Jump to content

Horror & RPGs


Recommended Posts

How do you folks feel about running/playing an RPG that runs as a Psychological/Survival Horror story?


Any good/bad stories?


Personally I really enjoy running these kinds of scenarios. They're very easy to improv. They can also provoke real emotion in those involved and to me that is the mark of a truly great story. For example:


I was out at the smoking area of my barracks one night trying to explain to this country boy what an RPG was. After several attempts to relate the concept in a way he could graps I say screw it and tossed him into a scenario. As things progressed several of the other smokers in the building (most of which used to give me crap for being a geek) would stop me to ask what movie/book/video game I was talking about. Each time I answered that I was making it up as I went along and each time that person sat down and got involved in the story. We went until 2am and smoked two entire cartons of smokes between the NINE of us. I put these people (as themselves) into a situation that was a mix of Silent Hill, The Stand, and The Walking Dead. They begged me to continue the story the following night.

The next morning I run into one of the group on my way to class and she slugs me in the arm and gives me a dirty look. Apparently I scared her so badly she didn't sleep at all. I apologized and asked if she wanted to opt out of the next episode. She was very clear that she was totally going to participate again.

That evening we got back together at the same table as the night before just as the sun was setting. One of the cool things about living right on the coast (this was in San Diego) is every once in awhile we get a nice thick blanket of fog rolling in from the ocean. The young lady I scared about lost her mind when the thickest fog bank we'd EVER seen on that base rolled up from the water and settled in around us just as I was getting things started. :devil: Unfortunately it didn't last more than an hour. ::(: The whole thing played out pretty quickley this time. I'd come up with a few ideas during the day so I wouldn't have to make it up as I went along.

Edited by Girot
  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 39
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

I love the idea of it, and most of the D&D games I DM end up as horror tales for my players anyway. A master of description can leave you slack jawed, wide-eyed and clammy with chills.


Wouldn't mind playing one some day, but I'd need a dark, candlelit room to do it in.

Edited by The Basilisk
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cool. :D The best RPG horror scenario I was ever in was run by my wife, Wendy. Sadly, she does not think of herself as a good GM, but if that one experience was any measure, she has the gift!


It was actually a game of *Advanced HeroQuest*, strangely enough (basically a Games Workshop board game with fantasy elements -- a predecessor to "Warhammer Quest"), but if you've got a GM with a good sense of story-telling, it's just as good of an RPG as any. We were expecting a standard dungeon romp, only that we were starting in "ye olde" cliched tavern to hear the rumor that would start our adventure. We were totally caught off guard when it became evident that the adventure was happening IN the tavern. It would take a lot of the fun out of it to try to summarize it all here, but it was basically haunted/cursed; what we didn't know is that this roadside tavern had been destroyed some time ago, and our fellow revelers were merely ghosts of other unlucky travelers. It took on a very Twilight Zone quality, as the first hints of strangeness occurred when there was an accident with one of the patrons, and then everything went back to normal surprisingly quickly; and then the accident happened AGAIN. Essentially, the heroes were trapped in a ghostly tavern where all of the patrons were acting out the events of their own deaths -- and as the events picked up, it threatened to catch up the heroes as well. (And of course, we could not LEAVE.)


I think that a large part of what made it so effective as a horror game was that we simply didn't see it coming; we weren't EXPECTING a horror game. Another thing was that it was a one-shot, and Advanced HeroQuest was a game in which PC fatality comes along surprisingly easily (particularly for starting heroes). We could live; we could die; there were no certainties, no expectations.


I think that horror RPG scenarios work better as "one-shots" with unique characters created for that scenario and that scenario only. If this is a sudden horror twist with previously established PCs in a campaign that's previously been pulpy, action-oriented, or "high fantasy," there's likely to be some player friction if there's the threat of a seemingly arbitrary death of a long-established PC just to drive home to the party that "this time it's serious."


If it's a long-running campaign built around horror, it's pretty hard to stay scared all the time. If your PCs don't die, then the threat level might be hard to maintain. But then, on the other hand, if your PCs DO die, and players just come back with new PCs, after a while the novelty wears off. You can only die so many times ... and if that's not enough, then maybe "dying" isn't such a big deal.


Personally, I'm just fine with a horror scenario in which nobody dies, but it's all about ambiance/mood and the THREAT of peril. I just can't see that being maintained for the long term without it weakening considerably.


