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Battlefield
2008-06-05, 07:14 PM
http://www.hplovecraft.es/fotos/hpedia/cthulhu1.jpg
Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

I am going to be creating a 3.5E horror campaign. At the moment, all I see is two ways to do this.

First is Heroes of Horror style. This is classical horror (Hauntings, Blood dripping from walls), which I like beacuse it is simple, but some people aren't that scared of it.

Secondly is Call of Cthulhu style. It is the epitomy of horror, which personally freaks me out.

I would like some advice on creating a proper horror campaign. Also, feel free to talk about your horror adventures.

*Runs aways screaming from SAN-loss*

Calinero
2008-06-05, 07:16 PM
Well, what are you going for? Just a more dark feeling campaign than average, or do you want to genuinely scare your players? If it's the second, it might be a bit tricky. A lot of the scariness is more in the delivery than in the actual game. Do it in a semi dark place, don't let them know any information about the game that isn't absolutely necessary, be very solemn, stuff like that.

I'm personally more of a Cthulu style horror fan, but it's really up to what you think you can pull off.

Battlefield
2008-06-05, 07:55 PM
http://www.ravenmimura.com/images/misc/Hastur.jpg
Hastur, Hastur, Hastur...

I plan on starting out the first few levels with semi-scary stuff, like a haunted house, or sewers. When they hit 4 or 5, I plan on them noticing the world is slightly off kilter...

What has happened is that people aren't dieing, but something wrong about them...

Cristo Meyers
2008-06-05, 07:59 PM
Well, what are you going for? Just a more dark feeling campaign than average, or do you want to genuinely scare your players? If it's the second, it might be a bit tricky. A lot of the scariness is more in the delivery than in the actual game. Do it in a semi dark place, don't let them know any information about the game that isn't absolutely necessary, be very solemn, stuff like that.

I'm personally more of a Cthulu style horror fan, but it's really up to what you think you can pull off.

Aye, it's all in the delivery. Writing up the horror stuff is the easy part, but it's only part of it. You need to create the atmosphere.

Atmospheric horror works better for stuff like this, I find. The shocks and chills may work for the movies, but they don't seem to translate well into narrations.

UglyPanda
2008-06-05, 08:01 PM
Try reading up about Ravenloft. It was the horror setting for D&D. I'm not too good at horror, but there are a few things that everyone should know.
-Tell, don't show. Once your PCs actually find the enemy, they're not going to be scared of it. What you should be doing is describing the noises and destruction it makes.
-Don't stop rolling the dice. This is true of any campaign, but especially important in a horror setting. When you roll the dice, the PCs know something is up. Thusly, roll the dice at random intervals with random amounts of fake concern. This is just to keep them guessing. Also, it doesn't hurt to get a DM screen so they can't see your rolls.
-Make sure they feel cut off and helpless. Nobody in their right mind would stick around in an area where they're sure to die. That's why so many horror movies take place in the woods, there's nobody to help them and nowhere to escape. You might want to cut off divination magic/items.

Battlefield
2008-06-05, 08:03 PM
http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/fc1_gallery/98445.jpg
Ia! Dagon! Ia!

Anyone have any horror stories?

Cristo Meyers
2008-06-05, 08:06 PM
I'm running a horror Werewolf (not White Wolf RPG, another Werewolf) game over in structured right now. The link's in my signature.

Terraoblivion
2008-06-05, 08:07 PM
It also serves to know what frightens your players. I know several people who will not be frightened by Cthulhu style stuff, whereas classic horror trappings will scare them. Others, such as myself, are not much scared by either unless it works heavily with implications for human psychology and the human mind. Indeed i find a story about entirely human paranoia and ostracism a great deal more frightening than a great, big unexplanable thing out to eat the world. In fact i tend to find Cthulhu and the like more silly than anything else, it is just so easy to laugh at when you think too closely about it. So knowing your audience is probably the most important thing to start with.

Glyphic
2008-06-05, 08:11 PM
A large part of it is that your player have to want to be scared. Its alot like going to a horror film. if you don't allow yourself to get scare and just laugh at the 'corny' tactics, you're going to get a result other than what you intended..

Delivery helps: Alot. I recommend Domino's.

Nonanonymous
2008-06-05, 08:14 PM
In fact i tend to find Cthulhu and the like more silly than anything else, it is just so easy to laugh at when you think too closely about it.

I find it easier to laugh at Cthulhu when I don't think too much on it, especially given the unexplained noises arising from beneath the sea at somewhere around 50 S 100 W. :smalleek:

EDIT: Given my experiences with the Aliens Total Conversion for DooM, things that help a lot are a suspenseful atmosphere, lack of supplies (Don't give them plenty of chances to rest and gain spells back, keep their health in a vaguely precarious situation, etc.), and highly threatening antagonist(s).

Battlefield
2008-06-05, 08:17 PM
Oh, I almost forgot. Guess what famous dungeon I will be doing.

...with a huge twist and map change.:smallamused:

http://paizo.com/image/product/catalog/TSR/TSR9022_500.jpeg

Illiterate Scribe
2008-06-05, 08:21 PM
SilverClawShift wrote up an awesome horror campaign - it's too easy just to get sucked into 'generic Lovecraftian beasty', but this was great -
(a summary I made a while back)
The battle. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3322234&postcount=155)

Help from an unexpected source. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3338351&postcount=188)

The big reveal. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3348265&postcount=200)

Claustrophobia. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3373541&postcount=233)

Creepy idiosyncracies, from the Paladin no less. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3373820&postcount=240)

Discontent. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3382173&postcount=252)

Woah. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3390647&postcount=271)

Fighting in the dark. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3396782&postcount=293)

The Tome of Magic is really creepy. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3422699&postcount=334)

The epic conclusion. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3449825&postcount=347)

Nonanonymous
2008-06-05, 08:34 PM
And just to plug a bit of the horror parts of the campaign world I'm building...


Gloronaent
At the south pole of the world is the continent of Gloronaent. This desolate waste of frozen earth appears to bear the vague remnants of some great civilizations long passed, as well as a few particularly terrifying scars of madness inflicted upon the world by the Old Ones. The most prominent denizens of the area are a few dwarven and darfellan colonists, though beneath the waves of this area live the much hated anguillans, as well as a vast number of aquatic dinosaurs and mammals that have adapted to the cold and lightless depths.

Amochma (Nightmare Derelict) A war relic of the now legendary war of the Adam Kadmon and the gods against the forces of the Old Ones, Amochma is a frozen crashed 'bio-ship,' its long-dead flesh kept preserved by the frost. Though the front end of the ship is lodged deep within the glaciers, the back is still visible, and a few testaments from various veterans of planar war and travel have confirmed that the 'bio-ships' resemble gigantic narrow-mouthed fish with hideous mechanical protrusions in place of fins, with eyes sewn shut, and several 'port-hole' like structures scattered haphazardly across the surface. They are reputably capable of floating through air and void as easily as water, release legions of hideous beasts through their mouth and other artificial openings in their bodies, have a massive array of techno-magical weaponry that can be turned against assailants, and are capable of walking by means of several stilt-like legs that fold up against the under-side as with a dead spider. It seems that the 'Amochma' is unable to function anymore, or the forces of the Abyss don't care to retrieve it. Still, no one who has ventured inside of the vessel has returned as of yet, so it's a safe bet that the inside is a tad more lively than the out.

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2008-06-05, 08:39 PM
That was one of the best campaigns ever.

Euphemism
2008-06-05, 08:56 PM
I love a good horror campaign. Or, a campaign that features a horror element. L5R is a very good system for this.

The tricks, and there are tricks, are to:

Eschew Surplusage. Game somewhere there are not other responsibilities, eat dinner first before setting out the screen, etc.

Run A Live Table. Especially if PCs are encountering another entity in a conversational setting. Forcing live table throughout the adventure keeps the players in character, including their character's fears.

Know Your Players. While it can be construed as 'cheating', if you know your player is an insectiphobe, have bug-like enemies. Just remember, your players trust you. Sometimes, too much. That leads to...

Cheat Intelligently. Decide where you want the story to go. Take it there. If they hit the monster for 200 damage, but you don't want the monster to die just yet - just escape - then it happens. Give them their small victories. Then rub the salt in their wounds when their 'failures' pull them back on the path.

Keep It Uncertain. Smile. Ask if they're sure. Roll the dice. Refer to a notecard if they ask a question. And so on. And so forth.

Keep It Simple. A lot of people will want to light candles, put on creepy music, etc. Don't bother. Eliminate the unnecessary lighting, sure. Turn off the TV. But all else it theater and it can actually distract from the message.

Cristo Meyers
2008-06-05, 08:59 PM
or when all else fails...just flash Euphemism's avatar

Christ man...I almost fell out of my chair...

I most definitely agree with keeping your players guessing. They should never be quite sure about anything.

Hyozo
2008-06-05, 09:17 PM
SilverClawShift wrote up an awesome horror campaign - it's too easy just to get sucked into 'generic Lovecraftian beasty', but this was great -
(a summary I made a while back)
The battle. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3322234&postcount=155)

Help from an unexpected source. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3338351&postcount=188)

The big reveal. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3348265&postcount=200)

Claustrophobia. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3373541&postcount=233)

Creepy idiosyncracies, from the Paladin no less. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3373820&postcount=240)

Discontent. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3382173&postcount=252)

Woah. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3390647&postcount=271)

Fighting in the dark. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3396782&postcount=293)

The Tome of Magic is really creepy. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3422699&postcount=334)

The epic conclusion. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3449825&postcount=347)

That was an astounding campaign. I was just re-reading it about an hour ago (which was partially because you brought it up in the holy water elemental topic, but also partly because I was planning on re-reading it soon anyway).

Battlefield
2008-06-05, 10:18 PM
Now for my first real question:

I need a group of monsters that will act as the main bad guys for the first few missions (like SilverClawShift's DM's Kythons). Hopefully it is something that is rarely used/heard of.

