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sekkin
06-06-2009, 07:33 PM
My friend is dming for a group that hes having some trouble with he wants to use fear against his players as a tool to get them go where he wants. Railroading for the win? anyways ive trying to talk him out of it.

He posted this in a few places and got no help so im curious if you guys can help him. Hes a lost freak, its his favorite show so i believe this is based on that.


"i'm setting up a d20 modern campaign its in a 20 mile by 20 mile fenced in area the party cannot leave. a secretive group known only as "the Eye" capture monsters and unnatural things and stores them here. the players are people that wake up in this "Box". i am having troubles making the players fear the eye, any suggestions? I'm keeping equipment low, and using core classes only."

people have mentioned red shirts, a reference to star trek. but beyond that he hasnt gotten much help.

Again he wants to use fear and make the players afraid.... i think hes hoping for something thats impossible but if anyone has done this before your input would probably help him.

templeorder
06-06-2009, 08:54 PM
Fear is driven by either an effect or by the GM's drama. Instead of fear, perhaps inspiration can be used - have a trusted figure step up and die doing what's right... after they give the PC's the praise and maybe even a reward for what they believe the PC's are capable of doing. Its guilt in a way, but i've done it countless times - good role players will basically not want to disgrace the memory of their trusted associate and will step up in the direction i want them to go.

Fear alone is difficult - because unless everyone falls prey to it, the characters that end up draggin the rest of the party might get some backlash from the others. I try and use fear in more subtle ways such as fear of choosing an option different from where the main story is to lead... in other words, choose door #1 because you just saw the guy going through door #2 melt in his own juices.

Using fear as a hammer though is not cool. Even using it other ways, i still ley players make their own choice unless the campaign NPC's are really using their forces to make it happen... otherwise, fear to drive the characts into a scenario that "just happens" may be using too much force and i dont like players thinking they have no choice - my players would rebell if i did it that overtly. But they also understand me using it overtly because i am so loathe to do it... when i do force them into something, they always know there is a way out - that ways no one complains, everyone just starts the challenge of looking for the way out!

Sascha
06-07-2009, 02:58 AM
"i'm setting up a d20 modern campaign its in a 20 mile by 20 mile fenced in area the party cannot leave. a secretive group known only as "the Eye" capture monsters and unnatural things and stores them here. the players are people that wake up in this "Box". i am having troubles making the players fear the eye, any suggestions? I'm keeping equipment low, and using core classes only."
That's the problem, really. It is rather hard to make anyone afraid, in a gaming context. Especially if you want to instill fear in the players, rather than their characters. It takes an incredible amount of buy-in to get the desired effect and trust to do so without crossing all sorts of lines. My suggestion is, well, don't do it.

Of course, without more context, suggestions are somewhat limited :P

The monsters and other unnaturals are easy; evidence of their existence is ample, but the things themselves are rarely, if ever, seen clearly. The scariest critter is the one in the players' heads, not what's in your notes ;)

The Eye, itself? Harder to do with naught but a name. A quick and dirty approach is to demonstrate that even the nasties locked in the Box are afraid of them, but without details it's difficult to provide clearer methods. Why do the monsters fear them? Why should the PCs? Those answers probably have better advice in them than anonymous internet folk :P

tesral
06-07-2009, 03:45 AM
To play a bit of counterpoint, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

Fearing "The Eye"? You have to give them reasons and motivations. "Oooo...The Eye!" just will not cut it. And everyone's stress reaction is not fear. Some people just get mad, others get even.

Dark
06-07-2009, 07:50 AM
Generating real player fear in a rpg is very hard to do I have only seen it done successfully twice. The way the story is told the mood of the group music in the background sometimes helps but don't oversell it or it doesn't work either.

templeorder
06-07-2009, 11:45 AM
Tangerine Dream works well for background music. My scariest adventure was set to them.

MINI
07-22-2009, 03:34 PM
If someone gets killed surprisingly and quickly that usually instills fear in other players but at a cost.

