The possibilities put forward and presented in this hard cover manual of over 250 pages takes the idea of players controlling monsters instead of heroes to a new, higher and more playable, level. Here the player's characters can begin as regular adventurers but by some corruption, fortune or misfortune they may change into something evil or ungodly, even to becoming one of the very creatures they have previously gained fame and prosperity from hunting and putting down. HORROR ADVENTURES consists of just 8 Chapters, each, except Chapters 3: Feats, and 6: Running Horror Adventures, having chapter-specific multiple sub-headings, paragraphs and sub-paragraphs.
Horror Characters need to be role-played more intensely and deeply than regular role-play characters. We have all played or played with someone running a typical dwarf or archetypal elf, the brusque fighter or sage mage and to an extent most of those classes or their sub-classes when played by the majority of us have origins steeped in our visual or literary knowledge of such characters (by visual I am referring to movies and tv shows). For instance, if we play a thief or rogue there is often an element of Robin Hood in our portrayal, maybe only a minute nod towards the king of thieves but a nod just the same. How many dwarven fighters have you played or adventured with that bring Gimli or Thorin to mind, Mages are often immersed in the meandering of Gandalf and of course Legolas is the classic elven hero. Horror characters are different because there aren't that many of these role models for us to compare or relate to. So many of the horrific characters from books and films, especially from films, are elaborate lunatics; just look at Norman Bates, Jack Torrance, the Joker, Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, Voldemort, John Doe and Hannibal Lector. From that short list only Norman Bates, Hannibal Lector and John Doe (Kevin Spacey) are real possibilities to form a basis of a Horror Character on, at least one that grows into their horror rather than simply being just an instrument of horror.
Through the chapters on Playing a Horror Character, Fear, Sanity and Corruption, the players - for these first chapters are aimed more at the player than the GM - can begin to understand what is being asked of them. They have to give up all previous ideas of role-playing and prior construction of characters and change their entire thought process to be able to completely and fully and realistically bring a playable Horror Character to the table. Rolling dice and emitting the occasional maniacal laugh will not cut it in a Pathfinder Horror game. The players will have to dig deeper into their very own souls and locate that tiny piece of evil that everyone has inside of them (be-it only the wanton destruction of a wasp or an ant) and work that amoebic idea into a vengeful or psychotic personification capable of the type of deeds performed by the Witch Hunters of Salem, the Tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition or the regular villains in a James Patterson novel. In other words you have to be anything other than yourself, unless of course you are a raging psychopath with homicidal tendencies and then you should be out on the streets killing innocent folk in back alleys and not sitting around in a warm room at the back of a pub playing games.
This book will allow you insight into the workings, creation and behaviour for archetypes of the horror versions of many of the better known character classes; Barbarian, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, Witch, Wizard being amongst those detailed in chapter two. It will open your eyes wider than any role-playing guide book or manual has done before. In regular games you are often told to go rescue the Princess from the evil warlord <insert name of Evil Warlord> but you only know he is evil because you have been told this - mislead by your GM perhaps ? Why is the warlord evil ? Is it because he has kidnapped a princess or razed and ravaged a small village ? or is there something deeper and darker lurking in the depths of his soul ?; in Horror Adventures you could well be role-playing that evil warlord. If that was the case wouldn't you want to know and be able to draw on for your portraya the reasons why your character is regarded as evil? In Horror Adventures that is what is necessary for you to do and this is why Horror Adventures isn't for everyone.
The front cover of Pathfinder's HORROR ADVENTURES does little to convey what you the role-player are going to find inside. It looks like an ordinary additional manual for your Pathfinder RPG and as such it will be bought by players who purchase everything Pathfinder. Even the blurb on the back cover does little to dissuade the unassuming player from adding this volume to their collection and yet it is a book that many will find no or little use for and only GMs who are asked to run a game at a convention or know they have a gaming group capable of giving these adventures the attention they deserve will bring it to the table.
That last short paragraph isn't meant as a condemnation or a negative criticism of HORROR ADVENTURES because if I was still attending as many role-play conventions as I used to I would be first in line to write a scenario for it and GM it. As I said previously, it takes the idea of playing a monster instead of a hero to another level, and to be honest I love it. I just think that regular players should understand what they are letting themselves in for if they go down this route.
HORROR ADVENTURES uses the PATHFINDER frpg game rules but takes the players down a much darker path than one would usually expect from a fantasy game. Because of this the GM is advised, basically legally warned, to ensure that all players are comfortable with the possibilities of mental anguish to themselves as well as physical damage to their characters. I can understand this sensible warning but then I thought to myself, shouldn't it be in every fantasy role-play game book ? Think about it. You play a magician of sorts, for example, and have no qualms burning another being to ashes; and as other characters you have no qualms, back-stabbing, beheading, maiming, shooting acid, disintegrating, mentally incapacitating etc etc or even in at least one role-play game having characters go insane. I am agreeing with Paizo that players should be prewarned about the possible content of an adventure, but not just of an Horror adventure but for all role-play adventures and for all systems. Despite this warning PATHFINDER: HORROR ADVENTURES makes no mention of it on its cover and only details it on page 190 (after direction from page 8). This made me wonder if it was real or a tongue in cheek warning; I settled on real because there was nothing even mildly amusing in the text. Surprised therefore that there is no prior to purchase warning.