Roll the Bones: Horror RPGsBy: talonkane posted at Oct 30, 2010 11:19 am
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I’m ready to get back into the thick of things. And what better time to post a blog about roleplaying games than during October! Horror settings and themes are my favorites to use when I run a game. There are so many good horror themed roleplaying games that I wanted to share some of them with you.
Call of Cthulhu – If anyone asks a roleplayer to name a horror game, this should be the first response since it is one of the most well known horror games today. Characters are usually investigators who delve into some strange mysteries that lead up to something horrific and terrifying. The setting is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s wonderful imagination of hideous creatures and long forgotten gods that the sight of them could drive someone insane. Literally.
The game by Chaosium, now in its 6th Edition, uses the Basic Roleplaying system. The system is attribute and skill based and uses no levels of any type. There are over 100 products published in the Call of Cthulhu line and can be played in modern day times or it’s “gaslight” (1890s) setting. One of the standout features was a Sanity score that showed the stability or instability of your character. Facing the creatures in Call of Cthulhu usually required a Sanity check where failure sometimes left your character mindlessly drooling after an encounter. I highly recommend this game and Game Masters with very creative minds can take full advantage of this setting.
Unhallowed Metropolis – I consider this game one of the lesser unknowns in the horror roleplaying category. I stumbled upon it during Gencon 2009 and immediately fell in love with it after playing in the event. The game setting is based primarily in London, England in the year 2105. In 1905 a zombie plague hit the country and has been dealing with it since then. The game beautifully combines a neo-Victorian setting of steampunk and horror. Characters classes vary, but the characters are usually investigators or monster hunters. Though zombies are the main focus, a variety of creatures can be found within Unhallowed Metropolis.
There are two drawbacks to this game. First, as much as I love the setting, the rules system needed some work. Character attributes and skills are rated from 1 to 5 with 2 being an average score. Attribute and skill checks are done by rolling 2d10 and adding your attribute or skill with a target number of 11. I found that characters could fail rolls too easily with average scores of 2.
Second, the game does not have many products (3 at last count) and the core rule book is very hard to find. The publisher Hallows Eve Designs announced in August the game is moving to a new publisher. I truly hope the new publisher puts the game back into circulation soon. Even though I was not a fan of the rules, I am definitely a fan of the setting.
White Wolf Games – I was torn about listing White Wolf’s multiple games here as they do literally address the horror aspect, I found the games didn’t necessarily focus on horror. White Wolf Game Studio produces a number of games where the characters take on the role of a supernatural creature or a hunter of those creatures. The World of Darkness is their setting where all of these creatures reside, though there are separate rulebooks for each type of creature. The opportunity for horror is there when you are playing a vampire who needs to feed on humans to live or playing a ghost who is trying to stay attached to the life it once had. But, each of these games has a large political element where the creatures are expected to follow certain rules to keep themselves hidden from the mortal world. Though the more I think about it, I guess politics can be horrifying.
The game system is based on a combination of attribute and skill points. You roll d10s equal to your attribute and skills and attempt to score the target number of 8 or higher. You re-roll all 10s for the chance of additional successes and all 1s rolled take away a success. The system is decent, but sometimes can get overwhelming when you’re rolling 8 or more d10s at once.
My biggest complaint wasn’t necessary with the game system, but with the fact that White Wolf “ended” the World of Darkness only to release all new editions of their games with new titles and the slightly changed new system. This was a common complaint from a large number of players. Though I did enjoy playing the White Wolf games, I never found them leaning much into the horror element where they could truly relish.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel – I’m listing both games together since they were both published by Eden Studios Inc. and were both TV shows created by Joss Whedon. Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of years, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a TV show about a high school girl, named Buffy, who hunted…well…vampires. The TV show was based in the fictional town of Sunnydale, California where all sorts of creatures other than vampires tried to wreak havoc and Buffy and her crew would put them down, for good. Angel was a character on Buffy who was a vampire with a soul that made him a good guy (sort of). On his own show, Angel and his crew hunted down whatever evil was being caused in Los Angeles, California. Both shows were perfect to convert into roleplaying games.
The horror factor in both games could be very creepy, or very tongue in cheek, depending on your Game Master’s mood. A number of the creatures on both TV shows were horrifying (check out Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s episode titled “Hush” as a prime example of creepy), but at other times, downright silly (such as when Angel was turned into a muppet…no joke). The system used a simple combination of attribute + skill ranks + a d10 roll to determine success or failure. I found combats to be too long as characters and NPCs could spend drama points to absorb damage. This simple led into long winded combats that slowed the game down considerably.
Overall, a fun world to play in, but a system that needed some type of overhaul to speed up combat scenarios.
All Flesh Must Be Eaten and Witchcraft – These are two additional games by Eden Studios Inc. that use the same system as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I feel obligated to point out these additional games because they fall more in line with horror than Buffy and Angel.
In All Flesh Must Be Eaten your character is a survivor of a zombie apocalypse. Zombies have been in for quite some time, especially with video games such as Resident Evil and Dead Rising and movies such as Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days After. This roleplaying game gives you the opportunity to play in that those worlds. The struggle for survival against the never ending zombie horde gets a thumbs up from me.
In Witchcraft, you play a witch or warlock who uses their ability to control magic to fight the darkness spreading around the world. There are multiple types of creatures in this setting and your Covenant (a group of people who could be a mix of Gifted that can use magic and Mundane who cannot) is trying to keep those creatures from bending humanity to darkness. I love the setting of this game as offers great opportunities for horror settings.
Witch Hunter: The Invisible World – The game from Paradigm Concepts puts you in 17th century America as a group of characters that hunt evil magic users and creatures of legend. The authors describe the game as a horror swashbuckling adventure set in colonial times. Even more, the creatures that roam the land were created by The Devil himself.
The rules system is very similar to White Wolf’s games where you roll a number of d10s equal to your attribute and skills. The difference is the target number for all checks are 7 instead of White Wolf’s 8. I like the alternate historical setting for a horror game.
Chill – One of my favorite nostalgia horror roleplaying games originally created by Pacesetter Ltd and then purchased by Mayfair Games. Your character was part of an organization known as S.A.V.E. that kept the world safe from evil monsters. All characters were part of the organization that was sent on missions to investigate strange events, murders, etc…
There were two editions to this game, the 2nd edition I played used percentile rolls to see if you succeeded or failed skill checks. Successes were categorized into light, medium, high, and critical depending on how high you rolled above the target number. This made combat deadly as a character could be dropped in one shot.
The major drawback is this game is out of print and very hard to find.
Ravenloft – As I stated before, I hate Dungeons and Dragons. With that being said, I would be foolish not to list Ravenloft amongst great horror games. The original inception was from a 1st edition adventure known as I6: Ravenloft written by Tracy and Laura Hickman. The main villain is a vampire named Count Strahd von Zarovich who is after a woman named Ireena because she reminds him of a woman he loved named Tatyana. Tatyana was in love with Strahd’s younger brother, so Strahd slayed his brother and Tatyana then took her own life. The module itself held tons of content with 12 maps for Strahd’s castle with an eventual showdown between Strahd and the PCs.
Ravenloft has been re-vamped (pun intended) through numerous editions of Dungeons and Dragons, each one just as good as the first. The original module had a sequel called Ravenloft II: House on Gryphon Hill. To this day, Ravenloft is one of the most well known Dungeons and Dragons modules and Count Strahd von Zarovich is one of the most well known villains in Dungeons and Dragons. Eventually, Ravenloft gained its own campaign setting.
Ravenloft is definitely a true iconic horror roleplaying game that I highly recommend for anyone to pick up and run, whether it is the individual module or the campaign setting.
There are some suggestions for you. There are other horror games out there, so look around and see what you find. Happy Halloween and good haunting!
Bookmark and share to your friends
Hot Articles Weekly
E3 2013: Blade&Sword II first impressions
7334 views 39 comments By Amanda Orneck
Living Long but Prospering ?
2297 views 13 comments By Nanbo
Soldier Front 2 Early Access Closed Beta Review
1573 views 10 comments By Luminosity
Nanbo's AION: Ascension Review
1259 views 2 comments By Nanbo
My E3 2013 Thoughts! Has Microsoft Already Lost The Console War?!?
1238 views 14 comments By GeorgeWashington
E3 2013: Black Gold hands on impressions
1153 views 3 comments By Amanda Orneck
Why Do We Play Games?: A closer look into a gamer’s psyche
1124 views 10 comments By AjAviado
How Does World Of Tanks Compare To Other FPS Games
1057 views 12 comments By Ammunition
Patch 5.4 World Changes
990 views 3 comments By Stan D
Patch 5.4 Garrosh Hellscream - The major villain of Pandaria
603 views 0 comments By Stan D
- Should There Be A Horror TeamBase MMOFPS?14 comments
- RE: The Slow Death of Eastern Horror Games1 comments
- Ignited DarkEden0 comments
- Darkeden Review0 comments
- Unveiled: The Supernatural - "HORROR" MMORPG + Teaser21 comments