Cool Failure Consequences

What interesting/plot changing twists have you seen in your games? What one would you like to see? Please post them below.

I don’t like derailing a game with the consequences of failure or single rolls that feel like they make or break the entire course of a session, much less a campaign. The twists never feel like huge twists to me. At its best, the failure consequence feels organic, fitting, and even inevitable. Plots have a wide turning radius, and it takes a long series of failures (and some successes, too, usually) to get things moving in a new enough direction to count as a twist.

The real twists usually come from players saying or doing something unexpected.

I love these threads.

But since I can’t think of any really good ones at the moment I’ll just give a couple links from the past:


Lots of threads about Failure and Complications.

In my last game, we had an exciting twist where the player smashed the MacGuffin. But that was less of a failure, more of an exactly what he intended to do.
…dang, I need to step up my game as GM. I can’t think of any really good ones. Maybe they were there, I’ve just forgotten.

Mage failed his Falcon Skin sorcery test and ended up summoning two sanctified dead, on his own property. DoF determined that they were the previous owners and a terribly bad DoW determined that he had to not only locate the priest of Arkay that had originally performed their burial rights (Burning Skyrim). He also had to bring their daughter to the funeral, relinquishing his property to her in the process as she was their rightful heir.
All my mage was trying to do was follow a mercenary company that had passed through his area.
(My son was GMing and really likes spell failures and DoW)

When I was running “The Sword” I had a player that was of the d20 mindset of traps in a dungeon and decided that he was going to check the Skeleton that was holding the sword in it’s bony claw for traps and failed his test. Up until that point I didn’t even consider traps but it was something that this player was looking for so I had a floor trap spring when the was checking around the side of the throne and he nearly plummeted to his death. This twist had an effect on the entire scenario because know one player had a debt to another but he was playing the human and had a bigger threat that he had to deal with.

I haven’t had a chance to play a full blown campaign yet with my group as they are enjoying the d20 based games at this point. They aren’t of the mindset to try different games to often.

I like this a lot, though sometimes we do get cool moments from a failure twist that unexpectedly reframes the situation.

There was an attempt at a Burning Wheel Witcher game a while back that stalled out, but there was a really cool scene where my character ran into a couple of thugs who were beating up and robbing an old man. I tried fighting them, and they walloped me pretty good, then kept on with what they were doing. The powerlessness of that moment was actually cool in a narrative way.


Slow down there. Nobody said anything about derailing a game. That’s that dark stuff that doesn’t happen in Burning Wheel.

That’s what I’m going for, though. I think anything big enough to count as a plot twist is really too big to come from a single roll most of the time. If it’s a big twist, it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to deal with—you’ve just made a big part of the game handling that twist. Maybe derailing is a word that’s too fraught, but you’ve certainly made the game at least temporarily be about something that it wasn’t a moment ago.

The more minor the roll, really, the more wild I’m willing to go with failure consequences. If an NPC is important to the game, killing her isn’t going to be the consequence of any failure that doesn’t really suggest that (treating a wound, for instance). If the NPC is a nobody or the task is just an ancillary step to what’s really important to the Beliefs in play then things can get crazy, but that craziness is self-limited by the fact that there’s just not that much on the line in the situation.

All this isn’t a prescription for how to play BW, just how I prefer to play BW.