It isn’t really demon week anymore but as Halloween (weekend) is here I decided to “wrap up” what I started back then.
Previously I discussed a little about demonic possession and how it was handled in a couple of games I have played or read. This time it I plan to give you some pointers of what to watch for inspiration.
Movies and TV have given us a wide variety of examples of demonic possession. Mainly this works (for those who make them) because it present an opportunity to play up a wide range of our fears with little financial cost. Ie. it does not cost as to get someone to play possessed as it would cost to get someone in a suitable mask to play a space alien (or create a believable monster with CGI).
The effect of possession in roleplaying games is not as strong as in visual media. Most players can relate to their characters and into some extent to the NPCs but I doubt it is likely they will be as intimidated or related as they would be while watching what is actually going on. (I am not saying this is the case always. I am just using this assumption as the basis of choosing what movies to discuss.)
Spoilers from movies will follow.
The latest movie I watched in this genre was the Possession. It is not very imaginative when it comes to script but it does present an interesting MacGuffin to be used – the Dybbuk Box. In essence the box works as a demon prison. It demon is trapped in the box with personal items and it is forced to look at itself from a mirror for all eternity. Now I don’t get why the demon needs the personal items or why it is necessary to make its imprisonment torture but a similar item could easily be used in supernatural/horror games. An insane demon that can be freed to cause havoc is always fun.
The original Alien movie is an excellent example of possession movie done right. Even though it uses a physical being instead of an ghostly or demonic it plays on the same fears. If the players are accustomed to expel the demon with a magical ritual then a physical danger could very well give them a new kind of obstacle to conquer. The physical danger of the host might be even greater than in “regular possession” and at least certainly more concrete. In a horror game this kind of threat could be a good twist.
Ghostbusters is my last example as it also is one of my my all time favorite movies. It might not be as much horror as the two previous examples but it does have an interesting point. The possessing demons in Ghostbusters have a motive. Most demons and ghost that possess people in movies and tv are there mainly to cause havoc. Zuul and Vinz are there to open up a doorway to a demon god Gozer (who in turn is here to cause havoc…).
Using all three movies together we can come up with an interesting horror plot: Someone (maybe the characters) get their hands on an artifact. The artifact releases an entity (maybe physical in nature) that possesses a host. At first the host might even be unaware of the presence within his body what sooner or later he/she will notice that there is something living inside him/her. The possessing entity takes control of the host (or simply kills it during its metamorphose) and heads to fulfil a mission that will certainly be horrible if the PCs do not prevent it.
Now that I think of it the plot-line above is kind of the plot-line from the Species…
Other “must see” movies about demonic possession include: Evil Dead, Hellraiser, Exorcist, Exorcism, etc. but I think those are well known enough. A honorable mention goes to Babylon 5: The Lost Tales that has an interesting view of demons possessing people on Earth. Though the movie is not as good as it could/should be the this story is certainly usable.