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RPGaDay in August - August 27th: Suspense

We continue on with #RPGaDay in August.



Day 27 - Suspense

Suspense is one of the elements that eludes me when I run game sessions.

One of the things that I've always had trouble with as a GM is coming up with suspense-filled endings for game sessions, what we also call cliffhangers. It was always drilled into my skull back in the early years of roleplaying on my part that one had to end the game session(s) with a moment of suspense or a cliffhanger. After all, that was the sure fire way to get the players back to the table the next week again - 'cause they'd want to know how the characters survived whatever was happening to them. And I could never get the hang of it, though there were times when I surprised myself and managed to come up with a 'banger of a cliffhanger.

Sure, I could do it relatively well when I was running a horror rpg, but a fantasy one? Not even to save my life, though I did have a couple of shining moments in that regard. Science fiction made it somewhat harder, because I was running hard sf rpgs back in those days (and still prefer them to some extent even today), though I did run an sf rpg where I had a doozy of a cliffhanger in one adventure - a cargo bay on a deserted starship exploded due to some player actions, and the player characters were thrown out towards the open cargo entrance into space... These days, I've managed the feat a couple of times in my running of the John Carter of Mars Roleplaying Game, but that game and the genre (sword & planet) make it so easy to do.

I still don't know how to make suspense moments happen near the end of the game session in question, but I do know this... The trick is really time management. You have to keep an eye on when your game session will end and then figure out in your head (or jot some notes) where you want the cliffhanger to occur. If necessary, as the time comes, devise a cliffhanger for whatever situation the player characters happen to be in when the end of the session is nigh. No, it isn't easy, but it's something I'm working on. (And I'll need to have cliffhangers when I eventually run the Zorro RPG...)

And there you have this twenty-seventh post for #RPGaDay for August, 2019. Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course.


John Kahane

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