[REGISTER] or [LOGIN] to browse without adverts

11 posts / 0 new
Last post
Neil Smith
Neil Smith's picture
Stories and failures
stories, story

What happens when PCs fail Steps, or the overall Goal, in a Story?

The core book has the example Story Goal "Hector lies dead at Leannán's feet," and a first Step of "Question Degarmo." But what would happen if Degarmo clams up and refuses to answer questions, or Hector gets to him first and the PC comes across his still-cooling corpse (followed by a thrilling rooftop chase after Hector)? What if it turns out that Hector was acting under orders of Queen Elaine, so the PC's ills were a side-effect of saving the realm, or Hector repents his crimes and asks for a chance to redeem himself?

In the case of a failed Step, I'd rule that if the PC has made a significant and sincere attempt to achieve the Step, but still fails, it still counts as a completed Step for the ongoing Story. 

In the case of not achieving a Goal despite achieving all the Steps, I'd rule that the Story is still compete and the PC will get the reward, though it may not be the one they originally intended, if the new one fits better (e.g. instead of improving Aim, gain the repentant Hector as the 3-point Patron advantage).

Thoughts?

1 vote
+
Vote up!
-
Vote down!
Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

So the very simple answer is this: Player's cannot "Fail" at their Stories and will always earn their "Reward". They are the Player's Stories and shape who their character's are. It is not the GM's place to pull the rug out from under a player's story step. That said, the GM and player can work together to identify where the GM may take some creative license.

In your example: if the player says they will question Degarmo, then assuming you haven't talked to the player earlier about changing it, then Degarmo will get questioned by the character and have whatever answer is needed for the next step. However, as GM it's your responsibility to make this fun, engaging, memorable, and perhaps even work it into your GM Stories.

Some ways to make it interesting:

1) Hector is holding Degarmo hostage and the group needs to rescue him before questioning him

2) Degarmo is 'fatally wounded' and the group gets to him in time for some final questions. This means that Degarmo's life is in the PC's hands, he can try to save him through some means, let him expire, or deal the killing blow.

3) Degarmo is in hiding and the group must solve a series of riddles/hints to find him and question him

 

I have actually been weaving my Players' stories into the main narrative of the game, and so far it's worked well. There have been some hard decisions about which way to go, but overall it's working well. I have asked my players ahead of time for a little creative license with the stories and they have been okay with that. I don't change the fundamental step but may tweak it to fit some larger campaign idea. 

John

Neil Smith
Neil Smith's picture

So the very simple answer is this: Player's cannot "Fail" at their Stories and will always earn their "Reward". They are the Player's Stories and shape who their character's are. It is not the GM's place to pull the rug out from under a player's story step. That said, the GM and player can work together to identify where the GM may take some creative license.

It's interesting to see diferent play styles here. The nearest I've seen to 7th Sea's Stories is Hot War's Agendas. The Agendas are thing where the PC will have a good run at, and will reveal character for the PC, but are things they can most definitely fail at. As an Agenda-like Story from the 7th Sea game I'm running, one PC has the Story of getting engaged to an NPC, with the first Step of meeting her at a moonlit rendezvous. But, as the moment, the player and I don't know if Hélène will agree to the rendezvous, and we really don't know if she will agree to the engagement. In fact, at this point, we don't want to know how hte Story will end. Whatever happens, it will say something significant about the PC, whether it be a true-love match, a loveless marriage for material gain, or a spurned PC.

To a great extent, we're used to Play to Find Out, but 7th Sea seems to be more of pre-determined outcomes with the Stories. In 7th Sea, if a PC has a Story that he will marry an NPC, it's implied that this will happen come what may. It's quite a different style!

Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

If the player doesn't know and the GM doesn't know and the player doesn't want to know ahead of time, then the story should be written more generically. What is the reward the Player seeks at the end of this Story? If it's a "Trusted Companion" then perhaps the Story should end with "Ask Helene to marry me" instead of "Getting engaged". It's fine if the player doesn't want to know the outcome, but player stories by design are the main way to advance characters, so they are designed to 'succeed' in that respect. As long as the player gets their reward after X steps, and the pllayer and GM are okay with steps 'failing' or 'succeeding in different ways' that's what matters. 

