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13 What horror RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?
Horror is definitely the second most common genre I have played, and I suspect most people of my generation would say the same thing. I’ve played and enjoyed several, but not always because of the horror elements.
The first supposedly horror game I played was Vampire: The Masquerade back in the 1990s. DMs and players started smelling nice and wearing floofy, chest-thong shirts, and women far outnumbered men at the gaming table. VtM was about as horror as Twilight, but it somehow worked to open RPGs to people of all stripes.
We moved on to Call of Cthulhu, but I suppose our sessions were closer to Paranoia, with accusations of “She’s a cultist!” or “He’s gone mad I tell you!” flying for no good reason, followed by combat that inevitably ended the game with all investigators riddled with holes or in the belly of some Lovecraftian beast. I get the feeling I’ve never played Cthulhu ‘the right way,’ but I don’t find BRP all that amenable to the genre. Perhaps Trail of Cthulhu would be more suited, but I’d rather play Inspectres first.
There were also a few stabs at Beyond the Supernatural, but again Palladium’s overpowered PCs don’t even flinch when confronting eldritch horrors so long as they aren’t MDC. There is a section in the book that rightly gives the option to play children, which would add the powerlessness that is such a staple of horror, but why play watered down Palladium when Don’t Rest Your Head or Little Fears presumably do a much better job at it.
I guess the closest I’ve come to a horror RPG is Zombie Cinema, a co-operative storytelling boardgame I played at a con a few years back. The object as I recall was to survive through successive scenes, each player in turn adding complications and either cooperating to overcome them or sacrificing each other to avoid them. The tension as the scenes advanced was really delicious, as was the feeling of encroaching doom. In the end, we all ended up dying but told a satisfyingly scary tale.
Which is why I think the traditional RPG need for characters to survive goes against the grain of horror. If an RPG can emulate the terror of loss with the joy of telling a spinetingling tale, it will be worthy of the horror genre.