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Soft Serve
12-03-2008, 01:28 AM
I'm basically limited to online games for the next half-year or so, and the horror genre is interesting to me, but all the tips for people running horror games are for people who are playing locally. The only way I could really make any player playing online scared for their character is if I...

A: made the character creation process slow.
or B: promised to punch them in the face for failure...


and since I would like my players to keep playing I can't go with A, and because I am not inclined to punching anything really I won't go with B.

Jokerstyle
12-03-2008, 03:11 AM
Yeah, thats a bit of a problem i guess.

This might sound cheesy, but perhaps you could try having them use a webcamera. That way, you could both make sure that they are playing in a good, not too well-lit room, you can also make them do things for themselves (like turning off their own lights when they enter a cellar.)
Basically, visual proof for everything.

Are you going to use a microphone? If so, you could set the mood with your voice. Hell, you could even use one of those voice distorters from time to time. <gets to thinking. Hey - I'll try to use a voice distorter in my own game>

A good thing with playing online would probably be that you can easily send them messages in text, explaining how they are feeling etc. It wont break up the flow as much as doing it irl.

And if you're really feeling up to it, install a trojan on their system without them knowing it, and make things happen like their screens flickering and such :)

Webhead
12-03-2008, 10:21 AM
Just a quick 2 cents while I can spare a moment, but there is a key thing to remember about Horror RPGs in a general sense. The object in horror RPGs isn't really about "scaring" the players. Such a thing is very difficult to do in something as loose and informal as an RPG. Instead, a GM should focus on "creeping them out" by presenting them with the grotesque, gruesome, or the ominously obscure. The key to keeping your players in the horror mindset is reminding them of the omnipresent sense of mortality that exists in a "horror" story, the crucial horror element of "helplessness" (by that I mean the feeling that there are no outside forces that can aid the character in any significant fashion...they must deal with this problem with their own two hands) and by keeping them constantly guessing about what will happen next. Give the players gobs of the obscure and bizarre that leaves them scrambling to figure out what it all means (if it truly means anything in a traditionally "sane" and "logical" sense).

Hope that helps.

Soft Serve
12-03-2008, 02:09 PM
Those are both actually pretty helpful. My group is composed of two 16yr olds, and two 17yr olds, one of which is me, so you can get how if I tell them they're looking at something, they'll be more excited about it then spooked. (thanks hostel and saw movies!)

I get what you mean about the horror genre webhead, but you can't tell me that when your playing and the DM hits the lights because your in a basement, you don't get that honest RPG feling that you could only get playing a game like that.

And it's that^^that I'm trying to reproduce for the feel.

Webhead
12-03-2008, 02:46 PM
Yes, if you really want to get the "mood" of a horror game right, you need to control the atmosphere. Lighting, sounds, visual aids, etc.

One of my old GMs used to play Call of Cthulhu with a group using glow-in-the-dark dice. They would play at night, turn all the lights out and only the GM was allowed to have a small flashlight. The GM kept all the dice and character sheets unless he felt like "rewarding" a player by giving him a glowing die to stare at instead of the infinite blackness. He tells me that the game was a lot of fun and very atmospheric.

That said, most horror games are more about "creepy" horror rather than "scream out loud" horror by virtue of the social setting. It's really hard to really "scare" a player short of slamming a book on the table when they're not looking. But creeping them out can be worked into the game in different ways.

I love horror RPGs, but they're probably more tricky to "get right" than most other genres because they rely so heavily upon playing with your players' emotions...and you never quite know what is going to make a particular player shiver.

Soft Serve
12-03-2008, 02:55 PM
A trojan would work if I was anything near handy with computers...

A webcam with a decent mic could do it too if I turned all the lights out of my computer room at night, and had a tiny flashlight or something to shine on some prop.

Still doesn't feel like it'd be the same.

TAROT
12-04-2008, 01:48 AM
I'm basically limited to online games for the next half-year or so, and the horror genre is interesting to me, but all the tips for people running horror games are for people who are playing locally. The only way I could really make any player playing online scared for their character is if I...

Well, there are things that you can use for people in the same room, but, they often come off more gimmicky than scary.

Most of the horror advice that I've read would translate reasonably well to online.

