Saturday, August 24, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - CALAMITY

You may notice something amiss, a bit wrong, off-kilter. If this gets worse it could turn into a real problem, a hazard, maybe even complete havoc. If that happens, we'll be right smack in the middle of a...

Today's word is supposed to Triumph. Tomorrow's prompt is Calamity. That doesn't make any sense to me. Does the RPGaDay 2019 event have no sense of narrative structure? The Calamity comes first, then the Triumph, otherwise what exactly are you Triumphing over? 

A Triumph followed by a Calamity indicates an unhappy ending and while that is certainly a strong storytelling choice, the games I run are usually focused on trying to overcome Calamity so the heroes can Triumph in the finale.

Hopefully. It isn't guaranteed. I suppose it depends very much on the nature of the 'event causing great damage or distress'. This is the Oxford Dictionary definition of Calamity. It basically means 'disaster'. 

Let's take a look at Calamities in RPGs. 

It's my opinion that what makes for a great campaign is a variety of Calamities. Keep switching up the stakes. If every disaster is monumental, every threat the end of the universe, eventually the doomsday scenarios will lose their luster. Simply put, if everything is amazing, after a time, nothing is. 

Start small. Try something personal, a Calamity that means something to one or more of the PCs but doesn't necessary threaten all life on Earth. For example:

The PCs receive word second hand that an old friend has gone missing. He was searching for something, perhaps a deposit of rare ore, a hard to find medicinal plant, or other treasure that isn't a hoard of gold and jewels. The person in question was a teacher or mentor to one of the PCs, a drinking buddy to another, and a reliable and likable business associate to the rest. The PCs will likely decide to go looking for him and find themselves in danger that could seriously harm them, their friend, and the find (whatever it is) but has no major bearing on the rest of the milieu. 

The next level up threatens a village, town, or small to medium-size outpost with a disaster that could injure or kill dozens upon dozens of people (but not hundreds or thousands). Add in a personal connection like mentioning one of the PCs came from this place or their parent grew up there. 

Switch back and forth a bit between the small, directly related events and the slightly bigger, 'a lot of people are counting on you' situations, and then drop the 'a disaster like this could wipe out everything along the Eastern Coastline for miles and miles'. 

Aside from adding greater gravitas to the epic situations, I've found this approach makes the PCs and players care more about the milk run missions, giving simple scenarios the feeling of being dire circumstances. 

A Calamity is a tragic thing but Human nature dictates that a Calamity that befalls you or those you care about is ten times as serious. 

Luckily, as I stated in the opening, the presence of stalwart heroes can turn Calamity into...

Barking Alien

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