Making it Creepy and Horrible


Advice


So yesterday I decided I would run a one-shot for my friends. The thing is I want it to be as creepy and firmly in the horror genre as it can get. (:<

Here's the rules they got.
[spiiler]3rd level
Core Rulebook only
20 point buy.

Then I added a bit of randomness.

Player 1 (Personality trait: Proud. Focus: Knowledge)
Player 2 (Personality trait: Frugal. Focus: Magic)
Player 3 (Personality trait: Emotional. Focus: Combat)
Player 4 (Personality trait: Religious Focus: Arcane)[/spoiler]

So far, my plan us rough. Around the time a carnival/circus troupe comes into town, people start disappearing and the population of stray dogs seems to boom overnight. A few people will be found torn apart, supposedly by the dogs.

Wether if not the carnival/circus has anything to do with the real villians(a cult of Lamashtu*) is undecided, but there will be a Gray Jester with them(heroes of horror monster).

So what I'm looking for is ideas. Traps? Haunts? Monsters, some tweaked to look different to avoid meta gaming? NPC's?

*:
A pregnant midwife, who is later 'kidnapped', will tell them about the cult! and show them the mark on her stomach and revealing her 'past' as a worshiper, lying about no being a Lamastuan. She's not pregnant, but rather a summoner who births her Eudolon(a glabrazu type). Her 'water' will break during their rescue attempt. For added creepiness, she'll take 1-2d4 points of damage while summoning her eidolon, and the damage she takes will not only grant temporary hp to the eidolon, but tear open the marks on her stomach.

3/4ths of the group are experienced gamers, so I really want this to be memorable!


Read the broken chains module if you haven't.
I looked it up for slave trade structure and got a lot more than I had planned for, a lot of it being along those lines.
A hall of mirrors or "fun house" labyrinth they have to get through/ be chased through.
From what I have learned watching Markiplier, the most effect horror(outside of cheap jumpscares you can't use in tabletop) is bastardizing the human form. So try to start with the beasties being human, some bending and snapping, then they become monsters.

Also fix that spoiler. ;)

Shadow Lodge

To make tabletop "scary" you have to defy expectations, go outside of the usual norms
What magic said is one effective way,
Another way is to not show the villain for a while, have his voice echo into where the PCs area
Tell them to give a perception check and tell everyone but the lowest they hear twigs snapping
When you're in the mirror maze put his image in pretty much every reflection, trap a few of them with repeating traps of scorching ray or magic missile or burning hands of the various attack cantrips
Make those traps look like they are comming out of the reflection
Pass a lot of notes don't put it under spoiler say
"Playename: PM" or even say that you're giving a Pm without giving the name and don't send one
Nothing will get the player paranoia up higher than those kinda things


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I'm acquainted with a guy who ran a horror one-shot at a convention. He did something quite clever, but if any of your prospective players read it, it would ruin the effect, so I'll...

put it here.:
He got an accomplice to join the game along with the players. In the first half-hour of the game, he killed the accomplice's character, and then 'made' the accomplice (who was in on the plan) leave the game and go home. Utterly shocked the rest of the players, and made them way more nervous about the rest of the adventure, thinking that at any moment they might die and have to leave. Of course, it was all for effect, he didn't plan on anyone else dying, and apparently everyone else had a spooky but fun time.


If I could do that, I honestly would. It's a great idea!


Spoiler:
Just highly exaggerate your willingness to kill them. ;)


You could look at Carrion Crown but to be honest, much of it turned out to be more humorous than scary. There are haunts and other things in there you can use though.

Also, it helps if you play at night and unscrew some light bulbs so its darker and moodier. Music is always good as well. As was said, make the players bleed so they're nervous for their characters. If your baddies are all bark and no bite there won't be any suspense.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

How you describe things is key. Instead of 'roll perception, "you see a zombie", roll initiative' something like 'roll perception, "a rotting corpse, it's eyes fallen from their sockets and dangling by the remains of their optic nerves lurches toward you, its mouth stretched wide with eternal hunger" roll initiative.

