If you’re reading this instead of watching my video, congratulations. You get more content today. Taking the time to read ought to be rewarded every once in a while. But don’t get excited , it’s only a little bit more content.
The first thing I thought about when the topic of suspense came up were the dice. There’s nothing like crowding around the plastic gods seeing what will happen. I’m not super big on complicated and detailed systems but very often building a dice pool for ubiquity or FFG Star Wars can be a lot of fun and the suspense starts to build. Not that those systems are complicated but it’s a little bit different than just rolling a D20. No matter what system, the suspense starts to escalate once an action is declared and it’s obvious that the outcome depends upon the roll of the bones. When the dice are rolled when things are important and the stakes are meaningful, the suspense is palpable. The more invested the people are in the game and the fiction the better.
The second thing I thought of was just wondering “what’s going to happen?” You get a bunch of engaged & creative people together and there’s no telling what will occur. The resolution mechanics only add to that uncertainty. Often there is a great deal of suspense before a session, especially if the last one ended on a cliffhanger. Sometimes we will talk about it all week until the next game. And then there is the ongoing suspense during the game as everyone wonders just what will happen next. We might know what we are going to do, but we have no idea what everybody else will do. The components of the fiction qualify as a complex system. There are way too many variables to for us to be able to predict events. We play to find out. That keeps me coming back to RPGs again and again.
And finally your reward. The last thing I thought about is suspension of disbelief. Yes I’m cheating a little bit and taking liberties with the word, but it’s an important and compelling topic.
Our willingness to suspend disbelief is vital for our ability to become engaged with the RPG experience. There are a myriad of “well actuallys” which can cripple our ability to immerse ourselves in the events of play. Each one of us has our own set of circumstances for which it is almost impossible for us to suspend disbelief. It could be in terms of how a mechanic represents or fails to represent “realistic” outcomes. It could be about how the mechanics create a certain feel. It could be something in the setting or anachronisms, or historical inconsistencies or a million other things.
Understanding our limitations In our ability to spend disbelief helps us to choose the right games. Taking an honest look at the things that give us trouble can also sometimes lead us to being less rigid, especially if we understand why the game does what it does. It pays to discuss these things with each other rather than keep silent.
Removing these barriers to our suspension of disbelief allows us to achieve greater “buy-in” and thus allows us to fully immerse ourselves in the game and in the fiction. And when we are fully immersed, those other moments of suspense I talked about previously will have a very satisfying affect upon our experience.