Some Thoughts for Incoming Freshmen by Professor Kenneth Hite

Horror gaming philosophy:

In horror RPGs the GM has to want to scare you, work to scare you, try to scare you. You, the players, have to want to be scared, work to be scared, try to be scared. Horror is the most collaborative of styles, which makes it perfect for roleplaying games. The GM and players must contract to play a horror game, and agree to build the atmosphere of fear together. Otherwise, it just plain won’t work.

But when it does work—well, then, you have roleplaying at its finest pitch. Fear is the strongest, oldest emotion of all, buried deep in all our psyches from the caveman days, when we were one campfire away from the saber-tooth tigers. But as deep as it’s buried, you can bring it to the surface with some dim lighting, a hushed tone, and a good story. It’s a bottomless well of power, catharsis, and bloody farm implements, and it’s waiting for you. 

So enter freely and of your own will, both GM and player, ready to scare and to be scared, to join hands around the metaphorical campfire, listen to the snarl of the saber-tooth tiger, and to share the oldest and strongest emotion…and to make it brand new again.


Horror roleplaying is different from other kinds of roleplaying. The players not only need to handle all the normal details of their characters’ development, but must work collaboratively to maintain the atmosphere that the GM is trying to build. Poorly timed jokes or out-of-character comments are rude in any game—but in a horror game, they can be downright fatal to everyone’s enjoyment. 

In addition, many of the details of character creation, development, and play can differ when the goal of the game is not only to gain character points, but to enjoy the mood of the uncanny that the GM and other players will create. The player’s goal is to help build fear. The character’s goal is entirely different—it’s probably just to survive and thrive as best he can. Nobody needs to play the girl who suicidally wanders into the crypt alone at midnight in her nightgown…but that can be a lot more fun than playing the girl who stays safely locked in her apartment with her cat!

Some Thoughts for Incoming Freshmen by Professor Kenneth Hite

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