Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rule of Three: Setting Tone for Horror Adventures

Being able to set the proper tone for an adventure is an important tool for any Game Master. This is especially true for Game Masters attempting to run horror-themed adventures. Failing to establish the right tone when attempting to run such a scenario can cause it to go haywire and become something else entirely, like a horribly unfortunate comedy or something even worse than that.

With that in mind, I thought I'd blow off the dust of the Rule of Three series and give Game Masters some tips and tricks for setting the tone for a horror game.

#1. Utilize the Uncanny
The dictionary defines "Uncanny" as "strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way." Properly utilizing the uncanny will help you sell the creepiness of the scene or scenario. Implementing the uncanny can be as simple as having a single light flicker along an empty sidewalk, or having the images with a painting seem to move when the PCs look away. Just don't overdue it. Things tend to lose their eeriness if they are used too much.

#2. Focus on the Details
When describing a scene, you should layer the details on nice and thick. Horror games require the players to buy into a dangerous situation when they're in no real danger. Giving the right amount of detail can make it easier for them to do this, helping them to picture this creepy image within their minds. You can also use these details to foreshadow terrors to come, build tension.

#3. Don't Forget the Tension & Release Cycle
Speaking of tension, you need to know when to build tension and when to release said tension. When building tension, give the players small hints about what is about to come, letting that small bit of knowledge cause their fear to build more and more. However, remember to let that tension break every do often, allowing for a moment of calm before building things back up.

I believe these three tips are of the utmost importance to constructing the proper tone for a horror adventure. While you can enhance the experience by playing atmospheric music in the background or playing by candle light, you need to understand the basic building blocks first an know how to implement them correctly.