We create characters to send them on mighty and terrifying adventures. Whether designing for action adventure or deep knowledge, we strive to use the rules to make these characters the best they can be. In earlier posts we have discussed ongoing character development, and even the possibility of character death and its impact on the setting. So what about the tradition of retiring characters?
The world is a visual place, and the same is true of your campaign world. Speaking as a game designer, art is one of the most important aspects of a game. Don’t believe me? Crack open a Monty Cook game or your PHB: high-quality art is everywhere, and it brings up immediate responses from viewers. Set pieces like Horror on the Orient Express and most of the popular Pathfinder games also come to mind. At the campaign level, if you have access to good art you can convey a better story. I can't even think of a character that I haven’t tried to draw at the gaming table.
What goes into a good horror story or game? Good question. After much internet research, I have come to a general theory of how one should create the horror story, as well as the various roles PCs might play within it. This article will explore this theory from a player's perspective, to help you help your GM with the game.
Stages of Horror
As we start to embrace horror as a roleplaying genre, we also start to teeter on the edge of our own personal fears, and lines we do not wish to cross. This brings up the subject of two meta-gaming tools that are very important to the game: the Social Contract and the X Card. Many of you are already familiar with these tools, so we will just go over them briefly here.
When playing in a horror game we often rely almost entirely on the GM to set the stage and indicate the emotions that our superheroes must fight through. I'll talk more about horror stories when we get to the system blogs, but right now I want to talk about playing in a horror game. I think the ultimate goal of the player in a horror game is to help the GM by playing into the fear instead of ignoring it. To do this, we must understand fear.
With Halloween approaching we are often tempted to play a one-shot horror scenario, or even a campaign horror game. There are many RPGs and supplements out there―from Call of Cthulhu to Ravenloft―to facilitate your horrible needs. Unfortunately, most of them focus on creating heroic characters that are ill-matched for a horror game. While we all want to be heroic as players, we need to play into the genre. With that in mind, below are some basic archetypes you can choose to play in a horror game.
When I first started following APs, I began with a CoC game of Horror on the Orient Express, and earlier this summer I watched Encounter Roleplay do a video stream of the same campaign on Twitch. Both showed how horribly things can go downhill as people encounter the horrors and insanity of the game. Other podcasts, like Happy Jacks, have complained about the failures of running the Malkavians in Vampire games. Insanity, it seems, is problematic.
As part of a gaming shopping spree, I picked up a book I'd heard was great as a GM's tool, Robin D Laws’ Hamlet’s Hit Points. I finally got around to reading it and instantly wanted to share my thoughts about Laws' ideas.
I genuinely like the book. I only wish for more explanations, especially related to role-playing, in exchange for one of the analyses that’s not Casablanca. I also feel this book would be a great guide for players, and it's these last two points I want to talk about.
A while ago I created a podcast list in effort to produce a topic outline of many, many shows and episodes. I haven’t had the time to complete that outline, so I think I'll try my hand at podcast reviews!
With what I've got assembled, I'm all set to do reviews of Actual Play games on Youtube or Twitch, plus book reviews and yes, game reviews.
In the early days of my gaming career, I went through three Frodos before I got to 3rd level. This wasn’t the only time for me, and I'm sure many others over the last forty years have suffered similar fates. Mages died from single rat bites, investigators went quickly insane, and ex-space marines died alone in nondescript alleys. At the early stages of characters’ careers death and failure come swiftly, often shattering players’ dreams for their characters. Or did they?