The movie and the genre in particular have several thematic ideas which are somewhat different from what I would consider traditional storytelling. The foremost is that the ghost or spirit that is haunting is the main character or the driving force for the main character.
It was this twist of perspective that supplied the main impetus for the creative burst experienced earlier this week.
As my wife and I watched the movie, I began to wonder about what one could do with genre of J-Horror, role-playing game wise. Victim class games have been around for ages and can be pretty fun and that seems to be a pretty good fit with J-Horror because in most of the ones I've seen, almost everybody dies. As I mused on that thought a question perused itself. What if, instead of playing people experiencing the paranormal or supernatural, one were to play the things doing the paranormal/supernatural activities? At which point the rest of my brain lit up.
Playing "Evil" in games can be fun on occasion. Those games that have set "good" and "evil" conventions that is. And part of the fun of RPGs in my opinion is the ability to simulate things that one cannot do in real life without serious consequence. Think about it. A lot of RPGs center around combat and at that, often combat to the death. Around these parts that is often called "murder" but it is the one part of games that many really enjoy. And part of that enjoyment comes from the fact that it is all "make-believe" -- that you can walk away from it without having to worry about being arrested. Horror films and books are much the same thing. Getting the flight or fight portion of the psyche fed and not getting in the way of real danger.
I had to try it out. I was compelled to attempt to make this genre into a game. By what? I have no clue. All I know is that I have a happy brain for the last couple of days because of it.
It was at this point that the challenge came up. I didn't want to get too distracted by this and mess up getting my other stuff ready for GenCon. So I decided to see if I couldn't do this as a "one page" type of game. One page, in this case, means that all of the rules needed to play fit on a single letter-sized sheet. Sometimes a further constraint of being front only is specified, sometimes not. In this case, not. There were a lot of ideas I just could not let go of.
The real work on making it began as I tried to sleep. It took a while to get it to shut up and let me rest, but as soon as I woke up it started to chatter at me again about the awesome stuff it came up with while I was asleep.
First things first. Players need to have a reason for doing what they're doing. For most games it is the exploration and glory and money that results from adventuring. That doesn't work so well with ghosts and spirits. Typically, you find things like Revenge or Justice being the motivations in a horror film. And there is the motivation, both in game terms (to be kept secret from the other spirits) and for the players. Along with "Vengeance" and "Justice", I added the "Message" idea -- that the spirit is here to give a warning or advice to the haunted. Not everything is motivated by self interest, even in horror movies.
Next up was the things that the players got to do. The stuff that would let them haunt. I came up with six abilities. These are (in no particular order) Illusion, Telekinesis, Manifestation, Possession, Animation, and Silence. Limiting each character to only three selections (with the idea that ghosts have specific things they can do and to help motivate players to work together in some situations) I decided that they would also have a rating to illustrate how powerful the spirit was in that particular area. Ten being a good number for such thing was chosen to provide the point pool. No real reason there. It seems like a good number to split up.
The mechanic is simple. The characters will attempt to create fear in their victims through whatever means the players can come up with using the powers chosen. Both the players and the GM playing the victims will roll d6 dice and total them up to see if the scary things are scary enough. If so, the player gets an award of "fear points" to use in their next scaring attempt and the victims' "fear meter" goes up. If not, the player has fewer points to work with next time and the victims' meter goes down a point or two.
This goes on until all of the victims have been forced out of the haunting area or until they're all dead.
I like what I came up with. It is limited in the rules but at the same time gives the players and GM enough structure to have fun with. It doesn't tell the players how they have to do their haunting and it doesn't tell the GM how they have to judge the actions of players. So, yeah, as I have admitted to a friend whom I sent this to already, it can be used to create a huge gross-out game. But if that is what the players want to do, that's what the players want to do.
PM me if you would like a copy. Sorry in advance about it being in Word format.
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