“[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.”― Clive Barker
Fantasy is not the only genre represented in roleplaying. Probably my favorite genre is horror gaming, as you know if you read my post C is for Call of Cthulhu.
Any game can have elements of horror. In fact, it could be argued that by definition Dungeons and Dragons is a horror game, because of the presence of the classic monster tropes such as vampires, ghosts, specters, werewolves, ghouls, skeletons and zombies.
But a horror game is distinguished by its tone. The typical D&D game is about wading in and dispatching the monsters as quickly as possible, without any sense of fear and trepidation. A gamemaster running a horror-flavored game sets the tone by emphasizing the atmosphere, by engendering uncertainty in his players about the outcome of their characters. If he knows his players well (and depending on the level of trust in the group), he can prey on their fears by including certain triggers in the gameplay.
Many of the horror games in which I’ve played have been set in modern times: Call of Cthulhu, The Dresden Files (maybe not entirely horror), and Unknown Armies come immediately to mind. In these games, the character doesn’t usually have amazing strength or dexterity. Although she may have a limited power or ability, she’s more vulnerable and thus more susceptible to the loss of control mentioned in the Clive Barker quote.
What do you find scary in a roleplaying game? Did I leave out your favorite? Comment below!