Game Theory: Mortal Horror


  • Pitcrew

    I enjoy discussing game theory and with the closure of that Stranger Things style game it got me thinking about horror games where players take on the roles of PCs. Namely, what would it take to make such a game work? Here are the questions I've been pondering...

    1: Age. Would it need to be young adult to be captivating? Could you do "age spheres" such as High School, College, Adult and run plots for each?
    2: How often would plots need to be run? Let's say, for gits and shiggles, that I'm running a game and am also the only staffer running plots. I could only do so probably once a week, on Monday evenings. Would that be enough? Twice a week? Three times?
    3: Player Run Plots. I'm a HUGE fan of PrPs. What tools would players want/need to run their own plots?
    4: Mortality. Should death be a very real possibility? Should players go into character generation knowing their PC could be short-lived? Should there be a "victim" opt-out option for players who don't necessarily want to have their characters killed (which may make them ineligible for some scenes)?
    5: The monsters. Strictly staff run? Should players be able to take on the role of "Suburban Vampire" for the length of a plot knowing that, in the end, he will be slain?
    6: System. What system would work for this? I think WoD or the current edition of Call of Cthulhu would work fantastically.

    Anyway, those are the things I've been pondering. Not for any specific game, just in general. I think the idea of a mortal focused horror game could be quite interesting if done right. Just trying to figure out what "right" means.



  • Re: 1. I know when I was looking at a modern horror game, I was looking to go 16+ with it, purely because 'teenagers <something something stupid>, horror ensues' is such a fundamental horror trope.

    "teenagers <something something stupid>" is what teenagers do, for the most part.

    I wouldn't force all focus to be and remain there... ever.

    I just make a point of including it, and want to include it, since at the time I was initially considering it, all the games out there for modern horror themes (mostly WoD) were strictly 18+ for PCs, which takes a hatchet to the 'high schoolers arrange a camping trip in the haunted mountains/go explore the creepy house on the block/investigate the old asylum/go to that party all the adults are talking nervously about because serious adult reason teens don't necessarily understand and parents are just stupid/etc.' plots that are classic common horror tropes and are fundamentally a different sort of story when the characters are 'old enough to know better'. (There's a difference between being clueless and choosing to be clueless; between choosing the reckless thing and doing the reckless thing because you have no comprehension of how reckless it is.) I mean, you can get those things into other stories, sure, but it isn't quite the same animal.


  • Pitcrew

    @surreality said in Game Theory: Mortal Horror:

    "teenagers <something something stupid>" is what teenagers do, for the most part.

    More like:

    "teenagers <something something sex stupid something food something stupid sex>"



  • @auspice Well, it's usually food that barely qualifies as food and spectacularly godawful sex, so I think it works as an umbrella definition.



  • Nigh useless thought: Don't Rest Your Head (among others such as Blades in the dark) has set boxes for responses when a PC gets overwhelmed, such as fight or flight, which you check off as they are used. This assures that there will be some variety in responses. I could really see some use for this for teenagers, where the choices include Do Stupid Teenager Shit.



  • I would totally play on a horror game that is not woD and not 'forever teenagers.' I tend towards, at least, being 18+ and don't like being forever a teenager.


  • Pitcrew

    @icanbeyourmuse Yeah. As far as personal preference, the youngest I'd really like to play for anything other than a one-shot is college age.


  • Pitcrew

    @pyrephox Oh come on where's your sense of adventure! Being a teenager is great (For the first few years)



  • @pyrephox Same here. Or if the setting has aging. Quicker aging not something 1:1 aging. Sometimes 'being a teenager' can help develop a char but the majority of the time I will play 18+


  • Pitcrew

    @mr-johnson There's nothing wrong with playing a teenager! I've enjoyed it in many a horror game. And younger, for that matter - I adore Little Fears.

    But for a persistent game, I'd rather be 19 than 16. The conflicts of balancing adulthood with still some 'dumb shit' teenaged impulsivity is more interesting to me. And universities allow for people to hang around for longer, assuming the unlikely event that a game lasts longer than a couple of years.


  • Pitcrew

    @pyrephox Oh come on what games these days actually manage to hold on for more then like two years tops? :P



  • Locked into anything as a forever would suck. And any age group being a sole focus is... I can see how it could work for some places based in a high school, a college, or similar tightly-focused setting. (I mean, heck, a game based in a retirement home for superheroes could potentially be neat as hell on a variety of levels, on the opposite end of the spectrum.)

    If it's just <town>, though? Meh. Let people play the age they want, within some sensible limits. (For me, that's just 16+ so it doesn't exclude the possibility for 'stupid teenagers' from a generalized 'everybody in town'.)


  • Pitcrew

    @surreality You have just given me perhaps the best idea I think I've heard in months. This makes me actually want to get ahold of my coder buddies and throw something together to make some magic happen. Might not last more then a few months but as someone who works at a retirement home? I've got PLENTY of knowledge that would be able to make that mush happen.



  • @mr-johnson Hell, go for it! Some part of my brain says 'this would be the eeriest horror film ever' and the other half is like 'this is a Pixar movie waiting to happen' and that coin, it keeps tumbling in the air, refusing to land on one side or the other.


  • Pitcrew

    I think the most fundamental aspect of a horror game is having a charming setting (for the purposes of characters having bonds with it) that has a sinister/eerie enough overlay to craft your plots (like people being somewhatkindabutnotreally used to weird rumors about cults and sacrifices).

    Imo, have your players create at least NPC that matters to their characters upon apping so people can use on plots, and have pages for such NPCs on the wiki. Never saw this be a thing, but I bet it could be effective. Also, once the NPC is created, they belong to staff. 100% no consent.