However, if the player expects to marry Helene, then unless the GM has a problem with this (if Helene were say a major NPC), then the player will get to marry Helene. If the GM has a problem with a story, he or she should alert the player at the earliest chance so the story can be tweaked (If a story ends with "I become ruler of a united Eisen" for instance).

 

John

BluSponge
BluSponge's picture

The core book has the example Story Goal "Hector lies dead at Leannán's feet," and a first Step of "Question Degarmo." But what would happen if Degarmo clams up and refuses to answer questions, or Hector gets to him first and the PC comes across his still-cooling corpse (followed by a thrilling rooftop chase after Hector)? What if it turns out that Hector was acting under orders of Queen Elaine, so the PC's ills were a side-effect of saving the realm, or Hector repents his crimes and asks for a chance to redeem himself?

Well the book is pretty clear that if a Story Step becomes unattainable, the player can change it at no penalty.  So in the instance that Hector gets to Degarmo first, than the player can take that and adjust his or her story accordingly.  As for Hector claming up and refusing to answer questions, well that's all part of the game, right?  The story step is "Question Degarmo", not "Get answers from Degarmo".  So there is lots of wiggle room there.

And so what if Hector was acting on orders from Queen Elaine?  He's just as dead and the player can consider his or her next move from there.  You can push the redemption angle, but then its for the player to decide how to handle that.  They can always alter their goal and shouldn't be penalized for it if you are throwing curve balls at them.

Like Harley said, Story Steps and Goals are NOT the GM's opportunity to screw the player out of a reward.  You can throw twists and turns at them all day — you should!  But when you do that, players need to be able to adjust their goals accordingly.  It's ok for them to experience an oh s^%$ moment, but not one that invalidates their character.

Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

I would be careful about too many twists and turns as well; otherwise, your players will start to write story steps like this:

"Find Degarmo at the 'Lady's Kiss' tavern alive and well and after questioning him get the exact location of Hector's hideout".

It becomes like the wording "wishes" in D&D, where the player tries to word the wish in such a way that the GM cannot possibly twist it to a different meaning.

John

BluSponge
BluSponge's picture

It becomes like the wording "wishes" in D&D, where the player tries to word the wish in such a way that the GM cannot possibly twist it to a different meaning.

I'm not really advocating usurping the players' agency when it comes to their stories, but if everything plays out by the numbers then what's the point.  There should be SOME surprises in store for them.

Donovan Morningfire
Donovan Morningfire's picture

Hero Stories are meant to be written somewhat open-ended, rather than being an exact chain of events, for just this reason.

And as BluSponge noted, the rules themselves do say that if the Hero's current step in their story cannot be obtained, they are free to change the goal to something that can be obtained.  Even the final goal itself shouldn't be written in stone, as what the Hero originally intends as the end game for their story may well change based upon circumstances.  In the case of "Hector lies dead at my feet" as the final goal of a Hero's story, maybe the Hero learns that Hector had some very valid and noble reasons for doing whatever it was that put the Hero on the path of their vendetta, and that instead of killing the man outright in cold blood, the Hero settles for making Hector answer for his crimes to the authorities.
 

Dono's Gaming & Etc Blog
http://jedimorningfire.blogspot.com/

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
Steps can and should go awry on a regular basis. The final step should play out in a form of the stated goal but even that is open to interpretation. The hero knows they have a step one of questioning Hector. Now if they get to Hector and find him dead, that should lead to a step Two: find who killed Hector. If they find Hector to be a rambling madman step two may involve discovering the meaning of his weird rant. Or it may be uncovering what drove him mad. The steps do not have to turn out easy or in the hero's favor to be a story. Good stories should include set backs to overcome and problems to solve. The key is this: THE HERO SHOULD FAIL EARLY TO TRIUMPH AT THE KEY MOMENT.
Joachim Deneuve...
Joachim Deneuve du Surlign's picture

As a thought form me.  "Hector lies dead at my feet" can be interpreted a number of ways:

1:  I win a duel against a villainous Hector.

2:  I find out that Hector is actually a hero working for the Queen, and he takes a bullet for me.

3:  Hector was dying already, and doing this for his penniless daughter: he accepts that his death will be the just reward for what he did.

Tobie Abad
Tobie Abad's picture

THIS.

share buttons