The history of Horror RPG’s and Some Great Horror Pen and Paper Role-Playing Games for you to enjoy on Halloween. Part Two
Posted by thestrangersbookshelf
Hello everyone, and welcome back to my two part special of the history of horror games. In my last post we covered the first part of the history of horror pen and paper roleplaying games with three of the earliest horror games which were the most influential games in the 80’s. (Disclaimer) If I missed one of your games, It wasn’t intentional I am going by the limited resources that I have at hand and most of these resources are talking about games that really broke the mould and set the standard for horror RPG’s in the 80’s when roleplaying games were just getting off the ground. Which now brings us to the 90’s and the next game that really turned the RPG community on it’s head and that is White Wolf Studio’s World of Darkness series of games.
The original World of Darkness line was created in 1991 with the release of Vampire: The Masquerade. The World of Darkness setting resembles the contemporary world, but it is darker, more devious and more conspiratorial. The dichotomy between rich and poor, influential and weak, powerful and powerless, is much more pronounced than in the real world. Decadence, cynicism and corruption are common. Humans are unwitting victims or pawns of vast secret organizations of supernatural creatures. Vampires, werewolves and wraiths—among others—struggle with internal factionalism and against other species in secret wars of intrigue for control of reality. The battles in these wars may last centuries, beyond the realization or comprehension of ordinary humans. This status quo is recently threatened by the rise of a global technocratic cabal intent on monopolizing the power of belief and destroying all traditional supernatural societies. The mystical abilities of these non-human entities and their ability to alter reality at will are restricted by the rise of reason and disbelief in the supernatural and they are forced to rely on more mundane methods in their struggles for supremacy and in their fight against the Technocracy.
The darkness of the setting is reflected everywhere: architecture is dominated by Gothic styling and fashion and personal style embrace Goth, Punk and fetishistic elements. The game uses both historical (Wild West, Dark Ages, and Victorian) milieus as well as modern settings. Despite the fantasy elements, the game emphasizes that any action has real world consequences and abilities beyond what is considered normal by What mainstream society will draw unwanted attention and potentially disastrous results.
What really set Vampire: The Masquerade ahead of the gaming pack is it’s game mechanics. While on the road to Gen Con ’90, Mark Rein·Hagen came upon the idea of new game mechanics that would be the bases for all future White Wolf games. calling it the “Storyteller System”, Mark made it so the rules and statistics are heavily de-emphasised in favor of creating a believable story and immersive experience for all involved. So while in a conventional game the announcement that one’s character is going to leap over a seven-meters-wide canyon will be greeted with the request to roll a number of dice, a player using Mark’s new game mechanics who wishes to have a character perform a similar feat will have to convince the others (especially the storyteller) why it is both probable and keeping within the established traits of their character to successfully do so.
In addition to the general Storytelling rules, Vampire the uses a number of specific mechanics aimed towards simulating the vampiric existence. A vampire has a blood pool signifying the amount of human blood or vitae currently in their body; this blood can be spent to power abilities and perform supernatural tricks. These tricks simulate many of those portrayed on film, such as turning into animals or mist, sleeping in the ground or having unnatural charisma and powers of hypnotic suggestion.
Close to the central theme of the game is the Humanity mechanic. Each vampire has a Humanity score, measuring how closely in touch with his human nature the vampire is; as it decreases, the vampire becomes more susceptible to his Beast, the feral side of the vampiric soul that is driven entirely by rage and hunger. Brutal, immoral actions risk lowering a vampire’s Humanity score. If the individual’s Humanity drops to zero, the Beast takes over and the vampire is in a state of constant frenzy known as Wassail.
The actions taken during gameplay are expressed using ten-sided dice. The number of dice used correspond to the player’s current skill level, often based on two different skills that together represent the player’s ability. For example, to land a punch, the character’s dexterity and brawl skill are combined. The resulting number is the number of die rolled to perform the task. It is up to the story teller to set how high a dice roll must be to be considered a success (usually 6 for standard actions).
Mark Rein·Hagen also added the element of what is called freeform role-playing to Vampire. This is a type of role-playing game which employs informal or simplified rule sets, emphasise costume and theatricality, and typically involve large numbers (eight to two hundred and fifty) of players in a common setting. Actions are typically adjudicated on the spot by the Story Teller.
Because of the simplicity of rules and the emphasis on costumes and theatrics, Vampire drew in a whole new set of people into the world of role-playing games. It became popular with a lot of people who were into arts and theater. This is a group of people who normally would not go anywhere near a Dungeons and Dragons table. It allowed these people to design elaborate costumes and act out their characters in an environment that they were used to. For them it was like Shakespeare in the park with a bag of D10’s. Due to these new demographics and new found interest in gameplay, in 1992, Vampire: The Masquerade won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules of 1991.
After Vampire: The Masquerade was a hit White Wolf added a lot more and varied games that took part in the World of Darkness setting, each with it’s own set of horror and monsters. “And I do mean whole games”. these games had their own rules that were based on the Storytelling system that ran Vampire: The Masquerade. You could play Vampire, Then if you had an idea to create your own Twilight saga campaign by combining Werewolf: The Apocalypse, you could easily interact characters from both games with with no problems what so ever.
These were the game titles that were set in the World of Darkness setting.
- Vampire: The Masquerade
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse
- Mage: The Ascension
- Wraith: The Oblivion
- Changeling: The Dreaming
- Kindred of the East
- Hunter: The Reckoning
- Mummy: The Resurrection
- Demon: The Fallen
White Wolf ran the publications of the original World of Darkness from 1993 to 2003. It was the horror game to go to in the 90’s when you needed your horror fix.
Than in 2003 White Wolf decided to update the rules. Instead of reprinting a full rule-set with each major title, tweaked and modified for each game. The new setting uses one core system for all games, a streamlined and redesigned version of the old rule system renamed the “Storytelling System”. A core rule book, simply titled The World of Darkness, has full rules for human characters and ghosts; though it has no specific setting material, it establishes a tone and mood for games featuring human protagonists. This is another contrast to the old games, where so many different types of supernatural creature had been defined that normal humans often seemed unimportant. The old setting also made humans a minor threat to the supernatural races, but the new rules make it possible for humans to be powerful opponents to the things in the night. The World of Darkness core book was well received, and won the Origins Gamers’ Choice Award for 2004.
Other sets in this new series which is now called New World of Darkness are as follows
The three core games:
In addition to the main three core games, there are also additional limited series games
World of Darkness is still going strong today with loyal fans from all across the globe. In 2011, White Wolf and online role playing game store DriveThruRPG.com, began offering the new and classic World of Darkness source books in a print on demand format through the DriveThruRPG website, starting with a number of formerly out of print Vampire: The Masquerade books (Link here), and gradually adding more as they were ready for print. DriveThruRPG and White Wolf have indicated that eventually all World of Darkness material will be available in this way.
World of Darkness is excellent game to play on Halloween. You can easily turn your Halloween party into a fun LARP (live action role play) set in the World of Darkness. Make sure everybody is in costume, (Which is easy to convince with the whole Twilight series craze that is currently popular among teens and girls.), get a ton of ten sided dice, some plain index cards and one of the core book and a adventure from http://www.white-wolf.com/ or http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/browse.php?filters=0_0_1840_0_0&term=world and give it a whirl. It is definitely one of my recommendations for games to play All Hallows Eve to spruce up your party.
And that brings us to the end of the history part of horror Role-playing Games. Now what I would like to do is interest you in some of the modern (and not so modern) roleplaying games that I would recommend to you to crack out to make your party more of a hit. I am starting with the two newest and up and coming universal game systems (Savage Worlds and FATEcore) before going on to independent system games. The reasoning behind this is because these games are really easy to set up and play, Because they really popular on the market right now and in high demand you will probably have a pew people who have played one or the other.
Camp Wicakini series for Savage Worlds- A lot of people new and old are really getting into Savage Worlds RPG. This is one of the biggest up and coming game systems. What makes Savage Worlds such a popular game is several factors. The cost of the core manual is really cheap. It is a very user friendly system that takes no time to set up. And best of all its ease of play makes it one of the best systems to learn how to play RPG’s. Taking all that into consideration a third party game publisher Silver Gryphin Games created some incredible one shots for Savage world called Camp Wicakini. If you like 1980’s horror and lots of mayhem this is the definitely a recommendation. I heard that one Halloween a FLGS put on a Camp Wicakini campaign for players and the whole thing turned into chaos in 10 minuets flat for the PC’s. They were still talking about it weeks later.
Nestled among the dark forests of lake country stands a summer camp. It is a place named after an old Indian word; Camp Wicakini. On the shores of Lake Wicakini, the Lake of Ressurection, the camp has stood for decades. However, now something evil walks the woods; something terrible, something…hungry….
