D&D 4th Edition & Dead Space (or survival horror in 4E) is it possible?
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  1. #1

    D&D 4th Edition & Dead Space (or survival horror in 4E) is it possible?

    I just completed the survival horror game Dead Space on the Playstation 3 and thought it had an awesome and terrifying atmosphere. You're an engineer sent to repair a huge spaceship that has gone silent and something has killed all the crew and turned them into vicious undead creatures. You fight these monsters with mostly industrial mining tools while trying to figure out what caused all the trouble and put a stop to it. Then I started wondering if such a scenario would even be possible in 4th edition with all the at-will and encounter powers as only dailies (and healing surges, of course) are really and truly expended?

    I know that a whole lot of it has to do with the atmosphere that the DM makes, but is it possible to emulate the tension of that and other survival horror games in 4th edition? The scenario is certainly easily re-created (something kills people and turns them into undead monstrosities), but the scenario itself doesn't really bring the tension as the Fighter will just go plow through these undead like all the others he has slain before. But I can easily see the scenario before me and how it will play, but I just wonder whether it's possible in game mechanical ways to make the players feel tense and get them in a "survival horror mood"?

  2. #2
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    Silverblade The Ench's Avatar

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    ok you have to make the game PLAY scary

    no tv/music on, no messing aorund, ie Ravenloft style

    split the party up at times.

    make rest a LUXURY. yeah make 'em earn milestones

    really horrible ugly stuff, make it so bad you hit 'em with Fear effects, so do an attack on each character, vs WIll, fail = -2 attack or slide and attack penealty or whatever depending on severity.
    Hey, being attakced by orcs is one thing, but Dead Space stuff would scare the pants off you.

    Ravenloft had a great point about Fear and horror, Horror is stuff that won't necessairly be a threat (a speaking brain, entrails etc), but fear is a real threat.
    Both cna inspire/cause Fear, but horror may also cuase insanity.

    Dead Space was superb except
    a) I HATED the stupid 3rd perosn view, it's very disorientating for me
    b) when you meet the thing half way through the game, in roatating room..that was jsut dumb I couldn't care after that and stopped playing.
    shame as it's an awesome game.

  3. #3
    Spellbinder (Lvl 16)

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    It's an interesting idea. I think it could be feasible with the right atmosphere.

    Another thought is that perhaps rather than being all dailies, your powers are tied to limited use items (ammo or whatnot). This obviously focuses on the survival aspect of rationing resources. Rather than coming in hoards, this ammo ought to trickle in, never giving the PCs an excess that might allow them to feel the cold comfort of having an armory onhand.

  4. #4
    1. Give them some kind of supplies that are slowly running out. Make them need to accomplish some task before they're gone.

    2. Don't use monsters they've seen before, or monsters they've heard of, or played against in other games. Use something you've made up yourself, with unknown capabilities.

    I really can't see any reason why 4e wouldn't work for this. But a sense of horror or fear at the gaming table is notoriously difficult to create. You can get your players to pretend to be horrified or afraid, and that can be a lot of fun, and you can create a sense of tension as to whether the PCs will survive, but the distance between the player and the character makes actual fear difficult to instill.

  5. #5
    Don't give them any time to rest. Or rather, let them work hard for it.

    1) Waves of Monsters. "So, you thought these 5 zombies you just fought where it? Well, there are another 20 monsters coming towards you. Know, you didn't have a short rest yet." Of course, you stay "fair" in that they can beat this type of encounter - but it will be a hard one. Note that if the enemies attack in waves and they don't have to deal with them all at once, that puts them at a small advantage - they can probably surive encounters a little harder than usual.
    Play with expectations. Put them against a really tough encounter where they believe everything is finished - and then afte a short rest, they encounter the next monster. They will be low on healing surges, out of dailies, most potions used up.
    Mechanically, such a fight might just be the kind of fight that just requires some encounter powers and non-terrible tactics. Probably an encounter of their party level instead of their party level +5.
    Use Minons, Elites or Solos wisely. Maybe also play with your own expectations of what a "boss fight" is - it could be tons of Minions with a single regular monster that arrives in one of the waves.

    2) Fight for a moment of rest.
    They need to find a safe spot, where the monsters don't just follow them or accidentally stumble upon them. Pack some clues where this might be (it can be obvious.) The PCs have to fight their way through there. The spot is not safe forever (which they might know before, or maybe they don't and they get awoken early in the "morning" from a group of monsters bashing in the wall to their safe spot.

    3) Any retreat is temporary.
    There is no single safe haven. The first retreat might be a room in the dungeon that has a very effective seal. But the seal is broken eventually. They need to find the next. ANd they might not know where it is.

    4) Their only way to survive is to get away.
    Their are just too many monsters. They "respawn" in some way undeads and dimension holes to hell can do that. Their only way to really and finally find peace is to get away from wherever the monsters are.
    Unfortunately, leaving ain't easy. On a space ship, that's "easy" - you need a starship/lifeboat kind of vessel. In a D&D world, you need to find an equialent. Maybe they need a boat to leave the Isle of Terrors. Maybe they need to get to the heavily guarded gate that leads back to the real world. Perhaps they just need to find the ritual components for a Linked Portal ritual.

