Friday, May 8, 2015

My Thing with Horror

I'm not a big watcher of horror films. I'm not a big reader of horror novels. I'm not a big player of horror video games. Why, then, do I so easily gravitate towards horror RPGs? If someone came up to me now and said "run me an RPG, right now, off the top of your head," the game I'd go to immediately is Call of Cthulhu. Not D&D, for which I've read hundreds of pages (and spent hundreds of dollars!) Not Cortex Plus, for which I've run a complete campaign. Not Apocalypse World, which I've said time and again is one of the most important, if not the single most important, role-playing game of our time. Nope; I'd go with Call of Cthulhu. And I wouldn't even do it because of the system. I'd do it because of the genre.

When I think about it, there are a few reasons that I think I keep going back to horror. For one thing, the horror genre naturally caters to my playstyle. I like shorter-term games/campaigns, storylines based on mysteries and interaction, and realistic characters who aren't brimming with super powers and vast reserves of hit points. Horror hits all of those bulletpoints, right on the head. I also like the idea of survival being its own reward. No silly piles of gold or game-breaking magic items; no, your prize for getting to the center of the hedge maze is your own head, still attached to your own neck. Oddly, I find that more satisfying, more exciting even, then incremental power upgrades that will only lead to incremental enemy upgrades to wipe away any real progression.

Lastly, I'm always looking to make an emotional connection with my players. I can do that in two ways: through humor, and through horror. I like humor best when it's unplanned and natural. I like horror best, however, when it's the product of a meticulous, drawn-out plan. And since many RPGs tend to revolve around planning, that, again, makes horror a natural choice for me.

As I've gotten older, and become more aware of what I'm drawn to, I find a certain sense of resentment growing in me over this infatuation of mine. Fantasy is where it's at. Fantasy is the bubblegum pop of tabletop role-playing. And given my overall goal of bringing more people into the hobby, an appreciation for that genre would much better serve that goal. After that, I think science fiction is the next big genre; it is, afterall, the home of the ever-popular Star Wars. As a horror RPG enthusiast, I have but two onramps to accessibility: zombies and Cthulhu. Both of which, arguably, do not have the same appeal and universal reach of the other genres' staples.

Anyways, I'm compelled to write this because I think this is a very unusual interest of mine. When I return to the table, it'll likely be to a horror game. And I think I'm going to be okay with that, limitations and all.


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