ve played through multiple times and know the flavor text) you feel the black hole where they should be.

Breakups/lost friendships are another big one–the feeling that you’ve disappointed someone and things will never be the same. They pulled that in Choice of Robots to some extent, and in Choice by Gaslight to a pretty good effect. Getting reamed out by NPCs won’t make me restart but it definitely is a big “ouch” for me.

Or if you put a *selectable_if involving something cool and hard to achieve like “riding a dragon” or something that’s greyed out for me. Then I will throw myself repeatedly against a wall trying to achieve that, and also probably curse your cruelty.


Yeo, love romances can be just as huge as the story and matter the same. Sometimes, if well written can became the half of it… stares at morgana :joy:

I totally get ya… boiiiii, my heart, my soul…

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I have a question:
Why would you want to, if I understand you correctly, want to write a story that people would definitely restart to not get a certain outcome?
While learning experience is nice and dandy, it sounds odd to have a game that’s basically Groundhog Day


Ahahaha yeah, the last part is cruel as hell! I can’t either relax if i know i missed some cool event or achievement!

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Ahaha you kinda did understand me yep, but i did not meant like in bad way.

For example when i am playing and have no bad effects or any kind of '‘recoil’ for my choice, i feel like a god.

It makes me act out of character because i know that nothing bad will happen, and i become like Chuck Norris.

Also it gives me zero challenge and no thought is put behind any choice since i choose whatever i like better, achieving my goal in the end! And it gives me no… umm… feeling of achievement? Forgot the word.

So, i just wanna make something that will sting you in right way so you will think the next time if you should do that again instead of other. But! Like @Gower said, it could lead into potential new adventure!

But sometimes i just wanna have the player smack into the wall without leading somewhere new, just because the choice was not reasonable or you did not have the right equipment or stat or you just wanted to be an ass.

Of course there will be always a very small good coming out of it. A funny story that your party will tell or will be mentioned in a pub. But still you will have the impact of it. You will lose the friendship, or the trust of someone powerful, so in the end you will get on the path of the bad ending or someone that stuck thru the half game will end up dead because you were warned but did your thing.

In few words, just to limit the players power. Make it challenging, make the player wanna replay because of some of his choices lead another way. Like ya know, in Merlin. He saved Morgana even tho he was warned. He had to choose, and he did. And it lead to other bad staff…


Mhnn, I would say that making a punishment so severe that the reader will not finish the game but restart might easily drive people away from it. Or, at some point bluntly follow a guide.
Which defies the whole idea of a CYOA.

A middle-way might easily be neat banter with the narrator. If you do it well, the player will ‘learn the lesson’ without restarting the game.
Granted, good banter can lead to players intentionally messing up just to get more of it.


Oh no no. Nothing very bad. Just a smack. Nothing really complex either. So will need no guide.

And of course thru the bad choice he will get a chance after. To redeem or fix the relationship. But like in real life it will be not the same if for example he gave up a secret or something.

And yes! Exactly what you mentioned!. I wanna make the bad a totally different thing than a good one, if the player chooses to screw up everything intentionally so when he replays, he will see a totally different scene when he chooses to be a good bro to his bros or something!

And i have indeed succumb into the bad path just because i wanted to see what would happen! The worst was that some characrers died. Which was heart breaking thing…but then i replayed with a good one! So no broken heart…

But still. If I understood you correctly, you are aiming to create, as said, a groundhog day like game, where the reader would constantly restart until they get the good path.
Instead of playing things through and getting one ending, then playing again and trying something different.

@Fluffy_Buffy What you describe sound not fun to play and would not make me restart, but simply just uninstall the cog. Certainly not replay.

Also this:

Bad example. Since my take on Merlin was that the dragon totally played Merlin. 90 % of the problems in that show could have been avoided if Merlin had just not listened to the dragon’s ‘prophecies’.

What lead to bad stuff was Merlin believing in a future which ultimately never came.

