What Happens When You Fail?

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Rogue: I try to pick the lock on the door using my thieves' tools. *rolls* Shoot, only a 15.
DM: You fail to unlock the door.
Rogue: I try again.
DM: Uhhh...

Wizard: I think back on my studies and try to come up with some facts to help us.
DM: Make a History check.
Wizard: Dammit, 12.
DM: Uhh, you don't remember anything helpful.

Cleric: I try to bless this altar to lift the curse from it. Religion check?
DM: Sure.
Cleric: @#$%! Why is Religion based on INT?!
DM: So, you are unsuccessful at lifting the curse.
Cleric: Anything happen?
DM: Uhh, no.

With the exception of some powers (dailies, some encounters, and powers with an Effect line, etc.) and certain skills failed by 5 or more, when we roll to do things in D&D, it tends to be fairly binary: You hit or you miss. And when you miss, nothing usually happens. You swing wide with your sword. Your arrow strikes the door instead of the orc. You fail to pick the lock or climb the tree or remember a fact and your action is done. You can make this fictionally interesting with good description. Or you can do both that AND change the scene a bit to make it more complicated or interesting, creating more context and action with which the PCs can interact. Success or failure thus becomes less a matter of simulating the physics of an action and more about determining a change in the direction of the scene. It's a golden opportunity for the group. Failure should be interesting. Failure that is not interesting encourages players to avoid failure at every opportunity leading to optimization and failure mitigation, both of which can have a significant impact on your game. (I leave it to you to decide if that impact is positive, negative, or both. I choose to view optimization as good and in-game failure mitigation as bad.)

The other day, I posted some things from Dungeon World. In rereading the GM section (so awesome), I was reminded of things that I do in D&D 4e because of that game's influences on my style which are now second nature. So I thought it might be helpful to post some of the "GM moves" that GMs are permitted to do in that game, many of which can come up when a PC has failed. All of them are easily portable into D&D. (Seek buy-in from your players before attempting this as it may represent a change from what they are used to.) Here then are the "GM Moves":



  • Use a monster, danger, or location move

  • Reveal an unwelcome truth

  • Show signs of an approaching threat

  • Deal damage

  • Use up their resources

  • Turn their move back on them

  • Separate them

  • Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities

  • Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment

  • Offer an opportunity, with or without cost

  • Put someone in a spot

  • Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask



I encourage you to look at the link above to find a breakdown of each of these moves. I keep a list of these moves on my desk when I'm DMing and, of course, I apply the principles of collaboration and check to make sure the failure condition I'm presenting is interesting to all. When the players look to me to find out what happens, I scan down the list, pick one, make sure it follows my Agenda & Principles, and reveal.

Compare the above examples that I see are common to most games to the examples below which use these moves:

Rogue: I try to pick the lock on the door using my thieves' tools. *rolls* Shoot, only a 15.
DM: You fail to unlock the door. *checks moves, settles on "Show Signs of an Approaching Threat"* The handle jiggles and you hear a low growl just before the door rattles with force from the other side.
Rogue: Uh oh.
DM: What do you do?

Wizard: I think back on my studies and try to come up with some facts to help us.
DM: Make a History check.
Wizard: Dammit, 12.
DM: *checks moves, settles on "Offer an Opportunity, With or Without Cost"* The ruined library will have the information you seek. Local lore has it that vengeful ghosts lurk in the stacks. What do you do?

Cleric: I try to bless this altar to lift the curse from it. Religion check?
DM: Sure.
Cleric: @#$%! Why is Religion based on INT?!
DM: So, you are unsuccessful at lifting the curse.
Cleric: Anything happen?
DM: Yes, and... *checks moves, settles on "Separate Them"* You look around and your friends are gone. The hair stands up on the back of your neck as a chill settles over all. Then, whispers... What do you do?

How do you approach failure in your game? Does it add to the scene in a useful way? Is it as interesting as success?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Can we please sticky this and make sure it gets printed in every DMG from here to the end of time?
Thanks, though the credit goes to Dungeon World for making it so concise.

This list of moves is, by the way, a great way to "prepare to improvise." All three examples represent a possible scenario in which I didn't plan on something being on the other side of the door, or in the stacks, or that the cleric is sucked into some phantom zone. It just made sense in the context of the scene and was interesting so we go with it. This helps the DM fulfill the agenda, "Play to find out what happens," making where the game goes any given session a complete mystery even to the DM!

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I've been talking with the players about a possible "cost for failure" mechanic. Basically, if they fail at something important (they would decide what is important) they can offer a "consequence" in exchange for a success. In the example of picking a lock, they might fail the roll but say "The lock unlocks but breaks my tool in the process" or if they are in a fight and need to get away they could say "We escape but lose an important item/person/etc."

Really, it would be up to them as to what the consequence would be, and though I'm sure there will be some consequences offered that are actually rather minor, I expect my players will surprise me with some severe consequences for relatively minor failures.

We haven't had a chance to try it out yet, but I think we are going to. We might even use coins or something for the players to hold onto to exchange for rerolls or something. They like having tangible things to exchange.
There is some precedent for that in Dark Sun where you can reroll a miss in exchange for having your weapon break (iirc).

In Dungeon World, a weak hit (or middling roll as I apply it to D&D) often means a tradeoff for success. "In Defying the Danger of the hail of arrows, yes, you succeed in avoiding them with that weak hit on the dice, but now you're pinned down behind the overturned table and you can hear the orcs moving forward to take advantage. What do you do?" This is why I advise DMs to never say "Yes, but..." unless it follows a roll. "Yes, but..." before the roll is blocking in most cases.

Good call on leaving it to the players to decide what some of these costs and consequences are. They're in the best position to know what won't suck to them (if not their characters). One way to make sure you're getting more on-the-level responses is to ask, "What cost or consequences ensues such that it might be a hindrance to you now or later?" This might provoke a response of, "My thieves' tools are broken, so I've lost that +2 bonus until I find some more." Of course, it should be noted the DM is welcome to suggest possible consequences as well.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Very interesting read, and really like this approach to failure, though I will have to admit it is a bit intimidating.