But of course, a lot of it has to do with the delivery. The GM has to be energized and into it; I think that these days in order to do a proper horror scenario, I'd have to keep sessions short. (It's a lot harder to react quickly, and to muster up the energy to play the parts of various NPCs rather than just letting them quietly sink into the background, when I'm tired, and the hour is getting late.)


As far as systems go, the more "rules-light," the better for the most part. If it's a system where heroes are insulated by massive piles of hit points, say, it's harder to accept that a single knife stab could be truly threatening; but even in hit-point-based systems, a proper fear of mortality can be brought back into play if everyone's very low-level.

Edited by Jordan Peacock
  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm a RPG Game master/keeper for years and one of my favorite game is Call of Cthulhu. One day I started an adventure and everybody was expecting the mythos to crawl in at any time. It was about a missing boy. They kept investigating and waiting, tension growing and fear building up.

Then they finnaly found the boy, who had fall into a pit. There was no horror, just the fear of it. My players loved that session.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Reaper User

I've run horror scenarios for years, this year at ReaperCon 2013 is no different. The games I'm running will tie into the Drachem & Grimm circus and will be chock full of macabre and disturbing imagery in the vein of Silent Hill with emphasis on Victorian steampunk all hung on an adventure pulp skeleton. The games will be PG but I may slip and the games could easily slide into PG13 territory so I've gotta watch my step.


I'm finalizing my gameplans tonight so expect to be deluged by info this week.



  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like them, largely because the RPGs I've run lately are variants on 'Mafia' or 'Werewolf' - social games run on forums with a really loose set of rules and more geared towards narrative than anything else. And the ones I keep running are all based on the Cthulhu mythos - where I try to keep the threat as nameless and as formless as possible and let the players imaginations fill in the blanks. Works pretty well, especially if they don't know all the rules.


Mind you, the ones another person runs based on the Paranoia rules are hilariously fun - if not quite horrific except for the game based around Ghostbusters, where the dead characters joined the Ghost faction. That one got dark : ).


To me, the story is the important part. I'm as fond of rolling dice and dungeon crawls as the next person, assuming the next person is also a rabid geek, but I like to tell a story. The problem for me is this: I grew up playing D&D with my family. Dad had one of the original 'Greyhawk Adventures' pamphlet style rule books, and we learnt to play using the 1977 'Blue Book' basic set. I remember this as a time of magic, of stories, when my family and friends would sit in the lounge besides a roaring fire as my Dad took us on adventure after adventure. Since that stopped, largely because us kids grew up, I've never recaptured that sense of wonder with another GM.


Which is a shame. I'd love to just enjoy a game of D&D instead of thinking to myself 'This is OK, but man I wish this was being run by my Dad'

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I enjoy them. (I'd have to to back tremulus on Kickstarter, right?)


Again, I've never "properly" done tabletop. My experiences are all freeform forum rpgs, freeform chatroom/IM rpgs, and sort of being a hanger-on via Skype to a tabletop session where my contributions were done via email (my character wrote letters to the others - I sent the letters to the DM who read them to the group as they came up in the plot) and IM (where I did one rpg session with the DM and a few one-on-one sessions with them that they didn't know were of my main character and thought was an NPC).


That all said, I have been able to experience a bit of the thrill of this sort of gaming. My DM for Exalted (the Skype rpg) was the intelligent, tormenting sort. He easily made me paranoid (but I'm probably an easy mark for that sort of thing). I don't remember the exact context, but it was our wont for us to have hours-long conversations about the game via email while he was at work. He dropped a clue and I clearly remember that my response back to him was a lot of jibbering because I understood the threat, but didn't know the source or how to prepare for it. Obviously, this was more OOC than IC, because IC my character wouldn't have realized how much danger he and the others were in. But it's a similar experience.


