The Mystery of the De Morcey House in the World Between

We had the first foray into the mystery of the De Morcey house in the World Between last Friday night. Here is the play report.

I did not use my terror, horror, and madness rules; I’m not sure why, I think because I was focusing on the changes and making sure all that worked smoothly. Also, I foolishly built the scenario around my wife as the key player, but didn’t put together that we would not have babysitting, so–what are we going to do with our little kids between 7:00 and bed time? (Which is 8:00 for the boy and whenever for the baby.) Also, I goofed up my scheduling, and posted we’d start at 6 instead of 7–half my players showed at the earlier time. So, I was full of logistical suck for Friday’s session.

Fortunately, one of my players helped out with the babysitting so my wife could focus, (and I gave her character 6 SPENT Awesome Points as a reward.) And those who showed early were patient and sociable until the rest of the group showed.

We played for almost 4 hours, and got deep into the mystery. The group experienced rising tension, a picture of the mysteries of the house with distressingly increasing clarity, and dealt with one of the mysteries in the only fight in the scenario so far.

My group had a great time in spite of my logistical problems, and they are excited about returning next time to wrap this thing up.

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2 Responses to The Mystery of the De Morcey House in the World Between

  1. been thinking, and talking, a lot about scary RPGs at the moment. How did it go for you, and how do you keep the players engaged and aware of the scary atmosphere?

  2. fictivite says:

    I could base an entire blog (not just an entry) on that question. Here’s a shorter answer.

    Jack Shear has some excellent advice on both Gothic conventions in settings, and also a variety of sub-flavors of Gothic and the elements to incorporate, in his compendium. Check it out! Now here is some of my advice.

    Vary the pace. High intensity all the time loses its pressure; change it up. Have your comic relief, let your characters feel cool, then a left turn into the unknowable and the horrific. Build tension like building silt in a river–don’t dump it all in, or even try to make a ramp. Instead, keep sifting it down in a variety of moments intermixed with their normal lives until their breath is shallow and fast.

    You are better off taking very familiar things and adjusting their tone and tenor than you are assaulting them with huge monsters from beyond the stars.

    Remember that their imaginations will always scare them more than you will. Once they can name the danger, once they can quantify and identify and qualify it, they can compartmentalize the uncertainty and regain some comfort. If the threat is vague, and building information narrows but fails to eliminate that vagueness, that will be uncomfortable for them–finding out what it is frequently provides as much relief as defeating it.

    When your players start freaking out, the characters usually get violent, to try to force a confrontation and bring some clarity (even if they lose.) Expect that. Don’t give them an easy way to vent that violence, or if you do, be sure they have to take a good long look at some point at what is happening to them as they struggle against madness.

    And so on. I could break all these recommendations down in the context of the De Morcey house. They know something is wrong at the house, so they go there. Then they see the creepy butler, looks sick. Then they feel the strong tension between the husband and wife, and hear worries that there is something unknown wrong with the children.

    Layer upon layer builds in the background as we go through silly scenes, dramatic scenes, investigative scenes–but always the undercurrent, pulling towards something dark that you’re trying to find out but don’t want to know.

    The pastoral comfort of the manor house is familiar, but all the familiar elements are twisted by tension and overcast by a threat that is invisible but very real, here where they sleep and live and eat. It is, in that sense, inescapable because it seems to emanate from the family itself.

    That sort of thing. Enough for now. Thanks for asking!

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