In my last post I mentioned a connection between fantasy and horror that I'd like to explore a little. If you are reading this and have some thoughts on the matter, feel free to share in the comments below.
Any fantasy (or SCI-FI for that matter) game that involves combat at all usually measures blood-spilled-per-session in pints, if not buckets. In my last game, in which I played a fairly timid, combat avoiding halfling, there was one character death and at least a dozen other deaths (bandits in this case and their cultist leaders).
RPGs often have combat situations that are described in vivid detail by the DM/GM, and yet they usually do not feel like horror at all. They should though, right? So why don't they and what's the difference?
There was a bit of this discussed on an early episode of the Glass Canon. I forget which player it was that said that the big difference between horror and fantasy is that in horror stories, the protagonists fear what is to come and in fantasy, they have the superhuman courage to face it.
That's a pretty astute observation, I think.
In TOTM, my PCs do start off as terrified and fairly helpless. They would have avoided the first couple of combats if they could have. After a half dozen episodes, they are confronting opponents more or less willingly though. I think a bit of realism has to be sacrificed in order to move the story out of survival horror and into fantasy; it would be a very different story if the PCs tried to run from or avoid every combat situation. This is where the concept of 'heroism' comes in, I guess.
In my mind, there's a slider bar or spectrum of fantasy with horror at one end and gonzo comedy at the other. The silly comedy stories (like Dungeons and Daddies for an example among thousands) still have plenty of gruesome bloodshed, but it somehow coexists with wacky comedy (arguably this arrangement is far, far darker than plain old horror in that it is totally bizarre and grotesque the moment you stop to think about it). In TOTM I have set the slider somewhere about halfway between horror and the center point, you might say. I like to dip into horror, but not stay there too long.
This brings me full circle back to the ideas in the last post: why do I (or does anyone) enjoy horror at all? How is this stuff 'fun'? I don't know. What do you think?