Text: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence.
An article by Kasper Brohus Allerslev from http://partialsuccess.wordpress.com
This might not seem like a big deal, but there are actually a lot of ways to use this as a GM. A good way of doing this can be to save a player’s hide.
Imagine Grobrek, the dwarf fighter, swinging savagely with his axe at a demon overlord. They take swings at each other, and after some time Grobrek is reduced to 2 HP. Now, death is an imminent threat, so Haldir, the elven bard, decides to weave a healing spell into a small performance with his flute, healing d8 damage on Grobrek.
Haldir rolls and gets a total of 8. Now, the GM can either choose to reverberate the effects to other targets—the demon, for example—or he can choose to have Haldir “draw unwanted attention”.
Seeing that Haldir has 18 HP left, the GM decides that a good way to make the game interesting wouldn’t be to heal the demon, but to let it loose on Haldir, cutting Grobrek some slack. The demon flaps its wings, evades a blow from Grobrek and lands besides Haldir, grabs him by the neck and lifts him from the ground.
“What do you do?”
We have just used a “consequence” of a partial success to save a player character. Now the bard is in trouble, but hopefully his friends will come to his aid!