Thanks and Complaints instead of Success or Failure in RPGs

Thank You note card
Some of the most interesting and fun RPG mechanics come when you disregard the typical success/failure dichotomy in most games. At an extreme, "success" simply confirms what the player just stated while "Failure" denies that contribution and brings you back to square one.

So here's another idea: Instead of "Success," you get thanks. Instead of "Failure," you get complaints. This assumes whatever you said happens happens, but what follows is up to fate.

"I thwack the dragon with my broadsword!"
"You get several complaints!"

"I stab the kobold!"
"It thanks you profusely!"

Any ideas on how you'd use a system like this? Share them in the comments!


  1. Sounds like a meta-roleplaying game. Imagine each character is an actor in some production, so the player is acting out the character acting out their role on stage. "Success" means your action is plausible and compelling; failure means it isn't.

    Because this is all staged, everyone knows the parts ahead of time, so if you say "I stab the kobold!" then the kobold knows it's going to get stabbed, and has rehearsed the part extensively. The only question is whether the audience likes it.

    Thanks for posting this! It's certainly interesting. I'll add it to my list of games to prototype.

  2. I may be able to use this concept in a hack of a hack of a hack that I'm working on. Somewhat cartoony dungeon-crawl, based on a certain popular adventurous cartoon. Though in this case, the compaints/compliments could go either way, I think.
    "I slash at the dragon." (failure) "The dragon thanks you for the toothpick, and takes your sword away."
    "I slash at the dragon." (failure) "The dragon looks at you, bored, and starts to lecture you on what you're doing wrong."

    "I kick the ice wizard." (success) "The Ice Wizard starts to whine, complaining how you're always so mean to him."
    "I kick the ice wizard." (success) "The Ice Wizard, falling down the stairs, laughs 'Oh, nice one!' between painful yelps."

    ...well, at least it's a thought, for now.

  3. Dude, you read my mind completely.

  4. Some folks on Google+ were talking about using this as a Pro Wrestling system, where you try to maximize the audience approval within your physical limits. Really interesting stuff!

  5. You could also use it for task resolution where the relationship between the characters and the task giver is important. Success would get you more desirable tasks / jobs / etc (escorting the prince/princess) where failure gets you the dregs (mucking out the stables)

  6. Similar to the pro-wrestling idea, I think this would work well for an argumentation mini-game. Imagine trying to sway opinion of a crowd. Congress: the RPG?

  7. Oh yeah! That's a theme where success or failure really is independent of how much gratitude you get for it. If you fail, some might thank you. If you succeed, some might complain. Very interesting!


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