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 'horror' rpgs

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malak
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PostSubject: 'horror' rpgs   Mon Aug 11, 2014 9:12 pm

both a half-rant and a request for brainstorms here.
I have a Pathfinder group who wants to play a horror campaign with an evil party. As I sit down to ponder how to do this, I realize most of our modern games don't really have that breath-stealing fear aspect anymore. Sure, we have base gore fairly easy, but most of the horror I have ever run on a group, or had run on me (regardless of game, VtM, Shadowrun, DnD, WtF, Hunter, Paranoia) has only managed one of two reactions; gross (same reaction as to a Friday 13th or zombie movie) or "what sick person thought that up?" The best reaction I ever got was in an old ADnD game, describing a prison central room. I said that footing was slightly difficult due to an eighth inch of sawdust covering the floor. I still don't know why that detail terrified the group, but it was great.
This led me to examine film from my lifetime for that same gut-wrench that makes you turn the lights on in the hallway. I got almost nothing. The first Saw had a touch of it, Blair Witch Project and Company of Wolves both held that real terror to them (the first time you watch them, at least). Cheesy though it was, 'The Last Horror Movie' got me, though mainly because I happened to recognize the rental store used in it.
Is the problem with our storytelling, or are we as humans or former humans now simply to jaded that we can no longer truly suspend disbelief during a story?
My request: Help me re-instill that true horror in my party. I am trying to go for a real personal horror here, although by nature of the rule-set the party wants to play it will fall to adventure horror. Anyone have any ideas to do so? either story hooks/plots or, preferably, ambient changes to the game that wil immerse the players in jaw-clenching fear, either for their characters or their own sanity.
Also, any suggested reading/viewing for me as the DM or music to use as ambiance?
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Dragatus
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PostSubject: Re: 'horror' rpgs   Tue Aug 12, 2014 6:42 am

The greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. If you want to terrify your players, make sure they don't know what's going on. Avoid throwing any known monsters at them. But feel free to throw monsters at them that look familiar, but are actually something different. Don't show the monster if you don't need to, only the effect it has on the world. Bend the rules of the game or even brake them. Make up your own houserules. Go easy on the gore and heavy on uncertainty.

Consider that players are jaded and don't feel the physical pain of their characters. Gore is going to leave them cold. They don't fear death. So attack them in other ways. An enemy that deals small amounts of permanent ability damage is going to scare them more than something big and strong. Any thing that can attack them without them being able to fight back is also scary. Especially if the reason they can't fight back is because they don't know where the attack is coming from. Mess with their senses. Mess with their perception of time.

Talking to a man and later finding out he's beend ead for decades is a familiar trope. But what about talking to an old man that nobody knows until someone remembers that is the name of some woman's newborn baby boy?

For music, you might find something useful here: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?genre=Horror
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Dragatus
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PostSubject: Re: 'horror' rpgs   Tue Aug 12, 2014 2:14 pm

I've been thinking and the reason why players tend not to be afraid of death is because they expect the DM to make the fights "fair". So don't do that.

One idea I came up with is to have them create level 3 characters, wipe out the party during the first session and then make them create a new party of level 1 characters and throw them in the same adventure.
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malak
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PostSubject: Re: 'horror' rpgs   Tue Aug 12, 2014 3:17 pm

Dragatus wrote:
Don't show the monster if you don't need to, only the effect it has on the world. Bend the rules of the game or even brake them. Make up your own houserules.
I should slap myself. It's the same advice I gave a friend who was going to ST for his first time. Thanks for reminding me.


Quote :
Especially if the reason they can't fight back is because they don't know where the attack is coming from.
intriguing. gonna need to be delicate to let them get away logically though, not unscathed, just away.

Quote :
I've been thinking and the reason why players tend not to be afraid of death is because they expect the DM to make the fights "fair". So don't do that.
Already planning on making 'raise dead' not work right. Oh, it will still work, it will just be work wrong. Looking forward to them encountering that.
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Maxus Corvin
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PostSubject: Re: 'horror' rpgs   Wed Aug 13, 2014 2:56 am

malak wrote:

Is the problem with our storytelling, or are we as humans or former humans now simply to jaded that we can no longer truly suspend disbelief during a story?

I could be one to speak about this, or not. Either way, the issue is a visceral one. The idea that some would have, is that horror requires you to actually see something. Something that isn't just going to sit or stand there, it's going to try and rip your face off, impale you, hell, maybe even something far worse.

But the idea can work, although the issue is that if something is to visible, then we become too used to it. Sure, you could have an enemy that is a common one, but it has to have something behind it that makes it scary beyond it's appearance. Best example I can think of right now, Mass Effect's Husks. Not too scary by themselves, but remind yourself what they once were. This can get even worse for other enemies in the games. Hell, a better example? Eh...it is a ME2 spoiler, so...just to be safe...

Spoiler:
 

More to the point, perhaps the issue is that some games and movies are actively trying to scare the player/audience. It's not something you can really do for everyone(like trying to sell a game on the basis that it has multiplayer - not everyone is going to care enough once you do that), especially when the more obvious ways to do it, depend on how often, and how present the 'scare' is. Make it one that tries to scare you outright, and it's like a coin toss.

However, when a game tries the more, subtle methods, which depend on how focused a player is, many will obviously praise it - even though many more, or at least some, won't consider it scary at all. It's actually better if a game has an event only occur once, but have it be something that is lasting, so it keeps the player guessing. It could be something that happens again, or not. Or, maybe it comes back at a point that you've forgotten about it.
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Claudia
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PostSubject: Re: 'horror' rpgs   Wed Aug 13, 2014 7:51 am

Watch all of these :

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=extra+credits+horror
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Eliza
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PostSubject: Re: 'horror' rpgs   Fri Aug 15, 2014 1:45 pm

I think it's important that your players really 'get into the mood' before starting to play, so to speak. For my p&p groups, we often have light-hearted chatter and joking before playing (and sometimes even during when it's a bit slow), so this builds an atmosphere of comfort and relaxation. That doesn't go well with horror at all.

Make sure you stay on topic and IC. Don't allow OOC chatter if possible, don't allow jokes. Keep them from slipping on 'mental pyjamas' - you don't want them to feel comfortable, even when you're not playing. Make sure that they know when they meet, there won't be fun times beforehand, and try to jump into playing as soon as possible. (Tell them to postpone any chatter and smalltalk to when you're done playing. That will help them get down from the suspense that builds up during play and into a more relaxed mood once everything is over, which is actually a good thing. You can only take so much nerve-wracking stuff before it becomes a strain, and 'decompressing' after playing is necessary for getting back into reality.)

Maybe reinforce the theme of horror in a small way in your surroundings - if your players are okay with it, if it would actually help rather than hinder, and if the location allows for it. Get rid of the pile of sacrifical sweets for the tabletop god. Play somewhere that is not a living room full of family photos, distractions and 'normal stuff', or simply put those things out of the view for the time you're playing. Maybe shut out direct sunlight if possible. Candles might be overdoing it, but for me, horror movies or novels are scariest when it's dark around me and I'm alone. Related to this, try to keep your group undisturbed by outside influences for as long as possible, but plan in some breaks for food, smoking, bathroom visits and just the occasional breather if things get tense (but keep moderating OOC chatter, so you can pick up right where you left). Use music or ambient sounds to your advantage, if possible. If there's an ambient track or noise track playing in the background, even if on low volume, it may deterr from slipping OOC and add to the atmosphere aswell.

Also, try to restrict character sheet/dice use - it might take people OOC if they have to constantly roll stats, so have them memorize the most important stuff beforehand so they know their characters a bit. Also, make rolls for them and don't let them see the dice (fudge as necessary). It always makes me paranoid if my ST is rolling dice behind his screen, especially if I don't know what for. Use notes for giving out information to players whose characters pass a check to notice stuff, don't tell everybody if their characters don't know.

TL;DR: Try a lot of different things, find what works, throw out what doesn't. It all depends on your group and what resources you have available.

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malak
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PostSubject: Re: 'horror' rpgs   Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:35 pm

hmm, we do have an old bomb shelter a mile from my house. it's become a lovers dive for kids in secondary school, but I'm sure we could chase them off easily.
also, thanks for the advice everyone.
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PostSubject: Re: 'horror' rpgs   Today at 6:12 am

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