Created By: Beacon80 on September 2, 2015 Last Edited By: Koveras on July 7, 2017
Troped

Choice-And-Consequence System

Decisions you make will impact the game later on

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Trope
A video game trope where decisions the player makes can change the course of the game. Being kind to someone early in the game might result in them helping you later on, while if you ignored them, you might need to find a solution without them. Killing a character might end up with a loved one swearing revenge, when he might have become your ally otherwsie. These decisions and their consequences can range from world-changing to insignificant.

There are three requirements to be this trope:
  1. As the name implies, there have to be multiple possible outcomes the player can choose from.
  2. It must have a lasting effect on the game. If all it does is change the next line of dialogue, it's not this trope. If what you say gets brought up later on, it does. Stat increases or other changes limited to game mechanics don't count, either.
  3. The consequences must be a logical result (by whatever passes for "logic" in the game) of your decision.

It became very common, especially for Adventure games in the early 2010s.

This can overlap with Story Branching, but in many cases, the core story doesn't change. Key events will happen more or less the same, regardless of what you do, somewhat like The Stations of the Canon. How characters respond to you, and what tools you have to help with the situation will change, of course, and any game that deals heavily with this trope will likely have Multiple Endings.

A Sub-Trope to Event Flag. Contrast Karma Meter, where consequences are based off your general behavior, rather than specific decisions, and Morton's Fork, where your decision doesn't actually have an impact. See also For Want of a Nail. Often combined with an Old Save Bonus.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Action-Adventure 
  • The Legend of Zelda Oracle games: In both games a family asks you for help with their son, from naming him to paying for a doctor. Giving them what they ask for turns him into a heroic-minded kid, giving too much makes him a Spoiled Brat.

    Adventure Games 
  • Telltale Games became very fond of this trope, starting with The Walking Dead, where the player's choices affect other characters' behavior towards the player character, and even who lives and dies.
  • Life is Strange is built around this. Decisions you make can range from saving someone's life to overwatering your plant. In particular, small acts of kindness can win over characters initially hostile to Max, although this often takes multiple chapters before you see results. Protecting Alyssa from minor harms will quickly get her to christen you her guardian angel.
  • The 2015 King's Quest introduces this as well. At the end of the episode, a screen shows you the decisions you've made. These decisions have a notable effect in how Gwendolyn (who is listening to Graham tell the story) behaves in her own segments.
  • Dreamfall Chapters has a choice-and-consequence system, which the Word of God admits to have been inspired by Telltale Games' approach. Some choices are pretty meaningless (e.g. regardless what you do with the dying prisoner in Friar's Keep, his wife will hate Kian for it), while others have massive consequences (Zoe's last off-handed remark before leaving Storytime basically defines her future career in Europolis).

    RPG — Eastern 
  • Chrono Trigger:
    • During the fair there are numerous, seemingly meaningless actions you can take, such as stealing a man's lunch or returning a little girl's cat to her. When Crono is put on trial, your behavior at the fair is all taken into account. Somewhat subverted as the trial is rigged.
    • Giving jerky to a family in the past turns their present-day descendant from a rich jackass who gives you 10 gil if you cluck like a chicken into a man who's generous to a fault, giving you a family heirloom that's been in his family's care for centuries.
  • Golden Sun: In the first game, leaving any Djinn unfound leaves you unable to get into the Bonus Dungeon of the second game.
    • If you don't get the Force Gem before entering Mogall Forest, the gameplay differs slightly (with the Force Gem, you can tell which is the right way to go), and a later cutscene plays out much differently (causing a boulder to crash down and open a new path, without Force your teammate kicks the boulder). Not getting it by the time the game ends also prevents you from getting in the Bonus Dungeon as well.
    • In the second game, answering "no" to every question your character is asked for the first third of the entire game triggers an extra cutscene.

    RPG — MMO 
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic is a minor case. Occasionally choices you make early in the game, such as whether the Jedi Knight arrests, executes, or releases a fallen Jedi, will come up later on, although with limited impact on the story as a whole.

