Narrative Control – Episode 30 – Suspense

Welcome back to Narrative Control. This week Justin and I respond to an old post by Vincent Baker on suspense, what causes it and how to add it to a game.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 25:08

Show Notes
[00:28] Intro to the show. What causes suspense in stories and how to recreate that in your games.
[00:39] promo
[00:47] Do you ever doubt Jack Bauer will stop the terrorist in 24?
[01:43] What do we learn about in the first 23 hours?
[02:10] The question isn’t will he make it, but what does he have to do to get there.
[02:24] I didn’t think of this. I read it on Vincent Baker’s blog.
[02:49] Suspense: What will the protagonist have to go through and how will they change?

Techniques we have used to create suspense

[03:33] Setting stakes that are not directly tied to the character goals. Make the stakes involve the cost of success. Thank you Mario Brothers and Jim Butcher.
[05:18] Negotiating the stakes between GM and the players.
[05:56] Using dice cups to prolong the suspense. Yup, we stole this from Sons of Kryos.
[06:51] Use several conflicts that create twists in the plot, still moving towards the final outcome.
[07:28] Scarcity of player resources (fate chips, action points, etc). Players investing their resources for success.
[08:24] Using physical tokens to represent resources. Players can see how they’ve got let.

Specific systems that have suspense building elements

[08:59] Gumshoe removes the rolling from investigation, but allows players to invest in their findings.
[09:58] Buying success in Wilderness of Mirrors. Betraying your fellow spies.
[11:27] Resource points also act a pacing mechanic by establishing the number of obstacles you’ll face.
[11:58] Another post of Vincent Bakers: Chalk Outlines, which uses concessions to create twists.
[15:23] Schauermärchen. A different take on pass the stick models.
[19:00] Polaris. Players creating twists for each other using a very ritualized format.
[20:34] Changes in the fiction are more meaningful than reducing player resources. Discussion of hit points in Dungeons and Dragons vs. Sanity Loss in Call of Cthulhu.
[21:39] A variation of the core Spirit of the Century rules for consequences instead of stress.
[22:25] Mouseguard has both conditions (which are meaningful in the fiction) or twists (which complicate the story).
[23:30] Shadow of Yesterday has the option of bringing down the pain to raise the stakes of a conflict.

Direct download: NC_Episode_030

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