Few Ideas: Anguillan (Stormwreak), Chuul (Monster Manual), Ethereal/Phantasmal/Phantom monsters, Locathahs (Monster Manual), Mephits, Oozes, or Obscure Random Mosters (Rasts, Ravids, Roper, Azers, ect)


Also, I will be using both Taint and SAN. :smallamused:

Euphemism
2008-06-05, 10:35 PM
I need a group of monsters that will act as the main bad guys for the first few missions (like SilverClawShift's DM's Kythons). Hopefully it is something that is rarely used/heard of.

I'm going to avoid recommending actual monsters here, but give a few hints instead.

First, have you ever heard of the Uncanny Valley? Those things that look -almost- human are actually more frightening than those things that look nothing like human. So, flip through the manual. Find the humanlike forms to represent the Taint and SAN losses. Only the direct minions of the Unspeakable Horror should be Inhuman, and should be rare - besides, you might find that they're not as scary as the above-mentioned ground troops. This leads to the next item:

Second: The stock vampire is scary if played well. The Asian vampire that is a head and trailing internal organs is downright terrifying if played at all. The vampiric writhing tentacled toothy jellomold is creepy but won't grip the fears of the party like the first two.

Third: Show the players the results of failure. Shove it in their faces. You mention Taint and SAN. Well, great! Their stock opponent should be the people who've already fallen to Taint or SAN loss. Like their parents. Or their co-workers. Or Susie, the fourth grader who was selling girl scout cookies and now has a screaming, tortured orifice where her chest cavity used to be...

Finally, to take a line from Nephilum, "No. We didn't give Michael the Archangel any stats. If he had stats, he could be killed with enough twinking." That is, some Unspeakable Horrors should BE the plot, and not an obstacle to finishing it.

Lycan 01
2008-06-05, 10:40 PM
Get the Call of Cthulhu D20 game. That seems to be an interesting experience, from what I have been told...


If you want ideas on Cthulhu-related stuff, just gimme a PM. I'm a huge Lovecraft buff.


Oooooooooooooooohhhhh........ Have you read "The Hound"? :smallbiggrin: Basically, some grave robbers in search of a medallion or something end up unleashing a skinned skeletal creaturewhich has claws and fangs, is wreathed in a flock of bats, and lets loose soul-rending howls that echo into the cold night air.

The idea? Have your party do the usual stuff. Raid a dungeon, get some loot. Make it seem like a normal game. Don't let them know that you intend to make all their worst fears a reality...


They'll go through the tomb/cave/whatever, and along the way they'll find a crypt or coffin or something with some strange inscriptions. Open it up, and there's a dusty skeleton with a jade medallion. Oooooooh... Of course, they'll take it...

After the quest is over, and they think its all said and done, have them return to an inn. As they go off to their rooms, let them fall asleep. But before they start to RP their characters waking up and stuff, force them to do listen checks. Each one of them has to do a listen check. If they wake up, they'll hear a dog howling in the distance. Let them go back to sleep. Have them do a few more listen checks, to which they'll awake to howling. Don't over-do it, but make sure they don't get a good night's rest.

The next morning, have them do spot checks as they're waking up. If they succeed, they see claw marks on the glass of their windows, or on the floor of their balconies. Ooooooh, spooky...

There's not much else to it. For awhile.

They'll go about doing whatever they want to do. Shop at some stores, ask about some tombs... You know, the usual adventurer stuff. But that night, when they try to sleep at whatever inn they're staying at, they do the listen checks again. More howling, and maybe the fluttering of bat wings.

Rinse and repeat for a few days, with maybe another dungeon dive in between in order to ease their minds.


Finally, when they're trying to sleep, make them do spot checks. If one of them succeeds, he looks up to see an ungodly creature standing outside his window, with glowing red eyes, blood drenched fangs, and the medallion around its neck. When it sees that he's looking at it, the creature lets loose an abominable howl and darts off into the night.

Naturally, said member is going to be screaming up a storm. The rest of the party wakes up, he tells them everything, and its up to them to believe him or not. If they don't believe him, everyone goes back to bed. Roll more spot checks. Whoever succeeds wakes up to the creature at his or her window, only this time instead of howling and running off, it howls and a flock of bats burst in through the window(s). The player(s) in the room fight off the bats, but once they're done the creature is gone.

Now that they know something is up, they should put 2 and 2 together and try to take the medallion, which they still had even though they saw it on the creature, back to its proper resting place.

1 party+travelling in the dark+constant spot checks which let them hear distant howling and bats fluttering+good storytelling = one group of people scared out of their minds


Once they get back to the tomb, they fight their way back to the coffin. They open it up, and there's just a normal dusty skeleton inside. Somebody places the medallion back on the skeleton... and for one split second, it transforms into the beast and lets loose the loudest and most unnatural howl anyone has ever heard, just before the coffin's lid slams back down on top of it, and seals the curse inside of it forever.


Woooooo! :smallbiggrin: What do you think?

FoE
2008-06-06, 12:32 AM
Here's the problem with fantasy horror: the heroes are just too well-equipped to deal with whatever you throw at them. Zombies, bats, skeletons and their ilk are just too pervasive. Vampires, werewolves, demons? Rare, but not unusual. The worst horrors from beyond, like the lords of madness that the aboleths and their kind worship, are scary but infrequently-used. Generally, if I'm running horror in fantasy, it's got to be this post-apocalyptic set-up.

Wizards of the Coast put out a sourcebook not too long ago called Elder Evils that you might want to look up. Some of the creatures in there, which are supposed to be "bring-about-the-end-of-the-world" beasties, are kind of scary. Atropus, the World Born Dead, causes the dead to rise the closer he comes to your world. The Worm That Walks could be cool.

Though this doesn't exactly help you, my preference for horror campaigns is to do a modern set-up. There's something about encountering monsters in the modern world that's very scary ... I think it's about bringing the conflict close to home, as opposed to some generic fantasy world. Also, it's the "well-equipped" aspect: while fantasy heroes have a wide range of magic and so on to deal with supernatural baddies, modern heroes aren't so lucky. Could you damage a wraith with a gun?

In any case, I advise you on one thing: if you use gore, don't over-use it, or be prepared to lace your campaign with a lot of humour. You get de-sensitized to it fairly quickly. The first time you introduce a demon with its guts hanging out and a mask of human flesh on its face, your players might howl in terror. The thousand time you see it, the experience has worn thin.

Darkantra
2008-06-06, 01:43 AM
Something I heartily recommend for horror campaigns is the Seedroach, it appears in Dragon #355.

Seedroaches are about the size of a cat, and are little oval shaped seedlike creatures with stick legs and strange nodules at their heads. The kicker is that whenever they hit with their bite attack they inject a seed that, if a creature fails its fort save, begins spreading a bark-like substance from the wound over their body while they take Dex damage. When their Dex drops to 0 they die and become a Seedroach tree, that spits out more seedroaches in time. The big kicker? The trees are hollow, full of the blood of the creature that they used to be.

In a game that I'm going to run soon the PCs have some pretty normal adventures for a while when they start hearing tales of people vanishing with no trace, and as they go about their business they'll run across some strangely shaped trees. They should only really find out what's going on when they find an entire town, dogs, cows, humans, horses, that have all become trees. I've written in a vampire druid as the BBEG, he only drinks from the trees, never creatures, and is trying to spread them across the world so that he can live in decadence for the rest of his unlife.

That said, one element that you really want to focus on is misdirection. Always mention things that have no relevance to what the PCs are doing, but that enhance the atmosphere and make the PCs paranoid. Some examples:

Visual horror- The PCs walk by a room in an abandoned manor, the interior is empty save for a painting of a family sitting at a table, about to eat their meal. As they go through the manor they find more of the same painting, but with subtle differences, a child's hand might be a claw, the mother and fathers faces may warp whenever the PCs look at from the side of their vision. The final picture that they see the house run down as it is now, with the children and father thin from famine, the mother standing in the background with a butcher's cleaver. When the PCs find the kitchen they discover bones strewn about, blackened and cracked open for their marrow.

Tactile horror- One PC starts tucking into a freshly bought and served meal, but one bite turns to blood in their mouth. When they spit it out (unless they swallow :smallconfused:) have it turn to regular food.

The Recurring Item- The PCs find a porcelain doll, part of its face has been chipped off and the dress has been worn by time. Further on the same doll is in front of a door, it's hands outstretched as if to warn them away. When they open the door they find nothing but the doll disappears. If any of the PCs are alone afterwards have the doll appear to them, completely restored and with blood on its hands. It raises a finger to its lips and disappears.

They may also pick up something fairly mundane and sell it, only to have it appear in their rooms or bags again and again. Once it has become a common sight to NPCs have it appear at the site of a murder, for which the PCs become suspects.

The Pale Man- Nothing is quite as scary as a thin, decrepit, human caricature of a monster. Have one shadow the PCs for a while, specifically watching them while they sleep. It rasps at them in hunger and lust, only to fade away when threatened. Give the PCs a chance lash out and hurt their shadow at one point, only to have it be a simple beggar who thought to steal from them so that he could eat. Time passes and the PCs can sleep well for a change, until it appears one last time, holding the head of the beggar and wheezing laughter at them.

_Zoot_
2008-06-06, 02:38 AM
Well thanks......

Now im not going to be able to sleep for the next 3 nights:smallannoyed:

What is Cthulhoo?

i get that he is a big would eating moster, but there are heaps of them in the MM what makes him scary?:smallconfused:

GlordFunkelhand
2008-06-06, 04:43 AM
I have played some horror adventures within our normal campaign - and I think it's really hard on the DM to get the mood right. I am also pretty sure my group would spoil it if I made every adventure a horror adventure.

