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Creepy...

Rechan

Adventurer
TheAuldGrump said:
Well, now that DungeonCrafter has a website again you can find it Here. :)
Took me forever to find the damn thing.

Interesting! Though I am curious - what did you use to BRING the PCs into the Shambles in the first place? If the Master has not left his slaughterhouse, what would draw their attention?
 

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TheAuldGrump

First Post
While the PCs were hesitant to make use of his services others are not. In one of the games he appeared in he ran a city-wide informant ring. One of their contacts put them in touch with the Master, but then they were too nervous to actually find anything else. His contacts include rats, beggars, and a neutrally aligned nest of were rats. Sometimes he kills and feeds from one of the rats, burrowing into its soft belly with his ragged teeth.

He is dangerous, and scary, but not exactly evil. (Those who use Detect Evil pick him up as 'flickering' evil and not evil, if they make a rather high Listen (or Notice, depending on the game) they will realize that the flicker is in time with their own heart beats.... Those with Detect Good would notice the exact same thing.

The Auld Grump
 

Simm

First Post
So usually I play a pretty hack and slash fantasy adventure but I've always tried to acurately describe things, surroundings, monsters, the effects of attacks. I'm putting the party through an updated keep on the borderlands and the party, level 3 by this point, just discovered the hidden chamber between the orc lairs. They searched the room and found the treasure pulling the sack out of its alcove. I must have hit just the right tone discribing the results because the next thing I knew the party was seriously creeped out and considering retreating from a pair oof monstrous centipedes. Apparantly several of my players are creeped out by them.
 

tombshroud

Explorer
Stephen King's Silver Bullet

This week I managed to snag 'Stephen King's Silver Bullet' DVD in the $5 bin at a local Wal-mart. When I was watching it this weekend I came to the part where the kid gets stuck in an old covered bridge and the bad guy is approaching but gets scared away by the presence of a by-stander. Great tense moment, brush w/ the bad guy when the character knows they stand no chance.

Foreshadowing can be tough to pull off right, some glimpses of the BBEG before the big show down. In horror campaigns where many of the monsters wear a human form, werewolf, vampire, etc. this can be fun by giving them hints w/ some of the common folklore attributed to such creatures, hairy palms, uni-brow, pale, etc.

Anyone have any particularly spectactular ways of creeping out PCs w/ some foreshadowing?
 

Brazeku

First Post
One way to be effectively creepy is to use inversion. That's why little girls are creepy - you're taking something that is otherwise cute and associated with purity, and turning it on its head.

Another method you can use is to take a commonplace event or item, and attach a strange event to it. Use this to make players search for meaning. Say the party finds an old maypole, streaked with corrosion. As they approach it, the sky grows darker and the wind catches in the tattered banners.

Another method is reversion. Use this to erode feelings of control. This is basically undoing what the players have done. An example: say the party has found an old dagger on an altar, and pick it up. The next time they look back at the altar, the dagger is still there, the altar undisturbed.

There is progression. Progression is used to build a sense of forboding. An example would be an old, faded tapestry hanging on a wall. In the torchlight, it appears normal, but when viewed from shadowy illumination, faint traces of silver can be seen. By dimming the lights, the players can see these silver lines growing brighter and sharper. The process is reversed once light is applied, but starts up again when darkness falls. If they watch it in the darkness, the lines shift and flow, forming an archway - and a figure seems to loom within, head bowed in shadow. The figure slowly looks up.

Messages work very well, especially connected with the unknown. An old favorite involves a locked door in the back wall of an old, abandoned cellar. The door is warped wood, and covered with flaking paint. As the party works to open it, the pain slowly flakes away, revealing a scrawled word: "No". Will the party still try to open the door?

Use all their senses. Half heard voices, fleeting images, the smell of flowers wafting, the smell of deep earth and rain on stone. A wall slick with fat. Use their associations, and turn those assocations around.

