1. So look, you! Mechanics might model the stuff of the game world, that’s another topic, but they don’t exist to do so. They exist to ease and constrain real-world social negotiation between the players at the table. That’s their sole and crucial function.
    Yuppers. Absolutely.

  2. So here’s a better way to get suspense in gaming: put off the inevitable. Acknowledge up front that the PCs are going to win, and never sweat it. Then use the dice to escalate, escalate, escalate. We all know the PCs are going to win. What will it cost them?
    Aaaaahhhhh …

  3. PCs, like protagonists in fiction, don’t get to die to show what’s at stake or to escalate conflict. They only get to die to make final statements. Character death can never be a possible outcome moment-to-moment. Having your character’s survival be uncertain doesn’t contribute to suspense, as above, just like we don’t actually ever believe that Bruce Willis’ character in Die Hard will die. Instead, character death should fit into what it will cost. This thing, is it worth dying for? Obi-wan Kenobi and Leon say yes. In fiction, You never die for something you haven’t staked your life on.
    Hmmmmm …

  4. I’m still getting my head about the last bit, character-death.
    Let’s take the example of the Warehouse fight.
    Using that example, I’m not convinced that there can’t be some suspense in the simple fact that your character’s survival is uncertain. When Gina went down, the suspense went up. When Gozi was stunned… ditto.
    Hmm, but by these terms, perhaps the suspense going up because those character’s near-death bits have said “this is a fight that’s worth risking your life on”, and I felt that. I definitely felt “we have to win this, because I don’t want to die here, I don’t want to die for this.”
    To support this idea: that warehouse fight really raised the suspense (for me) when we moved in on the mansion in the next scene, and the BIG question for me was “What is this fight going to cost us?” That previous fight raised that question.

  5. PCs, like protagonists in fiction, don’t get to die to show what’s at stake or to escalate conflict. They only get to die to make final statements.
    Oh, I get it: they can’t die to escalate conflict or show what’s at stake if they’re the protagonists, because if they die, the story kind of… ends. If they can die and the story doesn’t end, they aren’t the story’s protagonists.
    Which isn’t relevant to my previous post.

  6. Enough people die IRL from random crap that I don’t feel the need to simulate that. And while it works in Aliens (and Star Trek) to have the grunts get wasted to escalate conflict, that’s a cheap trick to pull on PCs.
    So I do what I can to avoid actually killing my players. Unless, dulce et decorum, that what a player wants (or if I think it fitting, though I would always check with the player beforehand).
    That said — what other sorts of costs (beyond the abstract of hit points or XP) might be incurred by the character (not the player)? Scars? A recurring pain? Dressing down from Control for taking foolish risks? Anguish of loved ones? Mission failure?
    If players know the characters are unlikely to die, why should the characters exercise even cinematic-level caution?

  7. Honestly, I think the simple idea that the character is out of scenes until they heal is probably a good place to start.
    Speaking as someone who absolutely chafes when my PC’s so much as stunned or subjected to fear for a couple rounds, I know that ‘going down and being out’ can be a powerful deterrent to ridiculous play. I don’t know if it’s the perfect one, but it’s a good one… not to say someone couldn’t come in with a replacement character, but it should be a ‘distant second’ at best to the real character. The lack of the ‘main character’ should be felt, both by the Player and the rest of group.
    “Jesus, you can’t drive either? Why the hell’d they send you to cover for Gina? Did they read her file? Did they read yours?
    As for things like… hmm… some of the stuff you emailed to me — selective target acquisition, et cetera — I’d say not to do it. Pain is a great instructor.

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