Monday, January 13, 2014

Horrors: What is the game about exactly?

Well I've talked about the setting and touched upon a little of the sort of characters you can create and the mechanics which support them but I haven't really spoken about the sorts of games it is designed to evoke. Naturally you can create nearly any sort of game with any sort of system, but certain games lend themselves better to certain types of gameplay.

Horrors on the Home Front aims for a few different interconnected styles:

The Lived Experience. The Lived Experience includes all of the ordinary elements of the British Home Front. It means drawing on historical details such as black outs, rationing and queues. It means dropping incendiaries even though it's not part of the main plot but simply because they went out during the Blitz. It involves excitement over a single pineapple in a neighbour's hands. It involves trying to figure out how to drive to that isolated hamlet when you're suffering from petrol rationing. Basically, it involves the feeling of "what it would be like to be there" so that, at the end of it, you feel like you have a clue about that other place and time.

Part of the Lived Experience includes richly drawn and sometimes odd NPCs. Not always odd, but sometimes. If you want to know the sort of odd I'm talking about, pick up a book by Ed McBain or strike up a conversation with ten others one by one on a public bus. People have strange habits, interesting eccentricities, and other subtle nuances which make people seem more real than the oddly perfect and straightforward NPCs most often glimpsed in roleplaying games and videogames and the minor characters in other fictional products.

Intellectual Stimulation. Similar to Call of Cthulhu BRP, the game is also designed to stimulate one's intelligence through mysteries, puzzles, and clue trails. Unlike Call of Cthulhu, the game will rely on developing and understanding timelines a little bit better. In other words, *when* did things happen and *what order* did they follow. This is especially true for mundane crimes that might appear to be supernaturally related as the best way to solve a crime is to figure out who has the means as much as the motive and consistent timelines really is a big part of finding the means.

Even the supernatural entities need to be investigated first because some of them can't be destroyed by normal weapons. The entity could be briefly paralysed by a gunshot (losing a turn), temporarily chased off or even banished for a few nights, but that isn't the same as stopping it. The best way to defeat them is to learn more about the entity and then apply a few simple rules: The Law of Opposition, The Law of Contagion and the Law of Sympathy (or like calls to like). The players have some leeway in designing the right rituals though the Game Warden is in charge of the primary effects. I say ritual, but it can be a lot more brief and informal than what most people think about when they think of a ritual.

I won't give too much away at this stage, but a good videogame example are the darkness possessed creatures in Alan Wake. You have to turn a light on them to burn away the shadowy smoke they exude before you can use your gun.

Bleed. This is a game that assumes fear cannot be easily evoked unless other emotions are evoked first. This is one of the reasons why there's so often a mundane throughline alongside any occult plot. The mundane throughline gives players a chance to get to know their characters and the world around them. It also gives opportunities for a wider range of emotions. Irritation at the in-laws. Amusement due to the strange sights which greet you in an air raid shelter: like a nude woman wrapped in a blanket sitting next to another woman dressed in all of her furs and jewellery due to a fear her home will be struck by a bomb. Baffled anger at a zealous police officer who took a vital car part from your vehicle because you didn't adequately immobilise it and "y'never know when the Jerry parachuters will be dropping". The game assumes that the more you feel as your character feels, the more you will be open to the fear that forms the foundation of a horror experience.

Are there any other questions on the system or setting?

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