RPPR Panel: Scary Parrots: Weird Horror in RPGs at Gen Con 2015

SHE-SAID-SWITCH-TO-OPTICSSponsor: Arc Dream is sponsoring this panel. Check out the Delta Green Kickstarter. New reward levels have been released so backers can get everything in print and PDF.

Synopsis: Horror gaming can go beyond Lovecraft and tentacles. Sometimes the most frightening moments in RPGs can come from obscure references and mundane moments. Surprise your players from a new direction! The panel will include Caleb Stokes (No Soul Left Behind, No Security), Ross Payton (Base Raiders, Zombies of the World), John Kennedy (Demonworld), and Jack Graham (Eclipse Phase). The title “Scary Parrots” refers to an RPPR game in which the players completely forgot about the plot and focused on a parrot THAT COULD NOT BE. Rather than dismiss the moment as a one-off, this panel will explore the unexpected places that the GM can exploit for terror. Between other writers of The Weird, discoveries in neuroscience, and philosophical thought experiments, this panel will provide a ton of original plot hooks and little disquieting scares to throw at your players.

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  1. I’m only five minutes in. Caleb’s description of how he perceived the Parrot situation from Lover in the Ice was beautiful. I have to admit I, too, remember the parrot more than the details of the prime monster.

  2. Great panel.

    The whole mouth thing is an excellent point. I shall have to look at that.

  3. I think I might go through and try to link up all the many, many sources they mention.

  4. While I think about it. The whole monsters that what to help thing. That is my take on nodens. He want to help you, he wants to make you better. He cares, and that should terrify you more than most monsters ever do.

  5. Ben, in one of the Civil War scenarios I’ve been working on (spoilers, maybe, if Ross ever posts the session of it I ran for the RPPR folks). I’ve got some of that going with Nodens. I think I’m going to play his terrifying alien nature a bit more as I develop the scenario. Right now, he’s still a little too nice. 🙂

  6. Author

    Ethan if you provide links for everything I will put them in the show notes.

  7. I enjoyed this panel very much, especially the urinal spider story. So much so that I told it to several of my friends.

    One of said friends later saw a little jumping spider in her sink two days in a row. Concerned about its long term safety, she tried to coax it out of the sink. In fear, the spider leaped into the drain and drowned.

    Sometimes the metaphor is not a metaphor.

    I just finished reading “The Book” by Margaret Irwin. It’s also not exactly as Caleb describes here but is excellent and worth reading. Huge thanks to Ethan for compiling all these references.

  8. When it comes to weird/surreal horror, I agree that the key is to either build the story around things that “should” be everyday or innocuous, or around things that are kind of weird, but we tend to ignore.
    Story details that highlight just freaky things like “eating” are (You put dead things inside your body and make them a part of you! You are made of corpses!) or “smelling” (If you smell something, little bits of that thing are becoming lodged in your brain!) can really get people, simply because they persist outside the game – unlike most gribbily monsters.

    I’d also like to agree with the problem of familiarity. People have simply become too used to lovecraftian horrors. It’s not just that the frogman tracks mean there are Deepones around, it also means that the scenario is going to involve hybridization. Wierd colours? Get ready for some desiccated corpses!

    Imo the best Cthulhu games are those that actually “add” to the mythos; the Deepones are growing unholy drugs in offshore fields and the surrounding waters have become tainted, or the SpaceVampire has had it’s mind linked/swapped with a Catholic Priest and it’s distorting it’s victims into pieces of religious iconography – meanwhile, the Sacrament has gotten really *weird*.

    In any case, this is a fascinating panel, and I only wish it had gone on longer 😀

    #BlatantPlug – I actually wrote an essay on Horror on the EP forums. Read it and tell me why I’m wrong! 😛

  9. Just as a quick note for those fans of the lovecraftian weird, shout out to a comic called Outer God available on Comixology. Pyramid of the Black Pharaoh and time-travel/multiverse/cult/mindfuck.

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