A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Lightbulb Help with Survival Horror Game

    So I've been meaning to make a proper survival horror TTRPG for quite a few years now. I've been experimenting, but nothing has quite stuck yet.
    My only point of reference here is Call of Cthulhu, and various video games.
    I need help with both the setting and the game rule system itself.
    I've tossed around a few ideas about setting, coming up with an alien invasion, or a world where the vampires actually succeeded in blotting out the sun, making it always night time.

    I would prefer the game be post-apocalyptic, with limited ammo and resources. Like, in a world where there is guns, creating a melee build is actually a viable option because there is not much ammo lying around. The question of the game that drives it forward is: will this small group of survivors accomplish their goal in the scenario, or will they succumb to insanity and/or get eaten/destroyed by the monsters?
    Not really sure if a Sanity point system is a good idea or even necessary, since I've never seen a good Sanity system ever run. Its always BS so I may not even bother, and just let the players roleplay their insanity if they want to.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Griffon

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    Default Re: Help with Survival Horror Game

    Quote Originally Posted by HumanFighter View Post
    So I've been meaning to make a proper survival horror TTRPG for quite a few years now. I've been experimenting, but nothing has quite stuck yet.
    My only point of reference here is Call of Cthulhu, and various video games.
    I need help with both the setting and the game rule system itself.
    I've tossed around a few ideas about setting, coming up with an alien invasion, or a world where the vampires actually succeeded in blotting out the sun, making it always night time.

    I would prefer the game be post-apocalyptic, with limited ammo and resources. Like, in a world where there is guns, creating a melee build is actually a viable option because there is not much ammo lying around. The question of the game that drives it forward is: will this small group of survivors accomplish their goal in the scenario, or will they succumb to insanity and/or get eaten/destroyed by the monsters?
    Not really sure if a Sanity point system is a good idea or even necessary, since I've never seen a good Sanity system ever run. Its always BS so I may not even bother, and just let the players roleplay their insanity if they want to.
    It depends on what you are looking for in the game.

    Mechanically, IF you have issues with CoC, you could try the MYTHRAS system from The Design Mechanism. It is a percentile system like CoC but it is very "modern" in its rules approach. You are still dealing with a skills-based system.

    The Year Zero Engine from MUTANT: YEAR ZERO and TALES FROM THE LOOP uses a dice pool mechanic like SHADOWRUN'S but with different sized dice. A cool thing with those games is that they have dice pools for SKILLS, EQUIPMENT, and ATTRIBUTES (using different colored dice to differentiate the three pools). Success or Failure Effects from dice rolls can reduce or increase these pools independently of each other.

    IF you have ever played the FATE system, then you could try THE DRESDEN FILES RPG. It is considered the most in-depth of the FATE games.

    You could also pick up Mongoose Publishing's TRAVELLER RPG and use it for a horror game. The system is an open Skill-Based game that uses 2D6 for task resolution and is very open-ended in its skill resolution (lending itself to a lot of genres).

    My go-to system is the old GDW Twilight2000 V2.2 system. The horror version of Twilight2000 is known as DARK CONSPIRACY. The system is a Skill-based D20 ROLL UNDER mechanic that is very close to a percentile system. To find out a chance of success, you add a Skill which is rated from 1 to 10 to an Attribute (or average of more than one Attribute) also rated from 1 to 10 to get an AVERAGE chance of success. This is then modified by a Difficulty Level just like in CoC. The game is available from Far Future Enterprises as a CD-ROM or a PDF file.

    Of course, you could just use 5e for a game. The PROFICIENCY System in 5e lends itself to a skill-based system of Proficiencies. You just add a bunch of Proficiencies/Skills to build a set of "Classes" and run them using the RAW 5e Proficiency system.

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    Default Re: Help with Survival Horror Game

    I am usually up for a discussion of trying to make horror work in a game, but I think the first question to ask is: what do you want out of a horror game? You've got a wide variety of concepts for the setting, and I'm not sure that any of them speak directly to what it is you hope to play when you run the game. There are many answers to the question I'm about to ask, but I think it's a good one to start with: what do you think makes D&D, CoC, or any of the World of Darkness games fall short on being "a horror game," such that you need to make your own system/setting?

