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How do you create a Horror?

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  • How do you create a Horror?

    Out of curiousity, when you Design your (N)PC horrors, what is your process/source? Games, books, images? Mythology, or modern creatures? Do you have a preference for animalistic/humanoid/elemental Horrors?
    How do you tie horror, feeding and theme of the char/concept together?

  • #2
    Oh man, Wormwood, you couldn't have teed up a more fun topic for me if I had secretly beamed it into your mind with a top-secret CIA brainwashing device. <3

    Pretty much anything can inspire me when thinking about potential Horrors! Generally the best ideas come when I've been workshopping one in my head for awhile and want to switch to something fresh. I'll often latch on to an idea or concept from a piece of fiction (video game, movie, etc.) that I've seen recently and think, "Hmmm, that could make a good concept for a Horror!" So then I'll go to the drawing board and start pushing and prodding, seeing where the concept can be mapped directly the mechanics and themes of BtP, and where I'll need to get more creative/original. Other times I'll start with an Atavism or Family that I normally skip over, and try and figure out how to use it in a concept that I'd want to play. So then I'll sort-of reverse engineer a Horror from the abilities I want it to have.

    I generally prefer Horrors that mix humanoid and monstrous features the most. I really like the "sexy, otherworldly temptress" trope, so I often build things around the Alien Allure Atavism, which of course works best with human-like Horrors. (of course, nothing says it has to...hmmm...) Of course, there's some fun in embodying something that's just a big old creature; there's an inner strength in that image of a monster that's appealing. I haven't done much with elemental Horrors; I think the concept is just a little too divorced from the blood-and-guts visceral-ness of BtP, too clean, and evokes more the techgnostic machinery of Demon: The Descent. Not to say it can't be done!

    Developing a Horror, ideally, is a smooth back-and-forth between concept and mechanics. You come up with an idea; that idea suggests mechanics that can express it, and those mechanics in turn inspire new ways to develop and expand the idea. Then those expansions require additional mechanics, and so on.

    You know I love me some examples, so here's one I was tinkering on at lunch today!


    The Red Specter

    A Horror inspired by the fears of Communist infiltration and nuclear annihilation that were rampant during the Cold War, the Red Specter is a nightmare of paranoia, foreign influence, unfamiliar and frightening ideologies, world-ending threats and the fragility of "civilized" society. It reminds us that no matter how advanced we think we are, at heart we're still animals huddling together in packs, fearing those who believe and act differently. And that in our desperation to keep "them" away from "us," we could easily destroy everything we've ever loved...

    So, this idea immediately suggests Inguma as a Family: Nightmares of the Other fits pretty exactly into what we're looking for with "the Reds are infiltrating our society." The Outsiders have plenty of nice Atavisms that can create paranoia and distrust, and we can fill out from other Families as needed. Speaking of Atavisms, I'd say we could start (I always begin with a character at "just created," then advance them as needed) with Enemy Within and Touch of the Basilisk. Enemy Within is a perfect fit for an infiltrator and subversive; it lets you take on other people's identities, and fulfills our "at least one in-Family" requirement at character creation. Basilisk's Touch is more out-there, but in this case I'd say we fashion it as radiation sickness. The Red Specter is an embodiment of Red Scare fears, and the "threat" of Communism wasn't simply that it was different; it was that the Reds had nuclear weapons...and how can we be safe while their kind have such power? A future addition would be Alien Mindset; those dirty Reds don't even think like us, don't you know!?

    So we've established that the Red Specter represents both the subtle fear of subversion and the existential terror of armageddon. I think for a Lair, we should focus on showing the ultimate end of those fears. The Heart Chamber takes the form of a familiar city, but after the bombs have fallen. It's a blasted-out ruin, irradiated and lifeless, red dust choking the sky and smoke burning the eyes. I don't have my core book with me, but I'm sure there are traits that could represent the rubble everywhere and the fallout from the blasts. (in which case, any sort of ruined or abandoned structure would be a great place for the Beast to make a stand, given that resonance would allow them to flood the place with deadly radiation... >:3) Future Chambers could continue the theme, adding traits to represent choking smoke, oppressive heat and unstable ground. (if you wanted to get really weird, add Minions or Thralls and summon some mutants!)

    For the Horror's physical form, and say a gaunt and skeletal human figure wearing a tattered, nondescript military uniform. Its skin is loose and burned, and its clothes are tatted and hanging off its frame. A grim death's-head makes up its face, with only two horribly glowing eyes (a sickly green) looking alive.