I do things similar to this, but only on occasion and only when I think it will make something more fun, my initial worry over the system is that it would become an expectation of the players placed onto the DM.


Now this at first sounds like a great thing (and perhaps it is) but I guess I like the method that less is more, if I do special things on misses all the time, it’s an expectation on the DM and the game; but if I save things like this for truly epic moments it has a better chance of catching players off guard and making it more “special”.


As I said I really like this system, but in my mind it might be something best left in moderation (Or at least for more advanced DMs, that’s a lot to juggle (thinking of consequences for every roll) for a position that has a lot on it already. Might just be I’m too lazy lol.


I personally use a version of the “Nerd Poker” system (not sure if there is an official name for it).


On a botch roll, I have the player roll 1d100 for a % failed I call it a generic “fate check”; anything below 80 is a normal botch miss; anything over 80 and things get more intense. I do the same roll for nat 20s, anything below 80 is a normal critical, anything above does better stuff. I do this for monster rolls as well to keep it interesting; ever have a dragon accidently get its tail stuck in the ground?


Failure example-


Rouge- Rolls 1, then 87 on lock-picking


Result- Doesn’t unlock the chest, in fact the chest turns out to be a mimic monster!


Rogue Rolls 20, then 87 on lock-picking


Result- The chest is unlocked, and with your expert rogue eyes you find a hidden compartment with a wondrous item level 3 or below of your choice.  


Note: I think I will be coping/printing me out this list as well though; I won’t use it every instance of failure but when I want to it will be nice to have a pre-made system at hand.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/1.jpg)

Very interesting read, and really like this approach to failure, though I will have to admit it is a bit intimidating.

I do things similar to this, but only on occasion and only when I think it will make something more fun, my initial worry over the system is that it would become an expectation of the players placed onto the DM.


Now this at first sounds like a great thing (and perhaps it is) but I guess I like the method that less is more, if I do special things on misses all the time, it’s an expectation on the DM and the game; but if I save things like this for truly epic moments it has a better chance of catching players off guard and making it more “special”.


As I said I really like this system, but in my mind it might be something best left in moderation (Or at least for more advanced DMs, that’s a lot to juggle (thinking of consequences for every roll) for a position that has a lot on it already. Might just be I’m too lazy lol.




A fair assessment and, without diminishing your input, I'll add this is a common reaction. Some things to consider if you're thinking about applying it:

  • The approach assumes you're asking for rolls only when the outcome matters to the scene, has a chance for interesting success and failure, and is not mundane in nature. It doesn't, for example, apply to jumping across a pit in tactical combat as that is governed by the tactical combat rules. But anyway, point is, there just aren't that many checks to adjudicate failure for in this manner, generally speaking. A complexity 3 skill challenge has 10 checks at the most (not including Aid Another whose fiction is cleaned up by applying a -1 penalty to the primary check for failing) to be adjudicated and only some of those will be middling or fails.

  • If the DM is struggling to think of an interesting consequence, setback, or whatever, he can ask his players for suggestions and go with that. As well, drawing a blank is often indicative that something else is not right - either not enough context for the scene or the DM called for a roll when one wasn't necessary.

  • Improvisation gets easier with practice.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Remember Rob Donoghue's discussion in skills?  I prefer that, to "you fail" or "you're unsuccessful".

Rogue: I try to pick the lock on the door using my thieves' tools. *rolls* Shoot, only a 15.
DM: You still successfully pick the lock, but it seems you cursed a little too loudly as you dropped your thieves' tools.  Movement can be heard from the other side, and a muffled "who's there?" can be heard.  What do you do?

Wizard: I think back on my studies and try to come up with some facts to help us.
DM: Make a History check.
Wizard: Dammit, 12.
DM: Not to worry, you do remember *proceeds to enumerate a few sketchy details, some of which are vaguely worded so as to be possibly misleading*, but what does come into mind the most is that there's this huge library nearby that's likely to hold better information on the subject.  Only problem is that it'll take several hours to browse through all of the info there.  Would you like to go there and get more info, or would the info you have be alright?

Cleric: I try to bless this altar to lift the curse from it. Religion check?
DM: Sure.
Cleric: @#$%! Why is Religion based on INT?!
DM: Chill dude *evil grin* While you've lifted the curse from the altar, because you did such a poor job doing so, the curse transfers to you.  And assuming you want this curse on yourself lifted, yes?
Cleric: No duh!
DM: Alright, while you're removing the curse from yourself, the enemies of your deity see this as an opportunity to destroy his vassal — that's you — and your shadow stretches as black smoke pours out of your eyes, ears, nose and mouth, eventually taking physical shape nearby. *to the rest of the group* Guys, you see malevolent demons forming in front of you, with jagged teeth and a penchant for mass destruction in their eyes.  They'll probably level everything in the area — including you and your friend, who is now struggling to remove the horrible curse that's currently bound to him.  What do you do?
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57047238 wrote:
If you're crossing the street and see a city bus barreling straight toward you with 'GIVE ME YOUR WALLET!' painted across its windshield, you probably won't be reaching for your wallet.
I Don't Always Play Strikers...But When I Do, I Prefer Vampire Stay Thirsty, My Friends
This is what I believe is the spirit of D&D 4E, and my deal breaker for D&D Next: equal opportunities, with distinct specializations, in areas where conflict happens the most often, without having to worry about heavy micromanagement or system mastery. What I hope to be my most useful contributions to the D&D Community: DM Idea: Collaborative Mapping, Classless 4E (homebrew system, that hopefully helps in D&D Next development), Gamma World 7E random character generator (by yours truly), and the Concept of Perfect Imbalance (for D&D Next and other TRPGs in development) Pre-3E D&D should be recognized for what they were: simulation wargames where people could tell stories with The Best Answer to "Why 4E?" Fun vs. Engaging
A neat thread with some fantastic ideas, and I particularly like Merb's suggestion to let the players help decide what failure means.

