Last Friday I posted a Matt Colville video about the slog. Monday I posted a Mat Colville video about Losing. Today I want to talk about Winning. Winning is something kind of strange in RPGs. As a child when explaining the game I would tell people that RPGs are a game where there is no real losing or winning. Over time, my view became more complex. Let's talk about it.
The Trick About Winning
The tricky thing about winning in RPGs is you need to define it. In a Story Game, getting to the end of the story could be considered victory. Just like I'll consider myself to have beaten an RPG when I reach the end credits, the same can happen in table top. But outside of a game where the GM is telling a specific story how do you win?
Well, it really depends on what you want to do. Some people will consider themselves as having won when they max out their character and there's no more room for it to grow. Others will consider it a win when they retire their character to own a tavern and give information to other adventurers. Others have their own definition.
This personal definition is important. If you know what you consider winning, then you know what you're going for. Talk about this with the GM. It will tell them what you're looking for out of the game.
That said, here are some common "win conditions" for players I've seen.
A Good Story
Several people in my game consider the game/character a win if they tell a good story for their character. They're not interested in the game's plot as much - though that helps - and they're not super interested in acquiring loot. What they're looking for is an epic character tale that makes them feel like part of a movie or story. They want a nemesis, a goal, a love interest. They want the climactic duel in the rain while the building burns down around them.
The fun thing here is some people will consider it a win even with a premature ending if how they went out is well. A character dying because they refuse to leave their friend wh o is down can be just as satisfying as said climactic duel in the rain. Either way, someone seeking a good story is here for the drama and dramatic moments.
No, I don't mean taking over the world with mechanical contraptions - though that could be a goal. By this I mean a character that can more or less crush whatever the system can throw at them. This is the kind of player goal that the internet is full of tomes of advice posts asking how to deal with these characters. The advice often talks about it being a problem player, but it could just be someone looking to become the ultimate warrior.
Either way, if a player is going for this, talk to them about it. If they're comfortable not being challenged in what they're built for, great. Challenge them elsewhere. Just let them go nuts every now and then to revel in what they've created.
A Specific Goal
Sometimes players have very specific goals to qualify a game as a win. I once played in a D&D game with my sole goal to make a Rogue that survived from Level 1 to past Level 13 without needing to be raised or resurrected. I made it to 14 before dying, making me the longest lasting rogue the GM had ever seen - or has seen since. I also took out half a city and the campaign when I died...so the GM might still be mad ;)
The point here is sometimes players have a specific goal. Maybe they want to try out a build to a certain point. Maybe they have some specific IC thing they want to accomplish. Maybe they have some specific OOC thing to accomplish. Just talk about it with them, and see what they want. Odds are you can help, and challenge, along the way.
Multiple Ways To Win
Now for the fun part. In one game you can have multiple ways of winning. You can build a character that has a rediculously dominating build, get a great story, finish the campaign, and accomplish a specific goal. After all, a character's only done when you retire them, or the game they're in.
Now that you know how to win, you just got to work towards it. Talk to your GM - or your players - about it. See if you can find a way to make it work for all parties involved.