Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #16: Too Much Information

One of the big deal breakers for the mood of a psychic horror setting is having too much of the right kind of information. It is especially contentious in the arena of role-playing games. It puts a great onus on the game master to, not only develop the information to be gleaned by psychic methods as is the case with authors or scriptwriters, but also to deal in a more hands on way with balancing how much information to pass on and when, notably without the safety net of re-writes. This manner of information handling is directly a result of abilities such as precognition, post-cognition, to a lesser degree remote viewing, and the like. Limitations placed on these powers and the additions of the vagaries of chance are thankfully in keeping with reports of such abilities in the real world.

There is a connection between this idea of too much information and the topic of evidence as discussed previously. A story's psychic who can see the influence of another psychic on a person has a certain amount of comfort that extends not only to the character, but also the audience. The ability as it serves the purpose of pushing the story in a particular direction mitigates its effect on the mood somewhat. In contrast if such an ability were able to identify the psychic responsible then things change drastically. At the level where this power is akin to reading a psychic fingerprint there is too much comfort afforded and the horror is lost. There is some suspense when the fingerprint isn't recognised by the psychic but beyond that it quickly reaches a point of diminishing horrific returns.

Another ability that effects comfort level is the sixth sense that warns a psychic of danger. Again, it has its uses, but can also quickly deflate the horror. The danger sense works best when it is vague. It is also most effective at the far ends of the timescale, but less so in the middle. When the sense comes on quickly with little, to practically no time, to act on it then the urgency and immediacy drives the horror through suspense. Likewise, if the warning arrives well ahead of the trigger event then tension builds and dread mounts until it is resolved. Of course that ratcheting tension and the swell of foreboding needs to be cultivated with a certain amount of finesse. All of this simply highlights two old adages; knowledge is power, and all good things in moderation.

Mood: lustre.
Music: F.I.N.E. by Aerosmith and Pump by Quiet Riot.

Aerosmith: Pump
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Quiet Riot: QR III

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