Last week, we talked about the Overreacher Plot. Today, we're going to talk about the place of morality in the horror genre. It's no surprise that horror has such a connection with morality. Some of the most used horror stories have a connection to the religion, and many of them serve as a new and modern morality story. One of the leading examples for this can be found in Slasher Movies like Halloween.
In Halloween for example, our masked killer preys on a very special kind of prey, on the teenagers who aren't modest. He usually catches them while they do it, and kills them immediately. Then, when he's confronted with the modest, pure girl he's defeated and has to run away. The amorality is his enemy, his prey, and against the moral persons he can't stand his ground and has to flea defeated.
At the beginning of the movie, he catches his sister doing it, and kills her after her boyfriend is out. In the continuation of the movie, he doesn't pull his knife out, at least till the teenager he's about to kill does a bad thing. The moment s/he does it, he starts to act, separating them and then kills them.
Laurie, on the other hand, remains pure and defeats him. It's of course to her credit that she defends the kids that she babysit, while risking her life. This is another highly moral thing, and as such she's even in higher regard, ready to stay alive at the end of the movie.
But 18 years earlier we had a different movie. Apart from all of its originality and influence on the Slasher sub-genre, it had a huge frightening power that derives from the morals of its main character. In Psycho, Marion steals 40 grand at the beginning of the movie, and runs away with it. She's being followed by the policeman, but runs away from him and arrives to the Bates Motel.
She talks with Norman, the owner, about his mother, and after a not too long conversation, she goes to her room. In there, she decides to hand the money back to the rightful owner. Then she decides to take a shower, symbolising her new identity and cleaning herself from her bad way, and that's when she's murdered. Not when she's done the crime, but after she reforms, when we the least expect it. "Once a rogue always a rogue."
In Psycho, the characters die after trying to do the right thing, and as such their death comes much more frightening: No one looks for the noble moral human beings over the bad ones; they both die in the end.
Our last example comes from the wonderful comic called Watchmen. Although not horror, it does express well one of more frightening aspects of morality: The villain who does the most horrible thing to keep the world from falling apart, because s/he is a moral person, even though not in the way to talk about. At the end of Watchmen, it is revealed that the masked vigilantes' disappearance was caused by Ozymandias. It's also revealed that all was part of his plan to finish the Cold War and to create a new era of peace and prosperity, by sending a machine that looks like an alien who will kill half of New York. Although it does create peace, and does finish the war, it's still a terrible thing and half of the New Yorkers die in one of the most famous scenes from the comic.
It's much more frightening when a bad thing is done from all the right reasons. It is much more frightening (at least to my belief) than just killing the bad persons.
How can we use all of this in RPGs? Morality takes a great place in Psychological horror, as well as in Personal Horror games. These are the kind of games where the characters try to cope with their problems, and where they try to remain humane and moral in the face of danger.
There are a couple of ways to use this:
- The first one is to decide what place the morality of the different characters will take. Are they all going to be pure against the evil, or something in between? Will the monster/villain kill all types of persons? Only the sinners? Only the nobles? For what cause?
- The other should be done mid games: Every time there is a death, you need to connect between it and the morals of the game. It creates believability, and it also helps to express the moral themes of the game.