D&D is a Horror Game - Page 3




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  1. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Jack7 View Post
    Jim, it's an interesting and well-conceived argument in my opinion. I don't think it is true if you say, D&D is only a horror game. Then again as many others have pointed out it is silly to say it has no horror elements and horror is in many cases a perceptual matter in the eyes of the beholder (not that Beholder, who is certainly horrible, but the beholder beholding the encounter).
    Remaining text omitted.

    Nicely written!

    My own take on the seed post is that a lot of game situations ought to frighten the characters a whole lot more than they end up doing, and that is a telling point.

 

  • #22
    Which brings up a secondary point ...

    Have you ever had a character act more, well, in character, in response to a game event, to the consternation of the other players because it was tactically a wrong thing to do?

    Let's say your character had a near fatal encounter with a pack of undead at a low level, and you decided that he should have an extra fear of undead. There is no in-game mechanic, but you decide that that would fit the character development. Then, at a later level, you encounter more undead of a similar sort, and on your own roll a Will save, which you fail, so you decide to have your character back way off to a safer spot. Meanwhile, the undead advance to munch on your buddies?

    That would be fun, and in character, but would annoy the heck out of a lot of players.

    I'm thinking that the game could use a bit more guidelines, if not outright mechanics, to inject more basic emotions into play: Fight or flight, fear and panic, rage, and apathy, recklessness, bold determination, apathy, and so forth, all should make there mark in the game.

  • #23
    The definition of horror is relative to a particular culture. To modern Westerners, used to living pampered existences provided by our technology, being powerless is perhaps the ultimate horror. Pre-modern people were used to being powerless, so what horrified them was the transgression of accepted boundaries, whether of class, gender roles, religious expression, or even aesthetics. Living in more chaotic times, they needed to take comfort in the belief that somehow there was some kind of cosmic order that could be restored or imposed on earth. Therefore, the worst thing someone or something could do was to oppose that cosmic order, which could be as simple a matter as wearing the wrong clothing. A pre-modern man might easily be more horrified by the idea of a equality for women than anything so simple as being killed. Monsters in ancient stories need to be killed not just because they eat people, but also because their ugliness is an affront to the cosmic order itself.

    Keep on the Borderlands can certainly be played as a horror scenario, for example, if we take a medieval point of view. The inhabitants of the Caves of Chaos are affronts to the cosmic order, and want to tear down the fragile hope of humanity that comes from universal law. The caves must be cleansed, or else their Chaos will infect everything good and decent in the world. Orcs must be slaughtered because they are Orcs, and the very existence of Orcs is a horrible blight upon the world. In that light, the whole of early D&D does have horror elements. It's world-view, where you could know who was good because they were pleasant looking, is antithetical to that of more recent editions, where it is assumed that human society tends to accept strange-looking races without prejudice.
    Last edited by Clavis; Saturday, 25th April, 2009 at 04:33 PM.

  • #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomBitonti View Post
    I'm thinking that the game could use a bit more guidelines, if not outright mechanics, to inject more basic emotions into play: Fight or flight, fear and panic, rage, and apathy, recklessness, bold determination, apathy, and so forth, all should make there mark in the game.
    I think it's fine to let players react however they want to react.

    If someone wants to role-play fear or recklessness, they'll do it. Using game mechanics to incentivize role-playing in a manner the player wouldn't normally choose smacks of the game designer thinking there's a right way to enjoy the game.
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    I run D&D with a lot of horrific elements. Whether it's a a fight against a marilith perched over a swarming pit of lemures biting each other, a green hag's collection of human fingers, or one of my player's deep-seated phobia of spiders, I look for ways to twist the knife. Because, in the end, D&D is about the starkness of life and death. The idea of someone being able to blanket a 30' radius in deadly flames is actually pretty monstrous. So I like to play up the idea that the PCs are the sorts who see the very worst things possible in their dangerous and often brief lives.

    I wouldn't call D&D horror, though. Dark fantasy, yes, but at least the protagonists gain in skill and power, they become less prone to sudden death. Supernatural, for instance, I would classify as modern dark fantasy adventure, or urban dark fantasy adventure.

    In Genre: Modern Dark Fantasy Adventure

  • #26
    I think that D&D has many horror elements, simply because horror elements have always been part and parcel of mythology and faerie tales.

    If you read/listen to a lot faerie tales, they're straight-up horror stories, with suspense, mystery and mysticism built right in.

