Narrative Control – Episode 36 – Dare to be Stupid

Hi, and welcome back to Narrative Control. This week’s episode was a bit delayed. Justin and I both went to GenCon last week and my recovery time is not what it would have been 10 years ago. But here the episode is, edited and with better audio quality than the last (cheating on account of the fact that the last one was recording at a con). This week Justin and I are talking about one of John Wicks’s Play Dirty videos. John, as always, has some great ideas, thing we wanted to expand on, specifically playing to fail, or in other words “Dare to be stupid.”

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 25:04

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the show and a super short GenCon review.
[01:05] Promo for White Wolf blogcast:
[01:33] A failed roll. Wait. I still find Lando?
[02:47] Inspired by John Wicks’s Play Dirty Video: Players, Players Everywhere (
[04:20] Succeeding all the time doesn’t make for a good story. Heroes aren’t de-protagonized by failure.
[05:56] A paraphrase of John’s youtube clip “Do Stupid Stuff.”
[06:25] This is counter to our intuition. Both of us usually want to see our characters succeed.
[07:05] Why do we feel the need to succeed. Fear of hitting a dead end or having their characters become failures.
[08:21] Fate System. Aspects describe both strengths and weaknesses of the characters. Encouraging player by giving them a fate chip for being compelled to foible. (
[10:00] Also puts the idea out there that you start the game flawed. We agree in advance that you’re going to stumble over something of your choice.
[10:49] Mouse Guard. Explicit encouragement to fail. Story structure -> Twists -> Advancement! (
[12:19] Players can also put their characters at more risk using their traits. Encouragement to stack things against yourself.
[14:38] An example of using traits against yourself.
[16:30] This is something that players have to get used it. It appears counter-intuitive at first.
[17:00] A voice from a player “Anytime I hear the word “Fail” I cringe” (
[18:22] Does externalizing the threat remove the sting of failure?
[19:51] Justin: It feels strange to look for ways mechanically to defeat myself. I’d rather put more at risk for a greater reward.
[20:55] Consequences stated up front in Burning Wheel and they are negotiated between the players and GM.
[21:54] What about times when heroes just fail? Example: Harry Dresden fails all the time.
[22:52] Failure is fine… but the story can’t end. This happened all the time in Burning Warcraft (

Direct Download: NC_Episode_036.mp3

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