About The Suffering Game
I’ve seen some folks talk about being exhausted by the structure of The Suffering Game, which I completely get — thematically, it’s meant to exhaust the players. I hoped to toss enough variety into the different challenges to engage everyone, but I can also appreciate how seeing the boys go through so much crap every episode can be a bit tiring for some folks. Without giving too much away, things are very much going to come to a head on the next episode, so to those folks: hang in there!
There’s some narrative stuff happening in The Suffering Game that won’t make sense quite yet, but the earliest inspiration I had for it was as a means of endangering the heroes in a real, tangible way without just hanging the threat of death over their heads. It’s something we’ve struggled with a lot in this show, mostly because of how we play — D&D has lots of rules about health management, about treating Hit Dice like a non-renewable resource mid-adventure. And a lot of that stuff clashes with how we play the game to make a good radio show. As a result, the boys are kind of untouchable, with health pools that may diminish, but never enough (or permanently enough) to be a serious threat. The sacrifices done at the wheel are permanent, and largely non-mechanical, skirting those systems altogether. Again, something that may upset folks who wish we followed those rules a bit more closely — though I hope those folks can understand that this is simply the balance that works for us as a podcast.
The arc was also designed to treat a problem that every D&D campaign I’ve ever participated in or tuned into suffers from — power creep. By this point, the boys are armed enough to be, essentially, demigods. It’s a power I’ve given them freely, but it’s impossible to prevent that creep while still offering them cool carrots and a functional economy, which I’ve tried to inject into the Fantasy Costco and other systems. It’s another really difficult balance, and they’ve taken advantage of it in a way that they’ve become immensely powerful, able to easily handle any problem I throw in their direction. The Wheel was intended to perhaps pull them back down to earth a bit, so to speak, though most of the sacrifices they’ve made have been more narrative rather than mechanical. (Which I’m totally fine with, because again, it’s another way of dealing damage.)
Anyways, I just wanted to get some of my thoughts down, because the last thing I wanted people to think is that I actually harbored some sort of sadistic enjoyment out of just straight-up hurting my players. (That’s a certain archetype of DM that I don’t really understand.) I’ve seen some folks characterize this arc as Saw-like torture porn, which I think is mostly unfair, but I can understand their exhaustion. I’d hoped to move through this arc a bit faster, but as is always the case, things have run a bit long. I really hope you enjoy what happens next, because I am very, very excited to get there.