1) Make the players second guess themselves. "Are you sure?", is a useful question. "Who is touching that?" "Which one of you is opening the door?" "Who is turning around to look backwards?"

2) Limit facts given out, but be free with details and use all five senses. (aka "Show, don't tell") "As you are looking down the unlit hallway, the shadows seem to shift before your eyes. You realise that you can hear a soft, scraping noise over the rain outside the window, and the shadows resolve into a person limping towards you." Is it the butler, or will the stench of rotting meat precede it into the room? Think about sights and smells and sounds and textures and temperature and in what order will they be experienced, and how clearly that they can be distinguished? Be generally vague about distant objects: "might be", "could be", "sounds like"

3) In general, "disturbing" or "creepy" is a more realistic goal than "scary." Take the mundane and give it a hard twist. A cockroach doesn't scuttle into the corner, it starts doing figure eights around a character's legs. If they squish it, another comes out and starts doing the same thing, and another, and another. If they don't squish it, one comes out and does the same thing to one of the other characters, until all the characters have their own little orbiting cockroach. Weird stuff with no obvious threat is more likely to freak out the players than a room full of hungry vampires.

Webhead
12-04-2008, 09:49 AM
Very solid, quality advice, Tarot. You hit the nail on the head, especially regarding the need for somewhat ambiguous, relativistic descriptions. The players will be far better at scaring themselves than the GM ever could be. Give them the cues to make them start looking over their shoulders and let them do the rest for you.

When the PCs open a closet and a dead body falls out, you don't say, "and then a dead body falls on you". You say, "Just as you open the door, a shadowy figure suddenly lunges at you, reaching for your throat...", then watch for a half second as the player freaks out and scrambles to figure out how to react and then you say, "but as it presses against you with its cold flesh, it goes limp and tumbles lifelessly to the floor". Even at this point, the exact nature of what the figure is and what the character thought they saw is unclear. Did the figure really leap out at them or were they just imagining it? Is the figure even really dead, or is it perhaps just playing possum? All these thoughts and more will be rambling through the player's brain and your mission is accomplished. ;)

Soft Serve
12-04-2008, 04:12 PM
Right. Plus being online has the advantage of creating another chat room or using an instant messenger like AIM to give the players a seperated message.

I think I can pull this off.

Anymore assistence? Like...I think I could get a failproof list to make them keep coming back and stay on their toes.

1: Keep scenes violent enough to keep them coming back.

2: play with ALL of their senses. Sight first, Hearing, Smell, and then feelings. I don't actually know if I want to do anything about feelings other than touch. But I could probably do something like that if I went with a sanity meter..."You feel chills run through your spine as you see the shadows shift...etc"

3: Don't give them a lot to defend themselves with. Limited ammo, no powerful guns, and hoardes of enemies near-by.

But I can't really find a way to penalize the PC's for dieing, or going insane...

TAROT
12-04-2008, 11:32 PM
But I can't really find a way to penalize the PC's for . . . going insane...

Some players are more than happy to dive into various manias.

Otherwise, you can alter the description of events based upon the character's affliction (much as you might for a character's expert knowledge).

To group: "The policeman gives you all a quick once-over, wipes the sweat from his brow, says, 'Have a pleasant evening.' and returns to his cruiser."

To paranoid PC: "The policeman smirks as he looks you in the eye, he touches the brim of his cap, obviously signalling to his partner, says 'Have a pleasant evening.' and walks back to the ominously black cruiser watching you from the corner of his eye."

Jokerstyle
12-05-2008, 03:37 AM
3: Don't give them a lot to defend themselves with. Limited ammo, no powerful guns, and hoardes of enemies near-by.


Just a friendly tip from my own experience:
We have a certain GM who abuses this point.
We are usually thrown head-first into the action, with no way to defend ourselves, encountering enemies who are not as much scary as they are simply overpowering, either in force or in sheer numbers.

