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Katherine

Hero System for Horror gaming

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

It could be the players do not want to play Horror, or at least a game where their actions are inevitably pointless and their characters are powerless weenies. Crushing the hopes and dreams of others may be cool for the crusher, but the crushee may have a different perspective.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

Which demonstrates why I said the GM and players all have to be on board. Some players don't want to feel powerless, ever (per SketchPad's Batman comment above). Some players can't stand their character getting killed or maimed or losing a loved one (per CourtFool's crushee comment). Some players can't refrain from mood-killing goofiness. Some players are just psychologically wired to play against tone or genre.

 

Not that it's impossible to run horror with these types of players, but it's harder. You have to fall back on mechanics a lot more. For my part, if I have to consult a number to see how scared my character is, I'm on the outside looking in and it's not really horror anymore. It's a mechanical simulation of horror. I want the real gut reactions, like you'd get watching a horror movie or reading a scary novel.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I do tend to think it is on the GM's head. If she doesn't recognise that her players are unable or unwilling to play horror - and if the GM doesn't cut her losses immediately and do another genre - it's her own fault.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I am not a huge fan of WOTC but they (or TSR their precursor, I can't remember which) produced a game system called Alternity. They produced 2 campaign backdrops for Alternity, Star*Drive, and Dark*Matter. They are both most excellent material for any campaign. Star*Drive is a Star Hero type campaign, and of more interest to this thread, Dark*Matter is a modern (20th/21st century) horror, gov't conspiracy type setting, the players get to get munched on ...uh I mean investigate demons, black magic, haunting, alien abductions, bigfoot, MIB type things. All of the creepiness of H.P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King without the sanity checks. Sort of "The Haunting of Hill House" meets "The X-Files". In the sample adventure in the Dark*Matter campaign book, the players start off stranded at a roadside diner, that is suddenly socked in by a freak snowstorm. Then people start vansihing mysteriously. The the bodies start re-appearing. If the players solve the mystery and survive, they are later approached by the Hoffman Institute (a private sector MIB type firm) and recruited as investigators of the strange and paranormal. If I was to run such a game I would use the 4th edition Horror Hero for certain "house rule" game mechanics, under 5th edition, and use Dark*Matter for campaign material.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I do tend to think it is on the GM's head. If she doesn't recognise that her players are unable or unwilling to play horror - and if the GM doesn't cut her losses immediately and do another genre - it's her own fault.

Pretty much goes for any genre - don't run it unless the players want to play it. Of course the corollary also applies - players shouldn't play in a game that they don't enjoy. It can ruin the mood for everyone else.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

It could be the players do not want to play Horror' date=' or at least a game where their actions are inevitably pointless and their characters are powerless weenies. Crushing the hopes and dreams of others may be cool for the crusher, but the crushee may have a different perspective.[/quote']

 

I have to spread around before I rep you again, Llama. That's pretty much my feelings on Horror.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

Part of the problem IMHO is that Horror is both a genre (ie - the setting: monsters, gothic cathedrals, etc) and a meta-genre (the emotion of scaring your players). So when someone says "Let's play a horror game!" you don't automatically know if they're looking for Cthulu, Buffy or Abbott & Costello Meet Dracula.

 

Several years back I started a Horror Hero campaign that I intended to be a Call Of Cthulu-esque horror game. It quickly became obvious that the players weren't really interested in sitting in a darkened room whispering and being scared -- they just wanted to kill monsters. Truth be told, I don't think scary-horror GMing is really my forte anyway. So the campaign morphed into a Dark Champs Monster Hunter campaign that, while generally serious in tone, was more Action Movie than Horror Show. And fun was had by all.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

Well, a defining feature of some things labeled as "Horror" is the systematic degradation to powerlessness and destruction of all the sympathetic characters. For one-off adventures, I'm willing to play redshirt splatter fodder, but I just don't see any long-term attraction. I find it repellent, the worst of sadomasochism without the physical manifestations.

 

I admit I'm what Robin Laws labels a Tactician, and I enjoy games that let me feel clever and solving puzzles through reason and inspired guessing. The horror genre explicitly invokes things that can never be solved or combatted by reason. Seems like a pretty direct incompatibility.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

Well' date=' a defining feature of [b']some[/b] things labeled as "Horror" is the systematic degradation to powerlessness and destruction of all the sympathetic characters.

