Author Topic: What makes you scared, and How can you make a RPG game truly frightful???  (Read 17954 times)

UbuRex

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Re: What makes you scared, and How can you make a RPG game truly frightful???
« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2009, 09:21:13 AM »
Thanks!

I like to try and get the players into a tail spin. You get them to make a rash choice and then develope problems as a result of that choice.

When I ran Tom's Divine Fire game the players had to fill up a vehical with fuel in order to escape. The fuel close to the vehical had been taken by one of the PCs who'd gone rogue and the only other fuel was across the facility in the plane hangar.

[SNIP neat story]

At that point they started to remove but having them on the edge of their seats, genuinly worried about the lives of their characters, was very cool.

Divine fire -- was that the CoC scenario that they recorded as an Actual Play?

That sort of nail-biting, action-oriented tension-building is another good technique.  I tend to be better at the slow burn, myself -- I find it's difficult to get the balance just right.


Setherick

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Re: What makes you scared, and How can you make a RPG game truly frightful???
« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2009, 05:13:19 PM »
I second the use of notes especially in horror games where the fracturing of knowledge increases the tension of the game. Especially if you can make the notes something only the pc will understand so even if they relay the info the rest of the group is still confused.
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Dawnsteel

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Re: What makes you scared, and How can you make a RPG game truly frightful???
« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2009, 09:15:55 PM »
Quote from: UbuRex

Divine fire -- was that the CoC scenario that they recorded as an Actual Play?


At the end of the first AP, the one where the PCs are part of a German unit, Tom says he's still looking for a name.
At the start of the second AP, which was released in conjunction with the Goblin Hulk ransom (and presumably is slated for regular RPPR release at some point), Tom says he's decided to call it Göttliche Flamme, which he then translates to mean "Divine Flame."

NOTE:  I don't speak, read, or write German.  (Like most of the Internet, I'm only barely literate in English.)  I fed "Divine Flame" into Word Monkey and arrived at the above.  It may or may not be accurate.
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UbuRex

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Re: What makes you scared, and How can you make a RPG game truly frightful???
« Reply #18 on: September 04, 2009, 08:21:41 AM »
Quote from: UbuRex

Divine fire -- was that the CoC scenario that they recorded as an Actual Play?



NOTE:  I don't speak, read, or write German.  (Like most of the Internet, I'm only barely literate in English.)  I fed "Divine Flame" into Word Monkey and arrived at the above.  It may or may not be accurate.

Ah, got it.  Thanks!

Shallazar

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Re: What makes you scared, and How can you make a RPG game truly frightful???
« Reply #19 on: September 08, 2009, 11:01:49 PM »
Nice one Tad!

Over the summer I ran from start to finish Chaosium's "Shadows of Yog-sothoth" It was their first time playing horror, and my first time running horror. I have to say what scared them the most was def the lack/unobvious description of the monsters they encounterd. They were fighting a Cthonian in scotland and my description was "sort of a segmented beached whale, with no eyes- and where a head would be just a mass of tentacles 12 feet long and writhing, you aren't sure if it has a mouth, or a beak or just absorbs things. it is covered in a dark slime"

And then one of my "free roaming" players says- "Can you show us a picture so we can stop being scared?" AWWWW Priceless!
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clockworkjoe

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Re: What makes you scared, and How can you make a RPG game truly frightful???
« Reply #20 on: September 10, 2009, 01:33:37 AM »
Nice one Tad!

Over the summer I ran from start to finish Chaosium's "Shadows of Yog-sothoth" It was their first time playing horror, and my first time running horror. I have to say what scared them the most was def the lack/unobvious description of the monsters they encounterd. They were fighting a Cthonian in scotland and my description was "sort of a segmented beached whale, with no eyes- and where a head would be just a mass of tentacles 12 feet long and writhing, you aren't sure if it has a mouth, or a beak or just absorbs things. it is covered in a dark slime"

And then one of my "free roaming" players says- "Can you show us a picture so we can stop being scared?" AWWWW Priceless!


hahahaha that's fucking great.