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This reminds me that there is a Hosted Game that is essentially like Groundhog Day, at least in how it punishes the character. I think it is called Paradox Factor, and eventually you reach a point where you decide not to mess around with time (unlike Groundhog Day there really isn’t a good ending).

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MetaHuman, the CoG title has a somewhat a groundhog mechanic. My Day Off Work is the Hosted game that is most ground hog day-like imo.


I guess I should have said ‘repetition where it doesn’t feel to matter in the end’ (like Groundhog Day restarting now matter how good or evil the MC is)

As for fun/enjoyment, My Day Off Work certainly gets it (and yes, I do love the movie Groundhog Day…and not just because I share a birthday with the day)


Not fun? So you mean that being able to do whatever you want without facing the consequences?

Like maybe cheat on you love interest or just steal a huge spaceship and bomb a planet or maybe just kill someone or crash your car or anything else, should go without anyone reacting to it? Or saying something to you? Or maybe try to stop you?

I am pretty sure that i am not the only one will be using a system like that. And i think it won’t be that recognizable since it will flow smoothly with everything else.

Eh, i guess then we have a difference here, that is okay. I dunnot expect everyone to agree with me.

I think it was a good enough example. Since if the Dragon did not help, Arthur would die in first season fighting the undead. Merlin had no idea of how or what to do.

Dragon slightly manipulated Merlin, yes. But it was not pure manipulation. He hoped in one moment that Merlin would join. And Merlin was his only hope to get free from the chain.

It was plain assistance. One without knowledge asked for help, and other without freedom asked exactly that, freedom. They had a deal.

Merlin doing his way, letting the witch live and the boy escape, went against dragon prophesies. So he did exactly that, went against them. That is why Morgana roaming the castle trying to kill Uther while Mordred is scratching his head in forest while planning to kill Arthur.

Way to move the goalpost there. If I cheat, murder and bomb planets I am playing a villain, and I expect the games to treat me a such. That’s part of the fun. But that is not the example you gave.

You talked about writing something so punishing that the player wants to restart the game. I think your exact words were ‘smack them into a wall’.

The dragons prophesies was worth shit. And I think things would have turned better if Merlin has listened less to the dragon (and Gaius). If he had listened less he would have told Morgana both was she was and what he was, giving her someone else than Morgause to turn to.

If he had listened less he would not have been so blinded by the promise of a golden age that he would have been able to see Arthur for what Arthur was and that was Urthor-light.

90 % of the conflict of that show was magic user trying to kill the Pendragons because the Pendragons committed genocide, and regular people getting caught in the crossfire of the warring groups. Arthur, Uthor and Merlin getting killed in season one, might actually have been better for basically everyone.

So to turn the discussion back to the subject at hand. Punishing the player for going against a ‘warning’ doesn’t always work because you have no guarentee that the reader has bought into the moral frame work of your story. Like I didn’t by into the moral framework of Merlin.

Now sometimes it is still necessary, because there is a limit to how much one person can write and sometimes we have to put the readers on a rail or say, you can go off, but it has consequence. Just don’t try to frame it as punishment or as the reader being wrong.

Like in the story I am working on the MC makes a deal with what is essentially a devil - Not making that deal will lead to a non-standard game over because the deal is essential to the story, but I try to do everything in my power to still make that early ending feel awesome to read. For example:

  • Putting the deal in the end of chapter 1 so you don’t have to play the whole game through again.
  • Framing it as the MC being kind of badass for being able to resist temptation, even though they know the consequence.
  • Giving the player an achievement for it.
  • I have considered, but not yet decided on making a sort of mini-epilouge of what happens if the MC isn’t in the story. I have not yet decided on it, though.
    In other words I try my hardest to still make it fun for the player. It is not perfect, but I try.

You have to remember that COGs and Hosted does not have save. Generally, the best thing to do is to write as little win/fail scenarios as possible, but instead write equally valid path - Now, this is a high ideal only a few can achieve, but it certainly doesn’t mean that you should punish the player so hard that they essentially rage quiet the story.