I'm convinced these days that the players are not my opponents, but rather a priceless part of my storytelling and troubleshooting team. 

I want a good game, they want a good game - why shouldn't I trust them to come up with an interesting or exciting way of handling the situation?

We can all share the responsiblity for ensuring that things work out right, rather than me shouldering all the responsibility (presumably against the best efforts of players to undermine my efforts, as if it is somehow their job to break things, and my job to keep things glued together!)
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
This stuff is really good info. I think interesting failures for skill challenge are a must and at the same time over-use or over dramatization of every failure can also be a negative I think. I think sometimes a player simply wants "you succeeded or failed" response. A good mix of interesting failures for significant skill challenge moments and a simple failure for nonsignificant skill check moments is what I would want as a player. If my dm turned every failed skill check that I wanted to do, into some drama just to try make my failed roll interesting...I would be scared shitless to do any more skill checks. I be too uncertain what my dm would conjure up with a failed roll. I think its important to not over do it. Just my humble opinion looking from players perspective.
As a parallel question: How often would you let the PCs try to correct a failure?

Do you let them scramble to try and figure out another way of succeeding?

Or do you bluntly state they've failed and there's nothing else they can do about it?
As a parallel question: How often would you let the PCs try to correct a failure?

Do you let them scramble to try and figure out another way of succeeding?

Some failures might not be correctable, and some losses are permanent. The story continues, however, perhaps with some new conditions in the world due to their failure.

Or do you bluntly state they've failed and there's nothing else they can do about it?

There might be nothing they can do about their failure, but that doesn't mean there's nothing they can do at all.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

A neat thread with some fantastic ideas, and I particularly like Merb's suggestion to let the players help decide what failure means.

I'm convinced these days that the players are not my opponents, but rather a priceless part of my storytelling and troubleshooting team. 

I want a good game, they want a good game - why shouldn't I trust them to come up with an interesting or exciting way of handling the situation?

We can all share the responsiblity for ensuring that things work out right, rather than me shouldering all the responsibility (presumably against the best efforts of players to undermine my efforts, as if it is somehow their job to break things, and my job to keep things glued together!)


This is why I base a lot of my decisions on the input of my players, although because I tie my decisions mostly based on their


  • actions

  • backgrounds

  • icon relationship rolls

  • unique thing


it makes for some interesting story play even if no one really knows what to expect

This stuff is really good info. I think interesting failures for skill challenge are a must and at the same time over-use or over dramatization of every failure can also be a negative I think. I think sometimes a player simply wants "you succeeded or failed" response. A good mix of interesting failures for significant skill challenge moments and a simple failure for nonsignificant skill check moments is what I would want as a player. If my dm turned every failed skill check that I wanted to do, into some drama just to try make my failed roll interesting...I would be scared shitless to do any more skill checks. I be too uncertain what my dm would conjure up with a failed roll. I think its important to not over do it. Just my humble opinion looking from players perspective.



So you'd prefer stalling the story to get it "right" than to have the story push forward regardless if the consequence is favorable to you or not?

As a parallel question: How often would you let the PCs try to correct a failure?

Do you let them scramble to try and figure out another way of succeeding?

Or do you bluntly state they've failed and there's nothing else they can do about it?



In chess, how often do you let your opponent change a move that he thinks is a mistake?  How about when both of you think it's a mistake?
In basketball, when an enemy commits a foul, does the referee tell the players to move back a few steps and repeat the action to avoid committing the foul?
In fishing, when you pull the line wrong and the string breaks, does the fish wait for you to reset your line and try again?

In my table, there are no "failures" or "mistakes" in skill checks especially outside of combat**; instead, there are blunders and mishaps that change the story in ways that even I can't always anticipate.  "Success" in my table lies in context: if you succeed in fulfilling the quest as written, then it's a success.  When you fail the quest that the mayor gave you (save his daughter for example) but succeed in the quest that you set for yourself (avenge the mayor's daughter), that still counts as a success.  If you succeed in fulfilling your character's goals or heeded your character's motivations, that's a success.

But "you failed to do what you intended to do"? That's going to be very situation specific, likely when the PC is trying to achieve something that he has absolutely no training for and has no conceivable way of achieving it in the first place... in which case, why am I allowing him to roll in the first place?  EDIT: Instead I'd ask him why he wants to take a particular action, then offer him a compromise or what I'd consider as a more feasible approach to his goal that's still thematically appropriate to his character concept.

** during combat, the story still moves in spite of skills resulting in "it doesn't happen", and I wouldn't really mind applying it, since with Rob Donoghue's approach to skills there's only quality, style, durability and consequences of your actions as your possible effects when "failing" a skill check during a fight; you can't use time since time is fairly restricted to 6 seconds per turn, although you could probably replace it with "save ends" effects instead.
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57047238 wrote:
If you're crossing the street and see a city bus barreling straight toward you with 'GIVE ME YOUR WALLET!' painted across its windshield, you probably won't be reaching for your wallet.
I Don't Always Play Strikers...But When I Do, I Prefer Vampire Stay Thirsty, My Friends
This is what I believe is the spirit of D&D 4E, and my deal breaker for D&D Next: equal opportunities, with distinct specializations, in areas where conflict happens the most often, without having to worry about heavy micromanagement or system mastery. What I hope to be my most useful contributions to the D&D Community: DM Idea: Collaborative Mapping, Classless 4E (homebrew system, that hopefully helps in D&D Next development), Gamma World 7E random character generator (by yours truly), and the Concept of Perfect Imbalance (for D&D Next and other TRPGs in development) Pre-3E D&D should be recognized for what they were: simulation wargames where people could tell stories with The Best Answer to "Why 4E?" Fun vs. Engaging
This stuff is really good info. I think interesting failures for skill challenge are a must and at the same time over-use or over dramatization of every failure can also be a negative I think. I think sometimes a player simply wants "you succeeded or failed" response. A good mix of interesting failures for significant skill challenge moments and a simple failure for nonsignificant skill check moments is what I would want as a player. If my dm turned every failed skill check that I wanted to do, into some drama just to try make my failed roll interesting...I would be scared shitless to do any more skill checks. I be too uncertain what my dm would conjure up with a failed roll. I think its important to not over do it. Just my humble opinion looking from players perspective.