Kyyrn

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Re: What makes you scared, and How can you make a RPG game truly frightful???
« Reply #21 on: September 11, 2009, 07:16:48 PM »
I think a big aspect of horror in gaming is the pace the game goes at.  In my opinion, you start in your narration of the horrific situation with creepy, finding a dead body, strange note, odd blood stain, or just something that seems inexplicably out of place.  Nothing truly shocking, but just a little sand in your players brain that will keep them slightly uncomfortable.  It's important to give the players leave to move and explore pretty freely at this point, increasing the wierdness the closer they get to the monster or object or whatever of horror.  When you hit the climax of the game, you drop the horror bomb, something the players can't easily deal with and have to get the hell away from fast.  This is the part of the game that should be pulse poundingly fast.  You want events to start playing out almost faster than players can handle them, just make sure you don't shove too much down thier throats too quickly.

Tom did a great job of this in his Cthulu live play, starting with the gruesome face ripping off of the machine gun, and odd note.

Additionaly, you really want to keep your horror nameless until the last possible second.  As long as the players don't know what they're up against, they can't know if they're prepared for it.  It breeds fear.  Keep it just at the corner of thier eye, describe a noise or a rustle, but don't ever directly say something's there until you're ready for the climax of the game.  Just my thoughts...

clockworkjoe

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Re: What makes you scared, and How can you make a RPG game truly frightful???
« Reply #22 on: September 11, 2009, 10:18:19 PM »
I ran Delta Green: Night Mall at Gencon and Dragoncon. This encounter usually freaked players out

Quote
The delicious aroma of baked and frosted cinnamon rolls wafts to the PCs (Bonus points: bring actual CinnaBuns out at this point and place them under the table, saying the players can't touch them till they find the shop in-game). The source is unfindable at first, but tempts them and may even distract during other scenes - the aroma causes a penalty to concentration related skills at critical moments unless players make an Idea roll to focus. After making a determined effort to follow the aroma, they find a mall shop with a glass casefront stuffed with what looks like pastries. A crowd of people wave money at the harried pimply-faced teen in a yellow uniform at the register. Fighting through the crowd with physical skills, the rolls are revealed to be a)rotting molluscs squirming with worms, beetles, and fungi (mild san check); b)large rolls of human flesh lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar (you can tell because of the degloved hands and faces)(serious san check); c)Skinned, copulating animal parts having a sticky orgy in a mix of cinnamon sauce and white (possibly sugar?) paste (major san check). Offer the players the real CinnaBuns, with evil glee.

When I ran it, they were pastry effigies of tiny people, who moved around and tried to crawl into your mouth so they could be eaten.

more here http://fairfieldproject.wikidot.com/night-mall

mhurst

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Re: What makes you scared, and How can you make a RPG game truly frightful???
« Reply #23 on: September 21, 2009, 03:05:26 PM »
I second the use of notes especially in horror games where the fracturing of knowledge increases the tension of the game. Especially if you can make the notes something only the pc will understand so even if they relay the info the rest of the group is still confused.

I third that. One of my players was running a river guide who suffered from periodic amnesia due to drug use. The player did not share this trait with the others. The players were investigating a lost group of archeologists. When they found the first camp and discovered two dead graduate students, I texted the river guide player that the scene looks very familiar and he thinks he killed these kids. It caused a great paranoia and sense of uncertainty in the player that the others picked up on. The group started shattering there and the distrust escalated quickly.

Jamnique

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I'm new here so hello everybody ;] Love the podcast and the anecdotes thread.
I mostly play solos with my brother, whose strongest side as a GM is coming with totally believable NPC-s on the spot.
And seriously freaking me out from time to time. There are two things he does i'd like to share.

First is zombies. A simple trick of making them actually SAY creepy shit and generally roleplaying them makes them incredibly scary. He doesn't even have to describe them. Just talk in a creepy zombie voice, make zombie sounds and say stuff connected with their former lives, share glimpses of the world beyond death, or obsess about something (paaaaaaainnnn! ;]) that dominates their perception of the world in a creepy way. If you play it right trust me, your players however old they might be will feel uneasy. It's like in the old british Poe's story adaptation (Pit in the Pendulum i believe). There is a doctor and his dying friend. The doctor has found a way to sustain the link between body and mind for a short time after death and wants to give it a try, so the dead friend can tell him what is it like after death. In a Holywood movie they would probably show what's on the other side. But this was a cheap TV film. All it had was good actors and / or writing (i can't remember that well), so when the guy died they just described it through his words. It was creepy as hell. If you haven't seen it - see it ;]

Jamnique

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Oh, and the second thing.

