I’m generally a pretty unfit person. I’ve gotten into the habit of going for long walks in the park occasionally and have thus perked up my endurance, but over the past few years of brief ‘fitness bursts’, I have managed to increase my running endurance from three house yards to about half a block. Recently I found that in my latest fitness burst (hopefully this one more long-lived), I did more walking and talking with my husband than bursts of running. In fact, I only did one burst.
So I did something a little differently last night. I went out without a jumper.
Y’see, it’s winter here. Or close enough. That means it’s cold outside. The great thing about running is that all that friction and blood flow warms you up. So by going out without a jumper, I’m forcing myself to run to stay comfortable. If I had a jumper, I could stay comfortable (i.e. not puffed), by neglecting to run as often.
So how does all this relate to characters and plots?
The same things that apply to real life can affect characters as well.
As a player, you can pay attention to the environment and react to it in order to create a richer experience. It’s raining? Drive slower even if you’re not given any penalties. Avoid puddles. Fetch an umbrella. It’s cold? Jog to your destination to warm yourself up. Complain about the weather. Express joy about the warmth and sunshine. These things don’t have to take long to make an impact and give you a greater sensation of actually being there.
As a Storyteller, you can motivate characters with environmental comforts and discomforts. Remember to penalise driving checks in the rain. Irritate the characters with constant references to the cloying humidity or dry heat or cold air and how it affects movement, breathing, and their bodies. It’s one thing to simply tell a character it’s humid once. It’s another thing to describe their clothes clinging tightly to their sweaty bodies as they try to strip off to put on their SCUBA gear, as well as the difficulty in pulling on the wetsuit over their sticky skin. Suddenly the characters will be looking to have a shower first just to make it easy and comfortable to pull it on, even though there are no die penalties involved.
Remember you can also use the climate section of your roleplaying book (if you have one) to motivate the players by using the weather as a series of obstacles. The start of the Flashpoint campaign began with a storm which caused the player characters to pick that day to do what they needed to do to get out. It also affected the choices they made. The last session at Rickety Squibs included a water naga driven mad by a drought in the dry, humid equatorial weather.
Obviously there are other forms of discomfort that you can use. Tell a player their character sat on a rusty nail and you can be sure they’ll have their character get back to their feet pretty quick even if there’s no health level damage. A splinter in a gritty campaign could become a big irritation. Pointing out that sleeping on the sofa makes their neck hurt could have them track down a better bed.
So, as a player or a Storyteller, have you ever used mundane discomforts as motivation?