Suspense, continued…

2007 November 1
by Dante

The reason I like writing this blog it gets me thinking about things in new ways. On Monday I posted some thoughts about how difficult that it is to adequately engineer situations that actually compel suspense, and some great comments were made that kept me thinking about this topic as the week progressed.

Getting outside the normal

One of our readers, reid, recommended a gaming system called Dread which puts each player’s actions and checks in the embodiment of a Jenga tower. This strikes me as an EXCELLENT way to have an evening of fun and appears to be a system engineered for one-nighters and short runs where the gaming area can be left in place.

I love the inherent risk of the tower falling and I can imagine this wrapping very nicely into a horror setting or one that has a lot of physical risks for your characters.

Some more traditional ideas

Several people (including our very own Vanir) recommended obfuscating or eliminating the fear based systems in favor of rewarding roleplaying. I like these ideas, however there will always be those naturally light in roleplaying that will want to have control over some system of determining the fear response.

We have used props in some of our campaigns up to this point to illustrate objects and add some reality to encounters. I’ve been toying with ways to combine the Jenga suspense with a situation specific prop to heighten the roleplay experience for those people that don’t really get into heavy roleplay.

Then I remembered our experience at Nascrag this year… they had essentially a paper diagram describing a puzzle, with a specific time limit to solve it. It wasn’t horror, but let me tell you the pressure was on. I imagine this would be equally cool with a real life prop, or a combination of puzzles and real props to add an air of reality to the situation.

Using some creative applications of concepts like this that many of you may already use may help aid in creating some artificial, yet realistic suspense to your settings and encounters.

One Response leave one →
  1. Reid permalink
    November 1, 2007

    I’m glad to see you are intrigued by Dread. I think it’s really important to make sure that the game system you are using actually matches up with the style of game you are running. Dungeons and Dragons doesn’t really work if you’re not doing heroic fantasy and Dread doesn’t really work if you’re not doing Suspense/Horror (I tried using it for a high mortality ninja adventure and it was less than satisfying).

    Either choose your system to match your style, or choose your style to play to the strengths of your system, and the game will be that much better.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS