RPGaDay 2015: Day 20

August 20th.

Favorite Horror RPG

It’s been an emotional day. Selling my first home and closing tomorrow. It has me not only posting late at night but with a lot of complicated feelings.

I have complicated feelings about horror games too. It is my belief that running a horror game is a nigh-impossible task for a game master. I’ve played in many horror games, and run a few myself and my experience and observation is that players have to almost delude themselves into being scared to make it happen. Horror is a group act and with even the smallest distractions horror quickly transitions into the absurd.

The scariest thing that ever happened at a horror game I was part of was a player setting herself on fire with the candles being used to generate mood. Don’t worry, she was fine. Scary moment though.

I’ve taken a lot of flak about this opinion whenever I’ve expressed it.

But when it comes to horror games, another problem is that I am a fairly hopeful person. I like the “good guys” to win. I can respect a good moment of tragedy but at the end of the day, even in a horror story, I want outcomes that reflect what people bring into them… and the scariest thing in the world for me isn’t monsters… It’s my fellow humans.

And all of this is why my favorite horror game will always be Deadlands. Deadlands is full of weirdness and horror ranging from slasher jump scares to the cosmic horror of the Reckoners. But there is a secret hidden in Deadlands that makes it all work for me.

Tale Tellin. See, here’s the thing, heroes can actually improve the fear rating, can actually make the world a better place by doing great things and telling others about it. Heroes can inspire hope. It’s a dark world and there are awful things in it. It’s a horror game. But it’s a horror game with heroes. And for me, that’s magic.

Thanks for reading.

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4 responses

  1. I totally agree with you – horror requires the most player buy in. And I know I have trouble with that, I’ve even written about it as most of my gaming that I’ve done as a player has been Deadlands.

    Article #1: I am a Horrible Horror Gamer: http://thefellingblade.blogspot.com/2011/10/what-i-find-horrorific.html

    I thought I had another one on disempowerment, and why that pisses me off versus scares me, but apparently I just thought about it frequently.

    1. I think the “what pisses me off vs. what scares me” dichotomy would be an interesting read.

  2. I think that for many gamers “horror” just means fantasy with gore, Cthulhu, and a higher character kill rate. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  3. You are probably right. And there is nothing wrong with that. A lot of horror movies are just fantasy with gore too. Fine if that’s what you like.

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