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Going Too Far

Source Horror Adventures pg. 204
Some GMs make the mistake of thinking that if a frightening gimmick works for a haunted house or campfire story, then it will work for their horror adventures. Such is rarely the case. At best, overdoing it on artificial, half-creepy tricks can break the atmosphere and distract from the game. At worst, they become jokes or can upset players. As a rule, a GM should keep a horror game on the game table. Here are a few gimmicks to absolutely avoid.

Don’t Fake Emergencies: Faking choking or pretending the slasher attack is real can be legitimately scary in a way that violates players’ trust. The game must remain a game, and as soon as it breaks the fourth wall and enters reality, things can go off the rails fast. Never risk someone getting hurt or having the authorities get involved.

Don’t Involve People Outside the Game: Those who haven’t joined the game should not have to experience the game’s creepy elements, whether that be loud music, in-character shrieking, or other disruptive sounds. Additionally, never ask outside coconspirators to secretly participate in the game unbeknownst to the players.

Don’t Touch the Players: Whether this means getting into character and clamping a cold hand on a player’s shoulder or physically dropping plastic spiders from the ceiling, never invade the players’ personal space or set up tricks that could backfire and cause physical harm.

Don’t Use Costumes or Makeup: Costumes and fake blood are distractions. If a GM tries to make herself look creepy, it might work for a minute, but most games run longer than that. After a while, the prop or special effect becomes commonplace, or worse, just silly.