That would be my though as well.
The rogue says "I don't think I can open this." Everyone springs to attention and grabs thier weapons? 

As a parallel question: How often would you let the PCs try to correct a failure?

Do you let them scramble to try and figure out another way of succeeding?

Or do you bluntly state they've failed and there's nothing else they can do about it?



In chess, how often do you let your opponent change a move that he thinks is a mistake?  How about when both of you think it's a mistake?
In basketball, when an enemy commits a foul, does the referee tell the players to move back a few steps and repeat the action to avoid committing the foul?
In fishing, when you pull the line wrong and the string breaks, does the fish wait for you to reset your line and try again?



I worded it badly. I don't mean letting them rewind time and succeed another way; I meant letting them still succeed despite a blundered challenge or encounter through a different challenge or plan. How often do you let them take a second path or alternate route if they fail a step towards succeeding at some goal? How often do you tell them flat-out the entire thing's borked because they failed a step?
Remember Rob Donoghue's discussion in skills?  I prefer that, to "you fail" or "you're unsuccessful".



Oh yes, I'm a fan. I'm fine with letting the success happen with a complication. I generally reserve that for middling rolls, but it's not unheard of that (given context) a failure is still a success in terms of the specific action but comes with a heavy price. I generally make an offer subject to negotiation.

Rogue: I try to pick the lock on the door using my thieves' tools. *rolls* Shoot, only a 15.
DM: You still successfully pick the lock, but it seems you cursed a little too loudly as you dropped your thieves' tools.  Movement can be heard from the other side, and a muffled "who's there?" can be heard.  What do you do?



Show Signs of an Approaching Threat.

Wizard: I think back on my studies and try to come up with some facts to help us.
DM: Make a History check.
Wizard: Dammit, 12.
DM: Not to worry, you do remember *proceeds to enumerate a few sketchy details, some of which are vaguely worded so as to be possibly misleading*, but what does come into mind the most is that there's this huge library nearby that's likely to hold better information on the subject.  Only problem is that it'll take several hours to browse through all of the info there.  Would you like to go there and get more info, or would the info you have be alright?



I'm not so sure about this one. It's red herring territory for me and I think red herrings in RPGs are problematic. I see where you're going with it though and I'm with you in principle.

Cleric: I try to bless this altar to lift the curse from it. Religion check?
DM: Sure.
Cleric: @#$%! Why is Religion based on INT?!
DM: Chill dude *evil grin* While you've lifted the curse from the altar, because you did such a poor job doing so, the curse transfers to you.  And assuming you want this curse on yourself lifted, yes?
Cleric: No duh!
DM: Alright, while you're removing the curse from yourself, the enemies of your deity see this as an opportunity to destroy his vassal — that's you — and your shadow stretches as black smoke pours out of your eyes, ears, nose and mouth, eventually taking physical shape nearby. *to the rest of the group* Guys, you see malevolent demons forming in front of you, with jagged teeth and a penchant for mass destruction in their eyes.  They'll probably level everything in the area — including you and your friend, who is now struggling to remove the horrible curse that's currently bound to him.  What do you do?



Put Someone in a Spot.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

This stuff is really good info. I think interesting failures for skill challenge are a must and at the same time over-use or over dramatization of every failure can also be a negative I think.



If a failure cannot have an interesting outcome that changes the scene in some entertaining way, then it shouldn't have been a roll. At least, that's how I see it.

I think sometimes a player simply wants "you succeeded or failed" response.



Maybe. But then those players may be reacting to a state of affairs in which there are too many insignificant rolls being made. Food for thought.

A good mix of interesting failures for significant skill challenge moments and a simple failure for nonsignificant skill check moments is what I would want as a player. If my dm turned every failed skill check that I wanted to do, into some drama just to try make my failed roll interesting...I would be scared shitless to do any more skill checks. I be too uncertain what my dm would conjure up with a failed roll. I think its important to not over do it.



Perhaps not if you didn't make as many rolls as you may be used to now and were also included on the decision as to the outcome, such that it was always interesting to you the player, even if it sucked for your poor character.

Do you primarily play 3.X edition or Pathfinder out of curiosity?

As a parallel question: How often would you let the PCs try to correct a failure?

Do you let them scramble to try and figure out another way of succeeding?



A failed check might not always mean a failed action, but rather a successful action at a non-trivial cost. However, given context, that might not make a lot of sense to the group and failure ensues. In the moment of the action and the roll to resolve said action, there really is no opportunity to undo a failure. A failure is a failure; however...

Or do you bluntly state they've failed and there's nothing else they can do about it?



In context, it may be possible to undo the failure with future successes. As far as mechanics go, that failure is still accrued if it's a skill challenge.

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Perhaps not if you didn't make as many rolls as you may be used to now and were also included on the decision as to the outcome, such that it was always interesting to you the player, even if it sucked for your poor character. Do you primarily play 3.X edition or Pathfinder out of curiosity?



I play 4e.  Actually if the decision to the outcome is done with bit of player input then it won't be as scary, then the outcome can be interesting and not terrifying LOL.  I agree, if handled the way you suggest, there is nothing to fear but fear itself. 
What would be a good way to do this with misses in combat? The consensus with character optimization is to boost your to-hit bonus as high as possible, because missing does nothing and is generally boring. This method might be very interesting in the context of combat as well. 

