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This ain't your grandaddy's Candy Land anymore...

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Tabletop Roleplaying Games

  • While most of the horror in Mortasheen is usually played for Black Comedy, even there are a few stand outs in terms of horrors. Allongside the Devilbirds, who's reason for being Nightmare Fuel is detailed in The Heartless, there is also the Lobotomask. Created when a mind overloads and destroys itself with its own Psychic Powers, it feeds on a person's thoughts, memories, and emotions, almost literally "lobotomizing" them. It is also near impossible to see or hear unless you are its intended victim, can pass through all conventional matter, and sees only in thoughts. Needless to say, you are fubared if it decides to come for you. And you can't warn anyone because you're now a drooling vegetable. The creator actually said he created it as the scariest creature he could think of if it actually existed in the real world. He succeeded admirably.
    • Of course, the fact that human life matters so little in the titular city, that humans are often treated by the many mutants and monsters that live there as test subjects, food and sometimes pets, might count as this. However, it is heavily subverted in that the humans of Mortasheen are rather nonchalant and lighthearted about it, seeing the attitude of "sometime's you're the eater, sometimes you're the eaten" as just the way it goes. Sometimes they actually volunteer for experiments for a chance at gaining more power.
    • Hell, almost everything in the setting could be considered this trope if it weren't all Played for Laughs.
  • Dark Conspiracy, the old GDW game, is basically made of Nightmare Fuel. Never mind The Greys or The Fair Folk. No, take a Vrkolak, who is most likely based on the 1961 Mexican horror film The Brainiac, except that it doesn't kill you when it sucks your cerebrospinal fluid out of the base of your skull though its hollow forked tongue -- it changes you into another of its own kind. And by that, we mean the computers made from the living brains of humans who cannot die, are fully conscious, and are totally aware of what is being done to and with them. That's just one of the more "PG" rated horrors.
  • The indie game Don't Rest Your Head has simplified rules and setting bound so tightly to its core horror concept that the entirety of play is a race powered by only the best nightmare fuel. The Nightmares you face are bizarre and creepy in the most disturbing of ways, the locals aren't much better, and your own powers can easily be worst of all. The fact that something as simple as trading often means giving up memories or years off your life doesn't help.
    • Nor does the fact that the default losing conditions of the game are not death, but the far worse fates of collapsing (letting the Nightmares get to you) or going so far over the deep end of insane you become a Nightmare.
  • The Swedish RPG Kult may well be one of the creepiest roleplaying games in existence. "Death is only the beginning", indeed. Roll Hellraiser and a twisted version of Gnosticism into one, add evil angels and insanity-induced mutation into monsters, and you understand why most KULT characters start out already fucked up. Or cursed.
  • The German RPG Engel comes close, though. Unless you play it as a superhero/D&D hack-n-slay setting, which would totally kill the creepy.
    • The creepy only really sets in when you get the fact that the so-called 'angels' are actually brainwashed, nanomachine-infected children mostly aged 12-14 who were stolen from their parents and forcefully molded into androgynous 'angelic' figures meant to know nothing outside of service to their Himmel. And you know that age-range? Well, aside from the standards dangers of the world, there's a Papacy-sponsored reason as to why Engels never seem to get any older...
  • The original edition of Little Fears, where the players play children and one of the opponents is the Anthropomorphic Personification of sexual molestation.
  • JAGS Wonderland. If Lewis Carroll and H.P. Lovecraft sat down together to write a role-playing game, it'd look a lot like this.
  • Shadowrun's "Cybertechnology" sourcebook is a good source of this, particularly the move-by-wire implants (which are described as putting the implantee's body in a state of perpetual seizure), and the information on Cyberzombies and the fiction about frequently mentioned Shadowrunner 'Hatchetman' turned into one of them.
    • Both made a comeback in the 4E sourcebook Augmentation. What's particularly nasty is the way that regardless of what you do to it, the spirit of the cyberzombie knows that they shouldn't be alive, and that knowledge causes them to stop working on a cellular level without a horrific cocktail of obscure magic and medication. Even then, a cyberzombie will eventually just go insane.
      • The Move-By-Wire system (which jacks up the body's reflexes and speed by, as mentioned above, putting it in a seizure) will, after some time, cause any character that has it to develop temporal lobe epilepsy with complications (TLE-X), a condition that persists even if the implant has been removed from the body. Symptoms (in some Real Life Nightmare Fuel here) include seizures, mood and personality disorders. The only way to fix it? Invasive brain surgery. Yep, really good trade-off for that edge in combat, chummer!
