RPGaDay2020 Prompt 26 – Strange

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Strange Shoreline

Prompt: Strange

How do you inject a feeling of strangeness into your game? Not outright horror, though it can descend to that. But the subtle feeling that something is not quite right, to get the players' attention without crossing over that line to the obvious? I find the use of the other four senses a good way of calling attention to something that gives a creeping suspicion that the players are walking into something on the wierd side. The faint sound of flapping in the wind like the wings of a wounded bird. The sudden rise of goosebumps as the wind chills a few degrees. The cloying smell of decaying flowers. The heat parching the throat, making the player swallow. The slimy feel of the bannister, leaving a bitter, tingling residue on the hand. Even better, use the senses in strange ways, twisting expectations. The taste of copper on the tongue, heavy in the air. There is also the negative use of senses. The most obvious used ones are the wildlife going silent, but an example could also be the sudden stillness of the air.

The use of metaphors or onomatopoeia (as long as they don't fall into overuse) can also signal that things are a bit off. The delivery of these concepts is as important as what is actually said- if you're trying to jar your players, then even how you say it should invoke that dissonance. “As you make your way through the forest- SNAP!” This communicates viscerally that the player's stealth was compromised. “As your movements disturb the night, the natural sounds die down, and you hear swift movement in the forest off of your left shoulder.”

How do you communicate foreboding strangeness to your players?