The Joy of Failure

We’re back and we’re tripping over our feet, dropping our only torch and entirely failing to save the day. This is our look at the role of failure in RPGs. Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. I’m sure we’ll find some way to bugger it all up.

Main Topic

It’s easy to see failure as a bad thing in our games. Small missteps may be frustrating, making our characters seem incompetent or denying us the chance to do something cool. They could also be entertaining, leading to a bit of humour or raising the tension. Sometimes larger plans fall apart, but isn’t this the kind of thing drama thrives upon? And, yes, the heroes may fail to defeat the villain or prevent catastrophe. Such downbeat endings are an essential part of British storytelling. We love our heroic failures.

No, I said heroic failures…

This all suggests that failure can be a good thing in fiction and, by extension, in gaming. To explore this, we look at how to embrace different types of failure in RPGs. These range from stopping failed rolls being anticlimactic to how to handle an unexpectedly catastrophic end to a campaign.

Give them a good TPK and they’ll talk about it for decades afterwards.

News

Paul mentions some highlights of his visit to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A Robinson Crusoe of the Soul is Andrew Strong‘s musical exploration of Arthur Machen’s life and work. Apparently, it is part of a larger operatic work called From Ages to Ages. We’re still not entirely sure if Paul saw Urban Death, from Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group. The whole thing sounds like a fever dream to me. The highlight, however, was Providence: The Shadow Over Lovecraft. This is a comedic play about Lovecraft and friends, written and performed by Dominic Allen and Simon Maeder. The production will return from the grave as part of the London Horror Festival at the end of October. Cthulhu willing, the three of us plan to catch it then.

Providence: The Shadow Over Lovecraft

Of course, the three of us shall be at Concrete Cow on the 15th of September. This is Milton Keynes’ own twice-yearly one-day RPG convention. We shall all be running games and hope to see some of you there!

And Scott offers a quick report about the recent charity event organised by the lovely people who run the Necronomicon Discord server. This was a live-stream of various Call of Cthulhu events, including a number of games and panels. Unfortunately, our summer recording schedule meant that we didn’t get a chance to promote this on the podcast ahead of time. We hope that Harry, Elliot and the rest of the team will do this again, in which case we shall let you all know.

Other Stuff

Some of the most entertaining kinds of failure come when someone proves disastrously incompetent at a task. Think of Laurel and Hardy moving a piano, Wile E Coyote strapping a rocket to his back or the three of us trying to sing. There is such an attempt in this episode, where we offer our thanks to another $5 Patreon backer. Be prepared.

On a more successful note, we share another wonderful review on iTunes. If you feel moved to write a review wherever you download your podcasts, you will earn our undying love and gratitude. And when we say “undying”, we mean it.

And don’t forget that there’s a new issue of The Blasphemous Tome on the way soon. If you would like to secure your copy, or to contribute some words or pictures, please see our recent post.

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