Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Horror Games During the Day

Horror Games During the Day
by Tobie Abad

I feel a tad hesitant about writing this article since I can't help but feel that the problem is something others might not relate with.  Being a huge fan of horror games, I have always had some issues with running a horror game during the daytime.   Mood and atmosphere are very important to me as a game master, so trying to play something like Vampire the Masquerade or Kult sounds unthinkable if the game is set while the sun is up.  (Admittedly, had I been the supposed stereotype gamer who runs things in the basement, it probably wouldn't be an issue, but given my condo unit is on the 14th floor, sunlight streaming in should be anticipated unless the game is set after sunset.)

While calling for an eclipse is beyond our means, and rescheduling the game is assumed to be a non-option, here are some tips on how to still manage running a horror game during the day time.

This sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised how sometimes it can be overlooked.  And don't just close them.  If you have a darker curtain, use the darker ones.    That way, your peripheral vision sees a dark area where the window should be.

Reducing the light is as important as reducing the heat.  Warm makes you think, "The sun is up" so try to make the gaming area cooler if possible.  I've had some games where we'd have three electric fans up to keep the place cool.

Given you want to build atmosphere and the very day is against it, using tools like music can help you get the mood better.  Consider movie and game soundtracks that you can leave running in the background at a low volume.

Do not force the night feel, however, with cricket sounds or the like.  Players might end up just laughing as they realize the sounds contrast the daytime too much.

Whether you are running a Vampire the Masquerade or Requiem game, or a session of Kult, or Call of Cthulhu, have the opening scene be during the day.  Acknowledge the feel and general atmosphere your players are in still makes them think "daytime" and progress the game towards the desired mood.  Storytelling and role-playing games after all are about the imagination.  Once you've engaged the imagination enough, they're stop thinking about the sun outside the window and focus on the full moon you've just described as having risen past the horizon.

So the sun is beaming down your window?  Then grab some old folders or cut up some corrugated cardboard into long strips, then tape them across the windows in odd angles to resemble boarded up windows during a zombie invasion.  The shadows that are formed and the beams of light should give the push towards horror a nice push.

You can even kill the normal room lights and let only the window light be the light source.  It might even be a plus how as the game progresses, the whole scene seems to get darker and darker (which you might match to have the story get darker as well).

Given how finding time for a game can be tough, especially once you've graduated and now have work to consider... finding time that matches your whole group can even be further complicated.  So I hope these little ideas help out if you ever find your horror game being scheduled to run before lunch.

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