Auxmaulous, you've got great points. I guess my question goes beyond simple game mechanics, though. I'm talking more philosophically. I guess I should have made that more clear. Not only am I a gamer, but I'm also a writer. I work mostly in straight horror, with a little sci-fi and action horror, as well.
I'm trying to nail down what makes one element horrifying in one context, and less so in others. Is there more than mood, ambience, etc? Why are Lucio Fulci's zombies in 'Gates of Hell' more terrifying than the zombies in 'Zombieland'? They do all the same things. Well, truthfully, the "GoH' zombies are super strong teleporting zombies that can make you vomit out your intestines, which is scary as %$*&, but they're still zombies.
I'm rambling at this point, I think, but I have gleaned a LOT of great input from this thread, and graciously thank everyone who had something to say. I would love to keep hearing ideas, or thoughts, so please keep posting if you have something to say. I'm always on the prowl for new ideas or methods to scare the %&*# out of someone. ;-)
UPDATE: Let me be clear, I get that 'Gates of Hell' is serious while 'Zombieland' is a comedy. Perhaps not the best example, but my point remains.
Doug's Workshop wrote:
Awesome ideas, Doug! I am definitely using the worms thing. Wow!
Not in any way to discount the excellent responses from everyone else, but Frank, Matt, Misroi, Thanael and Rakshaka, THANK YOU. Those were the types of responses I was really going for. All fantastic advice and direction. Methods, ideas and philosophies I will certainly be incorporating in future games.
Really appreciate the input, guys! Again, many thanks!
These are all great points, and useful, but also slightly off the mark of my original question. My curiosity is where the fine line crosses from "true" horror into fantasy horror? As Qorin pointed out, it is very much about mood, atmosphere and ambience. But why are zombies frightening in one setting and not so much in another? In one film or story, a giant ant would be a horrifying encounter, while in another a nest of giant ants would be a fun battle. Staying on the movies, take Boris Karloff's Imhotep versus that portrayed by Arnold Vosloo. In one film, the Mummy is a very creepy threat. In another, you get that swashbuckling, 'Raiders' feel. In that same vein, in one type of film a swarm of flesh devouring beetles would be shudder inducing, but in the 2000s Mummy it's merely bad CGI (although still cool).
Now, how do you translate that difference into gaming, and successfully transition from one type of horror to the other, without losing the benefits of both?
No, Jeff, I don't think that's it. Why does Snake Pliskin run from The Crazies? He's a war hero, he has two guns, and he's a badass, but he runs like Hell. Why? Because they scare the s@$+ out of him. There is a point where horror becomes overwhelming, which is what, I think, Qorin was talking about.
The question is, how to achieve that fine mix? The ability to scare your players in one session, and still allow for those moments of glory in others?
Partly my point, exactly, Zousha. I use music, and sometimes images, but it's difficult to "make" someone be scared.
There's more to this, though. It's not just a question of "how do we make roleplaying scary?" It's also a question of why are the same things scary in one setting and simply threatening in another? Qorin points out some very good elements of this in his post. I'm expecting a reply from one of my old GMs sometime soon who I hope will put a very keen light on this topic. He's one of the best, is,CrimTaft. I recommend following his posts. A wise, if thoroughly annoyi....I mean, a wise man, indeed.
James Risner wrote:
I have to disagree with you, James. There are moments in fantasy that should come across as epic and awe-inspiring. Encounters (not necessarily combat encounters) that should leave the PCs in wide-eyed wonder or bone shaking terror. Not so the DM can TPK them or sadistically abuse the players, but to instill in them just how huge, amazing and terrifying their world is. It's impossible to do this if every encounter is tailored for them to be able to fight it.
If, say, I was running a game wherein Orcus was the PCs' secret patron, and at level 8 they learn the horrifying truth, am I expected to believe they're going to throw caution to the wind and attack him outright? Or are you saying that a GM shouldn't do cool things like that, simply because a player might be stupid, and attack Orcus at 8th level? From your viewpoint, there should never be an encounter the PCs can't potentially win? Sorry, but that makes no sense.
