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SITUATIONAL ENRICHMENT – GAMEPLAY

SITUATIONAL ENRICHMENT

This is a sort of parallel post to one on Easter Eggs that I will post here later on.

Today a buddy of mine sent me a link to an Army video on Hyper-Realistic Tactical Training. (Think of it as a kind of live-action wargame involving TSS/Transferable Skill Simulations. I cannot herein reproduce the link because the link has since been extinguished, probably due to security REASONS.) He knows that I’ve been active in experimenting with and developing gaming related training techniques for a long time and thought I’d enjoy the video. (I did by the way. I had never seen it before.)

Anyway the video reminded me of a technique I use both in-
game(s) and in training scenario development that I call Situational Enrichment.

You might think of situational enrichment as the non-combat version (or parallel development version) of Hyper-Realistic Immersive Training.

It has a couple of objectives, but this is basically how it works. You take a non-combat situation, but one highly charged, and interject the players into this situation without warning. The situation will be filled with a veritable plethora of challenges, obstacles, and enrichments. Usually these enrichments will be multi-layered, have various applications, will sometimes compete against each other (in nature, or for the player’s attention), be in continual motion, and have some immediate or demanding application.

The point of an enriched environment is to provide a high level of stress and potential danger without anything that might necessarily induce a combat situation. It will simply be that the enriched environment will be filled with so many potential problems, devices, articles, objects, creatures, movements, events, etc. that are all happening either simultaneously or in quick succession that attempting to react to everything available might very well produce exhaustion, or information, observational, and functional overload. Plus a well-enriched environment might present so many “potential dangers” (regardless of whether the dangers are real or not) that to the player it seems as dangerous if not more so than a standard combat situation.

One of the advantages to this kind of situation (among others) from the point of the DM or scenario developer is that you can test the participants’ reaction capabilities, see how they react to conflicting and/or multiple stressors, and to conditions of “overload.” The advantages to the player are manifold, but include learning to handle high stress situations that do not involve combat, improvement of observational skills, learning to organize reactions to environmental demands (conducting environmental triage), improvement of mental capabilities and problem solving abilities, and so forth and so on. Plus such situations are usually very interesting and fascinating to both develop and play through.

You do not want to inflict conditions of Situational Enrichment on players continuously as they can become mentally exhausted, just as protracted periods of combat or unknown danger can also take a mental and psychological toll.

But used occasionally and judiciously they can, I think, provide a fascinating enrichment experience, and serve as a great training scenario for future actions.

Let me give an example of what I would call an Adapted Gaming Enrichment Situation.

Situation: (this is a situation I have actually used before) The players have been moving through a set of underground ruins. It has been a relatively long time since they encountered any creature or real danger or threat. They are walking down a seemingly ordinary corridor when suddenly there is a blaring din, like several horn blasts going off simultaneously. The noise does not abate but only grows louder over time. At about the same time the walls begin to pulse and glow in a variety of different colors, and it can now be seen that the walls are covered in complex and strange glyphs and designs. As the noise gets worse the walls glow more fiercely until the light becomes almost painful. Fire erupts behind the players and seems to run along the floor, ceiling, and walls. Smoke begins to accumulate along the ceiling and the temperature rises. From the fiery ceiling suddenly erupts a huge swarm of buzzing, flying locusts, all alight. They are careening crazily towards the players. Forced forwards by the fire and the burning insects the players tumble into a room ahead that is also blaring non-stop and whose walls both pulse and seem to bleed. The locusts begin landing on the players, threatening to set their clothes afire. There is apparently a pool of water ahead but as the players move for it a large flesh golem erupts from the water and it can now be seen that the liquid is corrupt and foul. The golem does not attack but screams relentlessly, gesturing wildly at the players and a corner of the room in which lies a man, seemingly a fellow adventurer, moaning in pain and severely wounded. As the party watches some of the locusts swarm around the golem and it and the pool catch fire. The pool was actually filled with some type of highly combustible liquid, not water.

The golem screams even more loudly and rushes towards the wounded man. Before he can reach him the floor drops away spilling both the golem and the man into some type of pit. The players can hear the man is crying and begging for help, but just barely due to the intense and relentless blare. Many of the blocks upon the floor begin to heat, but some seem dark and cool. The air begins to shimmer and several characters vanish from sight, only to wink back into view ten to twenty seconds later. The ones who disappeared swear that it was the other players who actually disappeared. This continues at random intervals until one player reappears in different clothing, and with different possession than he had before.

Suddenly three doors appear which might allow escape from the room. One is on the ceiling and is apparently made of stone and metal. One is on the floor and has already caught fire. One is on the wall on other side of the pit where the golem and man disappeared, and has a demonic like face with a horn for a mouth. The din seems to be absorbed by the mouth of the monstrous face but any time the players try to speak or communicate with one another the demon mouth also instantly absorbs their words. Suddenly the din is gone but there is no noise at all as the face mouth absorbs all sound.

How would your players react at each stage of such a scenario or situation? What would they make of it? How would they attempt to solve such problems, and in what order? What would they fear might be happening?

The point of an enrichment environment however is not necessarily to do any physical harm to the players at all. It is to misdirect, exhaust, and test them with seemingly dangerous, bizarre, and confusing situations. Although occasionally I will throw in a trap or series of them or a real fight in the middle of such a disordered or over-stimulated environment.

However the example I just used was one of “Stress Enrichment.” You can also enrich an environment in any number of ways, such as providing so many amazing, wonderful, and valuable things, all operating at once that the players have a difficult time sorting priorities and modes of reaction.

Anywho, that’s some of the ways I use situational enrichment. Do you do something similar or related, and if so, how do you o about it? Can you cite examples?

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