Thursday, March 14, 2013

Barker Your Table Top Game

Barker Your Table Top Game
by Tobie Abad

I'm a sucker for Clive Barker horror.  No, I don't think he's the best there is when it comes to writing horror novels and no I am not a huge fan of his movies either. But I have to admit I find a certain satisfaction in reading his books and given how often I find myself drawing inspiration from his concepts, here's my short article on how to Barker up your Table Top Games.   (Fans of Haruki Murakami can look here for another similar article.  Fans of Studio Ghibli can look here as well.)

Start With Cynicism In All Its Forms.
Clive Barker characters are known to have such bouts that many of the protagonists only seem pleasant because of the still existent sensitivity they hide.    Be sure to give the characters a reason to be angry, or doubtful, or have a penchant of questioning any good thing that comes along.

Sex Should Celebrate Itself.
Whether that celebration is one of victory, or gore, however depends on how and when it happens.  It is rare that sex does not play a role one way or another in a Barker tale.  (And while Thief of Always does not have sex, it does have the theme of wanting gratification so much that it becomes the way to defeat the enemy, so that's still close enough).

Granted some gamers might have trouble with having sex scenes in their game (I gave some advice on doing that here), you can always just throw in a bit of seduction and sultriness without crossing the line if you prefer.

Other Dimensions or Realities Linger Beyond Our Perception.
Barker loves having worlds that exist parallel to our own.  Or worlds that stand divided from ours.  Paradises.  Hells.  They're there.  So if your game allows such a place (like the Shadowlands of Wraith: The Oblivion, the Metropolis of Kult, or the Blue City of Lacuna) then you're already moving in the right direction.

If not, then time to add one in.

Be sure to make visiting the place a tricky thing: tremendously easy for some, impossible for others.  Rituals are always good.  Or sacrifices.  A puzzle box would be perfect.

Character Flaws Should Be Undeniable
Cliver Barker's characters tend to be quite human in ways that we find embarrassing.  Tremendously horny or absolutely selfish.  Defiantly rebellious or blindly religious.  Play up the extremes in the personality without teetering off outside the human paradigm of things.   Barker's characters should remind you of that uncle you really find disgusting, or that cousin you really hate.

People Die, Often.  Very Often.
Death is a frequent and expected occurrence, given the genre.  So yes, don't be afraid to have the road of your narrative paved with the dead bodies of supporting cast members.  If you must, kill even the player characters, but have them return changed.  Empowered.  Or trapped in a deal with the devil.

And when death happens, make it glorious. Bloody glorious.
Severed limbs.  Detached torsos.  Blood surging like broken faucets.  Pouring like thick rain.   Sliced fingers should fly off.  Eyeballs crushed.  Bones crumbled into dust.  Sharp things should stab deep.  Hooks should twist.  Saws should spin.

A thing doesn't just bite... it chomps like a Great White Shark.  A blade doesn't just slide into the flesh, it tears through like a train ramming through and unleashes a crimson rain.

Pain Tends To Be Self-Inflicted.
And that's another key thing to remember.  Pain is not just intense.    At many times, it happens to be self-inflicted!   Maybe its the key to a ritual.  Maybe its the way to stay focused.  Maybe it is the only way to fight the enemy.  Maybe it is how the enemy kills you.    He kidnaps your mother, ties her up, then shows you how her life is in his hands, and all he has to do to set her free is to cut out his own eyeball.  With a spoon.

And Finally, Love.
It is real.  It is powerful.
It is profound.

And it makes all the Horror worth surviving.

Barker would be proud.

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