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Choice-and-Consequence System

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Oh yes, and then a prisoner begs me to release him. And a bit of text comes up to none-too-subtly inform me that "My Actions Will Have Consequences!" Of course they will! Walking across a room has consequences — the consequence is that I'm on the other side of the fucking room!

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 otherwise. 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 narrative. 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 non-narrative 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.

Choices and consequences are most common in Visual Novels, with The Portopia Serial Murder Case (1983) being the Ur-Example. It also became very common in other video game genres by the early 2010s, especially in Adventure Games as well as Role Playing Games. The basic purpose of a C&C system is to validate the player's narrative decisions by showing characters in the game world reacting to it, similarly to how a Game Master would role-play NPCs in response to player actions in a Tabletop RPG. Of course, no virtual system currently offers the nearly limitless narrative possibility space a good GM provides, so the devs instead try to think of and to account for as many interesting narratively meaningful decisions as they can fit into a C&C system.

This can overlap with Story Branching, but in many cases, the core story doesn't change. Even though the plot may branch out briefly, 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.


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  • 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 
  • Blackout have a somewhat subtle version. Firstly, the game offers the player relatively few straight-up either-or choices, and the consequences of them aren't immediately obvious. Secondly, the game is more about tracking how the player interacts with the world (i.e. how often does the player buy drinks at the bars, have sex with (or just talk to) the prostitutes at the local brothel, have sessions with their therapist, or pay visits to the library, to mention a few), and mainly uses these parameters to determine which of the game's four personality types (styled after the four Classical Elements) the Player Character fits into, and alter bits of the story according, and eventually determines the ending base on this.
  • Detroit: Become Human: A big part of the game is that your choices matter and picking one choice over another could be the key to moving through the plot, or might get a playable character killed. There are also multiple choices on how to progress through the chapter (such as using violence to progress or being diplomatic), with some routes resulting in better outcomes than others.
  • Dot's Home marks which of your choices will make a big impact in the story by telling you that your choice will be remembered. Other choices give you different responses, but they're not big enough to change the plot's direction. The consequences from the major choices are then revealed to Dot by her Grandma Mavis when the former returns to the present.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Telltale Games was the master 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. Though aside from situations like choosing to save Carly or Josh, or trusting John Doe, these effects are pretty minimal.

    Hack and Slash 
  • Dynasty Warriors:
    • In the Three Kingdoms' stories in 4, the last two chapters see the player's forces conquer the other two kingdoms, the order of which depends on if Zhuge Liang's wind prayer in Chi Bi succeeds or not. Also, each kingdom's story has six Secret Stages, known as Tales stages, which can be unlocked by skipping certain stages in the story.
    • 8 also features this, as each kingdom (Shu, Wei, Wu and Jin) has a hypothetical story as well as the historical story, and there are Secret Stages that can be unlocked by fulfilling certain conditions.

    Management Games 
  • In King of the Castle, every decision made, by both the Council of Nobles and the King themself, will have consequences that have to be dealt with later. For example, a vote to determine what to do about a plague can lead to an outbreak and dwindling resources if not contained, or the plagued territory needing financial aid if it is contained and trade routes are cut off.
  • Not for Broadcast is basically all about this trope. What you choose to play and when you choose to play it can radically change the fates of multiple characters, major and minor. In particular, the ending changes wildly depending on three particular factors: whether Jeremy Donaldson is alive, whether Alan James is alive, and whether you air the unidentified footage on the last day - all of which are completely under the player's control.

    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. Played With, as the trial is rigged, though you receive some items for having a strong testimony.
    • 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 an obviously magical and powerful stone that he found abandoned because you asked nicely.
  • Cris Tales features this thanks to Crisbell's power, the ability to look into the past, present and future at the same time.
    • One of Wilhelm's skills is to create a plant that can have different effects. Normally, they take several turns to hatch, but if you place it in the side that Crisbell can send into the future, the plant will immediately hatch.
    • The first sidequest the player gets is to which of two houses will get a potion that prevents a plague from ruining it in the future. Once you choose, you look into the future and see your choice getting restored.
    • There's a street musician in St. Clarity that becomes a thief in the future. Give him enough money in the present and his future self will change to an accomplished musician.
    • A local boy is sick in the present, and leaping into the future lets you learn that he died because he accidentally drank poisoned water and his family is poor and despondent. Give him an antidote in the present, and not only is the family in the future prospering, the lower neighborhood is no longer sunken under a rising sea (because the boy fixes up the system that prevents the sea from flooding the zone).
  • In Golden Sun, leaving any Djinn unfound leaves you unable to get into the Bonus Dungeon of the second game, Golden Sun: The Lost Age.
    • 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 Lost Age, answering "no" to every question your character is asked for the first third of the entire game triggers an extra cutscene.
  • v4 of Rakenzarn Tales handles these via a system known as Critical Choice. The game pull up a unique screen where the player will go over their options and determine the best course of action. Your choices determine how a quest may play out, will heavily affect the Relationship Values of your teammates and can change who joins the party.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 has this in play for its sidequests. Several feature choices which will affect which future quest chains are available, and will alter the relationships between NPCs (which can be tracked on an in-game chart). For example, one quest has you encourage an NPC to become either an artist or a soldier, another has you deciding which side of a Love Triangle to favour, and a third has you either encouraging a soldier to fight a duel fairly or find them a poisoned blade to help them cheat. And all these are just from the first town. Shulk's ability to see the future gives you a brief preview of the consequences of each branch, but it's never perfect.

