RPG a Day 14: Safety

Most of the things I could say about OOC safety and feelings of safety are covered in the post on trust, so I’m going to talk about the IC feelings of safety instead.

Adventurers in RuneQuest should not always feel safe. Some RPGs vary. Sometimes you know you’re getting back to the status quo, and there’s Mild Peril. Sometimes you feel safe and you shouldn’t. (Looking at you, Cthulhu Mythos.) But RuneQuest is a world in which you’re pretending you’re real people with real concerns and real herds of cows can be stolen from you at any time.1As one of my players has pointed out, ‘You get sent out to look after the cows’ is the ‘you meet in an inn’ of RuneQuest. There are lots of things that can happen once you’ve reached the point where the chief trusts you with cows, and very few of them lead to Daisy and Buttercup coming home safely without trauma.

The biggest way for an adventurer to feel safe is to have a community. In RuneQuest, you play people with ties to others. Those people will look after you, be loyal to you, and expect your loyalty. Home is a place of comparative safety2Except when those Varmandi bastards are raiding our cattle again., of feeling that things are better with others alongside you. It’s a place where you support your friends and family.

Threats to that safety are a classic plot hook. You can threaten it in many ways, but I find two to be most important. One is a threat from the outside – Chaos, war, raiding, natural disaster. That’s usually a relatively simple plot, and if you string a few together with their consequences then you’ve got a campaign.

The other, far more insidious, is a threat from the inside. Creeping rumours, jealousy, changes in tradition, and bad ideas that will lead TO threats from the outside. Counter-raiding the raiders might seem like a good idea when you decide on it, but do we REALLY want to leave our cattle alone to go steal theirs?

The GM’s job in creating a RuneQuest home community is to make a place where adventurers believe that they are safe, and want to preserve that safety. There are other communities of course, based on other things, but a wish to preserve safety is a strong driver for plot of many kinds, and taking that safety away, temporarily or otherwise, is a big step in getting adventurers to interact with the world. It should never feel like it is done just to get them moving. Rather, it should feel like a natural thing that makes them want to move of their own accord.

  • 1
    As one of my players has pointed out, ‘You get sent out to look after the cows’ is the ‘you meet in an inn’ of RuneQuest.
  • 2
    Except when those Varmandi bastards are raiding our cattle again.

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