Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Advanced Gimmickry: Building Suspense

I recently downloaded a module that shall go unnamed because it looks very well-produced and the authors obviously put a lot of work into it and many people will like it and it doesn't deserve to have me crap all over it, especially since it was almost free.  That said, the thing isn't flawless.  In particular, the author(s) have this to say about traveling to the dungeon:
"The game master should use the travel time to build suspense and danger.  Some suggestions follow:
● Make sure that the party gives you a marching order while travelling.
● Randomly roll dice at key moments behind the screen to give the illusion that they are in a dangerous area.
● Ask the party how specifically they will set up camp and watches through the night."

Seriously?  You build suspense with cheap, metagame chicanery?  Sure, we've all used these tricks for exactly that purpose a zillion times, but that just makes it seem extra lazy for a published module to be passing off intro-level gimmickry as advice.

Now, if you really don't want to be bothered with coming up with in-game devices for building tension, here are some advanced gimmicks for the lazy MC:
  • Periodically check your phone and frown as if someone is texting you worrisome messages.  Perhaps go so far as to have a friend send you actual disturbing texts to heighten the realism.
  • After about an hour, ramp up the suspense by abruptly interrupting play, telling your players that you have to make a call, then leave the room and surreptitiously order a pizza.  If asked, tell the players "It's nothing; everything will be fine"  Repeat the last part under your breath several times. While avoiding eye contact.
  • Periodically look out the window as if you heard something.  Try to seem more and more agitated as the evening progresses.
  • When the inevitable hand of doom/pizza knocks at your door, emit a shriek of terror and cower in the corner.  Insist that it's a demon here to collect the souls of all convened and it can only be exorcised if everyone at the table contributes $5.  And that there's root beer and sprite in the fridge if anyone wants some.


Mystic Scholar said...

Okay, it's official. You're nuts! ROFL

And it will probably work, too!

I love it.

Timrod said...

Sweet! Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Patrick Halter said...

Wait, people fake that stuff? And here I thought the whole point behind setting up a marching order/watch/campsite map was so that when I rolled a random encounter, the PCs had some control over how screwed they are.