[Emphasis added.] I happen to totally agree with you about those types of horror games; I was just saying I don't think that's the only type of "horror" game one can play.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

That's really more CoC than the horror genre itself. The whole "spiral into insanity" was a gross generalization made by Chaosium. Sure a lot of horror winds up with everybody dead or worse, but vastly more involves heroes who ultimately overcome the horror. The catch is that the body count might be higher than other genres, and you generally don't win by throwing more bullets at the enemy. The "powerlessness" is not literal. One always controls something about the scenario. Often the trope is to persevere against apparent powerlessness until the hidden solution is at hand - which is quite compatible with the "Tactician" puzzle-solving mindset, in my experience.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

Horror where the heroes can't make a difference has no interest for me. On the flip side, horror where the heroes never bat an eye has less interest for me. EDIT: At least as horror. As action with monsters, it's fine. Just don't call it horror unless the characters are scared doo-dooless at least once or twice.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I'm a big fan of the psychological, or ethical type horrors-

Should the hero kill an innocent to save a city?

Has the hero accidentally caused a major tragedy and must thereafter atone for it?

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I am not a huge fan of WOTC but they (or TSR their precursor' date=' I can't remember which) produced a game system called Alternity. They produced 2 campaign backdrops for Alternity, Star*Drive, and Dark*Matter. They are both most excellent material for any campaign. Star*Drive is a Star Hero type campaign, and of more interest to this thread, Dark*Matter is a modern (20th/21st century) horror, gov't conspiracy type setting, the players get to get munched on ...uh I mean investigate demons, black magic, haunting, alien abductions, bigfoot, MIB type things. All of the creepiness of H.P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King without the sanity checks. Sort of "The Haunting of Hill House" meets "The X-Files". In the sample adventure in the Dark*Matter campaign book, the players start off stranded at a roadside diner, that is suddenly socked in by a freak snowstorm. Then people start vansihing mysteriously. The the bodies start re-appearing. If the players solve the mystery and survive, they are later approached by the Hoffman Institute (a private sector MIB type firm) and recruited as investigators of the strange and paranormal. If I was to run such a game I would use the 4th edition Horror Hero for certain "house rule" game mechanics, under 5th edition, and use Dark*Matter for campaign material.[/quote']

They just released a d20 Modern version of this ... I've often thought about making a Hero conversion :)

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

When it comes to horror gaming, I like a system that's going to be bottom-up in terms of abilities and powers, keeping things loose, flexible, and mysterious.

 

Each type of monster should have a set of powers that interacts with the game mechanics in strange ways in order to keep the tension high.

 

And what I mean by bottom-up is that powers are defined by specifically what they do and what the circumstances are under which they work, rather than being defined as a broad power category that is then limited and narrowed to shape the in-game effect.

 

As much as I adore HERO System and believe it can be adapted to just about any genre, I have trouble picturing myself running a horror game using it, since there's not a lot of mystery in how powers work, and if powers are rewritten to make them work the way the GM wants, well, I don't like doing that.

 

In fact, I think that the best horror game would be a home-brewed one, or one that uses a detailed core system of skills and stats and then relies on the GM to make everything else, keeping the players always guessing as to what exactly a creature's powers might be.

 

I also think that a completely home-brewed bestiary would be ideal, making up monsters never before seen, or bizarre variations of traditional monsters that would truly keep the players on their toes.

 

So instead of meeting up with a vampire, the PCs encounter a nest of gongrollas. What are gongrollas? I don't know, you tell me... they're rolling balls of needle-sharp iridescent spikes, kind of like faceless, limb-less, basketball-sized spherical, crystalline porcupines, and there's about six of them heading right for us... what do we do?

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

As much as I adore HERO System and believe it can be adapted to just about any genre' date=' I have trouble picturing myself running a horror game using it, since there's not a lot of mystery in how powers work, and if powers are rewritten to make them work the way the GM wants, well, I don't like doing that.[/quote']

One thing I did in my game was to handle all power mechanics myself. So a player might know that his character has a mental persuation ability, but not know exactly how it's built, how many dice, etc. Kept powers much more vague and mysterious. Of course, that would drive some players crazy.

 

I also think that a completely home-brewed bestiary would be ideal' date=' making up monsters never before seen, or bizarre variations of traditional monsters that would truly keep the players on their toes.[/quote']

Yeah, it's hard to maintain any kind of terror level, when the players are "Oh another vampire? Break out the garlic and wooden stakes guys." Maybe there really are vampires, but they don't exactly conform to the Hollywood portral. (Cuz, you know, Hollywood is normally so accurate in their portrayals of everything else...) So the PCs have to figure out for themselves what works and what doesn't. :sneaky:

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

And what I mean by bottom-up is that powers are defined by specifically what they do and what the circumstances are under which they work, rather than being defined as a broad power category that is then limited and narrowed to shape the in-game effect.