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Help with Survival Horror Game

    Quote Originally Posted by olskool View Post

    Of course, you could just use 5e for a game. The PROFICIENCY System in 5e lends itself to a skill-based system of Proficiencies. You just add a bunch of Proficiencies/Skills to build a set of "Classes" and run them using the RAW 5e Proficiency system.
    No.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    I am usually up for a discussion of trying to make horror work in a game, but I think the first question to ask is: what do you want out of a horror game? You've got a wide variety of concepts for the setting, and I'm not sure that any of them speak directly to what it is you hope to play when you run the game. There are many answers to the question I'm about to ask, but I think it's a good one to start with: what do you think makes D&D, CoC, or any of the World of Darkness games fall short on being "a horror game," such that you need to make your own system/setting?
    It is not so much about D&D, CoC, or WoD falling short, okay. Those are excellent games, but I don't have them. And even if I did, I would still feel compelled to do what I am doing.
    I have always had a passion and a talent for game design, and I intend to use it. There is just something special about creating one's own, do u know what I mean?
    Besides, I have already come up with something now. It is a bit rough, but playtests with my fellow gamers will hopefully iron it out.

    Thanks all for your suggestions and...questions.

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    Default Re: Help with Survival Horror Game

    Quote Originally Posted by HumanFighter View Post
    It is not so much about D&D, CoC, or WoD falling short, okay. Those are excellent games, but I don't have them. And even if I did, I would still feel compelled to do what I am doing.
    I have always had a passion and a talent for game design, and I intend to use it. There is just something special about creating one's own, do u know what I mean?
    Besides, I have already come up with something now. It is a bit rough, but playtests with my fellow gamers will hopefully iron it out.

    Thanks all for your suggestions and...questions.
    Ah, glad you've got something, then. Have fun! :)

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    Default Re: Help with Survival Horror Game

    Quote Originally Posted by HumanFighter View Post
    Not really sure if a Sanity point system is a good idea or even necessary, since I've never seen a good Sanity system ever run. Its always BS so I may not even bother, and just let the players roleplay their insanity if they want to.
    I really liked the way Deep Madness handled sanity. Each character has a sanity value which is a resource, you could spend it to reroll a die (for your purpose, whatever advantage you want). Then, if you kill a monster and have spent any sanity point (I e., are less than full, not just in that fight), you gain a madness point. Once you have as many madness points as the sanity value, there's a random madness effect which varied between a mild annoyance and something potentially catastrophic. For example, losing equipment, taking damage, randomly attacking nearest creature, etc.
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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Help with Survival Horror Game

    I have often struggled with what makes something "Horror" and have a few ideas. However, a lot of what makes a game a "horror" game is the same stuff that players HATE! Beware.

    1. Helplessness- Players can take all sorts of actions, but often they are futile or ineffective.

    2. Players Degrade- Instead of getting better, players get worse. They lose access to things, get weaker, and garner mental trauma.

    3. No good options- There is no such thing as an "optimized" option, only bad and worse options.

    4. Unequal power levels- In a horror game, the PCs do not have the advantage of power.

    5. Time pressures and Doomclocks- add to the stress which adds to the horror. Every action propels you to the end!

    6. Character fate in the hands of others- This is a staple of horror, where on character needs to act to save another. Often with disastrous results.

    That is what makes horror..... a horrific? Therefore, good luck making a horror game people will love to play!
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    Default Re: Help with Survival Horror Game

    Quote Originally Posted by Easy e View Post
    I have often struggled with what makes something "Horror" and have a few ideas. However, a lot of what makes a game a "horror" game is the same stuff that players HATE! Beware.

    1. Helplessness- Players can take all sorts of actions, but often they are futile or ineffective.

    2. Players Degrade- Instead of getting better, players get worse. They lose access to things, get weaker, and garner mental trauma.

    3. No good options- There is no such thing as an "optimized" option, only bad and worse options.

    4. Unequal power levels- In a horror game, the PCs do not have the advantage of power.

    5. Time pressures and Doomclocks- add to the stress which adds to the horror. Every action propels you to the end!

    6. Character fate in the hands of others- This is a staple of horror, where on character needs to act to save another. Often with disastrous results.

