All too often, we want to win the games we play. This is all well and good. We want to see our characters succeed, and want the campaign to progress forward by virtue of knocking down and overcoming obstacles. However, sometimes things will go wrong and characters will fail. And the story will progress forward anyway. As a GM, I’ve talked about failing forward in the past, so there are plenty of ways to do this. But as a player, it can be frustrating unless you embrace loss and the value of it.

First and foremost, think about loss as a learning experience. If you failed in combat, think about why that happened. Did you fail to account for how much damage the enemy could do? Did you burn all of your good spells earlier in the conflict? Did you not coordinate properly with your teammates? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you have something to learn. And there are many more mistakes that can be made. Your choices are to be upset, or to learn from it. Hopefully you can choose the choice that will lead to success in the future.

There are also a lot of roleplaying opportunities that can come from failure. Maybe you failed your resistances against a mind control power. Now your character does something they regret while under this compulsion, and they have to live with what they did afterwards once it wears off. Do they shift blame off themselves and rationalize it as not their fault? Do they self-blame for not being strong enough to resist? Do they try to make amends and undo the wrong they’ve done? these are all interesting tangents for character development. What a character might do in this situation could say a lot about them.

You can also enjoy failure in the moment. There are a lot of funny stories about critical failures, and a lot of interesting things can happen when you fail. It may not be good for the characters, but it can still be interesting from the standpoint of the story it tells. Learn to appreciate things without looking for the benefit to self. That’s sort of at the core of this whole idea. When we learn to do that, we can enjoy the game at all times and on different levels than we do if we’re just out for a victory.

How do you handle failure in game?

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