    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 
  • Deltarune: Being a thematic sequel to Undertale (listed lower in this folder), features this, although (initially) to a lesser extent. Chapter 1 does track things the player can do, but it mainly results in some changed dialogue or getting some items early on in chapter 2, with the only major difference being the context of how the chapter ends, which doesn't affect the beginning of chapter 2. This is because the theme of chapter 1 is 'your choices don't matter'. Chapter 2 goes further with this; to the point of including a Genocide-like route. Still, the game is said to only have one ending at the end of the day, but that claim still remains to be seen.
  • 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 breaking down and forced 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.
  • The Fallout games have a lot of this. There are many ways to resolve situations and numerous conflicting factions to side with, which affects how other Wastelanders react to you. Notably, the difficulty in implementing such a system is the reason that Fallout: New Vegas doesn't have a Playable Epilogue like others in the series: you make a choice in the endgame that is so consequential that the devs simply couldn't account for all the potential repercussions, instead just ending the game and limiting the consequences to a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue.
  • GreedFall isn't as obvious with marking out major consequence provoking choices, but know that any choice at any point could have major consequences for the PC, the companions, or the end-game state. Simply choosing to accept a (specific) bribe results in one of the companions leaving. The order in which you choose to do side-quests as well will affect the results, opening or closing off some outcomes.
  • Knights of the Old Republic isn't as involved as later BioWare games, but some decisions have lasting consequences. Killing Juhaninote  means she doesn't join your crew and her friend Belaya leaves the Jedi Order, joins the Sith on Korriban, and tries to kill you when you come to infiltrate the Sith academy. Depending how you handle the giant firaxa at the Hrakert Rift and explain your actions to the Selkath leaders, you can be permanently barred from Manaan.
  • 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.
  • Perhaps the ultimate example of this is Undertale, where every single choice you make across the course of the game, no matter how small, will come back later in some capacity, such as giving water to a fish monster, discussing names with a frog, boring a dummy by failing to attack it, or brutally murdering every single creature in the underground.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, how you deal with the game's various factions determines which ones you can choose to throw in with at endgame. Also, if you keep Heather around too long, she'll eventually be kidnapped and murdered by the Sabbat.
  • 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.
    • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings combines this with Story Branching. Near the end of the first part, you make a choice that determines the faction you join in the middle part. However, in both paths, there are also minor choices that have a smaller impact, such as how you treat a family of trolls. Treat them well and they will help you later in the story.
    • This culminates in how The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt ends. If you weren't supportive enough of Ciri, she dies when facing the White Frost alone, causing Geralt to become a Death Seeker out of guilt/grief. The other two endings hinge on whether you took Ciri back to see her father and whether or not the North was unified under Radovid or Dijkstra. And, of course, the rest of the game is littered with smaller choice/consequence events.

  • Besides the occasional dialogue choices in No Umbrellas Allowed, which items you sell in your shop and which of them you reject from customers impact the story several days later. For example, one customer asks you to give him an umbrella to protect his ailing mom on rainy days, despite AVAC law banning them for the organization's plan to pour Fixerain on everyone. You're put into a moral dilemma on whether or not you should break the law to save his mom's life, and the consequences of your choice are revealed the following day.

    Stealth-based Games 
  • Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow: At the end of the surface level in Jerusalem just before Sam Fisher (the Player Character) enters the underground hideout of the Syrian terrorist cell, Colonel Lambert orders Sam to kill Shin Bet agent Dahlia Tal. If Sam obeys, the last part of the Jerusalem level will be filled with Israeli cops. If Sam doesn't, that same end of the level will be filled with Shin Bet snipers (including Dahlia) waiting to gun Sam down.

