Saturday, March 6, 2010

Quarantine and the role of horror

As I learn more about using Netflix and enjoy some of these movies that I wouldn't pay to see but hey, an instant free download, I'm enjoying seeing how some of the common threads of horror come together.

Quarantine starts off with a mundane situation where the main casts is starting off with a normal assignment and then moving into a situation that quickly moves into the weird and strange. Strangely enough though, with the situation as it starts, in a role playing game, the characters, who tend to be specialists in their field and are used to dealing with a wide variety of situations, would figure out the problem in about three seconds.

In this case, disease. It's a disease that has familiar seeds to others we've seen in that it makes those infected into the enemy. Good old films like the whole Dead series, or most zombie films for that matter, have the zombie plauge hit others through bites. The diseases  tend to progress from making one sick to making one into the monster. In this case, its super rabies!

The title of the movie is one of the quick ways of bringing horror into any setting.  In many movies, such as Mimic or other old horror films, take the characters and cut them off from civilization. By removing the characters from the comfort of home, the characters cannot renew magic items. They cannot seek out help. They cannot learn how others may be handling things.

However, with role playing games, especially fantasy ones, the heroes are often cut off from civilization in the first place. Take a typical dungeon. Unless it is something like the famous Castle Greyhawk dungeon, most dungeons are far from civilization. There is often a dangerous trip to the dungeon in the first place. Now mind you, in most instances, the characters can walk away from the dungeon and return to civlization and restock and resupply. High level characters tend to have it even easier where the journey may be a simple spell or ritual. To give them more of the horror feel, isolating them by hook or crook can insure that they have to husband their supplies carefully.

In the city, in a situation similiar to the movie Quarantine, perhaps the lords of the city use magic, armed guards, constructs, golems, or other methods of keeping the characters stuck in a tower, crypt, castle, dungeon, or church. The players go in, but until the situation is resolved, they don't go out.

One of the ways to showcase how quickly things can turn agianst the players, is lots of non-player characters to bite the big one and turn against the players before the big end game. the larger the pool of potential enemies, the more the players will have to beware their surroundings. In older editions, players often tended to take henchement with them to do various tasks ranging from poking the floor with a ten foot rod to carrying the treasure to holding the torches. A situation where a merchant caravan takes a short cut through a mountain range  or through a cave passage and winds up trapped there, can provide the players with a lot of potential fooder to look after.

When looking at the different types of characters, the Game Master should have a variety of types ready for 'stiring' the pot so to speak.

The Hostile Leader: There's always someone with a level of authority that doesn't like the way the players are doing things. These individuals may tend to have their own camp followers and may tend to be adventurers or otherwise be capable of handling themselves. The players might not be able to take out such a force directly but may have to work against them through subtle skill checks.

The Follower: Always getting in trouble and always ready to aid the characters, the follower can be both blessing and curse. Too many of them die and the players may find themselves ousted from any type of leadership position.

The specialist: In some cases, the specialist isn't the exact type that the players need, but rather, one that is of a related field. In Quarantine, the characters don't necessarily have a specific type of doctor who specializes in rare diseases, but they do have a doctor who treats animals who tend to suffer the symptoms of the disease that several of the 'zombies' here have. The specialist can be useful but can also send the players on the wrong trail.

The Scumbag: In many scenarios, there is often someone out only for himself. Even when the good of the group can be had and it doesn't negatively effect the scumbag, the scumbag may figure merely coming out alive isn't enough and work to make his own way in things, regardless of the cost to the others in the group.

The Authority: Sometimes the outside world seeks to keep a firm lid on things. There are things man was not meant to know after all. That's a well and good way of handling things if you're on the side of authority but if you're on the receiving end... perhaps not quite so good. There may be figures on the side of the authority that respect what the players are doing and will try to help them through their trials but don't expect to be saved by anything other than your own sweat and blood.