Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Approach to Horror in D&D


… Take your favorite Call of Cthulhu scenarios, file off the serials numbers, and transplant it into your favorite quasi-historical D&D setting.

Your first thought is likely, 'Well duh, you needed a fancy blog to figure that out, genius?'  Yes, apparently I did.  It started as a bit of dissatisfaction with the horror elements in the Black City campaign, some introspection, and then a case of WWCD (What would Chaosium Do?)  How would I change up the Black City if I were writing it as a Call of Cthulhu scenario for Chaosium, versus a megadungeon for D&D?  Sometimes you need to step outside of your frame of reference to get that new perspective.

It would make an interesting exercise to compare/contrast between the tropes of a traditional D&D scenario vs a traditional horror scenario.  Most of it comes down to an unwavering commitment to the proper atmosphere in the horror setting, and eliminating the D&D tropes that undermine horror.

When I get back from Gencon, I'm going to rifle through my Chaosium collection and look at which scenarios could port well into a D&D game, and attempt to distill the defining elements of the two genres.  I'm not planning on relaunching our campaign as a horror game anytime soon, but it'll be an interesting thought experiment, and hopefully give me some touchstones for a future effort (like Harrowhome).  Besides, I'm starting to see some reviews popping up for Death Love Doom (and here) the latest Raggi piece, and it seems clear he's embraced the horror.  I'm looking forward to the print version.

Black City fans:  No, I'm not actually disappointed with the Black City; it's turning out to be a kick-ass D&D campaign, and it holds true to many of D&D's tropes and expectations, albeit in an unusual setting.  Level 2, the Warrens of Decay, is absolutely nuts, and I really love it.  But one of my goals starting out was to do a megadungeon with a horror theme, and the thought has been growing in the back of my mind that my frame of reference wasn't right - the overarching atmosphere is adventure and exploration.  So while the dungeon has explored interesting new ground regarding 'megadungeon technology', it hasn't brought me as close as I wanted to merging the genres of horror and fantasy in a megadungeon setting.

Okay - I'm off to Gencon.  I'll be back in the webosphere sometime next week and hope to develop these ideas further.