CEBedford
07-23-2009, 11:44 PM
You can't really force fear but if your players are really into the game you can use good pacing and fast detailed description to keep things intense. They probably won't ever jump out of their seats unless you employ cheap tactics like dropping books or slapping the table (I'm not above that mind you.) but you can definitely ensure they're on the edge of their seats and considering the danger in every action they take.

Some tricks I practice:

* Cut-aways - These are key, don't be afraid to cut the players off, describe things half way, and cut to another player's perspective. This works even if they haven't split up. Player one opens a door and then player two thinks he hears something.

* Emphasize reactions - In intense situations people do involuntary things. Hesitation, haste, holding their breath, hearing things, seeing things. These are little things that the average fear result chart neglects. You can use these things to create a cut-away. The player eases the door open when something moves in the room behind him causing a split second hesitation. Now it's player two's turn.

* Emotions are contagious, especially when you have their attention. It doesn't hurt to create things that even make you afraid. Done well this is much better than attempts at targeting another player's personal fear. Inspiring empathy is a good tool IMO, exploiting a player's fears is risky in many cases and some players will outright refuse to play if you do. I had that happen once when I discovered a player was terrified of spiders and tried to use that. When they walk away from the table scared, it tends to bring the game to a halt. :o

* I've also had some fun using music to provide background sound for the non-scary bits of a game. Dim the music when the dark stuff begins and leave the players to their thoughts. Sure intense music can enhance a scary moment, but so can sudden quiet. Suddenly it's just them, the dark, and whatever they imagine is lurking nearby.

* Pull absolutely no punches but don't get carried away and throw too many. Players in a game seem to desensitize rather quickly if you over use your zombies, vampires, etc.

MortonStromgal
07-28-2009, 12:08 PM
Lighting can be a great trick to get fear into the players. If you can wire up some switches with different types of lighting and keep the lights dim most of the time it will flavor the mood. I ones used a couple surge protectors with switches and different lights set up in them that I hid at my feet, when the lights went out in the story the light literally went out, and then i brought up a black light or two for the moonlight when they stepped outside. It worked really well to put the players on edge.

Azar
07-28-2009, 08:39 PM
You may not want to even use fear just tell them"Hey I made this game for you to play im asking you if you could just play what I created." and if they still wont do what you want them to then you may want to find new players because they probably are there to just screw with the DM.

korhal23
07-28-2009, 09:42 PM
I'm in the "real fear against players is a bad idea" boat. As someone with a few phobias of my own (needles is the big one for me), it would be both cheap and easy to step out of line to try to truly scare your players beyond things like slamming a book (and really, that's more startling than scary).
In truth, you don't want players to be scared, you merely want them to be scared for their character's lives. So the best strategy is to make it immensely apparent that the enemy is very strong and not something the players should be tangling with just yet, or at least until they're reasonably sure they can take it on.

darelf
07-30-2009, 01:52 PM
I guess my players are just easy. And someone above is right about "fear for their character's lives" is what you are really going for.

Have them talking to the sheriff who suddenly gets eaten/shot/grabbed-by-tentacle/whatever right in front of them.

Also, for most games, having serious consequences like death happen without any dice rolls will instill a specific brand of fear... Have a character immobilized or disappear for a short amount of time, with no rolls or anything, it just happens.

If you are trying to scare the actual players themselves, You Are Doing It Wrong™

Casimir
08-05-2009, 03:35 PM
I would have to disagree that attempting to scare the players themselves is a bad thing to do, or to attempt to do.

Back when I was running a fairly well developed 4th Ed. Call of Cthulhu campaign, I spent a fair amount of time figuring out how to pace the game, and what worked and what didn't work to keep the players interest up, but also make the players themselves get routinely edgy.

First of all, ambiance is key. Set up the playing area so that the lights are dimmer than normal... even better if you have no overhead lights or lamps, just desk lamps. Secondly, you have to know how to pace the game, and you have to know how to use your voice, inflection, and even facial expressions to convey things out of the ordinary. Third, sound effects work wonderfully. And fourth, have some background music playing that's eerie and assists with the mood (I used things like Tangerine Dream, Hellraiser soundtrack, Prince of Darkness soundtrack, etc.).