This does two things. First it helps with immersion, helping the players to feel what their characters might, and second, upping the description, perhaps even changing it, makes it less likely the players will feel that they they know the stats of what they are facing. That adds uncertainty and contributes greatly to an aura of fear.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Give things Fast Healing, especially things that aren't supposed to have Fast Healing. Nothing gives you that horror movie "jump" like thinking you have an encounter over and done with, standing around healing, maybe considering resting, etc., when one of the "corpses" on the floor suddenly grabs your ankle.

Describe things like zombies as coming to pieces at the first successful hit ... but the separate parts continue to attack until enough damage is dealt to get it down to 0 hp. You don't have to change up the stats; just apply its attack to a limb pulling itself across the floor or a head rolling after the PCs and biting while the other parts "miss." Even though the mechanics are straight out of the Bestiary, the players will feel like they're harder to kill.


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Horror is best when there is suspense. Have the party chasing the dogs out of town (a bloody losing fight where more dogs show up to mob the players), only to have them all yelp and recklessly flee just as the players are about to fall (dogs vanish as soon as they are out of sight). Suddenly the party is in the woods, injured, (lost hopefully) as fog rolls in (partial concealment). Ghosts sounds are revealed after their next perception check, if they chase the sounds through the fog they get even more lost. If they choose to ignore them and head back, the sounds turn to screams that abruptly end. Have them "track" some human blood and find nothing else. Give them the impression there is something big just out of sight that only the best perception checks can detect.
When they return to the carnival, there has been another death (maybe the one who paid them to chase the dogs out of town), there is a note for one of the players on the corpse....
"Thank you for distracting them, expect your reward soon." ... but which player was this for? Is one of the players a traitor? A dupe? and what kind of reward might it be? Gold? Death?

Let them chase some hooded figures into a crowd (of cultists) who don't remember seeing anyone at all (lies!).
Let the "Funhouse game" lead into a hidden underground tunnel running straight for the graveyard (and under the town well).
Have their "friends" the friendly NPC's act suspicious around them, suddenly silenced discussions, furtive glances, private meetings, cryptic messages passed on by "servants", pointing and whispering about the "new people" in town (PC's), have more NPC's carrying weapons around town, weapons whose marks could easily look like natural attacks (dog bites?).
Have some randoms that they talk to be victims (who is following them and killing the merchants they talk to?). Have everyone in town be blithely ignorant of danger and loving the carnival (give them playable games that are truly benign and good for gold [plinko is easy, target shoot with undersized bow, etc games the PC's stats should let them win easily] let the prizes be strange {dolls that look like the players, strange candy that acts as prestigitaion change colour, alcohol with slightly addicting properties (DC11, 1 save).) Let the town be running low on veggies and breads, but there is plenty of meat for cheap...

Everyone could celebrate the carnival with costume masks and hoods, masks that don't come off if they should become zombies...

Just some ideas to add to the already good advice given above.


Great, great ideas. Wish unscrewing the lights meant we could still see where we okay though. Hmm...

♣♠Magic♦♥ wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

I do this by rolling in front of them. I even switch dice and still hit their main characters more than they should be getting hit. And the criticals...


I saw a d20 that glows red when you roll a 20. That could be fun if you could order it in time. To fit with that theme.


If I could get that before fries it would be great.

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of the dogs leading the pcs into the forest and leaving them suddenly.


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Go ahead kill them kill them multiple times just have some pregen characters for back up that way you have more for the slaughter.

Asfor horror I really haven't had a lot of experience with horror games, but I have ran a zombie game where one of the players got infected. Then I had him turn into a zombie when he was alone with some one else. The player that turned enjoyed it as I had him run Zombie him. Rest of the game the character that was attacked by the zombie had a gun aimed at them the rest of the game.


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That would actually work well with an Akata and the Void Zombies they make.

Shadow Lodge

It's all about suspense and set up. My first suggestion is to go watch (or re-watch) some horror movies in the vein of what you want to run.

