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Best System for a Silent Hill-like Horror Game?

shadow

First Post
I've been thinking of running a horror game like the Silent Hill series of Playstation games, so I've been looking for an appropriate rule system that would support it. The things from the Silent Hill series of games that I would like to emulate are:
  • A twisted "Dark World" version of the real world.
  • Deformed, grotesque monsters that represent the subconscious fears of the characters.
  • Characters are forced to confront their fears and guilts

I'm sure that someone will want to bring up Call of Cthulhu, but I don't think that the system fits the mood of Silent Hill at all. Lovecraftian 'cosmic horror' deals with the "things man was not meant to know", whereas the horror of Silent Hill is much more personal and tailored to the individual characters. Also, characters in Call of Cthulhu take sanity damage every time they see an otherworldly monstrosity, leading to almost inevitable insanity. However, the protagonists in Silent Hill face multiple horrors and aren't necessarily expected to go insane (in fact, given the quality of voice acting in some of the games, the characters seem almost a little stoic!!!:D) Horror checks might be acceptable, but the slow inevitable slide into insanity is not something that I'm looking for.

Other than Call of Cthulhu, does anyone have any suggestions for a way to emulate the Silent Hill in a tabletop rpg?
 

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I've been thinking of running a horror game like the Silent Hill series of Playstation games, so I've been looking for an appropriate rule system that would support it. The things from the Silent Hill series of games that I would like to emulate are:
  • A twisted "Dark World" version of the real world.
  • Deformed, grotesque monsters that represent the subconscious fears of the characters.
  • Characters are forced to confront their fears and guilts

I'm sure that someone will want to bring up Call of Cthulhu, but I don't think that the system fits the mood of Silent Hill at all. Lovecraftian 'cosmic horror' deals with the "things man was not meant to know", whereas the horror of Silent Hill is much more personal and tailored to the individual characters. Also, characters in Call of Cthulhu take sanity damage every time they see an otherworldly monstrosity, leading to almost inevitable insanity. However, the protagonists in Silent Hill face multiple horrors and aren't necessarily expected to go insane (in fact, given the quality of voice acting in some of the games, the characters seem almost a little stoic!!!:D) Horror checks might be acceptable, but the slow inevitable slide into insanity is not something that I'm looking for.

Other than Call of Cthulhu, does anyone have any suggestions for a way to emulate the Silent Hill in a tabletop rpg?

I'm not really familiar with the Silent Hill video games, so I don't know exactly what they are. Do they focus more on action in the vein of Resident Evil, or are they more about exploration?

If it's action-based, I think a system like GURPS, if you're interested in doing lots of interesting, individualized "character stories" would work well, though be warned GM-ing GURPS is a herculean task.

If you want a more straight-up action type game that's infinitely easier to run, with the ability to support some of the sanity / horror mechanics without getting too bogged down in it, Savage Worlds plus the Horror Companion would be excellent.

If it's more of an investigation / conspiracy type game, look at Night's Black Agents.
 

gamerprinter

First Post
I've been thinking of running a horror game like the Silent Hill series of Playstation games, so I've been looking for an appropriate rule system that would support it. The things from the Silent Hill series of games that I would like to emulate are:
  • A twisted "Dark World" version of the real world.
  • Deformed, grotesque monsters that represent the subconscious fears of the characters.
  • Characters are forced to confront their fears and guilts

Personally I don't think the game system is the issue when trying to represent the horror game aspects you seek. All 3 issues, IME, regard the setting and/or adventure only, not the rules.

For example, my published setting, Kaidan the setting of Japanese horror is designed for Pathfinder rules, however magic works differently (some spells don't work at all), death is final, leading to reincarnation and no chance for raise dead/resurrection, healing magic is somewhat inhibited and undead are stronger and more resiliant. Powerful undead rulers represent all parts of government, defended by extremely loyal samurai forces, ninja operatives and monstrous defenders.

In the 3 part mini campaign arc set in Kaidan, the Curse of the Golden Spear, while all 3 are highly rated horror adventures, the 3rd adventure especially, Dark Path, is built around phobias - darkness, claustrophobic conditions, spiders and other creepy crawlies.

