Author Topic: DM/GM 101: The Science and Magic of Horror Gaming  (Read 908 times)


0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Lord Palatine

  • Ye Olde Man
  • Guildmaster/Mistress
  • Grand Duke/Grand Duchess
  • *
  • Posts: 14671
  • Karma: 127
  • Gender: Male
  • Face for radio, voice for print!
  • Awards Has made 9,000+ posts Has made 8,000+ posts Has made 7,000+ posts Has made 6,000+ posts Has made 5,000+ posts Has made 4,000+ posts Has made 3,000+ posts Has made 2,000+ posts A Founding Member of the Guild A Board Game Master
    • Scribe of the Realm
    • Awards
DM/GM 101: The Science and Magic of Horror Gaming
« on: May 16, 2013, 08:12:28 PM »
Monsters and creatures play to our deepest fears and superstitions, at first they were explained by magic but then over the years writers looked to science for investigations.  We can look to Mary Shelley for the origin of science and monsters.  Frankenstein's monster (Frankenstein was the one who made the monster, not the creature itself) used the budding science of electricity to explain the ancient myth of the Golem.

Golems, according to ancient Jewish myth, were animated clay and had a somewhat holy status.  They existed in myth as recently as the 16th century.  Shelley updated the myth to Frankenstein's dabbling with a corpse jig-sawed together from pieces of other bodies, and if you're an aficionado of Mel Brooks, a brain from Abby Normal.  This transformed the golem from a being of inanimate clay and other substances to organic flesh, stolen from graves to become an animated creature.  Animated clay is interesting, corpses sewn together, corpses that could be friends and family and now wandering free with dim intelligence and inhuman strength take interesting to creepy and scary.  Science was starting to take large leaps, and those scared people.

Every advance in science brings an advance in creatures, where before magic explained them now science was edging in to take its piece of the pie.  Viruses and DNA are gaining more understanding to the scientists, but to john and Jane Joe there's still some hocus-pocus to the science.  So tales of vampires and werewolves, for example, instead of spreading a curse of either lycanthropy or undeath they spread a virus, and in many cases not just a disease but microorganisms that rewrite the DNA of the victim.

The ability to explain these creatures through both magic and science opens up whole new realms of possibility for these creatures.  Zombies can now be either the animated dead (through magic, a curse, or a really nasty virus) or they can be like the Reavers of Serenity, their brains chemically burned out until only a murderous thing with no inhibitions or taboos left.  The point I'm making is this, you can increase the creep factor of any game set in any time period quite simply.  All you need to do is decide how much magic or science or both need to be mixed in their creation.

  • Zombies, animated dead or a disease that kills the life force of the host and turns the body the disease now controls as a vector to spread the virus farther, because that's what viruses do, they spread and infect others, its how they reproduce, the difference is that they have no other biological needs, reproduce by spreading.  There is a certain desperation to their cycle because they are working with bodies that begin to degrade as soon as they infect their host.  This works for all sorts of zombie types, from Night of the Living Dead, to Dawn of the Dead (the remake) to 28 Days Later, to I am Legend.  Each has zombies, but each handles then just a little differently.
  • Reavers are an interesting and more modern take on zombies, people who's brains went through a process similar to chemical lobotomy, their minds were stripped of control mechanisms that retrain behavior, it turned them into something similar a zombie, they are living but they have a very disturbing form of insanity that leaves them something quite different than human.  Unfortunately they didn't really expand upon them enough before the series ended to tell us if this could be spread.  They implied it, but never really narrowed it down, which gives you lots of possibilities to work with.
  • Mummies are also a form of 'living dead,' you can explain them as specially prepared corpses, or, if they are only desiccated bodies they could have been sealed up or entombed to prevent them from spreading their disease further.  Curse or germs the effects can be the same.
  • Vampires, undead creatures, genetically modified people, or a separate species?  Then again with vampires you have to sort them by type, some need blood, some rob the life force of the person, some feed on sexual energy and in Star Trek one fed on the salt of its victims.  Being an undead creature explains some, adding science to it can explain even more, but you can mix the science and magic and even a touch of mysticism to explain them all, that's where the fun of being a world-builder comes into play, you get to decide how to mix the brew.  Do your vampires hide from sunshine or can they walk in the day?  Can they shape shift, and if so can they transform into a creature smaller of larger than themselves?  And if they can transform is it magic or a natural physiological ability of what they have turned into or is it a form of magic?
  • You run into more problems with lycanthropes and science, but that doesn't have to be the case.  The ‘curse' of lycanthropy, much like vampirism, may just be a virus that completely rewrites the DNA of the host, it alters their physical body to do things that no human was meant to do, transform into a creature or hybrid of a creature and the host's species.  One thing that its important to remember, just because we don't know how a person could scientifically alter their physical appearance, yet, doesn't mean that science never will.
Don't over-think things, in the end the average Joes and Janes on the street can't explain how the virus that gave them the flu works, they just know it does.  Don't try and solve the mystery, if its solved then what's the mystery?  If somebody knows everything then they can come up with ways to block the 'disease,' or even cure it entirely.  Think it through as much as you want to, but no matter how far you think it through, don't give it all away, and make the players work themselves into a frazzle for each speck of information they do glean.

