Friday, December 4, 2009

Making Things Suck More

The party is in the deep wilderness, low on food, low on water, low on hit points, retreating from an failed expedition to lick their wounds in the comfort of civilization. Maybe an important member of the party (and his powerful gear) was lost in the debacle. They have to worry about wandering monsters, they may have to worry about getting lost, hunger, dehydration, or even dangerous environmental conditions.

It's times like these that I turn up the suck.

Disgusting worms get into their food. Although the food, and the worms themselves, are still edible, it's nauseating and tastes horrible.

If it's a desert they get sunburnt while constant stifling hot winds blow fine sand and grit in their eyes and noses. Sand gets everywhere, in their clothes, in their possessions. I describe them clumsily stumbling through the treacherous sand.

In a swamp they get soaked and covered in mud as they wallow through waist deep water at points. Bloodsucking vermin constantly assail them, leaving ghastly bite marks. Their gear gets moldy and rusty.

When they stagger out of the wilderness into a settlement of ethereal slender people they are fed a bowl of seeds and hard, dried sour berries with water to drink. Their pallets are austere wooden planks. At night the wind chimes hanging everywhere keep waking them up.

When the party has a bad streak, partially for the sake of comedy (we all are big fans of PCs getting into comedic situations) and partially for the sake of a twisted form of verisimilitude, I like to heap it on.

That doesn't mean I will arbitrarily fuck them over with extra encounters of destroying their possessions. The misery inflicted on them is primarily set-dressing.

However, sometimes the party has lucky streaks. They may stride into a settlement heavy with loot and trophies from a wildly successful adventure. They guards at the gate are especially friendly and helpful. Bystanders provide directions. At the inn the proprietor recognizes them as famous adventurers and gives the party a deal on their lodging and offers them the best food and drink. Meanwhile attractive ladies (and/or men) of easy virtue begin accumulating about the party.

They next day, while enjoying a delicious brunch, someone respectable offers them a simple yet lucrative commission. While shopping they find some desired equipment for reasonable prices. Although the next session of the game may be a triumph or a tragedy, right now things are looking good for the PCs! When things are going well for the party, the sun shines on them.


  1. Awesome post! I also end up doing the same thing also, sorta take the tone being set be the turn of events ("nobody loves you when you're down and out" OR "all the world loves a winner"), but it's more a "tone" thing, never a "you've been sunburned for 7 damage" or something...

  2. More or less agree ... except that I like to wear down their hit points, their stats (temporarily), their movement and so on, because those features add to the 'wind chimes keeping them up all night.'

    No, the mage wasn't able to get a decent night's sleep, not yet, so still no regained spells. And everyone due to fatigue suffers the loss of 1 more point of constitution until decent food and rest is obtained.

    Great post, and thanks for the link.

  3. Amen to distinguishing the good times from the bad in the game. Otherwise, it's all just so much "whatever," and nobody wants that. Good post.