As you may be aware, a GM withdrawal from Fright Night has left me suddenly filling the gap, which while a little stressful, might prove a great opportunity to put EPOCH into action – making a lie of my many and various excuses as to why I can’t get to this anytime soon. Thus, I have committed to run Captivating Jasper for Fright Night.
Of course, this isn’t really the first time I’ll be trying some of these techniques. I’ve been observing and using elements all over the place, from Morgue’s early Aliens games, through to my own recent games at Confusion 8, both of which were tests for some of the techniques I think might work.
I see EPOCH, in addition to having some simple tools to build the right kind of mood, as a more organized and considered approach to horror roleplaying. Reading through the list of Horror Techniques posted on Yog-Sothoth, I was struck by the fact that these techniques are not really enough in-and-of themselves. They tell less than half the story. They are like jokes for a stand-up comedian, or slight-of-hand for a magician. Useful elements, often used poorly and in isolation, but really only very small parts of a greater performance. Without an approach and mindset toward horror, supported by the right kind of tools, these will be little more than interesting quirks or amusements for the players.
Morgue recently made mention of a time mechanic in a very interesting post on Gametime. He wondered if “a horror game could benefit from a ticking clock in the actual room, demanding answers from the players within a certain number of seconds every time. Time pressure makes people nervous.” I have attempted to use this kind of device before at ‘con games (namely in Kapcon offerings Pressure Positive and The High Price of Spandex) and found that while a neat idea, it actually requires a considerable degree of adherence and discipline by the GM to make it ‘real’ in any sense for the players and have a chance to evoke the right kind of atmosphere. That’s not to say it couldn’t be done, just that I think it would need a high degree of forethought, preparation and in-room focus to work – which can be very challenging in a ‘con environment for fairly obvious reasons.
In any event, I plan to write up my first pass at EPOCH and publish it here for comment in due course, so stay tuned…