On nu-horror and The Mothers’ Group

A short recap: The Mothers’ Group [edit: New name is ‘The Mothers’] is my next game, which will premiere at the Danish convention Fastaval this Easter. In the game, the players play mothers, who at a group meeting, discuss various things related to just having become a mother with peers in the same situation. Even though it might sound placid or even boring, the game is everything but. High on intrigue and immersion, the engine that drives the game is envy, the gaining of status and that special evil that only women posses(1).

I characterise the game as a horror game, although none of the traditional horror-elements make any appearance in the game. No Chuthulhus, Vampires or demons of any kind. The horror in the game is more akin to the notion of ‘Personal Horror’, which I first saw appear in the games from White Wolf – the shock of realising that you are a monster – but in a different way. The monsters have left the building, and what remains are ordinary people; in this case mothers.

The game has been a long time underway. From the first threads of inspiration to the full-fledged game is at least 3 years. Sometimes ideas just have to mature. And someone must have the time to write them. My main inspiration for the game and the horror part comes from Sweden. The following is taken from the opening pages of Gustav Edmans game Under Sommaren (my translation):

“Always an adventure. There is always a monster, a conspiracy or over-exaggerated personal relations which must be present to drive the story onwards. I belive that this type of roleplaying, which requires extreme fiction to induce somewhat strong reactions, is to devalue the Swedish roleplayers”(2)Under sommaren, p.1 

This made me think, and in some ways inspired the non-conflict premise of Lady and Otto and eventually led to the concept of nu-horror). This is not to say that all games that involve fantastic or extreme elements are crap – it is the sole reliance on that element of the game to make the it work. This was essentially what made people leave horror-gaming in Denmark in the late nineties. People were fed up with playing (and writing) roles which were killers, sodomisers or the occasional rape victim. It was all cheap effects. And then they stopped doing it.

So horror more or less left the mainstream roleplaying scene. People were fed up. It didn’t work anylonger, people were not scared anymore and worse, the game-mastering specific to the games were looked down upon.And now, it is back. Same, but different.

(1) DISCLAIMER: Remember, this is fiction, right.
(2) Original swedish text reads: “Alltid ett äventyr. Det finns alltid ett monster, en komplott eller överdrivna personrelationer som bara måste finnas där, för att driva historien framåt. Jag tror att denna typ av rollspel, där den extrema fiktionen måste finnas för att framkalla någorlunda starka reaktioner, är att undervärdera Sveriges rollspelare.”