In this adventure, the players are shown the surroundings of Camp Wicakini, and they play the parts of the camp counselors. Eight pre-generated characters are available for use, as well as crucial parts of the Zombacalypse book. The adventure is designed to be run using only the Savage Worlds Core Book. This tight little adventure with a killer twist makes the perfect game for new players to Role-playing or for long time veterans.
This series includes:
- Camp Wicakini
- Camp Wicakini 2
- Camp Wicakini 3
- Camp Wicakini 4
- The Pine Ridge Horror
- The S’mores Demon
Don’t Rest your Head based on FATEcore- FATE is a immersive storytelling RPG that has taken the gaming community by storm. This game is almost strictly a freeform roleplaying system *see above* that uses unique dice that are six sided but instead of pips or numbers the dice read “+” “-“ and “(blank)”. These dice are referred to as “Fate” or “fudge” dice.
I know a lot of writers who swear by this system and hold weekly game sessions. One writer i know is writing a novel using her FATE campaign as the back drop. Aside from the dice all you need is a couple of index cards and the manual and you are good to go. Like White Wolf before them, Evil Hat Productions are not ones to let a good thing go to waste.They took their Fate system and created the stand alone game Don’t Rest your Head, which can be used with any other FATE game. Don’t Rest your Head is a unique game about Insomnia and nightmares. here is a quick primer on what Don’t rest your head is about
You can’t sleep. It started like that for all of us, back when we were garden variety insomniacs. Maybe you had nightmares (God knows we all do now), or maybe you just had problems that wouldn’t let you sleep. Hell, maybe you were just over-caffeinated. But then something clicked.
That was when you took a long walk down the streets of the Mad City, stopped being a Sleeper, and started being Awake. But that click you heard wasn’t from the secret world snapping into place. It was the sound of the Nightmares flicking off the safety and pointing a gun at your head.
They can smell you. The Paper Boys are closing in, and you’d better pray you don’t become a headline. You’re chum in the water, my friend, and it’s time you got ready for it… before the clock chimes thirteen again. Now that you’re one of us, there’s just one simple rule left that must dominate your life.
Stay Awake. Don’t Rest Your Head.
Don’t Rest Your Head is a sleek, dangerous little game, where your players are all insomniac protagonists with superpowers, fighting — and using — exhaustion and madness to stay alive, and awake for just one more night, in a reality gone way wrong called the Mad City. It features its own system, and is contained entirely within one book.
All Flesh Must be Eaten- OK you want zombies, you got zombies. All Flesh Must be Eaten is a multiple award winning horror RPG and probably one of the best zombie apocalypse out their on the market. So if your players want to unleash their inner Daryl Dixon, Rick Grimes , Carol Peletier (who in Season 5 is like the ultimate bad ass) or if you are twisted enough The Governor this is the game for you and your cast of zombie hunting Halloween partiers. Zombie costumes are highly discouraged while playing this game.
As they approach your home, the evening wind carries their stench through the air. Your dog barks wildly, frenzied by the smell. You awaken from a restless sleep, look out your window and see staggering corpses on the move.
You are halfway down the stairs when you hear footsteps on the porch. You run into the living room and pry open your gun cabinet. As you fumble, the front door collapses from the weight of a pair of rotting corpses.
They shamble into the hall, arms outstretched, reaching for you. You unload your shotgun into them. They fall back.
To your horror, they rise . . .
Welcome to the World of Survival Horror
All Flesh Must be Eaten is a multiple Origins Award winning and nominated game and definitely one for the shelf for all you zombie lovers out there.
Little Fears Nightmare Edition- When you first see the beautiful artwork for Little Fears you get the idea that this game is for younger players. “You are wrong, So very very wrong”. This game you play as a child who finds out that monsters really do lurk under the bed.
What makes this game really scary is that you have the power and resources of someone who is twelve. So no you aren’t Sam and Dean Winchester armed to the teeth hunting monsters; you are a kid with a teddy bear as your main source of protection “as long as the bear doesn’t go psycho on you. This game is so scary the core book was nominated for and won the RPGnet Award for the Most Disturbing/Controversial Game of 2001. So I would think twice before letting your little sister / daughter play, And if you wind up sleeping with the lights on don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Monsters are real and they hunt children like you from the shadows. All you have are your wits, your belief, and the friends by your side. No adults can help you. No one else can save you.
Vampires, witches, werewolves, magic, and more await you inside these pages. Find your courage, fight the monsters, become a hero.
Completely reimagined, with an all-new system, Little Fears Nightmare Edition is the definitive version of the classic game.
