Monday, October 22, 2012

Failure During Success - Shadowrun

One of the mechanics that had me intrigued about the new Star Wars system was for the possibility of a minor failure to happen during a success. You know, the dramatic little troubles that happen during movies and tv shows. The hero tackles the villain to the ground, but a gun slips free and is up for grabs in between them. Alternatively, the thief manages to escape a compound by climbing a razor wire fence, but on the way down a bit of the wire slices through their bag and spills the contents on the ground. You can imagine my excitement when I saw that a similar mechanic exists in Shadowrun 4th edition.

How It Works
In Shadowrun the mechanic in question is called "Glitches." A glitch is when 50% or more of the dice in your dice pool come up with a natural 1. If you still succeeded at the check you pass the general check but have some minor, inconvenient, but not life threatening bad thing happen to you. The examples above are good examples, but others could be a gun jam, a weapon breaking, or some other bad thing happening that doesn't immediately put the character in fatal risk. If the check doesn't succeed but still glitches you get a "Critical Glitch" which is a gloves off full out botch where the GM is allowed to be going for blood (your gun blows up, you get tangled up in the razor wire fence and can't get down without assistance, etc.)

Why I Like It
It should be obvious why I like this. I'm all for cinematics and the minor things going wrong, even while things are going well for the player in general, is something I think a lot of games have been lacking. I can see a lot of ways to use this mechanic, as rare as it should be to come up, to make scenarios a whole lot more fun and lead to other things that the players will have to deal with. Hopefully, my players will see this the same way.

That said, this doesn't come without risks. A bad session could get a lot worse if everytime someone succeeded at an action they also glitched. There is also the risk that one player will feel that their glitches are always more costly than another players (i.e. "you made my gun jam but only made him lose his spare.") There is also the chance of ruining a character's shining moment with the wrong bad thing. Though, with that, if you roll a glitch maybe you should be expecting your moment to be a little bitter sweet, no?

The fun thing with glitches is you can't really plan on them happening. It is a rare event, and the more skilled a player is at something the less likely it is to come up really. After all, half the dice - or more - have to come up 1s, and with D6s that's not a very common thing. Still, there are some things you could plan. For example, you could plan to have glitches with a certain piece of tech always center around some specific piece of it (i.e. a prototype gun with a dodgy mag-clip that sometimes just drops a mag out onto the floor.)

Your Experience
Do you have any experience with mechanics like this? Do they work out as well as they look like they should? Any specific things to avoid while using them?

1 comment:

  1. Glitches are awesome. I remember one that happened in a session where the characters were caught in the Matrix. One of them designed and made a grenade. It looked perfect until it was thrown. Instead of exploding, it went poof and shrouded the target in a thick, vanilla-scented mist. That was not a catastrophe and still allowed us to do what we wanted (pass unseen by the guard on the watch tower), but it definitely was a glitch.

    Get creative. Don't ruin what the player is trying to do. I think glitches work best if they mean a bit of trouble later on and not right at the moment they occur.