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Subject: Designing Objectives in Board Games rss

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Kenneth Tan
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Hey guys. I hope the thread subject didn't mislead you to think this is the "How board games waste our time because they're pointless"... NO! I was wondering whether there have been solid end game objectives in our card games, in our board games.

I've honestly had enough of "The first Hero who reaches lvl 10,20,30 wins the game" type objectives, and the really mundane and pointless "When the tiles/cards run out, count the number of quest/victory points in your hand, and the player with the highest points win".. I'm even kinda sick of "Explore till you meet the boss and DEFEAT it/him/her/them" type games.

I want to create a game where the objective of the player feels worth accomplishing. Something that would, at the start of the game, drive me to play to the end and more to see it happen. How would we even begin to create something like that?

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Nicholas Hall
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Re: Objectivity in Board Games today
I'm not a 100% sure I understand what you're asking. It seems as though you are unhappy with win conditions of games (which I would differentiate from the objective of the game, but that is besides the point). Can you describe an "objective" as you call it, in another medium that would fulfill your condition of "worth accomplishing" ?
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Re: Objectivity in Board Games today
Devils advocate/Negative Nellie: You can't. Why? Because any static end goal will become mundane, boring, humdrum after your Nth game no matter how non-cliché your goal starts out to be. *yawn* I have to become ruler of the universe... again.

Positive Betty: Now how about an investigative game where you discover your objective as you play? That's interesting right? Or a "modular" objective: A super objective built out of sub objectives... that are secret and each player has their own?

While the goal certainly drives the game, the gameplay *is* the game. I would rather have a mundane goal (get most VPs) if the gameplay is top notch than the other way around. But I am greedy: I want both.

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Laura Creighton
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Re: Objectivity in Board Games today
There are games where the primary goal is a contest between the game designer and each of the players. Here is a puzzle. Solve it -- and faster or more efficiently or luckier than the other players. I think you are tired of these.

Then there are other games where the designer gives you a framework, and says -- now go have fun with it. The primary contest is between the players. There are multiple different strategies to win, and what you should be doing is entirely dependent on what other people are, or are not doing.

Many economic games work this way.

See: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/602967/alexfrogs-navegador-s... as a way that this works in Navegador. Navegador has all the trappings of a more usual 'get the VPs' euro, but feels quite a bit like an economic simulator when you are playing it. If this has appeal, there are many other economic simulation games which can deliver what you want.

If, on the other hand, what you are interested in learning is exactly how Mac Gerdts did it then, after you have the game and get familiar with it, pay especial attention to the location of the various rondel squares, and how wonderfully balanced the colony strategy is against the factory strategy. This is very much a 'the whole thing holds together' sort of accomplishment -- none of the bits work in isolation from each other, by design, which means that everything has to be balanced against everything else in order to make it work at all. This makes it a delight to analyse, and to model with monte carlo simulations, and to devise robot players for, assuming you like that sort of thing.

oh -- and alexfrog's strategy is in no way the last word in Navegador strategy, as you will discover if you analyse long enough. Which is sort of the point. Any game that somebody could write the definitive strategy guide for, you are already bored with, by definition.

Finally, if you change the title of this thread to 'Designing objectives in boardgaming' you are more likely to attract the readership you want. I thought we were heading down 'can we objectively say that a boardgame is badly designed even though many people (subjectively) love it', and I suspect others did as well.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Re: Objectivity in Board Games today
kennethtwk wrote:
Hey guys. I hope the thread subject didn't mislead you to think this is the "How board games waste our time because they're pointless"... NO! I was wondering whether there have been solid end game objectives in our card games, in our board games.

I've honestly had enough of "The first Hero who reaches lvl 10,20,30 wins the game" type objectives, and the really mundane and pointless "When the tiles/cards run out, count the number of quest/victory points in your hand, and the player with the highest points win".. I'm even kinda sick of "Explore till you meet the boss and DEFEAT it/him/her/them" type games.

I want to create a game where the objective of the player feels worth accomplishing. Something that would, at the start of the game, drive me to play to the end and more to see it happen. How would we even begin to create something like that?



I was wondering whether there have been solid end thread objectives in our forum threads.

I've honestly had enough of What's the probability of so-and-soand the really mundane and pointless Will someone steal my game design if I post it here. I'm even sick of I'm going to self-publish type threads.

I want to create a thread where the objective of the poster feels worth accomplishing. Something that would, at the start of the thread, drive me to post to the end and more to see it happen.


.... hehhe ....