Ranger: I take aim and shoot two arrows in quick succession at the armored wraith. 
DM: Roll two attack rolls. 
Ranger: One hits, one misses. I deal 16 damage with my hit. 
DM: Your other arrow flies clear of the wraith, and vanishes into the darkness of the hallway. Half a second later, you hear a low growl coming from the dark. It seems you've alerted something to your presence. Add "Tunnel Horror" at initiative 21. 
Ranger: Whoops.

Psion: I use my mindcontrolling power to control the lich's thoughts. 
DM: What do you roll? 
Psion: Dammit, a 3. The attack does nothing. 
DM: Well, not quite. You penetrate the lich's mind, but encounter superior mental defenses. You do however discover that this fight is just a diversion to keep you occupied while a squad of undead knights is kidnapping the princess for a dark ritual! 
Psion: Um, guys? We might want to hurry. 

Rogue: I attack from the my hiding place and stab the giant lizard in the back! 
DM: Show me what you got. 
Rogue: I miss, just a 5. 
DM: The beast catches you with its tail, sliding you 3 squares and putting you out into the open. One of his buddies notices you and turns towards you. 
Rogue: How am I going to get out of this one? 

There is a risk involved in this though. You don't want to use only bad stuff, since that only exacerbates the negative effects from missing. I mean, missing itself is bad enough, why make it even worse? Perhaps a miss means the player has to roll again, and the lower the roll, the worse the consequences are. If the player rolls high enough though (15-20), he might still do half damage, hit another monster with his attack, or get a chance to do an in-combat skill check. 

This will make combat take longer, but also more interesting.
I like to make the kind of skill check with uninteresting failures "complex checks" with a DC of 60, 80, or 100. Everyone involved (the thief at the lock, or the party channeling energy) will roll an appropriate check, total the numbers, and subtract them from the DC. This system has treated me quite well. Especially in two player and three player games.

Turn by turn, each roll is progression, with some kind of lingering Grim Portent. A critical failure might be met with a broken lockpick. If it is the absolute last broken lockpick, I will allow mending effects, and jury rigging (macguyver style) to repair the lock. This repair job and scene is an environmental response to the players failure.

I might rule the "macguyver lockpick" was put together so well, it now functions as a...  roll 1d4.  3? Great. +3 Lockpick.

Within; Without.

...Psion: I use my mindcontrolling power to control the lich's thoughts. 
DM: What do you roll? 
Psion: Dammit, a 3. The attack does nothing. 
DM: Well, not quite. You penetrate the lich's mind, but encounter superior mental defenses. You do however discover that this fight is just a diversion to keep you occupied while a squad of undead knights is kidnapping the princess for a dark ritual! 
Psion: Um, guys? We might want to hurry. 
....



I like this approach... it's sort of a variation on "Yes, and...":  

Player:  "I miss."  DM:  "Yes, and..."

It adds something of a plot twist to the story, expands it a bit, and in addition to the complications, it gives the PCs even more opportunities to do something cool and cinematic.

[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri


I like this approach... it's sort of a variation on "Yes, and...":  

Player:  "I miss."  DM:  "Yes, and..."

It adds something of a plot twist to the story, expands it a bit, and in addition to the complications, it gives the PCs even more opportunities to do something cool and cinematic.




Any approach of "Yes, and..." to handle failure is a good thing. Very good threads as of late!

Within; Without.

What would be a good way to do this with misses in combat? The consensus with character optimization is to boost your to-hit bonus as high as possible, because missing does nothing and is generally boring. This method might be very interesting in the context of combat as well.



I've shied away from doing it for misses in combat. There tend to be way more missed attacks than missed skill checks. I'm not sure how it would affect balance. I would love for D&D to get to a point where missing wasn't binary and boring, but this seems unlikely. Skills, as they currently exist, are easier to use with this method. That said:

Ranger: I take aim and shoot two arrows in quick succession at the armored wraith. 
DM: Roll two attack rolls. 
Ranger: One hits, one misses. I deal 16 damage with my hit. 
DM: Your other arrow flies clear of the wraith, and vanishes into the darkness of the hallway. Half a second later, you hear a low growl coming from the dark. It seems you've alerted something to your presence. Add "Tunnel Horror" at initiative 21. 
Ranger: Whoops.



Shows Signs of an Approaching Threat.

Psion
: I use my mindcontrolling power to control the lich's thoughts. 
DM: What do you roll? 
Psion: Dammit, a 3. The attack does nothing. 
DM: Well, not quite. You penetrate the lich's mind, but encounter superior mental defenses. You do however discover that this fight is just a diversion to keep you occupied while a squad of undead knights is kidnapping the princess for a dark ritual! 
Psion: Um, guys? We might want to hurry.


Reveal an Unwelcome Truth and a cool use of it, too.

Rogue
: I attack from the my hiding place and stab the giant lizard in the back! 
DM: Show me what you got. 
Rogue: I miss, just a 5. 
DM: The beast catches you with its tail, sliding you 3 squares and putting you out into the open. One of his buddies notices you and turns towards you. 
Rogue: How am I going to get out of this one?


Put Someone in a Spot.

There is a risk involved in this though. You don't want to use only bad stuff, since that only exacerbates the negative effects from missing. I mean, missing itself is bad enough, why make it even worse? Perhaps a miss means the player has to roll again, and the lower the roll, the worse the consequences are. If the player rolls high enough though (15-20), he might still do half damage, hit another monster with his attack, or get a chance to do an in-combat skill check. 

This will make combat take longer, but also more interesting.



Right. It works in a game like Dungeon World to do this in combat because a dragon has 16 hit points... in D&D, I think there are too many rolls and it may get out of hand.

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I've shied away from doing it for misses in combat. There tend to be way more missed attacks than missed skill checks. I'm not sure how it would affect balance.

