I’m not a person that really enjoys fear. Some people love amusement park rides, horror movies, jump slasher films, extreme sports where your life is on the line, and all that other happy crap. I’m not one of them. I have enough experience and exposure to fear and terror in real life, I don’t need to go looking for it.
That said, there is a very enjoyable and positive type of fear in the role playing game experience. Years ago, one of my players who was new to the RPG experience happily exclaimed “this is like gambling & make-believe all at once!”
“You want to do what? You’re gonna have to roll for that.”
One of the great things about RPG’s is that the outcomes are not certain. Many times our characters face conflict. It doesn’t have to be combat, just a situation where there could be consequences. There’s nothing like those looks of fear and concern as we crowd around the plastic gods waiting to see what news the oracle brings us.
It’s a great thing when this is a little bit scary. Why? Because it means that we care. In some way the experience has become real to us and the consequences matter. We are in the moment, and the stakes have become important.
These moments of fear and concern don’t always have to happen around resolution mechanics or procedures. Any time that something happens in the fiction that causes us to become concerned about the outcomes or possible consequences the experience becomes enhanced. Some magical barrier gets crossed and we act as though things matter, because to us they do.
Thrilling, isn’t it?