Survival Horror
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Basic Information

Survival horror is a videogame genre where the protagonists find themselves in a world suddenly populated by monsters or other threats. This is often a once familiar environment, such as the city the protagonists lived in - but something, whether a zombie apocalypse or a demonic invasion has made this environment extremely dangerous. The first goal of the protagonists is to survive and hopefully escape. They may or may not learn what was responsible for the event during their escape.

Also key to the survival aspect is an after the end environment in which normal supply structures have broken down - as well as coping with the critters, the survivors must also scavenge for food, clothing, weapons and ammunition in the ruins of their fallen society. Stringency is normally quite high - certainly with regard to actions having consequences - and rules for starvation, disease, thirst and environmental damage should typically be in play.

Another common subtrope of survival horror - especially where zombies are involved - is that the critters turn out to be more of an environmental hazard and the real existential threat often comes from other humans. Unfortunately it is also only be co-operating with other humans that long term survival becomes practicable.


Game and Story Use

  • This genre is extremely easy to convert to role-playing games. Just take a normal city (complete with maps) and fill it with zombies or other dangerous monsters - and you have an instant dungeon, complete with "treasure" (guns, equipment, even money if the PCs think it will do them some good in the long run) they can loot.
    • They might also have to deal with moral dilemmas - do they attempt to rescue other scattered survivors as well, despite the fact that those will slow them down or give their position away? GMs are encouraged to allow characters who act selfishly to survive, but to encounter consequences down the line - whether simply finding people who starved to death because the PCs stole their food or killed their foragers, or finding that the fat, whiney guy that they left behind to die turns out to have been the only person who really understood how to restart the power generators they need to bring their new base back on line.
    • This genre can be unpopular with power gamers - since thematically the PCs should almost always be on the back foot, not simply demonstrating their uber l33t skillz by batting away wave after wave of the enemy (that would be a conversion of a first person shooter game, and probably quite dull for most people), and weirdly enough, for combat monsters given that, again, the survival and horror genres are poorly fitted to casual combat. Endemic violence, yes, but never with the sort of low-risk atmosphere popularised by … certain RPGs.
      • There's also a tradition that fighting the zombies - or whatever - tends to make the problem worse. Short term you may resolve issues, but overt combat simply draws more of them down on your position. This can be subverted - the less bleak end of the spectrum has been known to allow areas to be cleared and returned to something like normal, but this may only be setting the players up for a fall as a massive hoard of zombies erupts from somewhere far away to threaten their renascent society.
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