How to Run a Horror Game - Running RPGs | Summary and Q&A

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January 11, 2021
by
Seth Skorkowsky
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How to Run a Horror Game - Running RPGs

TL;DR

Learn how to create discomfort and unease for players in horror tabletop RPGs, focusing on mood, unknown elements, helplessness, and effective storytelling techniques.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How does horror in tabletop RPGs differ from other genres?

Unlike other genres, horror in tabletop RPGs focuses on creating discomfort and unease rather than simply scaring the players. It is about building a mood that elicits emotional responses such as unease, dread, and repulsion.

Q: What are some effective ways to create discomfort in players without crossing their personal boundaries?

It is crucial to communicate with players beforehand and establish boundaries. Using unknown elements, revealing horrific details gradually, and focusing on Fantasy Fears rather than real-life phobias can create discomfort without causing genuine distress.

Q: How can you create an effective horror atmosphere through setting and descriptions?

Detailed descriptions of settings and creatures, including sounds, smells, and movements, can evoke a sense of unease. Familiar elements with a twist and the use of dark and macabre details can also contribute to the horror atmosphere.

Q: Is it necessary to use the players' personal phobias in horror games?

While it is possible to use personal fears with consent and proper communication, it is not necessary to rely on players' real-life phobias. Fantasy Fears, such as creepy children or supernatural entities, often work better in tabletop RPGs as they provide a fictional and manageable source of fear.

Q: How can isolation and unknown elements contribute to the horror experience?

Isolating characters and cutting them off from outside reinforcements or escape intensifies the feeling of vulnerability and fear. Unknown elements, such as hidden information about the monster or its capabilities, create a sense of suspense and anticipation.

Q: What are some strategies for building suspense and maintaining the horror mood throughout a game?

Gradually reveal horrific details, alternate moments of tension with moments of relief, and know when to pull back to prevent desensitization. Effective storytelling techniques and using cinematic techniques, like cutaways to other characters, can enhance suspense and maintain the horror mood.

Q: How can tabletop RPGs facilitate a sense of helplessness and vulnerability in players?

In heroic fantasy RPGs, make the players feel helpless by showcasing the limitations of their powers or rendering their usual tactics ineffective. Focus on situations where characters are outmatched or outnumbered, creating a sense of desperation and isolation.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Horror is about eliciting discomfort and unease in players, not necessarily scaring them.

  • Creating the right mood and setting is crucial to a successful horror game.

  • Isolating characters, revealing unknown elements, and making players feel helpless adds to the horror experience.

Questions:

  1. How does horror in tabletop RPGs differ from other genres?

  2. What are some effective ways to create discomfort in players without crossing their personal boundaries?

  3. Why is it important to communicate with players about their fears and limits?

  4. How can you create an effective horror atmosphere through setting and descriptions?

  5. Is it necessary to use the players' personal phobias in horror games?

  6. How can isolation and unknown elements contribute to the horror experience?

  7. What are some strategies for building suspense and maintaining the horror mood throughout a game?

  8. How can tabletop RPGs facilitate a sense of helplessness and vulnerability in players?

Answer:

Q: How does horror in tabletop RPGs differ from other genres?

Unlike other genres, horror in tabletop RPGs focuses on creating discomfort and unease rather than simply scaring the players. It is about building a mood that elicits emotional responses such as unease, dread, and repulsion.

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