(cross-posted from the ol' blog)

Undead, curses, ancient tombs, forgotten civilizations, demons, devils, fell magic, bizarre monsters that turn you to stone or paralyze you or spirit you off for a year or kill you just by viewing them, etc.

Sudden death potentially behind every door.

Of course the players don't get scared, but if they don't get worried for their characters, I'm thinking that's a classic and true case of a referee not doing it right.

I consider most of the classic fantasy, and certainly the pulpy stuff, to effectively be horror as well. Or at least it would be if you remove the plot immunity of the protagonists. Lord of the Rings becomes quite the macabre tale if the Riders catch Frodo before he leaves the shire. Or the hobbits don't trust Aragorn at the Prancing Pony and are murdered in their sleep. Or if the Watcher eats Frodo before the door of Moria. Or if the Balrog snuffs everyone out. (or if Gollum just murders Bilbo on contact several years earlier...) Or... Or... Or...

Never mind The Frost Giant's Daughter if Conan had been any less a swordsman. Black Colossus? Iron Shadows in the Moon? Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser could have easily ended up as bloody stains on walls in Jewels in the Forest, Goodwin and O'Keefe and the rest might not have been as cordially received in Muria.

But if you're playing the scenario out without any prodding or predestined conclusion or narrative immunity, as if it's really happening, all of these things would be very possible outcomes to the situations encountered. In a game, you don't know whether you're playing the daring rogue in an adventure story who snatches riches from the jaws of death, or a victim destined to rot unburied in a morbid tale of greed gone bad and evil powers run amok.

And even when the situation isn't horrific, it's tragic. King Arthur, Elric of MelnibonÚ, Skafloc...

Every character who goes on any adventure worthy of the name risks an end such as Liane the Wayfarer suffered. Every treasure-seeking expedition risks the fate of Satampra Zeiros and Tirouv Ompallios.

I remember this when creating my adventures, my situations, my encounters. Exploration is one classic part of the game, but the discovery of the Dark and the Deadly is invariably the outcome of this exploration.

Adventurers in role-playing games aren't special because they are gifted, they are special because they are fools who have no regard for their own lives - else they'd do something far more sensible with their lives.