Anyway, what I did was: I got lots of horror soundtracks. I also got a staple of the typical horror sounds, like a heart beating, and some strange scratching sounds. I grouped the sounds into music that was to be played as background, and some music that was to be used as cue. You need to find music that starts creepy for the 2nd category, the Candyman soundtrack works well, as does music from the wishmaster series of movies.

It was the typical spook house thing. What I did to to freak them out was to pass them notes of things they saw. These things didn't quite match the descriptions I read aloud. So, after a while they got really paranoid.

I used different cue music whenever they did something that might lead to the typical "danger" scene - like opening a door, examining something strange.

I played a lot with the volume of the sounds, faded them off at the end of my description, changed the volume of the sounds based on the characters moving around.
Another nice thing is to contrast your words with the music. Play "danger" music but describe a peaceful scene -> paranoia...

you can have lots of fun in a horror setting as a GM :)

nobodylovesyou4
2008-06-06, 05:32 AM
for creatures, if you're looking for a Cthulhu experience, then Chuul are a great choice. Give them wings and youve already got the outer ones. kuo-toa are a good choice as well, if you can do it properly, because they are basically deep ones.

Tsotha-lanti
2008-06-06, 07:19 AM
First is Heroes of Horror style. This is classical horror (Hauntings, Blood dripping from walls), which I like beacuse it is simple, but some people aren't that scared of it.

Secondly is Call of Cthulhu style. It is the epitomy of horror, which personally freaks me out.

"Some people" ? Is anyone actually scared by trash like 90% of horror movies? There's exceptions like The Abandoned or the original Ju-on, which mostly rely on atmospheric audio and a lack of "boo"-scares to create tension, but modern horror is, by and large, pointless.

Anyway, Heroes of Horror is kinda useless too, except in a few things; it can provide decent ideas for rules, and the random scary effect table is great (for use and for ideas). One of the best tools for creating suspension (and thus making your players afraid) is basically "red herring" effects. Random spooky ****.

There's a few basic rules for horror D&D:
- Low-powered. No magic items. This is difficult, but it has to be done. (I've concluded Ravenloft is actually best run with D20 Modern rules, myself.) You'll have to nix or change some spells on a case-by-case basis; detect evil and the like being the most important to nix, but scrying, raise dead and the like also being horror-ruiners. The 3.5 Ravenloft books do this for you, if you can find them.
- Tension. You want maybe 1 or 2 combat encounters per session, at the most. The rest is tension-building. Doing things, being exposed to creepy junk, finding out the creepy history. Being under constant threat.
- Combat. Combat is where the tension unwinds. Combat is not, generally, scary, because D&D heroes are ultimately capable at it. Combat is when they get to release the tension and fear, when they become empowered to fight the fear and dispel it. That's why you end with a fight. If you have one in the middle of the session, you need to rebuild the tension.
- Unfairness. The monster has to be way too powerful to beat in a straight fight. If it's not, there's no reason to fear it. The monster has to be able to move about at will, without being seen or caught. The monster has to make the PCs not want to see it. Kill NPCs liberally to drive that point home.

This all applies to either type of horror, really. Call of Cthulhu -style horror is not actually any different from "regular" horror; it's just got some idiosyncratic elements (Great Old Ones, Outer Gods, etc.).

Remember, also, to zone in on what scares your players specifically. (Unless they have actual phobias that trigger panic attacks. That's not a whole lot of fun for anybody.)

GlordFunkelhand
2008-06-06, 07:42 AM
Regarding monsters:
You can use what ever you want. Just change the flavor. Want to use a shadow? Make it look like a twirling ball of shadow with twisting images of distorted faces and shadowy tentacles emerging from that shadow with a strange mourning sound.

Or do the Lovecraft thing .. describe the monster as normal .. say a monstrous spider, but explain in detail how strange this creature is, how alien the look from the eyes is, how wrong it feels that this beast moves the way it moves, that it just doesn't feel right.

Lovecraft monsters are not that different from pretty much every other monster, but he focuses more on the effect than on the looks. A lovecraftian zombie is a normal zombie by D&D rules.. but it will strike fear in the adventurers.

Mr. Friendly
2008-06-06, 07:57 AM
A couple of critter recommendations -

Puppeteers from the XPH - They are leeches that hook onto someone and take control of them. Tough to find, especially if they are under the plate mail of the King's personal Paladin/champion. This can make for a truly paranoid and terrifying backdrop for a campaign. Invasion of the bodysnatchers kind of stuff. You want to split up? Sure, go ahead - BWAHAHAHAHAAHA! Dopplegangers can be used to the same effect. Hell, use both and have them at war with each other. :smallbiggrin:

Hell Wasp swarms - These things are higher level, but my god are they terrifying. Not so much that they are demonic wasps (which is terrifying, in and of itself); the thing that gets me is they crawl into your mouth and animate you like a puppet. I can just imagine going to visit a longtime friend/NPC and they seem sort of off at first and then you notice that there is something crawling just under their skin... when they explode into a cloud of wasps. *shudder*

Tsotha-lanti
2008-06-06, 08:26 AM
Regarding monsters:
You can use what ever you want. Just change the flavor. Want to use a shadow? Make it look like a twirling ball of shadow with twisting images of distorted faces and shadowy tentacles emerging from that shadow with a strange mourning sound.

Or do the Lovecraft thing .. describe the monster as normal .. say a monstrous spider, but explain in detail how strange this creature is, how alien the look from the eyes is, how wrong it feels that this beast moves the way it moves, that it just doesn't feel right.

Lovecraft monsters are not that different from pretty much every other monster, but he focuses more on the effect than on the looks. A lovecraftian zombie is a normal zombie by D&D rules.. but it will strike fear in the adventurers.

Actually, regarding this... I can't believe I forgot the First Rule of Horror.

A monster you see is never as scary as a monster you don't.

Always, always remember that.

Jorkens
2008-06-06, 08:35 AM
A couple of tropes that still give me the willies -

1) The heroes escape, by the skin of their teeth, from the evil cult's mansion (or whatever). Running to the nearest road, they flag down a passing car. Just as they begin to breathlessly thank the driver, he starts talking in the same slow, empty voice as the cultists. (Alternative version - they manage to find a policeman, but just as they're explaining what's happened, the cult leader walks up and, in the manner of a concerned psychiatrist, expresses his profound gratitude that someone's managed to pick up the escaped patients before they could do themselves any harm - they really are his most difficult cases, harbouring the most extraordinary delusions...)

2) The 'one of us is one of them' trope. A lot of great horror works as much on the tension between the characters as on the external danger - look at Night of the Living Dead for instance. So drop occasional hints that one of the players is actually a spy / traitor. Whether they actually are or not is up to you...

Jorkens
2008-06-06, 08:40 AM
Or do the Lovecraft thing .. describe the monster as normal .. say a monstrous spider, but explain in detail how strange this creature is, how alien the look from the eyes is, how wrong it feels that this beast moves the way it moves, that it just doesn't feel right.

And remember to use the word 'indescribeable' at least every 15 seconds. Interspersed with the odd 'blasphemous'.

kamikasei
2008-06-06, 09:04 AM
And remember to use the word 'indescribeable' at least every 15 seconds. Interspersed with the odd 'blasphemous'.

"Besides, he added, my constant talk about "unnamable (http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Unnamable)" and "unmentionable" things was a very puerile device, quite in keeping with my lowly standing as an author."

puppyavenger
2008-06-06, 09:08 AM
regarding the insectaphobe comment
http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=82166
if nature can think up these, what do you think a fleshwarper can do.

Tsotha-lanti
2008-06-06, 10:01 AM
"Besides, he added, my constant talk about "unnamable (http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Unnamable)" and "unmentionable" things was a very puerile device, quite in keeping with my lowly standing as an author."

Is that a quote from H.P. himself?

Here's a handy tip inspired by that:
Never do anything Lovecraft did. He was a terrible author. About 10-20 % of his stories were effective. Even those were technically bad. (Shadow Over Innsmouth, arguably his best story, was filled with clumsy and excessive exposition.)

If you need to get horror storytelling tips, get them from better, modern authors.

hamlet
2008-06-06, 10:29 AM
Is that a quote from H.P. himself?

Here's a handy tip inspired by that:
Never do anything Lovecraft did. He was a terrible author. About 10-20 % of his stories were effective. Even those were technically bad. (Shadow Over Innsmouth, arguably his best story, was filled with clumsy and excessive exposition.)

If you need to get horror storytelling tips, get them from better, modern authors.

BLASPHEMY!!! :smalltongue:

Actually, your problem seems to be that Lovecraft's work wasn't designed to be "scary" so much as "horrifying." Yes, there is a difference.

Lovecraft never tried to frighten you with the monster that jumped out of the closet, of the vampire that would lure you away and drink your blood . . .

No, he wanted, instead, to horrify you. To craft a world in response to the general mentality of his age that, soon, humans would understand everything through science and that we would literally lay bare the mind of God. His intent was to show you that the further out we reached, the deeper you probed, the more you would discover that you and your entire race, all your accomplishments . . . were nothing. That things horrifying, unknowable to the petty human mind, and in violation of every law we thought we knew.

Lovecrafts monsters weren't malicious, just indifferent.

It's intellectual horror, not visceral horror, and it just doesn't appeal to a lot of modern appetites.


The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

kamikasei
2008-06-06, 11:13 AM
Is that a quote from H.P. himself?

Not precisely. It's a quote from one of his stories, which I linked within the quote, which is about one of Lovecraft's stock characters chatting with a friend about whether you can legitimately call some horrors "indescribable" and "unnameable" or whether it's just a cop-out used by crap writers to avoid having to describe things well. It's an amusing story and I posted it to illustrate that Lovecraft himself seemed to have a sense of humour about his own signature style.


Actually, your problem seems to be that Lovecraft's work wasn't designed to be "scary" so much as "horrifying." Yes, there is a difference.
...
It's intellectual horror, not visceral horror, and it just doesn't appeal to a lot of modern appetites.

