This time of year it’s important to watch out for ghosts. Especially creepy ones that want to give you shoulder rubs.

More generally, it’s a good idea to watch out for Halloween themed RPG sessions. Just as surely as the treants lose their leaves and all your potions begin to taste of pumpkin spice, your GM is guaranteed to be hard at work making a vampire/werewolf/haunted house scenario. And while there are plenty of guides out there that can help him to run a spooky game, there’s not much guidance for players.

It was a Savage Worlds Firefly game of all things where I first learned this lesson. Our ship had been forced to make an emergency landing at a derelict station. Our comms were dead, and so we had to scavenge for spare parts to get flying again. Our GM did a great job describing the station’s flickering lights, the echoes down its elevator shaft, and in general making the place foreboding. By the time we encountered the Reavers (because of course there were Reavers) the fight came as a welcome relief from the oppressive atmosphere.

We managed to survive a difficult combat, but afterwords the sense of foreboding was gone. We were still jazzed from our victory as we continued to explore the ship, and so the horribly mutilated bodies, when we encountered them, lacked some of the punch they should have had. We’d already seen the monster. We’d beaten the monster. We were big damn heroes, dammit!

And so I described my character throwing up.

As players it’s natural to crack jokes and deliver one-liners. It’s natural to want to feel like a badass, to make your character a fearless action guy with nerves of steel. But in a horror game, if you want to  keep that atmosphere going, it’s important to put a check on the bravado every once in a while. I’m not here to tell you how to play your character, and maybe you really are the fearless warrior type. But when my gruff ship’s mechanic reacted to those flayed bodies with actual horror, it added something to the session. The group seemed to collectively recall that, oh yeah, there’s some terrifying shit going down, and so the horror atmosphere began to rebuild. Just something to keep in mind going into this Halloween weekend.

Question of the day then: What’s the creepiest moment you’ve experienced in a game? How did the GM achieve the effect, and how did your fellow players react?