Habit #6: Fear is Not Inaction (Move forward)
There are rumours of a tribe of Wendigos that are troubling the town.
Wendigos? We can’t fight those. Forget about it. Have you seen the stats on those things? Thanks man, but no thanks.
So…we’re done? You haven’t gotten any other information.
We can’t beat those things!
–a failed Shadowrun game that I tried to run many years ago on an IRC channel
Out of all the ways of disengaging from a game, I think player fear translating to character fear is my least favorite. You’re afraid of losing your character, usually because of some meta-knowledge that you have or believe you have, and then you check out of the scenario/adventure to save your character’s skin.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen this as a GM or player in a time where it wasn’t far too hasty and misplaced.
Two things are at play when fear is at the forefront. The first is the fear of losing. Whether it’s losing a favored character or the distaste of losing in any fashion, the need to not lose can warp a game. When you are playing not to lose, you are often (not always) steering away from the interesting parts of the game. You can be completely safe in an RPG pretty easily; just don’t do anything. Stay where you are, don’t take any chances.
The second factor that comes into play is distrust. It can be distrust of the system (in games with high-lethality combat you are encouraged to avoid physical conflicts at all costs. Beyond the system there is the “tell me where the bad GM touched you” syndrome. This you need to deal with promptly. Often it is gamer baggage incurred for playing with gotcha GMing styles but it’s worth taking a step back to see if there is anything that you are doing to discourage players from playing.
And that’s really my thing. When I GM I want players to play. That means taking chances, putting your character in a place where she can make her move but the world can also take a swing back. I might try to scare you as a player, but if you use that fear to leave the game or not play, then the fun stops. Fear is never an excuse for inaction. Your character might get hurt. Your character might die. Your character might get humiliated when she fails a skill check. If it’s unrelenting good times all the time, why are we playing the game?
Fear makes the game fun sometimes. That dread as you make that long-shot roll and make it or fail spectacularly…when you stick to the walls and play the numbers, you can miss this. If everyone acts out of fear, the game slows down.
How has fear of consequences affected your game? How have you dealt with it? Talk to me.
Also, in the aforementioned Shadowrun game, the wendigos were actually an aging tribe rendered infertile by chemicals in their water. A corporate executive exaggerated the threat of the tribe to get them wiped out by runners, wiping out all records of their malfeasance and claiming the land for themselves without the PR hit.