My best friend and I do freeform chat-gaming all the time. Because we are "both" and "neither" one of us the GM and we've been gaming together for... perhaps a decade by now, we trust each other and know most of the buttons we can push with each other without going too far but getting a reaction. Generally it's my friend who pushes the "fear" buttons. She is very, very good at writing creepy and disturbing scenes. I can't say how many nights a month I am too unnerved from the game to get up and go into the kitchen or even take a break for a shower or open the closet door so I *know* there's nothing in there. xD


I wish I could cite some of the best examples from my friend's gaming, but too much of it builds on years of character building so that very small shifts in behavior become something huge. One that does stand out in my memory is one of the very first truly disturbing plots she did with me. This was years ago - at least five and probably longer - so my memory is sort of vague on certain points [noting that some of the imagery may be disturbing; etc]:


My character fell through a mirror, appearing in a world that was a mirrored-version of the old Victorian house he was in. Perhaps years in the future, with the house aged and falling apart and very empty feeling. Since he can't go through the mirror again (he can see into the "normal" version of the house through the mirror) or wake his friend sleeping in the "normal" version of the room by shouting or pounding on the glass, my character decides to explore and see if he can figure out what's going on. He goes downstairs, trying not to fall through the rotting steps or place too much trust in the shaky bannister, when a spirit comes through the stairs and blocks his path. IIRC, the figure was shouting at him soundlessly. Possibly it attacked him. The spirit was the spirit of one of my character's friend's housemates (like that's not confusingly written) - a guy my character avoided because he creeped him out and made him think of a ghost. So my character starts to think, "Oh, I'm dreaming." so to enforce that it was reality, things happened to injure my character. And the ghost of the creepy guy keeps disappearing into the lounge area, so my character shakily follows, only to see the third housemate "sleeping", curled up and mummified on the couch. The ghost of the creepy guy makes it clear through miming that this is all my character's fault. Considering the character mummified on the couch is the character who's been the nicest to my character (even nicer than my character's friend), it was upsetting to me and my character both. My character asks what happened. The ghost angrily takes him into another room where the character worked from home as some sort of computer technician. The computers are mostly busted to pieces, though one was still flickering in a sort of way that turned the scene even more creepy. Chairs are strewn everywhere, along with shattered CDs and dust, and other debris. Then the ghost points up where his mummified body hangs from the ceiling from electrical wiring, eyes open and sightless; mouth still screaming. Well. That was all my character could deal with of that. He's never been able to handle ghosts very well and this was too much for him. He goes running back up to the attic and starts beating on the mirror, screaming, trying to wake up his friend on the other side of the mirror. And the mirror... begins to crack.


To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what happened from there, but I know it involved a lot of blood and may or may not have been a story where my character shattered the mirror and was trapped in the haunted version of the house for months at a time. (We split universes a lot so we can try variations on a story.)


And my friend has only got better with practice.


And now the wind is picking up again and I don't want to go into the kitchen and make myself some tea because my friend is AFK right now making herself some dinner. >_>;

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am one of those unfortunate souls who usually always runs games as opposed to actually getting to play them. HOWEVER I did have the pleasure of playing under two very talented GMs once upon a time. One guy had a knack for assimilating ANYTHING he wanted into Earthdawn seamlessly.


The other was very good with puzzles, politics, and finding ways to pit the players against each other. Oh, and inciting outrage (in game). I got him back though by taking a normal fantasy setting and deep frying it in Silent Hill. This gentleman is a scary intelligent person with a logical sense that would give a Vulcan a h4rd0n. So I took logic and used it as a garnish for the deep fried plate of horror is served up. He was a very good sport about it... for a while. Eventually he says screw it and cuts down my equivalent of Alyssa Gillespie, not having figured out he was supposed to save her instead of kill her. This totally short circuited everything else I had scripted up until the table shifted to “the other world”.


I signaled my sound guy to play the air raid siren WAV and slowly dim the lights in the living room.


I rearranged the terrain and models on the table in the dark and topped off the two ‘towers’ with candles. I lit them and instructed the group to leave the lights off. The only source of light now are the two raging pyres before them. Smart Guy blinked a couple of times then went outside to smoke a cigarette. He isn’t a smoker.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do like the horror genre but I rarely get a chance to run it.


Did get a player to have his character commit suicide in a Raveloft game once though.


He fell in a pit of bones and I described the "Chitenous horror as long as his forearm crawling towards him, greenish venom dripping from it's mandibles" he just freaked and declared there was no way he could fight it so he character slit his own throat rather than face what ever terror lay in store for him.


There was no way I was going to tell him it was a 1/4HD centipide afterwards

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd love to do a horror-themed sessions but most members of my RPG group are babies when it comes to stuff like that. (I'm the horror movie buff out of the group, most of my friends refuse to watch horror movies with me.) ::(:


Maybe I should just spring a horror session on my group one day.

Edited by Cassu
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...