Last week, I went through uses for isolation, and how to create it in the first place. Today, I'm going to talk about a closely related subject, which is the Discovery Plot.
The Discovery Plot is one of the two most common plots in horror cinema (the other one is the overreacher), and it can be seen in such movies as Jaws, Dracula and the like.
There are 4 stages for this pot:
- The monster shows that it's there by attacking. The shark takes its first victim, the werewolf kills the sheriff, the vampire bites Harker and so on… nobody knows of this, in this stage, except for the audience.
- The monster is discovered by a person or a group, usually young one(s), but because of some reason or another, nobody believes them or understands the full danger. The policemen say it's a joke, the mayor says it's bad for business to close the beach, and so on.
- The third stage is where the person (or group) tries to find a proof for their claims and for the danger the monster encompasses. This is usually the longest and most elaborate stage in the plot, and it also the tensest one. During this stage, the monster grows stronger and/or advances to complete its goal(s). This is the stage where the weaknesses of the monster are explored, as well as the monster's abilities. The info, in this stage, comes mainly from words. Karras understands that exorcism can help Regan, Akeley sends Wilmarth the recording…
- The final confrontation, in which humanity is standing face to face against its eternal doom and the monster. Usually, the monster loses, but not always. Wendy stands against Jack Torrance, Karras defeats the demon by sacrificing himself, Wilmarth runs out of the house after discovering the awful truth.
Two key points make this plot so powerful. The first one being the tension that is created by the time that passes between the discovery and the confrontation. The second is the knowledge differences between the viewers and the characters, thus making the fear for them much more frightening (they don't know what really is happening). Also of note, is the tension that is created between the young discoverers and the "parental" authority figures.
Applying it to RPGs
To show how it can be applied let's take the short story "The Whisperer in Darkness" as an inspiration.
- A person goes missing, and when he returns he behaves quite differently. He no longer fears for his life, he's expecting death to come, and he doesn't go out of his house any more.
- The characters, on a normal day, discover unintentionally the body of Jacob, ripped open, with his hands and brain missing. They rush to the police, bringing them to the scene, but the police officer says that this is a lousy joke.
- The characters search in the library for similar incidents from the past, learning that every few years, some people go missing, returning to their homes without ever going out. For some, bodies were found, but the people were known to live years thereafter. In the meantime, more people are missing with every day that follows. The characters decide to go into the house.
- The characters meat Jacob, but the room where they talk with him is dark. "The light does bad things to me, I'm really weak", he says. One of the characters, accidently turns on the light, and the hands and head of Jacob are seen, lining on the table. One of the hands waves to them, and they run out of the house, vowing to never come again.