With Halloween being tomorrow, I figured I would lay down a few ideas for horror/monster themed games that I’m not going to have time to run. My regular game will take the party into a city where necromancy is legal. My party plans for Saturday night will have me carrying along a block tower and characters so that I can co-opt whoever is awake at 3 in the am into a game of Dread. So I’m covered for horror themed games this Halloween. How about you? If not, here are some ideas you might use.
1. Run A Zombie Game With The Player Characters Being The Players Themselves
One of my friends did this one year. It sounded awesome. They used d20 modern and made the characters only with skills they could justify with their own personal training. Savage Worlds would be an excellent system for this. Fudge would also be a really quick and easy system to do this in. The only contingency that you as the Game Master need to enforce is that each player takes skills only relevant to themselves. So no heavy weapons training unless the player was military or had the experiences to back it up.
2. Put The Monsters In The Party’s Hands
Use your system of choice and flip things around. You take the party’s sheets and run everyone in the party. Let the players have the stats for monsters and let them run the dungeon. Now this will take some setup on your part to make the game work successfully. I would suggest organizing the encounters together on separate sheets or stacks of index cards bound together. Let the players play it like a board game, playing the cards against you when they want. This will work easier with some systems than with others. You might also want to make it so that no matter what the outcome of this game it doesn’t affect continuity as a whole. You don’t want the players killing their own characters off.
3. Run A Slasher Flick Game
Halloween is a time to be scared. It is also a time to watch slasher flicks that aren’t really scary at all. Introduce a slasher element to the game you are currently running. Have it pick off ancillary, unimportant NPCs and lead up to it having a connection to the PCs. Maybe even hunting them down. Now how are you going to make the players actually scared of this? They are practically super-beings already! Easy. Do what every slasher in a slasher flick does — Cheat! Use some creature or monster that regenerates or can’t be killed by traditional methods. Don’t use a standard monster that the PCs can look up the stats on, create something new and unknown. The key to the suspense in a slasher flick is the sense of being unable to triumph and not knowing what you are really fighting against.
4. Run A Realms Of Cthulu Game
Ok Lovecraft lovers. If you want a good game to run for a Halloween themed game, try the Savage Worlds Realms Of Cthulu. I’ve got a full review of this in the works (I want to get a good playtest in before I review it), but here is the number one reason I would say to run it for a Halloween game: The book makes it easy to put a game together. The Realms Of Cthulu Book is exactly what a setting book should be. It analyzes the themes inherent in the Cthulu Mythos, it provides framework for games, and it provides more than enough NPCs to use at the drop of a hat. There is a full adventure and a “Mythos Tales Generator” which helps you put together Cthulu Mythos themed games.
5. Run A Game Of Dread
Patrick did an article on Dread a few days back. I’ve been a long time fan of Dread, and long time friends of the people who run it at cons, so I’m a bit biased. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen when I say this: Dread is THE game to run for a horror experience. Dread’s unique wooden block tower mechanic gives a tangible feel to the suspense and fear a horror game should have. The questionnaire method of character creation ties you into a character from the get-go but lets you personalize it with your own thoughts and ideas. Dread isn’t hard to run and it is very newbie friendly.
So what are some of your Halloween gaming plans? What horror themed games have you run or always wanted to run? Give a shoutout if you are dressing as a gnome this year! Or just download this very chic and stylish gnome hat that I whipped together for you! I swear it totally took me more than 5 minutes to make.
No. 1 … was a PC in a Deadlands game with that premise … still one of the most memorable sessions EVAR!
Excellent list! Of course I am going to endorse Fudge and Dread, and I think combining a couple of these ideas will only increase the fun. Such as playing a game of Dread with the PCs playing themselves.
Don’t forget Werewolf! OK, it’s not _exactly_ an RPG, but I could argue that at least the werewolf players are roleplaying the parts of non-werewolves 🙂
I’m going to a Werewolf-themed costumed Hallowe’en party tonight; I’m dressing as a Seer, which I hope doesn’t make me werewolf-bait.
@Troy E. Taylor -Savage World’s Deadlands or original Deadlands? Either would work well for it.
@Patrick Benson – I had thought about the Dread with the PCs as the players, but I was only able to do 5 options. When it comes down to it, I like doing horror themed fantasy games. It always feels grittier to me.
@snej – I have never actually played werewolf. I’ve heard a lot about it, but never gotten a chance to play it. A werewolf themed costume party sounds awesome!
I got my in-laws hooked on “Are You A Werewolf?” and will probably end up running the annual Halloween AYAW?game tonight. My advice for running AYAW? – ham it up! Don’t just ask the players to close their eyes, and yada, yada, yada… Get into details and describe how the villagers are hearing noises at night that might be the wind or something worse. When a person is killed by a werewolf get into the gory details. Really make it a theatrical experience.
@John Arcadian – I didn’t realize it until now, but I agree – Horror/fantasy is a really good combination. Some of my most memorable games have been a combination of those genres.
T’were the or-igi-nal Deadlands, pardner. 😉
Good suggestions– I particularly like #2 as a change of pace. It’s a good way to get that evil vibe… and create messes for your normal PCs to clean up!
(The evil NPCs don’t even have to encounter the PCs directly– the table flipping can just be a “one shot” from an NPC point of view that you use to inspire events [like raiding a town] in your actual campaign.)