Thank you to our generous Patrons at Patreon.com, who helped bring this content to life!
This month we’re proud to be hosting the RPG Blog Carnival! Our theme is “What Scares You?” Below, we’ll take a look at how you can take your own fears and turn them into positive gaming experiences. Additionally, the four scenarios we release this month will be specifically geared toward our own, personal fears (mine are dentists and sharks–why so many teeth?).
Never heard of the RPG Blog Carnival? It’s a great way for folx with gaming blogs to write on the same topic and hear from diverse, creative voices. Interested in joining the conversation? It’s simple: write a blog post that somehow fits under the “What Scares You?” theme–could be a scenario hook, a new (or old) monster, or just a post about a straight-up fear–and post a link to it in the comments below! At the end of the month, we’ll make a wrap-up post collecting everyone’s entries for the world to see.
What Scares You?
So Matt, we write a lot of horror scenarios here–but what scares you?
That’s such a good question. Often when I’m conjuring up a scenario idea, I ask myself, “What’s scary,” instead of “What scares me?” I haven’t thought about making the scenario personal, although I do remember a writing instructor telling us to “write about what hurts.” It makes perfect sense that a scenario based on my personal fears would have more punch that one based on more common, more universal fears.
That said, universal fears trigger everyone, we hope.
But back to what scares me. I think my ultimate terror is the speed in which life can change. One minute you’re driving down the road thinking about something inconsequential. A truck runs a red light and slams into you, killing your passenger and putting you in the hospital with a broken spine. In an instant your life is permanently altered. Life is so precious yet it hangs by a thread with no guarantees. Make all the promises you want, say all your prayers, heed all your portents, they have no effect on the fragility of life.
Would you like to elucidate your fear of dentists?
Well dentists feel insignificant compared to that. But really it’s not dentists, per se, just teeth, and there being something wrong with the teeth. All of my stress dreams involve loose teeth, rotted teeth, teeth falling out…
To be a little more metaphysical about it, I suppose that the teeth falling out are representative of a fear of decay. You only get one set of teeth (unlike sharks…) and if you screw those up, you’re down to dentures.
What sort of a Mythos scenario could we dream up around either of these themes–physical decay or, for lack of a better word, fate?
Physical decay… it reminds me of when my character was turned to dust by Quachil Uttaus, the Treader of Dust, during a game at NecronomiCon 2017.
Fate is interesting, or at least doomed. I’ve been reading scenarios in which the player characters are doomed from the start but they don’t know it. As the game unfolds the players (hopefully) realize that they were screwed from the beginning. We ought to try our hand at writing a scenario or two like that.
My second fear is the fear of being caught. There is nothing really that I could be “caught” at these days, but it was a different story when I was younger. My parents were authoritarians and I grew up with a lot of rules. I would break some of those rules and then live in dread for the next few hours that someone would find out. As I got older and purposefully broke the rules, I was still afraid of being caught. I’m not sure what would have happened, and maybe what I’m really afraid of is punishment. That’s easier to codify; mastigophobia is the fear of being punished, and missing from the list of Sample Phobias in the Call of Cthulhu Keeper’s Rulebook (page 160).
Have we included your second fear, sharks, in any one-page scenarios?
Not yet! (But we will later this month.)
I suppose that what we’re really driving at here is that fears can be powerful sources of inspiration (and that sometimes confronting those fears, even in a solely artistic environment, can be productive). I’m imagining a scenario where we tie together this sense of “doom” with physical decay–after all, we’re all doomed to grow old and die.
So maybe we take this theme and run with it: something is causing the investigators (or their loved ones) to age prematurely–or better yet, to decay while they’re still alive. We can even include some horrific boxed text about how their teeth start to loosen in their jaws…
But what about “doom,” or even mastigophobia? How do we incorporate one of these into the scenario we’ve started?
My first thought was that the investigators were criminals. Maybe a Keeper could orchestrate the classic prisoner’s dilemma into a scenario. Free associating here… criminals steal gold from Innsmouth and learn that a Deep One posse is on their tail. They can’t outrun them and they can’t fight them. Maybe if they give up the gold, they suffer minor consequences. Maybe if one half of the group throws the other half to the Deep Ones, the ones doing the throwing can escape with the gold in the ensuing carnage. Not sure how the fear of punishment slots in there.
I was imagining a slightly different setup, though I think these can work together: the investigators are doomed because they’ve slighted the worshippers of some god (so Deep Ones certainly fit the bill) and have incurred this curse (causing their state of living decay) because the cultists have cast a curse upon them. Now our investigators are both suffering from decay, and chugging along with the knowledge that it’s effectively their own fault. That’s a pretty tidy little scenario hook, I think. I could see it ending with a shootout in an abandoned graveyard, another nod to their impending demise…
Are there any other elements you’d like to toss into this little gem?
I like the idea that they can save themselves somehow if they sacrifice one of their group to the Deep Ones, or whatever is chasing them. Perfect scenario for a game. Put the investigators in a tight spot with poor choices and give them all shotguns.
But that’s just what we think, a little back and forth on the topic of fear. I’m eager to see what others think, and more importantly how they use fear in their games.
Thanks for reading, everyone! And welcome, once again, to May’s RPG Blog Carnival. Don’t forget to drop a link in the comments below with your own thoughts on how to use “What Scares You” in your favorite roleplaying games! Next Sunday, we’ll have a one-page scenario for Call of Cthulhu based on one of the fears we’ve described above.
Reckoning of the Dead has a Patreon! If you like what we do, please consider donating. Just a dollar or two a month can make a profound difference. Also, don’t forget to follow the blog by clicking the ellipsis in the upper corner of this page! You can follow us on Twitter and Instagram @reckonthedead, and we also have a Facebook page.