How do you do horror when running D&D?

hawkeyefan

Adventurer
yeah I just grabbed the 5 torches, it sounds intriguing. That might be something the OP would like, as it is more dangerous than 5e. Frankly, the superhero curve of D&D is a turn off for me as well, I just as soon end any game by 9th.
Yeah, depending on the setting he wanted, I think it may be a way to go. It's all on the 5E chassis, with some tweaks and a little shift in focus. But the characters are definitely more at risk, and they have fewer super powers at their disposal.

Combat's meant to be a last resort in that game, it seems. But it does still invovle combat, so I don't know how suitable it would be for the OP, specifically. But for anyone else who wants toned down PCs and a grittier feel to their D&D, this game should do that well.
 

wicked cool

Explorer
atmosphere-set the tension
add blockers such as fog/murkey water
separate the pcs-maybe the have to protect the town at different spots
Make it important for NPCS to survive
a disease is good

Plan a 1 shot with prerolled characters but say only 1 or 2 are good characters in the horror setting and the rest are not and only the good one don't know
 
There are several variant healing rules on pages 266-267. I was specifically thinking of the "slow natural healing" rules on page 267. The "gritty realism" rest rules (page 267) would also likely be of interest to the OP.
Thankyou. I like me some harsh healing and resting rules.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Horror is a really challenging genre rarely pulled off well in any medium.

Fundamentally, horror seems to be the genre where the protagonists are relatively much weaker than the antagonists and thus the antagonist is greatly favored in the struggle and many or most of the protagonists can be expected to die.

In this sense, horror is pretty easy to pull off - just increase the encounter difficulty beyond what you'd normally do, and spend most of your time foreshadowing the few hard encounters you plan to run. All D&D characters are strong only with respect to what they are expect to be able to overcome. A party of 6th level PC's may have a ton of options, but they are probably going down to a CR 16 monster. Granted, 5e has made this gap between party capabilities and anything you could throw at them relatively smaller, but you can always give foes old fashioned abilities that are rather outside the 5e norms if you need them.

Throw a party of 1st level characters against a CR9 monster. A drowned master, clay golem, or a coven of hags should do fine. They'll not feel so powerful. The rest is just telegraphing the threat, adjusting the situation to not be overwhelming, and providing some foozle that makes the situation winnable.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
While I appreciate the book recs, I don’t intend to spend any money on D&D. After investing heavily on two editions and using so little of it, no thank you. The SRD exists if I absolutely need something. But I don’t see myself needing much once I figure out the range of target numbers the players can hit with rolls.

To answer specific questions, I don’t want to use prefens, players should have a degree of choice in who their character is, but I really want to avoid classes. I’ve not looked at the rules in a long time, but I can kit bash a thing. Basically “classes” that are little more than emphasize certain skills and saving throws. Your 3e NPC classes are more or less what I mean.

I figure I’m going to have to go with fantasy, as there’s no d20 modern equivalent, and I think getting too far away from even the very Idea of D&D is pushing it. Besides, I need all manner of supernatural/magical things, and it is easier for that to fit in a fantasy world.

So I wouldn’t have an issue with characters having access to a few cantrips or misc magical effects. I don’t know what spells are in 5e but some of your non combat spells are neat and would be nice to see them used.
 
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There can be a lot more dimensions to horror, but...
But I feel that D&D is a poor system for horror because characters are so powerful. Even 1st level PCs .... Part of horror is feeling like you are at incredible risk, that you don’t have much of a chance of survival,
In most eds you could dial up the level of the horrors, and achieve that.
In 5e, the most dangerous thing is being outnumbered, so go for hordes.
Zombie apocalypse, plenty horrible.

To make it worse, don't let up. No rest, no slots, no magic, not so powerful anymore.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
... Therefore I am trying to force D&D into a form that I want to play:

...This is not the experience most D&D players want or expect therefore I will specify before they show up the type of game they are getting onto.
...The SRD exists if I absolutely need something. But I don’t see myself needing much once I figure out the range of target numbers the players can hit with rolls.

To answer specific questions, I don’t want to use prefens, players should have a degree of choice in who their character is, but I really want to avoid classes. I’ve not looked at the rules in a long time, but I can kit bash a thing. Basically “classes” that are little more than emphasize certain skills and saving throws. Your 3e NPC classes are more or less what I mean.
In order to not be tricking people you're going to need to 'specify' that the "D&D" game that you're wanting to run isn't actually D&D at all.

