Balancing Act 1: Personal Investment

Horror is a delicate thing and it can only work if the players are willing and able to let it work. So first have a chat about the guiding principles of the game. Let them know that mobile phone distractions, out-of-character banter and chasing after the enemy to fight it headlong will kill the vibe. See if they have any ideas on how to help the horror grow.

If they’re not too sure about trying something so different, ask them to give it a session or two before making a decision and run them something designed to finish in a couple sessions. Most players are willing to try something new that their Game Master cares about, especially if they know they can always return to their favourite genre soon.

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The 10 Balancing Acts of Horror

I have always been fascinated with the horror genre. I think its the queer mix of humor in the face of adversity, the strain of watching others in jeopardy, the fright factor of scary concepts, and the grittier ker-thunk of wretched realism which takes a look at just how bad a certain something can be. Since I’ve always loved horror, I’ve always wanted to run it.

The trouble is that a horror game is bloody hard to run.

After all, a horror game is a tight rope walk between opposing concepts, some of them intrinsic to the genre and others to the format of role playing. So to help wrap my head around what to do and how to do it, I’ve written up a series of articles on how to deal with the issues of balancing the various needs of the game to bring out the most horror potential.

Please note that this series of weekly articles is focused on both LARP and tabletop games though the monster article has a focus on LARP.

Horror Tips 1: Personal Investment

Horror Tips 2: Dealing with Dread

Horror Tips 3: Pacing

Horror Tips 4: Monsters (focuses on LARP)

Horror Tips 5: Playing Environment

Horror Tips 6: Threatening Nature

Horror Tips 7: The Flow of Information

Horror Tips 8: Props

Horror Tips 9: Death vs Continuity

Horror Tips 10: Scaring the Players

Session Style Guides

When advertising your game, it can be a good idea to let your prospective players know what the session will be like. Heck, in a long-term campaign it can be useful to do so for each session if you know there’s a lot of variety in session styles. Especially in a game like a LARP.

Sure, players can find ways to involve more combat or social intrigue, but there’s limits to what the setting will allow. Folks who try to chit-chat a zombie outbreak where there’s a constant onslaught of zeds will find that out pretty quickly.

There’s a lot of different ways you can do this. You could break it down with different genres (like Horror or Fantasy themes) or different styles of combat (Survival Horror vs Action). Anything you’d like to prime your players with, really.

Or you could use a set of sliders like the Mixing Desk of LARP that show the frame, and not just the style, of game with information like the degree of transparency between players being visibly represented on a series of sliders.

So have you ever advertised the style of the session / campaign using a visual representation like a mixing desk or rating scale? How’d it go? And what did you use?

LARP SPOTLIGHT: Limbo Run

Limbo Run is a session that occurred midway through the Seekers Campaign. The events are set on a post-apocalyptic alien world where humans have been struggling to survive both zed infestations (living, fast “zombies”) and mutant psykers who are each driven to destroy sentient life.

Previous to this session: The player characters make contact with a group of refugees and fugitives from a machine cult that cybernetically augments its operatives who are currently living in an old radio station in the middle of nowhere.  Their communication happens online, and unfortunately something terrible lands in the chat room, causing irreparable damage to one of the fugitive’s neural augmentations, requiring immediate medical attention.  Being one of the few groups with air transportation (tiltjets), they fly over to visit and arrive just in the nick of time.

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