Meta Monday: Succeed at Cost


Supernatural episode Swan Song  (5×22): A great example of succeeding at cost.

In any given role playing game, the character you play will have a goal. In a game of intrigue, for example, she might aim to use her skills as a con artist to seduce a particular duchess. (For reasons.) Let’s say she’s already schemed her way into the presence of said noblewoman, so all you need to do now is pick up your dice and roll to see how charming your character is this evening.

And the dice betray you. Your character fails.

But the Game Master might be merciful. If you happen to be playing with the Fate system, she might ask if you’d like to “succeed at cost.” If you say yes, the duchess falls for your character’s cajoling smile despite the horrific dice role. Your character wins her way into the duchess’s bed.

Most games fade to black at this point—unless you role play with a very interesting group—but wait! We still have that cost to worry about. And that’s when the duke walks in, catching your character and his wife in the act. Either a fight breaks out or you reach for your dice and frantically roll your character’s diplomacy skill.

I’ve had my issues with the Fate system, but I’ve come to appreciate this “succeed with cost” feature—especially when it comes to writing. In a typical genre novel, your character will suffer a number of disasters before triumphing at the end. But those disasters don’t always have to come as failures. In one of my favorite mystery/heist series—the Junior Bender books by Timothy Hallinan—Junior often manages to succeed at whatever robbery he’s attempting only to realize the cost of that success shortly afterward. (I don’t usually see that cost coming as a reader either, so it works as a neat plot twist.)

Sometimes a character does know the cost ahead of time, and that can add some beautiful angst to a story. Think of Sam Winchester’s only path to defeat Lucifer toward the end of Season Five of Supernatural. Knowing what he had to do in order to save the world gave us plenty of angst for Sam, plenty of angst for Dean—pretty much angst all around.

What do you think of this “succeed at cost” option? Have you ever used it or seen it used in a story that you’ve read or watched? Has it helped you come up with a twist or add tension to a story? Let me know in the comments!

About Jenn Moss

Author * Web Serialist * Virtual Addict
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15 Responses to Meta Monday: Succeed at Cost

  1. sepultura13 says:

    Never heard of it, so never used it – and if I did, it wouldn’t be for seduction, LOL! Not my style.

    On a side note: is it my imagination, or is role-playing exclusive to the gay community? I’m not trying to offend, it just seems to be that way from my observations. The only “RP” guilds I see always advertise that they are LGBT+ and “no straights allowed,” so…? Is this the case?
    Just wondering.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jenn Moss says:

      The stereotype is that role playing games are all about hack-and-slash (that is, fighting and weaponry) and that only straight guys need apply. In reality, role players make up an extremely diverse community, and there’s room for everyone. 😊

      But I was making the leap from role-playing games to writing, since they both deal with characters and goals and, well, stories.

      Liked by 1 person

      • sepultura13 says:

        LOL – trust me, I know about the stereotypes, and have fought against them for some time.

        I’m a straight woman who has played RPGs for most of my life, so I know that they’re not all about hack-and-slash. That being said, if only the LGBT+ community is changing the “face” of role-playing, then diversity is still lacking, as it is still “whites only,” from what I see.
        “Diversity” isn’t just about sexuality, but that is the unspoken definition. It’s very limiting for me, just as the “hack-and-slash” is limiting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jenn Moss says:

        This is not statistically helpful, but my tabletop, in person groups have been mostly white with a few Asians and Latinos. Gender wise, mostly men but with a significant number of women and occasionally someone who’s gender fluid. We have a mixture of orientations. (More straight than not, but not by a huge margin.)

        Online–I actually don’t know for sure. For some players, I don’t know gender, race, orientation or anything in an online game.

        I can understand that the lack of racial representation must be frustrating. I don’t have a pat solution for that–we know that geeks come in every race, after all. Do you have any ideas about how to put together more diverse groups racially speaking?

        Liked by 1 person

      • sepultura13 says:

        I don’t speak P.C., so I don’t know what “gender-fluid” means. That being said, at least you acknowledge that the gaming community is “whites-only” and people seem to want it to remain so. Asians and Latinos who are gamers fall under the “white” category in my book, since they hate Black people as much as whites seem to.