You get the picture.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
Running horror scenarios came up on the Wizards boards, and there were some useful suggestions. This is my favorite:
Mandarbgrim said:
From my horror game last year, the only method that worked in provoking horror in characters was introducing "Unknown" elements. I consistently had things occur that I myself didn't even have an explanation for and where outside of the rules. The players couldn't get a clear grasp of what was actually occuring to ever gauge the difficulty of a situation.

I used a "Black Mist" to have a variety of effects occur that had little connection to each other & no real connection to their immediate enemies. Divination spells gave off odd readings from it. Sometimes magical, sometimes not. Random will saves with fear & fatique effects that didn't mean anything and never had a bearing on combat. Animals where periodically turned undead by it <But didn't attack, just continued to go through their normal motions.>. An Enemy NPC ran into it and started screaming...found later with all his flesh removed. Another began stabbing himself rather than be consumed by it. Staying in a mist infested keep resulted in the players making continual will saves & nightmares. I alluded to their pre-selected phobias becoming relevant throughout their guard duty. Anytime they were in a tavern I had made up a list of different rumors that made the players paranoid about who was the actual "Bad Guy", such as their own lord.

Uncertainty, confusion, misdirection, & paranoi seem to be the most important elements. Heroes of Horror is a pretty solid book, but doesn't contain that much new information.

Edit: Also, status effects and ability score damage create far more actual concern over a character than HP damage. Any method of degrading a characters abilities that can't be cured with resting for 8 hours and they start worrying about their competency to deal with future threats. Methods that are in flavor and within the rules are a bit vague on this... Sundering is the only other thing that I can think of.

Another method, make the person themselves confused and not just through their characters. Take a player on guard duty to another room to roleplay out Guard duty or when seperated from the group.

Another:
Goon_for_Hire said:
In fantasy, encounters are best when there is some complication, a dangerous location, for example, difficult weather, precarious ledges, rough terrain, bottlenecks, traps, weird devices PCs can take advantage of, etc.

In Horror, on the other hand, the best encounters are the ones where one or more of the abilities that the character have come to rely on are rendered useless. Fear, entanglement, being disarmed, dealing with incorporeal creatures, mind control, anti-magic (or better yet wild magic) zones.

Don't do this every encounter, of course, and certainly don;t target a single PC more than once, the trick is not so much that you are trying to 'beat' the PCs by taking their power away, as putting them on unpredictable, confusing, or uncertain ground in a battle. When they are stuck in an alien environment or where the 'rules' (rules of reality, not the rules of the game) seem to have changed.

Also, make sure to destroy any sense of security they might have: the safe sealable rooms in the dungeon they might arcane lock to get some sleep should be the ones with secret doors in the back of them. They should have 'presents' or messages delivered to them by unseen hands despite all attempts at security.
There are other good tips in there (Robbypants, Colmarr).
 

Rechan

Adventurer
tombshroud said:
Anyone have any particularly spectactular ways of creeping out PCs w/ some foreshadowing?
I know it's obvious, but let the PCs find the aftermath of something they will face, but don't immediately follow up on it.

For instance, the PCs find the corpse of something really big (a bullete, whale washed ashore, dragon), and the body shows signs of something having burst outside of it from within. And they'll face the monster that burst out, but maybe after they've all ready taken the next adventure hook, or when they return back after their last adventure.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
Here's my question: How do you know when you've done Too Much? Is there a rule of thumb that "Okay, I've done x creepy events, if I keep doing this, it's going to break the suspension of belief because Too Much has happened".

I plan on sending my PCs into an abandoned city much like Roanoke, which is going to have a lot of twisted things in there. And thus I don't want to overdo it, but I want the place filled to the brim.
 
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Brazeku

First Post
Rechan said:
Here's my question: How do you know when you've done Too Much? Is there a rule of thumb that "Okay, I've done x creepy events, if I keep doing this, it's going to break the suspension of belief because Too Much has happened".

I think that this is part of what separates a decent DM from a good one. Knowing when to avoid oversaturating with any game element is the mark of experience and skill. I don't believe there is a rule of thumb for it, but if players seem to be getting a bit listless and fear shifts over towards helplessness (and then, inevitably, boredom) then you've gone too far.

