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MortonStromgal
01-18-2008, 12:48 PM
I thought it would be a good idea to post tips and tricks we all use to bring out the horror in our horror games.

I'll go first

1. I like to use candle light or dim lights to give it that story around the campfire feel.

Drohem
01-18-2008, 05:35 PM
I like using the clarification question randomly with exaggerated emphasis: "So you are going to push that button?"

It really keeps them on their toes and puts that tiny hint of doubt in the back of their minds.

Mulsiphix
01-18-2008, 10:05 PM
This is sad but honest. I plan to build up the suspense while the PC's are tracking an unknown entity/person/whatever. They search the whole out and find nothing. I tell them that the entity has disappeared and it looks like they lost him for the night. Once I believe everybody believes there will be no hidden surprises and they're actually going to be moving onto the next part of the story... I scream "THERE HE IS!!!!! HOLY ****!!!" scaring the crap out of them. It is poorly executed but I simply can't help myself from doing that at least once :p

MortonStromgal
01-22-2008, 10:39 AM
4. GM tracks PCs Health levels. PCs never know how much HP they have left and the GM can tell them "you feel very hurt, and similar stuff"

Drohem
01-22-2008, 10:44 AM
Well, there is always the old standby: use a GM screen and at random points roll dice and look at them and make a gesture like "hmm" or facial expression. When they ask, just reply "oh nothing" with an evil grin. It's an oldie but goodie ;)

Mulsiphix
01-22-2008, 11:56 AM
Well, there is always the old standby: use a GM screen and at random points roll dice and look at them and make a gesture like "hmm" or facial expression. When they ask, just reply "oh nothing" with an evil grin. It's an oldie but goodie ;):eek: *writes that one down* :rolleyes:

TAROT
01-22-2008, 11:00 PM
If you happen to know that one of your players is creeped out by spiders, snakes, mice, earwigs, bats, rats, gingerbread people or whatever, it never hurts to have a few make an appearance. (And if you don't happen to know, experiment and take notes.)

Mulsiphix
01-23-2008, 08:05 AM
(And if you don't happen to know, experiment and take notes.)Remind me never to drop in on one of your games. I can just see myself sitting at the table and a fat bucket of spiders is dropped onto the table from some time release contraption you have setup above the table. "Oh look, two out of the five players absolutely freaked when covered in pigs blood." :eek:

MortonStromgal
01-23-2008, 09:26 PM
That reminds me of one of my players who finds the cat with glowing eyes candle holder I have very creepy.

boulet
01-24-2008, 01:27 PM
I think what usually work is very similar to the tricks horror novelists may use. For instance at a point in the story where you want players to freak out you should become focused on the PCs sensations and visions. Describe disturbing stuff at the periphery of their vision. When they try to elucidate what they think they saw they might find everything to be perfectly normal. Playing cat and mouse with what they think they know and make them realize a lot remains hidden.

A good actor of a GM should be able to enact a scared NPC too. Terror is contagious. At first the PCs might mock the frightened peasant and consider he's afraid of superstition and stuff. But later when real clues of an abomination roaming around will show, then this scared character will have helped a lot settling the atmosphere of horror.

Mulsiphix
01-24-2008, 04:54 PM
I think what usually work is very similar to the tricks horror novelists may use. For instance at a point in the story where you want players to freak out you should become focused on the PCs sensations and visions. Describe disturbing stuff at the periphery of their vision. When they try to elucidate what they think they saw they might find everything to be perfectly normal. Playing cat and mouse with what they think they know and make them realize a lot remains hidden.

A good actor of a GM should be able to enact a scared NPC too. Terror is contagious. At first the PCs might mock the frightened peasant and consider he's afraid of superstition and stuff. But later when real clues of an abomination roaming around will show, then this scared character will have helped a lot settling the atmosphere of horror.Sound advice indeed. Describing the characters senses, sensations, interpretation of the setting, and other ways he is processing the scene, are all awesome ways to instill fear :rolleyes:

rabkala
01-26-2008, 12:08 PM
Have the lights in the room hooked up to the clapper for easy shut off.

Save the blood from latest sacrifices to splash about the room.

