Raising the Stakes

A good GM will often introduce new challenges half-way through a situation, so as to make the scene more exciting.  If you’re playing without a GM, you lose the ability to do this, no?

No!  Here’s a rule that I’ve found really helpful for collaborative, GM-less play.

At any point during an adventure, a player can choose to “raise the stakes.”  This means making life more difficult for the PCs, in exchange for a chance to earn additional character points at the end of the adventure.

Any time someone “raises the stakes” in this way, the group accumulates an additional -1 bonus, which applies to their roll on the How Many Experience Points Do We Get? table at the end of the adventure.  (The table is here, if you’re interested.  Scroll to the very bottom of the page!)   These “raise the stakes” bonuses only apply if the adventure was completed successfully – if you failed to complete the mission, no bonus!

Raising the Stakes – What Counts?

As a good rule of thumb, anything you do to raise the stakes should be at least one of the following:

Dangerous, with a real chance of causing harm.

Difficult, so as to introduce…

  • …an extra penalty equal to Peril to a couple of rolls.
  • …an extra penalty equal to Peril/2 to many
  • …at least a couple of additional skill rolls, at a penalty equal to Peril, with real consequences for failure.

Delaying, with a good chance of costing the party…

  • …at least a unit of time, when time is critical.
  • …at least a few units of time, when time matters.

If you introduce more than one of these, or if you introduce a complication that’s twice as intense, then the group may agree that this counts as raising the stakes twice.

 

Raising the Stakes: Some Examples

Adding additional foes in a way that creates a real challenge for the party – no adding monsters that for some reason the party find it trivial to defeat due to immunities, or similar! For example, for a starting party:

  • Adding Nx2 fodder monsters, N worthy monsters, or a boss to an otherwise easy encounter.
  • Adding N fodder monsters or N/2 worthy monsters to an already challenging encounter.
  • Adding a boss to an already challenging encounter raises the stakes twice.

Creating a real tactical disadvantage for the characters. Generally, this should require at a least a few non-trivial skill rolls or uses of special abilities to circumvent. For example:

  • Putting the fight in a location where the characters have penalties, but the monsters do not: fighting water monsters in water, for example, or having the lights go out while fighting monsters who can see in the dark.
  • Placing the monsters’ missile troops somewhere that’s difficult to access.
  • Giving the monsters the high ground, when it matters.

Introducing serious additional complications. These should be hazardous, cause delays, or require the successful use of powers or skills to bypass. Some examples:

  • Redirecting the party into more dangerous territory (“Actually, it turns out the King’s Pass has been blocked by an avalanche – and the only other trail leads through the Mountains of Monstrosity…”)
  • Creating a dead end when the party needs to go forward (“Just as we step out to cross it, the bridge over the crevasse collapses!”)
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