The scariest rpg i have ever played, thrilling like Dead Space or Alien :P It was a solo, and it was FANTASY ;] So i wasn't exactly powerless.

It started slowly, i arrived at an inn or a big tavern near a forest road. It seemed abandonned. At some point i went to the stables. Perhaps i heard someone scream.
I rushed in. There was a body laying in a pool of blood, one of the horses checking it out nervously, but no trace of anybody who could have done it. I walk in slowly, sword in my hand, ready for a surprise attack. I approach the body slowly to check if the guy's still alive. Guy's dead. Nothing big happens, but suddenly i start to remember, without a word more from the GM about it, that when he described the stables he said that the horse was a bit funny looking. And then i realize that IT IS NOT A HORSE AT ALL. It's a freaking THING you could take for a horse in a dark stable.

It was so frightening i run the hell out of the stables and spent the rest of the session on the second floor of the abandonned inn, hoping this THING can't come upstairs. It was built like a horse after all. The even creepier thing was that it didn't seem interested in me. There was a dwarf in the inn and we kept checking through the windows what is the monster doing. When we lost him for a minute we freaked out. At some point we started looking for answers in the inn, there was a kind of a mystery. At some point when the tension wasn't that high, replaced by curiosity, i opened the door and the beast was there, its creepy head in my face.

The monster wasn't EVER even described. Just the few lines when i didn't pay attention, suggesting this horse looks a little off. He let it grow on me and when it hit it kept me uneasy for the rest of the session and day. I'm sure you can emagine some creepy imitation of a horse you wouldn't want to meet in an abandonned inn.   

Shmoo

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I think trying to scare players might just be the absolute most difficult goal to have.  I don't think I've ever pulled it off, and I've barely ever seen it done.  A lot of the, admittedly great, scenes described previous would probably work in a movie, but plenty of them wouldn't work in a game.  Games are usually held in rooms with people sitting around, bottles, cans, plates, familiar items surrounding everyone in an otherwise safe and serene environment.  On top of that any, and I mean any break in the actual game allows people to drop out of character and discuss whatever they feel like.  Immersion is key, and it's all but impossible in a normal gaming situation.

I once had a GM drag us all downtown (DC) to an old theater (connections got us in) that was due to be torn down in a few weeks.  It was night, it was dark, it was six of us in that old theater, surrounded by creepy statues and furniture from hundreds of plays.  We lit candles; our GM found creepy music to play the entire night.  It was pretty amazing.  And finally, and this is key IMHO, breaking character was frowned upon when at all possible.  Sure we asked rules questions, yes people ran off to pee or refill a drink here or there, but mostly we all spent the entire night concentrating on the game, the music, the atmosphere.  No one brought up a movie they'd recently seen, no one talked about ordering food.

At that point the content of the game itself was allowed to really take center stage, and it worked.  There were moments, brief moments of real tension that night.  In the end though, I was still sitting around a table with my friends, creepy as it was.  There were still pauses for the rolling of dice, the reading of rules, the refilling of that drink.  I'll always remember that amazing game, but in the end it still couldn't touch a truly scary movie.  It was all fairly otherworldly, but not all that frightening.

It also didn't help that I didn't honestly fear for my character's life, I felt fairly certain we'd all come through the night just fine.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2010, 11:47:50 AM by shmoo »

ThomasWhoDoubts

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I made a very long (1 1/2 hour) 'soundtrack' with screams from hell and organ fuges, subltely interwoven with a rainstorm background, cutting riffs into different lengths and mixing them - one time the crow crows before the thunder, on times afterward.  It made the game very edgy - the cute girl with the dolly that was the demon possessing her helped - but I think the playing riffs of different intervals and keeping the pacing as a-rhythmic as possible really creeped them out over the long run, and the sound effects just seemed to fit the story perfectly - there were enough elements that some synchronicity was bound to happen, and when it did, MAJOR creep shivers in the spine.