View Full Version : Horror ideas

2010-10-17, 12:15 AM
If you are in my real life group, and you are reading this, you are in deep trouble...

Hi, I'm running an Eberron campaign with my real life game group, and I'm looking for some ideas for scary encounters and adventures. I'm currently running with 'shadows of the last war', 'whispers of the vampire's blade', 'grasp of the emerald claw', 'Red hand of doom', and several other adventures planned to follow. Principally, how should I describe settings and details to make them frightening? I've got some ideas already about scary encounters and rivals. Any additional horror ideas that fit in eberron would be greatly appreciated. For the record, yes, I do have 'heroes of horror'.

2010-10-17, 12:46 AM
Are you asking for how to present things in an appropriately scary manner?

Well, it depends on your players and your DMing style. What scares one group may make another laugh, or depending on your delivery, you may not be able to carry certain things off.

So my advice is...start slowly, find out what scares your players, and go with that. Usually suspense is a better way to go than gross-out factor though.

2010-10-17, 12:53 AM
Meticulously describe every setting, making sure to note the dim lights, the eerie noises, and the odd smells, as the appear. And they should appear a lot.

Also, nothing is more terrifying than your imagination, (real life doesn't count) so make sure and keep the suspense going as long as you can. This means that it's actually good to describe their slow passage through eerie passageways, especially if they feel like they could be attacked at any time.

Oh, and keep the lights in the room dim and play at night.

Reference: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=116836

2010-10-17, 12:55 AM
Like Popcorn said, start slow, and find out how you can frighten your players. Suspense, red herrings such as false Spot and Listen checks, rolling Initiative and having nothing there...

The longer things drag out, the more anxious and frightened players will be.

2010-10-17, 12:59 AM
Like Popcorn said, start slow, and find out how you can frighten your players. Suspense, red herrings such as false Spot and Listen checks, rolling Initiative and having nothing there...

The longer things drag out, the more anxious and frightened players will be.

That's actually a great way to put players on edge. Very frequent Spot and Listen checks.

some guy
2010-10-17, 03:24 PM
Like Popcorn said, start slow, and find out how you can frighten your players. Suspense, red herrings such as false Spot and Listen checks, rolling Initiative and having nothing there...

The longer things drag out, the more anxious and frightened players will be.

Also, splitting up the party might be the worst thing for a player to do (especially in horror games), for a GM it is the best thing. Now; you can use cliff hangers within sessions. Ask for a listen check for one half of the party, then switch to the other half without telling the result of the check. When done with that half, tell the first half what they hear.

2010-10-17, 04:47 PM
Don't split the party. If you do, you can only occupy a part of your group, and the rest has nothing to do. And that means that their minds go wander, they play with their dice, or something like that. They are certainly not on edge. And that's not good for a horror game. Besides, it is the player's instinct to flock together (like sheep) when danger comes close. They don't want to split. And forcing them to is usually not very fun and can easily feel restrictive or enforced.

The best way to incite horror is to create a visible split between normality and the things which are not supposed to happen (but do happen). If you establish a pretty normal and friendly atmosphere first and then start with the scary things, the contrast is sharper, which increases the effect. Play with the expectations of your players, create them, and use them against them.

Then start building up an atmosphere. There is more than one kind of horror story, and they benefit from different atmospheres. Light, Music and so on are all helpful, likewise don't use something too well known for a soundtrack, or you will distract your players (so... no Psycho violins, or Jaws theme for your threat scenes.
Actually I lie; there are only two horror stories. The one is "Evil is somewhere out there in the dark, where you can't see it. It preys on you.") The other one is "Evil is hidden in the heart of men. It's right here with us, and everybody, even your loved ones, even you, can and will commit fiendish acts." Type I horror stories are pretty straightforward; there is something out there, run away before it gets you. That's all about execution of the story. Type II horror stories are a lot more difficult, but the easy one is "make the players hate themselves". Put them in front of tough decisions without a "right" solution or an easy way out. Remember, good Horror stories are always tragedies.

Also, don't overdescribe the setting. Make it vague. Let your player's minds fill out the gaps. If you create a suitable atmosphere and have your players on edge, they will imagine the worst anyway.

Likewise, subtle understatement wins against overdramatic gore every day.

That said, D&D is terribly suited for a horror game. Not only are the player characters mostly trigger-happy superheroes; way too many things work on the base of the ability to kill things, and the potential repercussions for player characters are low; not even death is a serious threat. Besides, since the very core of the game seems to be "kill people and steal their stuff", there is not much of a normality which could act as a foil for bloodthirsty monsters. This doesn't mean it doesn't work, but it is a lot harder (and I would be more inclined into a type II story, focussing on the decline of a person's values in the name of the own survival or benefits, or even the greater goods; until they realize that the bloodthirsty monster? It's them.

2010-10-17, 10:37 PM
Thanks for the advice so far, its great!

2010-10-18, 03:18 AM
Details are one of the most important things in your arsenal for instilling fear. For instance: "You enter the room and see a ghost, roll initiative," is all find and dandy but, "As you draw closer to the closed door, muffled sounds cross your ears. As you move to open the door, the muffled sounds start to become more distinct, the sound of weeping. The door slowly creeks open, the room empty, but in the middle you see a sort of shimmering. As you move closer you feel a cold chill and waves of despair come over you. The shimmering grows a little more defined as you see the outline of a woman, hands over her eyes, sobbing. The woman looks up and sees you. The sobbing stops and is replaced with an incomprehensible wail. The specter, her face shining with ghostly tears, lunges at you... Roll initiative." is a lot more intense.

Also I'm not sure if this is the kind of horror you are looking for but, talk to a DM or two that runs Call of Cthulhu, they'll give you a few pointers.

2010-10-18, 04:15 AM
Heroes of Horror (the book) has lots of great examples of scary omens and events. For example:

As a PC stares at a portrait on the wall, its features change until they depict her own, but she is clearly older in the portrait. If a second PC does the same, the portrait again changes to mimic his features, but this time the face
shown is clearly that of a long-dead corpse in an advanced state of decay. The portrait then slowly reverts to its original state.
After a few hours in a new town, it slowly dawns on the PCs that there are no children.
A wizard opens her spellbook to find pages covered in ramblings in a foreign language, all written in blood in her own handwriting; after a minute the strange writing fades and the pages resume their normal appearance.
These are just a few good (IMHO) examples.

2010-10-18, 04:25 AM
You're welcome. (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=27565&page=2) 66 pages of scary events to insert in any game.

And remember: If you can't make them go "AAA!", make them go "Eww!". Blood, guts, and disgusting swarms of moths that go under your armor... and have long hairy tongues.