Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why Choices Matter

You didn't think I was going to leave yesterday's post about my character's upcoming fateful decision alone did you? I mean, reading it it looks like it has nothing to do with GMing, advice, play, or anything aside from a fun anecdote about my character. Today I want to talk about choice, that choice in particular a bit, and why it is a good example of a choice for a PC to have.

What Makes A Good Choice
Before I can go into this, I need to explain what I think makes a good choice. A good choice is when both options are viable in some way. So, for example, "you can fight the dragon, or you can let him destroy the world until eventually he comes for you" is not a good choice because there isn't a real choice there. Eventually the dragon comes for you. The same is true with the standard "you can side with James or Robert" that a lot of GMs present players with. Only, James is the evil person and will only make things worse and harm the player while Robert is the right choice. Nothing against James being evil, but the fact that Robert is considered the right choice means it wasn't a real choice. It was a question (and one that if you chose James you effectively answered wrong.)

A good choice on the other hand will look like a potentially bad choice but the difference is in how it plays out. For example "Do you kill Count Landry or spare him?" if there is a right answer to this (i.e. if you spare him he just keeps making things worse and worse) then it is a bad choice. However, if there is good and bad to both ways though it is a good choice. Perhaps sparing the Count makes him an ally but makes an enemy out of previous allies who wanted him dead. Killing him on the other hand pleases those allies but also makes an enemy out of Landry's allies. Either way you get good and bad. It is a good choice.

I can already hear some of you balking at my examples of bad choices saying that you could see those playing out very well and fun. I agree with you. However, to execute a bad choice well takes a lot of skill. To make the James/Robert choice a real choice requires more skill and emphasis from the GM as well as a bit of focused RP. Also, there are also a myriad other factors that go into every choice a player makes. Sometimes a question turns out to be a choice to the player because they're looking at a totally different rubrik to judge it by.

The Unforced Choice
Now, going back to yesterday and Colin at first the choice looks bad. Either Colin becomes a fae (and loses his ability to be a PC) or he doesn't. It would seem that becoming a Fae would be a bad choice, right? Except, well, exceptions. Also, the GM isn't forcing this choice. The choice has come up naturally through play and through the fact that FATE focuses on narrative making certain things just feel more right and natural. These choices are the hardest to make happen as a GM (because they have to be unforced) but can also be the most special as it means the player is wrapped up enough in the story that they aren't really thinking about it like a game. They're thinking of the tale, the character, and the character arc.

When you get a Paladin making a horrible choice because of his beliefs and views in a way that enhances the fun of the game it is something special. Not only is it a sign of a good player, but one that is invested into the game. I, as a player, can only hope that Colin's upcoming choice - even if more subtle - is similar for the GM. As the choice is a lot of fun to ponder, especially due to the fact that it has come up with no prompting from the GM, just obstacles and the ability to choose which way I wanted to tackle them.

Bad Choices and Decisions
I want to be clear here. I am talking about good choices, but that doesn't mean that what I've dubbed bad choices or other questions/decisions are bad inherently for the game. You need a mix in your game, but with that mix you also need good choices. Even better when they come up naturally and not forced, but as long as they're good you can get a lot of mileage out of them. 

1 comment:

  1. I like this post.
    Decisions should be meaningful and not black/white like you said.
    In my group, we're working on 'making a bad choice in character'.
    Until now, players tend to make the tactically best choice.