    • On the magical side of all things Shadowrun is the Blood Mage Gestalt in Aztlan (Mexico as of the SR Timeline). At best they are sacrificing hundreds if not thousands of people yearly Aztec-style to keep their President from parts unknown alive...at worst, its to speed up the return of the Horrors from Earthdawn (see below) to our world. Usually, though, they just kill people to power-up their spells, or to summon spirits into the world comprised of the blood of the sacrificed victims. These spirits would be more than happy to engulf and drown you in that blood, if their master orders it.
    • A first edition spell (which has been nerfed in the newest 4th edition) was called Turn to Goo. It turns the subject into an amorphous homogenized mass... and JUST the flesh. As soon as the spell is ended, they turn back to normal though. This wouldn't be as big of a deal if it weren't that this was a genre-mash with cyberpunk which involves cybernetic implants. A old tactic before the spell was changed was to cast this spell, then reach into the goo that is a STILL LIVING PERSON and pick out all their implants before releasing the spell.
    • For Nightmare Fuel in Shadowrun, there's Bug City. The Chicago sections of Real Cities is probably the most unnerving part.
      • The earlier entry in the "Insect Spirit" arc is Universal Brotherhood. Imagine a world of corporate greed in overlord, with an oppressive Big Brother atmosphere, with the omnipresent megacorporations flat-out not caring whether customers live or die (they can literally write their own laws and avoid prosecution) and governments just as corrupt or too weak to do anything. Even in the richest countries, the poor have no legal rights or protections. Suddenly, there's a beacon of hope. A charity organization shows up offering food, shelter, and medical care to the poor and SI Nless. Finally, someone's looking out for the little guy! They are, of course, huge (8ft tall) extraplanar intelligent insect-like creatures seeking to take over the world and use the humans as incubators for other insect spirits to hatch out of them, some of them looking like hybrid human-insects, some looking like 8 ft tall insects, and the worst actually looking exactly the same as they did when human with all the memories of their host. They're spreading throughout the entire world in secret, killing anyone who knows the truth in convenient accidents all the while maintaining a squeaky clean public image. And this was the first metaplot story arc told in the Shadowrun world. It just goes downhill from there.
  • Earthdawn. Horrors. They are a group of entities from the depths of astral space. Every few thousand years, when the magical field permeating the Earth is at its strongest, they return to our world to feed. On everything. If they don't eat the mountainside (and you with it), they torture you mentally and physically for sustenance and fun. And the threat of death, Mind Rape and actual rape are really the least you have to worry about in the long run with their guys; they'll gladly have you as a self-aware puppet (forever) with a bad case of Body Horror who will kill and/or otherwise do unspeakable things to your friends and loved ones in order to feed your new master. And the torment it puts you through is dessert. They might even corrupt your psyche and everlasting soul, and turn you into one of them. And don't study up on them too much to find out their (few) weaknesses, it can get their attention.
    • And they exist in Shadowrun. See the "Harlequin's Back" module.
      • The Blood Elves. To defend themselves from the Horrors, they used a powerful magical ritual to cover everything in their forest home in thorns. Everything. Including themselves. The race survived by virtue of living in such pain that the Horrors were no longer interested in tormenting them, for the most part.
    • What about some of the spells in Earthdawn? Just look up "Skin Shift" or "Onion Blood". Or better yet, don't.
    • If you really want to see how much of this Earthdawn has, check out the 'Horrors' book. According to the dragon legends a Horror called Verjigorm created the first Dragon by accident while sprouting all kind of Horrors. Now he's hunting them and corrupting even while the magic level is too low for other Horrors. There is also Nebis, whose name is a nice cause of Speak of the Devil, and who rebuilds himself from the bodies of those who have slain his physical body. Or Ristul, who isn't an actual entity, but the corruption itself. And those aren't the most interesting ones. If you look up the Earthdawn bestiary, you'll see that even cows and rabbits can be nightmarish.
  • The Call of Cthulhu game, being based off H.P. Lovecraft's works of horror, has this as its core quality. The modern-era conspiracy thriller version of the game, Delta Green, is the same. It is a dark, depressing RPG book, and very well-written. Conspiracy theories, UFO lore, and the Mythos all rolled into one makes for a very bleak view of the present and near-future indeed.