Not to put words in Tsotha-lanti's mouth, but I think his point was pretty clearly stated, that Lovecraft's writing was actually pretty bad. Whether and how the stories are scary is a separate issue from whether the actual craftsmanship of the writing is good.

Myshlaevsky
2008-06-06, 11:20 AM
I think "The Colour out of Space" is Lovecraft's best story, but I'll agree that they're generally kind of bad. There's a reference to modern horror authors in one post: try reading "Euminedes on the Fourth Floor Lavatory" by Orson Scott Card for ideas. Undeniably creepy, wierd, freakish story.

Revlid
2008-06-06, 11:30 AM
SilverClawShift wrote up an awesome horror campaign - it's too easy just to get sucked into 'generic Lovecraftian beasty', but this was great -
(a summary I made a while back)
The battle. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3322234&postcount=155)

Help from an unexpected source. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3338351&postcount=188)

The big reveal. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3348265&postcount=200)

Claustrophobia. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3373541&postcount=233)

Creepy idiosyncracies, from the Paladin no less. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3373820&postcount=240)

Discontent. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3382173&postcount=252)

Woah. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3390647&postcount=271)

Fighting in the dark. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3396782&postcount=293)

The Tome of Magic is really creepy. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3422699&postcount=334)

The epic conclusion. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3449825&postcount=347)

This is goddamn epic. I'm serious, this could be a book and I would re-read it over and again.


Not to put words in Tsotha-lanti's mouth, but I think his point was pretty clearly stated, that Lovecraft's writing was actually pretty bad. Whether and how the stories are scary is a separate issue from whether the actual craftsmanship of the writing is good.

But that's exactly what I love - it's all dry, boring, and occasionally awkward, like a science paper, or a scientist's write-up of something so esoteric no-one expects it to be actually read. But the things its about are truly horrifying if thought about for more than a minute.

I'm not saying it's deliberate, but it's still great. I think Guillermo del Toro agrees - he said something about At The Mountains of Madness, which he's directing, along the lines of "It's like a really dry National Geographic, but about really scary things". Which is cool.

Jorkens
2008-06-06, 11:45 AM
I think "The Colour out of Space" is Lovecraft's best story, but I'll agree that they're generally kind of bad.
I'd say they're brilliant stories, just badly written. :smallbiggrin: The ideas are good enough and the vision is grand enough that the clunky style doesn't really matter.

Silence
2008-06-06, 12:02 PM
Well, what I do when I try to run a horror campaign is to bring characters down from their lofty positions.

If players are level 8, I throw EL 11s at them. I make them fight for their lives. I make them trapped, in pain, half dead, desperately trying to escape. I hurt them as bad as I can, but sometimes I fudge the die rolls so that they don't acutally die, but it gives them the illusion that they do.

This seems like a voilation on the game of D&D, modding the game like this, but all D&D is is a way for players to have fun. They have more fun that way.

Usually, I try to make at least one character die every plot line, just to keep them on their feet.

This, of course, brings up the problem of "what to do when a character dies"?

If you give them all their stuff and make it so that it doesn't really matter, it defeats the purpose of killing them.

If you make them start again from scratch, they get angry and frustrated.

Lots of times players don't have access to Raise Dead, and such spell, which brings up the fun little plotline of trying to find the mysterious cleric that lives in the mountains of death yada yada yada.

This brings up two problems.

1st: What to do with the IRL player while his character is dead? Well, the obvious solution is to give him another character, but that plan has obvious holes in it. I like to say "sorry, but you have to sit this one out, buddy." This makes it so that they don't want to die, because there are reprecussions to it, but not too large.

2nd: What if the rest of the party doesn't want to raise him? I've had it happen before. We had a hardend troop of merceneries, one died, and the conversation went a little like this.

Me: The beast, turns around, screaming a war cry, and shoves a spear and Jerald. It penatrates his stomache, and he coughs up blood before hanging limp. Henry's fire attack hits him a moment later, and the blast knocks him to the ground dead.

Player 1: Cool. Let's raid the room.
Player 2: Ummmmm.... I'm kinda dead.... any help here?
Player 3: Henry walks over to Jerald's corpse and frowns. He kneels down next to it and checks for a pulse.

Me: He's dead. There's no pulse.

Player 1: That's unfortunate. We might need him later. Jonas begins searching the room.


Later....

Me: So, what are you guys gonna do about Jerald?

Players: What about him? He died. We're mercenaries, we don't give a s---.

Me: Um.... o..... k...... You know, I think I have an adventure somewhere about a powerful cleric of light able to-

Players: Not interested. Don't waste our time. So how much XP did we get?




You get the idea. This is one of those cases where a player is simply screwed. My remedy to this is to give them another character a level or two, or three lower, with much less gear.

Battlefield
2008-06-06, 12:03 PM
http://images.epilogue.net/users/terrozonia/Azathoth.JPG
"You know, some of this s*** shouldn't exist in a sane world"
"What's sane?"

Thanks for all the replys.

I am currently trying to compile a list of all the random monsters that I will dump into the players minds. Here's a few.

1. Several ghosts possessing a suit of armor, one ghost per peice.

7. A Vampiric Ogre that talks civilized and proper all the while trying to maim the party.

16. A Hellwasp Swarm, a Seedroach Swarm, and a Monstrous Spider/Scorpion Crossbreed, all fighting to see who gets to kill the party first.

hamlet
2008-06-06, 12:09 PM
Not to put words in Tsotha-lanti's mouth, but I think his point was pretty clearly stated, that Lovecraft's writing was actually pretty bad. Whether and how the stories are scary is a separate issue from whether the actual craftsmanship of the writing is good.

I will never understand that claim, honestly. I find his writing - while certainly not up to snuff with the greatest authors of history like Melville or Shakespeare or the other greats - excellent, and certainly a good style for reinforcing his themology.

I'm reading the eponymous Cthulhu story now (shhh, don't tell my boss) and I am struck again at how well the messages and ideas as opposed to the modern style that, to me, just feels like total garbage.

The guy knew how to use the English language to communicate, and he knew how to do it well.

hamlet
2008-06-06, 12:17 PM
Dang Double Posts.

And just because, I will now say the word "Yogsothothery."

FoE
2008-06-06, 12:27 PM
I was thinking about this last night, and there's one thing that links most great horror: location, location, location.

Think about the best horror movies you've ever seen. Sometimes, it was enough that the creature itself was horrifying, but oftentimes, they needed some help from the terrain itself, even if it is relatively benign.

1) Evil Dead II set Ash against a demonic spirit capable of possessing people. But a lot of that movie's success hinged on the fact that the main character was trapped in a cabin out in the woods. The tree themselves came to life, so he couldn't venture out far; he was reduced to remaining in that little space, where the Deadite could strike at him at its leisure.
2) The Descent had a bunch of scary bat-people, but a lot of its terror came from the fact that the cast was trapped deep underground in unexplored caves. They had only a few meager sources of light and were completely lost ... the movie could have almost been as horrifying without the bat-people.
3) Alien. Set on a space ship, millions upon millions of miles away from human civilization. They're effectively trapped in a steel metal cage with a creature with acid for blood.
4) Tremors. OK, not the most terrifying movie, but it had a few scares. A lot of that came from the location of the little town: in the middle of a desert valley, with no ability to go for help unless someone was willing to risk getting eaten by the graboids.
5) The Thing. Trapped with an alien that can mimic any life form in the middle of the Antarctic, where it's so cold you can barely walk outside. Thousands of miles away from anything. See also 30 Days of Night for the same idea.
6) The Mist. Trapped in a grocery store surrounded by monsters. 'Nuff said.

One final thought: everyone has different thoughts about what makes a horrifying monster. The one threat that everyone can agree on, however, is the person standing right next to you. At their worst, people are stupid, savage animals who will tear each other apart at the first opportunity.

Use the brutal sociopath who kills for his own amusement. Use the apocalyptic cult intent on destroying the world. Use the greedy corporate executive or treasure hunter who unleashes a great evil on the world simply for personal gain. Use the frightened survivor who betrays his comrades simply to save his own skin. Use the frightened mob wielding pitchforks and torches ... against the PCs.

And if you use monsters and NPCs who resemble the players' loved ones, don't make it obvious. "The ghoul looks like Sara" is going to come off really cheesy, but using similar characteristics will be effective.

Adumbration
2008-06-06, 12:37 PM
Has anyone tried a horror campaign on a PbP? If so, how did it work out?

Silence
2008-06-06, 12:43 PM
The trick with horror is to mess with people's minds. What I like to do with horror is to slowly wade my players into it. Have them go on the normal dungeon crawl, and something happen.

Work at that something, messing with the edges of their mind. Up front confrentation in not your friend. Eventually, lure them into an all out horror situation, like the ones presented by Face Of Evil.

kamikasei
2008-06-06, 12:53 PM
1) Evil Dead II ... the main character was trapped
2) The Descent ... the cast was trapped
3) Alien ... They're effectively trapped
4) Tremors ... in the middle of a desert valley, with no ability to go for help
5) The Thing ... Trapped
6) The Mist ... Trapped

Is anyone sensing a theme?

FoE
2008-06-06, 01:01 PM
Is anyone sensing a theme?

Like I said: location, location, location. Not all great horror movies depend on it, but it does help. And remember that Humans Are Bastards (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HumansAreBastards) and should be treated as such.

Also, there are frustratingly few synonyms for "trapped." :smalltongue:

EDIT: I recommend reading the TV Tropes file on Body Horror as well. The idea of mutating your characters, infecting them with disease or subjugating their wills with parasites implanted in their bodies ... well, it translates to good times. :smallbiggrin:

puppyavenger
2008-06-06, 01:28 PM
Like I said: location, location, location. Not all great horror movies depend on it, but it does help. And remember that Humans Are Bastards (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HumansAreBastards) and should be treated as such.

