Cannibalism: Invite Someone Over For Dinner


As Halloween fast approaches, our minds delve into the unholy shadows of our imagination. Fed by mortal fear, we recklessly abandon the cultural mores and amuse our most tainted desires with thoughts of evil. As the lust for darkness sends bitter chills throughout our veins, we are seduced by the calling of the bone-pale moon. Gamers assemble. It is time to play with cannibals.

As Halloween fast approaches, our minds delve into the unholy shadows of our imagination. Fed by mortal fear, we recklessly abandon the cultural mores and amuse our most tainted desires with thoughts of evil. As the lust for darkness sends bitter chills throughout our veins, we are seduced by the calling of the bone-pale moon. Gamers assemble. It is time to play with cannibals.

Fear sells. Besides sex, our fears dominate the media. Horror films are the obvious example, but consider music, newspapers, and advertising. The menacing unknown threatens our sense of safety and security, yet lures us into an exciting world of endless possibilities. The Gothic culture, spurred by the writing of Anne Rice, is a vivid example of our fascination with the mysteries of the shadows. This concept applies to great adventures too, as we play on core emotions, we realize fear is, by far, the most exciting. Even though cannibals are usually just mortal men (man-eating jungle men, albeit), they can be far more terrifying than an ancient red dragon.

Playing fear sounds like an easy task, but "sending in a troll" doesn't usually tap into the primal instincts of the player. Fear should not be measured by how much the character is going to lose, but how much the character thinks he or she is going to lose. Leaving the threat to the imagination of the player is a beautiful thing. Ignorance is hardly considered bliss when a character wakes up in the jungle with a strange idol weaved into his or her hair. Manipulating the emotions of your gamers takes skill, and time. Save your most terrifying work for a group you know very well, and take time to prepare.


Games usually start in the day, and then are played into the wee hours. Unfortunately, unnerving dread is the last thing on the minds of players when sitting in front of a sunny window, with kids watching Blue's Clues in the next room. Instead, try to find a quiet area to play, with limited lighting. Don't play if the atmosphere isn't suitable, this has caused many adventures to go from chilling to cheesy.


People spend billions a year decorating for Halloween. Cartoon witches or singing pumpkins may not be your first choice, so be creative. Wax candles can be melted on the spout of an odd shaped jug, and even filled with smoke (ash and a few matches), or a few chicken bones can be ties with a strip of stained cloth. Never underestimate the power of subtle signs or tokens. These are merely props to stir up the fear of the unknown, not in any way to be confused with occult paraphernalia.


When a dragon or troll dines on a party member, most gamers laugh because "dats wot trollie do." However, when a cannibal is of a similar race, then players' reactions come from a deeper fear. Mores and folkways influence people and provide ethical refuge, to imagine someone crossing those lines threaten the perceived stability of society. In essence, cannibalism symbolizes the destruction of civilization. Understanding the cannibal may involve researching Innu legends or scientific reports of the Congo, but for cannibals this Halloween, great sources of inspiration can be from movies. Ravenous, Hannibal, and People Under the Stairs are excellent sources of fright. Take the time to understand the reasons why these films fill our stomach with knots.

The Story

Simply running through the forest looking for (or fleeing from) cannibals will not make the game horrific. It is the complexities and uncertainties involved that make players' skin crawl. Strange rituals, unexpected twists, or a "wolf in the fold" keep players on their toes. In horror gaming, the Gamemaster must pay especial attention to timing and subtlety. Revealing the evil purpose, without explaining what, why, or how. Players must have evidence to support their fears, but not answers to their questions.

There is a limitless world of macabre possibilities. Now that the oven is warm, blend the ghoulish ingredients slowly and work up a hunger. This Halloween, treat those uber-level Knights and Wizards that can slay dragons for sport, and move mountains with a whisper. Invite your party to a meal in terror. Knights can't kill what they can't find and Wizards will run out of spells eventually. Let your party find out how mortal they really are, using the power of the menacing unknown.

Very nice... Very nice indeed... (Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee)

[Rubs hands together with wicked, malevolent glee]

Despite his/her generally irritating emails, I have to thank "p'nis enlargement" for bringing this post to my attention. I can't believe that its been neglected so long. Olly is the only person to have appreciated it.