Maintaining balance is individual and based around watching for feedback.
 

Drakmor

Explorer
Breaking my lurking for once:

The PCs enter into a room/cavern/etc. and find a fountain feed by a waterfall or something similar, or even just a stream that they are heading up, the water has a slightly red tinge, yet does not register as anything if they choose to detect (evil/magic/etc.) Hopefully one of the PCs drinks from it, because it makes the revelation that much better.

The PCs continue on in whatever area they are moving through, using the waterfall feed fountain and placing it in a recently destroyed temple for this example, they continue through it. Eventually they come out to the top of the waterfall with pathways on either side of the stream heading deeper into the temple. (They may notice that the waterline used to be higher than it is now.)

As they follow that they see uphead something in the middle of the hall, where the stream is. Getting closer they see what it is and why the water had that tinge, it is a pile of about five cut-down priests, bloating in the water.
 

tombshroud

Explorer
Rechan said:
I know it's obvious, but let the PCs find the aftermath of something they will face, but don't immediately follow up on it.

There was a book for modern roleplaying, I think it was called "The Book of Unremitting Horror?" Part of each creature's descriptions contained a section called autopsy/coroner's report that described what a victim killed by said creature would look like. This is one of the absolute best gaming books I've ever read (and I don't even play D20 Modern!) I've tried to think of creatures that PCs usually don't think much of and find a way to explain how the victim looks. Basically looking at special attacks of creatures and finding a better way to describe what their victims would look like. For example: Mind-flayers, the books say it extracts the brains using four tentacles but there can be different ways this can be done. I've had corpses with missing eyes and hollow skulls where the mind flayer went in through the eyes to get the brains, it could also work w/ stretched nostrils, gaping mouths w/ holes in the roof of the mouth.

Anyone have any ideas for what kind of damage other creatures could do and how the woulds look, creepier ways to describe it?
 

Kmart Kommando

First Post
Our group found a gnome. In a cell.

The rogue picked the lock while the gnome jumped for joy at being rescued.

The LG gnome cleric in the party opened the gate. Down came the ceiling on the gnome in the cell. Everyone is sprayed with gnome bits. :heh: It was just a regular gnome.

The way it happened was creepy, sort of. But, man, was it funny..
 

evilgamer13

First Post
It's always scarier when you don't see the monster?

So there are a lot of old sayings about things always being scarier when left unseen, I'm wondering if you guys think that is true or just the product of bad special FX? Do you like to show the creature or just hint, do you describe it in gruesome detail or try to leave it up to the players imaginations?
 

InVinoVeritas

Adventurer
evilgamer13 said:
So there are a lot of old sayings about things always being scarier when left unseen, I'm wondering if you guys think that is true or just the product of bad special FX? Do you like to show the creature or just hint, do you describe it in gruesome detail or try to leave it up to the players imaginations?

"A closed door is better than an open door, because behind a closed door can be anything."

Leaving some things ambiguous or hidden about a monster or enemy is better, because what remains hidden can be anything. Perhaps it's innocuous, perhaps it's a death trap. However, if you don't know its limits or capabilities, there is no way to prepare adequately for it--you can only do what you can, guess, second-guess, and eventually worry that your preparations will only make the final encounter worse...

It's like how a test in school is far worse because you don't know what questions are going to be asked in advance. Same principle.
 

The Green Adam

First Post
St. Abigail's Griffon was said to haunt a hospice runs by nuns in the Northern most part of Wales during the late 13th Century. St. Abigail was not actually sainted but was a young woman of a most saintly manner who could heal the sick and injured by taking the ailments upon yourself. A young, wandering swordsman with a griffon on his shield had fallen in love with her but lost his life protecting the hospice from the foulest of brigands. Anyone attempting to harm the place or its inhabitants thereafter was found torn to shreds by the claw marks of a great bird and the teeth of some massive predatory cat. The PCs arrived to escort the son of a local noble home after the young lord had spent time there. When enemies of the noble arrived to slay the boy the PCs dispatched them all save one who was found peck and scratched and bitten to death. As one of the PCs grew found of Sister Abigail, he found his room ransacked as if by a beast and the smell of an animal followed him. Once Abigail told the PCs the tale of the Griffon the PCs tried to capture it to a most unfortunate end for two of them.