Also, there are frustratingly few synonyms for "trapped." :smalltongue:

contained, retained, detained, held, captured.

SurlySeraph
2008-06-06, 01:34 PM
If you want a lot of goddamn terrifying events that you can use, go through this thread (http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=166882). It's extremely long, and a lot of the suggestions only apply to modern settings, so you can't use all of them. There are dry periods in it where all of the suggestions are variations on "The mirror is showing different things from reality!" and "You walk into a room. EVERYTHING IN THE ROOM IS MADE OUT OF FETUSES.", but most of it is excellent.


16. A Hellwasp Swarm, a Seedroach Swarm, and a Monstrous Spider/Scorpion Crossbreed, all fighting to see who gets to kill the party first.

So... basically a giant camel spider (http://www.camelspiders.net/camel-spider.htm)?

hamlet
2008-06-06, 01:36 PM
First, go watch the old Star Trek TNG episode Skin of Evil: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skin_of_Evil

This is a good example, though of a not particularly good episode, of what makes scary. Not the idea of something so inhumanly evil, but that it was clever enough to make the characters face a horrifying choice and it sat there tormenting them for the better part of an hour long show.

Second, the Uncanny Valley is your friend. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

Third, inhumane humans are better villains and horror "monsters" than humanish monsters. For example, a doctor in a children's hospital with split personalities who hires the PC's to determine what's killing children in his ward late at night, only to discover that the doctor's split personality harbors a serial killer mind that smothers the kiddies in their beds at night with their own pillows.

Last, triangular halls. I don't know why, but a hallway that, in cross section, only has three sides is unnerving. Maybe it's the slightly claustrophobic feel of the walls slanting in on you, or maybe it's the "just not right" ness of it, but a triangular hall is unsettling to many. It also makes it tough to use weapons that rely on swinging as opposed to stabbing motions.

timbuck_hunter
2008-06-06, 01:36 PM
A horror system my group tried was hunter:the reckoning,
A tactic- no weapons besides what you could find or improvise- nothing could scare a PC more.

FoE
2008-06-06, 01:53 PM
contained, retained, detained, held, captured.

Use those in a sentence and see if you still think those are effective.

"You are DETAINED in an abandoned underground labyrinth!"
"You are RETAINED in a ghost ship floating on the high seas!"
"You are CONTAINED in a cabin in the middle of the woods!"

"Captured" and "held" don't really work unless, you know, you're actually captured or held by someone.

Everything in the room is made of fetuses seems like Narm to me, Surly.

Adumbration
2008-06-06, 01:55 PM
Imprisoned, perhaps?

Tsotha-lanti
2008-06-06, 01:57 PM
Why do people have to post these stupid, huge pictures? I thought there was some forum rule about them. Just stop, please.


Lovecraft never tried to frighten you with the monster that jumped out of the closet, of the vampire that would lure you away and drink your blood . . .

Yes, that's like the complete opposite of what I was advising-- oh wait. No, it not. :smallconfused:

Don't start characterising me and my arguments as the exact opposite of what I've written, please.


BLASPHEMY!!! :smalltongue:

Actually, your problem seems to be that Lovecraft's work wasn't designed to be "scary" so much as "horrifying." Yes, there is a difference.

Have you actually read Lovecraft, or do you just have no taste? He was a terribly writer. The only thing scary was his vision, which only came through in a few stories (Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Pickman's Model, and so on).

Lovecraft was a complete hack, plain and simple. His horror wasn't "intellectual," it was pretentious. He was mostly obsessed with his own phobias (which is why he wrote the same two stories about 15-20 times each; "Man has lived for unnaturally long time" and "Men degenerated into monsters"), and with making really terrible knock-offs of Poe. He started a movement and wrote a few good stories, but that's it. He's the Freud of horror - his stuff was crap, but he shifted a paradigm.

The reason you should never, ever try to imitate Lovecraft when you write or DM horror is that unless you're a best-selling horror author, I'm pretty sure you do not have the sheer vision that carried through those few good stories despite the amateurish and awkward writing, the embarrassing over-expositions, and the like. (Admittedly, the single worst example of all this wasn't all Lovecraft's fault; The Lurker at the Treshold was partly written by August Derleth, and the first chapter is actually good. I stopped reading halfway into the multi-page idiotic exposition monologue in the third chapter. It killed the whole story dead.) Even The Shadow Over Innsmouth is almost ruined by the bum's exposition dialogue - it's tacky, it's clumsy, and it's way too much. Fortunately, the chase makes up for it.


If players are level 8, I throw EL 11s at them. I make them fight for their lives. I make them trapped, in pain, half dead, desperately trying to escape. I hurt them as bad as I can, but sometimes I fudge the die rolls so that they don't acutally die, but it gives them the illusion that they do.

That's not enough, actually. I run EL X+3 encounters as standard "tough" encounters in my games.

To make the monster unfair enough to be scary, you have to make sure of a few things specifically:
1. The PCs must have no chance in hell of taking it in a straight fight. (If they're supposed to eventually defeat it, it should have a weakness they discover. But there's plenty of ways to do this better. For instance, the monster could be a lich. The PCs can't defeat it in a fight, and instead have to find its phylactery and destroy it.)
2. The PCs must have no way to catch it. This means it has to be really mobile, or really undetectable.


Is anyone sensing a theme?

That's a good catch. It's a critical element. Whenever you plan a horror plot, you need to ask this:
"Why the hell don't they just get away from the horror?"

You're not dealing with stupid characters in a badly-directed horror movie. You're dealing with PCs - the ultimate survivors. Why can't they just bug out the moment they realize they're in over their heads?

The Ravenloft setting has a huge metaphysical underpinning excusing this. You can't get away from the horror because you can't leave. You're trapped in a "mini-world" with it. (It's actually one of the reasons I love the setting.)

FoE
2008-06-06, 02:38 PM
Tsotha-lanti, I'm willing to agree that H.P. Lovecraft wasn't a particularly good writer; he was a racist, he tended to rely on the same type of characters over and over and he ... damn, I can't think today ... "relied on big words too much."

But I don't think you can argue that the themes of his work that of man's insignificance in a vast universe populated by entities beyond human understanding and indifferent to our existence weren't amazing.

In any case, I don't think we should turn this thread into a critique of Lovecraft's works.

ghost_warlock
2008-06-06, 02:43 PM
Also, there are frustratingly few synonyms for "trapped." :smalltongue:

For a horror campaign, you need only one: claustraphobic.

Otherwise, I can't offer much more advice than what everyone else has been saying.


Limit resources the characters have access to (hp, spells, ammo, effective weapons, light sources).
At least some of the time, if they've got to fight, make them do it at a disadvantage - such as when sqeezing (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/combat/combatModifiers.htm#favorableandUnfavorableConditi ons) through a tight space, in the dark, or on unfavorable terrain.
Occasionally ask the players to make Listen/Spot rolls and then go "hmmmm."
Give them deadlines for action/make them fight the clock every once in a while. Limit how much time they have to decide what to do in some circumstances (if they can't decide in, say 3-10 seconds their character does nothing but stand there in shock/fear/etc.).


As for monsters, consider using meenlocks. They're terrifying for a variety of reasons.

Tsotha-lanti
2008-06-06, 02:49 PM
But I don't think you can argue that the themes of his work that of man's insignificance in a vast universe populated by entities beyond human understanding and indifferent to our existence weren't amazing.

That'd be the "vision" I referred to. That's why he did shift a paradigm - it wasn't his technique that spawned a whole subculture of writers (which culminated in D&D, funnily enough), but the seed of the Cthulhu Mythos - the overarching ideas behind the better stories.

Xuincherguixe
2008-06-06, 02:56 PM
Well thanks......

Now im not going to be able to sleep for the next 3 nights:smallannoyed:

What is Cthulhoo?

i get that he is a big would eating moster, but there are heaps of them in the MM what makes him scary?:smallconfused:

You see the original post? That picture? That's Cthulhu.

Not his scariest depiction, but the most common I think.


If you think of him just as some freaky alien thing who eats people, he's not really all that scary. Looking at him can drive you insane, but even that's not too scary.

There are numerous takes on him. Some look at Cthulhu as something which is, incredibly silly. It's pretty easy to see how he can be taken that way.


It's actually kind of hard to see how something like this can be taken seriously. But it can, and when it is Cthulhu is absolutely terrifying. I was trying to look for some good Cthulhu pictures, but I couldn't find any that one could take as being particularly scary.

Cthulhu is more than something that destroys the world. Not only is he himself dangerous, but his image is violence. He's extra dimensional, so just looking at him forces the mind into perceiving things it isn't designed for. But in depictions of him, his image seems to imply violence, and death.


Fittingly, my imagination is beyond my ability to describe. But either way, Cthulhu is beyond one of the many world ending monsters. And he's one of the weaker things.

Lycan 01
2008-06-06, 03:12 PM
I just like H. P. Lovecraft's work. I think its interesting, and quite entertaining to read. I love how disturbing some of the tales are, like The Dunwitch Horror. I loved At The Mountains of Madness. The last few pages, with the chase/escape scenes... some of the best stuff I've ever read. Perhaps not in terms of writing style, grammer, technique, ect... But the points he conveyed, the images I saw in my mind........ they were all worth the time I spent reading those tales.



And try the cover of Cthulhu 2000. Tis quite a creepy image...

hamlet
2008-06-06, 03:24 PM
[quote]Have you actually read Lovecraft, or do you just have no taste?[/qupte]

Wow, personal attacks much?

Yes, I've read Lovecraft, many times. And, as I explicetly stated, hist style does not appeal to many modern reasons.

However, that does not mean that because you don't like it, it is by default garbage or hackery.

Illiterate Scribe
2008-06-06, 03:35 PM
Can I be a voice against the overwhelming tide of 'pull a Lovecraft on them'?

