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Defining "Success"

Posted February 4, 2015 at 10:38 PM by Lyr Tlansson
Updated February 4, 2015 at 10:44 PM by Lyr Tlansson

I should really be posting. Or grading. ((Guilty as charged, as always.)) That said, something has been cropping up lately which sort of drives me up the wall and to which I feel the need to respond in a more concerted/public way.

A lot of people seem to approach this game with a lot of fear. Fear that they're going to 'lose', fear that they're not going to 'succeed', fear that their character is going to die... fear of actual risk-taking, to put it bluntly. And this is just something that I've honestly ceased to understand, because the brilliant thing about this game is that there really is no such thing as 'losing': not obtaining what we wanted (or thought we wanted) often pushes us to be more creative, to work around problems in new ways, even to succeed at something that we never thought possible. Furthermore, honestly, there is no score in this game - you don't count up the victory points at the end, there's no such thing as 'winning at Aelyria'; being rich/noble or reaching lvl 5 does not constitute 'winning', as any level 5 will say without hesitation; instead it's about telling a satisfying, character-rich story which sees pcs evolve and change and grow into something entirely new. And here's the rub: success can fuel change (sometimes), but it's really failure that provides the best impetus for change and introspection and character growth. Failure is great. Failure is awesome. Embrace it!!

I see so many - too many - people across the boards saying variations on the theme of "I can't do this" or "that's too risky, I'm not going to try" or "well, if you tell me it's improbable then I'm just not going to try at all" or "OMG, if I try that, I'm going to DIE!" This is all, honestly, nonsense. Not only because the current MT is so awesome (<3 ) that it's now more possible than ever to do things that would have been shut down like woah a few years ago, but also because attempting to do something - even if you know you won't succeed - is much more satisfying and, yes, rewarding than doing something where success is 'guaranteed' or even 'likely'.

At the end of the day, I really wish that everyone would just stay true to their characters. Do you think your character would try to do something totally insane? Then try it, even if the chance of success really is zero! And yeah, I'd actually go beyond that and say that people should be brutal to their pcs and play their character to the bitter end even if staying true to the character means s/he will throw themselves into certain death; but that's perhaps a less reasonable wish.

As a corollary, I'd like to see peer mods take on this attitude as well. Anyone who's ever been a mod here knows that there's always a lot of ink spilled in the mod forums over trying to get mods to be harder on pcs than we tend to be (and I'll freely admit I need this reminder constantly, too). But I've been seeing this misconception floating around - implicitly if not explicitly - that a moderator should create a story that leads - after a certain number of obstacles - to pc success. Or, perhaps worse, moderators who will only moderate threads where success is possible/likely or will communicate with pcs OOC-ly about the chance of success in a given plot. This is a fundamentally flawed mentality. A moderators job is to weigh all the factors of a situation as impartially as possible and react 'realistically' or 'semi-realistically' to a pc's actions (within the fantasy of Aelyria, of course, and perhaps taking into account the fact that pcs are special snowflakes, though to be honest I dislike this Juanese saying). Going into a thread where the chances of outright success are minimal does put a somewhat heavier burden on the mod, but it does not mean that the thread should not be moderated. It also does not mean that a pc should be 'advised' that the chances of 'success' are negligible. Just because a thread isn't going to result in the conclusion the pc wanted doesn't mean the thread shouldn't be run, or won't be interesting and fun, too. Moderators, like pcs, need to remember that failure can also be intensely rewarding and shouldn't be shied away from.

This kind of risque attitude cuts both ways, really: on the one hand, yeah, embracing failure and actual risk will probably mean losing a fair bit in terms of concrete acquisitions, gold, etc.; on the other hand, the sky really does become the limit of possibility as a result - knowing you may not succeed and/or not caring about the consequences is liberating. Anything becomes possible (even if it's not probable!) And failure becomes, indeed, success in terms of what's actually important here - that is, telling a story.

Long story short, if someone tells you OOC "you can't do that" - try it IC. I'll bet dollars to donuts you'll at least get a fun and satisfying story out of it.
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  1. Old Comment
    Indefinite's Avatar
    Two of my characters were "throwaway" characters that I decided from the start I'd just have rush into situations without much thought and always just act as their personalities dictated.

    Still around. Some of the strongest PCs in game, too. You'd be surprised what mods let you get away with, if you're daring enough - although of course there's always that fine line between bravery and stupidity.
    Posted February 4, 2015 at 11:55 PM by Indefinite Indefinite is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Not to worry, I got your back:

    1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one's goals.
    2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
    3. a performance or achievement that is marked by success, as by the attainment of honors:
    The play was an instant success.
    4. a person or thing that has had success, as measured by attainment of goals, wealth, etc.:
    She was a great success on the talk show.
    5. Obsolete, outcome.
    On a more serious note though, I've always been somewhat puzzled by the similar trend of continually building skills to be ready for an adventure that's never going to happen because you're spending all your time building your skills. Why not just cut out the middle man and go have some adventures?