Ok, good start. Thanks, archmagi1.
I'm curious how your players reacted differently to the zombies in the streets and the Elm Street-esque nightmares. In a horror movie, when the hero/heroine (let's say Laurie Strode from 'Halloween') picks up the knife and goes up against the zombie-like killer, the weapon offers little in the way of protection or comfort. In a PF game, the heroes have their swords, maces, spells and all manner of means at their disposal to send the undead back to their graves. How do you establish that initial feeling of helplessness and fragility that is so necessary for true horror to work?
Not sure if this is the right section of the forums for this topic. It doesn't pertain to the Pathfinder game, per se, but I am curious how other GMs have handled this philosophy.
I was just watching the opening of 'Tourist Trap'. For those not familiar, it's a cheesy 80s movie about a telekinetic serial killer. There are some incredibly eerie and even disturbing moments throughout the film, thanks in great part to the mannequins the killer animates with his powers. As I was watching the first killing, I was struck by just how bothersome the mannequins really are, and I started imagining how I would handle the interpretation of such a threat in a PF scenario.
This is hardly a new idea, of course, and has been covered extensively in the past, I'm sure, but oddly, when I went onto Google to search for the topic, not much came up. So, I put it to the always helpful and insightful members of the Pathfinder forums.
How do you differentiate between horror and fantasy horror? In other words, the zombies in Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead' or Fulci's 'Zombi" are supposed to be terrifying, eliciting true repulsion and horror as they shuffle implacably towards our heroes. On the other hand, zombies in a PF game are often slow minions to hack through as the heroes make their way to the BBEG.
What is it about the distinction between "traditional" horror and fantasy horror that makes certain elements frightening, creepy, disturbing, grotesque, etc, versus the straight-up hack and slash, good-old swashbuckling yarns. Why are the Deep Ones of Lovecraft really eerie and threat inducing, while the Sauhaugin are just murderous fish people? They're very similar in their make-up. I know it's based on how any particular GM runs their game, but what is it about horror that allows one element to be truly scare inducing in one setting and merely a threat to defeat in another?
Does this make sense?
As it's a GM's prerogative to implement house rules, of course, yours could come up with a story-based reason for your ability to summon the same monster repeatedly. The summon in the morning and summon at night for immunization purposes might come across as a little cheesy, though. However, as you might be willing to sacrifice your variety in the type of monster you can summon, he might consider it an equitable exchange. Have you asked him about it?
Following what I hope is an enticing subject line, allow me to clarify...
I am a soon to be Pathfinder GM. Own most of the books in PDF form, and many in hardcover. Have never gotten the chance to play or run yet, though. I've been buying the books like crazy because I love the system, and the world that Paizo has created.
My question is, though, for many of the posters on the boards. I read thread after thread where all people talk about is DPS and DPR and how to build the most effective/damage causing/stat maxed whatever possible. "Don't play the monk cause they're underpowered", or "What build is best for a sorceror to cause the most amount of damage in the least amount of time?"
I'm really not trying to be a jerk or start a flame war (is that term even used anymore?), but I really am curious...what happened to players playing a character? Now, before anyone jumps all over me, I know there are a ton of role players who don't hang the success of their character on how how much damage they do. But there are obviously enough statisticians on the boards for this to be a legit query. Why is it SO important to so many people, apparently, to maximize a character's damage potential? If it's that much about numbers and combat effectiveness, why not just go play WoW?
I'm just curious, like I said. What is it about the numbers that drives so many people? When did the #s replace character?
For my own campaign, when I finally get around to running it, it will turn out that Aroden did not die. He faked his death to secretly investigate some sinister goings-on in the universe. However, when he does finally return, he will have changed, becoming corrupted by the same elder gods who nailed Zon-Kuthon. Aroden (with a new name) and ZK will unite to bring about the return of these elder gods and usher in a new regime, attempting to take out the old gods by releasing Rovagug. It will be up to the heroes (by that point 20+) to travel back in time to before Aroden disappeared in an attempt to prevent his departure in the first place.
