The other day, while I was surfing YouTube, I came across a video in which the presenter was explaining why he thinks that Quentin Tarantino is every bit as good as he thinks Tarantino is. It turned out to be because of ⑴ indirect dialogue that reveals its meaning in retrospect and ⑵ suspense. In the course of the explanation the present cited an explanation of suspense in movies that Alfred Hitchcock once made.
If you show a pair of characters engaging in well-crafted dialogue at a café table, and after five minutes a bomb explodes there is no suspense. But if you show a bomb under a café table, with its timer counting down, and then have two characters sit at that table and engage in well-crafted dialogue, oblivious to their danger, the suspense it terrific. Now, I maintain that there is another approach to suspense that also works: show a character in apprehension, taking great care to avoid some danger, and not show the audience what the danger is. But it’s much easier to fall flat with the latter.
It occurs to me to wonder how Hitchcockian suspense may be used in RPGs, where there is seldom a clear disjunction between characters and audience, and in which dramatic irony is difficult.
I think it can be done, because I can recall an instance in which I did it. But I was GMing on instinct that time, and I can’t tell you how I did it. Is there a formula for suspense in RPG adventures?