Plenty of articles deal with setting the mood for a horror RPG.

As a result, I¶m not going to tackle that topic. Instead, I¶d like to talk about plot devices that, when in operation at a level of generality above specific mood elements, set the stage for creating a truly horrific RPG. Halloween. Psycho. The Shining. The horror movies that are widely regarded as belonging in the upper echelon of their genre have earned their place for a reason: they have scared the heck out of their audience. They have made the audience feel vulnerable, even if they have frequently exploited unlikely scenarios (e.g., The Exorcist, Alien). After a few hours researching various top scary movies lists, I have compiled a consensus top 13: The Exorcist (most frequently named to lists, most frequently #1), Halloween (highest average rating), The Shining, Alien, Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, Silence of the Lambs, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Rosemary¶s Baby, Jaws, Evil Dead, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The common denominator here is not mind-numbing violence, grotesque imagery, nor jerky camera angles (though some receive high marks in some of these categories). No, the crux of successful horror is to exploit one¶s vulnerabilities. The formulae for success are well known: a person cut off from others, isolated, falls into despair and madness. An injury leads to decreased ability to defend oneself from whatever ills await. Pains and suffering of friends and loved ones lead to hopelessness. These emotions²loneliness, dread, and hopelessness²are the tools of a successful horror film, book, or RPG. To the extent that a medium can elicit one of these emotions, the medium will be successful. The question for the present becomes: how do we best arouse these emotions while in the midst of an RPG? In an RPG, it¶s difficult to scare characters. Findar the Barbarian is not real, after all. He can destroy a legion of orcs and ogres. And if you put a machine gun in his hands, his air of invulnerability rises. He cannot bleed and cannot die but in the mind of the player. Thus, it¶s much easier (and much more fun) to scare the players behind the characters. It might seem, prima facie, that it¶s more difficult to scare your players in an RPG than in another setting (such as the cinema). But this is not the case. Any fear your players harbor will be effective when applied to their characters provided there is some emotional link, between player and character. The danger associated with a difficult challenge is part of the reason why many people play RPGs. They provide a safer medium for risk-taking than real world experimentation. And because they¶re safer, and because the world is imaginary, it¶s cheaper and easier to put player characters into horrific situations. Isolation is the easiest way to elicit loneliness from a character (via the player, of course). The problem with isolation is that most games are not played one-on-one. So if you resort to isolation in your game, you¶ve got to keep it limited in time so other players don¶t become restless. In solo games, a scenario wherein a character awakens in a strange and/or deserted place provides sufficient means for the GM to chisel away at the player¶s machismo, without the aid of other clever plot devices. Coupled with other techniques, it¶s devastatingly effective. Related plot devices that work well to build up the sense of isolation include stalkers and cases of mistaken identity. A cleverly designed stalker needn¶t be incredibly powerful to make the character¶s life miserable and put a scare into the player. An heirloom, missing from the character¶s possession, a divulged secret the character would prefer unknown, or any other number of stalkeresque behavior can set in motion a horrific run. Mistaken identity can be even more effective. Imagine a character entering a foreign land after a scrap in which he or she lost some identifying equipment. Upon setting foot in the place, everyone in eye and ear shot gapes in terror or disgust at the character, for he bares a striking resemblance to an escaped child murderer (or perpetrator of [insert your heinous crime here]). Hopelessness is indeed one of the main plot points in a (soon after the apocalypse) post-apocalyptic game. A number of people have died, things have changed irrevocably, and there your character is, in the middle of it all. The character¶s life cannot continue as it had and he¶s forced to change nearly everything about himself. If a ³minor apocalypse´ occurs during the run of an otherwise non-apocalyptic campaign, the effects are heightened. For ³minor apocalypses,´ consider: an undead attack, contained to one town but decimating everything that was normal therein;