    RPG — Western 
  • The original Mass Effect trilogy employs the Old Save Bonus to carry over player decisions and accomplishments from installment to installment. For instance, consistently treating a dirt-digging reporter with patience in the first two games wins her over as a valuable ally in part three, while failing to prevent the deaths of the quarian or the geth squadmate in Mass Effect 2 bars you from facilitating peace between their species in Mass Effect 3.
  • The Dragon Age series' choice-and-consequence map is so convoluted (with the biggest Continuity Snarl surrounding the first game's companion Alistair), that its Old Save Bonus subsystem actually started glitching like crazy, forcing the devs to develop a new system, "Dragon Age Keep", that preserves each player's personal canon online and automatically patches any plot inconsistencies that might occur.
  • In The Witcher games, Geralt often has to make decisions whose consequences don't become apparent until much later. For example, in the first game, if he saves soothsayer Abigail's life in Act I, she will appear again in Act IV as a village healer and help him out during a sidequest to put a vengeful ghost to rest.

    Survival Horror 
  • This is a major feature of Until Dawn: not only do the player's decisions have immediate consequences on whether the characters are saved or pulled into greater danger or even killed, but decisions about how the characters interrelate affects their relationships, causing scenes to play out differently (though the main storyline always plays out the same way). The clearest and most dramatic example occurs when the player has a choice between having Chris shoot Ashley or himself - if they choose the former, later in the game she will refuse to open the door for him at a critical time, and he will die.

    Third-Person Shooters 

    Visual Novels 
  • Hayarigami
    • The main Hayarigami trilogy (Hayarigami, Hayarigami 2 and Hayarigami 3) does this when Assistant Inspector Junya Kazami enters a Self-Question phase of a case. He is given options to determine if the evidence collected leads to a case being caused by the supernatural or by a criminal/criminals using the supernatural to hide their deeds, which will lead to a supernatural or non-supernatural conclusion of the said case. There are certain parts of a case where you need to decide a choice, sometimes being used with a Courage Point. If you waste them, then the choice with the CP cannot be used, forcing you to use another choice. Sometimes, the choice with the CP may not necessarily be the best answer.
    • For Shin Hayarigami, Saki Hojo's choices made with CPs and from Liar's Art do determine the direction of how a case will proceed. Not only does it determine how Saki looks at the case from a supernatural or logical explanation, but aspects of the case, such as the suspects and witnesses involved, can change over time. Making a choice will also sometimes get a certain character killed, which may hinder your progress in solving a case.

Community Feedback Replies: 55
  • September 2, 2015
    MasamiPhoenix
    Chrono Trigger has a series of seemingly meaningless events you can do early on, which will have an impact on your trial. Somewhat subverted by the fact that the chancellor will override the decision anyway but at least you get a present from your sympathizers.
  • September 3, 2015
    Koveras
    We already have a page for this mechanic: Event Flag.
  • September 3, 2015
    Beacon80
    Good catch on that, although this is a subtrope to that one. I'll update the description to make the distinction more clear.
  • September 3, 2015
    Koveras
    I still fail to see the distinction, but regardless, this is gonna need a title that does not sound like a line of dialogue—those are long verboten around here.
  • September 3, 2015
    Beacon80
    As I say in the description, there's two major distinctions: multiple options and a logical result. In the original Final Fantasy, rescuing the princess causes the Broken Bridge to get repaired. There's no in-universe reason why one event causes the other. Similarly, you MUST rescue the princess and thus, repair the bridge, so while it's a classic Event Flag, it's not this trope.

    I'll concede the title. There are enough older tropes that violate that rule that I tend to forget it when naming a new one.
  • September 4, 2015
    Arivne

    Several of the examples (including most of the Telltale Games ones) are Zero Context Examples and need more specific information to explain how they're this trope.
  • September 4, 2015
    Chabal2
    • Also from Chrono Trigger: Giving jerky to a family in the past turns their present-day descendant from a rich jackass who gives you 10 gil if you cluck like a chicken into a man who's generous to a fault, giving you a family heirloom that's been in his family's care for centuries (that you dug up in the first place, but a treasure hunter found it and sold it to them).
    • Golden Sun: In the first game, leaving any Djinn unfound leaves you unable to get into the Bonus Dungeon of the second game.
      • If you don't get the Force Gem before entering Mogall Forest, the gameplay differs slightly (with the Force Gem, you can tell which is the right way to go), and a later cutscene plays out much differently (causing a boulder to crash down and open a new path, without Force your teammate kicks the boulder). Not getting it by the time the game ends also prevents you from getting in the Bonus Dungeon as well.
      • In the second game, answering "no" to every question your character is asked for the first third of the entire game triggers an extra cutscene.
    • The Legend Of Zelda Oracle Games: In both games a family asks you for help with their son, from naming him to paying for a doctor. Giving them what they ask for turns him into a heroic-minded kid, giving too much makes him a Spoiled Brat.
  • September 8, 2015
    Beacon80
    Updated the description. I'll admit, I haven't played most of the Telltale games, so although I know they involve this trope, I can't really expand on them. If anyone can fix that for me, I'd appreciate it.
  • September 9, 2015
    Koveras
    Pardon my nitpicking, but I am still failing to see how this is tropable... I have re-read the description a couple times, and the only thing I am picking up is "The player's decisions have consequences to the plot". This sounds basically like People Sit On Chairs to me, because of course some of player's decisions are gonna have consequences—otherwise why let them make them? We aren't making trope pages for "Whether the player prefers swords or bows in-game will impact how far their avatar stands from most enemies in combat, including the Final Boss", either.
  • September 9, 2015
    MasamiPhoenix
    Actually, a lot of games the player has no ability to influence how the plot plays out. In most Mario games, Mario defeats Bowser and that's it. There are no decisions being made by the player that change the story, only his skill at beating the levels. No multiple endings, no alternate story lines, nothing. You can chose which levels to play, or how to play, but in the end, the actual story cannot vary.