I'll grab a quick example.
In the beginning of the scenario, our plane crashed into a town in the desert. (The game was "Mutant", meaning that the town would probably be infested by benevolent creatures). At the very start, all our equipment that we spent so long purchasing was incinerated in the plane. We had like an axe or something to defend ourselves with, and the monsters we encountered were armor-platered.
Needless to say, ALL we could do was run. The enemies kept following us, and we could barely (Very barely) defeat one of their weakest. Doing so actually made one from our group pass out and we had to leave him there.
The other partymember was very wounded, and had to lie down and rest in an alley. I sat by him, unarmed, when suddenly a wall-climbing pyrozombie came crawling from the top of a building, spraying the entire alleyway with fire.
And when we fled, one of those armor-platered things jumped out from a window and landed infront of us.
Oh, and the only exits from the square plaza we were on was crowded by almost immortal zombies, atleast a thousand of them.

Basically, he might think to himself "I'm so good, they dont stand a chance against what I'm throwing at them, I must be the best GM ever. And the suspense has got to be killing them" while we go thinking "Why run, there is no point in doing anything..sigh..I wonder if we can convince him to restart everything with a different story"

Granted, you should definately use point Nr.3, but to a certain extent.

GoddessGood
12-05-2008, 10:22 AM
These tips are fantastic! I'm busy plotting how to include them in my next campaign. The players will likely be venturing into a shadowland (a place between the world of the living and the Underworld) and I've been looking for atmosphere tips.

Generally speaking, what effect would music have for you experience horror-masters? Would you go with creepy music or the invaluable lightning and rain soundtrack?

Windrider687
12-05-2008, 02:02 PM
I have to say; just because it's a game, does not mean at all it can't be 'soak your pants scary'.

A GM of mine managed to pull this off pretty well, and we were in a well lit room, snacks, etc...nothing innately creepy about the environment we were physically in.

I think it matters how much you are invested in a characters. If the players are very invested into their characters, then they'll feel the ambience of the theme you're attempting to set.

I think to be very, very sparing with information; horror/fear, etc. at it's core is facing the unknown, being unprepared, etc. Have the unusual occur indeed, with no clear explanation. This will have characters on edge, wondering what to expect and what they can do once 'it' comes.

Limiting personal character resources is fine, but not necessarily going to enhance the horror aspect. With a 'horror' campaign, players really must be forced to do a lot of personal thinking, you have to get into their heads. At times, horror can be indeed difficult to run, because sometimes (especially if you're playing with grizzled individuals), you have to cross 'that line' of what's socially acceptable, and go just flat-out insanely bizarre, and sick and twisted. You may find you end up scaring yourself more than the players at times ("How in the hell did I plot this up?", etc.). What I think would be an interesting method of utilising player equipment is giving them what they want within reason, but not necessarily giving them what they need. Also giving them 'extra' items that they would deem useless, but put together in 'MacGuyver' fashion yields an extremely useful and crucial item that can be used to great effect. It also fosters cooperation among the characters as well.

Another tactic, though sometimes could be viewed as unfair, but it sets the tone early, is being rather unforgiving about stupidity, and bad choices, and even mistakes. When you're stuck in a zombie-plagued remote village, there's little margin for error. When players know you're not going to cut them much slack, then they really feel 'fear/horror' in the RPG sense. They know if they screw up it's 'for real'.

TAROT
12-05-2008, 09:08 PM
Generally speaking, what effect would music have for you experience horror-masters? Would you go with creepy music or the invaluable lightning and rain soundtrack?

Although mp3 players with set-up playlists are ever so much more convenient than vinyl was, it's something that I don't bother with (maybe largely out of habit now). I just can't be fussed to queue up tracks (and if I do set it up, I'll forget to use it at the appropriate time).

For something a little bit disquieting in the background, you can consider something like the droning distortion of Love & Rockets, opera is sometimes good due to its unfamiliarity to many people, or something written for the Chinese five-tone scale can sound wrong to western ears.

(The lightning and rain is my sleepytime CD.)

Jokerstyle
12-06-2008, 08:42 AM
Both ambient and regular music has worked for me, and I believe a nice mix of the two is what would be the best.
The downside of ambient music (imo) is that it's often filled with noises that simply doesnt fit what the group is doing atm.

Sure, it's creepy if they are exploring a spaceship or walking through a cultist hangout and there's some nice ambient going on, but the ambient sounds are often filled with SFX that have no real in-game motivation. (Chains rattling, metallic clings etc). It feels "false" to me.