a personal sense of dread can be affected by a slightly creative damage system. a low hit point total alone will not put a scare into players in most cases. vampires. and should be combined so as to bring about the ideal.. etc. of course. Writer! 4. None of these tips preclude abiding by the popular articles¶ suggestions as to how to strike up a terrifying mood. The threat of deformity is a very real scare. Oh. When coupled with actual. cannibals. the phone is out! I'll climb out this window . ³Go to point A and kill creature B. heaven-sent events unfolding to ensure the demise of our beloved baddies and the survival of the inept heroes. in-game effects.´ Creative damage is almost a prerequisite for a horror game and it¶s a great change of pace for a more vanilla game. and stereotypes. however. or tourists. these horror parents just refuse to care. I suppose it could be a serial killer or maniacal slasher or even a bloodthirsty mutant beast. Howard¶s (the original author of Conan) terrifying descriptions of serpents in combat. torture. Never mind that until now the guy/monster has been completely unstoppable. the fodder must consist of a group no smaller than six members of either friends. Compare a system that imposes penalties along with damage dealt to a system that just uses hit points. the list above is not exhaustive. even ³normal´ injuries can add to the terror. 3. curses. gore. zombies and masked serial killers. fear brings out good things in us ghosts. become distracted. stories of [3] the supernatural are not necessarily always a horror movie as well.. Conversely. werewolves. but I'll bring this flashlight. eliciting an extra scare even if there be no ill effects in the meantime. such as poisoning. say. it might be interesting to know that he feared them greatly«and his descriptions of them were fueled by his fear. all to the detriment of his abilities (especially combat abilities). Toxins and injuries. if not properly treated. race. This shifts the focus of the adventure from. that'll scare 'em away! 5. or even a weapon thrusting from the ashes! Way to let us in on the upcoming secret "surprise" attack finale. the car won't start! This has got to be the lamest.´ to ³Must«find«healing. useful skills. inability to employ certain. And. And«avoid«combat. localized but devastating.. vicious animals. the two can. 6. weaken.. now I'll drive away to safety . In fact. Yes. Mr. most unoriginal. Cursed characters can suffer myriad ill effects: loss of vision. his player is worried. We¶ve probably all seen how effective this last scenario is at altering lives for the long run. one in the former will gradually slow. deformity. haunted houses.. Another characteristic of this cliche is that the members must consist of all ranges of gender. of course. But wait! A closeup of the rubble reveals an eye opening. family.radiation leakage²again. demons. ancient curses. Finally.. 2. It's jammed! OK I broke it with a chair. can lead to deformities with long-lasting ill effects. no matter how crazy or odd the behavior of their children becomes. When Findar¶s character sheet shows 1 hit point remaining. Let's investigate! What was that strange bump in the night? I have an idea! Let's go stumble around in the dark and check it out. Arise ye Baddie! Our beloved baddie has just had a bridge collapse on him and it looks like everything is gonna finally be OK . or do anything about it. Creative injury types. If you¶ve ever read Robert E. and at the risk of being non-PC (in the non-gaming sense). overused plot ploy ever! Any writer who even considers using this turd of a script concept should stick to writing commercials and sitcoms. a hand rising. will all add to the mix. Can you hear me now? Oh no! The baddie's gonna get me! Damn. While a character in the latter is but a walking tank with full firepower until he dies. A poisoned character may have to hurry to complete a task in order to remove the toxin from his body. Bad luck Baddie: This of course is a reference to the inevitable occurrence of a string of miraculous. It¶s true. complete mood for a horror game. We travel in packs! Whether monster or slasher. what do you know. Find your players¶ fears and use them. however. a terrorist attack. In severe cases the statement "He/she must be on drugs!" is often spoken.satanism. .