At no point did I ever completely describe the Griffon or have it appear in full view. In fact, one player believed there never was a Griffon and that Abigail was actually the culprit in some way. Nothing was proven one way or the other.

AD
 

TheAuldGrump

First Post
evilgamer13 said:
So there are a lot of old sayings about things always being scarier when left unseen, I'm wondering if you guys think that is true or just the product of bad special FX? Do you like to show the creature or just hint, do you describe it in gruesome detail or try to leave it up to the players imaginations?
Corpses and a call sign can work wonders....

A scrawled message on the wall 'mantichora' - (translation 'manslayer'). An NPC left on watch is never seen again, but a drying puddle of blood is found.... That night a gentle sobbing can be heard, and will be heard in the ruins each night.

An riding animal is found gutted, a guard dog is found hanging by the hind legs, its throat slit, but little blood found.

Save the PCs for last.... The thing only attacks animals or creatures on their own, waiting, invisible. If one of the PCs is all alone then call him or her aside, describe in in sparse (but accurate) detail. If the PC loses then let him be found by the others, blood eagled....

The thing dogs the party while they are at the ruins, and for three nights thereafter, then returns to the ruins and its lone brooding.

Creatures that work well for this include hags, rakshasha (or other evil outsider), ogre magi, and some of the nastier fey you can come up with. :) Try to set it up so that whatever critter you choose can almost take the party, all by its lonesome, between 2 and 3 CR higher than the norm. Whatever the creature it is enjoying the groups fear.

The inexplicable can also be creepy, finding a large number of skeletal undead tilling a field or harvesting the grain. A zombie church procession, carrying an altar for a lawful good deity. Undead carrying a closed casket from which can be heard curses and a pounding as someone, or something, tries to get out....

And believe it or not I have on more than one occasion scared a party by having a giant muttering 'fe fi fo fum, I smell the blood of a Christian man. Be he live, or be he dead' (smacks the wall with his club) I'll grind his bones to make my bread...' Mind you, the lair that they had found was a veritable abattoir. Having the slovenly, blood caked monster quoting Shakespeare was just the last bit.

The Auld Grump
 


Rechan

Adventurer
evilgamer13 said:
How well do you guys think non-standard monsters can do to help spice things up and keep monsters scary?
It keeps monsters surprising. That's a good step in the right direction.

Of course, you need to make sure the PCs don't just punch right through the monster and splatter it in round 2.

This can be handled by handing the monster abilities that effect adjacent foes, if they have DR/material the PCs do not have, or interesting abilities.

I slapped the Mimic's "Adhesive" ability on a dire ape for this reason. PC hits it with his weapon, he now must make a reflex save or he loses his melee weapon in the monster's hide.
 

InVinoVeritas

Adventurer
evilgamer13 said:
How well do you guys think non-standard monsters can do to help spice things up and keep monsters scary?

If something is predictable, it is conquerable. If you don't know what it's capable of, or have reason to doubt your preconceptions, then it's scary, no matter what it is.

So, yes, non-standard monsters are important. I would even go so far as to say that they are key to keeping things scary. Any NPC is a non-standard monster, really.

It is important, however, not to just slap together powers and capabilities willy-nilly. The monster must have motivation, rules, and must ultimately have a method of dealing with it. It may not be easy, it may cost lives, etc. Yet the rules, strengths, weaknesses, personality, etc. must all be there, because only if the players can feel convinced that there is a solution that fear will not turn to despair. Neverending fear requires hope. Fear without hope is no longer fear, and more importantly, no longer fun.
 


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