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Lord Zardoz

First Post
These are ideas I originally posted in this thread:

Rechan suggested I duplicate them here.

If you want to build a sense of Horror, you need to establish early on how things on the island are often just wrong in some way. The easiest way to do that is to describe things that simply 'should not be'.

Encounter 1, a battle site.

For starters, the players ought to come upon the site of a battle of some sort. There should be a couple of bodies of the losers, and they should be in very bad shape. Large gaping wounds, bits of people strewn about that require some sorting out. There ought to be signs that there was something large and powerful near the fight. Broken trees, deep foot prints, and weapons and armour that are twisted into unusable shapes. The prints should be unidentifiable. And the bodies after some examination should be your players.

To make this work, describe the bodies of the players in increasing detail as they make skill and search checks. The gear that is found should be broken and unusable, but recognizable as the same kind of gear that the players have. When the players bust out the divinations, note the following:

- Detect Evil should be off the scale
- Divinations will indicate that these are the bodies of the players
- Speak with Dead should result in nothing but screaming from the deceased
- The wounds on the players should be described in graphic detail. Crawling with maggots, covered in strange ooze, and smell like diseased filth
- Inflicting damage on the body parts should cause harm to the corresponding player.

Encounter 2: The settlement

The players should find a medium sized town, and they should find it around mid day. Everything should be in perfectly working order, and in good repair. It should be very clean, and well maintained. Be sure to mention the lovely flower garden and marvelous fountains. There should be white picket fences, hedge sculptures, reasonably fresh paint, and a generally cheerful atmosphere. There should also, under no circumstances be any living thing in the town. Also no undead or monsters. The town is just completely empty. If they search, let them find all sorts of valuables. Be sure to put in a modest magic shop with some decent goodies. Any given shop ought to have plenty of gold. In the homes and in the market place, and food items to be found should be ripe, wholesome, and nourishing. Any meat should be fresh. There will be garbage, but it will be in the expected places and not particularly noxious or suspcious. Under no circumstances should they find any sign that there is anything wrong with the town other than it being completely empty.

If your players are at all sane, the fact that they can loot the town of useful items and money with impunity should make them extraordinarily suspicious. If someone casts a detect evil, it should be blinding.

If they spend the night in the town, feel free to mess with them. I suggest that sometime late in the evening the players end up hearing the sound of every person in the town screaming in pain, agony, and horror until sunrise. The screaming ought to be audible even in a silence spell, making it impossible to sleep. If they stay a 2nd night, just run with it, amping it up.

I also suggest that once the screaming starts, that they find themselves unable to leave the town. Travel in any direction just lets them see more and more of an unending town.

3) NPC Night Terrors
If the players have any henchmen with them, after the first night, the henchmen should be found to have clawed their own eyes out in their sleep, and bitten off and swallowed their own tongue. Do not under any circumstances explain why this happened.

4) Tension builders
Toss in any of these one off elements to help build tension.
- When a player asks to make a listen check, perform the check as normal, but also tell him that he notices his ears are bleeding. No damage, no explanation.
- At some random point, tell the players that something nearby smells like many recently dead but 'ripe' corpses. Let them search, and find nothing. The smell never goes away
- When the players bed down for the night, tell some of them that they wake up in water. Let them spend a few rounds making Fort saves, and look up the drowning rules. Let them make swim checks and tell them there is no land in sight for a while. After either 1 person fails and drowns, or 1 hour worth of checks, or someone disbelieves and makes a DC XX will save (pick the number to be difficult, but allow infinite retries) they wake up in their bed rolls. They are also wet, and have perhaps taken some ability damage. No restful sleep that night.
- If protection from Evil is ever cast, have the protected character illuminated in a dazzling spray of sparks for the duration.
-- If you go with a Cthulhu-esque cosmic horror theme, consider having protection from evil do nothing, and have protection from Chaos be required instead. Allow a Spellcraft or Knowledge(Religion) or Knowledge(Arcana) to have the players discover this after Protection from Evil fails the first time. The first failure should be dramatic.

5) Bizzarre combat
- Upon any suitable gruesome sight or stench, have them roll DC XX fortitude Saves. Just pick a number that the best fort save only succeeds on an 18 or better. Those who fail start to vomit. What they vomit up are either Insect swarms or oozes. They start the combat Nauseated until they succeed a DC YY Fort save (give the worst save a chance to succeed on a 14 or 16 or so).

