(This article was published originally in Hidden Shrines of Setebos).
Atmosphere, mood, it is essential in any horror story, and horror adventures are no exception. I added a small mood section in each room.
Mood descriptions are made of abstractions, ideas and symbols. Mood can’t be concrete. Is the mood sad? Sad mood sounds concrete enough. But what does sad mean?
Each of your players will have a specific idea of what sad is. Of course I could’ve made all the mood entries similar to sad or lonely or bleak. These look concrete concepts; they aren’t. They’re just familiar and can only convey ordinary feelings, not the real sense of the weird (weird sadness, weird bleakness), which is what I’m trying to do here.
But the way I made these descriptions is just as abstract and subjective as the ordinary, but much more evocative (I think) and odder, and the Referee can do one of three things here:
- ignore my mood entries,
- read aloud my mood entries,
- describe it with her own words; express her feelings after reading mine.
Either way, their players will have their own interpretations of what a ‘misery curdled, but also ancient and intriguing’ mood means. Personal interpretations are more horrific than whatever I can think of. At least, that’s what all the horror writers I read say, and I like their stuff, so I follow.
Mention to the players what is included in the stuff section (below mood in every room) as well, and the room should start getting a better shape in your player’s mind. The name of each room is also a tool for evocation, especially the deeper they explore.
Once they imagine the meaning of it, they will have to update its meaning when confronted with a Charlotte Perkins Gilman nightmare. When they realise things are not as they thought they were, that’s where horror lies.