Genre Bending

Posted: May 6, 2010 in artwork, Dead of Night, design
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The largest new chapter (scenarios excepted) is titled Genre, and is about emulating pretty much every horror movie genre in Dead of Night, from splatter horror to psychological horror and everything in between. In all there are 12 genres covered, including a sample scenario synopsis and set-up for each.

I’m really proud of this chapter, although at times it’s been a slog to do. At its most basic, the chapter is great for inspiring the reader to try out a different genre or style of horror movie. Did a little deeper and it provides suggestions for how to capture the feel of the genre chapter on the tabletop, including Tension settings, Survival Point ideas and suggestions for pacing the scenario.

Here’s a look at one of the genres, Body Horror, as well as one of my favourite bits of art for the accompanying sample movie, Symbiote.

The tagline translates roughly as: “There is a hell. It’s inside you.”

Body Horror

Body horror is a genre where the horror derives from the body itself, specifically its uncontrollable degeneration, decay or mutation. Key films in the body horror genre include the Fly, the Brood, Tetsuo: the Iron Man and, more recently, District 9. The genre exacerbates a sense of loss of control over that fundamental centre of being – your own body. It has a lot in common with the psychological horror genre, except whereas in that genre it is the loss of sanity and mind that is at stake, in the body horror genre it is a loss of your own body.

Body horror can stem from all manner of places, from viruses and exposure to weird radiation all the way up to infestation by alien parasites. Likewise the transformation can manifest itself in different ways – almost all of them slow-burning – such as the slow decay of body parts or strange mutations to the replacement of the flesh bit by bit with metal or alien physiology. Sometimes the victim is unaware of the transformation, but more often than not it is painfully apparent to them, if not to anyone else.

In a body horror game, the loss of Survival Points represents the slow change of the body. With every Survival Point lost, something about the character changes. His fingernails might mutate into scalpels, his face begin to rot away or he might feel the alien growing inside him. The final loss of Survival Points might entail that the character has finally succumbed to the mutation, changing in mind as well as body into something else, or succumbing completely to the embrace of change.

Monsters in body horror games are often the instigators of change – scientists whose experiments have triggered the change in their victims, or aliens whose spawn is slowly growing inside unwitting hosts – or they might be past victims of mutation, whose minds and bodies have degraded so much that they are monsters themselves. Sometimes there are no monsters at all, but those which the players become.

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