Basically you can use any rules set to run your game, adding specific subsystems to serve your particular needs can make your situation doable, but as stated every issue is solved with the setting itself, not the ruleset.
 

shadow

First Post
innerdude said:
I'm not really familiar with the Silent Hill video games, so I don't know exactly what they are. Do they focus more on action in the vein of Resident Evil, or are they more about exploration?

The games feature combat, but the focus is not on action. In many ways they are the antithesis of the Resident Evil games. The characters are mainly 'common people' that don't have much in the way of combat training. Also, the scares come through the creepy atmosphere and sense of foreboding rather than zombies or other monsters.
 

darjr

I crit!
Call of Cthulu with tons of checks for sanity. Or Dredd using the jenga tower, that'll create a sense of foreboding in your players.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Run the game with any system you're comfy with, making sure the PCs aren't overly heroic. Familiarity with the system will mean here won't be too many immersion-breaking references to the rulebooks. All the rest comes from how you run it.
 

The games feature combat, but the focus is not on action. In many ways they are the antithesis of the Resident Evil games. The characters are mainly 'common people' that don't have much in the way of combat training. Also, the scares come through the creepy atmosphere and sense of foreboding rather than zombies or other monsters.

Aaah, okay. Savage Worlds will likely be too action-oriented / pulpy for that kind of a feel, though it does have an excellent Horror Companion add-on book and a Cthulhu source book (Realms of Cthulhu by Reality Blurs). There's lots of "dials" you can twist with Savage Worlds to aim for a certain "feel," but having had a lot of experience with the system, I can definitely say it's not going to emulate what you've described without some tweaking.

I'd look into GURPS, with a low point value for character generation. I'll be honest, I'm not a huge fan of GURPS per se, but it sounds like a really good fit for the style of game you've described. I'm sure HERO would do the trick too, though [MENTION=19675]Dannyalcatraz[/MENTION] is probably the best person to ask about HERO. BRP might work too.

If you want to stay with a d20 system, I'd say 3.5 or Pathfinder E6.

Or just go with the obvious Call of Cthulhu and houserule the parts you don't like.
 



I've been thinking of running a horror game like the Silent Hill series of Playstation games, so I've been looking for an appropriate rule system that would support it. The things from the Silent Hill series of games that I would like to emulate are:
  • A twisted "Dark World" version of the real world.
  • Deformed, grotesque monsters that represent the subconscious fears of the characters.
  • Characters are forced to confront their fears and guilts

OK. A twisted "Dark World" version of the real world can be done by almost any game. So can grotesque monsters. The actual issue is that you need the characters' fears to be mechanically relevant to the game and to be listed. I'm going to make three suggestions in descending order of preference (the most likely one first).
  • Fate (probably Fate Core or FAE). The biggest part of your stats are something called Aspects which are freeform descriptors of what your character considers narratively important. The players in this system gain Fate Points from compels - that is having things happen that directly invoke the dark side of their characters. The more I think about it the more Fate Core seems exactly what you want.
  • Smallville. No, hear me out. Smallville's a damn good game that's disguised behind a set of cheap publicity shots that function like Clark Kent's glasses. In Smallville your character statistics are your values (default Smallville has Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power and Truth) and your relationships, and GMing advice is to "Wedge" - to find issues where the PCs are going to go in opposite directions.
  • My Life With Master - a gothic horror game where the characters are involved with their weariness and self loathing. Really good if it's exactly what you want.
  • Monsterhearts - this is adolescent coming of age drama where all the PCs are monsters (a werewolf, a vampire, etc.) and their monstrous nature is an allegory of the issues they face. Again, like MLWM possibly not what you want but really worth looking into in case it absolutely nails things. And characters forced to confront their fears and guilts is absolutely SOP for Monsterhearts. Actually it probably belongs above MLWM.
 

MortonStromgal

First Post
I really really want to say nWOD but the correct answer is Unknown Armies its similar to the Cthuhlu system (uses %) but you could harden rather than go insane it also has several sanity meters based on the type of stimuli.
 

Yora

First Post
I think one problem that needs to be dealt with is the issue of lethality. The characters need to be very vulnerable, but since it's all about the specific characters identity, you can't really afford to lose them.

Unfortunately, the one method to create tension that worked best for me, and that is used by most horror videogames, is to slowly sap away the characters resources and making it difficult to regain strength.
Playing with a 1st level group without healer or potion against very weak critters in Castles & Crusades led to a very exciting game. The fighter could take a lot of hits, but with each one every new encounter became more and more dangerous and they had to be increasingly careful.