- Have a half mad 'survivor' run up to the players and beg to be killed. Go for a lvl 2 commoner of middle age, or even a small child. The opponent cannot be subdued by sleep or held or subdual damage. Make it an obvious non threat, and try to force the players to kill it. If they do not kill the opponent, at the first meal opportunity, have him commit suicide in some gruesome fashion, like cutting out his own small intestine and strangling himself. The next day, have them fight the dead persons ghost, still insisting on being killed.

- If a cleric tries to use a Turn undead, have him suffer the effects of his own turning as he is enveloped in a powerful wave of negative energy. If he would destroy himself on his own turning attempt, just drop him to as many low hit points as you care to.

- Run an encounter with a T-Rex with permanent Improved Invisibility. All you need to tell them is that something very large is bitting them and doing horrible damage, and that they cannot see it. Allow Improved Invisibility to see 'something', but do not describe it as a T-Rex. Add in a template that adds some heavy damage reduction or fast healing or regeneration to amp this up.

- An Ethereal opponent with Telekinesis can really get the players on edge by throwing large objects at them while denying them a direct way to counter attack.

- Run a few encounters using a possession mechanic based on Magic Jar, accompanied by a disembodied demonic voice. Let players who fail a saving throw keep their mind in their body, but dictate their actions. Just roll initiative, and on the 'monsters' turn, roll out the saves / attacks for magic jar as normal as the voice taunts them. Describe a powerful evil will trying to dominate them as you do the attacks. If you succeed, hand notes to a player telling them which player they need to try to kill, and ensure that they use their best attacks to do so. Or just have a character soak himself in oil and set himself on fire. Have fun with it. Just make sure that you allow the players a means to defeat the 'force'. Just make it non obvious, and keep the duration of such attacks low (no more than 4 or 5 rounds). Let the players win if they can work out a way to keep the possessed player from killing himself or others without resorting to murder.

- Have a duplicate of a player show up in camp and start trying to kill everyone. Attacking it does nothing. Attacking the original and 'killing it will cause the duplicate to come to his senses while leaving the original dead. For this to work, you must find a way to clue the players into the idea that killing the original will stop the duplicate, but you must not let them know that killing the original will not result in the death of the player.

- The players encounter a young pregnant woman in distress. She looks to be in rough shape, filthy and very shaky, and very terrified. When asked what is wrong, she will scream "that thing wont stop talking. It wants to kill me. I can't give birth to it. It is not my baby!". She will reach for the nearest sharp object and try to cut out her own fetus, or at least stab the crap out of herself trying to kill it.

- Have the players find A child between the ages of 8 and 12 years old. This child will be undernourished and alone. He will have a very nasty rash on him, and he will be scratching, trying to relieve the itch. The itch will not go away however, and he will have scraped the outer layers of his own flesh off, exposing bone. A remove curse can remove the itching, but it will require a caster check of DC 19.

- The players hear an toddler (2 or 3 years old) crying. If the search for it, they will indeed find the child. The child will be normal in all respects, except very hungry. If the players try to care for it, then later that night, the infant will attempt a Coup-De-Grace with a dagger on someone (at Str 1, it is 1d4-5 dmg). Regardless of what measures the players take to keep watch on the infant, every night it will get loose and try to kill someone. She will escape from any bonds and always obtain some suitably lethal object. This child is not evil (some other force is controling / aiding it), so it will never detect as evil. The force will be under a Caster level 15 non detection spell (so caster check DC 26 to detect the force). The force will only be present when the infant is trying to kill someone.

This will force the players to either abandon the child, murder the child, or have someone stay awake with it all night to make sure it does not try to kill someone. Remember to apply fatigue penalties.

- As they travel on the island, the players discover the bodies of young children and small animals nailed to trees with what ought to be fatal wounds, but the creatures are not dead. They do not die until they are taken down. At some later point in the adventure, they find a man walking down the path with a large sack, which is squirming. He will ignore the players, walk to the nearest wooden wall or tree, and then start to secure the sack to that surface. he will then unlimber a large spike and a hammer, and start to drive a nail through it, at which point the child inside starts to scream. I am sure your players will stop him. The man requires 1d4 rounds to nail the child up. If he is stopped, he begs the players to let him do it, but will not explain. If the man is obstructed for more than 2 rounds, the child escapes. At which point the equivalent of an 8th level sorcerer with 5 Strenght (and thus a crappy grapple score) and lots of blasting spells (or spells from the book of vile darkness) starts attacking them. It should have Regeneration(Law), and be a pain to kill. (Regeneration with a weakness vs Holy is too obvious). Once they do drop it or otherwise render it immobile, the child becomes normal and starts screaming and crying, asking "Why did you hurt me?".

