Comments on 2019-10-24 Stakes must be high

I think that a key element that’s not in your list revolves around building an authentic character. If you help the players develop a deep persona for their characters, then you can put them in situations where the stressor is attempting to achieve and maintain character authenticity. (The honour element you mentioned can be part of this.) It leverages cognitive dissonance, which is I think is one of the more powerful motivators. Given a situation in which either the player knows that the character would make a “bad decision”, that can really up the ante for people, and make people take deep ownership of a train wreck in motion.

Irfon-Kim Ahmad 2019-10-24 15:30 UTC


Totally agree, high stakes are key. When I shifted over from Greyhawk/AD&D to Harn/Magic-free RuneQuest the tone of the game shifted from dungeons and high fantasy which was fun, to political adventures which was amazing.

  1. Fear of character death was real. Combat was lethal. My players were willing to go out in a blaze of glory for the cause, but didn’t want to die foolishly for nothing.
  2. Fear of losing the war! The game in question was about rebellion and the stakes were the crown. Failure in some adventures could tip the balance against their Earl even if the character survived. Good times.

– Ruprecht 2019-10-24 18:40 UTC


Thank you both. I like the development of a deep persona in play. I like how this is done in Mountain Witch and Lady Blackbird where the referee uses small breaks in the action to ask players about their character – asks them to play a conversation at the fire, talking about their families, for example. What I don’t like is when character creation takes too long because then the stakes are “fear of character death because character creation is long and tedious” (which is something I disliked in newer D&D games, in Rolemaster/Harp, and Burning Wheel when I tried them.

I do like the moments in a game when players go through with bad decisions because it’s what their character would do, but only if the table likes it. I don’t want to excuse rude players annoying their fellow players because “that’s what their character would do.” There’s a fine line, there. But also much goodness to be had indeed!

I love the fear of losing the war! That’s a good one.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-10-24 19:45 UTC


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