Fail Forward?


I have a radical idea, and I wonder what folks think.

On any non-crit fail, you get a free Assist to use on an ally until your next turn. Your failed action created an opportunity for your ally to exploit.

Why? A few reasons:

  1. It simulates reality: in a real fight, even a miss creates pressure on the battlefield
  2. It softens the blow of failure a little; even if you miss, you are still doing something useful
  3. It gives players more reason to pay attention when it’s not their turn



I’d maybe limit that to fails on EASY rolls.


Sure!!! It would average out round damage a bit…could be an ability/loot/power called team work :-p.

Anyway, not sure the problem this is solving, but don’t see any harm in it.


Yeah, it’s not really solving a problem, so much as it’s adjusting the game experience. I want most every roll to carry things forward, even if it’s only a little bit.

I’m making my own game system in which there’s no rolling to hit, only rolling “effort” toward goals. Sometimes you roll low, and sometimes high, but you always make progress. I’m trying to get a similar feel from ICRPG.


Cool idea! I like how this could go, and Paxx’s suggestion for it as a power. However, I’d make it conditional on the player (or the table) coming up with the reason for why it set things up and created the opening for a teammate.

Distributes creative prerogative and encourages creative problem solving and storytelling.


My experiences with PbtA, especially Dungeon World, has conditioned me toward failing forward on all rolls. From my experience, you wouldn’t need to provide a free Assist; the failed action can still fail forward. Sometimes, failing forward isn’t a good thing.

In a classic Dungeon World example, Hack and Slash, you succeed and do damage. You kind of succeed and do damage while taking damage. You fail and take damage. In every instance, the player’s roll determines the reaction. In ICRPG, there’s two rolls : player’s attack and enemy’s attack. If you’re alright with the two rolls, perhaps borrow from 13th Age and use an Escalation Die. You can even have it reset after a successful attack. In this instance, the character misses but increases the chance to hit next round.


Dungeon World is based on the fact that every roll has a significance for the character no matter what.

It’s a very cool change of pace, but long term gimmicky or too slow, not quite sure. But it is a great change from the norm, I miss or I hit, GM hits me.


I agree, but it’s more about the economy of rolling that sells me more on failing forward. I hate (HATE) when the dice are rolled and nothing happens. More so in D100 systems than D20, but it’s there : I miss. You miss. I miss. You miss. I miss. You hit.

That isn’t fun for me. Not since PbtA showed me that, when the dice hit the table, SOMETHING happens.

Edit : Just as an example of how bad it can get. There was a combat I ran in d100 that took 42 rolls to resolve. I hit, you parry. You hit, I parry. I miss. You hit, I parry… Dungeon World resolved it in 2. I absolutely hate d100 systems like that.


Oh wow. That’s terrible. Yes, I love the philosophy that the status quo always changes with a roll in PbtA and FitD games. How else might ICRPG accomplish that?


My most recent experience was using ICRPG as a foundation with Forthright which is a d20 take on PbtA. Simple, really : use stats and gear as is but overlay Forthright’s resolution table. The Forthright link is to the free download; there is a paid version, but the text is identical. And I respect that they made that choice.

Edit : And Effort. Basically, I played ICRPG but with a persistent Target of 14. 9-13 was an Exchange in Forthright parlance, i.e. you did the thing but the thing cost you. 8- is you didn’t do the thing and the thing did bad things to you. 21+ is you did the thing and something even better happened because of it.


For an example of what ICRPG and Forthright would look like, this was a blog of an adventure where I combined ICRPG with 5e’s Ideals, Bonds and Flaws for Hero Coin generation and Forthright’s resolution (with a touch of Sword and Wizardry: Continual Light to create a custom class):

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Too long to read casually…but good to see!

I’ll probably read in a day or two.

Short campaigns are fairly easy, one shots are hard, long campaigns are hard.

I’m Interested in the one session game with some meaningful resolution, but often they fall just a bit short. 10 to 12 hours seems to be a good feel for the world and the party.

All that said, rolling forward is something I’m not sure I see a reason not to do, except I want to make it calculated.

Fail makes the next attempt at the same thing easy…no mater who attempts???

Fail allows a + 3 bonus to another character ( players choice) on their next turn???

Fail and add a D6 to another roll???

Get a 1 on an action roll and get a hero point…you can only carry one hero point from scene to scene.

Anyway, you can do a lot…but ultimately I don’t know how much it matters.

But manipulating effort based on roll might help, but mechanics that fit a genre adds to the fun for players. And does not increase GM lifting for the most part other than to keep it straight.


Hmmm. Basically the effect of the Escalation Die could be the same as reducing room TARGET DC by 1 every round.

Like if every round the players got a bit more cool and have everything figured… that is… until a timer got to zero and something happens narrative /mechanically wise pushing the DC back up (or other complications).


LOOT: Class of 83 soccer finals photo
Team picture with something written on the back: “You were never the one to score the most goals, but the team always performed better where you were there…”

When you FAIL an ATTEMPT it turns into EASY for all other players… But not you. :unamused:


Exactly. The Escalation Die can be seen as either the character figuring out an opponent’s tell or it can be like the action just gets more and more frenetic. I personally prefer the latter, where the action builds and everyone just gets more desperate and brutal. IRL, most fights, if I remember correctly, last less than 30 seconds; this isn’t a boxing match, this is straight up brawling for victory. The Escalation Die, since it favors the player, makes the characters just a bit more awesome.


Mechanic systems all have their failure points. 3 out of four fail to hit, is the fourth at +12? Or + d12 effort?

In reality it’s pretty pointless, but if it acts as a benefit to table enjoyment!! I’m all in favor!

Choose your avenue, and stick with it…

If it is fun, no one will care, if it is boring, we only care in the moment.


ICRPG’s use of timers means that every turn the status quo is going to change, whether or not anyone hits. The pressure of, say, reinforcements arriving in 4 rounds has a different spin to it than reinforcements arriving in 3… 2… 1…