    The reason I think that D&D lends itself to having horror elements is because many fantasy stories contain the mysterious and unexplained. That's what some of the fun is in fantasy stories anyway. This, then, opens the door for horror elements.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    The issue is not "plot immunity" - it is power. Your typical horror protagonist doesn't have any. He or she is a shlub without the skills necessary to take on the darkness. This does not describe most fantasy characters. There are many kinds of fear. The fear in horror is a helpless fear, the fear in fantasy is not. In typical horror the dangers are strange, outside the protagonists' experience. Fantasy heroes are specialists in the strange, dangerous, and monstrous.
    I'm apt to meet you half-way on this. Certainly, horror stories can have shlubs with no skills face the Forces of Darkness, but some of the greatest stories features protagonists that DO have skills. The main difference is that these heroes often have knowledge, not strength. Van Helsing cannot fight Dracula one on one, but he has the skills and knowledge to hunt the Count and slay him in his home. While others in the party might end up being closer to Shlub (Harker, Stewart, Morris), they all provide something necessary; knowledge, money, connections, spirit, willpower, and/or love.

    But certainly, this is a lot less power than your typical D&D group has, because your typical D&D group has swords, armor and spells that puts them on par with their monsters, if not literally than figuratively. A fighter can bench-press horses, a cleric wields holy power, and a wizard channels fire and lightning, whose gonna be afraid of werewolf with that kind of firepower? It actually the biggest mental barrier I have with Ravenloft; the PCs are too powerful to be scared properly. Even Ravenloft's handicapping system (altered spells, classes and such) rarely means much past 5th, certainly past 10th level.

    Of course, it doesn't help D&D players are typically genre savvy and tend to know to pack mirrors, stakes, silvered weapons, and other typical "monster repellents & weapons"...
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  • #28
    Have you ever had a character act more, well, in character, in response to a game event, to the consternation of the other players because it was tactically a wrong thing to do?
    In my first 4E session, our first- and second-level characters encountered a ghost. In AD&D, a typical ghost is way out of that league. Just seeing one requires a character to save versus supernatural fear or age 10 years and flee in panic. My rogue had no silver weapon, or anything else I would expect potentially to affect a ghost.

    So, my character spent the first round groveling. I didn't know that in 4E one can beat a ghost with a stick. Maybe the other players had not read the Monster Manual, but they were acquainted with the basic principles of 4E (e.g., you're supposed to whack pretty much anything you meet that's not identified as a "skill challenge").

    They took it in stride, but perhaps got a misleading initial impression of how much I'm into that kind of role-playing. Context makes a difference -- I really thought we were in danger of death (or worse)!

  • #29
    Clavis, that's a good point! I think that wrongness can still be an element of horror, but perhaps chiefly because it reinforces a sense of helplessness -- as knowledge is power, inability to understand something makes it more frightening.

    When horror appears in D&D, it tends to be rather like Wes Craven's New Nightmare or the Hansel and Gretel tale to which that refers. One passes through it and (at least as a player) survives all the stronger for it.

    The JAGS supplements Wonderland and The Book of Knots ably combine "intellectual" and "visceral" horror. Gaining Mastery over Unsanity weakens the horror, potentially transforming the game to an "adventure" mode.

  • #30
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    The issue is not "plot immunity" - it is power. Your typical horror protagonist doesn't have any. He or she is a shlub without the skills necessary to take on the darkness. This does not describe most fantasy characters. There are many kinds of fear. The fear in horror is a helpless fear, the fear in fantasy is not. In typical horror the dangers are strange, outside the protagonists' experience. Fantasy heroes are specialists in the strange, dangerous, and monstrous.
    All that THAT means is that the typical horror protagonist is 1st level...and may not be by the end of the plot arc (depending upon whether its "Everybody Dies" horror or "Heroism Prevails" horror).

    And as Remathilis points out, sometimes the horror protagonist is actually quite experienced, just not as dangerous in one-on-one combat as his foe...meaning he must use skill, wits and occasionally allies to defeat his foes.

    Take a typical zombie story, for example. A given zombie isn't appreciably more powerful than any protagonist (and in some storylines, are less powerful)...its just harder to make them go down and they never tire. The protagonists, OTOH, do tire, so the horror in zombie fiction is, in a sense, about attrition and inevitability...being overwhelmed by by a tsunami of undead that, though you can resist it piecemeal, you cannot stop. With skill, wits and allies, however, you may live a long, if grinding, life.

    All that said, however, I'm not arguing that D&D is a horror game. D&D is, at its core, more fantasy than anything else. But even so, its nature is such that it may easily venture deep into the territory it shares with horror and even sci-fi. And in some hands, in select campaigns or settings, may even resemble one of those other genres more than its core.
    Last edited by Dannyalcatraz; Saturday, 25th April, 2009 at 09:15 PM.
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