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Horror Genre in RPGs

March 28th, 2013 | Posted by DMSamuel in Podcast Episode

Welcome to the seventh episode of the Play On Target podcast (PLOT for short). In this episode we discuss the horror genre in RPGs. We talk about common and well-loved horror RPGs as well as lesser known horror RPGs. This conversation ranges from the types of games and special mechanics that work well in the horror genre to some tips and tricks you can use in your game to bring despair down upon the table. We hope you enjoy listening to the discussion. Did we get anything wrong? Let us know in the comments or start a discussion on RPG Geek.


I send Dave my personal apologies

Things mentioned in this episode:
What’s So Great About Eclipse Phase? (Podcast Episode from Across A Table Madly)
You can contact us at Hosts@PlayOnTarget.com or you you can send us a private geekmail on the RPGGeek website; our usernames are lorddillon (Sam), Vaklam (Brian), edige23 (Lowell), and MasterGeek (Andrew). You can also follow us on Twitter @PlayOnTarget

The music played at the beginning and end of the podcast is Dance of Fire – Bolero in A minor by Sinfonia Electronique. You can find more great music on the podsafe music network at music.mevio.com

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5 Responses

  • Jeremy says:

    Another neat podcast guys. Got to admit I am/was only personally familiar with Call of Cthulhu, the various WoD games, Ravenloft, Ghostbusters and Warhammer Fantasy. Oh and a brushing familiarity with L5R.

    Shame you didn’t get too into Ravenloft. In particular, it always struck me as a little odd how Ravenloft has been compressed down to the single Domain of Strahd (that is, Castle Ravenloft and environs). Hardly anyone talks about the umpteen other Domains (i.e. Isles of Dread anyone?) out there.

    Plus, remember Ravenloft–in it’s later boxed-set iterations–also included a ‘horror check’ mechanic.

    Personally I like the ‘episodic’ mechanic of the Domains of Dread: You stumble out of the mist into such-and-such Domain and have to untangle the specific circumstances that led to its formation. This ties into the ‘Is there a chance of winning/succeeding/surviving?’ question you talked about. In Ravenloft, the answer is “Yes. Kind of.” It’s more a case where the reward for ‘succeeding’ (i.e. ending a particular Darklord’s torment) is . . . being able to go to another Domain.

    I also like the fact that the Darklords are sorta, kinda, halfway sympathetic figures (i.e. Strahd is essentially stuck in Ravenloft because of unrequited love). This, in itself, makes things more interesting than just telling the PCs they have to kill the Darklord (which is usually both very dangerous and also not helpful, since part of the Darklords’ curse is often that they just ‘respawn’ so to speak). Instead, they often almost have to sort of save the Darklord’s soul–help him or her resolve the issue that got them into this mess.

    I consciously channeled a lot of Ravenloft when I wrote my module “End of Autumn”.

    • MasterGeek says:

      I can’t speak for the others, but I haven’t had a ton of Ravenloft experience past having the mists appear and the PCs get sucked in for an adventure or so. Even then, I don’t use any of the written campaign material for it, just do my own stuff.

  • Art Lyon says:

    I’ve never run horror per se, and I’m one of those players that doesn’t like the hopeessness of Cthulu-esque games. that said, I’ve used horror a lot in my games as a way to put the fear of God in my players, to express the power of what they’re up against.
    Are there games that use Cthulu-esque hopelessness, but also include the possibility of winning but at great cost? Obviously that’s an element in anything deeply heroic, but I’m wondering if there are games with mechanics that really torque up that tension and decision-making and stakes in a horror-ish setting. Am I explaining that well enough?

  • I just seen your most recent podcast with Steven Russell of Rite Publishing.

    As the creator, I would have loved to seen a mention of Rite Publishing’s Kaidan setting of Japanese horror (PFRPG), which has some influence from Ravenloft and Oriental Adventures, but is it’s own unique and twisted place. The emphasis is on authentic Japanese culture, history and folklore based on a lifetime interest in pursuing “all things Japan” following my heritage as a Japanese American.

    Although most of the writing and design has been done by Jonathan McAnulty and Trevor Gulliver, I have recently released my first product as primary author/designer – Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House, which is a mapped location featuring a fully developed single encounter involving haunts and a Japanese ghost.

    • edige23 says:

      Absolutely- we actually recorded this episode some time back in 2012, so I think that the Kaidan Kickstarter might have been going on at the time. I was a little surprised Steve didn’t mention Kaidan during the podcast. It looks very cool.

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