Horror can be hard to pull off as in pf type games, people charge in and attack anything. You can never expect players to run away. PC's will almost always stick together. Things aren't as scary when you've got your whole crew backing you up. That's why horror movies always isolate the characters. Splitting the party in pf is not a desirable thing to do though, it takes too much time, and cuts players out of the action, so I don't recommend it.

Isolation is one of the key aspects of horror, so you need to find some way to set that up. If your PCs can just hop on a carriage and leave town whenever they want, then there's nothing to be afraid of. Things get bad and they can just split. In horror, you can never escape, the ghost won't let you out of the house, the storm prevents you from sailing off the island, etc.

So maybe you have the PCs notice a lot of dogs hanging around outside town, they start hearing stories, anyone who tries to leave town is eaten by dogs. The PCs try to leave and you throw a cr appropriate fight vs rabid dogs, but they see all these glowing yellow eyes in the darkness around them, and more and more keep showing up. It's not what you see, it's what you don't that's scary.

I ran a scenario recently featuring a ghost minotaur in a illusory maze. I kept telling one player he sees a bull's head poking through a wall, staring at him. Nobody else saw it. At the end of the scenario, when it started calling his name, he totally freaked. I could go on and on, but I'll stop here before this gets too long.


gnoams wrote:

It's all about suspense and set up. My first suggestion is to go watch (or re-watch) some horror movies in the vein of what you want to run.

Horror can be hard to pull off as in pf type games, people charge in and attack anything. You can never expect players to run away. PC's will almost always stick together. Things aren't as scary when you've got your whole crew backing you up. That's why horror movies always isolate the characters. Splitting the party in pf is not a desirable thing to do though, it takes too much time, and cuts players out of the action, so I don't recommend it.

Isolation is one of the key aspects of horror, so you need to find some way to set that up. If your PCs can just hop on a carriage and leave town whenever they want, then there's nothing to be afraid of. Things get bad and they can just split. In horror, you can never escape, the ghost won't let you out of the house, the storm prevents you from sailing off the island, etc.

I would also suggest that the OP pull players aside and have private discussions about characters, what they want, etc, just before the game starts. Then heavily imply that someone in the party is working with the GM (none are), give winks when someone picks the wrong check, or fumbles a roll, reward some players lightly for things that don't help, or hinder the party short of PVP, (oh your rogue decided he doesn't want to talk to the Witness, the next person he finds buys him a drink). Hard to feel safe fighting zombies and rabid dog mobs when your healer might be the traitor, or when the rogue might just climb a tree and watch you get flanked. If you are subtle about it the isolation the party feels can be just as good as actually separating them (but keep the party close because otherwise the game slogs).

And yes, trap them in the town, maybe it is on an island with stormy river on both sides (ferry will be back when things are settled), or the carriage breaks a wheel and needs some time to repair (and they have some heavy, valuable treasure they would have to leave behind if they fled),


Horror is about the senses. Most games rely solely on sight. Play up sound and smell and taste. If you have a spooky sounds soundtrack play it in the background.

Horror is also about being out of your comfort zone. Impaired vision and movement that affect pc's but not bad guys.

Horror is also about being removed from safety. Being trapped, lost, or out of your depth.

For example, pc's expect to be able to heal. Surprise them by allowing healing and then later telling them that the wounds reopen and begin to bleed again. This can have any affect you want or no real affect mechanically but it gets the players worried.

Or as a Gm you take control of player hit points. Don't tell the players know how much damage they take exactly or how many hp they have left. Describe the wounds and how the character feels. "She has lost a. Lot of blood and is not sure how much longer she can keep going."

Finally make resting more difficult. Nothing makes a player paranoid more than the worry that new spells might not happen.

Shadow Lodge

Injecting Horror Into Your Game


Broken Zenith wrote:
Injecting Horror Into Your Game

Those ideas are great! Very well thought out and clearly put forth.

I would add to #5 "new enemies or mechanics and #6 "a dash of confusion" a related item "make new enemies unknowable".

