But the mood I am looking for is not enjoyment; it is the feeling of gut wrenching terror. That is exactly how I feel playing horror roleplaying games.
Often the feeling of horror in these games is invoked via a loss of control for the player. The player is invested in her character. By losing the ability to take part in the game as she desires, she experiences a moment of true horror.
This sort of loss of control can be accomplished by drastically altering the established conventions of the group (i.e. when does the game master allow players to influence situations with dice rolls) or by either restricting a player’s characters potential actions or entirely wrest control of the player’s character from her. SLA Industries’ stress system illustrates this point well, where in a firefight you might be more afraid to suffer a nervous breakdown than grievous bodily harm. Likewise, Call of Cthulu’s sanity system furthers the characters slow but inevitable decline. Normally, one has a couple of more systems in mind when thinking of the roleplaying game horror genre, but there are also systems capable of invoking horror, but are not considered horror games per se. Only recently we had a lengthy discussion in my gaming group about the dark side rules in Star Wars.
Both, the d6 and the d20 variant use a very similar set of rules. However, we decided to play Star Wars using GURPS and our game master’s homebrewed dark side rules.
Particularly our two jedi players were very anxious about how much impact the dark side might have on their characters. The dark side had become an element of horror to them.
Horror roleplaying games are different from other media, because the feeling of horror is not generated by a movie or computer game, but by an actual person. Talking openly within the gaming group is therefore important as is determining how much horror one can stomach and how much sense of horror the game master should be allowed to convey.
Depending on one’s preference, the intensity of the gaming sessions might be overwhelming to some.
It feels slightly off to give such a suggestion in this context, but from my experience it might be useful to some roleplayers to research what “safe word” or “aftercare” mean in the BDSM community.
I can simply turn off a movie or leave the movie theatre, but with people I will need to talk to them. As redundant as it might seem, it is important to trust the other players and especially the game master. In the end, everybody just wants to have a good time and even if doesn’t seem this way sometimes, nobody wants anything bad happen to you.
So long and have fun with your horror games and – hopefully – the 3 articles we rolled up for this week:
On Wednesday we learn in On Stranger Tastes: Fruits of Poseidon, what kind of fruits you can buy or harvest on the Blue Planet.