Mulsiphix
01-26-2008, 01:44 PM
A little Russian Roulette goes a long way to bringing suspense and fear to the table :p

Drohem
01-26-2008, 01:54 PM
A little Russian Roulette goes a long way to bringing suspense and fear to the table :p

Watch Deerhunter lately?

Mulsiphix
01-26-2008, 05:09 PM
Watch Deerhunter lately?Nope. No clue what your referring to :p

Drohem
01-28-2008, 12:35 PM
Nope. No clue what your referring to :p

oops...spelled it wrong, sorry.

Deer Hunter with Robert De Niro. This is a classic movie about a group of friends that went to Vietnam and their return home.

If you haven't seen it yet, then I highly recommend viewing it.

As for the reference, signifincant parts of the movie revolve around playing Russian Roulette.

Mulsiphix
01-28-2008, 02:14 PM
Being the movie fanatic I am I'll add it to one of my online ques. I subscribe to NetFlix, Blockbuster Online, and Intelliflix.

rabkala
01-30-2008, 09:23 PM
Watching all those movies should be good inspiration for horror games. Any tips you would suggest from that?
How about, always split up the party and never let them check to see if the bad guy is dead? ;)

Mulsiphix
01-30-2008, 09:33 PM
Watching all those movies should be good inspiration for horror games. Any tips you would suggest from that?
How about, always split up the party and never let them check to see if the bad guy is dead? ;)This is actually an amazing idea for a new thread. I highly suggest you create it. I have lots of feedback to offer as a movie buff but I bet I'm not the only one ;)

bc99
01-31-2008, 12:23 PM
Making a great horror/fright filled session is one of the hardest things to pull off in roleplaying. I remember a few sessions where I was scared for my character. Some tips I've found are useful.


1. Set the tone. Someone said they use candles. That's great. I would suggest dimming the lights, turn off the TV, remove yourself from the distractions of other family, kids, or friends who are not gaming. Go somewhere quiet to play. Mood music is good, but I've found that the "haunted" house type stuff for Halloween is kinda cheesy. I love putting on 1920s-30s type music and having it play softly in the background (for CoC). It adds to the ambiance, and having it play softly doesn't distract. Don't talk about the game (edit: football or baseball!), don't quote Monty Python, try not to crack jokes. Sometimes players joke nervously, that's fine.

2. The players need to care about, or sense the mortality of their characters. It does no good to try and scare or creep someone out if they just don't give a damn about their characters. Same thing for if they're characters are too tough or have too many special abilities. I mean, a high level cleric faced by a horde of zombies will not run screaming into the night. Nah, he'll just vaporize them or turn them. In games like CoC, the players already know that even the toughest investigator won't last 1 second against the beast's tentacles, beaks, whatever. Thats when you need them to care enough about their character that they won't go needlessly into harms way. For example, your team approaches a darkened old house, rumored to be the gathering place of a witches cabal that conducts greusome rituals in the basement. It's kinda hard to have your playes on edge if Billy Bob the PI kicks the door in, turns on the light, and yells, "Say hello to my little friend", while brandishing his Tommy Gun.

3. Too much information ruins the shock. When your players are sloshing through the marsh outside of New Orleans, and they spot something out of the corner of their eye, don't tell them, "You see a byakhee!!, but it quickly darts out of sight!". No! Tell them, "You see a black form shift suddenly back into the inky darkness". The same goes for describing crime scenes, houses, altars, etc. Letting the players know that, "There are dark red, viscous blobs sprayed across the inside of the bathroom. It could be blood. You can smell a pungent, disgusting scent. Frank, it reminds your character of the meat packing plant he used to work in. It reeks of offal and feces". Well that's better than saying, "Someone got disemboweled in the bathroom. It's gross."

4. Be brutal. Don't hesitate to lay on the gross. This may not be appropriate if you're trying to include younger kids or anybody offended. Corpses that are mutilated, should be... I mean is the neck ripped out and the jaw torn off? <shudders> That would get my attention. The helpful country Sheriff who has been showing up to aid and guide the investigators. You know, the NPC that everybody is getting attached to? Have the players pull up on his patrol car... with him laying next to it... with his neck ripped out and his jaw torn off! Brutal, shocking, scarry.