    If you want to go very far in horror and dread - all of them or at least one of them need to stay back to have the other escape - activate the portal, destroy the portal, burn all the other boats, distract them. Think of some "compensation" for the player in question. Maybe his character actually survives the unsurvivable, thanks to a greater power. Or he just gets some extra XP for his replcement character or a neat special feature. But it might be that finding an heroic end can be all the reward needed.


    In the end, whatever you do - some players just won't fall into the horror mood. It might be wise to be upfront about the general goal to make it easier for them to get into it. But if they still don't act "horrofied", don't let that disappoint you. If they still show to have fun, it's fine. Hey, and maybe they don't play the despaired innocent caught in the middle of horror, but maybe they play the cynical, wisecracking guy with black humor. That's fine too.

  6. #6
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    For ultimate horror: No XP for kills!

  7. #7
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    Giltonio_Santos's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by S'mon View Post
    For ultimate horror: No XP for kills!
    I second that. And take away the healing surges as well!


  8. #8
    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

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    The only time I ever had ammo issues was at the beginning; by the middle, I have too much ammo and not enough space, and too many health items.

    I can't emphasize Mustrum Ridcully's Points 1-3 hard enough. Waves of monsters are great - even back to back encounters, or a normal encounter where the elite doesn't show up until round 5. During their first extended rest, and perhaps their sixth, they should be interrupted. Something coming through the vents (so to speak). The haven they used for rest last time suddenly is no longer useful.

    My own suggestions:

    0) Make sure your players are interested in this kind of game.

    1) Hit them where it hurts: their resources. Monsters that eat healing surges. Monsters that temporarily disable dailies/encounters (or possibly eat a leader's Twice-per-encounter healing power). Do this SPARINGLY (messing with powers is cheap). Do this to make a normal fight suddenly tense.

    2) http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/241614-creative-combat-objectives-other-than-kill-em-all.html]Objective Based Encounters[/url]; they don't need to just kill the enemy, they need to protect an ally who's Opening a Door. The air is rapidly being sucked out of the room and they need to stop it. Etc etc. This creates tension because the monsters aren't the real threat, they're just obstacles.Consider skill challenges mixed with combat, too.

    There's also nothing wrong with creating an encounter where "You can't hurt this monster until you do X, or you can't really hurt it" as long as you MAKE THAT OBVIOUS TO THEM; if a player spends a daily and it is all for naught, you will get angry players. Also make sure the design is Good.

    And as far as "Video Game Boss" fights,http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/omnivangelist/FvNp/~3/-SJ5dcAa48Q/]here's[/url]some http://www.encounteraday.com/2009/04/27/multi-part-bosses/]suggestions[/url]

    3) Vicious encounter design. Artillery monsters on platforms PCs can't reach via melee, and the PCs have to run past the platforms to get where they need to go. Do they stay and shoot, making themselves targets, or chance a few hits and make it to the end? Does your party lack a role? Occasionally use a large dose of monsters that missing role would work well against (missing a controller? Buckets of minions and several swarms). One PC gets separated/locked in a room with a few minor enemies (minions mostly); the PCs must now rush to find a new way in to save their ally, while being chased by enemies.

    4) Make it plain to your players that unless they are locked in a room or facing a "Boss"/monster wave battle, they can run away (such as running from swarms). This handles the "Die, come back to previous save point, and you know the monster's locations" circumstance. Sometimes the players DO need to step back and regroup; part of the goal of overcoming what's ahead takes strategy, because you are being particularly nasty.

    5) Give them the occasional NPC to talk to. Unlike survival horror games, the players might get bored if it's constant fight fight fight. Give them a survivor they need to protect, or someone with info, or maybe even an intelligent monster who's in as deep as they are. Hell, this NPC might even be an ally (who dies right after they have been useful).

    6) Give a breather. You need to let the tension ease sometimes, so they don't get used to the tension, and when it spikes, it makes a difference. There are certain points in the game, for instance, where there you've killed everything in the area and you can walk around safely.

    7) I agree with using new enemies, instead of monsters they've faced elsewhere (although, the occasional out-of-place D&D monster, who's equally as scared as they are, can be a nice change of pace). But using Dead Space as an example, some of the monsters you face early on are brought back, but tougher. Either just higher levels (and with nastier appearances), or spice it up by giving them upgraded powers (that thing's ranged attack becomes an area burst, the nasty melee attack becomes a close burst 1, etc).

    8) Don't ignore set pieces. A giant boulder that the party can push in front of a door, slowing down the wave of enemies? They'll eat that up, if you can give enough hints to let them do it. Or, a giant set piece that functions as a weapon against a very powerful enemy? Delicious.

    9) Be aware that PCs can really throw status effects on a monster fast. Stacking Stunned, Dazed, etc, will really mess up your nasty solo's day fast. So, consider some house rules to address this, or just cope with it.

    10) If you want to have the PCs stuck in this situation for a long time, give them an option that allows them to upgrade their equipment. A natural (but limited) source of Residuum, or just raw residuum in containers, that teh PCs can use to either make their own items or upgrade their own stuff. This not only simulates the PCs buying things, but it also covers the issue of loot (we have tons of gold... great, no shop to use it in).
    Last edited by Rechan; Tuesday, 28th July, 2009 at 11:43 PM.

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