I would go for ambient music like rain, thunder, forest, but with no strange (or very little) SFX in them. If I have a reason for it, I might add some extra sounds, but imo sounds not heard - only described - might sometimes be even more creepy.
And if you mostly go with ambient, it will be cooler when you start a song or two for special events. (They might even start associating music with special events, which is even better)

Soft Serve
12-06-2008, 02:46 PM
RE: JokerStyle not going to abuse No. 3 in my list because i won't just simply over power them, i'll give them the drop on the monsters/cultists and figure a plan before they get spotted, or whatever happens to happen. nothing like your massive zombie wave.

Jokerstyle
12-06-2008, 04:02 PM
@Up
Glad to hear it :]

Soft Serve
12-07-2008, 06:32 PM
Sorry for that last message. I had a really shitty computer at 3am, so if that seemed hostile I didn't mean it...lol. I was just tired.


Uhm, but yeah to go further into detail, I plan on making stealth very important for this game, as well as general problem solving, adventureing, and the will to enter that "dark corner of the room where the moans came from."

Also gave some player classes better ability to handle themselves in a fight then others, and made my own rules for fighting to escape the constant rolling of d20 systems, which involves as little rolling as possible except maybe for accuracy.

I mean the players will be fighting primarily cultists, and the weapons more frequently then not will be pistols or blunt objects they use when they've snuck up on one. Like the way I think about it, the players won't be using a gun, unless the class they picked is trained to handle it, which will acount for the acuracy. Damage being a simple detail in comparison to where the bullet hit meaning if they hit a cultist in the arm, he will drop his weapon and depending on how he (I) address the situation and the orders given to him, will either run, or continue attacking. A follow up shot will probably be enough to ground him. A shot to the legs stopping him dead. A shot in the head MAKING him dead, and etc. So depending on where the PC tells me they are aiming, I will take into acount the difficulty (judged by target movement, distance, and size) make them roll (if they have no firearm exp then penalize them) and see if they hit their target.

The same will basically go for melee combat. If the target is unaware make the hit automatic though, and for headshots a knock out. If they are aware it will be a STR vs. STR roll until someone wins and the loser will be subject to a hit similar to as if he had been shot at.

this way stealth is important to survival, ammo is extremly useful and will be hard to find, and the players (if they get spotted) will realize they are out of their leage when the horde comes in and take to the shadows as much as possible giving them a sense of Urgency (get out of plain sight) fear (holy shit don't look over here....) and careful planning (if I shoot now, they might hear the shot and come running...)

Yay for easy-to-redo-systems!

Soft Serve
12-07-2008, 10:49 PM
ok (not to reply to myself) But I started my game tonight, with two players and me running as GM. We played mainly over a site called chatzy.com which has die-rolls and other useful features, and made them stay signed into AIM so I could talk to them individually. While I didn't go so far as to throw a trojan into their computer, and there were no fights, the level of trust steadily dropped as they watch a driver who was giving them a ride drop off a load of bodies, and then submit them to a test of trust where one had to shoot the other with his own gun (which the cultists sneakily loaded with fake bullets) I played on their senses when they were being driven to the chambers I told the one that he saw the driver smile after he said "Just relax" and the other didn't notice anything. Also one thought they heard cheering, while the other thought it was chanting.

We had fun though, and they've already told a few more people about it so tomorrow we should have a bigger group, if we play tomorrow that is...still no steady schedule. I'll have to make one of those someday.

Etarnon
12-11-2008, 02:14 AM
The thing is really...

It's not about having hordes of enemies and no weapons.

It is about this menacing thing, that is known to kill, that is very, very, very tough, if not totally impossible to kill.

It has to play on the fight or flight reaction that is endemic to humanity.

A guy with an M-60, in a covered position, with open enemies to the front, and training, is prone to fight.

A guy in an open field, with bombs dropping around him, as a civilian, is prone to cower or flee.

The zombies thing... People have seen zombie movies so that's cool.

the thing is, again.. Give them a ray of hope. The fight towards survival. An option, a chance to be heroes...

If you are the last guy on the top of the skyscraper with 10,000 man-eating zombies coming over the top, and you've got a .45 pistol in your hand with one round left, you got two options readily apparent, like dive off or shoot yourself. There might be more but in extremis, those wil come to mind.