    Finally, the Hunger. There's a few you could go with- Ruin, for the apocalyptic threat; Hoard, as you "collect" "converts"; or Punishment, targeting those who believe "wrong." Ultimately, though, I definitely want to go with Transgression- the Red Specter feeds off betrayal, when people knowingly break with their professed beliefs. This fits well with the idea of subversion that the "Communist threat" was supposed to represent. "They" were infiltrating our society and poisoning our minds with their evil ideology; even our most cherished institutions and leaders could be turned against us. Communism often was treated as this sort of thought virus, where even learning about it would turn pure, innocent Americans into drones who would sell out their friends, family and country.

    So, we take that and run with it- the Horror wants to see people turn against whatever it is that they hold most dear. At low satiety, it will be enough to convince a victim to blow off a dinner date or sleep through a doctor's appointment. At high levels, they need to knowingly and willfully betray a person or organization they hold allegiance to. They don't need to get caught, or suffer consequences- they just need to know that they've committed a betrayal.

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    • #3
      Its not canon I don't think, but I like to have many horrors be essentially twisted doppelgangers of other things in a region that have caused intense fear, from the 'broken mirror' perspective of the Primordial Dream. Almost all the NPC horrors in my chronicle correspond to a fearsome non beast NPC in some fashion as a result, with the exception of the fire breathing dragons. Those are symbolic of mankind's subconscious fear of fire breathing dragons.

      Feeding is naturally the Primordial Dream's "best guess."
      Last edited by Deinos; 03-26-2018, 02:30 AM.

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      • #4
        I try and vary it really. I've created a brood recently and I mixed humanoid, animalistic, and mythical. Usually I choose the Family and Hunger first, unless I had a specific one in mind (I really wanted my Namtaru to be a hydra, for example). The BPG has been a blessing in that regard, particularly chapter 2.

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        • #5
          I tend to make a person, then determine what kind of monster they have, and how the monster feeds.

          For an example wormwood is familiar with, I designed a PC named Anna. Anna was built as a namtaru using the 'mean old nurse' stereotype. She loves her family, and she feeds on the people who leave their family members to not in the hospice she works at. To Family she's a sweet little old lady.

          To design her horror, I wanted her to really amp up the creep factor, so I chose to make her a monster akin to the Judas strain in Mimic. I chose to make it a part of her history that a hero had slain her horror, so her lair includes traits to mimic smaller insects that are a swarm, and larger ones (using the Zombies! Core book tilt for a base) to represent her 'children'.

          After the player's guide popped she gained a cult (people within the hospice) and horrorspawn to really mimic the children.

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          • #6
            Loving what I read so far!

            I usually have something stuck in my mind - an image, idea or concept, sometimes just an aesthetic (the way fire comes up smaug's throat, for example) or Atavism I like and want to put to use. This way, 'I want to use Unbreakable' turned into a giant tanky metal golem, silent, strong and 'unstoppable'.
            I really like the monstrous Fighter Trope, Which Is Reflected in many of my concepts, but the cunning beast is just as fun. However, I feel they are harder to find horrors for.

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            • #7
              Personally I'm very boring. I design Horrors according to legend and fiction. For me they are Astral creatures and as such they are "known". Horrors who are entirely new or unable to be put into words are the marks of the Insatiable. Still that makes for a diverse bunch as I don't make a difference between the genres of fictions. Want the Slender Man for your Eshmaki Predator? You can. Want the Other Mother for your Inguma Collector? You can.

              Design is rather easy, I generally go from the Hunger, find a monster that corresponds and then interpret it in light of the Family. A dragon by instance can be any of the general five and also a Talaasi, after all.

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              • #8
                Currently, I am working on a 'inspired by' series of characters (for fun, maybe to later use as npc), and most were easy - Sarah Kerrigan's horror? Her zerg- Form.
                The guy inspired by Abathur? Take a guess. War from Darksiders? His chaosform.

                What are significantly harder are the characters that were inspired by human(oids), and were the horror came in last in the Design process. My Geralt is an Inguma Predator, and Ciri is an Ugallu Nemesis... But their Horrors? A white wolf, for geralt, originally. Then I went back to the original White wolf, since Inguma horror are usually humanoid. And so, elric of melnibone is his horror. Fun game of association basically Led me, here. (Will Post the write up on character ideas next week)
                Ciri, I am still stumped. Swallows are hardly scary, and the White Frost ist already her lair. But that makes finding something that clicks All the More Interesting.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Wormwood View Post
                  My Geralt is an Inguma Predator, and Ciri is an Ugallu Nemesis... But their Horrors? A white wolf, for geralt, originally. Then I went back to the original White wolf, since Inguma horror are usually humanoid. And so, elric of melnibone is his horror. Fun game of association basically Led me, here.
                  That...that works beautifully, if you ask me. Kudos.