There's much more horror in the understated, that which is only hinted at, and is ordinary in its appearance, but just slightly off, or wrong - read, for example. 'The House of Leaves', by Mark Z. Danielewski. There, the entirety of the threat comes from seeing the results of things, which may or may not be just in the minds of the protagonists. You get ULTRA MEGA BONUS POINTS if you can manipulate them into committing the terrible, horrific acts themselves, A. A. Milne heffalump style.

Also, I believe that there may be a campaign seed even better than (with all due respect) SilverClawShift's DM's one:

The wall. (http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/1034444/)

Seriously, read the whole thread. It's amazing, and very creepy.

Myshlaevsky
2008-06-06, 03:49 PM
I'm a huge fan of Lovecraft - I think I've read every horror story he's ever written. I just am saying that his writing style isn't great. I think his serials suffer from it the most, but in some stories it actually enhances the tale. He doesn't scare me, though, and only one tale creeps me out (the Colour Out of Space).

And seriously: Euminedes in the Fourth Floor Lavatory. It's a fantastic horror story. If something like that happened to my character in a game, I would freak out but good.

I would spoiler the plot, but I can't convey anything like the feeling it gives reading it in a brief description. Suffice to say, it's similar to this:


There, the entirety of the threat comes from seeing the results of things, which may or may not be just in the minds of the protagonists

Or it may not be.

Battlefield
2008-06-06, 04:04 PM
I think this thread is starting to drift away from horror campaigns, and into Lovecraftian literature.

Maybe I shouldn't have used those pictures...

Illiterate Scribe
2008-06-06, 04:17 PM
Then we should discuss the relevance of minotaurs instead.

FoE
2008-06-06, 04:32 PM
Or maybe stick with the original intent of the thread: tips for running a horror campaign.

Illiterate Scribe
2008-06-06, 04:38 PM
Believe it or not, that is indeed what I was trying to do. Suit yourself, though, if you'd rather the discussion was just 'LOL CTHULHU HAS BLOODY TENTACLES'.

SurlySeraph
2008-06-06, 04:52 PM
Lovecraft was a complete hack, plain and simple. His horror wasn't "intellectual," it was pretentious. He was mostly obsessed with his own phobias (which is why he wrote the same two stories about 15-20 times each; "Man has lived for unnaturally long time" and "Men degenerated into monsters"), and with making really terrible knock-offs of Poe. He started a movement and wrote a few good stories, but that's it. He's the Freud of horror - his stuff was crap, but he shifted a paradigm.

But Poe wrote "Man gets buried alive" and "Man is driven insane by repetitive sound" over and over. Repeating the same themes isn't a problem if you do those themes well.


Everything in the room is made of fetuses seems like Narm to me, Surly.

Most of the posts are great, but yeah, there's some narm there.

Tsotha-lanti
2008-06-06, 05:17 PM
Back on track; let's see if I can get comprehensive.

1. It doesn't matter what style of horror you're doing - gothic, Call of Cthulhu, Clive Barker. It's all the same thing, the themes just vary. The techniques - the good ones - are the same.

2. Tension. This is what "horror" means, in this context. We're not talking about revulsion-horror, or surprised-fear. We're talking about a chill in the bone, a tension, suspense - a gnawing fear of what is to come. Horror isn't a reaction - it's a prolonged state.

3. Fear of the unknown. (Or "Fear of the daaaaark, fear of the daaaa~aark...") What you don't know and don't see will scare you the most. Don't throw gore, axe-wielding maniacs, or slavering monsters at your players. (Nobody was scared by Saw or Hostel; we were just disgusted. It's not the same thing, and you don't want to go for disgusted in a game.)

4. Subtlety. Always go for understated rather than overstated. This goes right along with the above: describing mutilation in horrible detail is pointless. The most you'll evoke is disgust. A blood-stain in the crib, however...

5. The extreme. Sometimes, though, being direct works. Some of the best bits of Heroes of Horror are the "random horror effect" entries along the lines of "While eating, one of the PCs suddenly bites on something hard. Spitting it out, he sees it is a human finger." Cannibalism is a really squicky taboo, and using it or similar taboos sparingly and elegantly can be very effective. There are others, but the effect on people varies. Luckily, working for a very small audience, you can play with this. Some people can't stand rotting flesh - the buzzing flies, the smell... Some people will be freaked out by the idea of cruelty or violence toward children - the smaller the worse. Elements like rape or incest can be exceedingly effective, but be even more subtle than usual there; the implication of past sexual violence is plenty effective. Making the players break the taboos is incredibly effective - what do they do if the evil is a child - or, better yet, is possessing an innocent child? What if they killed someone, thinking they were doing the right thing, then find out the victim was blameless?

6. Unfairness. The players must not have the power to fight the horror. There must be something that makes the enemy untouchable. If the danger is physical, this means the source must be invincible, invulnerable, undetectable, uncatchable... something like that. This isn't a matter of CRs in D&D. It has to be absolute. Erik knows all the secret doors and passages and escape routes in the opera house. The ghost can't even be touched. The house itself is evil - you can't kill a house. The creature won't die - it just keeps getting up. The evil infects people - you don't even know who the danger is right now. The monster is too fast and too stealthy to even see. Sometimes, there's never going to be a way to win against the horror - sometimes, you just have to try to survive. (See The Descent.)

7. No Way Out. This is critical. It's not scary if you can just walk away. Countless horror movies fail at this. If the whole object of the horror plot isn't getting away from the horror, then you have to give a good reason for the players to stick around. Expecting them to just "play along" dulls the horror and may require too much suspension of disbelief. You have to trap them somehow, or give them a really powerful motivation to keep digging. (This is missing in many Lovecraft stories, for instance; so the protagonists are driven by deus ex machina obsession, as in Call of Cthulhu; or by ridiculous naivete and scientific curiosity, as in Whisperer in Darkness.)

8. The incomprehensible. This isn't limited to Lovecraft. A lot of horror includes this element - it's never explained how the "zombies" in Stephen King's Cell were created. This plays into the unknown. You've seen what you're dealing with, but you don't know where it came from or what it really is. You know there's something wrong with the house or the forest, but you don't know what. If the object of the adventure is survival, the players may never find out what they went up against - and it may haunt them for a long while.

9. Knowledge is power. There should be a story (especially in gothic horror; but if you're doing gothic, you know all about the importance of story and specific elements in gothic horror, right?), and the players should have a way to find it out. This is especially showcased by hauntings, which are classically caused by a specific event, often centuries past. The story should be layered. The longer and harder the players dig, the deeper into the story they get, and the more disturbing and horrifying it is.

10. Pacing. Horror isn't about fighting. It's about building tension - combat is a release (see below). You want to harry your players with the disturbing, the bizarre, the unfair, the unnatural. There may be smaller monsters, but they're not the thing - in Silent Hill (the film), the various monsters are just more of the horrible. There's no end to them - you can't win by killing them. You can't even buy safety. You can work combat into the game, but most of it shouldn't even be challenging. Ideally, you only need one combat in a horror session, at the end.

11. Release and empowerment. You spend most of the session building up that tension, but eventually it has to be released. This is critical. There has to be a confrontation, a resolution. Action is a good way to do it - it empowers the PCs to defend themselves, to fight the source of the fear, to overcome it, to dispel their fear.

12. ... is it over? Even after they've won, the players should be left with that nagging feeling: did we really win? Maybe they still don't know what they faced, or if they really defeated it. Maybe the victory wasn't worth it. Maybe it was an empty victory - everyone they tried to protect is already dead. Later, it may come back to haunt them.


To read/watch:

The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward stores, by H.P. Lovecraft. The second, especially, showcases the onion-layer story. The first has horrible over-exposition, but it also has a great action sequence (replicated in spine-chilling style by the computer game Dark Corners of the Earth; the unfairness really gets to you) and a rather shocking ending. In a similar vein, Rats in the Walls has a great, bleak ending.

Silent Hill, the film. The climax/release relies on gore too much, but it's got a twisted story revealed in layers, great creepy effects, excellent unfairness, and entrapment. And the ending...

The Descent, film. Trapped, inexplicable monsters with possible grotesque origins, wicked psychology...

The Abandoned, film. Excellent atmosphere, slow and deliberate horror, unfairness and entrapment, a layered story... great haunting.

Ju-on, film. The original. The throat-rattle sound effect alone is great - it's the highest creepiness-to-budget ratio of any effect ever, in any film. The film also deliberately avoids the worst tricks of modern horror movies: music tailored to "accent" the scene (a great way to ruin tension; "false crescendos" in music are the biggest detractor from atmosphere), and "boo!" scares. It's awful, grotesque, and the way the husband treats that bag makes your stomach turn. Some of the sequels and remakes capture some of this, but the original is the best. (The Hollywood sequel The Grudge II uses the slow horror you know and dread is coming.)

1408, the short story by Stephen King, published in the collection Everything's Eventual. Other stories in the book are excellent showcases of various horror elements, too - but 1408 is absolutely disturbing. (Don't waste your time on the film, though; they ditched everything that was good in the novel, stretched it out interminably, and added pointless crap. They also fell to all the common horror movie mistakes.)

Lycan 01
2008-06-06, 05:22 PM
AHEM. Moving back to the original topic...


What is your group afraid of?


Death?

Kinda like the "paintings in a house" idea mentioned earlier, only its paintings of themselves, dying. Or they find a skeleton decked out in the same stuff they have. Or a tombstone that says "Here likes -PC name here-"


Fire?

The PC has to walk across a small stone bridge surrounded by walls of flames, with charred corpses hanging from the ceiling on red-hot chains. Oh, and there are fire traps at the end of the bridge...


Darkness?

A room with no light. None at all. Torches, Nightvision, anything that lets you see in the dark... doesn't work. Listen checks reward them with strange noises... Scratching, screeching, heavy breathing, chains clinking, creepy stuff like that... Or course, nothing is there, and after a few rounds they all stumble down a hole and into the next area...