Right. It works in a game like Dungeon World to do this in combat because a dragon has 16 hit points... in D&D, I think there are too many rolls and it may get out of hand.


I agree that it might get too hard or complicated, considering the amount of attack rolls. How about this: 

Every time a player misses every target with a standard action attack power that has no effect on a miss, the player rolls a d20. Based on the roll, the attack has an unforeseen effect. This can be positive or negative, based on how high the player rolled. 

You probably need a GM Moves table that's more geared towards combat, with stuff like:


  • The attack hits another enemy in range

  • The attack hits an ally in range

  • The attack adds another standard monster / 4 minions to the combat

  • The player takes a +2/-2 penalty to the next attack roll

  • The player is marked by the target of the attack, or vice versa


And so on, but also including stuff in every number range that has an effect that's not mechanical, like the original GM Moves table. 
Considering there's a max of 10 rolls in a Complexity 3 skill challenge (the most common one I use) and that just a properly-built melee ranger could in theory make, 7 attack rolls (?) in a round with an action point, I think we're in dangerous territory. It also smells a bit of critical miss charts which will tend to penalize multiattackers. I'll defer to you guys who are better at numbers than me but it doesn't seem to pass the smell test.

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I worded it badly. I don't mean letting them rewind time and succeed another way; I meant letting them still succeed despite a blundered challenge or encounter through a different challenge or plan. How often do you let them take a second path or alternate route if they fail a step towards succeeding at some goal? How often do you tell them flat-out the entire thing's borked because they failed a step?



Well it has been said on this forum many times that one should not have a success or failure challenge in place where if the players fail they cannot proceed.  So in any challenge situation where the players can fail there needs to be an alternate path.

 

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

Are you really "entitled to your opinion"?
RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
Considering there's a max of 10 rolls in a Complexity 3 skill challenge (the most common one I use) and that just a properly-built melee ranger could in theory make, 7 attack rolls (?) in a round with an action point, I think we're in dangerous territory. It also smells a bit of critical miss charts which will tend to penalize multiattackers. I'll defer to you guys who are better at numbers than me but it doesn't seem to pass the smell test.


That's why I worded it to only include standard action attacks that miss every target. Otherwise, it would get quite silly with Wizards with area bursts and Rangers with multi-attacks and off-action attacks. 

The point is that whatever you roll, something happens on your turn. 

I think this could work, I might even unleash it on my party next week.

EDIT: if this works well, I might even submit something to the online mags this Fall. 
That's why I worded it to only include standard action attacks that miss every target. Otherwise, it would get quite silly with Wizards with area bursts and Rangers with multi-attacks and off-action attacks. 

The point is that whatever you roll, something happens on your turn. 

I think this could work, I might even unleash it on my party next week.

EDIT: if this works well, I might even submit something to the online mags this Fall. 



I'm skeptical, but of course I'd be your biggest fan if you can make it work. Let me know if you need any input!

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Input for the GM Moves Combat Table would be nice Smile
I agree that you can use options like this for increasing drama and player buy in, but I agree with Iserith that a different effect for EVERY miss would be too much. Maybe you could have a clue to give out with the FIRST miss or critical of combat, or something of that nature.
So many PCs, so little time...
Input for the GM Moves Combat Table would be nice 



I'd probably leave it as the moves as written, but offer guidelines on how those might be interpreted with an eye toward balance. For example, "Deal Damage" might have a note that says 5 per tier. Or something.

I'd also avoid having an attack damage another PC. This works in Dungeon World but I think D&D just has a different dynamic when it comes to that sort of thing.

If you really want to get into it, there's the issue of "soft moves" and "hard moves" as it relates to immediacy and irrevocability. A soft move is a threat in motion. In DW, if the GM puts a soft move into the fiction and you ignore it, this becomes a golden opportunity and the GM converts the soft move into a hard move. (Hail of arrows (Put Someone in a Spot), ignored, becomes Deal Damge.) It should be noted that a hard move isn't about severity. It just means it happens and can't be revoked or avoided.

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svendj: Breakdown of a typical DW table transaction in case it offers insight into implementation in D&D...

DM puts soft move into play, asks "What do you do?"

PCs react.


  • If they're responding to the threat and it meets the criteria for a move, then they roll to determine outcome.


    • Hit: They avoid the threat or otherwise do what they set out to do.

    • Weak Hit: They avoid the threat or otherwise do what they set out to do; however, it comes at a cost (worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice).

    • Miss: Golden opportunity. GM can make any sort of move he likes, soft or hard, as long as it follows in the fiction. This is usually the resolution of the soft move. (hail of arrows --> damage, e.g.)


  • If they're ignoring the threat, it's a golden opportunity. GM can make any sort of move he likes, soft or hard, as long as it follows in the fiction.


It should be noted that the GM in DW never makes an attack roll, ever. (He does roll for damage though.) If the GM says in the fiction, "The ogre throws his overlarge greataxe at you, tumbling end over end heading straight for your skull," that's a soft move "Put Someone in a Spot." The PC reacts by, say, jumping out of the way behind a corner, making it a Defy Danger with Dexterity. On a roll of 10+, he does it. On a roll of 7-9, he does it but gets a worse outcome (you've run right into another ogre that was coming around the corner), hard bargain (jumping causes you to drop your shield), or an ugly choice (the axe breaks the seal on the door behind you - engaging with the ogre means allowing whatever horror is behind that door loose, not engaging means your cleric will be attacked). A roll of 6- is a miss and golden opportunity. The GM will most likely Deal Damage in this case.

Now imagine 4 PCs reacting to different things, and rolling weak hits. It can get complex fast, though GMs are advised to resolve soft moves into hard moves wherever possible to take them out of the scene so that there are not a dozen soft moves floating around.

Anyway, perhaps that bit of insight will be helpful as you think about how to implement it. 

