Three of Thirty-Six from ZDL's blog

Continuing in The Thirty-Six, based on Georges Polti's The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, today's situation is "vengeance of a crime" in which an "avenger" wreaks vengeance upon a "criminal" for past crimes.


In this situation there are only two necessary components: an Avenger out to wreak revenge, and a Criminal upon whom vengeance shall be delivered.  This situation can almost be viewed as the reverse of DELIVERANCE or SUPPLICATION, in that the Avenger could be the Persecutor or Threatener while the Criminal could be viewed as the Suppliant or the Unfortunate.  The difference lies mostly in sympathies: in DELIVERANCE/SUPPLICATION the victim is sympathetic to the onlooker while in this one the victim is viewed negatively.  (Of course playing with viewpoints could have this be a parallel dramatic situation and the resolution could have the story start with VENGEANCE OF A CRIME only to have it, via a mid-plot reveal, turn into DELIVERANCE, say.)

There are three primary forms of this dramatic situation.

1. Vengeance for direct injury upon persons valued by the Avenger: kin and friends, for example.  The nature of the crime can one of violence (death or injury), one of honour (which would include seduction in most cultures) or other such personal injury.

2. Vengeance for more abstract injuries like crimes of property, deception, false accusation or other forms of calumny, or even vengeance for having been robbed of an opportunity for vengeance.  (The opening sentences of "The Cask of Amontillado" would be an example of this type: "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult I swore revenge.")

3. This one is an odd one out: professional pursuit of criminals.  Think cops and detectives here.  While it seems a little oddly out of place in this heading compared to the others, the same dramatic tensions exist.

Vengeance is a dramatic potboiler in RPGs!  In the first two types, it's going to practically spring up by itself in a normal campaign as the femme fatale steals the vital gem, as the orc tribe that massacres villagers the players had grown fond of finds it bit off more than it could chew plus a thousand more things.

That being said, however, that third odd duck out has serious potential for driving campaigns.  Picture the PCs as an investigatory team sent out by the powers that be, or self-motivated (for mercenary reasons, or others) to hunt down criminals.  An old west campaign, for example, (even if it's the weird west or such) could have the PCs be lawmen or bounty hunters quite easily, and such professions would exist almost anywhere.

Similarly, even in places like Ancient China or medieval Europe you often found magistrates who had personal investigation and enforcement arms (even if the methods were ... unscientific) who would solve crimes.  Moving this into an RP scenario would not be difficult.

So never underestimate the power of vengeance and crime to drive RP in games!

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The Wall

Dec 20 '21
Like Hamlet, "I must avenge my father's death." A ghost story with vengeance as a dramatic situation. Definitely medieval and it ends in a TPK as a dramatic resolution.
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Added Dec 13 '21


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