314 Losing in RPG's

Losing in RPG’s, some say it’s not a thing. But aren’t there times when we feel like we lose in tabletop role-playing games?


Regarding Aaron being “only 22”. Dude I’ve been playing for… well… crap. Your whole life. And no BS you sound like a better GM than me. OR for that matter, most people my age, older than me, younger than me. Aaron, you just sound like a helluva gamer. Screw age. I’ve played with, as the guys pointed out, people that have been in the hobby since the hobby began, and a lot of those guys SUCK. There’s a lot to be said for changing your game. Keep being awesome.


I think it can feel that way under a couple situations. PSA this is not my normal experience and seemed to occur more frequently in the olden days. In general my gaming experiences since hobby restart in 2017 have been very good.

The first one is when your group or campaign falls apart. I dont believe that was the context of what the episode was about but it sure feels like your losing as a player or GM when the game falls apart.

The second situation I have experienced on occasion is when you do / try things and they will not work. Not because the dice are failing you but because everything you attempt the GM says it doesn’t work. Or you keep chasing things that end up having no meaning in the game or are unimportant. This can be frustrating and sometimes it has been my fault as a player not seeing the obvious clue or the GM having a very specific set of actions or things they want to happen. In some cases the GM has simply not liked the players ideas in these games and shut them down for personal reasons despite them seeming like reasonable actions by everyone else.


I’d say most of my character deaths were losses during my AD&D days as my characters dropped left, right, and centre. Hell, I even lost a character in the first encounter! Those deaths were totally random at the whim of the dice and they felt like I lost the game. It took longer to make the character than play them.

In my adult gaming career, the one game that stood out while listening to this episode was a sci-fi game where we were space mercenaries or something and had to take control of this research vessel. When we stormed the bridge, someone reached for a weapon and we shot them. The GM stopped the game and said there was no way anyone would help us now… and ended the game. In that one, I felt like we lost in the way a kid loses when their favourite toy washes down a river or you wake up with a second wedding ring on your finger.



A couple things about “Losing” in this episode, well, lost me:

Brett: “A game [always has] winners and losers.” Really? Not all games are competitive, well, such as most RPGs! Don’t we get down on competitive (aka adversarial) GMs, after all? Isn’t the “no win/lose” the very point of how RPGs different from Baseball and Chess?

Then, when it comes to feeling like you “lost” or are “losing” when playing an RPG, I’m confused because of the balancing idea of setting stakes. There are those who say, if your character can’t be killed/eliminated, the stakes are too low. Even if you disagree, there are always risks/costs.

After all, if you can’t lose something, is it even an RPG?

Characters lose (miss important rolls, retreat, end unconscious) in combat all the time. Characters “lose” in skill roles. Characters die (but, even then often are captured/revived.)
Fear of Loss is a powerful motivator! We shouldn’t give that up so easily.

I call “anticpating loss” another name: Drama. My players always know they can “lose” an encounter, just like I know they can “retire” the game at any time.

So, is this really just all about expectation setting? One of the few things Sean said was that he asked is players to “make two characters for ToA” - this have should clearly set expectations, even if Jeff don’t play dat. :smiley:

BTW, if you measured minutes on the Mics, I’d bet that 90%+ of the speaking during the main topic was just one voice. That might have something to do with all the wandering around… Listen, I know what it’s like, I can get lost in chain-reasoning when I talk, but I know I felt lost more than once. Something I know I have to work on myself. :slight_smile:


I’ll join Laramie on Aaron only being 22 - I’ve been playing D&D since I was 13 - and I turned 53 this year. Yet - I (and many other old grognards) are here every week listening to this podcast, and sharing ideas on these forums, wanting to learn new tricks and new perspectives.
NONE of us has seen & done it all, we’re all here to get a new view and to share our hobby - and we’re not gatekeeping who can join in - heck even Brent is right once in a while.

My favorite people to game with are new gamers - because they often “get it” and will try ANYTHING rather than being blinded by rules knowledge. They don’t care that they get a -2 to disarm unless they have the “fancy fencer feat” - they just want to knock the wand out of the bad guy’s hand - they want to swing across the room on the chandelier.

Keep up with the input Aaron, we old geezers need and want your ideas!



Yeah - that was me rambling a lot more than usual. Got caught up in the moment :frowning:

I like the points you’ve made here - Especially the point around Drama. Ensuring that the group’s expectations are set around “What makes for fun Drama?” is important and, not matter the actual definition of the term, it’s totally worth making sure everyone is aligned on how it will be defined for the game to be played.


Thanks, guys! It means a lot that people in this hobby can be so welcoming! I was nervous about joining the forums, too, but I already feel right at home!