Ripping Up Journey Drama With A Noticed Blade

Roleplaying Suggestions E-newsletter #1141

Make your adventures wondrous with terrific drama.

We wish rigidity in our plots and gameplay that escalates as gamers get near the climactic ending.

To extend drama we increase the Stakes (what’s in it for the characters) and toughen the Conflicts (foes, hazards, obstacles, challenges).

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t make each encounter much more tense than the earlier.

This causes fatigue as your session wends onward, and everybody loses their vitality and enthusiasm.

All that psychological and emotional labour drains you if relentless. To stop this, we would like rising rigidity that appears like a bit like a noticed blade:

The peaks are the place we jack up the strain.

The valleys are the place we take our foot off the pedal for a bit and let the desk loosen up.

In Saturday’s Q&A Zoom chat for Journey Constructing Grasp Sport Plan GMs, I acquired a terrific query from Wizard of Journey Ellen:

How do you de-escalate rigidity between peaks? Is it like switching to decrease stakes RP/fight/exploration for a little bit?

Nice query! Simply precisely how can we create these vitality recapture moments earlier than diving again into the following nail-biting encounter?

Listed here are 5 methods.

Run Straightforward Encounters

My definition of a straightforward encounter is it requires no useful resource depletion and might be performed in 5-Quarter-hour.

As per Ellen’s remark, it additionally means Stakes and Battle are diminished for a time.

So the gamers can let their guards down and loosen up for a bit.

As Ellen suggests, run a enjoyable roleplay encounter and introduce an NPC or three.

You can additionally run a straightforward fight with one-shot or two-shot minions. A fast victory lifts spirits quick.

Or you can insert an encounter the place characters examine and uncover attention-grabbing issues.

You should definitely put a rigidity meter in your straightforward encounter, nonetheless.

You don’t need the occasion to relaxation up and return to full energy (except you want that).

For instance, have enemy forces begin to method, or compromise the situation indirectly after a bit.

Take a Quick Sport Break

Get your gamers to face up and transfer round.

I love to do a fast spherical of deep respiration if a break happens.

For that, I exploit the field technique:

  • Breathe in for a 5 depend
  • Maintain your breath for a 5 depend
  • Breathe out for a 5 depend
  • Maintain (don’t breathe in once more) for a 5 depend.

I do that 5 occasions and at all times really feel nice after.

Extra oxygen to the mind improves my considering.

And after a time of shallow respiration from all of the motion, the deep respiration helps me focus higher.

Room V

Baked into our 5 Room Dungeon story construction is the ultimate room, which serves as a pure vitality launch.

Room V is all about treasure, reward, hooks, and transitions to maintain play going as a part of the Infinite Sport.

Take a second to have a good time victory and lick wounds right here. Don’t handwave or rush this encounter. Let it sink in and assist gamers bask of their win.

We encounter Room V proper after the key battle, Room IV.

Observe for journey and marketing campaign play, we don’t wish to spend too lengthy on this Room. We wish rigidity to extend and be increased than baseline within the subsequent Room I so general drama rises as we method journey conclusion.


Akin to the revelation and reward story operate of Room V, any type of pause after a troublesome encounter helps de-escalate issues.

Handing out XP after a tough battle, doing a little bit of roleplay as character loot, and letting this post-conflict interval breathe a bit works nicely.

Including clues and issues to find within the space additionally helps time move with a break from life-and-death selections and tense die rolls.

Change the Vitality

An amazing tip from Robert McKee’s e book, Story: Substance, Construction, Model and the Ideas of Screenwriting (aff.) is to vary the vitality state from scene begin to scene finish.

You possibly can see this occur on a regular basis in films and reveals.

If the characters begin a scene in a very good temper, it’s going downhill quickly….

We will use the identical trick:

  • Pleasant NPCs trigger a troubling dilemma
  • Make a troublesome struggle look straightforward at first
  • An empty room with nasty hidden traps
  • A tricky struggle ends in occasion victory
  • The victory chest is sabotaged or unleashes a big rolling stone ball

What I like about this method is it provides surprises and makes encounter dynamic.

It’s Your Flip

Subsequent session, attempt to preserve the stress on.

Have encounters general create escalating rigidity because the occasion attracts nearer to Mount Doom.

However keep away from ceaseless drama else you fatigue everybody. When Room IV or your epic climactic encounter triggers, your group might be too exhausted to struggle, figuratively and actually.

As an alternative, add moments of low rigidity. Let the desk recharge.


  • Working straightforward encounters
  • Calling a brief break
  • Celebrating in Room V
  • Stretching out achievement moments
  • Altering the vitality between encounter begin and finish


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