Heights?

Same as above, but instead of walls of flames, its just a really, really, really big hole. As they walk across, describe how far down the hole goes, and that it seems as though the darkness is neverending. Oh, and keep rolling dice, as if checking for something. When he gets near the end, make him do a Saving Throw to avoid losing his balance. If he doesn't get a 20 or higher, he falls. Describe how his character staggering, flailing his arms, leaning towards the abyss, and then falling towards the darkness. But then make him do another Saving Throw that requires a 1 or higher in order for him to throw himself forward to the safety of the ledge at the end of the bridge.

Spiders?

Dude, use your imagination. :smalltongue:



I know its really mean to play on their fears, but it is garunteed to freak them out. :smallamused:

evisiron
2008-06-06, 05:25 PM
I know a man (who runs a gaming store now) who is the greatest Cthulhu DM I have ever heard of.

The legendary event was a game he ran one night for some friends. To play it, he went into a strange part of town, and rented a room that was stripped bare in an old mostly unused hotel. He systematically took out every lightbulb in the rooms to be used. He then set up a series of speakers in circle formation hidden around the room, linked remotely to his MP3 player.

When the players arrived, he lit a four hour candle and told them: "When the light is gone, the darkness has you".
The game began lit only by a candle, with the sound of strange things skittering through the walls...

NephandiMan
2008-06-06, 05:33 PM
I only skimmed this thread (especially the part where it got derailed into a contention about Lovecraft's literary merit), so these points may have been covered already, but I wouldn't name them unless I thought they bared repeating in any case.

1. Suggesting something is always scarier than hitting people over the head with it. But it works with things that aren't monsters, as well - possibly even better than it does with them. Have the PCs glimpse something out of the corner of their eyes, only to have them turn and see nothing. Have a painting wherein the figures almost look like they're moving, but never actually change their position (I wouldn't recommend the portrait with the eyes that seem to follow you, however - that one's been done just a bit too often). This is the same basic principle behind amorphous monsters - if there's no firm outline, the heroes never quite know where to stab or shoot - assuming that thing can even be stabbed or shot.

2. The less explanation, the better. One of the reasons D&D has trouble supporting horror campaigns is because A Wizard Did It (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AWizardDidIt) is widely considered a valid explanation. (Whether it's actually that, or merely a cop-out, is an exercise I leave to the readers). But that still leaves a great deal of room for unexplained and inexplicable noises, ghostly figures, footsteps running back and forth over the PCs' heads, and pretty much every other gothic trope you can think of.

3. If you want to provide an explanation, don't always make it a magical or supernatural one. If the characters simply assume that there's a ghost who keeps slamming doors behind them, they'll relax a little when they find out that it's only a flaw in the architecture. And when they're relaxed, they'll let their guard down, and be that much more vulnerable for the next bit of horror you've been saving...

3. This lack of explanation extends to the rules as well. If you want blood to suddenly start dripping from the walls, don't simply let the players have a Will save to disbelieve the illusion (assuming it is an illusion). If there's a monster you don't want them to defeat, don't give it stats. If there's any campaign where arbitrary assertions of DM authority such as these are justified, it's in a horror campaign.

4. Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. Horror is not just about funny noises and awkward architecture - it's about making the PCs (and maybe the players themselves) feel as though they may be facing a threat that is truly beyond their power to surmount. If there's a nearby village, make the inhabitants worn-down, with hollow-looking eyes, and have them jump at every little thing. Make it clear that even if the PCs were willing to simply hang up their weapons and leave, they would not be able to escape the horror.

4a. As a corollary to the "challenge we can't defeat" rule, have some challenges that the PCs can't defeat. If they aren't willing to run, don't be afraid to kill one or more of them - for real, if necessary.

5. Along with the Uncanny Valley (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UncannyValley), Late To The Party (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LateToTheParty) is your friend. Few devices are more effective for merely hinting at a horrific event than to set that event some time in the past, and have the PCs learn about it only through fragmentary (preferably personal) records.

Finally, although it's not relevant to the topic of this thread, I can't simply let the claim that Freud's writing was "crap" pass unchallenged. Apart from a prose style that stands in the front rank of German-language writers, few if any men (or women) have done as much as he to show how difficult it is to be honest with oneself. He thus gave honesty a new dimension. Are some of his more detailed conclusions dated? Possibly - but it's part of his greatness, and his dedication to a truly scientific mindset, that he hoped that would one day be the case.

Lycan 01
2008-06-06, 05:41 PM
The Cthulhu thing is just plain epic. That man deserves a plaque or something that says "Best DM to Ever Exist" on it. :smallamused:

Illiterate Scribe
2008-06-06, 05:59 PM
Back on track; let's see if I can get comprehensive.

1. It doesn't matter what style of horror you're doing - gothic, Call of Cthulhu, Clive Barker. It's all the same thing, the themes just vary. The techniques - the good ones - are the same.

I'd disagree. Gut-horror, is very visceral - it's a short-lived, empathic (you're horrified because you imagine you were there), whereas psychological horror works more slowly, and can pursue you outside the medium; the aformentioned House of Leaves had me genuinely scared, in the real world. Alternatively, some of the best horror comes from 'how could I let myself do that' feeling; the former type comes from the roleplaying, but the latter is actually a personal thing.


2. Tension.

True.


3. Fear of the unknown.

Yes, but remember also the horror of the known - seeing everyday things in a new and terrifying way. This was (sorta, I'm being generous here) what Lovecraft did - take our current perspective of mankind, and put it in the perspective that we've denied, but known all along - how tiny we are.


4. Subtlety.

5. The extreme.

Indeed - massive juxtapositions, which wane as quickly as the arrive, are good. You don't have to make


6. Unfairness.

Difficult - in the 'haunted house' idea, for example, a natural (and oft-unused reaction) is to just go into a primal, atavistic mode - 'let it burn', and raze the thing to the ground. I'll address how to deal with this later.


7. No Way Out.

Hmm, it's important not to railroad trap them. Horrors that pursue the characters, whether by conscious intent or naturally, a la Oedipus, can solve this problem.


8. The incomprehensible.

You underestimate the power of horror in plain sight. A lot of things today, especially a lot of the atrocities that are committed, are horrifying because, if you let your mind wander, you can begin to follow that path - making things incomprehensible just means that they are alien, but you want to be making them uncomfortably close.


9. Knowledge is power.

Don't let every loose end tie up, though - it's a fine line between a story which doesn't make sense and one that


10. Pacing.

Yes.


11. Release and empowerment.

I see the importance of this, but you risk turning it from horror to normal fantasy, if truth, justice, and the American Way win out over the horror at the end.


12. ... is it over?

Make it change them. He who fights with monsters and all that.

Also, check out theHolders Series; (http://shii.org/knows/Holders_Series) they're some nifty, terrifying, vignettes.

Silence
2008-06-06, 06:58 PM
When the players arrived, he lit a four hour candle and told them: "When the light is gone, the darkness has you".
The game began lit only by a candle, with the sound of strange things skittering through the walls...

That is epic.

I want that DM.

Night10194
2008-06-06, 07:29 PM
Honestly, I prefer not to use 'Or Is It'. In fact, that trope is why I hate a lot of horror stories, along with the tendency to kill the characters off before the climax and just end there.

To me, the best way to give closure to a story, but scare the players, is 'It Is. But That Isn't.' Certainly, they may have banished the unholy nightmare beast lurking in the attic and prancing out at night to chew out human hearts and reanimate the bodies under its control (Kudos if you know the CoC module that's from!), but *who summoned it?* Was there a hidden cost to the banishing?

In other words, they have solved this mystery, but all it seems to do is lead to greater and greater trouble as they seek the creature behind the creature, and the inhumane, malevolent man or woman behind the madness.

Also, I firmly believe one of the best ways to scare players in fantasy is to mess with magic. Players are used to magic in D&D. It's a simple, easy tool. What you can do to scare the bajeezus out of them is to take it to its root as a force of chaos that just doesn't make any sense, and by its nature, cannot make sense. Hint at a 'true' magic permeating the area they're in that sometimes, with callous randomness, messes with their spells. Start making them make Concentration checks to accomplish *anything* magically, and make their magic weapons go on the fritz. Don't take magic away, just make it as doubtful and chaotic as their own fraying sanity. Meanwhile, introduce foes whose magic is working just fine, and imply there is an answer...but that only an insane mind can truly grasp it, a price the PCs probably aren't willing to pay unless utterly desperate.

Also, with magic weapons out of the picture, or functioning in strange ways unless they can solve a way to 'insulate' it against the chaos, you'll find players can't kill a surprising number of enemies anymore, and must instead seek ways to trap, flee, or outsmart them. This makes it easy to avoid the classic 'I roll to hit. I hit. My HP is low. I withdraw and let someone else tank this beast' combat that can become too commonplace.

Finally, do away with random encounters. Plan encounters out in advance, and make every one of them that has any combat quite dangerous. Imply a purpose to every one of them. Perhaps one group of monsters is, for some reason, dead set on killing the Cleric, and will withdraw if they succeed, even if winning. Perhaps another simply tries to capture one character alive, or blind the party. Imply there is reason and rationale, but make it bizarre and difficult to descipher. Keep them guessing and keep them harassed and in danger.

Hope this helps some.

Tsotha-lanti
2008-06-06, 07:43 PM
To me, the best way to give closure to a story, but scare the players, is 'It Is. But That Isn't.' Certainly, they may have banished the unholy nightmare beast lurking in the attic and prancing out at night to chew out human hearts and reanimate the bodies under its control (Kudos if you know the CoC module that's from!), but *who summoned it?* Was there a hidden cost to the banishing?

Module? Wasn't that in the 5.X core book?