- Let the players find a young teen in the process of extreme self mutilation, but screaming in pain and giving every indication that they do not want to be doing what they are doing. The person should have already cut out one or both ears, one eye, most of one foot, a few fingers, some severe genital mutilation, and be in the process of knocking their own teeth out with a hammer. Between each wet and meaty thwack, they should beg the players to 'please stop me'.

- Why not have some sort of infectious disease that causes the players to grow nasty, large-ish, black and oozing tumors that have faces, and which try to force the players to fight for control of their own bodies? They should first encounter the disease on others. Curing the disease should require a difficult Remove Curse type spell as well as a remove disease, and maybe some sort of McGuffin item. Once the tumor becomes inteligent, it should inflict some sort of opposed rolls to gain control of the players at an inconvenient time

- The sight of a starving person who is eating their own limb while it is still attached never gets old.

- The players hear the sound of an animal yelping and screaming. when they investigate, they find a few 8 year old children around a fire, holding a small dog in the fire. The hands of the children are also being burned. Around them are the charred, smoking, and half eaten remains of several other small animals. They periodically take the animal out of the fire and gnaw on the parts that are burned, and comment on how tasty it is. They see the players and offer to share.

And that is all of them.


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My players were a little squeaked fighting a battle on a platform surrounded by a trench full of dretches, writhing and biting each other.

Two of my players are afraid of spiders. It's so easy...


First Post
How do you scare the crap out of your players

What do people think are the top ten technique's are for scaring players? I remember being in a CoC game once where the DM lit a couple of the small candles in the tin cups by us (I think one candle per two players) and then on a table at the other end of the room lit a bunch of big candles for himself. Then he turned off the lights and informed us that if the candles went out they would stay out. It made it hard to read our sheets and then he kept walking around behind the ring of players as he DM'ed and only went over to his table to look things up, having done a through job of prepping that wasn't very frequent.


First Post
One that I have used to good effect several times is to let the PCs find out that something that they knew was something else all along -

The party is going from point A to point C, stopping at point B along the way. Point B is a friendly little town, folks willing to talk to adventurers, though not about anything in the way of current events, little details about what has gone on in the last few years never get touched on, and if the PCs ask questions about them then the townsfolk claim to have not heard about it, and begin asking questions about the events. Again, in a friendly, happy to be talking to folks from away manner.

On the way back from point C to point A they pass through the same location, where the overgrown ruins of the town reveal a place that was destroyed years or decades ago....

A Detect Undead spell (if it exists in your games) will go off like crazy the first time through, if anyone thinks to cast it, but Detect Evil does not. On the second time through Detect Undead reveals nothing, but Detect Magic or Detect Evil reveal that something very big, and very bad happened here, long ago....

The Auld Grump, Brigadoon gone bad....


First Post
Making the undead pitiful rather than menacing can also have a satisfactory creep factor - recently I had the undead remains of children weeping and trying to hide away from the PCs, still bound in spectral chains to the walls of the basement that they were starved to death in, so very long ago.

Undead repeating what they had done in life also works - a ghostly miser still counting his coins, a lost woodsman still wandering the woods in which he died. A road warden still riding his bounds, rusting armor and decaying bone seated upon a skeletal horse. Townsfolk more than willing to speak of this ghost, and children daring each other to hide by the road at night to watch him ride by... and all attributing odd effects to the light of his still burning lantern.

The Auld Grump


Okay, I’ll add to this newly resurrected thread. One Halloween, I ran a horror session as part of an ongoing 3e campaign. We played at night, with the session lit mostly by candlelight. The heroes were investigating a haunted house, where two children had died gruesome deaths. One clue to the nature of the ghosts was a painting of creepy children, hanging over the fireplace. For this, I used the famous Haunted Ebay Painting (which had its own supposed real-life curse), seen here:
Haunted Painting

I printed out an 8x10 glossy of the painting, and just propped it up on the table for the entire session, which was unnerving to some of the players. As they investigated the house, the children kept calling to them, “Help me! Make the screaming stop…” Over and over again, they heard “Help me! Make the screaming stop…”

Then, at a preappointed time, my wife, otherwise completely uninvolved with gaming, phoned the player at whose home we were playing. When the player answered, my wife, in a little kid’s voice, just said “Help me! Make the screaming stop…” and then stayed silent until the player hung up.