 

As much as I adore HERO System and believe it can be adapted to just about any genre, I have trouble picturing myself running a horror game using it, since there's not a lot of mystery in how powers work, and if powers are rewritten to make them work the way the GM wants, well, I don't like doing that.

 

In fact, I think that the best horror game would be a home-brewed one, or one that uses a detailed core system of skills and stats and then relies on the GM to make everything else, keeping the players always guessing as to what exactly a creature's powers might be.

I always do this, even with Hero. I'm the polar opposite of those guys who need game stats for flashlights - very rarely will I actually do a full writeup of a monster or even an NPC. If I want X effect, I write up X effect with little regard for what Powers/Advantages/et al. are required. That stuff is for point balance and as GM, I'm not beholden to balance. When I run horror the game effects serve the mood, not themselves.

 

That said, Hero has enough general mechanisms to use as guidelines that I don't run into mid-game mechanical conflicts. If I can resolve Champions power interactions on the fly, power interactions in horror are a piece of cake.

 

I also think that a completely home-brewed bestiary would be ideal, making up monsters never before seen, or bizarre variations of traditional monsters that would truly keep the players on their toes.

Absolutely. I mainly invent critters unique to the given scenario. When I do use an established monster, I generally make my own version (unless the book version happens to be a good match for what I had in mind).

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

...They produced 2 campaign backdrops for Alternity' date=' Star*Drive, and Dark*Matter. They are both most excellent material for any campaign. Star*Drive is a Star Hero type campaign, and of more interest to this thread, Dark*Matter is a modern (20th/21st century) horror, gov't conspiracy type setting...[/quote']Crud. Now I wish I had got into Alternity more. Both sound like cool settings. And, as you know, conspiratorial, horror-based gaming is something I am rather fond of.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I do tend to think it is on the GM's head. If she doesn't recognise that her players are unable or unwilling to play horror - and if the GM doesn't cut her losses immediately and do another genre - it's her own fault.

 

Only if the GM is trying to run "something, anything" for that particular group of players. If the game isn't obligatory, and a specific campaign is being offered, it's up to the players to decide whether they'd like to play what's available or play something else (possibly nothing, for a while, as other GM's prepare their next campaigns).

 

Pretty much goes for any genre - don't run it unless the players want to play it. Of course the corollary also applies - players shouldn't play in a game that they don't enjoy. It can ruin the mood for everyone else.

 

I once offered, very tentatively, to run a game. Not that I wasn't ready; I just hadn't seen any evidence that the other people in that group were interested in that type of game. They were asking, though, so I described it and made a point of declaring that they should let me know if they didn't feel capable of playing in that sort of game.

 

They tried anyway, with disastrous results. I don't play with those people anymore.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

The funny thing about this genre, to me, is that people get stuck on the horror part. Don't get me wrong, that's obviously the point of the genre, and I'm not saying to do otherwise.

 

However, I think the point should be made... fear, horror, distaste, or any emotion can only last so long. Without a break, everyone will desensitize to it eventually.

 

Any horror game of any type needs distraction and a change of pace and mood to keep things alive. We cannot simulate s movie for a campaign. Movies are one-shots. Campaigns are like trilogies of books. Minutia(sp?) is included in any gaming more like a novel. The odd moments, the laughs, especially the inappropriate ones should be encouraged. Fear addles the brain, weird moments contribute to the mood. One spot of light is the ray of hope that prompts the cries of horror to be all the more real.

 

I personally like to have alarge variety of thiings going on. In horror, if there is to be true horror, there has to be the good and the light things to contrast. No shadow exists without light, and that light illuminates the dark. In fact, you fear what the light might show.

 

Horror is about the human spirit, the nuances of a person in a world gone to poo, and what they do about it. The dead are revered, for what they did in their dying, and what me accomplished by it. That's what I try to portay in a horror game more than anything else... the light and the dark of human nature and the heroes that make it all worthwhile... even if it is Joseph the baker from down the road. =)

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

The funny thing about this genre, to me, is that people get stuck on the horror part. Don't get me wrong, that's obviously the point of the genre, and I'm not saying to do otherwise.

 

However, I think the point should be made... fear, horror, distaste, or any emotion can only last so long. Without a break, everyone will desensitize to it eventually.

 

Any horror game of any type needs distraction and a change of pace and mood to keep things alive. We cannot simulate s movie for a campaign. Movies are one-shots. Campaigns are like trilogies of books. Minutia(sp?) is included in any gaming more like a novel. The odd moments, the laughs, especially the inappropriate ones should be encouraged. Fear addles the brain, weird moments contribute to the mood. One spot of light is the ray of hope that prompts the cries of horror to be all the more real.

