Shocktober 2009 or Shocktober 2010. This year every day of the week has a column devoted to it. Check this post for more details.
It being Monday in Shocktober 2011, it's a day to look at the core of what Shocktober is all about - horror gaming fodder. I define my gaming fodder posts as posts that are useful to general role-playing whether it's D&D or Fiasco. Monday's this year are all about gaming fodder to enhance your horror games. In a loose sense, I'm going to take the opportunity each Monday in my horror gaming fodder to introduce the theme of the week. This won't be anything like last year's theme weeks, but I hope to have at the end of each week five posts of very different styles that all address the same general idea.
This week's horror gaming fodder is about the use of props in our games. I love props. I've used them several times, and they almost always have added something special to the game. Props in general are a great tool to enhance immersion and pack a real "wow" factor when done right.
At the same time, I feel props are even more powerful in a horror game. This might have something to do with the fact that I feel like almost everything is more powerful in a horror game, but I digress. A good horror prop can be many things. It can be disgusting, it can be simple, it can be hand-made or bought in a store. It can be iconic and well-known or something completely unique to the story of the night. Props can make a game more theatrical and dramatic. That picture up to the right there? That's what theater groups use to make sure each actor has the right item for the right scene at the right moment in the performance. While I do think props need to be used only once in a while to keep the effect, it's good to remember that props draw the audience in naturally with very little extra effort on the parts of the players/GM/actors. It pulls everyone's attention on a singular item and gives them all a moment to reflect on the story (and hopefully the stakes).
sweet little voice recorder to record interviews at Gencon and elsewhere, and I'm itching to use this in an actual game. It's a great tool to capture voice acting recordings, and keep in mind that researchers, doctors, coroners, and many other official keepers of records first record their findings via a voice recorder or Dictaphone.
Now I have used voice recordings in a game before, one specifically - my first Dragon Age game as a part of my multimedia experiment running the whole thing off my Droid X. I had the Gamer Wife record one of the canned boxes of dialogue from the adventure to play for my players. It was a good experience, but it was not something I would classify as a prop.
For a sound prop, it's more along the lines of a specific, repetitive sound, bit of music, or bit of dialogue that doesn't come directly from the mouth of an NPC. There's a distinction between a sound prop and bit of NPC dialogue in that a prop needs to be an item and, in my opinion, should be something just a little bit beyond the GM reading off some prepared bit of speech. Ambient noise is a great idea of a sound prop as well. A jungle soundtrack can really set the mood and put people on edge as even the quiet moments where no one is speaking are heightened with atmosphere with the things that could be lurking just beyond the light of a torch.
My personal goal someday is to run another homebrew Dread scenario that uses many bits of sound props. The Iron Mountain Report is a game I came up with after exploring the endlessly-addictive SPC Foundation wiki. If you have some hours to kill, go check it out. Take a look at this little critter for example. For my sound props, I would have a recording of the "Special Containment Procedures" with an (in game) button just outside the cell for the players to press to learn what is inside. This would of course be during a blackout in the vast Warehouse 13 - meets Guantanamo Bay secret facility, so the players would have to follow the rules of each creature and object they find very closely. The rules would only be explained through the sound prop. Through this, my goal is to creep out the players and maybe give them a chuckle every once in a while.
Props create an atmosphere that help build a collaborative story through a shared vision of imaginary world through the use of a physical representation of an object or sound in the real world. In other words, they can bring people together and cast away all doubts over just how dangerous the knife in the middle of a dinner table in the crazy recluse's mansion really is. I whole-heartedly endorse the use of the random plastic knife to get this point across. It makes concepts concrete and helps key in everyone's attention in a way that a bit of descriptive text from the GM might not be able to pull off.
Use props! Experiment with ideas! Creep your players out! You've only got 28 days to plan how you're going to creep your players out on Halloween, so get crackin'!