The Threat From the Deep
Obligations of the Players
- To cooperate with the DM in Setting the Mood: A player who refuses to allow himself to be swept up in the game, and who will not portray his character as scared or shocked when the situation warrants, destroys the mood not only for himself but for the entire group.
- To accept that Horrific Events will happen to them: In a horror campaign, not every ending is a happy one. The Pc’s will, at times, encounter opponents too powerful and too terrible for them to defeat. They will not always be able to prevent their loved ones from suffering. They won’t have as high a survival rate as characters in other campaigns. They should not expect every fight to be winnable and every plotline to end on a positive note.
- To create horror-appropriate Characters: Horror works only when the characters have something to lose. A character with a rich background, goals and ambitions, and friends and family is a much better choice for a horror game than the stoic loner with no emotional attachments.
- To avoid metagame thinking: A character in a horror game who thinks “Dear Gods, that creature utterly ignored my fireball! It cannot be a normal troll!” is fine. A player who grows irate at the DM for creating a flame-breathing troll is not. Fear is about surprises and the unknown. * Trust the DM enough to accept that he has a reason for making changes. Further, don’t assume that the DM won’t let a character die; this is a horror game, after all. The danger is real and players should treat it as such.
- To tell the DM if it’s gone too far: This is a game. This is about having fun. If the DM’s idea of horror goes further than you’re comfortable with, tell him so.
Obligations of the DM
- To provide the necessary mood and detail.
- To go only as far as the Players Wish: Some people have a lower threshold for horror than others. No matter how horrific you wish to make it, D&D is still a game; it’s meant to be fun. If one of your players is becoming uncomfortable with a scene or description, stop.
- To Avoid Taking Advantage of the Situation: Horror often involves foes too powerful for the PCs to defeat, at least by standard or obvious means. Don’t use this as an excuse to slaughter or torment the characters without reason. You’re the DM; you don’t need to prove that you’ve got bigger weapons in your arsenal. If you make changes to monsters or rules, do so because they heighten the mood, not because you want to beat the players. And be certain that players know in advance about any rules changes that involve them directly.
- To Avoid Frustrating the Players: Horror often involves mystery as well as seemingly unbeatable foes. These elements, if drawn out for too long, can prove frustrating for players. No matter how convoluted your plots or how powerful your villains, you must allow the players to experience victories and discoveries, even if only occasionally.
- To Avoid Going too Easy: It’s hard on the player to lose a well-loved character, and you shouldn’t kill one at whim. At the same time, the danger in a horror game must feel real. If the dice and circumstances say that a character dies or suffers some other gruesome fate, you should probably allow it to happen.