I've seen a number of people talking about how great all the meaningful-feeling dialogue choices and ability checks are, and how Larian's promise to make failure feel good, and like just a different way of progressing is great, etc., etc.,...


I have to ask...

What game are those people playing and where are all of those things?

Can I have some examples? Just to reassure me as I move forward in search of them?

Because right now, I'm doing testing of dialogue and choice, and of ability checks in combat. Part of that testing this involves reloading conversations and looking at the different ways that things can play out, with different character, different backgrounds and different choices, and with successes and failures in checks, etc.... and so far (working my way through the druid grove and surrounding area still, now that I'm doing this thoroughly), I'm mostly just feeling like I was lied to.

Far, far too often, I've tracked dialogues where what you say, and what you do, ultimately doesn't matter AT ALL.

What's worse are the ability checks set up to make it look like you can affect or influence things when in reality you can't - that's not fun.

If there is no chance of success or no chance of failure, we should not be rolling dice: ability checks are called for when there exists a chance of a variable outcome, and at times where that is not the case, it's just dialogue and roleplay, no dice involved.

When I'm offered an ability check that I physically cannot fail because the DC is 1 (four or five instances so far), I'm annoyed by the arbitrary waste of time with being made to roll.

When I'm offered a variety of checks and options to try different things, but, no matter what I try and no matter whether I fail or succeed at those checks, the actual NPC doesn't budge and the outcome is the same (Give me the antidote!)... That's infuriating, because it's functionally the game mocking the player by pretending that we have a choice or an influence, only to scrub our face in the truth that we don't. Who in their right mind thought that THAT would be a fun thing?

When I have to attempt a check in conversation, and fail OR succeed, it just leads, one sentence on, to the exact same result (He's injured, I can help!), I'm left asking, again, why did you bother making me roll for something? What was the point? Character roleplay, some might say, but no - the important thing is that I tried to do it, that's the character decision and roleplay point. The fact that how well I do is irrelevant means that it should be handled as dialogue alone, not passed to some arbitrary false ability check that changes nothing, and then passed back again to the same result. That's poor design, and frustrating design, and it's not enjoyable.

When I have a variety of options to try to achieve a single goal, and each of them leads to a check, the failure of which just deposits me back at the same dialogue menu with that option removed, that's not failure feeling like another form of progression. Far too many times in this thorough comb through, failure in checks has just basically been a dead end, a termination, a "sum result as if you'd picked the non-ability-check dialogue" or a "well, that means you miss out" situation. I've not really encountered any failure check so far that has actually felt meaningfully like its creating change that is now a new way for things to develop.

There are, assuredly, lots of things we can do that will dramatically change the progression and outcomes of events as we move forward... but surprisingly few of them have anything to do with ability checks we make in dialogue.

So... what are some examples of meaningful ability check failures, that are not:

a) return to last menu sans that choice
b) result as though you'd picked the non-ability-check option
c) dead end/termination/'guess you just miss out', and then carry on.