    This trope is about when you can vary the story. For example, Life Is Strange has multiple interactions you can do that will change what people think about you. If you are nice to the Alpha Bitch character, than she remembers that later and will help you out and give you more information. If you were mean to her, she ignores you.

    Now, in contrast, there are a lot of games that let you chose dialogue options, yet do not have this trope. For example, Secret of Mana. You get to chose what Kid says often, but other than the very next line of dialogue, this has no effect on the story. You get kicked out of the town no matter what you do, the Sprite joins you no matter what you do, the mushroom king trusts you with the dragon drum no matter what you say to him.

    Actually having decisions that influence the plot has been a dream of game designers for a long time, we've seen advertisements for it as long ago as the SNES age (Final Fantasy VI claimed it, even though it wasn't true) and it's been the basis for many ad campaigns such as Fable, Life Is Strange, and the Walking Dead.

    tl;dr most games don't actually give you the ability to affect the plot line, just to advance it down a predetermined, unshakable path.
  • September 9, 2015
    MasamiPhoenix
    Also, contrast Railroading, where the game prevents you from making choices.
  • September 9, 2015
    Beacon80
    Koveras, for every game where your decisions actually make a difference, there's a hundred where they don't. Take inFamous, for example. At the beginning, you get to choose if you keep the food for you and your friends, or share it with the crowds. The only impact is a change to your Karma Meter. If I keep the food in an otherwise good playthrough, no one will call me out on it. I'll never encounter a starving person I could have helped. The only impact is that it will take me slightly longer to max out my Karma.

    The fact that there is an increasingly large subsection of games built around this trope makes it tropable (and indeed, is what prompted me to add it).
  • September 9, 2015
    Koveras
    Oh, now I see what you're getting at. The industry standard term for this thing is "choice-and-consequence system", and it is, indeed, a popular buzzword that has been thrown around a lot lately. It's even been discussed by analysts like Extra Credits here, and it's actually not about individual decisions but about a game subsystem that keeps all the possible permutations of player decisions narratively consistent.

    I might know a few examples and an index for this, if that's indeed what it is...
  • September 9, 2015
    Beacon80
    I didn't know the industry term. I'll update the title to match.
  • September 9, 2015
    Koveras
    I'd list Mass Effect until the RPG folder, since it's most commonly classified as a Western RPG, despite having TPS mechanics. Here is a proper write-up for it:

    • The original Mass Effect trilogy employs the Old Save Bonus to carry over player decisions and accomplishments from installment to installment. For instance, consistently treating a dirt-digging reporter with patience in the first two games wins her over as a valuable ally in part three, while failing to prevent the deaths of the quarian or the geth squadmate in Mass Effect 2 bars you from facilitating peace between their species in Mass Effect 3.
    • The Dragon Age series' choice-and-consequence map is so convoluted (with the biggest Continuity Snarl surrounding the first game's companion Alistair), that its Old Save Bonus subsystem actually started glitching like crazy, forcing the devs to develop a new system, "Dragon Age Keep", that preserves each player's personal canon online and automatically patches any plot inconsistencies that might occur.

    Adventure
    • Dreamfall Chapters has a choice-and-consequence system, which the Word Of God admits to have been inspired by Telltale Games' approach. Some choices are pretty meaningless (e.g. regardless what you do with the dying prisoner in Friar's Keep, his wife will hate Kian for it), while others have massive consequences (Zoe's last off-handed remark before leaving Storytime basically defines her future career in Europolis).