If you have a mass of entrails as a substitute for a zombie, players will at first be confused but soon players will start to quantify the new creature. "It has about 10 hp, it is slow, it is easy to hit, etc."

To really shake up players make seemingly similar creatures radically mechanically different. That last mound of entrails had 10 hp but this one had 100 hp and hit like a sledge hammer or drained blood, or could possess you by getting in your mouth.

This means that although the monsters look similar, a player is never quite sure what he is facing.


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Ooooo~ Been a LONG time since I've done this.
Then again, last time I did, I used the Book of Vile - and was descriptive.
I'll leave that behind for this suggestion though. Some players squirmed... Memorable.

I absolutely backup music. Dark, creepy ambient played loud enough to hear, but quiet enough to be missed during play can have a chill-inducing effect. When I used it last, SomnambulentCorpseRadio was still on the air, and two of the four players actually begged me to turn it off because coupled with events/descriptions, it was "creeping me the **** out!" Just a casual search for an alternative for you, darkambientradio.de seems to be similar from what I've listened to these last ten minutes, if you can navigate to the stream (not hard but it appears to be in German).

Try and leave some disturbing illogical as absolute fact when describing events.:

If they pick it up subconsciously, it'll leave them uneasy without an explanation. If they do pick it up, you could consider Will saves vs. Shaken. (grin) One of my favorites:
"The room is finely carved and decorated, though it hasn't seen activity in ages. The windows are grown over with cobwebs, casting strange shadows over a tile floor of interlocking octagons, with fine oaken tables and once-rich red and gold drapery, long since faded. A table splintered from some sort of weapon strike is the only clue of what may have last happened here."

Three rooms later, the Fighter looked at me with confusion.
"Wait... Octagons can't interlock... right?"
"Huh. That's right, isn't it? How about a Will save?"

Made the players almost afraid to notice things. Heh.

Creepy Carnies, of course!:

Another idea I used, was an older man in a town where people - mostly children - were dropping dead without apparent cause. The old man would whittle wooden toys for the children, to help take their minds off the darker days they endured. A kind old man with honest intentions.

Except they actually had a crazy good bluff check, and were hiding soul-trapping gems inside the toys (or other items if given to adults), with the implant seams sealed with mending magic, and auras hidden with other spells. He would then send his shadow minions to reclaim the gems containing souls, which he would then use for his own nefarious purposes and/or barter with outsiders.

Two men, one woman, and five children died while they chased their own hallucinatory leads - and after the fourth of these deaths, they were nearly panicking. Eight bodies after their arrival, one of them made the connection of the carved items in every home, a detail described in every scene without emphasis, and they confronted the old sorcerer and his elderly "wife" - an Erinyes in disguise.

Plot-Twist so hard, it breaks someone's neck - literally!:

Don't pull a punch if one of the characters dies... Or even consider actually killing one off on purpose. Keep an index card handy in your papers with all of the details for a ghost and/or other undead template, and after their character dies... hand them the card, which at the top says something like: "Unfortunately, for some reason, you soul cannot find rest... Welcome to your (undead type) existence." If another player thinks that player's state is somehow beneficial, and seeks their own death to obtain it? Just shrug and say you're sorry, they pass on just fine, and can roll for the baddies when something else is encountered~

This is particularly good when if players become complacent. Lets them keep acting, but dangles the notion of never finding peace over their head, which can be a deeply disturbing notion for many people.

Alternatively, create another character on your own with comparable ability of the party, and keep it aside. A local who wants to help or some-such. Then if a player dies - accidentally or on purpose - hand them the new sheet and explain;
"They're a local who wanted to help. You're them now, and I'd be more careful if I were you. I don't have another NPC I can hand out..."

That might spook them into extra caution as well, without really taking the wind out of their sails entirely.

Get creative with MAGIC!:

It's a one-shot, right? Well, spell research allows for the creation of new magic, that you won't necessarily need to keep around for future games. What about a spell that animates a living person's skin, leaving them a passenger in a puppet, like dominate but with a much shorter duration and no extra save for cause-defying actions? Maybe they could still talk through clenched teeth. After all, it's just the skin, not the muscle.