Horror needs mystery and the unknown or it just becomes routine, same-old-same-old.  Jason has been in about 15 Friday the 13th movies, and we still don't know what makes him tick.  Once you have something figured out there's a lot less to be afraid of, and that takes a lot of the spooky factor out of your horror game.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!


Untitled Document

The Fantasy Artists, RolePlayers & Writers Guild, aka FARPWG the Guild is not affiliated with, endorsed, sponsored, or specifically approved by Wizards of the Coast LLC. FARPWG - The Guild may use the trademarks and other intellectual property of Wizards of the Coast LLC, which is permitted under Wizards' Fan Site Policy (Magic site) (D&D site). For example, MAGIC: THE GATHERING®, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS®, D&D®, PLAYER'S HANDBOOK 2®, and DUNGEON MASTER'S GUIDE® are trademark[s] of Wizards of the Coast and D&D® core rules, game mechanics, characters and their distinctive likenesses are the property of the Wizards of the Coast. For more information about Wizards of the Coast or any of Wizards' trademarks or other intellectual property, please visit their website at (

The Fantasy Artists, RolePlayers & Writers Guild, aka FARPWG the Guild is not affiliated with, endorsed, sponsored, or specifically approved by any company unless specified. In order to review products Guild Members may reference trademarks and other intellectual property of these companies without intent to violate trademarks or copyrights.

The Fantasy Artists, RolePlayers & Writers Guild, aka FARPWG the Guild provides forum boards, server space and bandwidth, without compensation, to support Idaho gaming and fandom.

