Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #2-16: Everything in its Place

There are many classic spells that can be cast when the setting is one of fantasy. In comparison, with a horror setting there is no basic set. Many of the fantasy spells need to be modified for a horror setting, if the specific spell even fits the mood and the grit of the setting. Some categorisations are needed first off. At the least, a good look at the purpose of the spell is needed, both from the view of the character using it, and from the greater view of the author, screenwriter, game designer, etc. The caster will want some spells that can be used in situations where it would be difficult or impossible to bring in equipment and gear to pull off the same feat. A spell caster might also want, and learn spells that are used to theatrical effect, which in turn can be used for intimidation.

Maybe the most ubiquitous fantasy spell is the fireball. The threat of using a fireball can be it own advantage. Spells to call down or fire lightning bolts are popular and fill the same niche as the fireball. Spells like these are used for intimidation and theatrical purposes in horror settings. Their destructive capabilities range from sub par to comparable with conventional means. Science and technology is destructive enough. However, the spell gains an advantage with its physical components. It can have no components, or at least none that make any scientific sense. Coupled with this lack of conclusive evidence they can be cast anywhere at anytime. Likewise, before the fact, the person cannot be caught red-handed, such as with someone carrying explosives or a weapon.

Spells that create darkness, or blinding flashes, or smoke can be great for escapes, to show off, and for a distraction. These simple spells have the additional advantage that they are readily dismissible as parlour tricks or stemming from other reasonable and scientific explanations. Some people who can cast spells may even use mundane means for such effects as these. It lends them plausible deniability. It also lends deniability to the reality of magic. Like all disinformation this is another tool in the character’s repertoire. In this case the disinformation helps them to get away with the things that they need to do that are frowned upon by the law. This leads back to the sorts of issues that came up in the psychic horror setting, dealing with deflecting blame.

Mood: dull.
Music: Bad Boy by Quiet Riot and Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top.

Quiet Riot: Condition Critical
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ZZ Top: Eliminator

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