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Dice and Other Deceits

Source Horror Adventures pg. 202
Much of the structure of a Pathfinder game can seem like a foregone conclusion. But in a horror game, nothing need be sacred. Consider manipulating the fundamental activities of the game to keep the players off guard.

The Mystery Roll: The GM asks a player to roll a d20 and makes a show of noting the result. When the player asks what the roll was for, the GM tells him not to worry about it. She might not need this roll for anything at all, but the players won’t know that. This works particularly well for refocusing the attention of distracted players.

The Stolen Check: The GM rolls a d20 and asks a player what his Perception modifier is. She notes the result. Repeat for the entire group—or not. This could just be a technique to make the players wonder if they’ve missed something, or it could be a legitimate hidden check (there are even several sorts of rolls that generally dictate that they are rolled by the GM). This trick works best when used in both ways throughout a game, leaving the players wondering about any given stolen check. As a variation, the GM might have the players roll 10 Perception checks at the start of the session and keep the results on hand. During the adventure, don’t ask players to roll Perception checks, just reference the existing bank for results. That way the players won’t know whether they rolled well and noticed all there is or poorly enough that they should search again.

Reconsider Game Aides: Many Pathfinder adventures feature a variety of tools that encourage strategy and precision gaming. A GM could throw precision out the window. When vague horrors are reduced to pawns and squares, the fearfulness of the unknown withers. Instead, the GM might play faster and looser with game measurements, tracking player arrangements vaguely on whiteboards or in the imagination alone, erring in the PCs’ favor in terms of range and movement whenever possible. It takes some experimentation, but GMs can find that players identify more intimately with characters in their heads than with miniatures on the game table.