Hot answers tagged

82

Powerful drama requires powerful motivations. When everyone at the table agrees that they want a Horror game, they must craft their characters around these motivations. If they don't buy in, then you get the kind of power-fantasy where the heroes do the quite sensible thing of feeding Cthulhu a couple cases of dynamite and legging it. That isn't horror, that'...


64

I have managed only a couple of times, but as a GM. And the first time is one of my best gaming memories, and one of the reason I keep GMing. It was not in a Lovecraftian setting at all (Exalted actually, making me even prouder), so I won't be able to give you setting specific hints there, but the method can supposedly be applied to any game. I have found ...


59

If your players are playing their characters then you are a really lucky GM, and you should be proud of them. But yeah, I understand. We've spent ages preparing an encounter for the group. We've gone over all their possible approaches dozens of times and put stuff to gently railroad them into the right places to cover every eventuality. And yet still, the ...


52

The Five Layer Model for horror scenario design is a handy tool put out by Graham Walmsley, as an aid for GMs to come up with good horror. It's put out as a supplement to Cthulhu Dark, and as such, is really more of a guideline than a set of hard and fast rules. The rules themselves are in Dark Depths: Creating scenarios for Cthulhu Dark, and linked on the ...


44

The Players May Not Want To Part of fantasy role playing for a lot of people is being able to be larger than life for a bit. They may not want their characters to feel fear at all. Now, in a novel this may be a bad thing, since a character that isn't believable can disrupt the suspension of disbelief. But in an RPG its not necessarily a bad thing to ...


41

You've only talked about retaliatory responses to players who step out of line. Have you tried a group conversation before the game, so everyone can set parameters and know what they are? That works a lot better than punishing them for crossing lines they didn't know existed. This is especially important with horror games. Suspense, dread, terror, and the ...


35

Pacing The key to a good horror game/movie is the pacing; if the characters are constantly in peril and exposed to horrific things then it will become bland. From my Cthulhu games I've found keys to this are: Build up Slowly lead the players into somewhere dangerous, use mundane things to build tension like smashed glass, scrawled notes, lightning blasted ...


34

If they aren't scared of death, make them scared of negative modifiers. DMG pg. 272, Lingering Injuries Nothing is stopping you from having a monster tear a guys arm off in battle with a particularly vicious strike. The kind of magics needed to reconstruct a limb are a lot harder to come by. Other things you can run into are things that can cause real ...


32

Building Tension to Build Horror I’ve played RPG’s since I was a kid, but I’ve also written narrative as a hobby for years. RPG’s combine the intellectual stimulation of board games with the deep engagement of storytelling (books and films). When the players calmly intellectualize their attempts to WIN, they’re in board game mode. When players FEEL ...


32

I hate railroading and GMs breaking immersion to enforce their hackneyed vision of "the plot" so I figured I needed to contribute another perspective in the answers. Try not being completely in love with the specific idea of "there at night" you have. So they can go there during the day, and it's still scary. You can employ fog, rain/snow, and/or thick ...


28

There are several choices. Just make it night. No matter how long it looks like it should take them to get there, they get there just after sunset. Might feel like railroading, but in a horror setting your players shouldn't mind too much. You can even use it to play up the creepiness factor: in the movie Army of Darkness, at one point the sun sets ...


28

The Ugly Truth It's entirely possible that your players simply want to charge heroically into danger and death. Since they have seen their characters die and they know you won't "pull your punches" and they're still charging to their doom, it's likely that the story of the hero who laughs into the face of danger – and sometimes dies for it – is ...


28

I think you're metagaming. You, the GM and player, know that continuing to pursue the truth will lead to madness. Your characters don't know that. They don't know the risks yet. Your characters are just finding out (possibly for the first time) that "magic" or something like it is real. If you, in real life, just found out that magic was real, wouldn't you ...


27

Any sensation, experienced in full without stop will eventually allow or force those who experience it to adjust to or move away from it. For a 'horror' campaign to be effective, memorable, and successful for a good duration of time it is necessary to have a solid understanding of two things, everything else is secondary and dependent on your performance ...


