I've been seriously toying with the idea of running my father and stepmother through a session of old school D&D (pretty sure mother and stepfather are a lost cause). As I get older it seems sad to me that my family really has no conception of this game I love thinking about and playing. When I talk about blogging and the satisfaction it gives me they listen patiently, nodding their heads as if my hobby is body modification or building a time machine in the backyard out of auto parts.
But, they are pretty conservative protestant types and anything reeking of creepy or demonic is only going to confirm their worst preconceptions about the game.
But how would they get a thrill from exploring if there are no threats? I've been thinking almost as if I were going to play little kids, something Christmas-themed with elves, misfit toys, and snow. But that feels a little condescending.
I was just thinking maybe the key is to push the tone from creepy to alien. If creepy is unsettling because the threat seems wrong to you and it knows it's wrong (like little men stuffing a dead monk with cherries). Alien might be threatening at no fault of the threatening object (like an ivory statue of Justice walking slowly, inexorably toward you). I'm not sure-- this seems a fine distinction and could be dangerous to get wrong in this context.
Another focus could animal threats-- I've always been a sucker for ants as foes, maybe wolves. Or the environment-- heights, lava pits, water filled rooms.
Apart from figuring out a threat, I have a craving to make some kind of wondrous machine. Something like a big laboratory console with buttons that do cool stuff when manipulated in different sequences. Maybe the promise of wonder is enough to pull explorers forward in lieu of threats?