    That is what makes horror..... a horrific? Therefore, good luck making a horror game people will love to play!
    I understand that this is a common thesis, but I actually think these things are consequences of what makes horror work, not causes. Horror, at its core, is about betrayal. Not necessarily of trust, but of more fundamental things. Betrayal of expectations: it doesn't feel like holding a cross up will keep a horror at bay, but you hope it does with this vampire. Betrayal of your senses: the invisible monster isn't scary just because it has advantage to hit you; it is scary because you're effectively blind to it, and it could be Right There and you wouldn't know it! Betrayal of your own mind: Sanity loss isn't scary because it gives you penalties; sanity loss in stories is scary because it is crippling and makes you unable to trust your own perceptions and judgements.

    "No good options" is the one that is most keyed in to being a cause in horror: the werewolf turns out to be the mother of the oy who came to your party begging for help to find the beast that slew his father before it gets his mother, for example.

    Horror mechanics that focus on dictating penalties and emotional states will fall flat. Horror mechanics need to be carefully designed to build on, play into, and support the sense that the players and their characters cannot trust their power, their knowledge, their very senses to be entirely accurate. When the DM tells the player of the character who is going mad that he sees a shadowy figure in the room, listening to their plans with an enormous grin, is that just a hallucination, or is it his madness piercing a veil?

    Horror is best done such that the way you'll be caught is almost easy to predict, but theoretically could be held off forever as long as you make no mistakes while working with limited or untrustworthy knowledge.

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    Default Re: Help with Survival Horror Game

    Quote Originally Posted by HumanFighter View Post
    Not really sure if a Sanity point system is a good idea or even necessary
    Nobody is. That's the beauty of it!

    But seriously, I think the point of a sanity system, is like the point of the exhaustion system. It's not a "one failed save and you're dead" but it's also not a "one lesser restoration and you're fine" either. What few sanity systems I've seen and what fewer still I've worked with were based on slowwwwwwwwwly reminding players when they're getting in over their head. Even making the saving throw to avoid the first sanity loss is enough to tell PCs they need to tread carefully.

    If you are going to use a sanity system, just make sure it's not designed to screw over certain characters. Using D&D as an example more than a recommendation, a Fighter would be more vulnerable to most mental attacks because they're more likely to have lower mental stats. So if, for example, fighting a sanity loss was a simple Wisdom/Will saving throw, it would discourage Fighter and a few other classes, as they'd be at greater risk all the time. It'd be like playing chess on a board filled with diagonals and being stuck as the rook. Therefore I recommend the following:
    1) Make whatever check, saving throw, or resistance based on basically XP. Old Man Wilkins down the street might be a fool for living in Zombietown for 50 years, but he's seen a thing or two and not much will scare him anymore. By contrast, the science teacher stopping to fill his gas tank could freak right out on seeing a bargain-basement shambler.
    2) Give players options to be better at resisting sanity loss. In D&D, I'd do this as a Feat. You could also make it a defensive action. Distracting yourself from the unfolding horror by, for example, reciting the names of your favorite birds in your bird-watching book might work, but while you're concentrating on that, you probably can't also shoot as straight or accurately.
    2a) Related: I have never understood the idea of sanity loss from the same exact situation repeated over and over. At some point, seen one zombie seen 'em all.
    3) What the best horror/sanity systems I've seen all had in common was getting lost points back was no easy matter. Even if the first few lost points don't do much, players will be more careful when they're closer to that first point loss that will affect them. If you tell them "you get back 2 sanity points each time the adventure starts" you can be certain the PCs will be a lot more cavalier about those first two points before they slam the brakes on before the third.
    4) On that topic, lost sanity should need some qualifier to return at all. Not to get too morbid, but one of the things real torturers did was make sure their victim knew more torture was on the way. That there was no end in sight. That doesn't go away just because you slept that night. If the PCs are locked in a farmhouse surrounded by zombies, moaning and rattling the windows, that overhanging threat doesn't go away just because the doors and windows hold. Now, if the PCs were to, say, enjoy a plate of comfort food while talking about their favorite movies, that might help. Have you seen Jaws? The tension building in the open water is lessened during the drinking/scar comparing scene in the bottom of the boat.
    5) And this is the big one: if losing all your sanity is a game over, it 100% MUST be because the player of that character allowed it. It can't just be pure luck, "oh my 1d6 was a 1, now I'm insane". They had to see the warning signs and ignore them. They had to have defenses available and not used them. They had to have remedies available, and not used them.

