I don’t really design for suspense anymore. I play my designs off of what my players want to explore. In essence, much of the suspense that they feel is created by them – quite an amusing situation to find me in really.
I used to try and design for suspense. I wanted the player to have their heart in their mouth while they played a game. But in all the games I designed for that, it rarely came off. I have found that players will find suspense and drama in the simplest of things. Recently I wrote how hard it is to design with Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing Game and one of my players commented on it. They talked about how close to death they always came and how they were totally loving that dynamic. But I had completely missed this. I was arguing the game was boring because I could not fine-tune the encounters.
I think this is why it is OK to allow the players to push the story. They do not always realize they are in control of my game and I just react to what they put in front of me. I challenge them with the story that they drive and it creates their own suspense for them. Of course, you can try to design a suspenseful adventure but in most cases, the players will not care for what you have designed in the way that you want them to. Allow them to show you what matters to their characters and then use that to build the suspense! Keep rolling.