Van Strahd’s Guide to a Horror

There’s a current trend amongst D&D games at the moment. Whether it’s running Curse of Strahd, or using the new Van Richten’s Guide, and that is to use horror in order to subject players and their character’s to unsettling situations.

And that is perfectly fine, if you and your players are looking to unsettle themselves and healthy boundaries are maintained. You’re looking for a scary thrill and be able to head home afterwards. I’ve personally played in a couple of run through’s of the Curse of Strahd module. The first made the titular Strahd into an over the top character and we had a zany fun adventure. Kinda like a Scooby-Doo episode, but with dice and drinks. The second was a slog, a tough wade through the world where every NPC wanted us dead, and every creature instantly attacked. Death was our best friend and many deals were made.

So, I know that there are different ways to play through the same material. Dice rolls can veer even the most well planned game off into a random tangent. Leading to some unexpected outcomes. However, with horror, there is always something that is going to unsettle someone which may not be something you’ve even thought about before.

Personally, and professionally, I don’t run horror modules. My players and I are looking for a safe, secure space to explore aspects of ourselves. That’s not to say I won’t be scared or I won’t introduce a scary enemy for them to encounter. But, it’s done in a place of safety and I take steps afterwards to ensure there is a respite afterwards. It’s a little like adding a save point, or checkpoint in a game. A point to gather around for a rest, a chat and to take a breather. A place to say “I am safe”.