18. Rather than bashing in his brains to ensure death. After having his friends killed and almost being killed himself.. Uh-oh! Teenagers are bumping uglies! Watch out. Twenty feet away is a house. B.. his response is always "It's probably just the wind". he will turn the other way and walk away or start running. just asking for the chase process to begin again. and break out of their self-loathing-basket-case shell to whup some serious baddie ass! Who needs a session with Dr. I guess we'll just blow him up: It will always take these geniuses many failed attempts at trying to shoot the monster and use every other method of death before they realize why not just get the military involved and either blow him up. Then they will make the dramatic dive out of the window or door just as the bomb blows up.. he will still insist "We must capture it alive to study it". but just as they are about to . Don't ever ask for directions: . popularity. As if to say "Fuck you. We usually have two teens equally as dumb. believe in who they are. Yet. I didn't know MacGuyver was in this flick! Our heroine has exhibited nothing but Paris Hilton-level intelligence throughout the entire movie. and our hero still has a long way to go . Their choice????? The forest of course! Run. Hey. 15.. Then it flashes back to him running for about 5 seconds so by this time we should hear BOOOOOM! But WAIT! What's this? We are back to the bomb and it still has 2 seconds left. Over here? . Bombs can't kill the hero/main character: Any time our film involves a bomb. It's at 3..) Bomb time does not run on our time. and half-eaten hamburger! You go on with your bad self. No.. there's a sound!! The girl asks "What's that??" Now you figure the first thing that comes to mind for both is "Holy shit. viewer. and lethal trap/weapon out of nothing but a rubber band. they discover themselves. Richard Dean Anderson! 9. But once she's the only survivor left. The guy always wants to get it on. Beat that!! 12. Not only does he disarm the bomb.. they will still hear a sound or see a figure and keep calling out to their friends. A quarter of a mile away is a dark.) Our hero becomes a master bomb technician. but he will do it with 1 second left on the timer. Zoloft saved my life! Our hero/heroine begins and spends the majority of the movie lacking self confidence. shoelace.The baddie makes his presence and intention known and the would-be victim must make a run for his life. 16. 10. he's dead: This is when our hero has finally managed to knock down the bad guy. it seems that knocking the bad guy down is a victory. and is more or less a completely insecure mess. This guarantees a final scene containing coy looks followed by a long sloppy session of tonsil-hockey.that WASN'T the wind: Here's a great one.. Phil? Just survive a horrible bloody massacre. Well . OK. two hormonally charged teens are about to drop trou and have a roll in the hay! One can be sure that a grisly death is on the way when they finish. don't go to some rundown gas station in the middle of nowhere or some house in the middle of the woods. What you are doing then is not really asking directions but rather "Could you demented backwoods fellas tell us the best place to go where you can hunt us down one by one and brutally murder us?" . The Bachelorette: Horror Edition: Ah yes. Where are you guys? Similar to "Let's investigate!" This is usually where we have one or two characters left. or in some cases. or freeze him.. they flash to the screen of the bomb. but it's never the wind. bad guy. RUN! 8. ambition.7. she discovers the brains to build an incredibly clever. But at the right moment. And BTW. we have one of two things happen: A. while they're goin' at it! 17. The crazy scientist: No matter how many of his friends or people around him he has seen the mutant/monster brutally murder. our hero/heroine finds the time to make that special connection with that special someone.." But no . burn him. guys. that's probably the maniac that was just chasing us with a knife. walking deeper and deeper in their own death trap. 13. rabbit. We will see our hero running from the bomb. I'm gonna run! Um . Your friends aren't answering you because they are dead.You're better off just driving around looking for where you're going and running out of gas than asking for directions. and you'll be fine! 11. 14. nothing sparks the mood for romance like seeing all of your closest friends/family hacked to itty-bitty pieces! Somewhere amidst all the blood and guts. Five feet away is a car. menacing forest. it's purely coincidence that they are the only two survivors. Keep up your idiotic antics and you will be next. But if you must ask for directions.he must be dead. Sorry. All of their friends are either missing or have been brutally murdered by some maniac. ingenious.

Why do we own this? This entry refers to the fact that there seems to be a lot of ordinary people who not only own weapons like machetes. but if i just saw 10 or more people savagely killed. I don't know about you. You may be able to last a while. THEY DON'T CHANGE. though. it's curtains for that character sooner. 29. you won't. Stand back! I'm an expert: When dealing with baddies. What about the double twist though? This is where we get a twist at the end of the movie which sometimes isn't even bad. Ugh! 30. just to name a few). There can be a body ripped to shreds which clearly not even a group of teens can do. 23." No matter what is going on or how crazy it looks. rather than later. Once an abuser. the writers have to ruin it by inventing some "magical" or "special" way of killing it? I mean. We have to get cheesy/trite commentary from the killer before. More times than not. 27. during. c'mon! There's no shame in being . 