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Author Topic: Psychological Profile for Horror Game  (Read 998 times)
Dementia Games

Posts: 29

« on: January 26, 2009, 08:35:36 AM »

I've been working on a horror game for a while now, off and on as time permits, and I've been toying with the idea of a psychological profile.  Basically, players summarize 6 memorable events: Warmest Childhood Memory, Darkest Childhood Memory, Warmest Adolescent Memory, Darkest Adolescent Memory, Warmest Adult Memory and Darkest Adult Memory.  They also must rate these events, 1-4, with 1 being a meager memory and 4 being a powerful one.  So, a meager Warmest Memory indicates that the period in question was rather bleak, with a rather weak memory being the warmest of all, while a 4 in Warmest Memory indicates a very powerful and truly warm memory when all was right with the world.  Likewise, the Darkest Memory of 4 is a particularly harrowing event that sticks with you for life, while a 1 is something terrible to the character and memorable, but pretty meager by the overall standards of possibility. 

There are two methods of using this data right now:

1) Looking at all three warmest memories, the player must think of a solitary thread (however far out) between them which can be used as the character's "happy place," a situation in which the character has an easier time recuperating from a horrifying event.  For instance, a character may panic for 1 game minute by rule, but removed from the bad situation and put in their "happy place" may reduce this to 30 seconds, etc.  Of course, it's down to their comrades to put them in that place, since they are panicked and cannot.  Likewise, looking at all three darkest memories, a common thread must be pulled together to give a situation or event which triggers an irrational fear or panic from the character.  This should usually be something not expected to occur in the course of investigations into the paranormal already, so the player has to be fairly creative.  This part is fine and I don't have much trouble with it in theory.  It's number 2 that's bugging me.

2) Summing up the numerical values (1 to 4 each) of the warmest and then doing the same for the darkest, we have values between 4 and 12 for warmest and darkest overall.  I want these numbers to equate to advantages and disadvantages.  What I've thought of doing is subtracting the summed darkest from the summed warmest, giving a range of +8 to -8, which can then be referred to a chart for effect, but I haven't been able to lay out a coherent progression of advantages and disadvantages.  Here's a basic idea of how this might work:

A character with +8, I thought, had a much better time of it in life, so their psyche isn't as frazzled.  Thus, they will have an easier time of it against disturbances (like a saving throw against the source of fear) but may take awhile to recuperate from a breakdown (when they fail that "saving throw" and panic) because their hunky-dory world just got shattered.  At the same time, a character with -8, I thought, has had a terrible time of it and their psyche is screwed.  They will have a harder time of it against the source of fear, but may recuperate quickly because they are accustomed to overcoming terrible setbacks already, time and time again. 

The problem, though, is that psychology is much more complex than that.  For instance, it could be argued that the person with -8 would have an easy time of it against disturbances because, basically, nothing's shocking - they've numbed themselves to bad circumstance.  Meanwhile when their wall finally caves, they may have a hard time recuperating from the effects.  Of course, by this model, the +8 would do the reverse.  They are ill prepared for terrible and unfortunate events, but may bounce back quickly because they have an overall warmer world to hang on to.  You could look at it either way or, of course, even others.

What I'm after are suggestions to this issue or if you think one of these two options makes more sense, etc.  Any feedback would be much appreciated. 
Lance D. Allen

Posts: 1962

« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2009, 11:06:15 AM »

psychology is much more complex than that

Everything modeled in RPGs is much more complex than the modeling. This is even true in GURPS. So don't worry about it. RPGs are about abstractions.

I think your second system is a bit more "realistic", but your former is plausible too.

You could use them both, though.. Perhaps the person with a negative score can choose to be either "A Survivor" (They get hurt easily, but what doesn't kill them makes them stronger and they keep coming) or "Numb" (it takes something truly horrific to move them, but when they do, everything they've walled away just pours down on them). Same deal for the positive score folks.. They can be "Optimistic" (they've got their happiness to keep them going when things get bad, but once they lose hope...) or "Resilient" (they take the bad stuff hard, but their memories of good times bring them back quickly)

In this case, they basically get to chose the system the want to use (hard to hurt/recover quickly) and the polarity of their score determines the color and flavor.

~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Dementia Games

Posts: 29

« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2009, 07:22:54 PM »

That's not a bad idea.  I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me to use both in the first place, but it sounds like it could work quite well, giving power to the player and giving them roleplaying cues as well.  I may just do that, thanks. 
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