Tag Archives: RPG

The Scary Stuff – Part 1

“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.” – Stephen King

In this series of posts I want to talk about my journey through the history of Horror RPGs. In short I want to talk about…

The Scary Stuff

I was afraid of monsters when I was a kid. I still remember a lot of the problems that came out of that. Having trouble sleeping at night. Fights with my parents who, thought I was too big to come sleep in their bed. My daughter has the same issues now. She’s 10 and it’s starting to bother us.

Slowly it got better, but it lasted for an eternity. I think one of the reasons things changed is that I got tools to deal with the horror I felt. And one of those tools was this:

I got the Swedish edition of this game in 1985. I was 12 years old. Right now I can’t remember how I got it. My parents certainly would never buy something like this for me considering all the issues I had. I think I might have bought it from a friend.

I could probably say a lot of things about Chill as a role-playing game today. But this is not supposed to be a review of that game. Instead I want to highlight one thing that this game gave me, that I still remember, that I still use and that I have not gotten anywhere else. (Granted. I’ve not been looking for it either.) And that is; a structural breakdown of the Horror genre and how it is used in literature.

This game, in one of the GM sections, explains what horror is, and what tools you can use to invoke it. It illustrates this by examples as well, and does so in a fashion that the 12 year old in me still remembers 30 years later.

The game talked about “isolation”, “alienation”, “twists” and other horror elements and held them up as building blocks to use.

Soon after I was hit by the Call of Cthulhu train… I was blown away by that, but I have to admit that it didn’t explain “horror” to it’s core the same way Chill did for me. Truth be told I encountered CoC earlier than that, but was a little too young to understand how to deal with it. Chill told me how. It showed me how. And when I picked up CoC again the world was forever changed.

I started writing Horror short-stories, and still do occasionally. I started consuming horror literature by the truck-load. Everything from the classics; Shelly, Stoker and Poe to more late-80s-contemporary; King, Koontz and Barker.

Maybe this is why I still regard a really good Horror-Story as the best RPG experience one can have?

During this time; age 15-18 we played a lot of RPGs and a lot of it was Call of Cthulhu. Then in 1991, two things happened more or less at the same time, that took the genre into a very different direction:

Vampire the Masquerade and Kult…

… to be continued in “The Scary Stuff – Part 2” but in the meantime let’s discuss:

  1. What was your first encounter with Horror RPGs?
  2. Are you a Horror consumer outside of the RPG medium?
  3. At what age did you start in the Horror genre?
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“It’s Hammer Time!”

We were playing “Death on the Reik” and during the raid/visit to Castle Wittgenstein the players find it infested with Chaos mutants…

Imagine the scene that unfolds when the Sigmar Cleric in the party opens up the doors to the Sigmar chapel and finds it defiled, by a Slaneesh cult… not only that, but amongst the purple mist he can see human bodies interlocked in unspeakably depraved and vile acts of fornication. It’s hard to see where one body stops and the next begins in this writhing snake-pit. This holy place place had been corrupted by the most unholy of all…

I (DM) tell him to make a Will-test, lest he be overcome with the urge to join the sinners in the copulating frenzy… He makes it. Shakes off the attempt, picks up his holy hammer of righteousness and says, with one last disgusted look at the people in front of him:

“It’s hammer time!”

Awkward Moments

In this post I would like to talk about Player reacting on a personal level to stuff that other player characters do and/or say in game.

In the scenario described above the Sigmar Cleric “cleared out the evil” from the temple of his god. It was a defining moment for that character, filled with drama, and tension. I loved it.

Another player at the table was distraught about the whole thing because in his opinion these were just innocent villagers who happened to have fallen under the curse of Slaneesh. He claimed that the Sigmar Cleric character had just committed mass-murder.

This had all been fine unless… unless we somehow all felt the tension in the room shift, from being between the two characters to instead be between the two players.

I can’t remember who seemed to take things personal first, if it was the cleric-player for being challenged so hard or the accuser for not being taken seriously. I don’t know.

But it ended with the cleric-player saying to me (after the session) that he would never act out his character like that again, because he felt like everyone in the room hated him and was provoked by him. And even though I tried to talk him out of it, I think a piece of his love for role-playing died that day.

Personally I LOVE those situations. They define the drama in a very real sense. I would just love if the players could still be friends afterwards… and most of the time we are. But not always.

Usually it is connected to acting with lethal force without first getting consent from the group:

Like (in another game) when the Military Officer decides to summary execute two P.O.W.s they have because he cannot allow them to compromise the mission. Millions of lives are at stake, and he does not have the resources to handle two prisoners. He kills them. And several jaws around the table drop: “You did WHAT?!”

And you can feel it… It’s not only on a Character-level… It just transcended that and became something else. More personal. They are accusing HIM. Not his character. Or at least that is the way HE feels…

To discuss:

  • Have you ever had a role-playing situation cause grief between players on a personal level?
  • What was the situation?
  • How did you handle it?
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and is covered by the
Indie+ Community Standards.