Anyway, I do have a solution. Play a storytelling-type roleplaying game, like Mouse Guard. Make a character, and make an open-ended story. Your objective is to tell that story, to explore the continuation of that character's life-saga. And if you manage to engage your friends and also get engaged in your friends' stories, then the game becomes a memorable and exciting experience.

... Is it worth accomplishing? I dunno. Depends on what you're trying to get out of it. Some are just looking for a fun time-waster. Others seek to develop real relationships. Some want to learn and practice critical thinking skills. Those are usually not listed in rulebooks.
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Stuart Finlay
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Re: Objectivity in Board Games today
What you're asking seems very vague as different people have different motivations and taste in what drives them to play a game.

Take a look at the aesthetics part of MDA. This should do as a starting point: http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=17464#...

I'd suggest Risk Legacy as a game that does objectives well.
Discovery is an objective that would keep me playing and so opening the sealed packets with all their secrets is a great way to keep me interested. This can be triggered through events the players make happen which creates a narrative through the multiple games. Then once opened some packs allow for army customization (expression) which gives many players that sense of accomplishment you're looking for. This is one way to approach it.

Edit: As Laura suggested above Competition (often considered an aesthetic missing from the list in that article) between players is a common and effective objective for many players but doesn't seem to be what you're after. Sturv mentions mouseguard which combines narrative (storytelling) and fellowship (shared experience) as the main objectives. The players aren't playing because defeating the cat/stealing the cheese makes them feel satisfied. They feel satisfied because they are having that great social experience with their friends.
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Nicholas Hall
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Re: Objectivity in Board Games today
I was also gonna link to MDA!

I think creativity could also be a good aesthetic to pursue. Imagine that after a game you had an awesome artwork/sculpture to go to the winner.

Extra Credits did quite a nice video that quickly explained the Aesthetics of Play. Link to video here: http://penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/aesthetics-of-play
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Kenneth Tan
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Re: Objectivity in Board Games today
lexaqulia wrote:
I'm not a 100% sure I understand what you're asking. It seems as though you are unhappy with win conditions of games (which I would differentiate from the objective of the game, but that is besides the point). Can you describe an "objective" as you call it, in another medium that would fulfill your condition of "worth accomplishing" ?


Maybe I didn't phrase it right... So let's take Munchkins. The win condition is to reach lvl 10, whilst the objective is to prevent other players from getting there faster than you? Would that be the differentiation? I guess a condition worth accomplishing is something that fills a player with pride completing the goal, after having spent considerable effort into it, while not being a grind for him/her...? That was the thread topic, to figure out better objectives in games... must've not written it properly.. sorry!

Avianfoo wrote:
Devils advocate/Negative Nellie: You can't. Why? Because any static end goal will become mundane, boring, humdrum after your Nth game no matter how non-cliché your goal starts out to be. *yawn* I have to become ruler of the universe... again.

Positive Betty: Now how about an investigative game where you discover your objective as you play? That's interesting right? Or a "modular" objective: A super objective built out of sub objectives... that are secret and each player has their own?

While the goal certainly drives the game, the gameplay *is* the game. I would rather have a mundane goal (get most VPs) if the gameplay is top notch than the other way around. But I am greedy: I want both.



When you talk about secret objectives, "Mad Mad Charles" and "Once upon a time" rang in my ears... the whole secrecy thing while misleading others is indeed a fun genre. I agree gameplay is important, if not the most important element of board games, but... end goals are equally AS important... what's a good movie with a shitty ending...

Playing Zooloretto to end off counting VPs has always been anticlimactic to me, and my little cousins would run off and leave me to do the counting... they enjoyed the gameplay, but didn't care much for winning if tedious counting had to be involved, ONLY for the sole purpose of determining a winner... seems to take away from the whole gameplay experience, if you get what I mean...

I would never sacrifice goals for gameplay, but I want a proper, meaningful goal. Something, anything, cause, you're not alone that everyone wants EVERYTHING

lacreighton wrote:
There are games where the primary goal is a contest between the game designer and each of the players. Here is a puzzle. Solve it -- and faster or more efficiently or luckier than the other players. I think you are tired of these.

Then there are other games where the designer gives you a framework, and says -- now go have fun with it. The primary contest is between the players. There are multiple different strategies to win, and what you should be doing is entirely dependent on what other people are, or are not doing.

Many economic games work this way.

See: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/602967/alexfrogs-navegador-s... as a way that this works in Navegador. Navegador has all the trappings of a more usual 'get the VPs' euro, but feels quite a bit like an economic simulator when you are playing it. If this has appeal, there are many other economic simulation games which can deliver what you want.

