Day 27 in our RPG conversation brings to a word prompt I have been anticipating since the 2019 iteration of RPGaDay was announced. That word is… wait for it… SUSPENSE.
sus·pense /səˈspens/ noun: a state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen.
If any singular word best describes the roleplaying experience, it is suspense.
From a player’s perspective, it is that uncertainty, that anticipation, as one navigates an adventure that makes a game come alive, whether it’s a dark, dank, and hostile dungeon; a creepy old manor house on the edge of a foreboding swamp; or even a derelict freighter locked in orbit around a sun that’s about to go nova.
It is suspense more than anything else that keeps players coming back.
From the game master’s side of the screen, suspense is the number one tool in their arsenal. Uncertainty is a weapon. You can manipulate and ratchet up the suspense by the simplest of means: through sounds and smells, locked doors, and lighting, or the weather, or odd behavior from townsfolk.
It’s suspense that fuels the game and keeps its fires lit.
— Bob Freeman