I posted last week about the possibility of running a Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green game. Of course, this got me thinking about Horror RPG’s in particular. I have a couple of newbies in new gaming group so I was thinking how would I differentiate the play between a horror RPG and good old D&D.
Let me start with this point. IMHO, the two best horror RPG’s are Call of Cthulhu and Chill. These games have two some similar mechanics and design philosophies. Horror is about fear. Chill has a solid Fear mechanic and, as most of you know, CofC has the Sanity mechanic which can play into a fear mechanic. So basically, there are rules to say when your character might run away or otherwise crack.
Now, this is the big one. The monsters. Sure a lot of the common horror monsters are in D&D. There’s ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and zombies even a few things that mirror or were inspired by Lovecraftian horrors. And, of course, many of those horrors have been converted to various editions of D&D. But generally in D&D, most of those monsters are designed with expectation that the player characters will beat the monsters. Heck, you’ve spells and other magical abilities plus magic swords and crap. That certainly evens up that playing field.
But in Horror RPG, the monsters are designed with the intention that they are going to wipe the floor with a party of meddling kids. The player characters probably won’t have a magical arsenal at their disposal.
The basic formula for the monster of the week type scenario is pretty simple. Bad things happen. Player characters investigate. Figure out it’s a monster. Research and discover what monster. Research how to kill said monster. If they make wrong assumption anywhere along the line then that final confrontation will go very badly for them.
I’ve also heard the argument that Horror games don’t lend themselves to heroic adventures. Really? Who’s more heroic the normal guy who’s outclassed by the monster or Mr. +5 Sword of Killing with a Resurrection scroll at the ready just in case?
Yeah, I know. YMMV. It all depends on the campaign and other factors. There’s more than one kind of fantasy campaign and there’ s more than one kind of horror campaign. Just some random thoughts.