Thursday, December 26, 2013

The "I Am Your Father!" Moment


Yesterday, the wife and I rounded out our Christmas Day festivities with a screening of The Empire Strikes Back. As we watched the movie's climax play out, Des pondered how many RPG campaigns have seen a similarly shocking, revelatory moment.

I observed that there have probably been plenty of campaigns that have tried to force such a moment, but that sort of thing almost always ends badly. You just can't make an RPG match the same sort of careful pacing of a movie or book. Yet, the "shocking reveal" remains a great narrative device when a writer can pull it off successfully, and so too does it for RPG campaigns. It's just that, for the latter, those situations have to emerge through play organically to have any chance of success.

I'm hard-pressed to think of any of my own campaigns that have seen such an organic development. There have been plenty of smaller surprises, twists, and turns, sure, but none on the level of finding out one of the PCs is related to the main bad guy, say. John Wick wrote a lot about integrating such mega-twists into campaigns in his old "Play Dirty" column for Pyramid magazine, and there are increasingly more and more systems out there that provide some sort of mechanic for such a turn to come out at an opportune moment.

Thinking about our little conversation today, I thought I'd poll my readership: how many of you have had a campaign turn on a shocking revelation that emerged through play? Was it instigated by a player or by the GM? Was it wholly done through role-playing, or was there a mechanical component? Discuss!
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