The Difficulty of the Dungeon Delve
Tabletop role playing games are not necessarily created for their difficult nature. In comparison to a video game where it uses difficulty as a mode of storytelling and fun-experiencing, tabletop games don’t necessarily use this tactic as easily. A difficult tabletop game can be… a pain for many people to put it lightly. So where does difficulty play a part in a campaign? What kinds of campaigns can you make with a harder difficulty and which kinds of campaigns should you stay away from difficulty?
Let’s answer the first question first. Difficulty plays an interesting part in a campaign depending on the players you have.
Players who do not enjoy a challenge or direct danger to their character usually don’t respond well to difficulty, whereas players who enjoy this aspect do.
A player who has spent weeks coming up with an incredibly deep backstory for her summoning witch- Agatha, will not take it lightly that the entire campaign is a deadly dungeon crawl meant for veterans. However, this rule has many exceptions.
Difficulty can be interspersed throughout a campaign to lead players on a track that helps keep the DM from railroading. Perhaps a difficult troll encounter seen in the beginning of the campaign shows the characters that they should travel left instead of right for now. Difficulty can also be used to set up incredibly nuanced and interesting villain choices, like can be seen easily in the Final Fantasy video games quite often. A sadistic wizard, obviously too difficult for the players to defeat, beats them to a pulp and mocks them as he runs away. Now the players have a direct reason and quest to defeat this bag guy precisely because he was too hard. So what does this mean about the next campaign to be offered by PersonalDM?
The next campaign will focus on what it means for an adventure to be difficult, and when accomplishments should be earned vs. given. The outer areas, (towns, great views and lands of the Aura, the Elemental Plane of Earth) will be significantly less difficult than the major dungeon that lies below. Players will have to make the decision to embark on the more difficult adventures, whereas most campaigns have a player path or direction that the players "should" go.
Seekers of the Maw will focus on how players deal with difficulty in moderation. Whether they decide to take on a difficult quest or enter a difficult area for larger amounts of experience and treasure, or skirt the dangerous parts until they are aptly prepared will be up to them.