So, it must be self reference week here or something as this is yet another topic that is more a continuation of previous posts as it is something new. I'm also taking a bit more from the AngryDM post I referenced yesterday. Today though, I want to talk about Win and Lose conditions and how they are a wonderful thing to have planned out before any encounter in your game.
So, starting off, what are Win and Lose Conditions? Quite simply they are the conditions, that once met, essentially end the encounter with one side a victor and the other side a loser. You'll see them in tactical RPGs on consoles a lot of the time, where they'll have things like "The Main Character can't die" . So why do you want them in your game, even the non tactical ones?
Well, quite simply, you want them because they add depth, meaning, and variety to otherwise simple encounters. Sure, some conditions may be more fun than others, but they really open up the door for you to have a lot of fun with the encounters you are running. Think about it, which do you want to do? The game where every fight is a fight to the death where victory is only achieved when the other side is completely wiped out? Or one where sometimes you have that, others you just have to survive for X rounds, in a third you have to grab an item and escape, while in a fourth you need to get the NPC ally to point Y before they get killed.
This is all just the PCs side of things as well, the variety that can be added in those situations is incredible. If the PCs just have to survive for 5 rounds, you don't need to worry about the fight being too massive, you want the desperation. So you can throw in more guys than they can conceivably kill and have fun with that. The same with grabbing an item and escaping, the objective is not for the PCs to kill everyone, it is to escape with the object. The focus of the fight shifts, and suddenly everyone has to think just that little bit more about their actions.
On the NPC side it lets you give victory to the NPCs and defeat to the players without killing everyone. If the NPCs need to get a box and escape, then for them that is winning. They have the box, the PCs don't. The PCs can still be alive, hell, the PCs might not even be scratched, but they still lost. The game can continue off of that as well, and take a turn for the interesting as the PCs have to recover from their loss.
This is something I, sadly, forgot about recently. In the most recent M.A/C.C game the PCs were trying to grab a mob boss, and it broke into a fight. Now the PCs were defaulting to "we win, when they're all down and we get the guy", this is not unfair on their part. They needed to zip line off of the building, and do you want to be suspended 20 stories up with active enemies behind you? No, the failure here was me. I defaulted to "victory here is repelling the PCs" instead of, what it should have been, "Victory here is getting the boss to safety". The option was there, someone could've grabbed the down boss and ran. It could've changed the whole flow of the session too. Turning a straight up fight into something a whole lot more interesting. The fight was still fun, but as I look at it now, it could've been more.
So, this is as much to me as it is to you. Try and set up win conditions for your fights before hand. Having it be a simple "kill everyone" works, but really, you should spice things up a bit on occasion. Oh, and for those wondering how to do it, it is simple. Just put something like this in your notes:
PC Win Condition: Get the Chariot into the Castle, Kill the Orc General, or Survive for 15 rounds
PC Lose Conditions: The Chariot is destroyed, the Chariot is captured and taken to point X
Then something like it for the opposition. Often, the Win conditions for the opposition are the same as the Lose conditions for the other group, but they may have additional options. It could, in this example, be considered a win for the opposition if they keep the Orc General alive. Now, both the PCs and the NPCs have won and accomplished a goal.
This also gives you guidelines for the fight, the priority for what should be done. PCs looking to win should protect the chariot, and hold out for as long as possible. Alternatively, they can go after and kill the Orc General. The NPCs should be trying for the chariot, and defending their general.
I am intending on doing this from now on in all my games. Sure, sometimes the fight will be simple things like "Kill them all" but I'm also going to add in other conditions for them as well, things to spice the game up. I'll let you know how it goes.
Though, out of curiosity, anyone have any interesting stories about Win/Loss Conditions in their games they'd like to share?