Tension and Investment

I had a blast Sunday night.  My wife is currently running a series of adventures for our Sunday night sliders game, set in the world of Redwall (Brian Jacques’ animal-scaled fantasy world).  Last night there were three of us attempting to rescue the “dibbins” from a band of pirate/slaver/bandits.  Thom, a barbarian/ranger Goliath-turned-badger; Rosie, a wizard (illusionist) half-elf-turned-squirrel; and my own character Stev, a cleric of Tyr, human-turned-hedgehog.  We set off from the Abbey towards the sea past Salamandastron (the mountain home of the badger-lords), hoping to catch the pirates before they sailed off with all the children from around the Abbey for their nefarious schemes.

All of this was after we had rescued most of the adults from the mountains to the north, where they had been taken to be sold to the giant spiders that live there.  Along with us was a small girl-mouse named Violet, who is also the current wielder of Martin’s Sword.

Anyway, we were camped along the river for the night when a gargantuan crocodile leapt out of said river and attempted to swallow Stev (it was only a natural 20 on the escape roll that he didn’t end up inside the croc).  It did manage to swallow the barbarian, but Rosie and Stev managed to kill it before it could escape. Through all of that spellcasting and shouting, Violet didn’t wake up.

When the morning came and still she wouldn’t wake, we all three of us became gravely concerned (especially so given the badger’s disturbing dream) and burned half a day attempting everything possible to revive the girl.  Even with Stev communing with Tyr (he’s 10th level), we had no clear idea how to wake her, though we were assured it wasn’t immediately deadly.  Then we headed toward the mountain, hoping there might be some badgers about who would be able to help.  So far, there aren’t.  Though we did capture a hare on the beach who was tending a signal fire for his lord Oric (?).

This session was, in my opinion, an exceptionally good one, for a couple of reasons (see the title).  We’ve spent a few sessions getting attached to many of the characters that have been featured in this adventure, especially Violet.  Which means that when she gets threatened by something we have no idea about, it make us (the players, mind) very anxious.  Our characters, naturally, are concerned as well, but it is our human emotions that are being stoked and played with.  We are invested in the story, in the characters of the story.  It was a stressful evening, but one that kept me awake for two hours after we had stopped running, so I didn’t get to sleep until midnight.  The adrenaline was flowing that night.  It wasn’t a fun game, necessarily, but it was a damn good one.

That’s what I want in a D&D game.  Investment, adrenaline, stress, tension.  These things are what adventures are about.  Tense, unsure situations.  Risk, threats, and eventually (hopefully) victory.  Introducing elements to your game to make the characters react is step one.  Getting your players to react emotionally is the next level.  I am an armchair adrenaline junkie.  D&D is how I get my fix.  I want my players to be as hooked as I am, and I want to be their adrenaline dealer.  Find players who will invest, give them a fix, and they’ll be at your table every single week. This is my task, and it is yours also.

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