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@svendj: I wouldn't make missed attacks summon more monsters to the battle. I can just see that spiraling out of control:

Assume it takes 4 hits to kill a standard monster. Assume the PCs have a 66% chance of hitting the monster; that means they miss 2 times trying to kill it on average. That means that one failed roll which summons another monster to the battle forces them to make 6 more rolls to resolve it, some of which might miss and summon yet another monster.

In this case, I think the punishment for missing an attack is considerably worse than the reward for hitting it. The natural player reaction will be not to attack unless you have very good odds and chewing out fellow players who attack even when the odds are against them. It's the same dynamic you see in skill challenges, where a failure punishes more than a success rewards so the players are loathe to take a risk.
It's the same dynamic you see in skill challenges, where a failure punishes more than a success rewards so the players are loathe to take a risk.



I share your other concerns until I see what svendj comes up with, but I'll quibble with this bit. That is not inherent to skill challenges. It's inherent to skill challenges where the DM doesn't allow for interesting failure. (Interesting to the players if not the characters.)

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I'm of the mind set that the interesting consequences for a "successful failure" shouldn't always be immediately noticable by the PCs. Sometimes that failed thievery check shouldn't alert a nearby guard so much, but it might trigger an alarm system to call in a more threatening enemy, or activated a trap that the PCs have not yet entered the range of.

Most human beings do things that seem to end well at first, but turn sour or brings about further complications later down the line. No reason why the same sense can't be extended into a ttrpg
I'm of the mind set that the interesting consequences for a "successful failure" shouldn't always be immediately noticable by the PCs. Sometimes that failed thievery check shouldn't alert a nearby guard so much, but it might trigger an alarm system to call in a more threatening enemy, or activated a trap that the PCs have not yet entered the range of.

Most human beings do things that seem to end well at first, but turn sour or brings about further complications later down the line. No reason why the same sense can't be extended into a ttrpg



Yes, and in DW, that's the GM Principle: "Think Offscreen, Too." I use it a lot!

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I share your other concerns until I see what svendj comes up with, but I'll quibble with this bit. That is not inherent to skill challenges. It's inherent to skill challenges where the DM doesn't allow for interesting failure. (Interesting to the players if not the characters.)



What criteria do you use as a rule-of-thumb for discerning interesting failures? I've never seen a group accept a skill challenge failure as "interesting"; either it's a punishment they loathe or they think the GM "coddled them" by making it an interesting twist instead of punishing them.
What criteria do you use as a rule-of-thumb for discerning interesting failures? I've never seen a group accept a skill challenge failure as "interesting"; either it's a punishment they loathe or they think the GM "coddled them" by making it an interesting twist instead of punishing them.



My criteria is I ask the players. Only they know what's going to be interesting to them. I generally frame this with them before the skill challenge begins (for success, too).

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Rogue: I try to pick the lock on the door using my thieves' tools. *rolls* Shoot, only a 15.
DM: You fail to unlock the door.
Rogue: I try again.
DM: Uhhh...

Wizard: I think back on my studies and try to come up with some facts to help us.
DM: Make a History check.
Wizard: Dammit, 12.
DM: Uhh, you don't remember anything helpful.

Cleric: I try to bless this altar to lift the curse from it. Religion check?
DM: Sure.
Cleric: @#$%! Why is Religion based on INT?!
DM: So, you are unsuccessful at lifting the curse.
Cleric: Anything happen?
DM: Uhh, no.

With the exception of some powers (dailies, some encounters, and powers with an Effect line, etc.) and certain skills failed by 5 or more, when we roll to do things in D&D, it tends to be fairly binary: You hit or you miss. And when you miss, nothing usually happens. You swing wide with your sword. Your arrow strikes the door instead of the orc. You fail to pick the lock or climb the tree or remember a fact and your action is done. You can make this fictionally interesting with good description. Or you can do both that AND change the scene a bit to make it more complicated or interesting, creating more context and action with which the PCs can interact. Success or failure thus becomes less a matter of simulating the physics of an action and more about determining a change in the direction of the scene. It's a golden opportunity for the group. Failure should be interesting. Failure that is not interesting encourages players to avoid failure at every opportunity leading to optimization and failure mitigation, both of which can have a significant impact on your game. (I leave it to you to decide if that impact is positive, negative, or both. I choose to view optimization as good and in-game failure mitigation as bad.)

The other day, I posted some things from Dungeon World. In rereading the GM section (so awesome), I was reminded of things that I do in D&D 4e because of that game's influences on my style which are now second nature. So I thought it might be helpful to post some of the "GM moves" that GMs are permitted to do in that game, many of which can come up when a PC has failed. All of them are easily portable into D&D. (Seek buy-in from your players before attempting this as it may represent a change from what they are used to.) Here then are the "GM Moves":



  • Use a monster, danger, or location move

  • Reveal an unwelcome truth

  • Show signs of an approaching threat

  • Deal damage

  • Use up their resources

  • Turn their move back on them

  • Separate them

  • Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities

  • Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment

  • Offer an opportunity, with or without cost

  • Put someone in a spot

  • Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask



I encourage you to look at the link above to find a breakdown of each of these moves. I keep a list of these moves on my desk when I'm DMing and, of course, I apply the principles of collaboration and check to make sure the failure condition I'm presenting is interesting to all. When the players look to me to find out what happens, I scan down the list, pick one, make sure it follows my Agenda & Principles, and reveal.

Compare the above examples that I see are common to most games to the examples below which use these moves:

Rogue: I try to pick the lock on the door using my thieves' tools. *rolls* Shoot, only a 15.
DM: You fail to unlock the door. *checks moves, settles on "Show Signs of an Approaching Threat"* The handle jiggles and you hear a low growl just before the door rattles with force from the other side.
Rogue: Uh oh.
DM: What do you do?

Wizard: I think back on my studies and try to come up with some facts to help us.
DM: Make a History check.
Wizard: Dammit, 12.
DM: *checks moves, settles on "Offer an Opportunity, With or Without Cost"* The ruined library will have the information you seek. Local lore has it that vengeful ghosts lurk in the stacks. What do you do?