                  Cinder's Comprehensive Collection of Creations - Homebrew Hub

                  I write about Beast: The Primordial a lot

                  This is what I'm working on

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                  • #10
                    One thing I greatly enjoy about beast horrors is that they don't, themselves, have to be anything remotely significant to start: they begin as rank 1 goetia afterall. Like a pack totem, they needn't represent anything more deep or heavy to advance in power level; afaik the only time they need to redefine themselves is during Incarnation.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Deinos View Post
                      One thing I greatly enjoy about beast horrors is that they don't, themselves, have to be anything remotely significant to start: they begin as rank 1 goetia afterall.
                      Larval Horrors are Rank 2.


                      Resident Sanguinary Analyst
                      Currently Consuming: Changeling: the Lost 1e

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                      • #12
                        Ah yes, my bad. Seems like rank 2 is what most goetics gravitate towards.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Wormwood View Post
                          Currently, I am working on a 'inspired by' series of characters (for fun, maybe to later use as npc)
                          I love series! They're such a great way to inject some easy inspiration, and can get you to work outside your comfort zone with Families or concepts you normally avoid.

                          I've got some that I'm still working on that are based on the theme of "aliens." So far, I've got a Talassii Collector whose Horror takes the form of a stereotypical "grey alien." Skinny, grey skin, bulbous head and big shiny eyes... Their shtick is that they feed into "alien abduction" stories by kidnapping people, dosing them with something that messes with memory, and then lets them go awhile later with no clue what happened. They collect DNA samples from their victims- the only bit they can remember is the collection.

                          Then there's the Ugallu Whisper. I don't normally like the Raptors; nothing wrong with the family, just a little too remote for me. But this one is fun! It's based on UFOs, and the Horror takes the form of The Sky Lights, a collection of floating lights that constantly shift and split, change and combine. The Heart of its Lair is a giant cornfield with, of course, crop circles in it. Traits are Undergrowth, Poor Light and Blinding Light. (yes, both- it's dark everywhere except where the Horror is shining its attention) It Hungers for coverups and conspiracies.

                          I'm also thinking of doing a series that's based on Broods that would have Kinship with a specific other splat's society. I.E. five Beasts that all are themed around things that thematically fit in with the local Forsaken. Or four Beasts that all work well with the All Night Society.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Gellydog View Post

                            I love series! They're such a great way to inject some easy inspiration, and can get you to work outside your comfort zone with Families or concepts you normally avoid.
                            [...]
                            I'm also thinking of doing a series that's based on Broods that would have Kinship with a specific other splat's society. I.E. five Beasts that all are themed around things that thematically fit in with the local Forsaken. Or four Beasts that all work well with the All Night Society.
                            Awesome ideas! I like those! Will you do the 'alien as parasite/invader/predator/hunter' concepts, too? I am thinking of the thing, alien, predator,body snatchers, specifically.

                            My Kerrigan and Abathur could fit in there, too.

                            themed Broods is always fun (even if you just go with 'creepy crawlies', 'snakes', 'ninjas') but never thought of doing Kinship themed ones. Seems so obvious now. A slavering loupgarou anakim, a black Wolf eshmaki, a almost - human wolf man inguma... It makes so much sense! Vampire, too, from blood god Namtaru to an anakim chiropteran monstrosity, A Giant Bat ugallu, A fanged, Pale 'human' Inguma, a Traditional Dracula Talassii, a bat swarm eshmaki... So Many Possibilities!
                            Thanks for that kickstarter!
                            You'll have to come up with new Kinship merits, of course. Addictive oder Ar least blood, maybe...

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                            • #15
                              I'd done a kinship inspired horror (the giant bat Ugallu Wormwood mentioned above in fact - great minds!) but never a full brood! Great idea, particularly with kinship merits being a thing!

                              One themed brood I made once was centered around the 5 deadly venoms: the Centipede, the Snake, the Scorpion, the Lizard, and the Toad. Never saw the movie but saw the idea in another game and thought it would make a great mix of Beasts, all with Basilisk's Touch!

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