One thing I found with study of horror films (good films, not these slasher monger types) is that usually playing up something makes the players / audience far more freaked. Take the time you need to play out something to really get the players minds working against them... this will get the players edgy enough that they will begin to actually fear.

Take for example one incident I had while playing a CoC game. The two players needed to find some information, and they knew it was in a house in a study area on the left side. They waited until nightfall, then quietly broke in to the room and began searching through it. The guy that owned the house was an old geezer with a bad leg and club foot. He heard them rummaging around, and came to investigate. Since the door to the study was closed, and the hall that the geezer had to walk down to get to the study was fairly long, I had a long time to build up the moment. They were already edgy because they were in a dark house looking for something arcane... but then they suddenly began to hear a "THUMP!.... sssssshhhT" coming down the hall. To simulate the sound I would thump the bottom of the table with my fist, then drag my fingernails across it. All it was was the old geezer moving down the hall... the "thump" was his good foot, the ssshhht was his bad foot dragging on the floor. Of course - neither of them knew that - and the longer it went on, the closer the noise came to the door, the more freaked out the players became until when they saw the doorhandle start moving, they simply jumped out the window and ran. I can still see one of their faces to this day... eyes wide looking at me and saying "What the hell IS THAT!?"

The best methods are always to take normal everyday things and tweak them just enough to make something about it... wrong. Or have the players only catch glimpses of the primary monster (or better, find evidence that has at least one of them figuring out what it is they are after). All the basics of a good horror movie can be used to very good effects in horror games as well... you just need practice at pacing, setting the ambience, and how long to push something.

CEBedford
08-05-2009, 07:45 PM
I would have to disagree that attempting to scare the players themselves is a bad thing to do, or to attempt to do.

For clarification, I have no problems trying to scare players, I'm just opposed to the idea of playing on their phobias or personal history to do it.

If pacing and atmosphere end up causing fear in a horror game that is great!

hallows99
08-14-2009, 12:11 AM
Before you ask the question, how do I make the player's afraid, a bigger question may be, do the player's want to be afraid. A horror based game is a very different style than a typical hack n' slah and it takes a different mentality to enjoy. Most enjoyment from a horror game is derived from the story and mood, and some players are just not interested in this style of game.
Some players just want to be the Barney badass of the world and have no desire to be the William wimpy. The thought that they can't kick everything's butt...eventually just doesn't appeal to them. If this is the case, then the game is doomed from the start. In situations like this no matter what you do, the player will likely rebel and derail the game.
This is not to say that the player is being a jerk, but it's more the fact they don't enjoy the feeling of helplessness that a horror game evokes.

Before I start a horror campaign I always sit down and discuss these issues with possible players. I like to spell out the tone and mood of the game, the overall power level of the characters and general gameplay style of the campaign. It's better to have a player decide they want to skip the campaign, then have them later slap a werewolf in the face because they don't want to play a fearful character :)

Hehe..that actually happened in a campaign of mine, and the player become very upset because their character promptly got their face ripped off :)

Skunkape
08-14-2009, 08:13 AM
I don't think I've ever had my players fearful during my games, but I do know I've creeped them out from time to time. A good creep out, but not out right fear.

I think I agree with tesral as far as fear reactions go though!

Casimir
08-14-2009, 08:34 AM
As far as Fantasy gaming goes Sekkin, a much better method to use by your friend than fear is simple choice.

Each DM is different in the way they DM - some of us prefer a much more freeform game where the players can pretty much do anything they want, wander off on tangents, etc. Others, like myself, usually have a much more linear direction we want the players to go. The biggest issue with the former is that it requires an immense of pre-planning on the DM's part to ensure they are prepared for any eventuality (or they wing it - which can be a 50/50 deal). The latter method means less pre-planning on the DM's part - and for me at least, always meant more planning and work on the story itself.