This is one of the most original ideas I have heard for a while. To find tricks whereby you can tap into the primal fears of the players. In other words, shock them out of their "safe" complacency and get them to treat the game as "real" for a while.

That makes you a bit like a film director. In fact you can use the same sort of tricks as film directors use. The question off course, is how to tap into these primal fears. Any suggestions ?

I know this is way late, and that Mohammed probably isn't on this site anymore, but I'm going to give some suggestions anyway just in case somebody else wants them.

Few things are better than the look of sheer terror you can produce on player's faces. jabberwocky is right - you can't do it with typical monsters. Cannibals are a great idea, but there's others. However, I'm just going to illustrate with cannibals.

First, read all the evil GM tip articles by Arkelias. If you're going to run horror, you have to be an evil GM. You have to be able to hit the players right at home. For instance, zombies. Zombies are a staple of horror, yet in D&D, they're just another monster to hack your way through to confront the Necromancer. So, turn the tables on the players. Introduce an intelligent, fast, skilled killer zombie who's slowly stalking the players, chipping away at their defenses bit by bit, day by day. And be really evil. If it's been many days of severe harrassment, and the party rogue decides to wonder off by himself, take him aside, have the zombie attack him, and then describe to him how the zombie kills him, slowly, deliberately, purposefully, almost playfully. Then, when his face is white and you can see a shean of sweat, tell him not to tell the others, bring him back, and just sit silently for a little while, letting the other players see the look on his face. Then, roleplay when the others find the body. Describe, describe, describe. Make it detailed. Saying, "You find Tom, and he's dead," does not inspire fear. Describing how the players find bits and pieces of his body in a large ring, a fingernail here, bits of bone and skin there, which slowly leads to the center, where they find Tom's upper body, armless, laying in a clearing, with his intestines all over the place, hanging from trees, making wierd designs on the forest floor, but none of it cut off, all of it still connected and coming out of Tom's gut - now that's scary. And snicker to yourself when the party finds it and you see the look on Tom's players face. It's pure gold.

Drive them to desperation. Like jabberwocky said, eventually the wizard is going to run out of spells, and the fighter's going to get tired. Drive at them like that. Let yourself fill up with joy when the wizard announces, "Guys...I'm outta spells," and the day isn't even close to over yet. Don't let them rest! Drive at them, drive at them, drive at them! Make it so they're desperate just to escape, not to defeat the enemy, just to get out. And then give them the illusion that they've found a place to rest, that they can hide out hear for a little while. Then drop those cannibals right on top of them. Make them hordes of cannibals, who don't care if the other cannibal gets cut down, cause, heck, they'll just eat him, too. In fact, describe several of the cannibals stopping the attack to eat their fallen fellows. Make it gory.

Fear is borne out of desperation. So make it plain to them that they'll never be safe, and drive that point home with a villian they can never predict expect, or know what to do with. Cannibals are like this. They're everywhere! You ever see Dagon? Not the best movie, but it had some great parts. Have these people come in swarms! A zombie assassin is like this. He's intelligent, fast, unpredictable. And he can wait a long time. Also, he can't be detected with a detect living type of spell. And, with a few modifications, he can't be turned either. Oh, and, while he can wait a long time, make sure the PCs can't. Put them on the schedule, and make it urgent, such as one of their party being poisoned, and they have to get to a certain place to cure him. Make them desperate.

Of course, here we come to the ending. If this is just an adventure in an ongoing campaign, then of course let the PCs win, or at least live to fight another day. But if it's a stand alone, don't be afraid to kill them all, and don't rush it. Never rush it! Good horror requires build-up. Make it slow, give them clues, then spring the trap. And make sure the trap's good. Ultimately, though, a good horror game requires a lot of thought. This isn't one you can just wing, unless you're a sick, sick man. So put a lot of effort into what you want to do, how you're going to build atmosphere and terror, then do it! And good luck to you.

Also, remember this quote from Steven King - "First I try to inspire terror. Then, if I can't do that, I go for horror. Then, if that fails, I go for the gross-out." Well, it's something like that.