To create and maintain a sense of horror and the unknown, I had to slightly tweak the set up for this game and did not inform the players what game they would be playing prior to the play session. This was due to the fact that all of my players had seen the film and this concept only works if you don’t know the twist… I have taken to calling this the PT factor, as the players had a fantastic moment of realisation in the third act of the game. It also made my usually confident players become more nervous and paranoid, as the lack of information that they were used to receiving prior to a game enhanced their fear of the unknown.
Although this was a one-off game, it required as much writing as a campaign. This was due to the choice the players make in the basement, which dictates what kind of threat will be sent to kill them. Although the narrative beats would be similar, each monster had a unique form of attack and I reluctantly decided to limit the options to twenty different threats to ensure I met the deadline for the session.
This was a unique game in respect to its mechanics, as the characters were regular people with no fantastical elements. To add to the feeling of threat and encourage familiarity, I decided they should play as themselves for this game. They were allowed two special abilities going in and these were decided by the rest of the group for each player. Rather than use existing gameplay systems, I wanted to ensure a sense of dread and difficulty with each action and give the player the sense that they were surviving on luck and adrenaline, which would run out eventually. To create this, I set a Jenga tower in front of each player and asked them to remove a piece each time they completed an action. If they removed the piece they succeeded, if the tower fell, they failed.