The Three Pillars of Horror: Here's how you use horror in Pathfinder


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


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So, with the release of Horror Adventures, I see a lot of people talking about how you can't use horror in Pathfinder because of the heroic nature of the game. How you can't have fear and be powerful at the same time. Now, I haven't looked at the new book yet, but I am a fan of horror as a genre, so I want to help. I'm here to allay those worries and teach you the 101 on Horror for anybody that wants it in their games. You can trust me. I'm a skeleton.

So, there is basic theory on horror that divides fear into three (sometimes more) categories or types. These are Dread, Terror, and Revulsion. Only the first two of these really utilize a feeling of helplessness, and only one actually requires it.

First, there is Dread. This is a feeling of unease that arises at what might happen. What is in those shadows? What is around the corner? What is about to happen? This is a pretty simple type to utilize by leaving mysterious statues or markings around a dungeon. It is merely the idea of something terrible that is at work here. As Hitchcock once said, "Nothing is scarier than a closed door."

Secondly, there is Terror which is the hardest of the three to use here. Terror is more of an active fear. It is focused on the here and now and your inability to deal with that situation. Now, in Pathfinder, that doesn't come up too often between the powers of the PC. They can deal with a lot. However, environmental modifiers or even sheer, overwhelming numbers of enemies is a good way of instilling Terror in your players.

Last, but certainly not least, is Revulsion. My personal favorite and also the easiest to use. Revulsion does not rely on "fear" as we typically understand. It's disgust and concern at something not being right, whether it is strange townsfolk all too cheery or a dungeon with strangely soft, warm walls. This is primarily horror atmosphere and is your strongest tool for using horror in your pathfinder games.

I hope this helps you in creating horrific, fear inducing games.


I guess I should bump this up for daytime folks.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Sorry, I read it earlier but couldn't really think of comment to post.

Thankies for the post though :3


I'd say Dread is probably actually the closest to the atmosphere of horror, as Revulsion I feel is more close to body horror and disturbing sights than the constant feeling of dread that atmosphere creates. Mechanically, I'd recommend using E6 so that your adventurers can't do stuff like kill C'thulu style entities, and use templates like Impacable Stalker as well.


What am I afraid of?

Quicksand. When everything is going good, then one thing goes wrong, then another, then another, until you can't breathe anymore...

Disregard the source.


Daw wrote:

What am I afraid of?

Quicksand. When everything is going good, then one thing goes wrong, then another, then another, until you can't breathe anymore...

Disregard the source.

Hey, now, that horrible movie had some great moments. Like that one.


Saithor wrote:
I'd say Dread is probably actually the closest to the atmosphere of horror, as Revulsion I feel is more close to body horror and disturbing sights than the constant feeling of dread that atmosphere creates. Mechanically, I'd recommend using E6 so that your adventurers can't do stuff like kill C'thulu style entities, and use templates like Impacable Stalker as well.

Well, you're not wrong. I'd say both play into atmosphere, where terror is more about the action and present.

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