5. Timing, timing, timing, suspense, suspense, suspense. If the players break into a cult headquarters, because they know everybody is out worshipping the Bloated God, it might be nice to leave something behind. A still warm plate of food, the scent of a cigarette. Wait a second, someone was just here, in the house? Are they upstairs? Are they in the bathroom? Was that creaking floorboard someone moving in the attic? I thought everybody was gone! It lends a sense of urgency, and suspense to everything. You can't do it all the time, but building the suspense is key. How about having the players upstairs, ransacking the High Priest's private quarters. Suddenly there is a slam as the front door is thrown open! What to do!? The players don't know that the priest came back to pick up his flashlight, but let them freeze, hide, worry. Suspense is good.

6. Non-suspenseful horror. Another thing to try is spring horror on the players without the buildup, without the suspense. Put them in predicaments where the character KNOWS something bad is going to happen, but is hard pressed to avoid it. For example, Father O'Malley has been helping the investigators for some time. Recently he has called Jake, the antiquarian, to show him a new artifact that may help the investigators in their endeavors. As Jake and Father O'Malley make their way towards the basement Jake notices something on the good Father's finger. He looks closely, and to his horror realizes that it's an ocult signet of the Bloated God's Cabal! Now what does Jake do? Is Father O'Malley leading Jake to an ambush in the basement? If Jake says something will he tip off Father O'Malley, letting him know that he's aware of his cult association? Can he stall, awaiting his friends arrival? Does he run from the priory, does he go along with him? Let's add a layer. What if Father O'Malley has offered to have Father McGee escort Jake's love interest home, you know, she'll be put off by all of this investigative stuff anyway. Now what does Jake do!? Will his love make it home, does he attack Father O'Malley, and then rush to warn the other investigators, does he make it out the door to see his love pounding on the car windows, screaming for help as it drives away?

7. Know when to stop. Like this post, lol, know when to cut it off. There will be a time when the horror and fear has passed, and action is ready. The investigators have just survived an attack by an unamed creature, they have wounded it at the cost of the lives of two of their friends. Now they know how to seal his lair, and are in go mode. No more need to layer everything in horror. Keep the suspense there, but let your players work.
I hope this helps, it's served me well over the years running games from CoC, to L5R, to All Flesh Must be Eaten, and others.

Ciao!

Drohem
01-31-2008, 12:31 PM
That is some sound and good advice. Thanks!

/yodavoiceon

"hmm...listen to bc99 you should."

cplmac
01-31-2008, 05:29 PM
If the party gets surprised, I suddenly shout what has happened to the party. Of course it helps that I have been speaking in a softer but not quite whispering voice leading up to this. One time I caught the party so off guard that everyone dropped what they were holding and the person sitting closest to me actually jumped out of his chair.

rabkala
01-31-2008, 06:29 PM
If the party gets surprised, I suddenly shout what has happened to the party. Of course it helps that I have been speaking in a softer but not quite whispering voice leading up to this. One time I caught the party so off guard that everyone dropped what they were holding and the person sitting closest to me actually jumped out of his chair.
I've done that before. Unfortunately, one guy dropped his bottle of soda which sprayed across the table making a big mess. Then everyone laughed at him for about 15 minutes.

Mulsiphix
02-01-2008, 01:29 AM
Holy crap bc99 that was a lot of info. Quality info at that. I tip my hat to sir. Thank you very much for such extensive feedback ;)


I've done that before. Unfortunately, one guy dropped his bottle of soda which sprayed across the table making a big mess. Then everyone laughed at him for about 15 minutes.Another example of me thinking "that poor guy" but laughing at the same time. Some people just don't have a chance :D

boulet
10-22-2008, 07:51 AM
I came across a very interesting page that hit the nail right on the head. It's hardly new and I can't believe I only discovered this now. Up Against the Wall, Motherf#%&ers ! (http://johntynes.com/revland2000/rl_mofo.html) A bit hardcore in terms of human interaction, but the guy's got very good practical ideas.