Monday, October 22, 2007

Saturday Night's Alright for Frightening

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to play in a one-off RPG hosted by Dan Bayn. The scenario was titled "Project Blackwood" and was introduced as "Four college students go into the Virginia woods to shoot a movie. A year later, their footage was found. (Maybe also their mangled corpses. We'll see how it goes.)" Sound familiar?

Yes. The premise was quite similar to that of The Blair Witch Project, but with a significant twist. Instead of a ghostly-horror witch thing, the scares came from a couple different directions.

The first element of horror came from, as Dan put it, the "multiple layers of reality." Our characters were college students producing a fake documentary, but each character had a role to play in said film. For example: my 'mormon boyscout with wilderness survival skills' played the role of 'the arrogant frat boy who gets himself killed' in the film. Already there is a difference between who I am, who my character is, and who his role is. It offered some excellent role playing opportunities.

The horror in those layers came from trying to distinguish the scares created by the director of the film (i.e. "fake" scares), and threats from outside forces ("real" scares). Early in the game we attributed most of the surprises to the director, even though in a few cases we were wrong. Later in the game, everything was real whether the director had anything to do with it or not.

For example: on the first night, when my character saw the words "go away" burning brightly on the side of a hill he assumed it was the director (wrong). The next day when the characters entered the cave and saw that the walls were red and wet, Becky tasted some of the wet liquid on the floor and discovered it was blood. The characters assumed the blood on the walls was not the director's doing (wrong, it was). Later it turned out that the blood on the floor that Becky had tasted was really the Director's blood, that he had been murdered.

So the layers added to the horror at the end, when we were able to see them all at once.

The other source of excellent terror was the monster of the night: the Mi-Go! It's too bad it's a few months late for the HPLHS competition which asked the question "What are the Mi-Go up to in the hills of West Virginia?"

In any case, it was a lot of fun to see how the final scene played out. My character, having gone from pretending to be the leader to the now survival-driven boyscout, saw the Brain Case as the only hope of escape - especially after both of his arms were clipped off at the elbow by the Mi-Go. Becky fought to the end, getting scissored in half by the giant claws. Zack similarly fought to the death.

The ending scene was great. Fade out on the cave of carnage and fade in an off-colour, grainy image of the Mi-Go adjusting something like it's leaning over you. Then the Mi-Go turns and walks away, while my character's voice screams "no! Wait! Come back!" The camera pulls back, revealing a brain cylinder, newly plugged-in, and the monster walking away down a corridor lined with similar objects.

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