Monday, April 8, 2013

How Much Horror Do You Like in Your Fantasy?

Let me start right off by saying, for me, I'm not talking Ravenloft or Mythos creatures (the two extremes in my mind). This is one of the things that I think LotFP's Weird Fantasy got right - it's the horror around the corner, under the bed and behind the door that works for me.

Spoiler Alert! I'm going to talk about one room from the Grimmsgate Adventure by Matt Finch - if you plan on playing in it, you may want to skip ahead a bit... we alone? Cool. Alright, there is a door in Grimmsgate that, if the players take the time to investigate, "they will discover that something seems to have gnawed away some of the wood at the bottom, leaving a gap about 3 inches high by 6 inches wide". This got my players nervous to no end, so they poked a proverbial 10' pole into the gap and heard alarmed squeaking. They quickly retreated away from the room without opening the door, done in by an unknown horror conceived in their own minds. End Spoiler

I need to replicate stuff like this in later sessions. The tension was real. It was different than the "we're getting our butts kicked in combat and might die" because players know on some level their PCs might fall in any combat. No, this was the unknown that raised the fear level. As a DM, I found it quite exciting.

I may become addicted to putting some real fear into my players ;)

Where do you fall on the "Horror Scale"? I suspect much of it is the players themselves and how much they are willing to buy in that makes it viable or not, but I could be wrong...


  1. I use a heavy dose of horror in my d&d variant. For me, scary encounters are the most memorable.

    There's more info in the game doc below.


    1. This is a long document. What section are we supposed to look in?

  2. I would be ok with the horror of a giant rat gnawing through a dungeon door, which is what your example sounds like. :)
    I don't deliberately inject horror into my games. I tend to avoid deliberately horror-themed adventures, I don't find they work well and can be terrible railroads (Malizewski's Cursed Chateau particularly appalling in that regard). I tend to run my regular stuff pretty dark anyway.
    I occasionally have had slight complaints about my visceral descriptions of violence in my D&D games, when the 4e Paladin's Mark melts the face of some unfortunate mook for instance - that was in Sellswords of Punjar, a swords & sorcery themed adventure. Horrific stuff in my games tends to be naturallt emergent - an inncocent mother & her young son slaughtered by the bad guys during combat, while trying to flee, or fallen PCs eaten by the orcs.

    I was a player in a game yesterday, 1st level PCs going after some orcs. Another player expressed worry that the orcs would kill us.

    "It's what they'll do to us before they kill us that you need to worry about!" said I.

    I guess that's my GMing philosophy, too. :)

  3. The amount from your example is about where I'm comfortable. Trying to describe something horrific is never going to be as good as giving them a few hints or suggestions and letting their imagination take over, especially if they start feeding off on another.

    Back in the day I started making a clicking sound with my tongue/roof of mouth during idle times. It was deliberate on my part and it really drove them nuts, especially one player, he was surprisingly freaked by it. So of course I keep doing it game after game. The campaign ended/went on hiatus before it ever came to anything (one of the players wanted to DM-I sure wanted to PLAY).

    To this day I don't know what it would have turned out to be; it probably would have been a disappointment to the players.

  4. On a scale of 1to 10 I like mine to be at 13.

    So much I actually mostly play horror games and unject some fantasy into it.

  5. Dial it up to 10 if the group is in to it. Dial it down to 5 if they aren't.

  6. Yeah, I love this sort of stuff. In a recent sessions I ran, there's an eery light underwater, in the subterranean lake, that occasionally stalks the characters. It freaked them out pretty bad.


    I wrote a post about this a long time ago:


  7. I run a lot of horror games, and it does depend on the players. Running a CP2020 at present, and the horror has been almost non-existent, because the players seem happier with an investigative style game, and the body horror that can work in cyberpunk games has yet to pique their interest.

    I don't often run fantasy games, but when I play them, the most fun I have is with superstition rather than actual horror. people not doing certain things at certain times because of what might happen is a great way to build up tension. Frightened villagers acting strangely on certain nights, and strange noises coming from the well...

    That kind of thing.


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