    Speaking as someone with just a level 3 trade skill under his belt here, it's not really about the skills. Whatever you do they're not your best means of attaining success.
    Posted February 5, 2015 at 05:13 AM by Darian Darian is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Rhystlin's Avatar
    My character is accumulating skills because I think they'd be fun to role play with, and they suit her character but... I'm not going to be going out of my way to bring any of them up to 4 or 5. D: That sounds boring! I can imagine I'd get burned out pretty quickly doing that.

    I did need this though. I have ONE thread for which I was getting a lot of warnings about the likelihood of my player's death and this started to get me really scared. So I was considering doing something against my character to bail her out... Thank you for talking me out of it. I feel a lot better about the whole scenario now. And what's funny is through all the years and all the characters, it's the very first time I had ever felt that way!

    Anyway... throughout my time on this game, when I now think about Aelyria, I think about the amazing writing I did with other people. That's why I prefer interaction threads and adventures the most, over single threads where it's just me and a mod. The most memorable and most fun moments for me are not the ones when I bested something with skills or gold or levels; it's when I and other players created really amazing roleplaying scenarios together - especially the ones where we were doing adventurous things or getting into danger! The things I remember most vividly from all these years are the people, the writing, and the scenarios we found ourselves in. For me, that collaboration and artistic expression is what the game is all about.
    Posted February 5, 2015 at 08:27 AM by Rhystlin Rhystlin is offline
    Updated February 5, 2015 at 09:29 AM by Rhystlin
  4. Old Comment
    Charybdis's Avatar
    Posted February 5, 2015 at 10:47 AM by Charybdis Charybdis is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Nimh's Avatar
    I want a like button.

    My characters do stupid things sometimes. Part and parcel of their attitudes, their loves and their hates. Your character can't always be a winner. Losing or getting hurt (sometimes badly) is development and progression. I wish people embraced that more.
    Posted February 5, 2015 at 01:32 PM by Nimh Nimh is offline
  6. Old Comment
    Rhystlin's Avatar
    I see it this way as well:

    A story without conflict is a boring one. And a story with unbelievable conflict (where you already know the character will come out on top) is arguably even more boring. To not want to get into conflict where your PC could hit some serious obstacles (even getting hurt) makes for one dull story...

    I look forward to encountering the obstacles Rhys will face. One of my favorite aspects of RP is long-term character development, and those obstacles are REALLY going to shape who she becomes. Heck, they may seriously alter my initial plans for her. It's like you say, Lyr... either way, I'm gonna get a fun and satisfying story out of it.
    Posted February 5, 2015 at 01:59 PM by Rhystlin Rhystlin is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Lyr Tlansson's Avatar
    Rhystlin, I agree so much. It really is the weird stuff and wild adventures you get into with other pcs that sticks the most!
    Posted February 5, 2015 at 07:23 PM by Lyr Tlansson Lyr Tlansson is offline
  8. Old Comment
    Conflict is the key to all great story writing / story telling. Of course, conflict is not just fighting, but rather obstacles (mental and physical) as well as character interaction/confrontation.

    I like the prospect that my PC might die if I do something stupid or reckless. If that element is not there, sitting in the background, then what's the point? For me anyway, there has to be an achievement to reach, an obstacle to overcome, a mountain to climb...but that is just me.

    The key is creativity. You can find conflict (and hence excitement) in just about anything, if you are creative enough.

    My 2c
    Posted February 5, 2015 at 07:24 PM by Shalafi Shalafi is offline
  9. Old Comment
    Rhystlin's Avatar
    Personally I agree with you, Shalafi. If the sense of the obstacle isn't there for me as the player - and thus for the PC - then the end result feels diminished. But if the obstacle is very real to me, then the fact that my PC stepped over that mountain becomes a whole new, far more memorable, achievement. Makes it mean that much more.

    I never understood the players that wanted this badass PC that could easily sidestep every little thing. The gritty aspects - the blood, sweat, and tears - make for the most fascinating and relatable stories for me.
    Posted February 5, 2015 at 10:29 PM by Rhystlin Rhystlin is offline
  10. Old Comment
    Aerys Nardaquilli's Avatar
    I agree with all of it, if everything went without a single hitch, without any obstacle or hurdle in the character's entire story...it would suck. No reward without risk, sometimes just the risk and no reward whatsoever, but all fun because if you make it, you can feel proud and if you don't you just retreat and think of another way (as long as you're not dead at least).

    However, I do say there IS a catch to all this: when all you have is adversity and failure, the story you write doesn't have that "fun" factor anymore at some point either and that in some cases is the sign to call it quits and rethink your efforts.
    Posted March 12, 2016 at 07:04 PM by Aerys Nardaquilli Aerys Nardaquilli is offline
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