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Encouraging Horror Roleplaying

Source Horror Adventures pg. 203
Pathfinder is not a game anyone wins, but it’s not uncommon for players to want to overcome challenges in an exceptional fashion or with the minimum expenditure of resources. That means that some players view time spent indulging in terrified reactions and unheroic roleplaying as a waste of time—particularly when such roleplaying arises during combat encounters. If a GM wants her players to care about and emphasize not just roleplaying but also reacting to horror, it’s up to her to encourage it—or at least not to penalize it. To incentivize her players into displaying frightened reactions, she can point them toward the Playing a Horror Hero discussion, and consider employing the following techniques.

Time for Terror: Many players’ first reaction to a threat, no matter how overwhelming, will be to fight. Before rolling initiative for a particularly terrifying scene, the GM can ask the players whether any of them would like to use the instant before combat for a terrified reaction. This is not a surprise round or any other in-game unit of measurement, but rather a special instance for characters who want to play up their reaction to the scene with a free action like yelling a warning, dropping an object, falling backward, or shrieking. In this way, the GM rewards players who want to express their shock and gets the group’s reactions all at once, rather than drawing out the first round of combat.

Reward Terror: Whenever a player does something that improves the game’s story, enhances the session’s atmosphere, or just seems cool, the GM can give the party an ad hoc experience award. There are few more powerful ways to encourage behavior that benefits the game than with immediate positive reinforcement, and the GM has an endless supply of experience points to dole out. This shouldn’t be much, maybe as little as 50 XP at lower levels, maybe creeping up to 200 XP at higher levels—nothing that feels like a game-changer. Even then, though, a little reward can serve as a strong incentive to encourage good roleplaying and story investment. Best of all, it encourages not just one player but the entire group to prioritize behavior the GM rewards.