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Codex Egyptium

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Monsters & Villains

Well, it's now well past midnight as I write this on Halloween and this year's holiday has not been a good one this year. On a personal note, I spent a good portion of the day at the Veterinary Hospital and my little siamese cat who is normally by my side when I do all matters of writing is in their care tonight. The evening was quite sedate as some of you can imagine.

My evening for the most part was spent in watching a few movies in the comfort of home. Being the time of year, there are no shortage of interesting films. Some are more gore... others with a hint of the fantastic and horrific... and then there are others which offer a nice dash of suspense. This year, I watched movies that I had seen many times before and, much to my better half's delight, we started off with "Interview with the Vampire". This was followed by the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and the evening closed off with the original "House on Haunted Hill". It was watching these movies that gave me the idea for this particular post.

What I would have liked to do, and others have probably done, was sit down around the table and do a bit of gaming. I'm sure some have chosen to pull out "Tainted Lands" and give that a whirl since that boxed set includes a scenario that's ready to go. Others will pull out some old favorites -- maybe revisit the original Ravenloft module or just have some sort of session with more undead... more gore.. and more atmosphere. I think that's pretty cool. It was watching the movies though that I was reminded what can make a good 'horror' scenario worth remembering.

You see it doesn't have to involve a lot of 'supernatural elements', the 'living dead', or anything demonic. If it does, it certainly doesn't have to be legions of them. Interview with the Vampire is a good tale but, how many vampires are there? For the most part we are dealing with 2-3 interesting characters. Rocky Horror certainly has an interesting character portrayed by Tim Curry but on the other hand, no character was really all that memorable in the House of Haunted Hill. Then again, Vincent Price is always fun and awesome to watch. A single vampire or interesting character... a single element of the bizarre... or a single twist can go a long way. Horror in your game doesn't have to resemble an 80's slasher flick. There is also no need to go on and on trying to establish a certain atmosphere for everything the players interact with. Finally, if you feel that some of these things are toned down too much, then a single but fun twist can make the whole experience come alive.

In other words, sometimes less is more.

One idea would be to have a 'monster hunt' which has the characters chasing down a single but unknown creature. Have the characters piece together clues to what this thing they need to eliminate might be. Keep these clues vague enough to have experienced players stumped or make incorrect assumptions. Make reliable witnesses difficult to find ... though maybe some remains of some could help with a more grisly feel to the game. Provide options and allow the players to follow up on these. When the chase comes down to what appears to be a natural conclusion, feel free to throw in another twist or an intriguing Villain.

Incidentally, a good C&C conversion of an older d20 module is available for free and does start off with a 'monster hunt'. For those who haven't tried it, the adventure titled Lion In The Ropes is worth checking out.

My own holiday gaming tribute will be a bit belated due to unfortunate circumstances but it will happen. In the meantime, allow me to wish all of you a happy Halloween!


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