Leaps of Faith

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Actions that are performed without any guaranteed, or visible, chance of success.

Not all actions in games have predictable outcomes. When a player can see many potential ways of failing an action and no clear ways of how to succeed, performing the action anyway is a Leap of Faith.


The Platform Games Ghosts 'n Goblins has places where players can't see the other side of a chasm. In order to advance in the game the players had to jump out into the air hoping that there would be something to land on at the other side.

The negotiation game Intrigue has players bribe each other to get jobs in the castles of the other players' masters. However, bribed players do not have to follow promises, and giving bribes are Leaps of Faith for the briber.

Using the pattern

Using Leaps of Faith in a game requires putting players in positions where they realize they need to make actions which seem to lead to bad consequences but may potentially have good consequences. This in practice means hiding information to players about the effects of actions, i.e. use Imperfect Information, but also often includes an element of not being able to negate any negative consequences. Actions related to Delayed Reciprocity or Uncommitted Alliances naturally provide Leaps of Faith for both these two reasons, since because players can't know if their actions will be matched by others. Games built on Negotiation or where players' can suffer from Betrayal function similarly but here other players or Agents more intentionally can cause bad consequences. In contrast, patterns that can make players have to live with unknown consequences that they have fully caused include Actions Have Diegetically Social Consequences, Character Defining Actions, Experimenting, and One-Way Travel. Obstacles that require players to make decisions on how to move without full information also belong to this category. Traps can make ordinary Actions, e.g. Movement, into making Leaps of Faith. However, this requires that players are aware of the existence of Traps in general.

Invulnerabilities and Save-Load Cycles can both work against the presence of Leaps of Faith. The first due to it potentially removing the risk of performing the actions. Save-Load Cycles works against it since negative consequences can be mitigated by going back to a previous game state and when this is done players also know what will happen if the action is taken.

Narration Aspects

Leaps of Faith can be built into games so they support Narration Structures, typically through making the Leaps of Faith actions important character decisions.


Leap of Faith situations put players in positions of making Risk/Reward choices (often in relation to Game World Navigation) as well as creating Tension. Performing them can lead to Surprises, especially when designers have specifically set up the situations for this to occur.

Players cannot have perfect information about the outcomes of actions for those action to support Leaps of Faith situations. For this reason, the pattern may not be compatible with a Determinable Chance to Succeed and Game State Overviews. Also, Leaps of Faith are Irreversible Events in themselves since a specific Leap of Faith cannot be done twice. This also makes Leaps of Faith difficult to have Predictable Consequences before they are done but difficult to avoid if the specific action is done again, in the same or another game instance.

Leaps of Faith affect Game World Navigation whenever they are related to Movement-based actions.


Can Instantiate

Irreversible Events, Predictable Consequences, Risk/Reward, Surprises, Tension

with Game World Navigation


Can Modulate

Game World Navigation, Narration Structures

Can Be Instantiated By

Actions Have Diegetically Social Consequences, Betrayal, Character Defining Actions, Delayed Reciprocity, Experimenting, Imperfect Information, Negotiation, Obstacles, One-Way Travel, Traps, Uncommitted Alliances

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Determinable Chance to Succeed, Game State Overviews, Invulnerabilities, Predictable Consequences, Save-Load Cycles


An updated version of the pattern Leaps of Faith that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].


  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.