Dealing with dramatic stress…

2008 October 20
by Dante

As a side-effect from our relocation proceedings, I have been One Stressed Out Dude. Last night as I sat on my couch waiting in vain for some of Fox’s Animation Domination to be funny, I was thinking about stressful situations and how they play out during your standard D&D campaign.

The Dramatic Stress

The first stressful situation I would like to discuss is that of the dramatic stressor. The dramatic stressor is any scenario engineered explicitly to be stressful for the characters. This could be a dramatic plot moment, a tough decision to make, or some other storyline element that requires the players to choose between A and B. (I usually pick A, as a general rule.)

With this approach, you must engineer a way to foster roleplaying as a foundation for the stress and the decision making process. I have had several DM’s employ a DECIDE NOW! mechanism of compelling overly thoughtful players into making a snap decision, but I find this approach only limitedly effective for keeping the storyline moving.

Yes, that’s amplifying the stress levels felt by the players, but in reality there is a certain amount of thought that goes into your standard character response as it comes from a player. “What would Randor the Magician do in this situation? Wasn’t his mother eaten by boars and wouldn’t being commanded to feed the pigs be very offensive to him?” and so on.

Stress can help build a cohesive group.

If you can engage your entire group in the decision making process, the dramatic stressor can really turn into a teambuilding experience for your roleplaying group. It is a tool that can be used effectively quite often, so long as you’re not forcing your characters into making a decision that they won’t benefit from in some way. Keep in mind – plot advancement is a benefit, sometimes as much as treasure or experience!

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