Anything short of that is just lying. You seem to have no problem doing it but are getting upset when people call you on it.

People on the internet advising you not to do something is much less drama than what is going to happen when you trick people into playing "D&D" only to find that isn't what is going to be happening at all.

That's a bad time for everyone.
 
Yes, you can play D&D without fighting, but if you take away classes and levelling, then it's no longer D&D.

I would recommend you try again to recruit players for a different game system (I'm pretty sure CoC is the most popular game of the type you want, and it works fine for non-Lovecraft horror*). It might be difficult, but at least there exists online play as an option. I went for a great many years without a PnP game back in the 90s simply because I could not find any other players.


* Or it did, I haven't played the current edition - I think they are on 6th?
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
I mean, in the last two weeks, I've picked up both Esoteric Enterprises and Five Torches Deep, and both would be suitable for the request, depending on the setting. Especially Five Torches since it's based on 5E and would be very familiar to anyone who's played.
Can you tell me something about either of these two systems, or both? Have you played a session yet with these systems?

Horror is a really challenging genre rarely pulled off well in any medium.
This is absolutely true. It is all about building up a feeling of dread. There's a big difference between making your players afraid and the thing that they are afraid of. Using deadly monsters only gets you part of the way. The real challenge is building suspense for your players and a story that delivers on that feeling of dread.

So in that respect, the numerical side is almost irrelevant. This is why I said that you could use almost any roleplaying system. However, several systems are specifically designed for horror themed campaigns. For example, Call of Cthulhu has a sanity mechanic that adds consequences to characters seeing horrible things. Sanity is almost as important as hitpoints, and a great way to instill fear in your players for things that can't really attack them, such as a room full of corpses or a frightening looking statue.

That said, sanity systems can also be ported to 5e if that is the edition you want to play. And there's probably a bunch of other mechanics for horror campaigns that I'm not aware of.
 
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Nebulous

Hero
Can you tell me something about either of these two systems, or both? Have you played a session yet with these systems?
I picked up Five Deep yesterday for $10, I was curious. It is short, and a very trimmed down version of 5e. There's only 4 races and 4 classes. It really emphasizes dungeon crawls and gear management, which some people may or may not like. At first blush, I DO like that aspect, but I probably would not for a full campaign. There's a system for supply and Load where your torches and food dwindle, but you can forage to replace it. Armor and weapons degrade on critical hits, and shields can be interposed to block damage (and then destroyed). It is much, much grittier and dangerous than 5e.
 

hawkeyefan

Adventurer
Can you tell me something about either of these two systems, or both? Have you played a session yet with these systems?
I haven’t played either yet, and I’m still reading Esoteric Enterprises, but I can summarize both.

As @Nebulous said, Five Torches is a streamlined version of 5E. Characters are much squishier and most elements are simplified. Skill checks are made with proficiency for some skills by class or without proficiency for other checks. Some class abilities grant advantage to certain types of skills.

There are 4 core classes corresponding to the traditional core....warrior, wizard, thief, and zealot. Each has three archetypes where most of the other 5E classes come into play. These are chosen at 3rd level and allow you to pick from a list of related class abilities.

Spells are all on one page for arcane spells and one page for divine spells.

All in all, it’s 5E but pared down.

Esoteric Enterprises is an OSR version of World of Darkness and similar modern urban fantasies. The core mechanics are all similar to D&D, with some tweaks. Skills are all ranked out of 6, so a skill if 3/6 means you succeed when you roll a 3 or less on a d6. Pretty simple. The game still uses AC for defense, but has both Hit Points and Flesh Points. HP represent minor damage or luck and so on, and are easily replenished. Flesh Points are dangerous wounds that can be easily lethal and can have debilitating effects, and are harder to restore.

The spell system in this game will be familiar to players of D&D, but it’s a lot more involved than Five Torches, which is why I haven’t finished the book yet.

