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The Heebie-Jeebies...

Started by hardcoremoose, August 01, 2001, 02:55:00 AM

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I shouldn't be posting this now...not on the evening before heading to GenCon, and certainly not at 2:00 AM.  But oh well, here I am, so what the hell...

I've been racking my brain for some time now trying to find a fresh idea for a horror game.  Furthermore, I want it to be solidly narrativist, as I have a running theory that that branch of the three-fold best serves the needs of the genre (i.e., properly motivated players will scare themselves, and each other, far better than the GM could hope to).  So today I had a brain storm...

What if the characters are monsters masquerading as humans? :wink:

Okay, all jokes aside, here's what I'm thinking: Take The Whispering Vault (one of my favorite games) and play the villains.

The characters would be these twisted, horrible monsters who sneak across the divide between Our World and Their World and promptly take up residence in a human shell. Not in some nice, pleasant way either; the characters are not spiritual entities or parasites...they have to scoop out the insides out of the poor guy and poke and prod and stretch their new "clothes" to get them to fit right.  Once they've done that, they can go about their business, which is the whole crux of the game.

They want to be human.  They don't want to kill the humans, or even necessarily hide in the midst of the humans.  They want to be human.  Just like Pinnochio wanted to be a real boy (we all saw A.I., right?).  The problem is that they are not human, and try as they might, they frequently screw things up.  In really, really, really bad ways.

The rules I've worked up would support this, of course.  I won't bore you with the details, but it basically uses a die pool, with dice of two different types (colors, shapes, etc. - as long as you can tell them apart) that by comparing thee results as well as which type of die rolled which result allows you to simulataneously determine if your PC succeeded at a task and managed to preserve his "cover" in doing so.

Which brings me to the game's premise.  The idea here is to get the players to comment on what they think it means to be "human", through the vehicle of an outsider looking in.  If they (their characters, that is) are successful at pretending to be human, the players get to comment on what they think makes a good "human".  Should they fail to do so, they get to elaborate on what makes something "inhuman".  Hopefully it's a different way to look at a somewhat cliched theme.      

So here are my questions:  

Is it too hackneyed to pursue?  I think not, but I'm a bit too close to it at this point.

Would it be fun and enjoyable to play these weird monsters as they just try to get through a day in the life of a human, or would some kind of central "conflict" be necessary to hook players?  I think the horror genre is best served when it deals with normal people dealing with personal issues in their natural environment, and to that end I'd like to keep government agents and otherworldly conspiracies out of the whole thing.  On the other hand, just giving the players a monster and a situation and seeing what they do with it seems a bit too simulationist for me.  As a counterpoint to the monstrous player characters, maybe I can work up something showcasing the evil that real humans are capable of.  Hmmm...I'll have to think long and hard about what kinds of stories I can (and want) to tell with this idea.

Finally, I may be looking for a specific play structure with this one, similar to the way the Whispering Vault structures its sessions. The obvious structure that suggests itself is the one of the Daily Routine - Get Up, Go To Work, Come Home, Eat Dinner, Family Time, etc. - but again, that seems a bit simulationist.  Maybe not though; I guess it depends on what kinds of stories I expect to facilitate.

That's what I have for now.  It's time for some sleep...GenCon awaits!

Take care,

BTW, I was going to call the game Heebie-Jeebies, hence the subject header.    

Mike Holmes

Hi Scott,

Let me start off by saying that I am occasionally uncomfortable with the idea of being the bad guy in games. For instance, I was trying hard to get my character in your Sorcerer demo at the Con killed off. I hated him and was glad to know that he was soon to be shot by that other 9mm toting character. This is not to say that I wasn't entertained, but I don't get attached to such characters. I just can't root for evil; call it a limitation of mine if you like. I think that others are limited in this way as well.

Since you've written the only game that I know of that has a predetermined end for PCs (Wyrd) might I suggest a possibility. Since you're already looking at a structured game (Jared should love it), make it just for one shots or short stories lasting only a few sessions. One of the player goals would be to develop the peripherial NPCs into protagonists that eventually kill your antagonist characters. That's right, you make a character, and then play it trying to survive, but also through play you try to get the NPCs to kill off you and your monster buddies.

You could make it a competitive thing too. Maybe you try to keep your monster alive, but work at liminating the other monsters with the humans. I don't know, just some ideas.

Write it. By all means. I like your idea for the dual roll mechanic; I see dice being transfered from one pool to the other depending on how careful you're being. So if I have 4 dice to attack someone, and 4 dice to do it "humanly", I can go all out monsterous and use 8 dice if we're alone, and I don't mind my victim knowing. OTOH, if I don;t want to raise suspicion because my "family" is watching me clobber the neighbor, I might want to use only 2 dice to attack, and 6 to make sure it just looks like a fistfight. Is that kinda what you were thinking?

Part of CharGen should be a monsterous Need in addition to their need to be human, otherwise they'll all seem the same. Perhaps the monsters need this thing to become "really" human. All the classics like pain, drinking human blood, eating people, whatever the player is comfortable playing, I guess. Can monsters actually make this transition? What kind of humans do they become? Also, special monsterous abilities, and maybe a description of what the monster looks like under that skin. Just in case he has to come out. Of course if the monster is out, he'll be using all his dice and be very nasty, seeing as he's been forced to turn away from his trappings of humanity.

Thinking about it, you might consider doing this as a Sorcerer supplement. Or was that already what you had in mind? Its a slight change, but, essentially, the characters are the demons and the demons are just internal things inside the person, like parasite or possesser demons only bigger. Or Passers passing as humans. The metaphor still holds well, though, instead of being a person with external demons, you are an inner demon trying to be a human. Am I making sense? You probably get the picture. Anyhow the mechanics work similarly, though the demons probably start at a one or zero humanity and are trying to work their way up.

Hope that helps,
Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.



Thanks for the reply.  I had a great time shooting the shit with you at GenCon, and seeing your replies under this thread and Human Wreckage were like hearing from an old friend again.  Granted, a friend I've known for less than a week, and only just talked to last Saturday...

The idea of playing the villain and building towards his eventual demise is excellent!  Exactly the kind of thing I was looking for to set this idea apart from rest of the "lets play the monster" type games.  I have yet to figure out how that will resolve itself mechanically, but that's the direction I'm going to take it in.

I'm not sure how it would work in Sorceror - I have always thought of it as a little freebie for my website.  Who knows though...

Any other ideas out there?

take care,

Gordon C. Landis

I had a similar notion for Wicked Press' Elfworld, where the idea would be to show through playing the game how/why, even though the Aelves are almost deific in power, they don't always win.  I'm pretty sure Sir Wick is going in a different direction, but you might get some interesting stuff out of that thread on the Wicked Press forum - something about "Elves and Evil", as I recall.

Gordon C. Landis (under construction)