Four of Thirty-Six from ZDL's blog

Another exploration of a dramatic situation from Polti's The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations.  We're keeping on with the vengeance theme here, though this time it's "vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred".  While this may seem a little bit repetitive—how many different kinds of vengeance can there be, after all?—there is something different about this one in terms of its emotional context.  Thus it is that Polti thought it warranted its own heading.  (Polti considered each of his dramatic situations a separate emotion, after all.)

In this situation we have two kinsmen: the "avenging kinsman" and the "guilty kinsman", we have the more abstract element of "remembrance of the victim" and, for the emotional impact to have punch, a "relative of both".

Strap down, this is going to be an emotional roller coaster!


This situation has four necessary components.  I'll address the need of some of them after the list.  First and foremost there are the two obvious: Guilty Kinsman and Avenging Kinsman.  Less obvious than these two, however, though equally necessary, is Remembrance of the Victim and the Relative of Both.

This situation is fraught with raw anger, mixed, likely, in equal parts with sorrow.  Families traditionally have a tight code of conduct with trust being at the foundation of it all.  Breaches of that trust lead to extremes of emotion: both anger at the betrayal and sorrow at the need for revenge.

There is a lot of dramatic potential here, but it only works if the relationship of the two Kinsmen to the Victim is remembered explicitly.  It can't just be mentioned in passing.  It must be wallowed in for a while to hammer home just how important the relationship was.  Further, to amplify just how out of place this situation is, another family member related to both Kinsmen needs to be there to react and try to mitigate or mourn as appropriate.

It's a heady situation and it comes in a few flavours.

1. A parent's death avenged upon the other parent.
2. A child's death avenged upon the sibling.
3. A parent's death avenged upon a spouse.
4. A spouse's death avenged upon a parent.

Now personally I think all of them involving death is a bit much.  There are other situations that could invoke this kind of wrath.  But let's bear with it for now.  There are thirty-two more situations to go through after all and maybe what I'm looking for here is available in other situations!

In role-playing, this situation would be difficult to integrate.  Not impossible, but difficult.  The hardest part would be getting players invested enough in their families to actually have that aforementioned betrayal and sorrow to rise up.  If you can pull it off it will likely form sessions that become the "stories of lore" in gaming groups talked about years later in hushed tones.

There's another option, however.  It would be easier to integrate one or more PCs into the role of Relative of Both and still make the RP meaningful and connected.  Alternatively the PCs could be people outside of the family, but associated in some way with one or more of Victim, Other Kin, or the two Kinsmen.  These outsider views may not quite give the visceral grip that being one of the main elements would have, but they will, if played out with gusto, still form good, satisfying RP.

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Added Dec 14 '21


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