The best horror RPG sessions take place at night in a dimly lit room or basement in an old house. The table is made of old oak, as are the chairs which creak if the players shift.
Each player has his or her back to a dark opening, and occasionally the game master peers beyond, as if something move.
The room is slightly chill. Haunting music plays from an mp3 player disguised as an old radio from the 1930s. The heavy patter of rain strikes the window panes, with the sporadic rumbling of thunder.
And the game master speaks in a perfect Transylvanian accent…
I know games like this happen, but in my experience they can be few and far between–especially if you’re gamer who doesn’t have a decent place to play
Even then, game masters who’ve tried to run horror scenarios in the optimal environment can attest that there’s usually something that kills the mood.
And that something is usually outside noise.
As The Mixed GM states, the first element for a horror game is sound.
You can have a great soundtrack, the perfect lighting, players who are willing to get into the mood, but that all can be blown away if your can hear your neighbor’s dog barking incessantly.
Or if you’re in a semi-private conference room in a student union and the Christian group in the room below decides to blast Christian rock. (This happened to me back in my college days)
The worst places to even try to run a horror game is at your busy local gaming store. Or in a dorm room or den.
Yet when all of the environmental challenges are overcome, you can have some very satisfying games.
I love bringing horror to the tabletop as game master, and experiencing it a player.
There’s a certain amount of catharsis one has when one’s character survives a horrifying scenario.
Next on Horror in RPGs: Terror (Or What to do if Things Get too Intense)