years running, though the “Gazebo Writers Christmas Party & Sunday School Treat” has a good feeling about 2012. But, for the sake of argument, let us assume that you wish to play your survival horror game. Let us also assume that Donogh McCarthy isn’t going to let me out of these restraints until I’ve written something for you. Why should you be interested in the Eastern Front? Well, from a survival horror perspective it has it all, an extreme environment, constant threat of death, scarce resources and four years of unending human tragedy. What’s not to like?
was achievable. If you’re unlucky enough not to have a closeted accountant in your group, try to focus on two or three key resources and manage those. Food, ammunition and fuel are all likely candidates. If you don’t want to get bogged down in accountancy, raid a board game for counters or those little glass gem things that card gamers use, and use those to represent resources. I’ve found players are often more concerned about “spending” resources when that resource is represented by a physical thing that they have to hand over or worse still that they can have taken away from them.
1. The drama of scarcity
One of the pillars of the survival horror genre is scarcity of resources. The players should never be able to quite rely on having sufficient ammunition, food, fuel or whathaveyou to accomplish what they need to do. Limited resources means that the players have to prioritise and make choices about what they need to achieve their goals. Keeping resources scarce is trickier than it sounds. The characters should have sufficient means to accomplish what they set out to do, if they’re clever, but they shouldn’t be in such a state of beggary that they might as well just go home. During my Eastern Front game, I was lucky that I had two players who were particularly interested in this aspect of the game and designed spreadsheets to keep track of ammunition and food supplies. They then used this information to project their consumption over time and then used that information to set themselves goals. It sounds like accountancy (which it was), but it put the players in charge of working out what
“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today” - Kohima Epitaph
2. The need for mortality
To refer back to my previous point, “...the characters should have sufficient means to accomplish what they set out to do, if they’re clever...” And if they’re not clever, you should kill them. Actually, that’s not exactly true but you shouldn’t prevent them from dying. Poker is a game that is only fun when played for money,
without the investment of money play becomes distorted and boring because there is nothing at risk. In a roleplaying game, the players aren’t playing for money - but they do have an investment in the game; their character. In a game of horror, the threat becomes diluted if the players feel that there is nothing at stake and their investment (their character) is in no danger. Roll dice in the open so that the players can see what’s happening and see that everything is above board. Real combat entails real risk, but to win when the deck is unfairly stacked in your favour is to rob victory of its savour. In my Eastern Front game, the players got involved in a combat in the third session and finished with one character on death’s door, another badly injured, and the major NPC dead. They didn’t get involved in another fight for a month and even then made sure that their enemy was asleep when they blew up the building. One of the players nearly left the game because he had to spend six weeks real time recovering from his injuries, but he recovered and never wandered blithely into a fight again. [
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