If, on the other hand, what you are interested in learning is exactly how Mac Gerdts did it then, after you have the game and get familiar with it, pay especial attention to the location of the various rondel squares, and how wonderfully balanced the colony strategy is against the factory strategy. This is very much a 'the whole thing holds together' sort of accomplishment -- none of the bits work in isolation from each other, by design, which means that everything has to be balanced against everything else in order to make it work at all. This makes it a delight to analyse, and to model with monte carlo simulations, and to devise robot players for, assuming you like that sort of thing.

oh -- and alexfrog's strategy is in no way the last word in Navegador strategy, as you will discover if you analyse long enough. Which is sort of the point. Any game that somebody could write the definitive strategy guide for, you are already bored with, by definition.

Finally, if you change the title of this thread to 'Designing objectives in boardgaming' you are more likely to attract the readership you want. I thought we were heading down 'can we objectively say that a boardgame is badly designed even though many people (subjectively) love it', and I suspect others did as well.


I definitely would look into Navegador more. I've never come across that game, and it sounds intriguing. My main gripe with this is, how do you design those Euro style games without resorting to VP or property counting. (eg, Dominion, Settlers, El Grande, Citadels?) And how could we design dungeon crawlers without mundane boss defeat or level goals. (D&D Board Games, Descent, Munchkin, WoW and the like...)

Euro style games have a heavy focus on gameplay mechanic with player interaction, and the interaction is something I find amazing in every good Euro style game, they really do lack a good end goal...

Even monopoly, where gameplay is... vile... has a more satisfying goal, even if it's for just the one person who's winning. There's the "dominating feel"... not to say it should be incorporated, just... VPs are... lackluster, uninspired... an HOUR of intense backstabbing in Citadels should not end in "OH, 7 properties, let's count points and see who wins..."

A game closer to my heart, Descent(Second Edition) has good objective based goals, different storylines to play through, and good, flowing gameplay mechanic to drive players along. It did fall short towards the end, but I was driven by my varying objectives and calculating every movement for optimum efficiency to thwart the overlord...

BTW, how do I change the thread title?
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Kenneth Tan
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stuartfinlay wrote:
What you're asking seems very vague as different people have different motivations and taste in what drives them to play a game.

Take a look at the aesthetics part of MDA. This should do as a starting point: http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=17464#...

I'd suggest Risk Legacy as a game that does objectives well.
Discovery is an objective that would keep me playing and so opening the sealed packets with all their secrets is a great way to keep me interested. This can be triggered through events the players make happen which creates a narrative through the multiple games. Then once opened some packs allow for army customization (expression) which gives many players that sense of accomplishment you're looking for. This is one way to approach it.

Edit: As Laura suggested above Competition (often considered an aesthetic missing from the list in that article) between players is a common and effective objective for many players but doesn't seem to be what you're after. Sturv mentions mouseguard which combines narrative (storytelling) and fellowship (shared experience) as the main objectives. The players aren't playing because defeating the cat/stealing the cheese makes them feel satisfied. They feel satisfied because they are having that great social experience with their friends.


Thank you and lexaqulia for linking me to MDA... I guess you're right that everyone has a different idea of what makes a game fun.

I had automatically assumed if you were buying a designer board game, it was for the unique experience of something beyond monopoly, scrabble, uno and other "switch-off" submissive board games.

I would assume that a common consensus would be that people here enjoy the challenge, enjoy the immersion into fantasy, the world of the game, enjoy the fiero of gloriously winning your opponents, or the pride that the whole team worked cooperatively towards a single, worthit end goal.

As much as I love board games, I somehow feel not enough thought and effort is put in to end goals. Don't get me wrong, the meat of all games is gameplay, but that aftertaste of a gaming session, like wine, is what drives us to come back for another.
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Laura Creighton
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To change the title

Go back to your first note.
On the bottom right corner is a list of words:
QuickReply QuickQuote Reply Quote Edit Delete

Edit is the button you want.
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Laura Creighton
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This brand new thread may be if interest,
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/887774/rpg-board-game-combin... if any of you aren't subscribed to it.
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Richard B
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I completely get where you are coming from. I've come full circuit in my gaming. Starting with the likes of Monopoly/Risk in the days of yore, moving into Euros, then D&D and now favoring "Ameri-trash".

I've come to the conclusion that I enjoy high strategy and analysis, mixed with a touch of randomness that can be hedged against. Story and Theme are very important as is player interaction.

In many great games I am disappointed by the win condition or arbitrary end.

This has enlightened me in my own designs to strive for a meaningful goal or end game trigger.

