Today it's time for our first before the last emotion in our series. Today, we're gonna talk about thrills. Although the name is similar to the genre of thrillers, there's no real connection between the 2. Thrills are the moment of sudden sensation, when all hell broke lost.
The main way to create thrills in the players is through spectacle scenes. Think about the sinking of the Titanic in the movie, think about the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Opening with a spectacle scene is one of the best attention grabbers there are. There are 2 things to remember when opening a story with a spectacle scene:
The first is not to overdo it at the expense of the story. If it's too much, or not important, or not connected, there's no use for this opening.
The second is to think about what place the PCs will fill in this scene. If there's no role for them there, maybe passing on this scene and opening with how it affects the PCs will be better. Think about the opening scene of The Matrix, part of why it's so great is that here we get Trinity and not just some kind of hacker who talks with her. If the scene can help to establish the characters, so much the better.
When speaking of the opening scene of The Matrix, we can't leave behind the sequence it's part of, the escape sequence of Trinity. Escapes are another great way to bump up the thrills in the story. En escape sequence done right can change everything. Make everything immediate, and the story and players will thank you.
But escape sequences don't have to be done by the PCs, as they can learn of an escape done by the villain. When the characters are there to investigate a crime scene, or an escape from prison scene, narrating their findings in flashbacks to the event itself can prove quiet useful. Always remember one thing when doing this kind of thing, though, it has to be short and it has to give only parts of the crime and not all of it. Strive to give only 50-60% of the crime and let the players fill the rest for themselves (and it's always better to let them fill the dirty parts by themselves).
Another way to get this thrill we're so longing for is by using short intervals of violence. Short intervals that are brutal and dirty are far more thrilling than long tactical fighting. The villains ambush the players, and they have to get to a safe zone while bullets fill the air, the famous monster goes out of the water and advances like an unstoppable nature force into the city, destroying it like a hurricane... This kind of thing is far more thrilling than the orcs who come to kill the PCs and the battle in squares that comes afterwards.
Violence can be replaced by sexuality, though. Think about some of the horror movies we all like to see. Sex=death, and the thrill is in both of this sides of the equation. Now, I'm not saying make the story a porn story or something, but a little sexual conflict here or there does come with its merits.
A better way to use sexuality in the story is by combining it with violence. The sex=death is one way to do this, but there are also other ways to do it. If one of the characters goes to sleep after a wild night and wakes up only to find a dagger near his/her throat, you'll feel the thrilling atmosphere that controls the room.
Before I close for today, there's one thing that I can't discuss thrills and not discuss it, fights. Fights are one of the oldest aspects of the RPGs (and of stories also), but they stopped being this thrilling when they stretch for too long or become too tactical. Although I discussed how to enhance the battles here and here (and also in here), there is also one thing that we can learn from Unknown Armies: making the battles short, brutal and chaotic makes battles less common in the first place, but when they come... The thrills that come with it can challenge action movies.
Another technique is by making the situations more complex, like battling on a driving van, a flying carpet or on a train. If you'll succeed in making a battle between a motorcycle driver (probably the PC) to the villain on the roof of the train, with a chase scene combined with a fight scene, it's gonna be one of the fight scenes of the game.
So, that's about it for today, how about you? How do you thrill your players?