I’m going to get into some shit here, I’m going to talk about horror and tabletop gaming. Here’s the thing, horror is tension. Tension, fear, the threat of death or dismemberment, are all defining characteristics of horror. They are also defining characteristics of what makes a good gaming session.
Sometimes these elements are a product of good game masters, such as in D&D, when a game leader really puts the use of descriptions on display for what makes the Underdark such a terrible place. Other times it’s built into the system like Call of Cthulhu where your fear and sanity continuously balance out the danger of play.
However, I think the best kind of horror in tabletop comes from world-building. There are hundreds of systems that do an amazing job of creating a world based in horror, and I’ll try to talk about as many as I can, but I’m going to focus on the little guys, the indies and the kickstarter projects. The games, that maybe youmissed.
Now, if you listen to our podcast Wandering Monster, you’ll know I spend a lot of time on Kickstarter looking for strange and unique indie TTRPG’s. You’ll also know I love grimdark. The other week, I got the opportunity to sit down and chat with the creators of Dungeon Bitches, a ttrpg for Queer Women, that focuses on pain, abuse and the othering of queer women. The world features a bleak and ultimately realistic look at a world where women are hunted by everyone around them. As objects to be desired, to be subjegated, to be torn down and controlled.
When talking to the creators, Emily mentioned that sometimes, adventuring would be dangerous. There would be predators, monsters, and danger. But you could choose to go back to town, where it was ALWAYS dangerous. And we have to consider the world for what it is. A place where there are no safe places. Where even the comfort of friends is tinged by the ever present threat of assault, or judgement, or any other of a thousand things. If you look at the list below, you’ll see that the threats for in the city, are things that we can see any day on any street corner.
In Dungeon Bitches, emotional trauma is tracked the same as physical trauma, and going into combat could damage those around you as easily as yourself or your enemy. There’s a subtle play of risk and reward based on how much your willing to risk others to be your true self, and how often you hobble yourself in order to stay safe.
Of course Dungeon bitches isn’t just about terrestrial threats of shitty men. There are more traditional monsters as well,
Finally, one of my favorite things in any grimdark roleplaying game is body horror and the price of power. In dungeon bitches there is power that can truly alter the play of the game, at the cost of becoming more and more monstrous yourself, revealing your true nature. There are whispers of a lot of cool inspiration in Dungeon Bitches, and I highly recommend you go check out their Kickstarter here. If you aren’t convinced yet, head over to the Wandering Monster Podcast and listen to the interview! On a final note, here’s a penis monster!