You’re not scared, are you?
Little Fears Nightmare Edition is a story game for two or more players. This book teaches you all the rules to make your own heroes and monsters so you can tell terrifying stories of your own. All you need are some pencils, some six-sided dice, some friends, and your imagination
You can find Little Fears on the really cool designed Little Fears site oh and you guessed it again Drive-Thru RPG “I am making this much to easy for you” and see why Little Fears was nominated for an Origins Award as the Roleplaying Game of the Year in 2002.
KULT- Now for one of the messed up games of all times which was supposedly banned in several countries in Europe. And though to have caused several suicides. For a truly morbid and scary game I give you KULT. What is Kult? here is the best description I found. Kult is a game that focuses on the player characters. The game puts a lot of emphasis on plots that revolve around player characters’ backgrounds and psychology, through the use of dark secrets, advantages and disadvantages, and sanity mechanics known as mental balance.
The player characters unravel a world where they find horrible events involving satanic magic, human sacrifice, sexual depravity, political conspiracies, military atrocities. Or just flat out monsters. These revelations gradually degrade Player Characters minds, and their madness rips apart the fabric of reality and they see the Truth – a Truth even worse than their horrible revelations.
If you enjoy Call of Cthulhu because of the lack of sexual violence inherent in the premise, you may find Kult somewhat disturbing.
If you are tired of the cosmic, mind-blasting evil for whom humanity is an insignificant speck of dust, then you might like Kult’s personal touch.
If you want to play your character in hell after you get killed, you probably want to try playing Kult.
I debated putting this game on the list because of the really hefty “R-Rated” material, I don’t recommend KULT for anyone who is overly religious or sensitive in any way shape or form (this game is for mature adults only).
Originally a Swedish game “And you know how those Swedish love their Death Metal” KULT is now only in print in French and Italian. If you can read either language the great French Role-Playing company 7ème Cercle is the place to go to .If you can find one second hand go and grab it If you are into that sort of thing. Me, I think I am going to skip on to the next game as KULT might be to hard-core for me.
Chill- Here is another old classic horror role-playing game that takes on all your favourite monsters in the past. Chill was the game to try after you worked your way through the big three. Chill was also recommended as a substitute to all those teenagers that came into the game stores looking for KULT. It has a lot of great replay value and if you like classic horror like Ravenloft Chill is the game to get. Chill is just rounding up its kickstarter program for it’s 3rd edition of the core rules https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/playattentiongames/chill-3rd-edition-a-horror-roleplaying-game by Halloween, so of you enjoy the older version, please help by donating to their kickstarter to keep this game going.
Chill is a Roleplaying game that captures the feel of 20th-century horror films. Inspired by Shelley, Stoker, and Poe, where usual foes are vampires, werewolves, mummies, ghosts, goblins, and ghouls. Players take on the role of envoys,members of a secret organization known as S.A.V.E. that tracks down and eliminates evil in the world.
You can still obtain the second edition of Chill at you guessed it Drive-Thru RPG
And that about wraps it up for this post I hope it helps a little in your quest for the ultimate Horror game or even something to spruce up the party because playing RPG’s sure beats bobbing for apples. I would also like to recommend one more thing dear readers and that is to check out and support your local FLGS (Flagship Game Store) while searching for the ultimate horror game. You never know what you might find in there or what kind of crazy Halloween one-shot they got cooked up for walk in players on Halloween that you will talking about afterwards for weeks on end. And on a final note remember this is only a very short list of popular horror titles that I dug up in my quick research for this Halloween special and if I missed your favorite horror game, I apologize but to make it up to you read below and have a Happy Halloween!
Now dear readers if you have any horror games that you like and weren’t listed above, I encourage you to tell us what your favourite all time favourite horror Role-playing game is in our comments section. Add a description of what the game is about and why you like it so much. Also, please if you have any stories about some of your most memorable Horror game campaigns that you would like to share we would love to hear about them, especially when it went so very very wrong for your PC’s and or party.
The history of Horror RPG’s and Some Great Horror Pen and Paper Role-Playing Games for you to enjoy on Halloween. Part One
Posted by thestrangersbookshelf
This post is for all our pen and paper RPG readers out there who have been waiting for a gaming post from me for some time. I know that Halloween is fast approaching and a lot of you gamers are looking for something new and exciting to spruce up your Halloween. So put away the eggs, toilet paper and shaving cream (you know who you are) and grab your bag of lucky dice, and your Cosplay or LARP outfit and get ready to roll up a player character something new and different.
