I was fine tuning a small computer game today. In it your searching amongst a forrest fallen branches to use one as an implement. Your score goes up by 2D6 for every stick you run over, the comp has a ‘Wilds Bite’ score which goes up by 2D6 every five seconds, with a 10% chance of getting +20 on top of that. Wilds bite kind of represents fatigue and wearyness building up while traversing a forrest.
Anyway, after running a game, I started messing with that 10%, because it had just ‘critted’ me several times in a row, and that wasn’t the tension I was after, so I bumped it down to five.
It was then that I realised I was screwing around with tension. Just like those illusionist GMs who want to give the impression a TPK is possible (for the tension it gives), but not make it so evident that it can indeed actually happen (oooh, I read one of these guys on the D&D board just yesterday – I should have recorded the link? Or would that be sad?).
Anyway, I was essentially doing the same thing – adjusting the tension of play.
But that’s not fair, because you can lose in my little game. It’s not just the impression of being able to lose – it is there.
There’s something more to this – it isn’t just that the illusionist GM is trying to just fake a certain level of tension. I was adjusting tension in my game – you can adjust tension in a game with a win/lose condition, and you can adjust tension in a illusionist game…both tension adjustings are the same in either case. I wonder what that something more is? I thought it was the emotional betrayal…someone makes you feel tense about an outcome, when really that outcome is fixed and no tension is warranted. Hmmm….