What about a zone, spell or natural like a wild magic field, that causes old wounds to rupture and pores to bleed? Something minor, like 1 point of bleed damage a round you remain within it, but there's something in the area they NEED. Magic healing doesn't stop it - healed wounds rupture again next round. Don't be afraid to describe it in a way that helps them realize how disturbing it is. If you've played the dead-PC card from above already, this scenario can be extra worrying.

Animate Object + Circus Tent + Angry Animals = Clostrophobic's personal hell.

Glass statue with key inside stomach area, bleeds when broken = Fun with Polymorph Any Object.

Change facts and stories for effect.:

Just because you learn something is true, doesn't mean it always will be.

Maybe some event happens that is very disturbing, and at first everyone is aware of it... but people begin to forget about it... until the PCs are the only ones who can remember anything about it.

Move things. Change the environment. Most can be logically explained pre or post by illusion magic, but the trick is to present it in a way that logical actions aren't the first to mind.

"I swear there was a door here... Wait... There isn't ANY door to this shack! Where did it go? How do you get in? (sound of knocking against a door and someone pleading for help, as if the door was on the underside of the building and somebody had been buried with it) G-guys? I'm not the only one hearing this, right?"
(based on how your players are taking things in... he might be...

Aim the commoners right at them.:

Major villains should be callous and methodical. Assuming the party is collectively with good intentions - say they show up to help. The locals are very please by this, and totally support them - until clues implying their involvement start showing up in their belongings... or falling out of their pouches/pockets...

Commoners aren't know for their rationality and intelligence. Maybe they'd turn on the party, who still wants to help resolve this, but doesn't want to hurt commoners. Moral conflict of interests.

Or if you're convincing enough... Lay it out in such a fashion that one or all of them start to think: "Wait - did... did we do this? I'm being deadly serious right now. Could we have done this?!"

If you like them, you're more than free to use'em, as they've run their course through my local group~ But I would be interested to know how yours reacted!

Hope this helps - it's a lot of text.

PS) Still listening to the station, and I still think it'll work well.


Great stuff


Good stuff. Dot for later.


Another possibility.

Tease extremely powerful enemies. Things that would be way, way too much for the party and the party would know it. This is teasing mind you. A well placed major image and they're looking at a shambling mound in the middle of town. A solid silent image and you've got a greater shadow. Some ghost sound and... by the gods was that a dragon roar? Anyways, what I'm saying is that you could make and add some sort of very potent illusion specialist. Maybe an underling of the lead villain and torment them with things they'll probably recognize as too much for them.

I will say, I've been playing in kingmaker and we've ran into a shambling mound 3 times so far (damn luck). Each and every time we did not want to fight it, but did. This thing dragged a sleeping half-elf ranger into the darkened forest and popped out at me at a later time. It's one of the few things we don't mess with if we have a choice.

Throw in a Will O' Wisp. Those things are not to be messed with lightly and give plenty of potential to surprise. Or, going off of the Wisp, make the enemy SEEM untouchable, intangible, yet still very much deadly and malicious in some way. This could lead back to the illusionist potentially. Or to any way you wish.

Perhaps put a clock on the group or a player. Maybe the way the people were turned into dogs (if that is what's going on) is through a sort of cursed mark that slowly turns them over some time. Players could contract it on a failed save and now they can't dawdle, despite being put in dangerous situations that may require extreme patience (traps, enemy to hide from, long winded royalty etc..)


Such wonderful ideas. Makes me wish I had a group of newer players too.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Horton hears Whos, and that is Hortible.


Yes, yes, I misspelled horrible. Can't change it now...


My most important general advice is to tailor the horror to your audience. These are your friends: you know them. What do they care about? What freaks them out? Answer this question for both the players and their characters. I had a DM once who went out of her way to describe to my cleric how this good temple or that was desecrated, but she kept forgetting that my cleric was lawful neutral, not lawful good, and his deity's spheres did no particularly value clean, fancy chapels, so it was unpleasant, but hardly outrageous. Make sure you are reaching THEM with things they care about.

