Pcs Versus Everything

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0706

Pcs Versus Everything

The picture above is hex biscuits my wife Alana made last night to go with chilli. A pretty awesome surprise. Thanks wife!

The daily writing continues to go well. Even better, I’m getting positive feedback on the shorter emails I’ve been testing out. It’s a joy writing them, and so far readers have been enjoying them too.

So, it’s time for the next phase. Short musings for you here on Patreon. I don’t know if you can turn off email notifications from Patreon when I post these, so I hope you don’t mind an extra email once in awhile in your inbox.

Speaking of opposition, long ago, in an RPT edition I can’t find, I listed mythic categories of forces opposing the PCs. A few included:

  • Man
  • Machine
  • Nature
  • Himself
  • Monsters

In old school game structure, the party starts out in a civilized area. They train, trade for better equipment, heal, gather rumours about adventure possibilities, and then pack up and head out.

In act two, the PCs tread through the wilderness, leaving the comfort of civilization behind. This is a transition stage where things become more wild and dangerous as the party nears the dungeon.

The third act has the PCs discovering the dungeon entrance and descending into the underworld where terrifying dangers pounce.

In the fourth act, the PCs encounter a Great Evil. A villain or impending doom. Drawing from recent experiences and discovered boons, the heroes beard the evil.

In the final act, the characters emerge victorious, though likely depleted, perhaps gravely and irrevocably so. They return to town transformed. Tougher, wealthier, more skilled, and possibly haunted by loss.

Then the cycle begins anew.

The actual paths followed vary and become twisted, windy, and recursive. It might take several trips back to town for regrouping before the fourth act triggers. And weak PCs might not get past the fourth act until much later in the campaign. A wily GM might also offer an uncharted wilderness and several dungeons to perplex players and excite characters.

In this structure I see mythic conflicts clearly:

PCs vs. Man is The Town

Here we have bargaining, social conflicts, gamified economics, and plots. I’m not speaking of pure role-play here, because I believe role-play should exist in all moments of the game. Instead, PCs vs. Man generates Story Overlays, Combat Missions, and Alternative Stakes for your 5 Room Dungeons.

PCs vs. Nature is The Wilderness

I feel like my campaigns commoditize the wild. PCs in this act should feel the transition into the unknown and mythic nature of the game. Animals and hazards should give way to monsters and the supernatural to set the stage for the underworld, like stage lights dimming to darkness.

PCs vs. Monsters is The Dungeon

Monsters represent the inhuman and sub-human. The not-us we fear the most tramping just outside flickering edges of our campfires. In RPGs they manifest as actual monsters and traps and dooms. Once in the dungeon, reality turns to nightmare.

Simple structure, simple sequence. Yet potent gameplay. And as GMs, we’re inclined to tinker and experiment for surprises.