No, really. Hear me out on this.
I'm don't play many video games, but survival horror is something I find fascinating.
Generally accepted qualities of survival horror games:
- The game isolates the player in an inherently hostile environment, in which everything is a potential threat.
- The player avatar is somewhat dis-empowered, and cannot reliably defend themselves through brute force alone.
- Survival instead requires alertness, careful resource-management, avoiding threats, and so on.
- Exploration is often a focus; to succeed you must keep pushing forward into danger. Environments are set up to facilitate this.
- Shit's creepy. The game's atmosphere is often oppressive, sureally disturbing or overtly threatening.
This is all stuff that a classic oldschool dungeon-crawl does well.
Your starting PCs find themselves in a dangerous environment (the dungeon) that's full of monsters that can absolutely kick their faces in, if it comes to a direct conflict. They're cut off from the support of civilisation and surrounded by threats. To succeed, the PCs have to move forward carefully, to budget resources such as HP, spells, light, etc, to avoid random encounters where possible. The game's about negotiating a space that wants to kill you.
If you run it right, a good dungeon crawl evokes similar tension and building nervousness that a game like Silent Hill does, you just need to hilight the overtly horrific elements of the monsters and space.
The basic set-up of an OSR game (particularly at low levels) supports this. Exploration turns (and their associated mechanics such as light management, random encounter checks, etc) push the game towards being about exploration, and the combat mechanics are pretty fucking unforgiving if the enemy land a hit.
I genuinely think that if you wanted to run a Silent Hill style game, or a zombie survival game, or whatever, then an OSR-style framework could work very well. You'd want to swap out gold-for-xp for something else to motivate your PCs, but that's not too hard if you understand what's driving your protagonists forward. An 'XP for uncovering horrible secrets' mechanic could work fine to mimic the 'I shouldn't want to see more but I can't resist the curiosity' drive you often see; your PCs then have a nice tension between wanting to witness the horror and needing to survive it. Once you've got that down, it's largely cosmetic design to actually produce the adventure.
Anyway, this isn't a big post but it's a thought that's been knocking about inside my head for a while.