Creating tension in a horror game when the PCs can't die would be quite difficult.
 

gamerprinter

First Post
I think one problem that needs to be dealt with is the issue of lethality. The characters need to be very vulnerable, but since it's all about the specific characters identity, you can't really afford to lose them.

Unfortunately, the one method to create tension that worked best for me, and that is used by most horror videogames, is to slowly sap away the characters resources and making it difficult to regain strength.
Playing with a 1st level group without healer or potion against very weak critters in Castles & Crusades led to a very exciting game. The fighter could take a lot of hits, but with each one every new encounter became more and more dangerous and they had to be increasingly careful.

Creating tension in a horror game when the PCs can't die would be quite difficult.

While I agree that limiting resources is a good way to put horror into a session, I don't believe into otherwise limiting the lethality. If a PC dies, he/she dies, and the party gets smaller, that should increase the horror for the rest of the party, and not taking too much risk to keep the rest alive becomes paramount. It would be the GMs job to adjust the rest of the encounters to account for the party with one less member. I would never play a game (horror or otherwise) where the PCs cannot die - I'd consider that exercise a waste of time.

Add to that, those thinking that horror only really works when PCs are at 1st level haven't played in the Kaidan setting of Japanese horror (PFRPG). Here's a free one-shot adventure from Kaidan, called Frozen Wind for a party of 4 each, 5th level characters. Using the pregens, there are no healers in the party, except for 1 paladin (and it's not enough). This is a survivor horror adventure - I've run it twice, and once it was almost a TPK, in the other 2 of the 5 died, even after getting some healing. I've got another one-shot (not free) called Up from Darkness built for 4 each, 7th level characters, and due to the reincarnation aspect of the adventure, PCs can expect to die, multiple times in the same adventure. Both are solid adventures for higher level characters built for some real horror gaming...
 
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Jhaelen

First Post
I've been thinking of running a horror game like the Silent Hill series of Playstation games, so I've been looking for an appropriate rule system that would support it. The things from the Silent Hill series of games that I would like to emulate are:
  • A twisted "Dark World" version of the real world.
  • Deformed, grotesque monsters that represent the subconscious fears of the characters.
  • Characters are forced to confront their fears and guilts
That sounds a lot like the setting of WOD's Wraith: The Oblivion. Of course in Wraith, every pc is a ghost which may or may not be a problem. Still, I suppose you could borrow its most interesting features, e.g. fetters that you need to resolve and confronting your Shadow.
 

Jabborwacky

First Post
Rather than making a new thread on the topic, I thought it would be better to share my current research and preparation for a Silent Hill tabletop game here.

Silent Hill is fairly unique and requires certain options that systems like Pathfinder aren't really designed to accommodate. The best three systems I've ran into for Silent Hill have been Savage Worlds, FATE, and Monte Cook's Cypher System. For those who want a more narrative driven experience, the FATE and Cypher systems are good choices. Narrative driven RPGs provide systematic ways to reward players for their roleplaying. They also limit dice rolls and provide explicit rules for overruling low rolls in ways that serve to further enrich the narrative.

Savage Worlds is a bit more mechanical in the sense of being at the mercy of the dice. It is also the cheapest option of the three if you want a hard copy of the rulebooks. You can buy the Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer's Edition and the Horror companion with complimentary PDFs for $10 each from their store as of this post. While I personally love the narrative rules from the cypher system and FATE system, executing good judgement behind the GM screen can still prevent random chance from turning the game into a comedy.

One of the most critical things to remember that is far more important than any system you choose for your game: Don't tell players they are playing in Silent Hill!

Set up the game in a neighboring town, have all the signs scratched up so bad that they are unintelligible, and even consider changing the names of key locations (especially the town of Silent Hill itself). Part of the beauty of Silent Hill games when they were still new on the block was that players had no idea what was really going on. The isolation, visuals, and monsters left players guessing as to whether everything the character was experiencing was supernatural, a product of the character's mind, or somewhere in between. Opening up with a car accident, I remember pondering whether Henry was even awake: The entire experience was so surreal I honestly didn't know if it were a dream or reality. As a result, probably the best Silent Hill game is one where the player characters are left questioning the nature of the reality they are experiencing.
 