Not sure if this is the right board for this question:
There has been a considerable amount of information regarding the Runelords published throughout a number of the adventure paths and supplement material. Has there been any thought to collecting that information into one book specifically oriented to just the Runelords? While I'm sure the APs are great, I've never been a big one for running pre-made modules. I prefer to take material and craft my own storylines and adventures. I'm currently working on designing a campaign that involves the RLs return, building to the eventual release of the WT. To that end, I'd like to have access to all the material published about the RLs to date, but I'd rather avoid having to buy a bunch of the APs just to access a small section of RL lore in each. Having it all in one book or source would be invaluable.
In the game I am in the planning stages for, I'm going to allow much, if not all, of everything. The trick, as Pendin Fust argues, is that it all has to make sense.
During the course of the game, a Gnome artificer working with a Dwarf engineer are going to discover gunpowder. This will lead to the invention first of fireworks, then someone will figure the trick to filling the ends of hollowed out sticks with the GP that hurl smoothed rocks, working up to flintlocks, then six-shooters and maybe eventually lever action rifles. My hope is to have the game go long enough to reach a "wild west" sort of feel...in certain areas. I like the idea of of an anachronistic mix of pseudo Western gunfighters, Eurpean duelists/musketeers, walking amidst true fantasy character types. And to me, it's a natural progression. Why wouldn't someone in a fantasy world discover gunpowder?
As for dinosaurs, as far as I see them, they're just another kind of creature. What makes a dinosaur so different from a bullette or a giant slug? I don't think i'll be making them pop up in Absalom, but in the Mwangi Expanse? Sure, why not?
I also plan on introducing some steam punk elements, much like the gunpowder. I like Eberron's flying ships. Instead of harnessing elementals, though, I was thinking that some enterprising engineer (perhaps the same Dwarf) discovers helium, and then figures out how to attach a couple helium balloons to either side of a ship in order to give it flight.
Just because there's magic doesn't mean there can't be technology as well, or vice versa. That being said, I'm not sure about introducing actual spaceships or laser guns. That type of techno goes beyond even my acceptance of sci-fi in fantasy settings.
I use background music extensively, and have had more success than not. Those rare moments when the music cue syncs perfectly with what is happening in-game can be pretty thrilling. But, as discussed, it can be distracting. Here are a couple of approaches myself and some other GMs from my group(s) have utilized:
Right off the bat, I tell my players that I use background music. I inform them I'll be using a lot of different music, much of it from movies, anime and video games. I tell them that even if they hear something they recognize to keep references to it from out of game.
Volume. Keep it down. It should be clear enough to hear the music, but the music should never be loud enough to drown out the GM and players speaking.
Stay away from lyrics. Those are distracting, for the most part, and it can't be helped, really. The one exception I've found, there are a lot of songs out there that easily fit as background in a tavern, or similar situations. Your players walk in, the music starts playing, and you say "This is what you hear the bard singing."
Something that helps in a big way is a little pre-planning. First, a good idea, especially if you have a lot of music, is to use playlists. Create one for "Action Cues", or "Romantic Moments" or "Sad Themes", etc. That way, when you get to the big fight, you open the playlist, set it on random and you're set. All that will come up is music you've already deemed appropriate for the situation. Once the fight is done, switch to the next playlist, depending on what sort of scene it is. A remote can be invaluable in this way, as you can swiftly jump from playlist to playlist, or track to track without fiddling with your ipod or laptop.
I've gone so far as to actually identifying music cues that fit specific moments I've planned in my game. With timing (and luck) you'll find your cues work more often than not. I'll try to have a specific playlist that follows the plot of the adventure, and then when those specific moments pass, and a scene starts, I switch to one of my pre-programmed playlists. Pardon the alliteration.
The important thing is to not let the music become more important than the game it's supposed to enhance. But used wisely, the addition of music can really add flavor and emotion to a game.
This wasn't one of our most classic moments, but definitely one we remembered:
Our party was brought before the Queen to receive our reward for a job well done. The wizard, a pompous Drow, steps forward and offers a grand bow before her regal Majesty. As he lowers himself, he spreads his arms and grandly says "Allow me to prostate myself before your highness."