    • The introductory fiction for the original Delta Green core rules is of a clean-up squad sent out to handle an incident of a retired Navy SEAL having gone insane and murdered his entire family. Why? Because he had a traumatic flashback to an old mission involving Deep Ones, triggered by the smell of his house's backed-up septic tank. That detail alone hammers home just how much the touch of the Mythos never goes away, even years later.
    • The entirety of anything inspired by the Cthulhu mythos is nightmare fuel. Even Cthulhu Tech. The good side: hey, we've got mecha! The bad side: it's still a world where there are games between ancient evils and we are so pitiable and worthless that all of them but Dagon (and maybe Nyarlathotep) don't even consider us worthwhile pawns. Even when we have Humongous Mecha.
      For additional persective, we've got giant robots, the Guyver, and everybody knows they're fighting for the survival of the species. We're still losing. And if Cthulhu wakes up, it's an automatic Game Over.
    • The game actually tries to remain canon to Lovecraftian Mythos standards, as well. From the spell "Bind Lycanthrope" (which removes their humanity over the course of several days) to the fact that the Rat-things turn out to be, at least in some cases, created from willing cultists and unwilling murder victims, The Mythos is designed around the entire concept of Nightmare Fuel.
    • Which makes sense, once you know that H.P. Lovecraft had horrible nightmares that inspired a lot of his work...
  • The GUMSHOE system's Esoterrorists setting has a sourcebook called the Book of Unremitting Horror. Thirty "creatures", each lovingly detailed with (hideous) artwork, (disturbing) agenda and modus operandi and (extremely creepy) fiction, usually in the form of diary entries, coroner's report or interview with a survivor. Not recommended for reading after dark.
    • The d20 version is worse. For the uninitiated, this is a book that features a creature called a "Snuff Golem," created from the psychic trauma of the victim of a snuff film. And the entries only get more disturbing from there, such as the creation ritual behind the Blossomer. For those who are horribly, morbidly curious: The Blossomer is a demonic entity that looks like a human being with nothing below the torso. That's because the Blossomer is made from a willing human cultist, who undergoes a transformative ritual to merge with the demon. That "transformative ritual"? His fellow cultists eat everything below the waist, in slow, piece-by-piece fashion. Oh, and the write-up is preceded by a fiction piece where two DIs interview a cultist who describes the thing in detail. This is probably one of the single most disturbing books on the page.
  • The Deadlands roleplaying game. The setting is in 1876 America with a few major changes. The civil war has gone on for 14 years and the country is still divided into north and south with an uneasy truce. The men killed at the many great battlefields in the Civil War, like Shiloh and others, have risen as zombies and formed the Black Regiment. The world is suddenly infested with strange monsters that range from Bigfoot to pod-people replacements, one of whom happens to be Confederate President Jefferson Davis. But even that is not the worst: as it happens, it is all the result of something much worse. Four powerful demonic spirits are 'terrorforming' the earth by causing ungodly amounts of fear and paranoia in the populace that eventually makes the area an uninhabitable 'Deadland' filled with monsters and unnatural weirdness. Oh, and those spirits? They become the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
  • Bliss Stage.
  • GURPS has produced some scary stuff. Nerlochs top the list: they're mindless superfast zombies that paralyze you (leaving all of your senses working perfectly) and then feed you to a monster that tears your body and soul apart while you're still completely functional. If you do happen to somehow survive, the trauma automatically drives you insane.
  • Infinity may not be known for its grim or dark setting but you need to consider a few things. First, most of the infrastructure of the Human Sphere is controlled by an AI. Second, an even more advanced AI is bent on conquering the Human Sphere. Their scouting forces are already equipped with weapons that can turn any human with a Cube into a Manchurian Agent, basic troops whose idea of diplomacy is all-out war, and shapeshifting assassins that are completely undetectable by any human technology. Now think what would happen when the Combined Army starts getting serious.
  • Fairy Meat. IF YOU CAN'T EAT YOUR FRIENDS, WHO CAN YOU EAT?
  • Paranoia is known for playing horrible events for laughs, but the Straight style plays them straight by focusing on just how horrible they are. Thousands of citizens may be killed or mindwiped for nothing even vaguely resembling a good reason, and it's probably all the fault of the PCs. And because it's always "year 214", pretty much no one knows how long this has been going on, or how long it will keep going on; one pre-written adventure actually examines this question over the course of billions of years.