I have a specific suggestion. Call of Cthulu and d20 Cthulu had an ability score called Sanity. You might find a copy of the d20 Cthulu Sanity rules and apply them to this adventure, or just make up your own. As soon as the realize they have just been given Sanity points, they will know it is ON.

The 3.5 splatbook, Ghostwalk had something similar to Sanity: Taint. The Book of Vile Darkness had a nice set of game terms do describe evil influence residues left on places, vibes you pick up if you are at the bend in the river where a man murdered his fiancé, the ruins of a concentration camp, things like that.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Azten wrote:
Yes, yes, I misspelled horrible. Can't change it now...

I couldn't help it.

I'm hortible. ;)


Another part of horror in general is strong, negative emotions. Loss, rejection, guilt; these are all fun motivators. You can have horror without even putting in haunts and undead. Take mites for example:

The classic mite has vermin empathy, weak DR, Doom 1/day and Prestidigitation at will. Now since your players are level 3 tack on just a couple levels of NPC classes, PC classes or a template or 2. Alternatively you could tweak their SLAs. Finally, add in one of those motivators.

Imagine, if you will, a humble teen commoner, we'll call him Virgil. Virgil was already a bit odd; he enjoyed collecting dead bugs and studying them. He spent a lot of time in the woods for his hobby. He fell in love with the prettiest girl in the village but she wanted nothing to do with the creep and rejected his advances. Some of the boys, to humiliate him, dropped a hornets' nest on him and he fled into the woods, his face covered in welts.

Here he was found by a brutal fey spirit in the woods. This presence promised Virgil the power to take revenge on his old chums. It then transformed the lad into a CE male mite witch 4 with the Simple: Advanced template applied. Only, you don't describe him that way.

Virgil is a twisted vision of horror. The welts on his face have swelled and become permanent. While his head ballooned the rest of his body has shriveled, his skin turning a sallow corpse-blue hue. He drools and slurs around his swollen face. He is however infused with the power of the First World, and the darker power at that.

Virgil barely feels pain anymore (DR 5/Cold Iron). His affinity for bugs has been exaggerated to supernatural proportions; his skin and clothes crawl with at least one swarm and his trusted vermin familiar (as appropriate). What's more, his patron has given Virgil access to a site that will turn others into mites. All he needs to do to make it work is bring the victim to the site...and scare them.

So as the game opens Virgil has been seeding the town with every manner of horror to play upon people's natural fears. Graffiti on the walls is a litany of sins exposing some villagers; bugs crawl through peoples' homes; spells like Darkness or the pit spells are used not just to injure folks but also to terrorize. The carnival coming to town is a welcome respite from the fears.

But the troop of carnies are more mites, made to look mortal. They caper about but have disturbing humor. They employ giant bugs in their tricks, games or as brute labor. And through it all, Virgil's former chums and enemies are disappearing.

The point of this is to illustrate that with the right storytelling and misdirection even CR 1/4 creatures, updated to the challenge level of the APL, can be really horrible. You just need to feed into their horrifying aspects: creepy-crawly insects, fear effects, and the motivation of revenge at ALL costs. That's one last point: if you use this scenario consider that the mites may not fear death. For Virgil he considers all his minions expendable. So long as he survives, he can always make more right? That's one thing you see a lot in horror: the never-ending force. These mites might not need to be tweaked and the party can take out one or two easy, but they just keep coming...


You can try this:
Another element that can work wonders: have a session where everything is quite as a normal session - but the encounters keep escalating (add in the normal horror elements that you'd use anyway). At some point somebody might die, or at least drop into negatives, at which point more PCs can die in rapid succession. Some may survive.

The catch of it all - the entirety of the session occurred in a collective dream controlled by [appropriate entity], and the PCs hitpoints for the purpose of the dream are actually sanity points. Anybody that dropped to below 0 hitpoints (even without death) suffers a permanent minor insanity; anybody that actually died in the dream suffers a major insanity.

