“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:
… to be continued in “The Scary Stuff – Part 2” but in the meantime let’s discuss:
- What was your first encounter with Horror RPGs?
- Are you a Horror consumer outside of the RPG medium?
- At what age did you start in the Horror genre?