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Difficult Decisions In Your Game

A Sign post stands in a foggy forest between two roads

“You could wear the suit,” he said to me, in his most logical, persuasive voice, “and then she wouldn’t get hurt. I know you love her.”

 If this were real life, it would be tragic, but since it’s a rousing game of Fiasco, it’s fun. 
I stared at him, speechless — do I don the suit that will inevitably catch me on fire, or watch the love of my life put it on instead, and hope that I can save her? My indecision becomes a decision, and I’m there to witness the consequences of my actions. If this were real life, it would be tragic, but since it’s a rousing game of Fiasco, it’s fun. I love having to make difficult decisions as a character, to see what I think they would do and weigh their past experiences and the narrative and make the most interesting choice. These kinds of decisions are key challenges for your players.

What Do I Mean By Difficult Decision?

Before we jump into how to think about decisions, let’s get a quick definition out there:

Decision: a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration. In psychology, decision-making is regarded as the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a belief or a course of action among several alternative possibilities.

Difficult: needing much effort or skill to accomplish, deal with, or understand.

So a difficult decision in a game is when you are presented with two or more possibilities whose outcomes are hard to weigh between — for instance, do you wear the flaming suit, or do you let your evil manager put it on the girl you’re in love with? Both outcomes are bad, but maybe if you’re not wearing the suit you can save her fast enough? Except what if you can’t get to her in time? Or, for a less Fiasco decision, do you hand the magical book of instant wish granting over to the evil cultists in exchange for the safety of the city you protect, or do you save the world at the possible cost of your home and loved ones?

 Fun from challenges is the fun of overcoming obstacles, and what is a difficult decision if not an emotional obstacle for us in game?  
We game to fulfill many different needs. Sometimes it’s just fun, and sometimes it’s an exploration of ourselves, our world, and our society. If we talk about the kind of fun that difficult decisions are, I see them as one of the inherent challenges of RPGs (a reference to the 8 Types of Fun [5]). Fun from challenges is the fun of overcoming obstacles, and what is a difficult decision if not an emotional obstacle for us in game? Full disclosure, I have a game in joint development right now called Turning Point that is an exploration of how humans make decisions. It is, at its core, the game of hard decision making. The challenge of a hard decision is one of the things that draws me to gaming.

Why Include Difficult Decisions In Your Game?

How Do You Make a Decision Difficult?

The most difficult decisions I’ve ever made are some of the best gaming memories I have. I always hope that I am making difficult decisions for my players too—these decisions also make truly interesting stories. What are some decisions you’ve presented your players with?

 

3 Comments (Open | Close)

3 Comments To "Difficult Decisions In Your Game"

#1 Comment By ismailoublal On February 11, 2018 @ 2:02 pm

I actually that the type of decision implementation in games is what makes them special, after the story line of course.

#2 Comment By Pagana On February 11, 2018 @ 2:04 pm

Don’t hard decision make the game confusing sometimes ?

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#3 Comment By Blackjack On February 12, 2018 @ 6:53 pm

Be sure your players truly want to face making difficult decisions before you present such dilemmas. Over the years I’ve found that while roleplayers occasionally say they relish such things in actual practice they virtually never enjoy it. Time and time again I’ve seen even serious roleplayers grow dangerously frustrated as they realize a situation is thorny. They fight with each other as players, or disengage and pout, or snipe from the sidelines, or declare ham-fisted actions “Just to stop this stupid @#$%.” At such points there’s no learning going on, and nobody’s have fun, either.

I’ll paraphrase the response I’ve gotten from various players after such exercises:

“I have hard problems in my life. I don’t play games to have them here, too.”

#4 Pingback By Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2018-02-26 ← Ravenous Role Playing On February 26, 2018 @ 11:41 am

[…] DIFFICULT DECISIONS IN YOUR GAME […]

#5 Pingback By Gnomecast #36 – GMing Difficult Decisions – Misdirected Mark Productions On March 22, 2018 @ 12:02 am

[…] It’s an easy decision to listen to this podcast, but not all decisions are that easy! Join Ang, Phil, and Senda on this episode of the Gnomecast as they discuss Senda’s Gnome Stew article “Difficult Decisions in Your Game.” […]

#6 Pingback By Gnomecast #36 – GMing Difficult Decisions | Gnome Stew On March 22, 2018 @ 7:33 am

[…] It’s an easy decision to listen to this podcast, but not all decisions are that easy! Join Ang, Phil, and Senda on this episode of the Gnomecast as they discuss Senda’s Gnome Stew article “Difficult Decisions in Your Game.” […]