The Big Three Questions of Game Design: Horror!

The people over at The Forge have developed a lot of ideas around game design that I’m only beginning to get into, but one of the foundational ideas they have is the “big three” questions of game design. Any designer should be able to offer compelling answers to these. So, I thought I’d post them and then give the answers that I would have for both Horror! and Epic.

The Big Three are:

1. What is your game about?

2. What do the characters do?

3. What do the players do?

Obviously, very simple, but an excellent way to concretise your thinking about your game. And, honestly, I didn’t start either of these games with answers to these questions in mind. So, here we go.

First, regarding Horror!, because it is simpler in almost every way.

1. What is your game about?

Horror! is about the escalation of fear over the course of a storyline that is rooted in the basic elements of the horror genre – buildup of tension, progressive revelation, immediate threats, existential threats, survival, etc. It is about living out a situation where characters encounter the horrific and how they respond.

2. What do the characters do?

The characters encounter the horrific and respond in some way, whether it is panic, denial, violence, flight, attempting to comprehend, or becoming part of it themselves. The interact with the horror and their own experience of it through their Attributes and Traits and the way they are roleplayed, particularly the mounting effects of escalating fear and of violence.

3. What do the players do?

The players role-play their characters’ fear and responses to the horrific. Through roleplaying they gain Tokens which they use to help decide the outcome of interactions with the horror, the game world and the other player-characters. As much as it is possible, they experience what their characters experience in the horror storyline, leading to an immersive experience of fear and, potentially, triumph or absolute loss.

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