Rather than trying to scare the players / characters, your friend could simply use choice as a means to get them to go where he wants. Out of all the available options to the players, if he makes the direction he wants them to go more appealing than any other direction or choice (either by using greed, compassion, whatever), then not only will the players go that direction but they will also feel like they themselves made the choice on their own without being pushed or forced.

Other DM's may disagree - but manipulating players is a regular part of a DM's job, and throughout all the years I've DM'd using that method has always worked the best. Usually forcing players in a direction backfires to a greater or lesser degree.

Note : Also, just for the record, I wasn't referring to using actual player phobias to scare or fear them - that's just plain immoral.

cigamnogard
08-14-2009, 04:43 PM
"i'm setting up a d20 modern campaign its in a 20 mile by 20 mile fenced in area the party cannot leave. a secretive group known only as "the Eye" capture monsters and unnatural things and stores them here. the players are people that wake up in this "Box". i am having troubles making the players fear the eye, any suggestions? I'm keeping equipment low, and using core classes only."


I am sorry - I'd be climbing the fence in no time.

tesral
08-14-2009, 06:10 PM
I am sorry - I'd be climbing the fence in no time.


I'm a real out of the box type myself.

cigamnogard
08-14-2009, 07:42 PM
A few times at different jobs I have had my boss(es) has(ve) mentioned that while my out of the box ideas work - I might want to tone them down...

tesral
08-14-2009, 10:23 PM
A few times at different jobs I have had my boss(es) has(ve) mentioned that while my out of the box ideas work - I might want to tone them down...

I've been out of the box for at least 20 years.

cigamnogard
08-17-2009, 01:37 PM
LOL! :eek:

LordChicken
08-17-2009, 07:13 PM
In order for the players to e warry of the "eye"(i say warry not fear cuse i dont belive you should be) if an eye member apearse before a player, give them a "odd" power/effect that makes the players watch out for them, (this could be good or bad depends on how you do it) if the players dont understand there powers, players will watch out for them(still can be good or bad depending on how you do this)

tesral
08-17-2009, 10:21 PM
Concern about the eye?

Actions speak louder than words. The NPCs can "oooo the Eye!" all you want. But if the eye does things and manipulates them, then they might start to feel that prickle on the back of the neck.

Have their plans work for what the Eye wants, the plan does not matter. They find that they easily get things they need, stuff they have no hope of finding is in their camp or hide out in the morning.

Then switch up. The Eye does not approve. Monsters tougher than they thought would be there. Things they need missing or impossible to get.

Leave a neutral plot then hit them with favor again.

cigamnogard
08-18-2009, 02:42 PM
Concern about the eye?

Actions speak louder than words. The NPCs can "oooo the Eye!" all you want. But if the eye does things and manipulates them, then they might start to feel that prickle on the back of the neck.

Have their plans work for what the Eye wants, the plan does not matter. They find that they easily get things they need, stuff they have no hope of finding is in their camp or hide out in the morning.

Then switch up. The Eye does not approve. Monsters tougher than they thought would be there. Things they need missing or impossible to get.

Leave a neutral plot then hit them with favor again.

I like it!

lomifeh
10-05-2009, 03:40 PM
Great responses I am seeing. Building on the responses, you can have the players see the results of someone going against "The Eye" directly. If they say help or run across someone who tries to cross The Eye an gets a severe spanking or death because of it that will definitely affect them. You can use that to instill fear, loathing, hatred, adoration, whatever.

Another thing that might work is something that was done back in shadowrun with the introduction of The Universal Brotherhood. In that campaign the pcs run across some manuscripts o an investigative reporter figuring out WTF was going on. There was an actual released fiction doc with the whole campaign. It read like a novel and I recall my PCs reactions, they were afraid and shocked by what was going on and what they read made them paranoid and spend a good portion of time getting the biggest guns they could find. They barely made it out alive at the end now that I recall and loved it.