Rulepasta and ritualpasta are two closely-related microgenres of creepypasta, which is any short text-based horror fiction found online, which relies on the unknown and the careful omission of crucial information, to create suspense and fear for the reader. While rulepasta and ritualpasta are distinct from each other, they both feature some key defining elements which cause them to be found frequently in the same larger bodies of work, as well as the same horror writing websites and subreddits.
Rulepasta are texts featuring a list of rules that ostensibly allow individuals to survive a perilous supernatural situation in which they find themselves. Well-crafted rulepasta often features several harmless and mundane rules initially to create a false sense of normalcy for the reader, and then one or two rules will have a "blink and miss it" element of disturbing implications. Still other well-crafted rulepasta is up-front about the horror and strangeness, with every single rule being increasingly convoluted and impractical, without fully defining the nature of the monster or threat. Many rulepasta instances feature lines of text that were crossed out by previous survivors of the setting, indicating that a rule once thought to be trustworthy was incorrect, and subsequent rules might also be incorrect. In any case, rulepasta is usually intended to create an implied setting and situation, while leaving it up to the reader to fill in the blanks for themselves. Rulepasta chiefly originates in anomalous horror media out of the 1950s through 1980s, such as The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, The Outer Limits, and Tales from the Darkside, which are themselves informed extensively by Lovecraftian and science fiction genre tropes for exploiting fear of the unknown.
Ritualpasta are texts featuring a recipe of steps one may take to initiate a (usually dangerous) supernatural experience or encounter. Most of them carry warnings about why one should never attempt the ritual, and then they often interrupt their own list of steps with clarifications to each step, that imply harm reduction strategies if the ritual should go poorly. Many of them feature a "point of no return" step in the process, past which the ritual cannot be aborted, and must be completed as described. Ritualpasta usually does not make implications about the setting being different from the mundane world; their whole point is building a sense of extreme danger from completely mundane starting conditions, like three mirrors being positioned to face each other in an equilateral triangle. Rather than being explicitly fictional as rulepasta is, ritualpasta is sometimes treated by its narrator (and even its audience, in a participatory manner) as the truthfully-rendered experiences of the writer, which the audience can then replicate for themselves. Notably, ritualpasta almost never explains the fundamental cause or purpose of the supernatural events; only the ritual itself is presented clearly, and the narrator often claims ignorance of what they have awoken and invited into their home. Ritualpasta has its origins in urban legend and children's horror games and the media inspired by them, such as Bloody Mary, which inspired the 1992 film franchise Candyman - a film which released in the early childhood of many of those who write ritualpasta now, as adults, and thus likely had a formative influence on the tastes of the writers.
Prominent examples of rulepasta
Prominent examples of ritualpasta
- Welcome to Night Vale by Commonplace Books (2012), this podcast is broadly considered one of the major formative influences on the rulepasta genre, as the episodes frequently feature brief lists of arcane, eldritch, highly dangerous-sounding rules with no clear underlying logic to how the rules work. The series draws heavily on narrative styles used by H.P. Lovecraft and Rod Serling, in order to make the unknown the primary source of horror, rather than what is explicated.
- SCP Wiki (2007), a rules and regulations creepypasta website which may even be the point of origin of rulepasta as we understand it now in text. The SCP Wiki describes the very specific methods needed to contain apocalyptically dangerous anomalous objects and creatures. It is unique among rulepasta for treating the rules as intended for an organised Foundation of researchers with abundant means and resources, rather than being targeted at a single stranded individual.
- The Rules by thunderstormkid (2015) - Exit the room as soon as possible. Continue humming or singing until you exit the room. This popular rulepasta on the Short Scary Stories subreddit helped kick off interest in the genre on that site.
- The Do's and Don'ts of Mills Town by CommanderSection (2017) - Never accept Pietro's offer to help recapture his runaway puppets. He can get them back just fine on his own. He just wants to make you watch while he restrings them. Another popular work from Short Scary Stories, which revived interest in the genre.
- The Fourteen Rules for Surviving at Faircounty District High by Grizlucks (2018) - The boiler room may seem like a dark and scary place, but if you ever decide to go down the steps, you will find a very beautiful place, filled with green grass and cool toys! Most rulepasta carries the expectation that the person who wrote down the rules is sincere in their intention to help you survive. On occasion, as with this work, a rulepasta give rules which are the opposite of what would help the reader survive, implying they are being written under duress.
- The Phenomenon by R.K. Katic (2007) - Do Not Look Outside. Do Not Make Noise. Do Not Look At The Sky. A rulepasta which began on reddit and was later digitally published as a novel, this is one of the largest total works built around what is still essentially rulepasta, and it is notable for featuring only three rules.
- The Holders Series (2009), a ritual creepypasta website that describes numerous procedures for gaining ownership of dangerous magical objects.
- Hitori Kakurenbo, "Hide and Seek By Yourself," a horror game devised by children in Japan and Korea, which became popular enough to spawn a 2009 film of the same title. The premise of the game is to provoke a doll or stuffed animal to become animate (or possessed or haunted) and hunt through the house for you.
- The Three Kings ritual in "Please don't actually try this." by FableForge (2012) - Wake up at 3:30 AM with your alarm clock. Turn it off, but don't turn on the light. You have exactly three minutes to light your candle, grab your cellphone, and make your way to the dark room to sit in your throne. You should be seated by 3:33 AM. Don't forget your power object! Check for potential red flags: if your cellphone didn't charge for whatever reason, abort the mission. If the alarm didn't go off exactly at 3:30 AM, abort the mission. If you find the dark room door closed (remember you left it open) abort the mission. If the fan is turned off (you left it on) abort the mission. The Three Kings ritual is so popular on reddit that a subreddit of the same name was created, to house it and other ritualpasta, preventing other horror writing subreddits from being flooded with this type of story. Notably, the Three Kings subreddit requires all stories to be treated as true experiences, turning the entire page into an Alternate Reality Game by discouraging readers from treating the stories as made-up for entertainment.
- The Midnight Game, possibly based on the 2013 film of the same title, is a ritualpasta that claims to have ancient origins as a method to punish pagan worshipers (without clarifying what type of pagans) who disobeyed their gods. One feature of the Midnight Game is a bogeyman figure called the Midnight Man, giving pursuit. Like many ritualpasta, this game's rules state up-front that death is a likely consequence of initiating the game.
The interested reader may find additional examples around E2 in the softlinks below.
Iron Noder 2019, 21/30