    Survival Horror 
  • In Resident Evil, there are several interactions that will determine whether the secondary character associated with your player character (Barry for Jill, Rebecca for Chris) will survive, as well as an optional side-quest to collect 3 MO disks to allow the unchosen player character to survive.
    • Barry: After killing Yawn in the library, there comes a sequence where Barry will lower Jill down a hole, only to then drop the rope. If Jill waits for Barry to return, this will set up an encounter between the two in the caves beneath the mansion. If Jill does not wait, she will encounter a mortally wounded Barry when she finally reaches the lab, who will die in front of her. When they meet in the caves, Barry will ask Jill two questions; does she want to go with him, and does she want him to go first. If Jill says "Yes" to both questions, Barry will automatically live. If she agrees to go with him but asks to go first herself (Yes/No) or refuses both suggestions (No/No), he will walk away and then Jill will hear a shot from the direction he went; if she follows Barry, she will find him fighting a Hunter, and he will live if she kills it — if she fails, or simply doesn't follow, then he is killed, with a unique cutscene. If Jill refuses to go with Barry, but tells him to go first (No/Yes), then he will be encountered dying in the lab, as if she refused to wait when he dropped the rope.
    • Rebecca: Chris's interactions with Rebecca are even more complicated, depending on whether he goes to the Medicine Room first or towards Yawn's first fight first. If Chris says that Rebecca can come with him upon meeting her in the medicine room, or retrieves the serum for Richard in time, she will survive the events of the game. If he says no, or fails to retrieve the serum fast enough, then when Chris returns to the mansion with the Helmet Key, there will be a new event with Rebecca depending on where she was met first. If she was met in the medicine room, she will have returned there; if Chris goes directly there, she will be found inside and will live, but if he picks up the battery first, he will find her outside the medicine room being attacked by a Hunter; whether she lives or dies depends on if the player fights the Hunter. But if she was met with Richard, Chris will hear her screaming, as she is under attack by a Hunter in the 2nd floor study — if he goes there quickly and kills the Hunter, she lives, but otherwise, she'll die. Also, leaving the mansion for the caves without trying to find her will result in her dying.
  • The Resident Evil (Remake) simplifies saving Barry and Rebecca to two obvious choices. Jill has to choose whether or not to give Barry back his gun when their fight is interrupted by Lisa Trevor, with Barry dying if she refuses and living if she does. Chris has to choose whether or not to save Rebecca from a Hunter shortly after they return to the mansion.
    • The "serum for Richard" miniquest is also more rewarding in the remake; if the player brings Richard the serum in time, they will unlock a new weapon, the faster-firing, more powerful Assault Shotgun. Jill will have Richard burst in to help her fight Yawn for the first time; when Yawn is defeated, she will get the Assault Shotgun after Richard is killed — but if she runs away from the fight, Richard will be killed behind her and she will lose the gun. Chris instead will meet Richard in the Aqua Ring, where he will be killed, but Chris can claim the Assault Shotgun after draining the flooded lab.
  • In Resident Evil 4, Leon meets a dog with a bear-trap stuck on its paw. If you free it, it will help you to defeat the game's first El Gigante by distracting him. Instead, if you literally Kick the Dog, you'll have to kill the Giant Mook on your own.
  • As you progress through the ruins in Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners, your companions may be whittled down by Death Traps and harsh judgments. Alertness and quick thinking can help you avert Dwindling Party; the survivors naturally have different dialog depending upon how things unfold.
  • 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 (or neither) - 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 
  • Alpha Protocol thrives on this, as your decisions impact who your allies are, how well-guarded areas are, and even minor lines of dialogue, which Caustic Critic Yahtzee praised for doing.
  • Red Dead Redemption and its sequel Red Dead Redemption II are both prime examples of this. Choosing to spare certain enemies will have them show up again later, and in the sequel, you have several big choices that affect the flow of the game, such as deciding to help Rains Fall with his struggles with the US Government or to help John Marston escape versus going back for the money. However, these choices still ultimately leave you with the same ending.
  • The Getaway: Black Monday has a system that kicks in when players play Eddie O' Connor's arc and it depends if the players helps Jackie Philips/Sam Thompson. This also influences whether Ben Mitchell is an ally or an enemy.

    Visual Novels 
  • Many Visual Novels have choices and consequences. The earliest was The Portopia Serial Murder Case (1983), the Ur-Example of this trope.
  • That's the main objective in Choices: Stories You Play and, depending on the story you've chosen, you can decide which love interest your character will end up with, if your character will die, if your character and allies will succeed in certain missions...
  • 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.
  • The Letter jumps between eight different characters who are being stalked by a Vengeful Ghost, and your decisions will determine whether some, none or all of them will suffer a brutal, gory death. Decisions can also determine the relationships between characters and the ending you get. Like so many other games of its ilk, the game has a butterfly motif, representing the Butterfly of Doom.
  • Us in Melody for the romantic paths of girls other than the title character, and for avoiding the four bad endings worked into the game.
  • In Your Turn to Die, majority rules, and certain choices can lead to different survivors making it past those points. In Chapter 2, players have a choice between Alice or Reko and Kanna or Sou. No third options; one of them will die, and it will be your fault. The latter choice also leads to a drastic shift in the story's tone and could potentially render the former choice moot. Chapter 3 introduces dolls whose lives are tied to minigames; failing these games may make subsequent minigames and discussions harder.
  • Long Live the Queen has several variables that affect the path of the story. In addition to choices, skill checks and Elodie's mood will affect her actions and the success of those actions. Events will change depending on these aforementioned factors, even if they are scripted to always happen (like the parade, ball, and invasion). In the end, it affects foreign relations, the public opinion on Elodie, who lives and dies, and who Elodie marries, among other things.