Regardless of what particular flavor your campaign happens to be, adding a dash of something horrifying can really liven things up. Players fight harder, and much more inventively, against an opponent that threatens something more than just their hit points. After the jump we’re going to take a look at some of my favorite sources of Nightmare Fuel, inspiration for scaring and scarring your players with equal aplomb!
Listed without any particular order or hierarchy, here are a few of my favorite inspirations to bringing fear into a game. Some content might be NSFW, so peruse with caution.
A novelty twitter account that excels and turning the mundane into the utterly horrifying. The author has an uncanny grasp of how to trigger a solid fear response out of nowhere. They use this precious, and deeply unsettling, ability to spin terrifying, surrealist yarns around common obnoxious marketing trends. Free i-pads and “Live Singles In Your Area” will quickly grow to haunt your thoughts. While most of their tweets might be difficult to spin into tabletop scenarios, studying their techniques could prove invaluable in freeing your mind from the constraints of realism in order to craft a truly disturbing story.
A veritable relic of the internet Ted’s Caving Page is an excellent source of inspiration and a fantastic illustration of techniques for running a horror game. Covering the trials of two spelunkers delving into a previously… undiscovered cave, the story is chilling and excellently told. While GMs of any system would benefit from reading it, Storytellers of any NWoD chronicle owe it to themselves and to their players to peruse its antiquated pages. It’s practically a how-to guide for pacing, plotting and building suspense throughout a game.
The link in the title is just a starting point. Folklore from this region makes for excellent nightmare fuel, and was used to good effect by the author Andrzej Sapkowski in his literary works and the two Witcher videogames that were based off of them. These Folk Legends work well because they can easily be made into opponents for groups of adventurers or investigators with ease. Their take on vampires and werewolves make today’s weak, sparkle-sucking variants grow even paler in comparison. Many monsters of folklore have powers and abilities that are not attributed to their more contemporary counterparts. An Armenian legend, for instance, speaks of certain women who are forced to assume the shape of wolves, devour their children, and their relative’s children, and then stalk the village streets at night with a craving for human flesh, locks and doors springing open at their approach.
The Account, a tale of a newly-minted corporate knight sent to vanquish evil, is an absolute must for anyone in our hobby. This serial podcast is not just an example of pants-soiling-horror with immaculate execution, but also a demonstration of damn good storytelling. Most of the voices, male and female alike, are flawlessly performed by the creator of the series, and his ability to individually and uniquely express a wide array of characters should be an inspiration to GM’s everywhere. The radio serial and the tabletop game have a lot in common, and the series, which is told entirely through dialogue and sound effects, is a damn good example of how it’s done when it comes to character development, pacing, weaving a plot together and using interaction between characters to shape and tell the story.
When it comes to frightening your players, this series has it dialed. The opponents faced by the protagonists are varied, unique and bowel-evacuating in nature. I won’t go into any details to save them for the people who intend to listen to the show, but you should definitely drop by the site, give the first arc a listen and learn a few things while you’re at it. Oh, and the whole thing is available for free, so it certainly wouldn’t hurt to kick the man a few bucks for his trouble, either.
The Secure, Contain and Protect foundation is a user-fed Wiki containing highly censored “government files” on a shadow organization devoted to the study and containment of the supernatural. If somebody made a Monster Manual filled with the creatures contained in these pages, it would be the supplement you kept stowed beneath the table in case every player in your game had managed to individually run over your beloved family dog on the way to the session.
The files are rife with detail and inspiration, with just enough information blacked out to allow you to insert your own machinations while preserving the spirit and panache of the original. There are a variety of security clearances if you feel up to running a SCP game, but I would suggest that you let your players know in advance not to get too attached to their characters.