The dream is, ultimately, just a dream - so no PC is really dead. But the after-effects of the dream should haunt them for the rest of the campaign.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8

I think one of the important things to remember is the disconnect between PC and player.

Horror is harder to pupll off because while the PCs are facing the worst possible nightmares, the players are sitting comfortably around a table. It's not impossible of course, but that schism makes it an uphill battle.

So, I think the thing to do is aim to creep out the players and not the PCs. Mood and description sure help, but it really is a long con. You have to take the time.. stuff like describe passing the 4 statues in the hallway each time they go by until one time there are only 3. As a quick example.

I guess the big thing I'm trying to say is aim at the players themselves.

oh, and since folks are sharing their best moments:

During one campaign, at the beginning few sessions, I prepared 5 questions that I gave to each player - background building stuff to get them thinking about their character's lives and motivations.

One question was "What did you get for your 5th brithday?"
Over 20 sessions later, they were trying to escape a haunted house. Sure enough, when they entered the nursery.. guess what was waiting for them?

freaked them right out.


Mistah J wrote:

One question was "What did you get for your 5th brithday?"

Over 20 sessions later, they were trying to escape a haunted house. Sure enough, when they entered the nursery.. guess what was waiting for them?

freaked them right out.

That is right-on awesome


Hey, the name got fixed. :)


♣♠Magic♦♥ wrote:
Hey, the name got fixed. :)

Almost like magic, one might say...


Basically, you have to put more work in and be absurdly detailed in your descriptions... and somewhat repetative. After passing the painting and having it described for the 'whateverth' time, they'll partially tune it out until you say something differen't about it and they do a double take.

Setting is good. The only time I ran a horror setting was during a camping trip and everyone was literally playing in a deep dark forest in the middle of the night.


Well, I tried to make things suspenseful, but... It's really not the right group for it. I did manage to get a cringe describing the fight between a " fanged humanoid covered in dark green scales"(incorrectly thought to be a nagaji) and a "beast with too many kegs and eyes that never blinked as they seemed to bore into your soul"(a giant spider). The part where I described the humanoid biting into the thing's eyes was a good moment.

Silver Crusade

Horror in RPGs, aka "how to creep out players who are lounging back in chairs with some Cheetos and a soda in hand." Horror builds up, it reverses our sense of normalcy and shocks us with the revelation. Horror symbolizes a loss of control over not only the abnormal environment but our own sanity. But again, how can you make a player with a d20 in hand feel it? Besides what's been stated:

1. Don't make it about fighting monsters. You can't make a "scary" monster because players know you roll a d20, you kill it or it hits you. Have your monsters be threatening in an insidious way (like Spawn of Kyuss, zombies whose bodies crawl with worms that leap from it to try and burrow through flesh of nearby creatures). Definitely tweak your foes.

2. A horror mechanic? Ravenloft pushed "checks" upon characters who saw something horrific (maybe a will save or some similar mechanic), each "horror" or "sanity" point gained pushed the character closer to irrevocable madness. You may not scare players munching on chips, but you can create a mechanic to literally freak out the characters. Unlike other conditions, these points don't go away, and a player whose mind breaks won't be the first who has seen too much...

3. Horror is about not knowing. One of the best AD&D horror modules began with players fighting a vampire in a crypt. No explanation as to why, and the battle was pitted so they were losing....then they awoke in an Inn, having no memory of how they got there but finding out they were committed to the local asylum for a brief time and had just been released with some unknown party paying their board bill...

Maybe the circus has a freak show, a wall of heads that talk, a dog-headed man, etc., and the circus replenishes its freak show by taking a select few candidates from the local towns....or on the flipside, the circus's performances are an ancient ritual that keep a dark evil locked away. Efforts are made to sabotage the shows by the local cult which seeks to stop the circus and has convinced the town that the circus is behind many evils (that the party is hired to investigate and stop). Suspicious of any but their own, the circus will not share their reasons until they begin dying off...

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