    As for the index, I think the Interactive Storytelling Tropes would be appropriate. I'd also say that this is a subtrope of Story Branching, since the latter does not require the story to change dramatically, just to have different exclusive plot events based on the players' decisions.
  • September 9, 2015
    WalterSmith
  • September 9, 2015
    Ominae
    I'll suggest a visual novel example later on if that's fine.

    I think Watch_Dogs has an example or two with this.
  • September 10, 2015
    Arivne
    ^^ @Walter Smith: I believe that's an example of Androcles Lion as well.

    You could Pot Hole "it will help you to defeat the game's first El Gigante by distracting him" to Androcles Lion.
  • September 10, 2015
    MorningStar1337
    I'm pretty Sure Shin Megami Tensei and inFamous counts, s well as most Visual Novels and games with a Karma Meter
  • September 10, 2015
    Beacon80
    As I mention in the description, a Karma Meter is similar, but ultimately a separate trope. No one in inFamous cares about what individual decisions you made, just how far on the Karma Meter you are.
  • September 10, 2015
    MasamiPhoenix
    @Arvine, Androcles Lion is very common in examples of this, so maybe that should be mentioned in the description of the trope too.

    @Morning Star 1337, actually most games with Karma Meter avert this trope, as they use the karma meter to judge how people respond to you, instead of specific events.
  • September 17, 2015
    Ominae
    Visual Novel
    • The main Hayarigami trilogy does this when Assistant Inspector Junya Kazami enters a Self-Question phase of a case. He is given options to determine if the evidence collected leads to a case being caused by the supernatural or by a criminal/criminals using the supernatural to hide their deeds, which will lead to a supernatural or non-supernatural conclusion of the said case. There are certain parts of a case where you need to decide a choice, sometimes being used with a Courage Point. If you waste them, then the choice with the CP cannot be used, forcing you to use another choice. Sometimes, the choice with the CP may not necessarily be the best answer.
      • For Shin Hayarigami, Saki Hojo's choices made with CPs and from Liar's Art do determine the direction of how a case will proceed. Not only does it determine how Saki looks at the case from a supernatural or logical explanation, but aspects of the case, such as the suspects and witnesses involved, can change over time. Making a choice will also sometimes get a certain character killed, which may hinder your progress in solving a case.
  • September 17, 2015
    Folamh3
    I would suggest providing more description for the Telltale examples. No Zero Context Examples allowed on the wiki. I know that The Walking Dead has choices beyond branching dialogues, there are also choices about saving or killing people.
  • September 17, 2015
    Beacon80
    I've collapsed the Telltale examples into one. People more familiar with the games can expand them out again if need be.
  • September 17, 2015
    Koveras
    I think it's time to launch this.
  • September 17, 2015
    Ominae
    Agreed. Did we miss anything to put in the description aside from mine?
  • September 22, 2015
    Koveras
    Doesn't look that way.
  • September 22, 2015
    Ominae
    Hmmm...

    I'd add the SMT examples, but I don't know if it's a good idea to generalize everything or mentions specific examples.

    PS - Four hats.
  • September 22, 2015
    Koveras
    More specific examples work best, as a rule of thumb. As for the four hats, Three Rules Of Three only require three hats (four if your own is one of them) for launch, but if you want that last hat, just add a request for it in the title.
  • September 22, 2015
    Ominae
    Right. I'll have to get the visual novel example I added to the list...

    Thinking about the Watch_Dogs example, I don't this'll work since the karma meter is in play in terms of Aiden using lethal or non-lethal force in confronting bad guys and civilians who get caught in the crossfire.

    Someone let me know if this to be worked up.

    • Starting from Shin Megami Tensei I, players will make choices to determine a player's character alignment, from Law to Neutral or Chaos. Some of the choices that you do ranges from recruiting/killing demons of a certain alignment to answering alignment specific questions. You will usually know what your alignment is based from conversations you have with certain characters and bosses you fight.
    • In Devil Summoner and Soul Hackers, most of the conversation choices you make will determine certain outcomes, such as the magic proficiency of your companion (Rei Reiho in DS and Nemissa in SH) and the weakness of the final boss, whether it's from physical or magic attacks. But in DS, the conversation choices will also affect the main character's stats.
  • September 29, 2015
    Ominae
    Bump cause I need someone to check my SMT example to see if it's ok.
  • September 29, 2015
    DAN004
    Compare Acknowledging The Player