No roleplay was possible for the next several minutes, and needless to say, the pompous Drow never lived it down.
This had me laughing out loud.
Tom S 820 wrote:
Sorry, Tom S, but I think maybe you might be missing the point. First, so many people are responding to this thread because this is actually a fascinating discussion of morals and philosophies that can unfold in a roleplay setting without risk to one's actual soul. I find that very interesting and well worth discussing, ad infinitum.
Secondly, the specific question was "is torturing INTELLIGENT UNDEAD an evil action?" Do you consider undead to have rights and to be worthy of the same protections as living "people" or even animals? (For the record, I'm not saying they don't...God, this is getting ridiculous...also for the record, this is ALL within the contextual argument as pertains to roleplay...I don't think undead exist in reality!) Also, your answer does not take into account torture as used to save a life, or lives. That was the point I was bringing up with the 'Dirty Harry' reference above. Is torture wrong? I would say, most likely, yes. Is it evil? Depends on why the torture is occurring. Would you torture someone if it was the only way to find out where a friend or relative or loved one was being held underground and suffocating? I think most people, when confronted with such a horrible situation, would probably break down and do some terrible things. Are they evil? Not really. Wrong...yes (probably). See? So many conundrums. This is why there are 390+ posts.
Isonaroc: Maybe I didn't word my post correctly. I think it may come across as if I'm in favor of "harmless" torture, when in fact, I'm uncertain how I feel about it. Will torturing someone save a lot of lives? If so, is it ok? I watched 'Dirty Harry' again (for the 50th or so time) last night, and the scene where he's stomping on Scorpio to find the little girl always beings an uneasy smile to my lips, while simultansously making me feel ashamed for feeling that way. Does he deserve that treatment? No doubt. Is Harry a good guy for doing it? Unclear.
Ultimately, I think torture is wrong, no matter what ends are served. That's doesn't mean it's not necessary from time to time.
"Naturally, baddy had nothing positive to say to the PCs and was going to serve his "master" until death. That is until the party Rogue started severing his digits, plucked his right eye out of socket and made him eat it and finally they resorted to torturing him to near death with positive energy (the min-maxing PCs used Selective Spell with Antimagic Field). Eventually he disclosed the location of his master after having lost a hand, an eye and both feet and being ritualistically tortured for a few hours."
I'm not really a sadistic guy (much) but this had me spitting out my coffee in laughter. I especially liked the part about making the undead eat his own eye.
Is torture inherently evil? Questionable. Our intelligence experts utilize techniques that are considered "harmless" yet make the victim feel as if they are in peril of death (waterboarding being the prime example, obviously, et al), and many "civilized" people go nuts at the thought of that type of treatment. This method is obviously much more gray than cutting someone or something up and forcing them to dine upon their own severed body parts. (That still has me chuckling...)
I would say that a paladin, despite how they feel about undead, (or any lawful good character for that matter,) would balk at the torture, deception and execution of an intelligent being, whether it was evil or not. The lawful good alignment is not only governed by how one deals with others but also how one carries themselves. Playing a true LG character often requires a LOT of sacrifice. This includes actions like taking prisoners when you know it will inconvenience you, donating treasure to charity, and standing up against your fellow party members when they're about to do something you know to be morally gray or downright wrong.
I once played a character in Spycraft that tortured a guy for info. I went for the classic fingernail trope before mentioning that I'd next be moving on to the guy's eyes. One person in our group (NOT a LG person at all, either in real life OR character) completely wigged. He couldn't stand the idea of participating in a torture, so we just glossed over the scene.
Torture can have funny effects on people.
I collect images of fantasy art for use as character portraits, descriptives, etc (as I'm sure most of us do). I make fairly routine sweeps of the typical art websites and grab new images every couple of weeks, and have amassed a pretty impressive collection. However, I keep seeing posters on the Paizo messageboards with some incredibly cool avatar art that I've never seen before. Where does it come from? Where did you get your badass imagery? If you know of a great site for art, please consider linking for those of us who collect images this way.