This product is meant for educational purposes only. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. Void where prohibited. Some assembly required. List each check separately by bank number. Batteries not included. Contents may settle during shipment. Use only as directed. No other warranty expressed or implied. Do not use while operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment. Postage will be paid by addressee. Subject to CAB approval. This is not an offer to sell securities. Apply only to affected area. May be too intense for some viewers. Do not stamp. Use other side for additional listings. For recreational use only. Do not disturb. All models over 18 years of age. If condition persists, consult your physician. No user-serviceable parts inside. Freshest if eaten before date on carton. Subject to change without notice. Times approximate. Simulated picture. No postage necessary if mailed in the United States. Breaking seal constitutes acceptance of agreement. For off-road use only. As seen on TV. One size fits all. Many suitcases look alike. Contains a substantial amount of non-tobacco ingredients. Colors may, in time, fade. We have sent the forms which seem right for you. Slippery when wet. For office use only. Not affiliated with the American Red Cross. Drop in any mailbox. Edited for television. Keep cool. process promptly. Post office will not deliver without postage. List was current at time of printing. Return to sender, no forwarding order on file, unable to forward. Not responsible for direct, indirect, incidental or consequential damages resulting from any defect, error or failure to perform. At participating locations only. Not the Beatles. Penalty for private use. See label for sequence. Substantial penalty for early withdrawal. Do not write below this line. Falling rock. Lost ticket pays maximum rate. Your canceled check is your receipt. Add toner. Place stamp here. Avoid contact with skin. Sanitized for your protection. Be sure each item is properly endorsed. Sign here without admitting guilt. Slightly higher west of the Mississippi. Employees and their families are not eligible. Beware of dog. Contestants have been briefed on some questions before the show. Limited time offer, call now to ensure prompt delivery. You must be present to win. No passes accepted for this engagement. No purchase necessary. Processed at location stamped in code at top of carton. Shading within a garment may occur. Use only in a well-ventilated are. Keep away from fire or flames. Replace with same type. Approved for veterans. Booths for two or more. Check here if tax deductible. Some equipment shown is optional. Price does not include taxes. No Canadian coins. Not recommended for children. Prerecorded for this time zone. Reproduction strictly prohibited. No solicitors. No alcohol, dogs or horses. No anchovies unless otherwise specified. Restaurant package, not for resale. List at least two alternate dates. First pull up, then pull down. Call toll free before digging. Driver does not carry cash. Some of the trademarks mentioned in this product appear for identification purposes only. Record additional transactions on back of previous stub. Unix is a registered trademark of AT&T. Do not fold, spindle or mutilate. No transfers issued until the bus comes to a complete stop. Package sold by weight, not volume. Your mileage may vary. This article does not reflect the thoughts or opinions of either myself, my company, my friends, or my cat. Don't quote me on that. Don't quote me on anything. All rights reserved. You may distribute this article freely but you may not make a profit from it. Terms are subject to change without notice. Illustrations are slightly enlarged to show detail. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is unintentional and purely coincidental. Do not remove this disclaimer under penalty of law. Hand wash only, tumble dry on low heat. Do not bend, fold, mutilate, or spindle. No substitutions allowed. For a limited time only. This article is void where prohibited, taxed, or otherwise restricted. Caveat emptor. Article is provided "as is" without any warranties. Reader assumes full responsibility. An equal opportunity article. No shoes, no shirt, no articles. quantities are limited while supplies last. If any defects are discovered, do not attempt to read them yourself, but return to an authorized service center. Read at your own risk. Parental advisory - explicit lyrics. Text may contain explicit materials some readers may find objectionable, parental guidance is advised. Keep away from sunlight. Keep away from pets and small children. Limit one-per-family please. No money down. No purchase necessary. You need not be present to win. Some assembly required. Batteries not included. Instructions are included. Action figures sold separately. No preservatives added. Slippery when wet. Safety goggles may be required during use. Sealed for your protection, do not read if safety seal is broken. Call before you dig. Not liable for damages arising from use or misuse. For external use only. If rash, irritation, redness, or swelling develops, discontinue reading. Read only with proper ventilation. Avoid extreme temperatures and store in a cool dry place. Keep away from open flames. Avoid contact with eyes and skin and avoid inhaling fumes. Do not puncture, incinerate, or store above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not place near a flammable or magnetic source. Smoking this article could be hazardous to your health. The best safeguard, second only to abstinence, is the use of a condom. No salt, MSG, artificial color or flavoring added. If ingested, do not induce vomiting, and if symptoms persist, consult a physician. Articles are ribbed for your pleasure. Possible penalties for early withdrawal. Offer valid only at participating sites. Slightly higher west of the Rockies. Allow four to six weeks for delivery. must be 18 to read. Disclaimer does not cover misuse, accident, lightning, flood, tornado, tsunami, volcanic eruption, earthquake, hurricanes and other Acts of God, neglect, damage from improper reading, incorrect line voltage, improper or unauthorized reading, broken antenna or marred cabinet, missing or altered serial numbers, electromagnetic radiation from nuclear blasts, sonic boom vibrations, customer adjustments that are not covered in this list, and incidents owing to an airplane crash, ship sinking or taking on water, motor vehicle crashing, dropping the item, falling rocks, leaky roof, broken glass, mud slides, forest fire, or projectile (which can include, but not be limited to, arrows, bullets, shot, BB's, shrapnel, lasers, napalm, torpedoes, or emissions of X-rays, Alpha, Beta and Gamma rays, knives, stones, etc.). Other restrictions may apply. This supersedes all previous notices.

Opinions in articles, posts and podcasts do not necessarily represent the views of The Fantasy Artists, RolePlayers & Writers Guild, aka FARPWG the Guild.

FARPWG The Guild © 2004-2017 Tim Boothby - All Rights are retained by those posting art, lyrics, messages and articles.

* About Me!

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

* Who's Here?

  • Dot Guests: 31
  • Dot Hidden: 0
  • Dot Users: 0

There aren't any users online.

* Most Recent

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 20, 2018, 07:16:39 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 19, 2018, 09:03:11 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 19, 2018, 08:16:30 AM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 19, 2018, 12:47:30 AM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 19, 2018, 12:32:27 AM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 19, 2018, 12:21:34 AM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 18, 2018, 11:44:55 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 18, 2018, 11:08:14 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 18, 2018, 09:07:24 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 17, 2018, 11:48:39 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 17, 2018, 11:38:05 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 17, 2018, 11:10:44 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 17, 2018, 11:06:29 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 17, 2018, 10:33:01 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 11, 2018, 09:32:31 PM]

Affiliated Sites

Red Zone Fandom Red Zone Fan Photography Scribe of the Realm Science Fox Serious Lesbian

Red Zone Galleries

Boise Area Conventions

Us Being Social

Guild on Facebook Red Zone Facebook Red Zone Twitter Red Zone Youtube