    • The best example of this is a Straight Mission where the players are put in charge of a food factory showing record levels of production. This is, of course a lie and the "food" is mostly empty boxes, but if the players were to expose it, then they'll be executed along with the rest of the staff. As a reward for their incredible production, the quota for that factory is increased. And so the players lie again about how much food is being produced, so their quota is increased, and that factory's defective methods are imposed all over Alpha Complex. All fun and games, until the players realise that their actions are causing mass starvation, and that pretty soon the best possible solution will be to shove half the citizens of Alpha Complex into food processors to feed the rest.
    • And then there's MemoMax technology. Whenever someone dies, his clone picks up where he left off, having downloaded all his memories. Including how he died.
  • Somehow, All Flesh Must Be Eaten has gotten a pass here. Sure, the scenarios are designed to be one-shot and varied by the GM's plans... but they're pretty horrific. One sample flavor story is from the perspective of a scientist in a military base who's studying the zombie plague, and gets bitten. He describes what happens to him in graphic detail. Bad enough, sure, but another one has the zombie plague as an STD.
  • Eclipse Phase. Anything and everything involving the Exsurgent Virus.
  • Dead Inside. How would you like to lose your soul and become a gray, empty husk of a person? And that's not even the worst thing that can happen to you in this world. If you die while Dead Inside you become a zombie, lose what little emotion you had, and can never heal your soul, you're stuck like that for a long long time while you slowly rot away. And even worse then that is what happens if the last dregs of soul-stuff you have get lost or stolen, you become an Omnicidal Maniac Quippoth intent on eating the souls of everybody and everything and turning them into monsters as well.
  • The roleplaying game The Farm. You've been kidnapped and put into a prison camp, where after four days they butcher you and eat your corpse, all the while with faceless guards tormenting you in a variety of ways. Oh, and you can't trust anyone. It's like The Prisoner meets Hostel.
  • Exalted has a ton of nightmare fuel. Even if we forget about all the Cthulhu-esque horrors from beyond reality, we have such interesting cases as Tomb Beasts, lizards who have the curious and specific habit of eating their prey only while it still lives and never, ever eating any dead flesh. As such, they will carefully vivisect slices of flesh one at a time, so that their prey does not die until as much as possible is consumed.
    • On the bright side, there are hundreds of people with powers far beyond any mortal. Except they're all going slowly insane, and half of the most powerful ones are seeking to destroy/conquer Creation for their dead/imprisoned (respectively) masters.
      • And several of the ones without said masters are STILL potentially looking to do so. And in the case of conquest, they have a divine right to do so.
    • A special note for the Abyssal Exalts: Once they've destroyed everything else in Creation, the Midnight Caste preaches the righteousness of Oblivion to the remaining Exalts, and the Moonshadows extract oaths from the participants to carry through with the plan. Then, the Dusk caste murder everyone else, then cast themselves into Oblivion. Lastly, at the end, one last member of the Day caste, who had stayed hidden to make sure the Dusk had carried through, throws himself into the Void, thus destroying the last shred of Creation in the most methodical way imaginable.
    • The Infernal book has to lead the charge, though, with poor Lillun. Squick, certainly, but reading her story gave me the need to put the book down and go watch some cartoons for a while. With the lights on.
      • The Infernals cover. That thing in the bottom right is one guy's right arm. You can go curl up in a corner now.
    • The Ebon Dragon is a walking, talking purveyor of this trope. Remember why that Stephen King short story "The Jaunt" is so horrible? The Ebon Dragon can do that to anyone he kills. Have fun spending eternity in a black oubliette where you will only experience the passage of time, from which you can't be released. No more fun for you, ever.
    • The Compass of Celestial Directions: Malfeas. The whole book, but especially the descriptions of specific locations in Malfeas, such as the Screaming Cathedral.
  • In 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars the Terran Empire is a perfect utopy and Player Characters have gone half-insane with tedium; they have become soldiers exploring the universe supposedly to kill all potential threats to the Empire, but their true mission is to exterminate ALL extraterrestrial life in the universe. Just because. Oh, and you can't return back, because deserters are killed too. Isn't it a happy ride?
    • The war is so brutal and pointless that literally the only way for those fighting it to avoid coming to despise Earth is to die before they get that far. It's far from unlikely for a long enough campaign to end with the player characters seizing control of the Expeditionary Force, turning it around, and destroying or enslaving humanity.
  • In Tribe 8 almost anything about the Z'bri.
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