Getting Back To Horror

Posted: March 12, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Roleplaying Games

I’ve always been a fan of Personal Horror by way of the World of Darkness, but now that I’m done with Legend of the Five Rings, I find myself having a slightly more difficult time establishing the mood of the new campaign I’m running. I’m not exactly certain as to where the difficulty lies now, but I suspect that it’s just the first game lumps that I’ll have to smooth out eventually. I had a lot on my mind during the first game, both from the point of view of someone re-learning the rules, and as well as someone who was already actively profiling his players.

My plan, therefore is to get back the horror mood, focusing on individual characters. I know that this method is often time-consuming, and perhaps boring for other players in the table, but hopefully it’ll inject the kind of tone that I was looking for when I started the game. As Dylan Hoover noted in my prior post, Mage tends to be difficult to run horror for because of the sheer power available to them.

I’ve had some success with using that same fact and turning it as a source of moral dilemmas for my players. Let’s just hope that I still have what it takes.

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Comments
  1. mythicast says:

    I think there wasn’t really anything overtly wrong with the game other than, it is what I think, a midlevel difficulty game and most of us were in tutorial/re-learning mode. Run the same degree of difficulty this coming session and I think we’ll have our legs underneath us.

  2. Hikkikomori says:

    As Masamune opened his Mind’s Eye, he sensed six active consciences in the hotel room.

    But there were only five of them.

  3. Hikkikomori says:

    The Free Councilor finally accepted the invitation to an information trade-off regarding the murder of his daughter, but he decided to choose the location of the meeting. As if it weren’t disconcerting enough that we were meeting with a high-ranking officer of the Japan Special Defense Forces, and that he was also one of the most powerful Mages in the Tokyo Concilium, the meeting itself was going to be held within the JSDF military base in Tokyo.

    As we arrived, we were led to an empty hangar where the exchange was going to be held. The place was eerily empty save for the lone figure in uniform standing at the center. Either he was confident in his abilities as a soldier and a Mage to meet with the four of us on his own, or he has something up his sleeve — I’m betting on the former.

  4. You mention focusing on individual characters as a key thing for making the horror work.. Assuming you mean focusing on player characters rather than vulnerable NPCs, there’s a technique I found online which allows for making fascinating RPG plots.

    http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/17679146/

    While it has its roots on 4chan (and so should make you at least slightly suspect), the method here is great for DMs to flesh out relevant plots and for the players to have quick reference sheet for helping them ‘get’ their character’s goals.

    Making vulnerable NPCs the players get attached to is also a grat recipe for delicious drama. Nothing scares someone quite like knowing an old mentor or teacher – the person who was wise and helpful – is actually helpless and vulnerable and only you can save them.

    • Hikkikomori says:

      My concern with Mage regarding Mentors is that: Mentors here are already quite capable and are already surrounded by competent allies – or else they wouldn’t have risen to that level of power, or survived for that long for that matter.

      So, anything that could challenge a Mentor must already be a huge threat to both human and Mage society as we know it. And thus falls under the purview of a “Big Bad”.

      Though hurting NPCs you’ve grown attached too is always a staple angle for drama if not abused. Or else, it becomes the damsel in distress cliché.

      • It’s also a balancing act of when to put the Mentor card in play. Some mentors will not necessarily aid you, some might even hamper you as they believe that hardships is good for their students in order to learn. Not all Mentors believe in the same “parenting” technique after all. I’m sure one or two are more than willing to throw their proteges in challenging situations to further (and at times hasten) their growth.

        It’s also good to remember that Mentors have their own agendas and they may not necessarily be in the same line as yours. In fact, that in itself can be made into a disadvantage or make interesting plot hooks for your character later on.

        Just a thought though…aside from me, who else bought Mentor as an Advantage?

        • Hikkikomori says:

          No one else. Hehe.

          But the fact that you have safety net / clean-up crew hanging around takes off the edge of some challenges. (Like the Ueno incident that I’ve mentioned to PM2k. The fact that we handed over the clean up of the rogue mage to a high-ranking Councilor already saved us a lot of time and stress. But in another instance, if the issue weren’t related to a Mentor-level character, it would have taken us longer – and thus added more challenge!)

          Though that’s right that it is a balancing act to use Mentors effectively, especially in that way that they actually go against their Student’s motivations, or rather, their Student somehow rebels against their Mentor’s agenda/ideals – which is rare, and might appear as a rug pull if not executed well.

          • I will disagree that a “clean up” actually happened. We are asked to find out what happened to his daughter, not necessarily be judge, jury and executioner. Think of it like police work, you find out what happened and let them do what needs to be done once they get that information.

            Given the fact the incident was a direct order by your/our respective Mentors/Elders, already sets the tone that the job is also “politically motivated”. Should we who were sent deal with the guy who murdered the girl? Not on my end it doesn’t. This murder is an isolated incident–a terrible and unfortunate one–and not something that would endanger the mage community as a whole, hence my character’s lack of concern to further her actions beyond investigation.

            Everyone’s going to know anyway, what we learned is going to be disseminated to the higher ups, in the end, the Free Council will have an embarrassing stain of harboring a mage murderer. I’m sure many of the Guardians and the Silver Ladder are going to be taking advantage of this information and the boy suffers one way or the other.

            In regards to the Mentor’s advantage, yes you do get an edge by gaining a Mentor hence why it’s called an advantage. Do I believe I have a safety net? Haha. Like that helped my last Mage character who got kidnapped, brain-fucked by a Seer and planted in back as a double agent. :/

            Sure in the end, she gets her own body thanks to her Mentor, but the method and realization of what just happened, was just as horrible. There’ll be a lot of Horror in Mage, and sometimes your Mentor can either make things bearable, or make it worse…sometimes both at the same time. 😀

  5. Laraqua says:

    Reading the player comments makes me smile. You all obviously had a fun game.

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