In the 200th episode of the Gauntlet Podcast, around minute 35, the crew talks about how we learn about other characters in the game by reacting to them. Greg mentions that in theater, we know that the king is powerful because the other actors bow to them. In RPGs we know how dangerous a monster is by seeing villagers fleeing in panic when they hear the news that it has started to nest.
This is a powerful technique and I would love to hear your examples and tricks how to make this work.
My personal favourite:
Personally, I once learnt from a TV show editor that there is a rule of a third reaction. That says that a dialogue is meaningless if there is just stating of positions.
Character A: You are this thing, while I am that thing.
Character B: But you are this thing. I am so much more that thing.
The scene shall never be over after this. It only starts becoming interesting when we see a reaction to the other’s actions or statement. Only then do we actually establish a relationship between the two, only then do we see a relationship making progress. Something like:
Character A: I am disgusted by your statement, I never want to see you again.
Character B: # shows a vicious smile. They seem to start planning something. #
Try to identify such elements in your favourite TV show or book you read to see what a difference it makes.
In our games that means we should pro-actively ask for a third reaction if they don’t come up naturally.