The following Halloween, I ran another horror session, with spirits whispering to each of the characters, playing on their individual weaknesses. This culminated in the party’s paladin deciding he had been possessed (he wasn’t), and killing himself by throwing himself on his own sword rather than endangering the party. I’d been trying to creep him out, but I’d never anticipated that outcome. Good times…


Don't have time to read through the whole thread, so I dunno if this idea has been mentioned yet, but:

The players decided to go through some heavily magic infested cursed areas (Har har har, I warned them! Subtly, of course) and each got their own unique "curse," meant to freak them out a bit without mechanically harming them.

I gave one of the characters a little spider friend. He didn't actually ask for it, mind you. But from that point on, there was a little immortal spider that constantly followed his character around and would always seem to appear near him no matter what he tried to do to get rid of it. He'd wake up with webbing all around him and tiny dead bugs decorated to his body. Not just outside, you know, but if they slept at an inn, too. If he wasn't paying attention, he'd find it slowly making it's way up his body to ride on his face. And if he killed it, it would always come back anyways. But each time he killed it, the spider (who was bright green) would grow a little bit darker. When I had one of the team mates who DIDN'T have a negative number for a spot check notice it, his creep factor sky rocketed, and went way out of his way to avoid touching it.

But it wanted to touch him so badly

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
I think I confined almost all my creepy moments to my CoC-like d20 modern game.

The PCs all started as normal people: A motorcycle stuntman, a British rugby player, a asian/latino auto-mechanic who patched up cars for the Triads at night, and a high-class image consultant. I told them I was going to run a modern game and to make whoever they wanted, without telling them what the game was going to be about.

The stuntman and the rugby player were in a small Minnesota town as extras in a movie, when a big blizzard blew in. They holed up in a diner with the owner to try to wait it out. Then the power went out. The owner asked them to turn on the generator he had in the basement while he scrounged around for flashlights.

I played up how creepy the basement was and they kept expecting something to jump out at them as they explored it with a keychain flashlight. Nothing did and they turned on the generator to find there was a dead rotting dog in there. Headed out quick, to find the blizzard was over as if it had never been and the owner was gone without a trace - along with everyone else in town. They found people's coffee still steaming, cars idling, but people just gone. Oh, and everything in town with liquid in it was half-empty for some unexplicable reason. And anything with a mechanical lock came unlocked when they touched it.

They stole a truck, grabbed some weapons from the sheriff's station, and drove away as fast as possible, the blizzard starting up again as soon as they left town. In the midst of the blizzard, their truck was attacked by a pack of things that they couldn't make out in the blizzard. The stuntman drove like mad through the blizzard while the rugby player tried to fight them off with his shotgun. Then they were out of the blizzard and the things were gone...

Meanwhile, in California, the image consultant - actually more of a psychologist for the very wealthy - got a call in the middle of the night, $5000 for a two hour session if he would get in the limo outside right away. He did, was driven to a skyscraper he didn't recognize, and taken to the top floor. He essentially did a long interview with what he considered a madman calmly talking about the darkness of the time and coming end of the world.

More disturbing was the strange iron taste of the wine he was offerred. More disturbing still was, on a short break while his "client" took a business call, he looked out the window at the fog and the three blinking lights of a nearby skyscraper, at least he thought that's what they were until the lights blinked and started drifting closer to the window, a vague, ominous form growing in the fog.

He turned away from the window when his client came back in, then looked back at the window to point out the thing, only to see that the "skyscraper" lights were back to where they had been...

Meanwhile, the mechanic was working late at his boss's shop when the Triads pulled up with two damaged cars, slipping him an envelope full of cash to make the two into one undamaged car by morning. The Triads left and he checked out the cars.

One was shot up on one side, like it had been used for cover - the usual stuff he did for the Triads - while the other looked almost intact from the outside, but the seats were shredded and soaked with blood. There was a strange, unsettling smell that he couldn't place that was even stronger than the smell of blood. The car had bullet holes in it too, but they seemed to have been fired at something inside the car not at the car from the outside.