All in all, both seem worthwhile if you’re looking for a rules light D&Desque game, but without the superhero aspect of 5E.
 

dave2008

Legend
@Rechan
I've given this a little more thought, and here are my suggestions for running the type of game you are looking for (after reading a few of your posts - the OP wasn't clear):
  • Keep it low level. I would max out at level 4 (no 3rd level spells) or limit class to 1/2 spell casters max. Whatever it takes to keep them away from fireball, etc. (if you want 3rd and higher spells - make them rituals)
  • Don't use XP. Use milestone or mission or survival leveling. (No rewards for killing monsters - just survive baby!)
  • Keep the characters at level 1 HP, regardless of their level. Instead of HP at level up, give them Inspiration or Hero points (DMG) for gaining levels. Personally, I would give them I hero point per level instead of the 5+ 1/2 level in the DMG. But that is just me. This is supposed to be for heroic fantasy, but I think it works well for horror, with such weak characters you need a bit of luck to get you through.
  • Use the Healing Kit Dependency and slow natural healing option in the DMG.
  • Consider the horror option (madness) in the DMG
  • Consider the lingering injuries option in the DMG.
  • Consider the "meat grinder" death saves from ToA (DC 15).
The above options will not make the players feel horror, but they will realize how fragile their characters are. Using these suggestions makes almost any combat very dangerous, and the players should realize this almost immediately.
 
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Rechan

Adventurer
In order to not be tricking people you're going to need to 'specify' that the "D&D" game that you're wanting to run isn't actually D&D at all.

Anything short of that is just lying. You seem to have no problem doing it but are getting upset when people call you on it.

People on the internet advising you not to do something is much less drama than what is going to happen when you trick people into playing "D&D" only to find that isn't what is going to be happening at all.

That's a bad time for everyone.
I see you haven t reads the thread then. At multiple points I’ve explained I am advertising the game exactly as I am describing it here. In fact further into the thread I placed my ad, I said if I use D&D, I Only Mean using a d20, skills, ability scores, and AC. No classes, no adventurers. It is not D&D, it is d20 horror, but players may not know what “x d20” means. So D&D is easier to say.

in fact some of you inthis thread may not know what “d20 x” means. Which is taking the elements of the D&D system (using a d20, skills, saves, attack bonuses, etc) and using it in a different context. There’s d20 Star Wars, and d20 Spycraft, which is James Bond-risqué shenanigans, and I’m pretty sure there’s a Superhero game using d20.

But because 3e, the system d20 was built on, was two editions ago, I’d be using 5e as the reference point instead.

In My Ad I compared typical D&D with horror elements ya as the movie Aliens: marines with heavy fire power goimg in to kick aas, and encountering nightmare horrors. I am looking for Alien, which is blue collar non-combatants thrust into a terrible situation they have no defense for.

No one will show up with illusions this is anything other than what I intend for it.

It is so exhausting repeating this every page.

Anyways, it looks like I’m not getting any response for a rl game, so I’ll have to do this online. Which means I don’t have to use D&D any longer
 
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Rechan

Adventurer
Anyhow, to illustrate what I’m thinking using 3e vernacular.

Ab buy of 30 or so.

3 classes:

Athlete. 8 hp. +2 fort save. 6 points for physical skills. Your farmers, blacksmith, etc.

Artisan. 6 hp. +2 reflex. 8 points for any skill. Your every other profession.

Scholar. 6 hp. +2 will save. 6 points knowledge and perception skills. Maybe bardic knowledge as a class skill. Your wise old people and maybe politicians and teachers.

Since each “campaign” would be 1-5 sessions, there’s not much room to level, so levels and cp aren’t needed.

And that’s it
 
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Anyhow, to illustrate what I’m thinking using 3e vernacular, there’d be 3 classes.

Athlete. 8 hp. +2 fort save. 6 points for physical skills. Your farmers, blacksmith, etc.

Artisan. 6 hp. +2 reflex. 8 points for any skill. Your every other profession.

Scholar. 6 hp. +2 will save. 6 points knowledge and perception skills. Maybe bardic knowledge as a class skill. Your wise old people and maybe politicians and teachers.

Low ability point buy. Like 28.

And that’s it
i like minimalism (large part of why i find myself liking numenera. Sounds like you are going the minimalist route. Minimalist game strictures are good because its hyper flexible and has a very fast response time. (Two things that are especially useful if doing horror theme with intent to actually pull off horrifying the players IRL. Response time has to be fast and the response has to be flexible)
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
D&D has rules that are great for combat, but not for much else, so I'd just use a a freeform system and but it on. I'd suggest the shock mechanism from Yellow King and Cthulhu confidential -- you basically write cards that say things like "scared of the dark; -6 to all actions not in bright light; to lose this you must get rid of some form of darkness". Get three cards and you die
 

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