Cross-posted from another board. I got some good discussion there, but I think it's about played out so I thought I'd reopen it with a different crowd...

I keep tossing around ideas for potential games (Sky Pirates of Mars, Ice People of the Outer Planets' Moons, etc.). Right now (maybe because I'm re-reading Libris Mortis, the Fiendish Codices, and a few other similarly themed books) is to use D&D (3.5) for fantasy horror.

"But Mr. Hobo, you idiot," you may be saying, "why in the world would you use D&D 3.5, which is a system totally inappropriate for horror?"

Well, here's my thought. First of all, level isn't something that you're entitled to in this game. You don't actually gain levels. Levels are for me to calibrate the "power level" of the game, and the game is meant to remain at that level the entire time. That doesn't mean some character advancement isn't possible; I think you can spend 1,000 XP to gain a rank in a skill (up to your maximum ranks for that level. I'm thinking 3rd is probably where I want to set it) and you can spend 5,000 XP for a new feat. BAB increases with skills like Weapon Focus, HP increases if you take Toughness, etc. You don't automatically get increases here.

The paradigm of play needs to change, too (obviously.) If these 3rd level character encounter, say, a vampire, they're going to get their butts seriously handed to them if they think they can just walk into combat like normal. I can also give a lot more monsters a fear aura, or something similar, to represent the fact that "adventurers" aren't expected to just go looking for monsters to kill, because that's a crazy, usually suicidal endeavor in this kind of setting.

But systemwise, I can't think of any reason why low(ish) level D&D, stuck permanently at that level like an even lower powered E6 variant, couldn't be used to evoke the same feel as a game designed specifically for horror.