But, with say a chainsaw, and a Speargun with two bolts, and a dark alleyway and 6 zombies to flee through on one side or shark infested beach on the other, there are options.

Make it seem just short of hopeless, with a ray of light.

If it is totally hopeless, okay that's good for one scenario, or a one shot or whatever. Then tpk or the players say "we can't get ahead."

Horror can also be:

At 10,000 feet the 6 B-17 bombers pressed on toward the target. Every minute the GM asks the pilot: do you press on toward the target?

"Yes, we have our orders."

Flak hits...BOOM BOOM plane 2 goes down, the cockpit a mass of flames as the pilot is decapitated. Plane three has a wing torn off, and people on fire with parachutes burning fall out.

What are you doing?

BOOM BOOM the flak is even more intense. your plane is hit.... etc.

It's a really fine line, but don't focus on the numbers or weapons, not really. I think, focus on the do we hang chilly or do we bug the hell out.

Then once bugging out, have a few have chances to get killed, on the way out.

Biggest problem with horror in a game like say D&D is resurrection and raise dead, such that there is no loss. I never use any of that. If your PC dies, roll a new one.

Maybe try playing a game where if you get killed you are out of the game for 2 to three weeks, or permanently, as the grim survivors press on.

With the proper players horror can work. And don't lose it when they start laughing and giggling. It isn't your game wrecked, it's the player trying to deal with it with humor.

This is why people in combat situations might make fun of a dead enemy guy with his genitals blown off, when the stress gets too much...after they win the battle.

Hard to explain. If you're not laughing, you're crying, and crying is bad mojo. So the guy only slightly wounded says "Damn! They shot me! har har."

Or the medic guy cleaning your eye wound, and you are flinching, he knows he's hurting you he's looking in your eye...You are tearing up, going Jesus christ, doc, WTF, and he has to say, the only thing he can say is "Sorry." or "Hurts, doesn't it?" you hate him, cause he's being hard core, but you know he's got the job to dig the thing out of your eye or you are going blind, and you both know it so let him do the job, and shut up, and take the pain.

Again, hard to explain.

For a really good look at horror, try finding an old as the hills PC game called "Sanitarium." By far the most freaky game have ever played.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitarium_(videogame) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitarium_%28videogame%29)

I won't spoil it, by going into it. But it rocks, and is very.. let's say... disturbing.

Life*Angel*
12-11-2008, 02:00 PM
so i guess now that i am a player in your horror online rpg.... my "opinions" should come in handy.

first off if i sound stupid and you think to yourself "well duh man, thats a given" i will say in advance......im am new to rpg games.

now, being 19 and almost 20 years old....there is not alot of things that "scare" me per say.... but that are things that stick out in your mind that just make you want to throw up.. (but in a good way if that makes sense)
remember 2 girls one cup? nothing scary there, infact two naked girls is the furthest thing from scary that i can imagine. but near the ending i almost lost my lunch. (i think you know why...)

it all about how you make the players feel. i can tell you this, when i am playing.. i feel like my character in the rpg game( props for doing such a good job with that) so in order to reach me the player you need to do it through my character. if my character is now facing a 40 ft giat charging full speed at him ( o by the way you almost killed us :rant: lol ) then i get scared for my avitars well-being. also.... if he sees a woman with long sharp nails, a disfigured face with liquids ozzing from her mouth and eye sockets..... it scares me, because you invision it. ( by the way that liquid ozz stuff u discribed got me looking around my room everytime i heard a noise :lol: lol )

just do your best to discribe things, use new words, change up the enemys, and hell throw in some strange babiling that my character does because of insanity...... anything to get me thinking..."ok wtf is going on" that is always what you want your players to say....."WTF IS GOING ON! I WANT OUT!" and then...... dont let them out. not everyone is looking for a "happy ending" just a ending to sufice thier questions...

if you can do that, you will make your players go from this...:ranger: into this...:hail: lol * but if u ask me bro....your already doing a great job*

Etarnon
12-11-2008, 09:36 PM
This sounds cool.

Are you intending to let the thread know of their adventures?

Life*Angel*
12-12-2008, 11:10 AM
This sounds cool.

