RPG A Day 7: How can a GM make the stakes important?

How can I make the stakes important?  I am a little underwhelmed by this question because it is way too broad.  What stakes?  The stakes of having a good game?  The stakes to a character?  How does the GM make a good game?  That is a short answer I am sure.  Not to mention that this to me is really the reverse of yesterdays question.  Why?  Because to me, the answer I go to is to make the game world real.  Make it a living breathing setting that is alive in the player’s mind.  That way the stakes are high and they are invested.  So really the question is how to make that world alive?

2018 RPG A Day

Living Worlds

There is so much written about this on blogs and in books.  How do you bring the setting to life?  How do you bring that experience to the player in a believable manner?  What will drive that player to the next game?  There is so much material out there for this and the reason for this is it is a hard question.  What works for some GM’s does not work for others.  Most people try to write these responses as if the player is a singular thing.  They are not.  Players are a diverse lot.  What will hook one player will not hook another.  So for me, I work on my style of game and try to make the world a living interesting place.


To me, a world that the players operate in has to be living.  What does that mean?  It means that even if you did not have players messing around things still occur.  It means that when the players turn up at Jimmy Olsen’s doorstep to give him a tip for Superman he may just be on holiday!  You see, everything in the world has its own reason for being there.  It is not just dependent on the players to give it life.  If it is an important part of your world it should have depth and motivation.  Also, and this is likely to be an old-school thing, stop making every adventure tailored to character level!  If the world is to be a real place then there are things that some characters should stay away from.  For example, I would have about no level of skill in climbing cliffs.  So do I go to Dead Man’s Fall to learn?  Of course not!  But the belief seems to be about that everything in an adventure should be achievable for your characters.


We play these games to have a bit of escapism.  If you had to sit down to a game of Syndicate and Supplies where your characters greatest adventure was putting the toner in the photocopier (Xerox Americans) then you would walk away.  A game has to be interesting so design it that way.  Plus, don’t model it off Skyrim where every interaction has the player going to get something just to get an answer to your question.  There are other ways.  Make your world alive and let the players see stuff that may intrigue them.  When you see that intrigue design for it.  Allow them to make the direction decisions and stop just laying adventures at their feet.  If you manage this, the players’ are likely to remember your games long after they have ended.


Overall, the trick is to raise the stakes you have to get players invested.  If the player is invested in your game then the stakes are already high.  they have an interest in the game through their character.  If that character dies they will likely want to build another just to get back into that zone.  Try to provide your players with an experience.  Try to allow them to determine the direction the game goes.  When they choose that direction make sure it is full of interesting sites and characters that have depth.  Read as many books and blogs about it that you can – there are plenty out there, including this one!  Keep rolling…

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