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I have an idea for a story:

My setting is reminiscent of some computer games, in that Player Characters (PCs) are essentially immortal - they reincarnate indefinitely, and can continue to kill the non-Player Characters (NPCs). However, my story is not just about the PCs - it is from the point of view of the NPCs, who are being hunted for no real reason, by essentially immortal creatures, who become more powerful over time (a.k.a level up). Thus, the horror element of my story. (There is also the point of view of some PCs who have come to understand this environment, and thus follow a non-violent path.)

PCs affect many elements of the story, going as far as having an entire enemy type dedicated to their obliteration, until it got out of hand...

I don't want to go on big detours to show (not tell) how frightening PCs can be, hence most of them are "disabled" by now. How can I still convey a sense of dread that lingers when PCs are brought up, without such detours?

  • Wait, the PCs are a thing of the past, for the most part? Not the greatest threat in the NPCs' lives here and now, but mostly a remembered horror (that one could still reasonably fear coming back)? – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Jun 23 '18 at 21:56
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    @Galastel They were replaced by the Enemy, biological robots that are grown like plants, but build on each others' strength and numbers to zerg rush the players, still a threat but tenfold more easy to control, unless a DM shows up... – Mephistopheles Jun 23 '18 at 22:03
  • Then this is information that should be added to your question to make it clearer. No need for the details - just clarify that the threat is a past one, (with a theoretical possibility of recurring,) rather than a present one. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Jun 23 '18 at 22:40
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In essence, you're asking how to convey dread of a past event, past threat. There are several ways to do that.

Elders shaking in fear at the mere mention of "threat" is cheap. It can be used in conjunction with other elements, but not on its own, and not as your main mode of conveying the threat.

You can have multiple memorials - those are a marker to the reader that something bad and scary has happened in the past. You don't need to show multiple memorials - you can just mention it being "this village's war memorial". Similarly, you can mention graveyards, terrain that has been affected by fighting (e.g. overgrown trenches), you can mention that "Alice lost both sons to the PCs". All those examples are drawn from the effects of both World Wars on Europe.

You can follow this by showing how the fear of the PCs return affects current decision-making. For example, people might be willing to bear with hardships brought by maintaining whatever eliminated the PCs (high taxes, limiting personal rights, etc.), justifying this as being a better alternative than the PCs' return. In the same vein, existing PCs, even peace-loving ones, could be treated with mistrust, suspicion and fear, because of what they could do, and what "their like" have done.

"PC" could become a bad curse-word among the younger generation who have not seen the dread PCs, with the appropriate response from those who have.

In short, you can show the fear of the past threat through its effect on modern society. If you're looking for further ideas, look at the way a major danger period in Real Life affected later generations. I find the World Wars to be easy-to-work-with examples, as they are near enough that there's a lot of information, and yet far enough that you have multiple following generations. However, other examples exist of course.

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