Are you intending to let the thread know of their adventures?

even if he doesnt you know im going to be yelling it all over this fourm;)

Soft Serve
12-12-2008, 08:41 PM
I like playing for two reasons really. 1: Everybody gets together and we don't just play a game, or act out a scene. We all write the story together. Like your actors with no script and I'm here to give you the scenario. 2: That story is almost always impactful, and almost always the most amazing thing since the last one because everyone who's telling it was THERE and knows it was written around them. I love these games man, and I love the storys so go ahead and tell the entire world.

Etarnon
12-12-2008, 09:50 PM
Looking forward to reading this.Sounds like you have a good group, with people that care about their characters.

Life*Angel*
12-15-2008, 10:07 AM
lol... i guess what makes our group so powerful, is not the weapons or tactics we use..... but we all look out for one another. some of us make mistakes.....as most of us sometimes do, but the powerful bond the group holds for one another. (especially on the first time meeting eachother) is something more pwerful than any weapon we have used. its a brotherly love we share over the game.... odd i know...... but yet it makes you feel good inside once the game has ended for the night.

picture it like this....

two knights, even though they dont have the same common goal, will join sword with sword, and fight battles back to back. they know very little of the other..... and yet they are united with one purpose...... and that is to help the other achieve his goal. you know have a friendship to top all.

sounds a little atrange maybe....... but im sure you grasp the idea.

Soft Serve
12-15-2008, 11:19 PM
lol... i guess what makes our group so powerful, is not the weapons or tactics we use..... but we all look out for one another. some of us make mistakes.....as most of us sometimes do, but the powerful bond the group holds for one another. (especially on the first time meeting eachother) is something more pwerful than any weapon we have used. its a brotherly love we share over the game.... odd i know...... but yet it makes you feel good inside once the game has ended for the night.

picture it like this....

two knights, even though they dont have the same common goal, will join sword with sword, and fight battles back to back. they know very little of the other..... and yet they are united with one purpose...... and that is to help the other achieve his goal. you know have a friendship to top all.

sounds a little atrange maybe....... but im sure you grasp the idea.


Golden! :grouphug: <lol group hug...


(excuse the limited input. keyboard is missing a lot of keys thanks to a 2yr old sister of mine. :))

Etarnon
12-16-2008, 01:35 AM
Certainly I understand the image.

The navy uses this concept when deploying two man SEAL teams, so that they can face 180 degrees from each other.

Life*Angel*
12-16-2008, 09:00 AM
Golden! :grouphug: <lol group hug...


:confused:..... wait...... our group hugs???:p
--- Merged from Double Post ---

Certainly I understand the image.

The navy uses this concept when deploying two man SEAL teams, so that they can face 180 degrees from each other.

indeed... well as interested as you may seem to be..... maybe you could drop in and see how things are going....observe....heck maybe even join in on the fun lol.
--- Merged from Double Post ---

Golden! :grouphug: <lol group hug...


(excuse the limited input. keyboard is missing a lot of keys thanks to a 2yr old sister of mine. :))
well im srry for putting this out in the open soft....but i cant seem to find out how to pm you.....:biggrin:

so here it is..... a person named Aeth is interesting in joining....he wants you to contact him,..... he is here in the forms

Soft Serve
12-17-2008, 04:00 AM
lol timezones are killer Angel, everytime I sign on I have messages I barely missed.


I'm getting a spare keyboard to use for tonight so after some running around town gathering junk like energy drinks, microwaveable food, and a keyboard with a usb plug-in, I'll be set to play and just waiting on players to pop in.

ADVERTISEMENT
Anyone reading or posting is welcome to play or ask anything.

Saturday or friday hopefully will be another gameday, sunday as well.:p

Life*Angel*
12-17-2008, 08:53 AM
its wed???? already??? lol ok i have a dance to go to but ill play as soon as i can
--- Merged from Double Post ---

lol timezones are killer Angel...

eh time zone my butt.......... they can stay up and play just like the rest of us lol. :lol:

Soft Serve
12-17-2008, 03:07 PM
Uhm not usually on wednesday they can't. Friday and weekends will be killer though.

I kinda can't wait to play again, we've taken a break and I'm full of evil plans for the group. <evil laugh> lol