The Scariest Game You’ve Played is the topic for Day 28 of the #RPGaDAY2023 Challenge. I had to think about this one for a moment. I really don’t get into the horror roleplaying games. When you are sitting around the table, or at a virtual table, how do you get scared? You are primarily in a safe controlled environment. Especially if you know you are going to be in a horror based game, you are expecting to experience something horrible like zombies or some unspeakable horror.
But I do recall one moment where I was “scared”, not only for one session but for multiple sessions. I’ve previously talked about a recent Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 campaign that had my favorite character (and his demise) and towards the end of that campaign the DM, Jeff Sullivan, pulled it off.
Here is how Jeff did it. He placed us in a demon controlled pocket dimension where the rules of wizard and clerical magic didn’t apply (aka His realm). The ability to rest to recover hit points wasn’t available due to the nature of the dimension. My magic-user character and our cleric couldn’t replenish our spells in the normal manner. And we would be in this dimension for a long time.
Let’s just say it worked. Not only was my character agitated, I was agitated as well and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. This made me as a player on edge and slightly (more) paranoid that usual. All it took was getting the character out of a comfort zone.
Could this be done in a game like Chill or Call of Cthulhu? I don’t know. I’m expecting horror then. I think the best way to present it is to run a game with a generic rule set where you don’t tell the players that they are going to be experiencing a zombie outbreak or an interdimentional invasion. Then you might actually get some horror elements in there to scare some players.
What do you guys think? Is it possible to scare someone in an RPG where they know that a homicidal maniac or weird beast might pop out of the shadows? What experiences have you had with horror based games? Tell me about it. This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.