Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In Which The Warlock Happens Upon Horror...

It's been my distinct pleasure over the course of my gaming life to be exposed to dozens, if not hundreds, of game systems and genres.  It honestly astounds me at times that some gamers only play D&D or only play a particular version of a game system.   And yet, I recall that once upon a time, my own experiences were exactly that:  D&D and nothing more.

A bad moon rising...
It wasn't until I'd reached Wittenberg that I started to branch out.  And, truth be told, it wasn't until one fateful  night that I received my first taste of the Call of Cthulhu RPG.  Thanks to some great players, BLof's extraordinary gamemastery, and a harrowing walk home at 1:00 am beneath a bloody red-orange moon, I was hooked.  My gaming life would never be the same.

My first real shock came in character generation.  Used to (and rather sick of) the min-maxing of D&D, I decided to go all out in characterization, breaking from anything even remotely familiar.  I settled upon writing up what I lovingly referred to as a "Wicca wench"--a heavily overweight woman who fancied herself something of an "occult expert", when her actual arcane knowledge came only from her part-time job in a New Age store.

BLof's scenario began with our characters investigating the disappearance of several campers in a nearby state park.  After a day of fruitless searching, evening led us to the campers' cabin.  And that?  That's when the real horror kicked in.

Run away!  Run away!!!
Marooned in the park, our cabin was overrun by ghoulish infant-like creatures which would latch onto the living and begin digging into their flesh with needle teeth.  The ghoul-children burrowed in through the walls of our cabin, driving us onto the roof.  While we were lightly armed, it quickly became apparent to me that Call of Cthulhu was not a game of combat.  We barely were able to beat a handful of the creatures back, but were forced to retreat into the depths of the darkened woods, the infant-dead wailing after us.

I'm not sure whether it was the setting, whether it was the stark contrast between this game and my prior forays in D&D, or maybe it was how BLof described the wails of these demon-children as we fled into the dark.  Regardless, I was hooked.   Call of Cthulhu had blown my mind, completely and utterly.  That evening, I slowly made my way back to Ferncliff Hall beneath the blood-orange moon.  With those hideous wails embedded in my ears, the horrified look of my characters' face emblazoned onto my imagination, I knew that I'd be back for more.

Our campaign lasted for the majority of that semester and, while many of our sessions were nowhere near as horrific as that first one--our highway-chase/gunfight in Harlem comes immediately to mind--that first session set me down quite the path.  The flirtations with horror gaming I'd had in the past through Ravenloft were just that--mere flirtations.  With Call of Cthulhu, I'd found real vehicle--and my options have only spread open since then.

By now, you're probably wondering what brought this entry on.  Obviously, the holiday spirit is my primary motivation, but not necessarily for the reason you think.

You see, friends and neighbors:  that fateful first session, which brought me full-bore into horror roleplaying...that session was played on Halloween, eleven years ago today.

Now, isn't that spooky!?


  1. For me it was a gamed called CHILL. I know a lot of people aren't a fa of the system, and you play characters that are bit more awesome than everyman heroes, but the GM was something special. Before the game started he had worked out the routes all of his players would be taking going to and from the game. he then seeded the world with things from our walks and drives, so that after the game, in the early hours of the morning, we would see things and get reminded of the game, keeping the sense of dread for a lot longer than we should have done, and clambered for more. That guy taught me a lot about how to run horror RPGs, and even comments with some of his ideas in the blog post below.


  2. That's a great way of prepping, especially extemporaneously. Thanks for the comment, brother!

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