Oct 052012

For people following this blog, you will know that I’ve already touched on the subject of horror role playing, with tips for GMs, players, a nifty little location you can use, and even some thoughts on why playing a adolescent PC happens so often in horror games. Today, in honour of this months RPG Blog Carnival – hosted by the delightfully lovely people at Troll in the Corner Games – I’m going to offer a last couple of tips, one aimed at GMs, but the first at people who will be playing a horror game. Unlike my earlier articles that were full things to do, this more about what you shouldn’t do, or at least, keep to an absolute minimum.

To all the players out there who live to get into character: please, keep a lid on the hamminess when you’re in a horror game. I know, it’s very tempting to get totally into the scares, and the GM will want that, but when you push it to B-movie screaming and hand waving it really pulls everyone out of the mood the GM is trying to create. The horror that can happen around a gaming table is a lot more palpable if everyone is drawn into slowly and quietly, so every noise they catch at the limits of their hearing is something that could be watching. Waiting

If you want to really play up your terror in a way that will keep this sense of dread going, withdraw from what’s going on a little. Think about what you would do in the same situation; would you be the foolish person who runs around screaming and attracting attention, or would you hunker down and try to get out? Maybe the only way out is mentally? There’s a reason characters lose sanity in horror games, they can’t cope with the new and terrifying reality they’re encountering, so they create a safe place in their minds, and hide there. Now just think of the effect this will have on the other players, as they watch you crumble slowly and eerily away from the person you used to be…

For the GMs now, and this is based on a mistake I’ve made myself in the past. Sitting and watching a scary movie is a very different experience than having a bunch of friends role playing around a table. Sure, you can take a bit of inspiration from movie lighting and sound effects, but what will scare one or two people in a darkened room, won’t always have the same effect on a group of people trying to enjoy a story. So, that cool thing in a horror flick that had you jumping out of your skin? Don’t force it into a role playing game. Take cues from it, but I promise you, the returns you get will be nothing like you expect.

You also run the risk of going over old ground. if you’ve seen the horror flick in question, there’s a good chance the payers have too. Although fear of the known is possible – I prefer the unknown, but that’s just me – familiarity will bore right through that. As will the players then breaking off to talk about their favourite bits of the film it has just become obvious you have stolen from.

I hope that was some help to everyone, but don’t forget to keep checking back with the Troll in the Corner, for more blogs on how to bring the scary to your horror RPGs.

  One Response to “RPG Blog carnival, hallowe’en special – How to stop your horror game from sucking.”

  1. I’m with you on holding the ham in one’s horror sandwich. It’s one of the times when ‘show, don’t tell’ applies to the players’ side of the screen in equal measure to the GM’s side.

    As soon as some one starts saying, “Remember my character is a blahblahblah with the trauma of yaddahyaddahyaddah…” all I can remember is that I am sitting at a table with a pile of dice and not enough pizza. The lack of pizza is emotional, but not scary.

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