Thursday, June 19, 2014

Two Ends of Horror

We've just finished watching the series True Detective last night. It was a very pleasant close to a Saturday night spent and the series itself was truly a godshead-send for me. Not because the TV series was great, I already watch a lot of off-center police procedure. This series is a gem of a watch, big money and two of most talented actors that I can think of in my lifetime. The writing quite smart and it utilized the fourth dimension, TIME, to add something that only epic writers seem to understand. What it did for me though wasn't all that moving as a viewer of a TV show. It re-affirmed my faith in low-level horror role-playing.

Now seagulls would've been really scary

I tend to be a two trick pony when it comes to horror RPG. I often go campy, and then I get edgy. But no one ever taught me, as a two-trick pony, how to dance to any song.

When there is an overt supernatural theme involved, I can't help it. A haunted house variation of The Flying Dutchman tale has me making the players a reality TV show with an ex-wrestler as the main protagonist. In my head, Hammer Horror Films artistic decisions are a bit minimalistic when it comes to vampires, werewolves, and mummies for my Crawlspace sessions. I've thrown Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr against the minions of Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep in CoC games for at least five years in a row over the last ten. It is all that I can do to keep less than a dozen players from sitting at the table.

On the other extreme, I've had many a late night session where things went grim early, and the solution for a puzzle, perhaps a who-dun-it, is the thing that kept the players at the table until 4 to 6 am. They, as you'd expect start later, usually with only four to six players. The results, as in how the audience responds, tend to be a mixed bag. I suppose about 65% "good" to 35% to "unmoved," in the metrics of my mind. I like these games better than the campier ones. Instead of having to juggle so many Characters, I get to keep track of a list of things tat need to be looked for before things go terribly awry. The things tends to be unexpected and, like a bad movie, if the players aren't looking things end quickly, say 3:30am. When they are looking, things still get wry but the tale is completed and the survivors get to reclaim lost sanity in CoC or get a whole lot of Fame in Crawlspace terms.

I am a bit jealous of the writers of the show as they played right into my fanboy susceptibility with gratuitous Robert Chambers and Ambrose Bierce allusions while delivering more of a Jungian psycho-drama than a supernatural event. The closest I've ever come to that was a late-nighter that involved a cursed gem, and the main protagonist, err player was a jewel thief. I didn't have to do anything Lovecraftian besides mention the Plateau of Leng to get everyone creeped out. Anybody waiting for a shuggoth or a ghoul made do with the inexplicable. Some really subtle rationale for Sanity Checks had to be made. I did have to throw a zombie in at the end, which killed three out of five of the Characters. The climax of the show had a hallucination as its big "boo" moment, well that and edged weapons.

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