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If you want to signal danger, aside from some of the excellent suggestions above (particularly those of aramisaramis), there's a few other techniques you can use.

First, there's the "red-shirt" approach. Kill an NPC. The more horrible the danger, the closer the NPC should be to the PCs. This technique, of course, only works if you've got players who actually play out their characters caring for anything other than themselves, but if you've got such a crowd, go for it. Just don't take it to the farcical levels of Star Trek....

Upping the ante, maim the NPCs instead – particularly NPCs that the PCs care about. A death is unpleasant, but gone from sight for the most part rather quickly. A maiming is just as unpleasant and is in the face for a longer spell. (Indeed the maiming could itself be a source of quests.)

Upping the ante still further, maim a PC. This can really upset the players, though, so be careful what you do and who you do it to.

Even higher up the annoyance scale is making PCs lose prized possessions. (Yes, IME, most players are more annoyed at their PC losing possessions than limbs. I can't figure it either.)

All of the above needs to be applied in a way that signals the nature and source of the danger, of course, but doing that they're all fail-safe ways to signal danger without falling into the trap. What is that trap? Killing the PCs. PCs being killed as a "signal" is widely viewed (whether you think it "right" or not) as a "killer GM" move. Depending on the complexity involved in making characters or the attachment to characters typical for your players it may even be seen as a dick move. Killing PCs is fine in perceived-fair conflict as the result of player choices and actions (or bad luck), but doing it as a "signal" of how bad the big baddie really is can backfire spectacularly.

... Unless ...

If you can get a player to volunteer to be killed as the signal (on the sly without the other players' knowledge), this can be highly effective. It's rare to find a player willing to do this, again, IME.

If you want to signal danger, aside from some of the excellent suggestions above (particularly those of aramis), there's a few other techniques you can use.

First, there's the "red-shirt" approach. Kill an NPC. The more horrible the danger, the closer the NPC should be to the PCs. This technique, of course, only works if you've got players who actually play out their characters caring for anything other than themselves, but if you've got such a crowd, go for it. Just don't take it to the farcical levels of Star Trek....

Upping the ante, maim the NPCs instead – particularly NPCs that the PCs care about. A death is unpleasant, but gone from sight for the most part rather quickly. A maiming is just as unpleasant and is in the face for a longer spell. (Indeed the maiming could itself be a source of quests.)

Upping the ante still further, maim a PC. This can really upset the players, though, so be careful what you do and who you do it to.

Even higher up the annoyance scale is making PCs lose prized possessions. (Yes, IME, most players are more annoyed at their PC losing possessions than limbs. I can't figure it either.)

All of the above needs to be applied in a way that signals the nature and source of the danger, of course, but doing that they're all fail-safe ways to signal danger without falling into the trap. What is that trap? Killing the PCs. PCs being killed as a "signal" is widely viewed (whether you think it "right" or not) as a "killer GM" move. Depending on the complexity involved in making characters or the attachment to characters typical for your players it may even be seen as a dick move. Killing PCs is fine in perceived-fair conflict as the result of player choices and actions (or bad luck), but doing it as a "signal" of how bad the big baddie really is can backfire spectacularly.

... Unless ...

If you can get a player to volunteer to be killed as the signal (on the sly without the other players' knowledge), this can be highly effective. It's rare to find a player willing to do this, again, IME.

If you want to signal danger, aside from some of the excellent suggestions above (particularly those of aramis), there's a few other techniques you can use.

First, there's the "red-shirt" approach. Kill an NPC. The more horrible the danger, the closer the NPC should be to the PCs. This technique, of course, only works if you've got players who actually play out their characters caring for anything other than themselves, but if you've got such a crowd, go for it. Just don't take it to the farcical levels of Star Trek....

Upping the ante, maim the NPCs instead – particularly NPCs that the PCs care about. A death is unpleasant, but gone from sight for the most part rather quickly. A maiming is just as unpleasant and is in the face for a longer spell. (Indeed the maiming could itself be a source of quests.)

Upping the ante still further, maim a PC. This can really upset the players, though, so be careful what you do and who you do it to.

Even higher up the annoyance scale is making PCs lose prized possessions. (Yes, IME, most players are more annoyed at their PC losing possessions than limbs. I can't figure it either.)

All of the above needs to be applied in a way that signals the nature and source of the danger, of course, but doing that they're all fail-safe ways to signal danger without falling into the trap. What is that trap? Killing the PCs. PCs being killed as a "signal" is widely viewed (whether you think it "right" or not) as a "killer GM" move. Depending on the complexity involved in making characters or the attachment to characters typical for your players it may even be seen as a dick move. Killing PCs is fine in perceived-fair conflict as the result of player choices and actions (or bad luck), but doing it as a "signal" of how bad the big baddie really is can backfire spectacularly.

... Unless ...

If you can get a player to volunteer to be killed as the signal (on the sly without the other players' knowledge), this can be highly effective. It's rare to find a player willing to do this, again, IME.

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If you want to signal danger, aside from some of the excellent suggestions above (particularly those of aramis), there's a few other techniques you can use.

First, there's the "red-shirt" approach. Kill an NPC. The more horrible the danger, the closer the NPC should be to the PCs. This technique, of course, only works if you've got players who actually play out their characters caring for anything other than themselves, but if you've got such a crowd, go for it. Just don't take it to the farcical levels of Star Trek....

Upping the ante, maim the NPCs instead – particularly NPCs that the PCs care about. A death is unpleasant, but gone from sight for the most part rather quickly. A maiming is just as unpleasant and is in the face for a longer spell. (Indeed the maiming could itself be a source of quests.)

Upping the ante still further, maim a PC. This can really upset the players, though, so be careful what you do and who you do it to.

Even higher up the annoyance scale is making PCs lose prized possessions. (Yes, IME, most players are more annoyed at their PC losing possessions than limbs. I can't figure it either.)

All of the above needs to be applied in a way that signals the nature and source of the danger, of course, but doing that they're all fail-safe ways to signal danger without falling into the trap. What is that trap? Killing the PCs. PCs being killed as a "signal" is widely viewed (whether you think it "right" or not) as a "killer GM" move. Depending on the complexity involved in making characters or the attachment to characters typical for your players it may even be seen as a dick move. Killing PCs is fine in perceived-fair conflict as the result of player choices and actions (or bad luck), but doing it as a "signal" of how bad the big baddie really is can backfire spectacularly.

... Unless ...

If you can get a player to volunteer to be killed as the signal (on the sly without the other players' knowledge), this can be highly effective. It's rare to find a player willing to do this, again, IME.