*Which is not to say that one should not off a character now and then pour encourager les autres and so forth. See point 3.
4. Single serving malice
A GM in a roleplaying game is rather like God in some ways. He must generate and engage the players in the world he creates around them. However, as this is survival horror, unlike God, he must be cruel, uncaring and utterly indifferent to the characters suffering. Baby, it’s cold outside...
3. Deadly environment
Roleplaying games grew out of the wargaming hobby. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that many of them feature very complex combat rules and fighting is one of the main sources of drama in most roleplaying games. Cheap violence is the besetting sin of most roleplaying games. When I was running my Eastern Front game, this presented me with a great deal of problems. Firstly, real soldiers don’t fight all the time. Secondly, people die in fights, and if you’re not distorting the rules of the game in order to favour the characters, attrition will set in very quickly and you can’t very well frighten and horrify the party if they are all dead*. This left me vainly scrabbling for a means of providing dramatic tension that didn’t revolve around having some Schubert loving swine walk through the door with an MP40 every week. Using environmental threats is an excellent way of doing this, but they don’t necessarily have to be physical. Close shaves that the chaps had in my game included. •
Being interrogated by the
NKVD (little fellows who grew up to become the KGB) after one of their missions failed. This was extremely fraught. • A miniatures based minigame where they had to sneak through a line of German outposts without being seen. • One of the characters had to salvage what he could from a compromised supply dump. The player was brought into a room with a number of business cards. On the top side of the business card was a description of the container and a weight. Written on the bottom, was what the container contained. The player could grab as many cards as he could carry in four minutes, but each card he turned over incurred a twenty second penalty. • Making their way across a minefield, which was represented by cloth thrown over some metal washers, the players had to “walk” their character figures (which had a magnet on the base) across the field, but could only search for mines by extending a single finger in front of their figure.
Gaze into the face of EVIL
This is useful up to a point, but it does lack a certain something, in short, the sort of malice you only get when a human is given free will and sent out into the world. I’ve always found outsourcing to be the best answer to this particular conundrum. For most of my Eastern Front campaign, the characters lived a hand to mouth existence as partisans pitched against one or two German garrisons. I usually gave a brief to a friend of mine over coffee and put him in the role of garrison commander. He would then respond to what the players were trying to
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