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PaizoCon 2014!

Random Acts of... Horror PDF

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Night is fast approaching, and the PCs have been told that nighttime is when “it” comes out to feed. No one seems to know what exactly “it” is...

Random Acts of…Horror, fourth in the line, presents the GM with 100 randomly generated acts of horror suitable for a variety of RPGs, from fantasy-themed to modern day. In no case are stats for any NPCs given – indeed no names are even given – and no weapon or damage stats are included. This allows a GM to use the Random Acts of…Horror with many different game systems.

Future installments of the series will be designed for super hero, sci-fi, and other genres. And look for the first three releases in the line, Random Acts of... Violence, Random Acts of... Old West Violence, and Random Acts of... Fantasy Humor available now!

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4WF043E


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Product Reviews (1)

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Fails at being creepy or useful due to both format and generic content

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This pdf is 6 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving 4 pages for a total of 100 different "random acts" of horror, so let's check them out!

As with all of the system-neutral random acts, this one provides short, crunch-less descriptions for diverse acts that can be expanded upon by the DM to provide for adventure hooks or fluff. To give you examples of what to expect, here are some examples, taken 1:1 from the pdf:

a)A ghostly figure passes through the closed door and keeps coming toward the PCs. Its wailing gets louder as it closes in on them.

b) The PCs have just entered a building when the door slams shut behind them and can’t be opened.

c) A beautiful woman with fiery red hair attempts to coax one of the party into the cemetery. “It’s somewhere the city watch never goes and the perfect place to not be disturbed,” she smiles sweetly. Five thieves’ guildsmen in dark clothes hide among the tombstones.

I'm a huge sucker for horror-supplements. I love them. Can you feel the dread? The chill? Yeah, me neither. And no, these were not a worst-of, but rather a cross-section of what you'll find herein.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to 4WFG's 2-column, printer-friendly b/w-standard and the pdf actually has bookmarks, which is nice. The introduction to this pdf acknowledges that this pdf is even more generic than other pdfs of the line since horrific creatures may vary from system to system.
While that's understandable, it's also the reason this pdf fails so extremely hard at evoking even the tiniest shred of dread. A plowed field from which zombies rise? Come on - I didn't even consider that to be creepy when I was a child. A man kissing a woman on the neck, blood flowing down her neck? In these days of ours, the sexualization of vampires, be it via this Twilight-crap (pardon all fangirls and boys, if any) or "bloody" vampires, has led to such an imagery being many things, but definitely not creepy. Wailing ghostly figures? Empty villages? Devilish creatures trying to pass off as humans in a town? All been there done that, which wouldn't be bad, would the format of this line not utterly contradict one of the fundamental laws of horror - details. Any good horror stories is completely, utterly dependent on details, imagery, cohesiveness and the building up of suspension - there's a reason jump-scares wear off so fast and true horror, one that elicits fright, stems from a psychological, slow manipulation and a hinting at the uncanny. Think of all the good horror-modules out there for multiple systems- the details are what makes them remarkable.
The problem thus faced by this particular book is twofold - its very format prohibits it from being creepy and its multi-system approach makes it generic to boot. Without a specific implied rule-set or world, the creepy elements remain only the blandest of cardboard cut-outs like "shadows", "someone hunched over a corpse, flesh in his mouth" etc. Add to that that we don't really get acts per se - rather, we get "The pungent smell of rot greets the PCs as they enter a catacomb". Foreshadowing? Okay. Setting suspension? If you're lenient and your players easily spooked, perhaps. But this is one point. Notice something? This is no act - it's a description. A black cat crossing their path, hissing and then dying would be an act, but actually, acts are few and far in between and, due to the setting-neutral approach (fantasy, CoC, Vampire, whatever) remain clichéd.

All of them.
I've seen each and every hook herein executed, multiple times and just about every time better due to more space, more setting the stage etc. I honestly am not sure how to rate this - as a book on acts (jump-scares perhaps) it fails as it consists mostly of hooks. As a generic DM-inspiration for horror adventures/fluff, it can't hold a candle to Eureka's horrorsection (which is also setting-neutral, but much more imaginative) and retreads all the tired old clichéd without breathing life into them. A possible reference against which I could judge this pdf would then be "Your whispering Homunculus"'s system-neutral, creepy lists - the use about as many words and suffer from similar limitations - and mop the floor with this pdf. However I twist and turn it, my only constant observation is that this book tries to cater to all audiences and ends up failing to cater to any of them. I can find nothing positive to say about this installment but that its production values (as with all 4WFG-books I've read)are top-notch. That's it. It's the worst of the line, it's not even remotely creepy, fails in each and every category I could endeavor to judge it and does not even make for a valid inspiration for the most novice of horror-DMs. Buy any 4 Wind Fantasy Gaming book - they all have something to offer and several are excellent. Hell, the other lists in the series are much better. My final verdict for this train-wreck will be 1 star.

Endzeitgeist out.



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