28.9% of the time that "crazy" guy isn't so crazy and knows exactly what he's talking about. Can be a good thing if done right." it's usually a good idea to listen to him. He's gonna change: This is where we have a husband/boyfriend beat his wife/girlfriend or abuse her. Everybody sees the footprints or bloody trail left behind. Rules are made to be broken: Why is it that 9 times out of 10. If you act like a tough guy. or anyone else will believe you. etc. usually all but ruining the movie. but you will be brutally murdered by the time the movie is over. If these lines are penciled in to be read by any actor/actress. a shed. 26. Don't be a tough guy: This one pretty much speaks for itself. 21. Black Christmas. etc. But they continue to go about their lives and chalk it all up to mice. It worked for these movies. but usually just redundant and something you already knew anyway. Mommy Dearest: When it comes to slashers/killers. your parents. But as soon as they hear a bump in the night or some maniac killer is after them. and the light will be working fine. No one is going to listen: This one is very similar to "Parents just don't understand. 22. it's def a cliche now! 32. I'd give the baddie his/its due and get the hell outta there alive. it just makes the killer seem like a poorly thought out stereotype. a lot of the time one of the characters in the group is an "expert" on whatever is killing people in large numbers in the movie. But then we get another twist within the last few seconds that makes absolutely no sense and just seems to be there for the hell of it.That's right. let's kill it! Sometimes some survivors have a legitimate chance to pack up while they're still alive and get the hell out of there. Have I made it clear that this killer is crazy? The grisly/unthinkable acts of violence aren't enough to prove the killer's unstable ways. so naturally it must have come from the Last Great Frontier. 25. Besides. she will still go back to him. cats. when we have a really cool baddie. See no evil. neither the police. yet. Occasionally good info. and of course Psycho. you will still be blamed. resulting in the death of our character. Everybody hears the weird noises. 20. 33. 24. where there are all kinds of people living. we almost invariably learn later on that issues with Mother played a big part in their going "postal" on the innocents (Friday the 13th. always an abuser. The writers couldn't think of anything original to explain its methods/appearance/origin. They may be walking in the dark woods or a dark house. Halloween. but casually leave them lying around just in case a baddie shows up and forgot his at home. but when done wrong. hear no evil: A lot of times in a horror flick you'll get the monster operating from an attic.. Yet. local law enforcement can handle the situation! Can't they? 31. a basement. 99. but after seeing it done so many times. "house noises". I'll be back! This one's real simple. It came from outer space: Of course . then you're dead. a strange bloodthirsty creature has descended upon a small town. The double twist!!! We all know a lot of movies have been throwing a twist in just for the hell of it. sometimes even more then once insisting "He's a changed man". Fuck leaving. This character's function in the plot is to basically explain everything not only to the other characters but also to the audience. Listen to the "crazy" guy: So if you and a group of friends are going camping or something and some crazy looking guy says "Don't go there" or "You don't want to stay there. they develop this personal grudge and decide to stay and kill it/him instead.19. No. and after each kill. the light will suddenly decide to stop working. My light won't work?!?!? This is when a character has a flashlight.

and we all KNOW it's not really happening and just a dream. Our characters will always find it in themselves to not only shoot the zombie but to also make sure it's a head shot. Usually one of our main characters will either have a real dream and wake up in bed or they can be at work or something and having a daydream. we have seen this before. a coincidence. Oh. It usually happens early in the movie. Good job trapping yourself: (Zombie only) Ah yes. Even CGI on a bigger budget movie a lot of the time doesn't look that great. The shoulder grab!!! This is where we have two characters. I didn't know this was a PS2 game!! When a director is making a movie on a low budget. all of your focus should be on not being the next to die. machine gun. The female will already be scared shitless because there is some type of killer/monster on the loose and her friends/family have died right in front of her.. well before we get to the action. And they will break in. 41. horribly mutating himself and ruining his life in the process. punch. Anything. Our genius male character figures the best way to get her attention is to silently sneak up behind her and grab her shoulder. cat. shot gun. I think you can figure out what this one is. he can't make the monster CGI. try something. or a sniper rifle. you gotta love how when you have a horde of zombies after you. This cliche is about what they don't do. As this is happening. the dumbass always decides to try it on himself. Pretty fucking good considering you have never shot a gun before or been this scared in your life.B's out. these brilliant people decide to trap themselves inside a house or some type of abandoned building. 35. Our people can range from an ex-military guy who has fired many weapons in his life to a ditsy clueless blonde. 36. It can be a hand gun. and everyone knows that.and another: Yes. Usually there would be nothing wrong with that. dance a jig! Just do something besides stand there and scream or sit on the ground and look up at your impending demise.O. I'm just to damn horny: This is when two teens feel the need to crank out a quick one or go into some long make-out session.. If they could only hear the music: Hey what do ya know. I mean. I wonder if the baddie is around the current area? Thanks for ruining the element of surprise. 