They just marched though his army of baddies, they broke into his stronghold and now they’re ready to fight the ringleader. You’ve prepared your intimidating bad guy speech and deliver it flawlessly with a scary voice and musical accompaniment.
Your players just snicker. One let’s out a “Yeah right.” In short they’re not impressed.
This should be the crescendo of the action but the players are confident enough that they aren’t even worried. What went wrong? You wanted them trembling in their boots but now they’re laughing and taunting.
Realistically it makes sense. I had one player ask me “Why would this guy need an army if he was really tough?” If you had just fought your way through the Nazi armies and came face to face with Hitler, who do you think would be scared, you or Hitler?
So how do you make the tension peak just as the players get to the end of the game? How do you make them afraid of the Big Bad?
For one, if the PCs aren’t limping up the stairs to the throne room, their’s no reason for them to be afraid. Why would they be if they’re at the top of their game?
Have the PCs ever been defeated by this big bad before? No? Well, again, why be afraid?
Have they been in fear of his diabolical traps? No? Well?
The PCs have to be in mortal peril with their backs up against the wall, their girlfriend being used as a hostage and their dog hanging over a pit of boiling lava before they’re going to feel the tension. They have to be experiencing the danger and not know how they will get out of it before the big bad can deliver his triumphant speech.
Get the timing wrong and they’ll be laughing and taunting again.