7.0 Campaign Concepts
Victims are key to a successful Modern Horror campaign, if the DM runs Tales dramatically they can both enhance the story as well as act as a last line of defence for the long-term Protagonists. Finally, someone gets to be the cool death scene, make the ultimate sacrifice, speak the bad-ass last words, and yet they still advance through the game. Depending on the lethality of the campaign, the DM may determine a set number of players that must play Victims. In situations such as this it is best to let each Victim also keep some form of equipment from character to character (a simple example is every Victim a player runs owns a car by default). Evil Victims can be great for situations such as “Who is the infected zombie/Thing/vampire?” but if a player is Evil too many times from character to character he will find himself always the one on the outside of the barricade with the cannibals. Alignment is a useful tool that MUST be used with care.
A REMINDER: Just to be clear, the skill points and feats that accumulate over the course of a Victim’s levelling are transferred from character to character so that as the Protagonists level and the threats they face become more formidable the Victims of all this turmoil also become harder to kill… but nonetheless they die. These skill points and Feats can be spent differently from Victim to Victim as the Player chooses.
7.2 Encounter Levels
This game is meant as a simulation of all those tense-incredible action-Sci-Fi horror movies / books we have watched, read and enjoyed. Which means the Protagonists are always outgunned and outclassed, the key is to give them some key piece of information that will allow them to exploit a weakness in their Enemy that will allow eventual victory, even if it means an ultimate sacrifice. To that end, the DM should always make the CR of each encounter vary between 1.5 to 3 times the average level of the group. Even though every successful encounter will make the Protagonists rocket level-wise they still have the problem of the constant deadliness of every encounter…thus the necessity for Victims.
7.3 Tale Concepts
There are major differences between a Modern Horror Tale and standard adventures / quests. The first and most important is that a Tale is not broken down into encounter locations, instead it should be broken down into a timeline of events. These events will have preset outcomes according to the GM, but these outcomes can and should be altered by the actions of the Protagonists. A completely unimpeded timeline should always lead to an unhappy ending! The first adventure, Stinger, will be a good example of this structure.
The DM should have a very detailed knowledge of the source material to run a Tale smoothly. To be honest there is not much that differentiates this set of rules from many others, the key is pacing. At all times remember… PACING. I have tweaked the D20 standard rules with pacing in mind and though combat will be violent and bloody it will be fast paced since it usually doesn’t take too many attacks before someone is incapacitated (to put it nicely). I made these rules in the hopes of playing through the stories that get my blood pumping and everyone else that wants to be a Modern Horror DM should also run the stories they know best.
NOTE: It is best to think of the first gaming session for a new Tale as having the same story beats as the first act of a horror movie; character and relationship introductions, the dropping of some plot hints, and a building sense of dread and/or doom.
7.3.1 The Groundhog Day Tale
Something that I find fascinating as a concept but never did find in any RPG I played was the time loop quest/mission/tale. I encourage any DM to try this at least once in a Modern Horror, since it is ideally set up for it. Since encounters and events are time based its fairly simple to convert any Tale into a Groundhog Day event. All the DM has to do is be especially cruel in dealing with the Protagonists so they have almost no way of completely the Tale without a Complete Party Wipe. Then they get to keep trying until they get it right, of course the DM must be especially anal about the Timeline for his Tale before attempting this.
7.4 Group Makeup
Think of every horror movie you’ve watched or novel you’ve read, think of who the Protagonists are. How many of those stories involve a disparate group of people with inappropriate backgrounds ill-suited to the Evils they must face? 90%? 95%? And even if they are appropriately trained for the task at hand (think Aliens for example) then they are either heavily outgunned or outnumbered by the horrors they face. This means that if the players decided to min-max their characters (all Survivalists with a personal armoury each for example) they will just be slaughtered faster by far greater threats. Players should always remember that the point of playing Modern Horror is to 1) SURVIVE and 2) DEFEAT EVIL. Sometimes the most obvious solution is the one that gets everyone killed and the one that makes the least sense at first is the one that ultimately brings victory. So resist the urge to roll up a bunch of Warriors and consider the occasional Stand-Up Comic instead.
7.5 Demonic Possession
There are many forms of demonic possession but for now let us detail the classic Abrahamaic possession. The victim must both be stained with Original Sin and Innocent, so invariably the victim will be an unbaptized girl that has just experienced menarche but is still a virgin (usually between 11-16 years of age). There will be signs for the 3 days leading up to full-blown possession (i.e. sleepwalking, night terrors, sudden temperature drops in the presence of the soon-to-be possessed, poltergeist events around the victim, etc).