34. a nerdy little teenager. But I swear on some of these lower budget movies the monster looks like he was cut straight out of a PS2 cut scene. They're playing the ominous theme music. or one of your friends. we are all going "OK..offed by a simple double-barrel shotgun blast to the head! These rules usually just make the story that much more unbelievable and over-the-top silly.. and we watch as the camera follows our main character. 37.and another. That is just one example of the shoulder grab. zombies don't climb so why not find the fattest tree and wait those S. So why even put it in? There is no way you can tell me anyone actually falls for the dream. It usually will have them getting killed or killing someone. not some zombie tearing apart some hapless teen like we all want it to be.." And what is it when our character and camera reach their destination??? It's a freaking dog. Then the suspense music kicks in. You're gonna get to where you heard the sound and it's gonna be a freaking dog. I will use zombie as an example. writers! 44." 38. 42. I'm sure many of you have seen it in other situations also. It amazes me that some directors want their names on these pieces of garbage. the suspense. You're much better off just sticking a man in a rubber suit. Maybe his/its vision is based on movement: We all know about the many cliches characters commit with what they choose to do when the baddie shows up. they are all equally as gifted with a gun in their hand. How about you call her name out or even whisper it out? Or at the very least walk a little heavier so she can hear your damn footsteps. this movies just has way too many coincidences to be taken seriously. Hey. Nothing like having a pack of zombies engulf you as soon as they break in.or lack thereof: This one happens in all types of horror. It's always something really dramatic . At least that would look decent and give a cheesy 80's feel instead of a garbage feel. Damn right I'm a sharp shooter: (Another zombie only) Something about zombies just gives everyone an amazing trigger finger.. The dream/daydream: The name pretty much speaks for itself. but when there's a killer on the loose and your friends are dying around you. be it zombie/monster/killer. 43. I mean. Why is it that every time a scientist thinks he has perfected whatever he is working on. yet. or some fat slob. or one of their friends. We will hear some type of bump or knock or scratch. Run. cat. movie. I mutated myself!!! This could technically be part of "The dumb scientist" cliche. kick. . how many times can the main character just escape death or just happen to run into the right or wrong person or just miss being caught before the director realizes "Wow. As far as i know. It also doesn't matter the type of gun. We don't have one or two coincidences but an entire movie filled with them. 39. 40. usually a male and a female.

Also. sometimes the person being zapped is either grounded or not in position to complete a circuit. 51.. Many a time has a baddie (or group of baddies) been sent back to hell via a nice flesh-searing electrical shock.chug: The engine to my car won't start when I most need it to. etc. 49. they would have been fine anyways. We always gotta get the spooky jump scene music with it. too. BOO!!!!!! This one really annoys me. wonder if somethin' bad is about to happen?" Blech!! 50. Thus. And although electrocution is a gruesome way to check out. it doesn't make for a very visibly gory death. it sure is fun watching 'em do that funny dance! . "Gee. Boo! OK. instead of trimming the gore or nudity in a movie. but if you're a member of any minority. let's make it course up and down the body for maybe 30 to 60 seconds! And of course there must be a funny dance performed by the one being fried. Slow-mo pre-butchering: This one is strictly for the slashers and serial killers. you're not gonna make it to the end of the movie. But hey. Oppressed by "The Man": Sorry. and a ridiculously thick and visible fog rolls in! Nobody sees it.chug... Nobody worries about it..45. and the current is definitely not visible to anybody who happens to be viewing it as it occurs. it seems like all we are waiting for is the idiot characters to figure out what we already know. as per usual! Yep.. Latino. Seriously. This is when you know everything that's going to happen in the movie. Like when I'm about to get killed for example. We've all seen it: The victim is down/trapped and the killer is moving in for the death blow and. Do car engines have minds of their own and just like to fuck with their owners? They're probably laughing the whole time as the hapless victim is frantically turning the key and only getting a chug chug chug. We all know.. victim. Chug. if you watch closely. they should be forced to trim the dumb parts like cars not starting. 48. So what did the movie makers come up with? Make it BLUE! But why stop there? Along with making it blue. It's really quite silly since in reality being electrocuted does not last a full minute. though. Ominous fog. we're walking through the forest.. It usually happens in the first half of a movie where they will have all these dumb jump scenes. This would be a good time to take some action.. Electricity: Marvel at it and all of its BLUENESS! Noticed this one just the other day. 46. Where maybe a knife will fall or an animal will jump out or something. How often does a Black. or Asian character wind up being the lone survivor? 47.he SLOWLY raises the weapon up over his head. friends and NAACP members. Nobody even friggin' mentions it! As a viewer all you can say is. parking lot.. let me try again. Some movies are so predictable.

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