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The OP kind of deflected the idea of Call of Cthulhu in his opening post, because Silent Hill is not about going mad (according to him).

Here is why he is wrong:

The Silent Hill games have always been about trying to drive the player mad. It is all about madness. You may not have noticed it while you were playing the games, but there are many fine details and deliberate design choices in Silent Hill that are meant to put the player in a certain state of madness.

So if you aim to bring that same experience to your table, then you are not going to achieve that goal unless you include that element of madness. Bringing a game like Silent Hill to life as a role playing game, is all about first understanding the subject matter.
 


Jabborwacky

First Post
The OP kind of deflected the idea of Call of Cthulhu in his opening post, because Silent Hill is not about going mad (according to him).

Here is why he is wrong:

The Silent Hill games have always been about trying to drive the player mad. It is all about madness. You may not have noticed it while you were playing the games, but there are many fine details and deliberate design choices in Silent Hill that are meant to put the player in a certain state of madness.

So if you aim to bring that same experience to your table, then you are not going to achieve that goal unless you include that element of madness. Bringing a game like Silent Hill to life as a role playing game, is all about first understanding the subject matter.

In the case of the Silent Hill series, insanity certainly did have its place (particularly in the widely popular Silent Hill 2). However, the setting was about giving manifest to the dark corners of the human mind, not a downward spiral into insanity. The only insanity is what any visitor brings with them. If someone does experience a Cthulhu style spiral into insanity, that would be very unique to him/her and him/her alone.

Dread would be fun or gumshoe could be interesting

Yeah, after I posted I was looking around and found some references to the Dread system on a Reddit post. Most seemed to support the idea that it would be good for a one-shot, but not a long campaign. The gumshoe system is a new one to me, but I'll look it up.

Although, Dread would probably work well for my purposes. The series does best when focusing on the town itself rather than the backstory, and so lends itself well to standalone adventures. The best games in the series did the same (Silent Hill 2 and 4).
 
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In the case of the Silent Hill series, insanity certainly did have its place (particularly in the widely popular Silent Hill 2). However, the setting was about giving manifest to the dark corners of the human mind, not a downward spiral into insanity. The only insanity is what any visitor brings with them. If someone does experience a Cthulhu style spiral into insanity, that would be very unique to him/her and him/her alone.

This is only true on the surface. Manifesting the dark corners of the human mind, and that of the main characters, is only the outward appearance of the game. But there is a deeper much darker layer, which intentionally messes with the mind of the player. It is this aspect, which most gamers do not even notice (but it does affect them on a subconscious level) that is vital to getting the mood right in a Silent Hill game.

This is most noticeable in Silent Hill 2, where sometimes doors disappear that were there before, and how sentences disappear from a letter in your inventory. The game is constantly changed on purpose, to create a nightmarish feeling, where the player is deliberately driven a bit mad. This is especially takes root if you have been playing the game late at night.

It is interesting to note that there was a case in the Netherlands of a man who thought that he was stuck inside Silent Hill, and he attacked the nurses of the hospital that he was hospitalized in. And while this man was probably completely out of his mind, this does not entirely surprise me. Silent Hill is a game designed to mess with your head. It is a tall order to recreate that in a table top game, but Call of Cthulhu would certainly be the right system to do it with. So don't be too quick to dismiss it.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Savage Worlds is a bit more mechanical in the sense of being at the mercy of the dice. It is also the cheapest option of the three if you want a hard copy of the rulebooks. You can buy the Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer's Edition and the Horror companion with complimentary PDFs for $10 each from their store as of this post. While I personally love the narrative rules from the cypher system and FATE system, executing good judgement behind the GM screen can still prevent random chance from turning the game into a comedy.
Good insights, Jabbor. The responsibility of turning a game into anything other than a jokefest always rests heavily on the GM.

If you haven't picked out (or made) a system for your game yet, I'll recommend Modos RPG because it's cheaper than Savage Worlds, just as narrative as Fate or Cypher, and mental health is hardwired into the system. http://www.enworld.org/forum/rpgdownloads.php?do=download&downloadid=1210

Have fun driving your PCs crazy!

P.S. My skin is crawling just remembering the Silent Hill PT...
 

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