Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How and Why to Make PCs Suffer

This weekend I'll be playtesting a couple games I've been working on. If all goes well, there should be some interesting post material gained from that. And if all doesn't go well.

In the meantime, here's a table that's common to both of the games I'll be playtesting, as well as pretty much any game I run in the future.

It's six ways that you can make people suffer. This is good. You want to make your PCs suffer for their commitments—to people, to institutions, to ideas, to their own flaws, to ambitions—and see if they change.

WILLIAM BLAKE, illustration of the book of Job
(Man, Job is ripped in that pic. Must have had the juice hookup in the land of Uz.)

SIX WAYS TO MAKE THEM SUFFER (actually or potentially)

  1. harm (physical, emotional)
  2. isolation (social, physical)
  3. dissonance (they see something that contradicts what they believe)
  4. betrayal 
  5. loss (of goods, relationships, status)
  6. humiliation
Example: Bard Wants to Train Under the Master
Our bard wants to take it to the next level. Everyone knows the only way to do that is to learn from the hand of Master Hovenbeet. But every time our bard seems to make progress in his lessons, he suffers for it:
  1. rival students threaten to beat him up (threatened harm)
  2. rival students actually beat him up (actual harm)
  3. the master insults him before the whole class for making a single mistake, says he'll never be able to make it (humiliation)
  4. one morning he finds himself unable to play the simplest tune (dissonance)
  5. one evening he hears the master himself playing, but as many notes are off as on (dissonance)
  6. rival punches him in throat; he can't sing for the recital (harm, loss)
  7. master breaks the bard's mandolin (humiliation, loss)
  8. none of the other students sit with him at mess (isolation), even his friend (betrayal)
Will he keep it up, or will he break, or will he decide that he was wrong to want this in the first place? 

How will he react? Why?

That's what we want to find out. 

That's where the story is.