Best horror system you have used?





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  1. #1
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    Best horror system you have used?

    I have a game coming up where I plan on using some form of horror rules for a variant 4e session.

    I'm looking for tips on horror mechanics you've used for any system, and hopefully I can adopt it somehow to 4e.

    What system did you like best, and why?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

 

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    Horror is in the DM, not the mechanics. Ravenloft never understood that.

    Read up on some classic Horror. Play up your descriptions... remember that subtlety is best.

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    I agree that horror is the purview of the DM as drowbane said, but I do think the game system actually can help or hinder this.

    In my experience if I make players suffer a fear/horror effect players have been known to argue that there's nothing in the rules that states it - and it goes back to me arguing DM's golden rule. Having a system that caters for this and backs you helps a lot.

    I love the Ravenloft setting, and the fact the whole setting is dark and gloomy is great, so I definately recommend it. However the d20 Call of Cthulhu is also very good and dark. The White Wolf World of Darkness series are wonderful (but not d20).

    But at the end of the day if a DM's idea of horror is just "there's a werewolf, kill it" then it won't be very frightening. Last session I had the players walk into their home village and it's become a bit of a ghost town, with belladonna placed on every door, and the houses of some npcs they'd met were broken open with signs of vicious struggle and gore. They never found any bodies, but they became very horrified about the deaths of old contacts and it made it more impacting than being told "there's a werewolf in town and it killed the blacksmith."

    The Ravenloft Dungeon Master's Guide has some good hints and tips on carrying out a good horror campaign.

    And I agree with Drowbane, reading up classic horror or (if you're lazy like me) watching Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and similar classic horror films are very good inspiration!

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    Third me for "Horror is in the DM" but mechanics help, simply because some players will feel no horror other than damage done to their PC a that cannot be handwaved away.

    Its not d20 but the best Horror system I have seen is from Unknown Armies a game in which encounter the unknown or commiting horrible acts (like attacking someone) can either give you "hardened" or "failed" notches and lead to various forms of psychosis.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drowbane View Post
    Horror is in the DM, not the mechanics. Ravenloft never understood that.
    The Ravenloft campaign setting understood it. Unforunately every adventure TSR published for the selling failed to understand it.

    I've had great results with Ravenloft and Call of Cuthulu. I've also been in completely non-scary games using the same systems. On the other end I've been in creepy/scary games run in both Dread and Marvel Super Heroes, so I guess that just goes to show it's the GM that provides the horror, not the ruleset.

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    The Best Horror game I've played and ran is Dread

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    Quote Originally Posted by Qualidar View Post
    The Ravenloft campaign setting understood it. Unforunately every adventure TSR published for the selling failed to understand it.
    Agreed. When TSR ran Ravenloft it was just another Dungeon Bash with only a little more history behind it. But if you look at them they're really no different to any other TSR module except more ghosties and vampires.

    When DYD 3.0 came out Wizards licensed Ravenloft to Sword and Sorcery Studios, which is actually the same people who do the World of Darkness games (ie White Wolf). In their hands the system really took off and became a lot more about mood, dread and corruption, and less about beating up the next monster.

    I still love the (new) Ravenloft, and am very sorry that eventually wizards pulled the plug on the line... I'd jump at buying any more Ravenloft books that come out from SSS. If you're into d20 modern, then the Masque of the Red Death campaign setting (victorian-era Ravenloft in the real world) can be easily adapted and is really good too!

    Quote Originally Posted by Stormborn
    some players will feel no horror other than damage done to their PC a that cannot be handwaved away
    Amen to that. In one of my recent games a player lost 90% of his hp and was still willing to carry on fighting, just thinking "I can take 2 more hits" and knowin the Paladin and Cleric would heal him. But when he lost a negative level to a vamp energy drain and saw the very real prospect of losing it for good, that was a whole different kettle of fish. One of the other players however saw the vamp, and even though he passed a will save still told me his character wanted to flee. You have roleplayers, and you have stat-players.

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    I used Call of Cthulhu d20 to great effect - but again, that was largely a result of the preparation and mood I put into it... And, most crucially, my players' buy in.

    I'd just strongly urge you to find a simple rules-set where the mechanics disappear. CoC d20 worked like this for us, since we didn't worry overmuch about positioning, AoOs, and never brought out a battle map. At its core, CoC d20 is hugely stripped-down, and is very transparent. The less obtrusive your rules-set, the more the players will get absorbed into the scenario.

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    I'll toss in a plug for Uncanny Midnight Tales here. Faster and simpler than CoC d20, but a bit more detailed than CoC/BRP. Makes a nice middle ground, IMO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Obryn View Post
    I used Call of Cthulhu d20 to great effect - but again, that was largely a result of the preparation and mood I put into it... And, most crucially, my players' buy in.
    Agreed. My last CoC d20 game went really well, but it wasn't actually the mechanics as the effort put into having the right music to set the right mood, the right props (e.g. I printed out a letter they'd find from a dead man and let them read it rather than just tell them about it), the right plotline to hook them and, most importantly, having a really good set of players who got very into character and made it a great session.

    Have played CoC with other groups before and it's little more than a 1920s-era monster bash.

    Personally I find that the D&D 4e rules seems a little TOO geared towards "the encounter" (which is really just combat) for my liking. Even the DMG seems to have 3 quarters of it geared towards how to make the right combat encounter. Imo this may not really be the best system for a horror game.

    I've done scary Star Wars sessions before (New Jedi Order era against the Yuuzhan Vong) so I digress it's 90% DM and Players and not the system. But I'd recommend bringing in an expanded fear/horror/madness system like Ravenloft or Sanity like CoC d20 to help push statistically what the PCs (and NPCs) react like.

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