Now for those of you who are about to read the article and are getting ready to throw a lot of really sharp and pointy D4 dice at me afterwards, “this is a disclaimer”. I am sorry that I didn’t include your favourite game but there are far to many horror games out there to list them all in a single Halloween special. I also want you to know that this is not a best of horror pen and paper games, this is just an alternative list of newer games “and some older” to set the mood for Halloween. These games were chosen due to popularity and research of my own doing. The opinions herein are my own based on some of the research that I have done as well as ease of play set up and what not. Some of these games are really easy to play one-shots, which take no time set up on All Hallows Eve. They are a great way to introduce new players and old players alike to role-playing and to spruce up that Halloween party that seems to be going stagnant. So stop bobbing for apples or chasing camp councillors around in a hockey mask and let me tell you a bit about the history of pen and paper horror roleplaying games.
I would also recommend you to try any of the horror games in the history section as well. They might take a bit longer to set up, and have a bit more of a learning curve, but these games will more than make up for that in play value. These were the games that set the benchmark for horror games in general, and as you will see changed the course of role play gaming in a lot of ways.
The year was 1981 and The god of Roleplaying Games Gary Gygax was at the head of his newly formed company TSR had just released to the masses the second edit of Basic Dungeons and Dragons which in two years time would turn into the infamous 1e “red box” which a lot of us old Grognards cut our teeth on and still remember fondly and set the course for Dungeons and Dragons to be the greatest roleplaying game of all time. There wasn’t a lot of other players on the market creating games like today, and TSR pretty much owned the market. Pretty much everybody who was creating role playing games were really creating nothing more than a Dungeons and Dragons clone.The game company Chaosium who created RuneQuest another Dungeons and Dragons variant, wanted to do something different than the average fantasy quest and they were looking for new ideas.
The original conception of Call of Cthulhu was Dark Worlds, a game commissioned by the publisher Chaosium but never published. Sandy Petersen, now best known for his work on the Doom computer game, contacted them regarding writing a supplement for their popular fantasy game RuneQuest set in Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. He took over the writing of Call of Cthulhu, and the game was released in 1981, using a version of the Basic Role-Playing system used in RuneQuest
The setting of Call of Cthulhu is a darker version of our world, based on H. P. Lovecraft’s observation (from his essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature) that “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” The original game, first published in 1981, uses mechanics from Basic Role-Playing, and is set in the 1920s, the setting of many of Lovecraft’s stories. Additional settings were developed in the 1890s Cthulhu by Gaslight supplement, a blend of occult and Holmesian mystery and mostly set in England, and modern/1980s conspiracy with Cthulhu Now. More recent additions include 1000 AD (Cthulhu: Dark Ages), 23rd century (Cthulhu Rising) and Ancient Roman times (Cthulhu Invictus). The protagonists may also travel to places that are not of this earth, represented in the Dreamlands (which can be accessed through dreams as well as being physically connected to the earth), to other planets, or into the voids of space.
Call of Cthulhu uses the Basic Role-Playing system used by other Chaosium games (first seen in RuneQuest). For as long as they stay functionally healthy and sane, characters grow and develop. Call of Cthulhu does not use levels, but is completely skill-based, with player characters getting better with their skills by succeeding at them. They do not, however, gain “hit points” and do not become significantly harder to kill.
The players take the roles of ordinary people drawn into the realm of the mysterious: detectives, criminals, scholars, artists, war veterans, etc. Often, happenings begin innocently enough, until more and more of the workings behind the scenes are revealed. As the characters learn more of the true horrors of the world and the irrelevance of humanity, their sanity (represented by “Sanity Points”, abbreviated SAN) inevitably withers away. The game includes a mechanism for determining how damaged a character’s sanity is at any given point; encountering the horrific beings usually triggers a loss of SAN points. To gain the tools they need to defeat the horrors – mystic knowledge and magic – the characters may end up losing some of their sanity, though other means such as pure firepower or simply outsmarting one’s opponents also exist. Call of Cthulhu has a reputation as a game in which it is quite common for a player character to die in gruesome circumstances or end up in a mental institution. Unlike most other role-playing games, eventual triumph of the players is not assumed.