22

I ran a game where players had their spirits projected into the realms of the damned and they were damn1 glad to get out of there by the time they'd escaped. Wraith: the Oblivion is a game you should consider having a look at for ideas but there are several things (depending on your world) that can threaten those who are already dead. Insanity – There's ...


20

If I understand the problem correctly, it boils down to you presenting overwhelming, life-threatening encounters to them, and them refusing to show fear? I say the reason for them not being afraid of death and dismemberment may be as simple as the one that death is not scary in D&D 3.5. You're dealing with mid-level PCs that can resurrect one another if ...


20

It absolutely can, but it creates some challenges: Why is this a one-location game? Is there some reason the players can't leave? Bear in mind it's an improvised game, so it's tough to prevent the players just narrating their way out of the trap. You might want to include an explanation up-front saying "in a variation from the normal rules, you can't leave ...


20

Stephen King wrote about terror. The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling own a flight of stairs, it's when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it's when the lights go out and something with ...


18

Think about a horror movie for minute. Pacing: most horror movies are pretty fast paced, and move from scene to scene quickly. This can help keep viewers (or players tense). But sometimes they slow dow Mix it up: there isn't something gross in ever scene. Sometimes a chase is a chase and you get away. Sometimes there are moments for character development (...


18

This is a pretty large topic. I'll offer up my essay on Horror in Roleplaying as a partial answer. A quick summary of the approach: Create personal investment in the story for the characters Use descriptions and props etc. to make it more tangible to the players Use information compartmentalization and PC conflict to remove feeling of safety Leverage the ...


18

Sounds to me like the Whispering Vault. That, too, was a horror game that came out in the early '90s — Wikipedia says the first edition came out in 1993, and that jibes with my memory. The ability to choose your physical form came up in a prominent way, as the PCs spend a lot of time in the realm of Dreams, which matches the description of "another universe ...


17

You cannot sustain a horrific setting all the time. Thus pacing is key. Allow the players some normal and fun times -- both IC and OC. However, there are a few things you can do to always unsettle them. Mostly they boil down to alienation. You want a disconnect between nice comfy reality and the game world. You want to mess with players' minds -- just ...


17

An appeal to role would fit very nicely here. Lawbringer: The bad guys will only operate at night. It is your job to catch them in the act. Msytical Ingredient: The mystical ritual can only be completed under the jet black sky of a new moon. Appeal to masculinity: "I double dog dare you to spend the night at [X]!" Appeal to Curiosity: "You can hear ...


16

I've only had this happen once so limited exposure but here's what my DM did: 1st, Physical Environment: Lights were out with just small candle style lanterns to see character sheets, maps, etc. 2nd, Auditory Senses: CD with appropriate sound effects. Bonus: We really did have a BIG thunderstorm hit about 20 min after we started, which aligned perfectly ...


16

There's a saying amongst certain roleplayers: "If it has stats, we can kill it." The accuracy of this saying varies hugely from game to game, but it's relevant to this question because it highlights a very important aspect of D&D: The more the players know about a threat's strengths and weaknesses, the easier it is to overcome, and the less scary it is. ...


16

In addition to the excellent answers already posted, let me suggest that you look at the kinds of protagonists that Lovecraft wrote about; police investigators ("The Call of Cthulhu", "The Horror at Red Hook"), artists looking for unique experiences ("Pickman's Model"), and people who actually wanted to find out more about the squiggly things under the bed ...


15

Players often get too accustomed to their gear, skills, co-operation etc. That makes them sure of themselves because they kind of know how things will go. One of the best experiences for me, was a very interactive session in which DM didn't much do talking himself but we players created the scene. Somehow, I don't anymore remember how, we got possessed. ...


15

Slasher-horror movies are about transgression and death. This is wrapped up in the idea of horror movie as "cautionary tale", a kind of morality play where only the people who do the right thing can survive. The problem is that every horror movie has its own morality. Is "the right thing to do" to remain in a safe place when you're in danger? Or is "the ...


14

Hint it and measure enthousiasm The general approach I take when I'm not sure what my players like, or whether they'd enjoy a specific thing, is to hint to it during the session and see if they bite. This works best in an open world or if you've already taught your players that they can say "no" and the story will go on, but even if they're used to ...


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