    IMO don't let people grow from teen to adult. If someone wants that RP the can app a graduate-to-be and then do something like that?


  • Coder

    For a game like this there's actually a couple of rule sets that might work well, off the top of my head is All Flesh Must Be Eaten, the rules are comprehensive enough to be engaging but simple enough to translate fairly well to this environment.


  • Pitcrew

    @zombiegenesis said in Game Theory: Mortal Horror:

    1: Age. Would it need to be young adult to be captivating? Could you do "age spheres" such as High School, College, Adult and run plots for each?

    I kind of like the idea of different ages. Especially if you have some plots just for teenagers and just for adults and can play with the 'teens don't talk to their parents/parents don't talk to their kids' angles that Stranger Things and just about every movie about teenagers plays on. The only problem is I would say don't DEFINITELY rely on that, because inevitably you get players who won't abide by that and it will just be frustrating. But I like the dynamic that could be played. Though I don't know that I'd make anything under 18. I feel like that's just asking for trouble. So....maybe just young adults/adults? Does anyone actually play people over the age of like, 30? Ever?

    2: How often would plots need to be run? Let's say, for gits and shiggles, that I'm running a game and am also the only staffer running plots. I could only do so probably once a week, on Monday evenings. Would that be enough? Twice a week? Three times?

    I've always been a big fan of Monster of the Weeks, whether they are a one-off or something that could be investigated into something bigger. That just makes sure that once a week, there is definitely something to do/RP about. Doesn't have to be combat, can be social. And then run larger things around that.

    3: Player Run Plots. I'm a HUGE fan of PrPs. What tools would players want/need to run their own plots?

    I really like the recent (well, recent to me, I've been out of this hobby awhile) trend of doing both RP hooks and plot hooks. Where staff posts that such and such is happening, if someone wants to either RP around it or run a scene around it, go for it! That also helps PrP runners come up with ideas.

    If you're running plots regularly, people should get familiar with any system you're using pretty quickly. I realize this isn't always a popular opinion, but I am a big fan of rules where if you run a PrP or a plot your characters can't be in it. Cuts down on the LOOK AT ME I AM SO COOL behavior that can be so damn common.

    4: Mortality. Should death be a very real possibility? Should players go into character generation knowing their PC could be short-lived? Should there be a "victim" opt-out option for players who don't necessarily want to have their characters killed (which may make them ineligible for some scenes)?

    I think any staff plot is automatic "can die," but I think PrPs should be set to either death-consent or non-death consent. If only because I expect staff knows the system very well, whereas a new PrP runner might TPK because they don't have the balance they need yet. That way people who want plot but don't want the risk can just do the plots where death won't be an option, and people who want more risk can do the crazy scary ones.

    5: The monsters. Strictly staff run? Should players be able to take on the role of "Suburban Vampire" for the length of a plot knowing that, in the end, he will be slain?

    I think strictly staff run, with approved PrP runners given leeway that if they want to take on a villain for the length of a plot they can, they just have to run it by staff so that staff isn't doing a whole 'all vampires are evil!' thing and then Angel is running around the grid making all the PCs fall in love.

    6: System. What system would work for this? I think WoD or the current edition of Call of Cthulhu would work fantastically.

    I am no help here, I don't know annnnything about different systems. Sorry!


  • Pitcrew

    If my Whoniverse game never takes off, I just might try a Mortal Horror game. Here are my answers to the questions:

    1: Age. Would it need to be young adult to be captivating? Could you do "age spheres" such as High School, College, Adult and run plots for each?

    I'd base it very loosely on the comic book Locke and Key by Joe Hill (Stephen King's son). I'd call it Welcome to Lovecraft and set it in modern-day Lovecraft, MA, the fictional town from the comics, but would not use (much of) the story or characters. Lovecraft is a strange town where the supernatural and unusual happens but no one talks about it. Not the adults, anyway. They always forget. I'd let PCs be students at Lovecraft High and Miskatonic University, or those few adults who can, for various reasons, notice and remember. While the HP Lovecraft influences are obvious, it wouldn't just be that. I'd bring in lots of horror movie stuff like Camp Crystal Lake, vampires and werewolves and sea creatures and zombies and... the whole toybox. The idea would be that Shit Is Not Right, but no one believes it.

    2: How often would plots need to be run? Let's say, for gits and shiggles, that I'm running a game and am also the only staffer running plots. I could only do so probably once a week, on Monday evenings. Would that be enough? Twice a week? Three times?

    I could/would run at least a scene a week, sure.

    3: Player Run Plots. I'm a HUGE fan of PrPs. What tools would players want/need to run their own plots?

    I'd let people run with it. Borrow from comics, movies, TV... have fun. Anything can happen in Lovecraft.

    4: Mortality. Should death be a very real possibility? Should players go into character generation knowing their PC could be short-lived? Should there be a "victim" opt-out option for players who don't necessarily want to have their characters killed (which may make them ineligible for some scenes)?

    I'd let people opt out, but if they want in on the nastiest stuff, death can happen.

    5: The monsters. Strictly staff run? Should players be able to take on the role of "Suburban Vampire" for the length of a plot knowing that, in the end, he will be slain?

    As I said in #3, go have fun.

    6: System. What system would work for this? I think WoD or the current edition of Call of Cthulhu would work fantastically.

    I'd be open on system. Not WoD, though. Something that doesn't have 30+ books and is less about fistfuls of dice and XP and number-crunching and more about drama and story. FATE, etc.


  • Pitcrew

    Well hey, if your Whoniverse game doesn't work out and you decide to go in this direction let me know and we'll see what we can work out. :)