    Imagine a RPG in a war zone where an unwounded, fresh soldier unit begins their quest to find the missing scout report. Ten minutes in, an effectively invisible sniper picks off one character with a head shot from a mile away -- something the soldiers could not possibly have known was coming or prepared for. Is that realistic? Quite. Is that fun for the player of that character? No. In most RPGs, the only way something like that happens is if the PCs intentionally provoke a much stronger enemy. Again using D&D as an example, being one-shot full health -> instantly dead is ridiculously hard to do. (I could go on with numbers but that's not the point) Same idea here: the first encounter the party has should not instantly make them lose all their sanity, especially if they're resisting. Unless they find something way too strong, like Dracula or Cthulhu, which shouldn't be their first encounter. If they take the threat seriously and act accordingly, it might be a slow and steady decrease of sanity points, but it shouldn't be a "oops you took one step too far, now you're crazy" threshold. But, if any of them don't take it seriously, over and over, they get what they deserve.


    Now that said, I do like the idea of a limited resources game. These days, it feels like most games use them. I would recommend a way to force those resources to be at least a little spread out. If, for example, you were making a standard 20th/21st century zombie survival situation, if you give the party four axes, four 9mm pistols, and 12 9mm bullets, you'll have three dudes with axes and one dude with all 12 bullets. That one dude will be pretty liberal with his 12 bullets, then complain when he's stuck swinging his axe. Meanwhile if a zombie grabs one of the others, they don't have a gun to defend themselves. If each character has resources they can choose to expend -- not just different types of ammunition either but medical supplies or flares -- that gives those character more options, and therefore, a more involved gameplay.

    I would also be tempted to create a Scavenge Chart purely for ease of use, so you don't need to make a completely written-out page for every single building the party enters.

    "Okay, with the last zombie decapitated, the warehouse is clear. What do you do next?"
    "You said this was a package delivery warehouse, right? There's got to be something useful in some of these boxes."
    "Okay, it's mostly personal mail rather but there is a little business shipping too, so roll twice on the Civilian Residence column and once on the Industrial column. Don't forget to add your Scavenge bonus if you have one."
    (dice clatter) "I got a five, that's...Duct Tape and Glue, repair one item. Anyone need that?"
    "Yeah my axe took two hits in the fight, I could use that."
    "Next is..." (dice clatter) "Double sixes! I found Girl Scout Cookies! Everyone get a sanity back!"
    (crowd cheers)

    Oh, you might have noticed I suggested weapon damage. Yeah, blades dull, hafts crack, dirty pistols jam. I actually recommend a weapon damage system a lot like the sanity system I recommended, but with different maximums based on the weapon's quality. No penalties for a while, but it's nearly impossible to do flash repairs on the field. A trained combatant who uses their knife infrequently and sharpens it every night, and the knife will last forever. An untrained truck driver swinging a garden spade and it'll break in the first or second combat. Higher-quality weapons should be welcome, just for how much damage they can survive -- just like a pump-action shotgun holding 6 shells is better than a double-barrel that holds two. Ranged weapons, especially firearms, should be more about the ammo you can restrict, but if you fire even a military weapon over and over without cleaning or oiling it, eventually it'll remind you by seizing up at the worst possible part of your life -- the end. Such a system should be pretty simple to make, along the lines of:
    1) Makeshift weapons have 3 or 4 Damage points, tools have 6 to 8, actual professional-made weapons 10 to 20.
    2) Weapons lose a Damage point when you fumble or (melee only) you do max damage.
    3) When you rest for the night, you can repair one Damage point per weapon, +1 more if you have training with that weapon, +1 more if you're a mechanic.
    4) A weapon with half its Damage gone has a penalty to attack rolls.
    5) A weapon that loses its final Damage point is broken.

    Anyhow, these are just some ideas to think about. It might be too chart-y the way it's written, but if you can use anything out of this, I'm glad I could help.

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