    Dunno if this counts
    • Mega Man X 5
      • the decision of playing either X or Zero in the intro stage will determine the specific abilities the other character has; this is because, later in that stage, the other hero will be injured by the Big Bad Sigma and they won't be able to use Fourth Armor (for X, if you played as Zero) or Z-Buster (for Zero, if you played as X) later.
      • Much later, during one of the "final" stages, who you played and what happened to Zero will determine the boss: if Zero successfully used the Shuttle to stop the falling Eurasia Colony (the mission for the bulk of this game), you'll fight Zero if you use X, or X if you use Zero, because X is concerned by Zero's wellbeing (Zero is apparently immune to the lingering Sigma Virus, which raises suspicions among our heroes' organization). On the other hand, if Zero's shuttle mission failed (or if you just let the countdown for the colony reach 0), Zero will be affected by the high concentration of the virus in the colony, and turns evil; you can't use him now, so you have to stop him as X. "Maverick Zero" is also harder to fight than the regular one. This whole thing also leads to the Multiple Endings of the game.
  • October 1, 2015
    Ominae
    If OP is around, a few examples that aren't in the list needs to be checked if it works.
  • October 1, 2015
    HighCrate
    What counts as a "lasting" effect in the second criteria? Many choices don't really change more than a line or two of dialogue, but because those lines come a dozen hours of play later instead of in the next line, it better creates the illusion of consequences. In this way, it's sort of like a player-dropped Chekhovs Gun.

    With that in mind, I'm not sure the second Chrono Trigger example really counts. The effect of teaching the family generosity is long-lasting in-universe, having repercussions hundreds of years later, but because the player characters are time-travelers, from the player's perspective it's never mentioned again after you complete the one sidequest where it's relevant.
  • October 3, 2015
    ClockStopping
    • This is a major feature of Until Dawn: not only do the player's decisions have immediate consequences on whether the characters are saved or pulled into greater danger or even killed, but decisions about how the characters interrelate affects their relationships, causing scenes to play out differently (though the main storyline always plays out the same way). The clearest and most dramatic example occurs when the player has a choice between having Chris shoot Ashley or himself - if they choose the former, later in the game she will refuse to open the door for him at a critical time, and he will die.
  • October 4, 2015
    DAN004
    Does my example count?
  • November 11, 2015
    Ominae
    Has this page been launched?
  • November 11, 2015
    Koveras
    No. I am guessing the OP waits for the last couple hats.
  • November 11, 2015
    DAN004
    I don't think the OP is around.
  • November 11, 2015
    Exxolon
    I haven't played any of The Witcher games much, but I recall that this was a major mechanic of them and that consequences of your choices would often not become apparent until much further into the game to make it harder for players to just save scum to get the "best" results.
  • November 12, 2015
    Koveras
    ^ Can confirm that.
  • November 21, 2015
    Ominae
    Been updated yet?
  • November 21, 2015
    DAN004
    So um, the decisions must make an impact to the story? What if it also gives you some better weapons or stats?

    And this is a supertrope to Multiple Endings, right? Choices that determines endings should fall there instead.
  • January 7, 2016
    Ominae
    IMO, this can be a supertrope.

    Also, there anything that this page needs to be fixed before it can be launched?
  • January 7, 2016
    Koveras
    ^ Not necessarily. Multiple Endings are related but not directly, since there is also a trope called Last Second Ending Choice, where Multiple Endings are not a consequence of any previous choices at all.
  • January 8, 2016
    Ominae
    It's possible. Although I'd wager that multiple endings is still a possible consequences of making certain choices.
  • January 8, 2016
    Koveras
    ^ Of course. Some games decide which ending you get based on previous choices, some on Karma Meter, and some on the last final choice. Some games even let you unlock additional endings with earlier choices, but let you decide which one you want in the last minute. My point is that this one is not a supertrope to Multiple Endings, but rather, both of them are subtropes of Story Branching.
  • January 8, 2016
    Ominae
    I guess that has to be mentioned in the OP.

    Although the list may have to be changed for anything not listed yet.
  • January 17, 2016
    Koveras
    Bump.
  • February 10, 2016
    Koveras
  • February 10, 2016
    Arivne
  • July 3, 2017
    Koveras
    Bump...
  • July 3, 2017
    Gosicrystal
    Corrected a typo (can chose choose from)
  • July 5, 2017
    Koveras
    If nobody cares, I will update the examples and launch this one in the next few days...
  • July 5, 2017
    NightShade96
    ^ This hasn't been properly edited since February 2016.
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