 

I personally like to have alarge variety of thiings going on. In horror, if there is to be true horror, there has to be the good and the light things to contrast. No shadow exists without light, and that light illuminates the dark. In fact, you fear what the light might show.

 

Horror is about the human spirit, the nuances of a person in a world gone to poo, and what they do about it. The dead are revered, for what they did in their dying, and what me accomplished by it. That's what I try to portay in a horror game more than anything else... the light and the dark of human nature and the heroes that make it all worthwhile... even if it is Joseph the baker from down the road. =)

 

This is exactly why I generally prefer to run modern fantasy with occasional horror elements than full-on horror.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I like full-on horror. To me, the grit of it lends itself to making the light moments very profound. Also, when you mix in horror, its too easy to make light of it in contrast to the rest of the campaign. I think what you might be describing is simply horror without the same mood.

 

I don't really run big campaigns, meaning I'm not much for super-huge special effects kinds of things. I'm not a fan of dragons, spiritual energy flaming around people, and all the "big-budget" type flair. Its cool sometimes, and I'm not against it, I just don't run those types of games. Plenty of guys out there like doing that stuff, and they're better at it than I am.

 

My focus surrounds characters, what and who they are and what they do in adversity. The challenge of the thing and their responses. I love it when a player can immerse himself in the world and his character and really play the part, character mortality and game mechanics be damned, they do what's in a character's heart.

 

The essence of that lies in mood, environment at the table, and a common imagery. That is accomplished by giving the cues that individual players can relate to, keying in on emotions and common images that we all share. Transferring that into the character is second nature after that. The character becomes an alternate self.

 

Consistency ties heavily into that, and breaking the campaign tone wrecks it. What I talked about above can be summarized in a moment that happened once in a game I ran...

 

The party is lost, confused, not sure where they are or where they're going. Their scattered memories give them little clue to what happened, their present state is abysmal, their vulnerability symbolized in that none of them has but a loincloth on. They've escaped their imprisonment, found themselves in the middle of nowhere, and its starting to rain. One of the chsracters, a young man chattering his teeth in the cold looks at the other strangers a moment... "Well, anybody else here like gladiator movies?"

 

(continued...)

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

That single joke got the party talking together and ended up highlighting that character's personality with the others, and put the mood in light. They were in a ridiculous situation and things were bleak, but they quickly got a grasp on the situation. That point of humor made the situation real, despite its frivolty.

 

To me, that's just how the other elements of gaming bring the horror of the situation into a personal context.

 

I'm not sure how much sense I'm making as I type this on a pda during my lunch break, but hopefully it illustrates the point.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I would like to suggest that having one big scary thing isn't always the way to go. Sometimes, you might want to try a swarm of smaller things that are individual weak, but just keep coming.

 

A note on insanity: You don't necessarily need a SAN characteristic. What you can do, since you are the player's senses, is just give them odd or conflicting information. Tell them they see a monster, oh no, wait, it's just a shadow. Tell them they hear something that sounds like breathing coming from behind the door: Maybe it's a monster, maybe it's just the ventilation system acting up again.

 

It's a pain bookkeeping wise, but it might be good to keep track of the player's STUN and BODY for them too. That way they should be a bit more cautious what kind of risks they take, and are more likely to just run.

 

Just some thoughts really.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

A note on insanity: You don't necessarily need a SAN characteristic. What you can do' date=' since you are the player's senses, is just give them odd or conflicting information. Tell them they see a monster, oh no, wait, it's just a shadow. Tell them they hear something that sounds like breathing coming from behind the door: Maybe it's a monster, maybe it's just the ventilation system acting up again.[/quote']

 

Darn, already Repped you (just now, come to think of it) too recently, can't yet again for this.

 

A further note on insanity: the border isn't as exactly placed as you'd think. It's possible for people who are technically sane (on that side of the border) to still experience some of the symptoms of insanity, though usually to a lesser degree. For example, a fever brought on by the flu can induce delirium, causing hallucinations. Introducing doubt this way to the players' perception of their characters' perception can be an extremely useful effect, even outside of the horror genre.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

As far as horror goes, speaking of groups vs big baddies, I like zombie games that eventually manifest into escalating levels of horror stuff.

 

I'm currently running a game where its starting in a very Romero inspired way, but plan on escalating things with variant zombies, zombie leaders, "living mind" zombies who start exhibiting some "powers" like telekinesis and such, and then moving into the root cause of the zombie affliction and all the conspiracies that can go with that.

 

To get them ready for it, I'm including a bit of foreshadowing through mixed events and seemingly random mentions of various elements easily taken for fluff.

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