A member over at rpg.stackexchange.com asked “How can GMs evoke the tone of danger in an RPG?”
Here was my answer:
- To me, danger = risk. What are the stakes? Add dependents and dependencies to the PCs and then jeopardize those.
- Allow PC deaths. The tension of potential character death in just one encounter can span even multiple campaigns if the players know their mistakes can cause them grief.
- Dismember PCs. When a PC is unconscious, have a foe whack a hand off. Regenerate will cost a bit of treasure, unless the party has the spell available, so no permanent damage, but temporary loss of ability is scary for many players.
- Use custom monsters. Or, just rename a monster. Anything to make the creature strange and threatening to players familiar with all the monster manual entries.
- Use massive one-time damage. Optimize foes occasionally to do a lot of damage in a single strike at the beginning of an encounter. The PCs will not know for sure if the damage was a one-time thing or if they might face it each round.
What do you think?