Horror RPGs can be taught rather a lot from how F.E.A.R. mixes horror and motion.

Face Your F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. is an acronym for First Encounter Assault Recon, a first-person motion shooter that mixes Japanese-horror (j-horror) tropes popularized by films like The Ring and The Grudge collection. J-horror options haunted homes, monstrous moms, and damaged households, mixing psychic powers with fashionable know-how.

The F.E.A.R. collection focuses on an elite group in the USA Military tasked with investigating supernatural phenomena. Their investigation uncovers a non-public army firm’s secret analysis program, producing psychic clones, with probably the most highly effective being a younger woman named Alma. Along with faceless clone enemies, your character can decelerate time (primarily borrowing the “bullet-time” mechanic used within the Matrix films).

F.E.A.R. pits psychological horror in opposition to a personality with an infinite quantity of firepower at his disposal. It is an uneasy combine that may be difficult to tug off, and that pressure might be seen in fashionable tabletop role-playing video games like Name of Cthulhu’s descendant, Delta Inexperienced. However when F.E.A.R. works nicely, the extent design is instructive in how GMs can run efficient fashionable horror video games.

Mundane Environments, Horrific Outcomes

F.E.A.R. hardly ever takes place in army installations. A lot of the motion is in deserted faculties, bombed out buildings, and empty places of work. Every of those environments tells a narrative about what occurred there via blood, blocked exits, overturned furnishings, and deserted computer systems.

Particles serves a number of functions. An empty cubicle with a flickering laptop that shows a determined plea for assist offers each cowl and provides texture to the atmosphere. Conversely, doorways which were barricaded by desks and chairs act as a barrier (F.E.A.R. makes use of this rather a lot to forestall the participant from wandering too far out of the atmosphere) in addition to tells a narrative of a siege. And naturally, a path of blood can lead PCs someplace necessary or doubtlessly to their doom.

Be Afraid of the Darkish

In contrast to fantasy settings the place numerous species can often see in the dead of night, most horror video games characteristic common people who want gentle to see. This makes the dearth of sunshine a essential think about creating horror.

Simply as necessary as darkness is unreliable gentle. Be it flickering displays, emergency lights, or swinging overhead lamps, lighting can inform its personal story. F.E.A.R. makes all visible shows (displays, lights, and so on.) flicker as an indication of psychic interference from any non-corporeal foes, together with Alma herself. In RPGs, this will vary from simply describing atmospheric results to a random likelihood of know-how not working.

Shortage of Sources

In video games the place firepower is available, weapons give a way of consolation in opposition to the unknown and might be equally devastating after they fail.

Within the excessive, some weapons might not work nicely (capturing at ghosts appears impractical, however each are viable choices in F.E.A.R. and D&D) or work in any respect. This may make gamers pissed off if an alternate path is not offered — F.E.A.R. presents these sorts of obstacles however then suggests alternate weapons that will take vital threat to acquire them.

In tabletop video games this may be considerably nebulous. Typically, the one means a participant is aware of a monster cannot be damage by mundane weapons is to hit it first. In video video games, the participant often figures this out by dying and beginning over. However in tabletop play the place there aren’t save factors, the celebration then wants to modify gears rapidly to one thing else. This requires GMs telegraphing nicely forward of time to make use of an alternate technique, or present in-combat hints that one weapon or harm kind is extra viable than one other.

On a extra mundane degree, merely counting down ammunition (with no hope of discovering extra) might be terrifying. Stock administration generally is a ache in tabletop video games if PCs aren’t ready to maintain observe of it, so it is necessary to make it clear initially of the sport that ammo issues.

The trope definer of that is a deleted scene from Aliens, wherein automated turrets maintain the xenomorphs at bay, spraying hundreds of bullets on the enemy … till they run out.

The Unhappy Place

Part of F.E.A.R.’s backstory is the tragic upbringing of Alma, who was treated terribly as a child. Her shattered innocence is conveyed through flashbacks and dimensional warping in which the protagonist is thrust into an alternate, hellish dimension. This keeps the player off-center but at the same time tells progresses the game’s narrative by having the player experience it in real time.

In tabletop games, this is best accomplished through another map entirely. How much of it is “real” is an open question that should be handled carefully (do the monsters there only inflict psychic damage? is it a dream state, only experienced when the character is unconscious?). In a horror game where separating the party is often a villain’s goal, it’s a little easier to pull off.

Find Your F.E.A.R.

I’ve tried to insert these elements into a a D20 Modern/Call of Cthulhu inspired game, but not all game mechanics support it. For a first-person shooter, F.E.A.R. is surprisingly successful in inserting horror into a game that’s all about violent power. It’s possible, but it’s not easy.

Your Turn: What are your tips for inserting horror elements into action RPGs?