I am not sure if anyone besides me ever does these, but they have been a lot of fun for me to write and to try out. The theme for these challenges: skirting failure. We are looking at ways that games often fail and daring ourselves to get close without actually falling over the edge.
Just like last time, these challenges are targeted at FATE gamers. You should be able to adapt them to other games, but it will take a little effort. Granted, these may be risky enough that you don’t even want to.
Challenge 1: Kill a Player Character
Back in the old days character deaths were high in the popular RPGs, and player would often end up playing 4 or 5 characters in the first part of a campaign. Now a lot of games tend to push more towards character building, and players often feel like quitting when the character they have developed meets an untimely death.
So why not make it timelier? FATE in particular has a great system for taking horrible consequences to boost one amazing roll. Plan out your character’s death scene, and when the opportunity comes, seize it. Make in memorable, and make sure your death benefits the rest of the party so they can tell stories of your character’s greatness for years to come.
I would also recommend not quitting the campaign that your character died in. Make a new character, and figure out how the old character’s death affects the new one. Did they know the dead character? Were they relatives? Are they intimidated by filling the dead character’s shoes in the party?
Challenge 2: Limit Yourself to Basics
In a previous post, I challenged you to spend fate points creatively. Now I challenge you to try playing a game without them. See how well your character can manage when their fate is not in their own hands. You have probably experienced this when you run out of FATE points and failed a roll that you really badly wanted to succeed at.
There are actually 2 rewards for playing this way in a FATE session (at least 1 should apply for other games). First of all, it will probably push your character to be creative with success and failure. Try to let these shape the character.
Second, you will probably have more fate points than normal for the next session. Use these to boost the changes that your character developed during the previous session.
Challenge 3: Player vs Player
I have never yet experienced a game where I enjoyed players competing with each other instead of supporting each other, but I assume it can be done in such a way that no one involved will walk away from roleplaying games for the rest of their lives. Like everything else, I’m guessing the key is going to be a little communication.
So rather than turn into a grudge match, try to make agreed arrangements with another player. Agree what you both are trying to accomplish, how someone wins, and what the winner receives. Consolation prizes and communication with the GM might help as well.
Everyone loves a good competition in a show, so this could be an interesting ride for your campaign if you can get another player or more to agree to it. Form a love triangle, compete for a piece of treasure, earn the captain’s chair, or be the first to catch them all!
Challenge 4: Reject a Roll Result
Here is a GM challenge that we’ve probably all got a story on. This one is personally challenging for me as I have sworn of actual game systems just because the GM running it called for a roll, I rolled the highest possible outcome on the die, and then I was told that I still failed the check. Why in the world would you ask a player to roll when it is impossible that the roll matters?!?!?
Going to my happy place. White chocolate mousse frozen yogurt…
Ahem. So the challenge here is to make a check matter that normally doesn’t matter. Maybe the stakes aren’t necessarily success and failure as we normally view them. Maybe it’s a difference between failure and epic failure? Or maybe the players are doomed to fail, but a good roll places an aspect on the scene that can be used for a future benefit? Or maybe high rolls mean that someone else the players don’t like also suffer the consequences of the inevitable result.
The real goal here is not to create failure. That’s easy to do, and bad. The goal is to create failure that you can sell to your players. Make sure that even though they had no hope of winning that they still feel like their attempts, whatever they were, actually mattered. If they are okay with those results, then you have succeeded!
Challenge 5: Run a Successful Spinoff
Last challenge, also for GMs, involves something that many of us have tried and failed: running a spinoff. You have that great memorable campaign where everyone had fun and you tell stories about. So you try to run another game in that setting, or maybe a new campaign with the same characters. Like a bad movie sequel, this often fails EPICLY!
So try and run a one-shot or a short campaign as a spinoff that actually works. The only way I have ever seen this work (and I would love to hear about other ways) is for everything to change except the setting. This includes the actual game system, though I imagine you could get around it.
The important thing to make a spinoff successful is to make sure that only one major thing starts out the same (the setting, the party, etc.). Everything else should be different, and EVERYTHING still needs room to grow. Don’t force the spinoff to remain as your old campaign because it will NEVER be able to live up to that standard without the opportunity to go its own direction.
Now that I think about it, the GM for the Star Trek campaign I play in often reads these. I hope I don’t get myself in trouble talking about PC killing as a challenge. My character is not really interesting enough to kill off yet. Maybe I should work on that.
As always, if you try a challenge let me know how it works. Success, failure, or anything in between, I would love to hear about it. These are always learning experiences for me, even the ones I think about but never try.