This is hard and it is easy to see why so many designers abstract to VPs or turn limits.

I'm with you. I would love to see more discussion around this topic.

As for my own contribution, here are common questions I use:

1) On each turn of the game, would I be excited to keep striving for this goal?
2) Is it immediately apparent to a new player how their actions get them closer to the win condition?
3) If a player plays optimally, how often do they still lose?
4) What percentage of players are still in the "hunt" on the last turn/round?
5) Thematically does the win condition make sense?
6) Does taking an action always push a player closer to winning or can they end up in a meaningless quagmire?
7) Can the game guide players to finishing the game, even if all players play sub optimally.
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James Hutchings
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kennethtwk wrote:
I want to create a game where the objective of the player feels worth accomplishing. Something that would, at the start of the game, drive me to play to the end and more to see it happen. How would we even begin to create something like that?


Maybe start with a theme, and think about what people in that situation would actually want.
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Kenneth Tan
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simland wrote:
I completely get where you are coming from. I've come full circuit in my gaming. Starting with the likes of Monopoly/Risk in the days of yore, moving into Euros, then D&D and now favoring "Ameri-trash".

I've come to the conclusion that I enjoy high strategy and analysis, mixed with a touch of randomness that can be hedged against. Story and Theme are very important as is player interaction.

In many great games I am disappointed by the win condition or arbitrary end.

This has enlightened me in my own designs to strive for a meaningful goal or end game trigger.

This is hard and it is easy to see why so many designers abstract to VPs or turn limits.

I'm with you. I would love to see more discussion around this topic.

As for my own contribution, here are common questions I use:

1) On each turn of the game, would I be excited to keep striving for this goal?
2) Is it immediately apparent to a new player how their actions get them closer to the win condition?
3) If a player plays optimally, how often do they still lose?
4) What percentage of players are still in the "hunt" on the last turn/round?
5) Thematically does the win condition make sense?
6) Does taking an action always push a player closer to winning or can they end up in a meaningless quagmire?
7) Can the game guide players to finishing the game, even if all players play sub optimally.


Noted to all your pointers... those will really help thanks Anyway, an excellent game I can excuse for VP consition is Kingsburg... Oh so complex... and so much fun...

Another question I have been pondering was, is it that important to crown a winner? If the game is deep and engaging for hours on end, does the winner of it really matter that much? Because now we're equating victory to conclusion, but what if it could conclude without a victor...

Anyway just ranting... thanks for the pointers, really
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Take a look at this blog post: The Choices We Make

It's about game goals/objectives. I can't tell but to me it sounds like you are asking about whether there can be more games with "discreet" victory conditions versus scored victory (e.g. VP's). Are you thinking of games like Chess where the goal is to capture the opponent’s king – first player to do that ends the game?

Taluva is an abstract tile-laying euro game. Players place tiles and build three different types of buildings following special placement rules. The first player to build all of two of the three types of buildings win. Does that count? It isn't a numerical score comparrison in that sense.
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Patrick Robles
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kennethtwk wrote:


Noted to all your pointers... those will really help thanks Anyway, an excellent game I can excuse for VP consition is Kingsburg... Oh so complex... and so much fun...

Another question I have been pondering was, is it that important to crown a winner? If the game is deep and engaging for hours on end, does the winner of it really matter that much? Because now we're equating victory to conclusion, but what if it could conclude without a victor...

Anyway just ranting... thanks for the pointers, really


That sort of enters into RPG territory. I think having a victor is an expectation but I would like to try games without a winner.

I've a rough idea in mind for a game in which people are competing for, and trading, limited resources in order to craft an item or artwork. Everyone would have their own agenda, the competition comes in with leveraging what you have to gain what you need, the satisfaction would be from how closely you can achieve your vision.

And now that has led me to really wanting to make this idea a reality and have it a companion game for my WIP card RPG. Items crafted in the above game could be used or sold in the RPG game world... I really dig that actually.

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Kenneth Tan
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Mezmorki wrote:
Take a look at this blog post: The Choices We Make

It's about game goals/objectives. I can't tell but to me it sounds like you are asking about whether there can be more games with "discreet" victory conditions versus scored victory (e.g. VP's). Are you thinking of games like Chess where the goal is to capture the opponent’s king – first player to do that ends the game?

Taluva is an abstract tile-laying euro game. Players place tiles and build three different types of buildings following special placement rules. The first player to build all of two of the three types of buildings win. Does that count? It isn't a numerical score comparrison in that sense.


Yea it does actually, and perhaps how close the other players were getting to building their structures make the game exciting and engaging till the end.