Night10194
2008-06-06, 10:05 PM
Well done, sir! Considering it was a self-contained adventure, I consider it a module. Perhaps my terminology is incorrect. However, your prize is a gruesome and unexpected death, sacrificed to the unholy lord of the cult of the starry wisdom.

Did I say that? I meant a delicious piece of cake. They just sound so similar...

Incidentally, I've never managed to use that rulebook. My players refuse to play CoC with me. They demand other, slightly less lethal horror games instead.

Apologies for the off topic post, but I felt it merited some form of reply, since I did ask a question.

Goff
2008-06-06, 11:09 PM
He was a terribly writer.

I like irony.

Nonanonymous
2008-06-07, 12:48 AM
What is Cthulhoo?

i get that he is a big would eating moster, but there are heaps of them in the MM what makes him scary?:smallconfused:

What makes Cthulhu frightening is that he's an unstoppable force of un-nature. His death only stops him from ravaging the world for a few centuries/millenia/indeterminate amount of time. You should pick up the House of Cthulhu by Brian Lumley, it has a lovely tale in it around the end that should put things into a bit more perspective about the horror of Cthluhu than his famous titular story.

Nonanonymous
2008-06-07, 12:51 AM
Has anyone tried a horror campaign on a PbP? If so, how did it work out?

I would also appreciate it if someone could answer Adumbration's question here.


Can I be a voice against the overwhelming tide of 'pull a Lovecraft on them'?

The PCs creep into the deserted manor, inching about carefully and hoping that something that doesn't find them first. Suddenly, they begin to hear some strange, even, unnatural noises. Then, out of the darkness, a voice.
"We're no strangers to loooooove!"

How does that sound for a horror campaign?:smallamused:

_Zoot_
2008-06-07, 01:50 AM
"We're no strangers to loooooove!"



i read LFG comics and if i head that being said in a undead voice, i would just run and run and run and run ect

Chronicled
2008-06-07, 02:40 AM
Many thanks to those who have been posting suggestions, both general and specific. There's a lot of very good stuff here I can use...

Tsotha-lanti
2008-06-07, 06:22 AM
Incidentally, I've never managed to use that rulebook. My players refuse to play CoC with me. They demand other, slightly less lethal horror games instead.

The first time I tried to play CoC with my group (like 10 years ago), the players pretty much went insane beforehand. During the adventure, they went into the house heavily armed for no reason (weapons wouldn't have helped in the adventure anyway), attacked a sink and a bed, and ended up pretty much just leaving because they could and because they didn't want to die.

The next time, much later, they all managed to get into the spirit of things instead, and we had a blast.

Silence
2008-06-07, 10:08 AM
Did I say that? I meant a delicious piece of cake. They just sound so similar...

THE CAKE IS A LIE!

Xuincherguixe
2008-06-07, 03:56 PM
THE CAKE IS A LIE!

... OR IS IT?

Illiterate Scribe
2008-06-07, 06:29 PM
The PCs creep into the deserted manor, inching about carefully and hoping that something that doesn't find them first. Suddenly, they begin to hear some strange, even, unnatural noises. Then, out of the darkness, a voice.
"We're no strangers to loooooove!"

How does that sound for a horror campaign?:smallamused:

I would pay money to someone to run a proper, full-sized, utterly terrifying CoC campaign, and then, as the climax, rickroll/bel-air the players. In the meantime:

http://img507.imageshack.us/img507/6770/astleyqq9.gif

puppyavenger
2008-06-07, 06:47 PM
I would pay money to someone to run a proper, full-sized, utterly terrifying CoC campaign, and then, as the climax, rickroll/bel-air the players. In the meantime:

http://img507.imageshack.us/img507/6770/astleyqq9.gif

hurray for sezuires?

Illiterate Scribe
2008-06-07, 06:51 PM
hurray for sezuires?

Hooray for Rick Astley.

Silence
2008-06-07, 07:32 PM
... OR IS IT?

It is. I've tested it.

Battlefield
2008-06-07, 08:05 PM
Anyone have any ideas for a BBEG, aside from the PPDC?

Or Shub-Niggurath/Hastur/Cthulhu/Agamoth/[insert elder god here]?

A couple of Picture-Ideas

http://files.fobby.net/0000/2453/Final_Boss_Giygas.jpg

http://www.games-workshop.de/warhammer40000/races/chaos-space-marines/articles/wallpapers/tzeentch-800.jpg

Collin152
2008-06-07, 08:18 PM
Anyone have any ideas for a BBEG, aside from the PPDC?

Or Shub-Niggurath/Hastur/Cthulhu/Agamoth/[insert elder god here]?

BBEG: A dismembered hand-zombie. With a face on the palm. It walks on two fingers.

Nonanonymous
2008-06-07, 09:08 PM
What makes the Chaos God of change and magic significantly different from the Outer Gods and Old Ones you listed?

I think a great BBEG would be for one of the PCs organs to turn out to be intelligent and evil/demonically possessed and have lots of psychic powers and such.

Euphemism
2008-06-07, 09:57 PM
Chaos God?

And you want to restrict its form?

*WEG*

Make it the players. Describe the people around the table, focusing on the more disturbing aspects of their apperances. "They" speak in unison.

Tsotha-lanti
2008-06-08, 06:45 AM
For horror BBEGs, take a page or two from Supernatural - the monster in question is probably not responsible for all the adventures and horrors, but is instead a "monster on the run" that the PCs, for personal reasons, are determined to stop.

My Ravenloft BBEG is a werebat; the metaplot of the campaign is that the PCs travel across the domains following the lycanthropic bloodline "upwards", trying to find the "sire" and slay it before a little girl several PCs are related to is transformed into a werebat, having received a bite in the "opening sequence." Along the way, they'll face and defeat several werebats, hopefully discover this bloodline's attributes (their bane, their trigger, etc.), and - of course - run into endless horrors completely unrelated to their hunt, what with this being Ravenloft.

That's not to say the BBEG can't be responsible for all the evil; from Freddy Krueger-style masters of a nightmarish domain to Dracula-like lords of a vampiric breed, there's plenty of examples of those, too.

hamishspence
2008-06-09, 06:35 AM
Cthulu 20 and Heroes of Horror are good sources. unless you specifically want to, its not a good idea to overshow the monster. Godzilla isn't horror, because he's very, very overt. Same would apply if your final battle looks like the modern Godzilla movie with Cthulu substituted. More fun to have something stalking the party without them ever getting a good look at it.

hamlet
2008-06-09, 09:49 AM
Anyone have any ideas for a BBEG, aside from the PPDC?

Or Shub-Niggurath/Hastur/Cthulhu/Agamoth/[insert elder god here]?

A couple of Picture-Ideas


The best BBEG in a horror campaign is not a goo dripping monster, but a "normal" person. Somebody so close to what the PC's are themselves, that they start to question whether they are, in fact, so different.

Of course, the cultists of the un-namable and horrible things that creep through the night and drive men mad (patent pending) are common, but they don't always have to be.

Disease is always a fun thing to horrify players, though to make it truly effective, you'd have to make them more dangerous than the 3.x rule books do. Suggest that you pick up the Hackmaster GMG and look at the disease tables there to see how it should be done. Disease can raise the paranoia level by a factor of 1000X if you get accross to the players that they are in REAL danger.

So, all that rambling and down to my idea: a famous healer in a moderatly sized settlement (or a smaller settlement that is part of a larger cluster) is known throughout the area as one who performs charity services for the poor, healing at no cost, or at barter and even then, no more than a family could reasonably afford to part with. In actuallity, he is a low level priest of a god of plague and disease who is working to spread the mark of his patron diety throughout this region.

The disease itself is a "slow burn" sort of illness that, until it starts penetrating the upper strata of society, will likely go unnoticed (after all, if the poor die of disease, nobody really takes notice). Once infection occurs, it takes approxaimtely 1-2 weeks before the first symptoms appear, and then another 2 weeks for the disease to run its course.

The PC's might actually be hired by this BBEG to investigate the cause of the illness and be sent off on a wild chase for some miracle cure, but at the same time, be infected and become unwitting carriers of the disease and spread it to major population centers. By the time they realize how serious things have gotten (at which point they will have started showing symptoms themselves) they will need to start tracing back along their paths to try and determine what happened, how they got infected, and what's going on.

For added fun, infect only one or two of the PC's and, when they start getting sick, watch the party fall apart as they fight over keeping the "unclean" ones away from them and try to quarantine each other.

Of course, this only works well if you use the modified rules for diseases because according to 3.x, I think, a single cure disease would fix the entire problem and end your fun too soon.

hamishspence
2008-06-09, 02:13 PM
In 4th ed powerful diseases are hard for low level clerics etc to cure without killing the patient in the process. Interesting change: does make the Deadly Disease plotline more usable. And yes, human evil can be worse, but do not overdo: this is D&D not Silence of the Lambs d20.

hamlet
2008-06-09, 03:31 PM
In 4th ed powerful diseases are hard for low level clerics etc to cure without killing the patient in the process. Interesting change: does make the Deadly Disease plotline more usable. And yes, human evil can be worse, but do not overdo: this is D&D not Silence of the Lambs d20.

Hanible Lector is a wussy.:smalltongue:

But you're right, overdoing it is the quickest way to kill the mood.

The key for human villains is believable motivation and action. No villain should be hammy or silly, nor should they reveal their plans when they think they have the PC's in their total power.

Mundane, generic, human evil can be just as horrifying as anything else, though.

hamlet
2008-06-09, 03:38 PM
Another fun thing to look up is the old 2nd edition Ravenloft material.

There were two creatures there that were outstanding (and still are really).

1) The Goblyn (note the spelling). These are, essentially, cursed humans that look faintly goblinish. However, they are quite tough and have a nasty habit of eating the brains of their enemies. They also have a psychic connection with each other that allows them to pull reinforcements very quickly.

2) The Doppleganger Plant. Nuff said.