I've never really been one to enjoy horror games because they tend to begin on a simple premise: the player cannot win a fight with the villain. The extent to which this is enforced runs the gamut from the villain simply being more powerful than the players are able to overcome under normal circumstances to the villain being invulnerable to the players machinations. Some games I have been asked to play even go so far as to say that the players cannot cause harm to the creatures terrorizing them.
I fundamentally reject such noise.
|The Entomologists Dream by Edmund Dulac 1909|
In role-playing games we are the heroes of our stories. We're not scared, little children hiding in the cupboard hoping that some shiftless drifter doesn't find us. We're the kids who pick up axes, guns, and knives to hunt that bastard down and show him what fear really means. And yet even with that fundamental truth guiding our hobby I have found myself rendered powerless in role-playing games three times. The first time we were told that the mere sight of a creature drove us beyond the realm of sanity and thus we were devoured body and soul. I got up from the table and drove to a local bar where I proceeded to drink for six hours and fool around with women who though make-up was best applied by the bucketful. I still regret not having done so sooner that night.
The second time I sat down at the table and the Game Master informed us that all of our possessions had been taken from us and that we awoke in a dungeon with monsters hunting us. I made plans to murder them only to be told that this wasn't the game we were playing. We were the prey. They were the hunters and if I didn't like it I could get the fuck away from the table. So I left and ended up fishing under the stars while a beautiful Jewish girl read poetry to me and asked me questions about God.
I still don't have all the answers.
The last time I was sitting down to play a game when the Game Master told us that this would be a fantastic experience for all of us. We were going to be playing children who were hiding from some dastardly villain but that we couldn't hurt him. Hell, we couldn't even attempt to harm him. I left that table with my brother, Poot, and went down to the lake where we talked about our children and drank until the sun came up instead.
Look, as role-playing enthusiasts we're often asked to pretend that our characters are bound by limitations all the time. This character isn't as strong; that one isn't so smart; that one likes to smoke and cut itself. All of these simple limitations are fine, but when you take away my ability to choose how my character will make its way in this fictional life I reject your game.
I know the sort of player I am. I tend towards violence, bloody and unrepentant, and I like to push the limits of what is considered acceptable within the game world (though never in the actual world). I make off color jokes; use terrible accents; and am always planning ways to make my character the one thing in the game world that will scare the shit out of every Dragon and Devil alike. I want to use my mind to find the solutions to difficult situations and to take that away from me because you want to make the game scary is to ruin any fun I might have in the game.
Now back to my book.