He tried not to think about it and worked hard to get the cars done. It was almost dawn when he glanced out the window of the shop's office - and saw right on the other side of the glass what looked like almost like a hyena, but wrong, standing on its rear legs, it's jaw distended and filled with too many teeth, looking back in the window at him, eyes glowing.

He freaked the hell out and barricaded himself in the shop area as something prowled around outside... until after a couple hours someone honked outside. He opened up warily to find the Triads there. There was no sign of the thing. The Traids took the cars and as they were about to leave, the mechanic asked "what happened to that second car anyway?"

The Triads looked scared - something he'd never seen before - and got angry, telling him to mind his own business, something about a curse, and driving off like mad...

That was how the game started. The mood wasn't consistant throughout, but it did achieve some similar levels of creepiness at times...

Maybe I should make it into a story hour. I'd forgotten how cool that game was...

An idea I head this morning, after remembering a Doctor Who episode:

How about a mysterious person (maybe a child) appearing in mirrors and mirroring surfaces? Always behind the character(s). Possibly only one of them can see it, or all of them. Anyway, it appears only in the mirror. It starts in a "Haunted House", but later, the character will find it everywhere.

Admittedly, this is harder to do in a Fantasy setting where mirrors (or mirroring surfaces) might not be as common as in the modern world.

And of course, the kid in the mirror needs to be resolved eventually as some kind of mystery... Or has it? What if the PCs solve the mystery, and the kid is free - of a kind. It can now leave the haunted house, but where should it go? Best thing to do is following the PCs that rescued it.


Limit Break Dancing
Once, I ran a spider-themed adventure (don't laugh, every DM has done this at least once.) Anyhoo, the BBEG was a modified black dragon: instead of breating acid, it vomited swarms of living, crawling, poisonous spiders.

That was at least six years ago, and my players still twitch involuntarily whenever I mention it.


First Post
OK I'm going to have to keep the tong eating bug from nightmare fuel in mind for next time I want to scare the pants off my PC's... you cant quite understand what he's saying... no he just mumbling.

Lord Xtheth

First Post
From the campaign I'm trying to write/publish:

Children who had hung themselves desending from the ceiling into a group of their own (animated) toys and attacking the PCs with the ropes they had hung themselves with.


A door leading to the "Last room" of the necromancer's house is composed of a living human turned inside out and kept alive through magic, whose own unprotected and still beating heart is the doorknob.


First Post
I like the door idea Lord Xtheth, so how about fighting Zombies that are a skeleton encased in a mass of multicolored worms with some kind of large trilobite for the heart (removing or destroying it puts the things down).


...Man, people here really hate kids.
Not really. It's just that children are an easy thing to make "creepy" because it effects most people on an emotional, if not primitive level.

This is why a lot of horror movies in the past few years (especially ghost movies) have creepy kids in them.


First Post
Not really. It's just that children are an easy thing to make "creepy" because it effects most people on an emotional, if not primitive level.

This is why a lot of horror movies in the past few years (especially ghost movies) have creepy kids in them.

I think that's because we (as reasonably well adjusted adult humans) are programed to care for and protect young children, thus turning them into an object of fear or an enemy to be destroyed causes an inherent conflict.


I ran a horror game using the BRP system last year.

The players were trying to survive a night of the living dead kind of game. They eventually came upon a half ruined house and made their way inside. They barricaded it shut. In a closet was a weeping girl. They let her out. The girl then sprang out and ran out the front door without opening it. The players then used scrap bits of wood to fix up the little girl shape in the door.

As if that wasn't bad enough there was a small underground passage that linked the house to an excavated subterranean basement that they didn't know about.. The players then kept their eyes out on the undead and found their numbers dwindling. Overly perplexed by this they still kept watch. Eventually there was only one zombie left wandering around outside that they could see. The rest had dug into the earth and found the 'basement'.

The zombies burst through the floorboards and completely took the players by surprise. They fought it out and eventually only one character was left standing. He had failed his sanity check at went berserk, fleeing the house and climbed up a tree and fell asleep there. He woke up two hours later to find the remaining zombie from outside starting to feast on him.

All the players told me that I gave them nightmares for a couple of days afterwards with that one.

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