RPPR Episode 50: Danse Macabre 2: Electric Boogaloo

Halloween is right around the corner so we are once again talking about running terrifying games. RPGs can’t really provide shocks like film or TV, but it’s still possible to run a truly scary game by keeping a few principles in mind. Specifically, a GM should focus on presenting ambigious information, giving players some but not total control and characterizing NPCs and monsters well. Tom finally has a letter and some shout outs and a reader letter.

Shout outs:

  • Night of the Hunter: A brilliant and terrifying film blending film noir and fairy tales. Robert Mitchum’s preacher is legendary as the villain.
  • Virus: A 1980 Japanese post apocalyptic sci-fi film. Sonny Chiba’s in it! Hard to find though.
  • Four Dragons: A new Stargate novel written by Diana Botsford.
  • Smother Brothers’ Comedy Hour: Comedy in an era of censorship. Funny stuff.
  • Salvage: A British horror film with great acting and very gameable material.
  • Ghost Stories: a horror-comedy anime series.

Music: Danse Macabre by David Kempers

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  1. Hooray for Episode 50!

    All in all, I’d say this is the best Ep you guys have had for a while. Very cool discussion – I’ve been meaning to pick up Danse Macabre and I’m definitely going to soon.

    I was happy to hear ya guys bring up the Candle Cove game, but I’d also point out the first Fear Itself game with Cody and Tom as being an excellent example of good “terror”. I still have nightmares about the “SHUSH. STAY. SCREAM.” taggings.

  2. Dear Tom,

    Thank you for trying.

  3. Great discussion about the key elements of a good horror game. Uncertainty, loss of control, and villains with depth are certainly important. Invasion of comfort was also mentioned, which is a fantastic one as well. Really liked this episode.

    I’ve had a recent session where my players were forced to do something very much against their characters’ morals, which relates to your last episode. It had a creepy effect mostly because it was both a revolting act and a complete 180 from what the characters normally would do. Unfortunately, it felt more like “revulsion” than it did in “terror”, as you define from Danse Macabre. I wonder if others have had a similar experience – is moral compromise terrifying or just icky?

    Towards the end of the discussion, you both agreed that a memorable game was one where players felt like their characters barely survived. What leads to this? What common elements cause the tension that leads to that “phew, we made it” moment?

  4. Author

    I think it’s the perceived margin of success. If the players think they would have failed if they had missed one more crucial roll or had done anything slightly worse, they would have lost, then they will think it’s a close game. You can emphasize this by giving negative effects even on successful rolls or actions. They won a battle but get a lingering negative effect from their injuries. They banish the monster but the ritual drains away years of life force.

  5. I can’t believe that we’re already on episode 50… Why, it seems like just yesterday that I had first discovered RPPR on iTunes…

    Ross and Tom are still RPG gold. Its been fun listening to Ross blossom into the arrogant and confident bastard he is today and it’s been every bit an equal joy listening to Tom bring Ross back down to earth with a timely quip…

    This episode was especially helpful because I plan on running an All Flesh Must Be Eaten game in the very near future…

    Once again, thanks to Ross and Tom for taking the time to make such a great podcast!

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