… 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.
Converting scenarios over to a different genre can be a useful exercise, for the reasons you suggest. I did it by running Death Frost Doom as a Rogue Trader scenario, for example. It keeps the players on their toes!ReplyDelete
What was that one with the mutant baby in the well? I think it's from Day of the Beast. I ported that into Hommlet and it seemed to work okay.ReplyDelete
The spectacles from "The Thing in the Well" were always my favorite.Delete
You could experiment by introducing horror as they penetrate the dungeon further, especially in a certain area (which they can then avoid if they're disinterested).ReplyDelete
I don't have any specific scenarios to suggest, but I think that the King in Yellow, in his pallid mask, would be a good fit. While never able to confront him, the PCs can witness the inevitable decay he brings about. Closely related, the Dreamlands (which trail in time by at least a few centuries) would exist as a bronze-age fey-like kingdom. Intrusions from Carcosa via the Dreamlands allow some psychedelic touches from beyond.ReplyDelete
A friend translated many of the CoC "Gaslight" scenarios to WFRP for his home campaign, and they worked quite well. I bet it could be done with D&D, too.ReplyDelete
Lovecraft's work, and it's RPG derivatives, are often touted as great vehicles for cosmic horror, with the "horror" part being emphasized. It always seemed to me, and the reason I got into it, was the "cosmic" part. The way it shows that beyond the the common experience things don't work much at all like you'd expect.ReplyDelete
Not that I'm aginst sanity or some other system to track mental breakdown in the face of the the bizarreness, or against monsters and situations being thrown in for creepiness factor. But it really is the strangeness of the situation, the juxtaposition of the known and common tropes with unexpected or contrasting elements, that really keeps my attention.
I'm not sure that "pure" D&D is well-suited to "pure" horror gaming. After all, D&D is about adventure and exploration, and clever players should 'win', while, say, CoC is built around investigation and the inevitable insignificance of Humanity in the face of cosmic horror.ReplyDelete
That said, LotFP DOES fit a "proper" horror campaign.
The given rules are still more about exploration and looting: the skill system, the encumbrance system, the detailed equipment list, XP for treasure, etc.Delete
Nevertheless, among the D&D-esque games, this fits horror gaming the best.
My very limited experience of Lovecraftian role-playing is that it takes place in a world where you can't 'kick down the door and attack' because you'll get arrested for murder, and that this is an important factor in the characters' choices.ReplyDelete