Since my current game is a Fantasy Dungeon Crawler, I've been trying to thematically inject objectives into it, and falter every time I realize I'm near becoming a Descent clone, or another D&D type thing...

See, to design an objective, one must understand the theme. War games typically have conquest type objectives, which is fine and well, as financial games have monetary monopoly kind of objectives.

There's this quote, that to be unique, is to have the ability to mask your influences. It really makes me think. How to have a satisfying Dungeon Crawler without having to resort to the old cheesy "Mystical Treasure" at the end, or "Slaying hoards of monsters"... Or am I just stereotyping the whole genre...?

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Kenneth Tan
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Mezmorki wrote:
Take a look at this blog post: The Choices We Make

It's about game goals/objectives. I can't tell but to me it sounds like you are asking about whether there can be more games with "discreet" victory conditions versus scored victory (e.g. VP's). Are you thinking of games like Chess where the goal is to capture the opponent’s king – first player to do that ends the game?

Taluva is an abstract tile-laying euro game. Players place tiles and build three different types of buildings following special placement rules. The first player to build all of two of the three types of buildings win. Does that count? It isn't a numerical score comparrison in that sense.


Thanks for the blog post referral. It's immensely fascinating. I'm re-reading it right now just to absorb it properly...
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Patrick Robles
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kennethtwk wrote:


Yea it does actually, and perhaps how close the other players were getting to building their structures make the game exciting and engaging till the end.

Since my current game is a Fantasy Dungeon Crawler, I've been trying to thematically inject objectives into it, and falter every time I realize I'm near becoming a Descent clone, or another D&D type thing...

See, to design an objective, one must understand the theme. War games typically have conquest type objectives, which is fine and well, as financial games have monetary monopoly kind of objectives.

There's this quote, that to be unique, is to have the ability to mask your influences. It really makes me think. How to have a satisfying Dungeon Crawler without having to resort to the old cheesy "Mystical Treasure" at the end, or "Slaying hoards of monsters"... Or am I just stereotyping the whole genre...?



Oddly enough I am in the same boat. I had my first round of play testing this Saturday, no actual objectives in the game. Sunday I did a few play throughs with a simple goal: kill or parley with 5 Fauns.

That quest would be dressed up with flavor text but that is trivial. As far as creating quests my approach is to identify which class type I want the objective to cater to, then identify what skills I want to be tested primarily, then I build the flavor on top of that.

In the example above, Plumbing the depths of Faun Hall! players have the choice of killing or talking to the creatures, which is to represent negotiating peace with them. So they have the option of completing it in two very different ways, by choosing to use, and build, Scholarly skills or those of the Warrior.

The difficulty of the encounters are adjusted to force a certain amount of specialization, killing the creatures requires a heavy bias in the Warrior abilities, while communicating with them needs only a modest boost in the Scholarly skills of Linguistics and Knowledge. I've made the non violent option a bit easier so that the player will have available points to spend to buff Warrior or Scoundrel skills to deal with the various other encounters in the quest. Scoundrel being the ideal choice as the amount of points left won't allow for a very effective fighter but it is still a valid option.

My philosophy being that not all quests or objectives should be equally accessible to all class types, or should play very differently depending on player choices. Another quest I am working on involves taking a contract to kill a pack of wolves terrorizing a farmer's flock. As the player progresses it is revealed that the pack is controlled by a werewolf, at this point in the game a Warrior simple cannot defeat a werewolf, so the player is forced to use the Scoundrel skill Sneak to complete the quest, or forfeit the contract. Or, I suppose, try to defeat the monster and die.

I've another that tests each skill available to a player. Any player can "pass" each test either successfully or with a degree of failure. Degrees of failure represent passage of time that directly, but unknown to the player, damages one of a group of children that the player is trying to find in a system of caves, naturally.

Another, which is initially presented as "go kill this monster" turns out to require use of the Scholarly skill in healing in order to complete. Flavor-wise you are contracted to kill a creature that is abducting students from a university, as the quest progresses it is revealed that the creature is intelligent and is snatching the students to bring back to her lair in order to heal her litter of young that are slowly dying. The students are all in a bad state from the abduction and injuries from escape attempts, so it is up to the player to perform the healing.

This might not work for you but I seem to be having luck with it. Identify a mechanism of the game you want to test then build from there. If you have something like knowledge of ancient languages in your game, simply choosing to test that skill should lead to objectives beyond finding an amulet or killing a monster.

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Carl Nyberg
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What about "first player to prevent world war III is the winner!"

Or, you could have an alternate history: "first player to prevent world war I is the winner!"
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