Cleric: I try to bless this altar to lift the curse from it. Religion check?
DM: Sure.
Cleric: @#$%! Why is Religion based on INT?!
DM: So, you are unsuccessful at lifting the curse.
Cleric: Anything happen?
DM: Yes, and... *checks moves, settles on "Separate Them"* You look around and your friends are gone. The hair stands up on the back of your neck as a chill settles over all. Then, whispers... What do you do?

How do you approach failure in your game? Does it add to the scene in a useful way? Is it as interesting as success?

I would recomend you to roll the dice(only for skills and saves) behind DM screen and players don't know if they get a good roll or not.Since I started doing that the game is more magical and the descriptions are much better and players have more mystery in their campaigns.The players just listen my story and according the rolls I continue my story failure or not failure for the roll.Also failure is a must since if players always succeed in rolls then the game will be less challenging and will become boring after some time.After all it's not if they succeed or not it's how YOU describe the failure or the success of the event.The thing is that if there is a crucial point that even one must succeed and all roll natural 1 you always must think an alternative(something they didn't notice etc.)
I share your other concerns until I see what svendj comes up with, but I'll quibble with this bit. That is not inherent to skill challenges. It's inherent to skill challenges where the DM doesn't allow for interesting failure. (Interesting to the players if not the characters.)

What criteria do you use as a rule-of-thumb for discerning interesting failures? I've never seen a group accept a skill challenge failure as "interesting"; either it's a punishment they loathe or they think the GM "coddled them" by making it an interesting twist instead of punishing them.

I think you really need to stop with the "punishment" idea. There's no compelling reason to kill characters or otherwise make the game boring because the players did something wrong (and I include "not accounting for the possibility of bad rolls" in things the players can do wrong). It's a game, and it's fun, and if you want "punishment" play a game against an opponent who has no incentive not to completely lock you down and shut you out. D&D offers too many disincentives for doing that.

Interesting failure basically just means that something is happening to the characters' disadvantage, but the players still think it's cool. This can even include death or capture, but is usually used to mean things that are technically failures, but instead of slamming the door on the characters takes them in an interesting direction. Star Wars is full of these. The heroes failed to sneak around Endor, but this led to them having some cool chases, losing Leia, and almost being eaten by Ewoks. Those are all interesting for the viewers, just as they, or things like them, could be cool for the players, even though they seem bad for the characters. Interesting failures generally just involve changes in plans. They can also lead to complete failure of an adventure, which in turn leads to other interesting adventures in a world changed by that earier failure.

Coming up with interesting failure involves discussion with the players. A DM should ask leading questions about what the players would like to see happen if their characters fail in a given encounter and overall. If they think death is interesting enough, fine; do that. If they can't think of any failure that would be interesting, there's a serious problem, because the players' enjoyment of the game is now one of the stakes of play, which basically means the DM can't allow failure to happen.

But, with some exploration of how characters in stories can fail without dying, I think most players can see their way clear to suggesting ways they wouldn't mind failing. How about you, Jeff? What's an interesting way your character might fail, and how would a DM set that up?

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

That's why I worded it to only include standard action attacks that miss every target. Otherwise, it would get quite silly with Wizards with area bursts and Rangers with multi-attacks and off-action attacks. 

The point is that whatever you roll, something happens on your turn. 

I think this could work, I might even unleash it on my party next week.

EDIT: if this works well, I might even submit something to the online mags this Fall. 

 

I'm skeptical, but of course I'd be your biggest fan if you can make it work. Let me know if you need any input!


Actually I think it would work very well as part of "fumble" rules, since it makes what normally is an automatic miss into something that makes life as interesting as, or even more interesting than, a crit

I worded it badly. I don't mean letting them rewind time and succeed another way; I meant letting them still succeed despite a blundered challenge or encounter through a different challenge or plan. How often do you let them take a second path or alternate route if they fail a step towards succeeding at some goal? How often do you tell them flat-out the entire thing's borked because they failed a step?



Well it has been said on this forum many times that one should not have a success or failure challenge in place where if the players fail they cannot proceed.  So in any challenge situation where the players can fail there needs to be an alternate path.

Agreed.  There should always be an alternate route; if the action the players propose has no other conceivable alternative but a dead end, warn the players immediately, even if it breaks their versimilitude.  If they have a plan in mind and insist on continuing, everyone should discuss it; hiding it from the DM is unfair to the DM, and it's also a disadvantage to them as well because generally speaking the DM can and should help them execute their brilliant plan, since this is a collaborative game after all, and who better to collaborate with than the guy in charge of rules adjudication? ;)

Like I said, players in my table never fail a step, because there are no steps to be followed.  Either they do, or they die (not literally, at least not while their HP's above zero and they haven't rolled a natural 1 on their third death saving throw).  In fact, I'm not really clear on the context of the question; care to provide an example?  I may be able to provide my own insights on the scene, although I might also add points that may question how that "everything's borked because they failed a step".

Because the closest thing to that, that happened on my table, would be the time when my players entered an infant Living Dungeon that was trying to make itself like the Tomb of Horrors, and one PC tried to take the Sphere of Annihilation; I said he'd get it without issue if he rolled a 20 (since it was a very hard Epic tier DC [35], +5 since I was going to give something more powerful than the system normally allowed, as nothing singes things like an orb that instantly destroys stuff... but because even with all his bonuses he couldn't reach said DC on a natural 20, I simply reduced the needed DC to "succeed on a 20"), and regardless of how wrong I was in terms of setting the DC it didn't matter since he rolled a natural 1.  Had him fail spectacularly in his attempt by twisting his "alter sphere size" ritual from "manageable size" to "big as the corridor", and had the sphere begin rolling towards him and the rest of the group.

As I said, mishaps and blunders, but regardless the story moves forward  
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