        So, no – I don’t have any ideas. I’m not on FB or any other ‘social’ sites, nor do I deal with groups well – especially when people tend to shoot down any ideas that I have. People are happy with their limited groups, I guess! Segregation is alive and well in the 21st century…especially online.
        Pretty sad.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jenn Moss says:

        I feel like ascribing that kind of hatred to whole groups is sort of a broad brush, but I respect where you’re coming from. And I agree that the fact that we do seem happy within limited groups is sad.

        And I’m still not sure how to forge a more diverse gaming group! It’s relevant, since my group is likely to be looking for a new person soon.

        Usually, if no one knows anyone looking for a game, we put up an ad at a local gaming store and agree on the first person who does not seem like an ax murderer. And I actually have no idea how diverse our local store is.

        I would guess that, to some extent, being a black gamer is like being a black Jew. Yes, they exist! Yes, my synagogue has black members. But they could be standing there in a yarmulke and a prayer shawl and there will still be someone who’s like, “You’re Jewish? Really? Wow.”

        If it is the same kind of thing, then we white gamers really need to work on checking our assumptions at the door.

        Liked by 2 people

      • sepultura13 says:

        I only ascribe that kind of hatred to whole groups because I’ve encountered and experienced it from said groups. I mean, isn’t there a trial going on for a white guy who murdered people in a church, simply because they were Black? That hatred exists – just because you don’t experience it personally, doesn’t negate the fact of its existence.

        That being said, your last statement is the most accurate in this entire paragraph. Yes, checking assumptions AND privilege at the door would be a nice start!

        I’m a Black, straight, female gamer. I ride motorcycles and listen to heavy metal (along with a crap-ton of other types of music). I hate stereotypes, and wonder why white people in general think that they have the freaking monopoly on everything. People are people, no? So, why can’t “people” enjoy what they like? Such as gaming, riding motorcycles, listening to heavy metal, etc. – without skin colour being ascribed?

        I’ve met more Black gamers (10) than I’ve met Black Jews (1) – but obviously, they exist…just like there are Black hockey players, ice skaters, fencers, etc.

        People gravitate to what they enjoy, but some are accepted in those groups more than others, solely for the colour of skin. Sexual orientation is far less of a barrier, from what I see, since one’s sexual orientation isn’t the first thing asked about – but skin colour is obvious, along with the associated stereotypes that others want to try to shove down my throat. It gets pretty tiresome.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Eeek. I first left this comment on the ABOUT JENN page, so please excuse the repetition.

    Hi, Jenn, and thanks for the extremely cool insight into Junior Bender. As someone who’s wrecked his marriage and made himself an occasional visitor in the life of his daughter, reckoning costs can become almost obsessive for Junior. For a while I worried that this strand of his character would make the books less amusing, but I finally decided that the difference between “funny” and “silly” is that “funny” is fundamentally serious.

    I really appreciate the mention, especially in this context.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      Thank you for reading and responding! And don’t worry, I removed the duplicate comment from my About page.

      I like the distinction you make between funny and silly. I enjoy silly–I’m gobbling up a show called “Kings of Con” right now, which is about as silly as it gets–but I love the kind of funny you do with this series. The balance between humor and consequences seems just right.

      Junior’s misadventures keep me laughing through each book–and their twists and turns keep me glued to the page. But, yeah, the cost of his life choices always lurks in the background, especially when it comes to his family.

      And I love his relationship with his daughter! But that love comes with a twinge, since he is just an “occasional visitor.”

      Anyway, thanks again–especially for the serious fangirl moment I had when I realized that one of my favorite authors left a comment here. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. J.R. Handley says:

    I wouldn’t use gamer language, as I’ve never played RPGs outside of my Xbox but I love the idea that everything has consequences. In my science fiction I try to make the victories come at a cost, and none too easily. One day we shall meet a yonder coffee joint and game. After we’re both rolling in the JK kinda loot!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Never had a DM use this system, but it’s intriguing! Would take a really good DM to make it work, but could be super fun.

    And yes, I prefer DMs heavy on the “RP” of the RPG!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      Definitely prefer RP heavy games too. I haven’t seen anyone use Succeed at Cost outside of the Fate system, but it can probably work with other systems as well. Meanwhile, we have a few good DMs in my group–though, alas, I’m not one of them! I’m way too controlling. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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