For those grounded in the RPG tradition, the very first release of Call of Cthulhu created a brand new framework for table-top gaming. Rather than the traditional format established by Dungeons & Dragons, which often involved the characters wandering through caves or tunnels and fighting different types of monsters, Sandy Petersen introduced the concept of the Onion Skin: Interlocking layers of information and nested clues that lead the Player Characters from seemingly minor investigations into a missing person to discovering mind-numbingly awful, global conspiracies to destroy the world. Unlike its predecessor games, CoC assumed that most investigators would not survive, alive or sane, and that the only safe way to deal with the vast majority of nasty things described in the rule books was to run away. A well-run CoC campaign should engender a sense of foreboding and inevitable doom in its players. The style and setting of the game, in a relatively modern time period, created an emphasis on real-life settings, character research, and thinking one’s way around trouble. If you are interested in trying out Call of Cthulhu, Chaosium has a quick start PDF for free on their site http://www.chaosium.com/the-call-of-cthulhu-quick-start-pdf/
Because of the new game mechanics and different concept that Call of Cthulhu gave its players and GM’s alike, It set a new benchmark in the world of Roleplaying. TSR and Gygax now had some real competition and were losing a major share of the market and they needed to do something fast. Enter Tracy and Laura Hickman and TSR’s answer to Call of Cthuluh with a little campaign module advertised in TSR catalogue as module I-6 Ravenloft.
The Hickmans began work on Ravenloft in the late 1970s, intent on creating a frightening portrait of a vampire in a setting that combined Gothic horror with the D&D game system. They play-tested the adventure with a group of players each Halloween for five years before it was published. When they began work on Ravenloft, they felt the vampire archetype had become overused, trite, and mundane, and decided to create a frightening version of the creature for the module. When TSR was struggling to win back the market share Tracy and Laura were asked to update the rules and get it ready for release in 1983.
The story involves a party of player characters (PCs) who travel to the land of Barovia, a small nation surrounded by a deadly magical fog. The master of nearby Castle Ravenloft, Count Strahd von Zarovich, tyrannically rules the country, and a prologue explains that the residents must barricade their doors each night to avoid attacks by Strahd and his minions. The Burgomaster‘s mansion is the focus of these attacks, and, for reasons that are not initially explained, Strahd is after the Burgomaster’s adopted daughter, Ireena Kolyana.
Before play begins, the Dungeon Master (or DM, the player who organizes and directs the game play) randomly draws five cards from a deck of six. Two of these cards determine the locations of two magical weapons useful in defeating Strahd: the Holy Symbol and the Sunsword. The next two cards determine the locations of Strahd and the Tome of Strahd, a book that details Strahd’s long-ago unrequited love. In this work, it is revealed that Strahd had fallen in love with a young girl, who in turn loved his younger brother. Strahd blamed his age for the rejection, and made a pact with evil powers to live forever. He then slew his brother, but the young girl killed herself in response, and Strahd found that he had become a vampire. All six possible locations are inside Castle Ravenloft.
The fifth and final card selected determines Strahd’s motivation. There are four possible motivations for Strahd. He may want to replace one of the PCs and attempt to turn the character into a vampire and take on that character’s form. He may desire the love of Ireena, whose appearance matches that of his lost love, Tatyana. Using mind control, Strahd will try to force a PC to attack Ireena and gain her love by “saving” her from the situation he created. Strahd may also want to create an evil magic item, or destroy the Sunsword. If, during play, the party’s fortune is told at the gypsy camp in Barovia, the random elements are altered to match the cards drawn by the gypsy.
As the party journeys through Barovia and the castle, the game play is guided using 12 maps with corresponding sections in the book’s body guide. Example maps and sections include the Lands of Barovia, the Court of the Count, five entries for each level of the Spires of Ravenloft, and the Dungeons and Catacombs. Each location contains treasure and adversaries, including zombies, wolves, ghouls, ghosts, and other creatures. The main objective of the game is to destroy Count Strahd. The DM is instructed to play the vampire intelligently, and to keep him alive as long as possible, making him flee when necessary. In an optional epilogue, Ireena is reunited with her lover. They leave the “mortal world” as Ireena says, “Through these many centuries we have played out the tragedy of our lives.“
Ravenloft has won one award, been included on two “best of” lists, and was generally well received by critics of its era. In 1984, it won the Strategists’ Club Award for Outstanding Play Aid, and it appeared second in Dungeon magazine’s list of the top 30 D&D adventures. Several reviewers liked the included maps, and White Dwarf magazine gave it 8 out of 10 overall. A Dragon magazine review praised the module, but felt that the D&D elements detracted from the Gothic horror atmosphere. According to a Wizards of the Coast article, Strahd has become one of the most infamous and well-known villains in the Dungeons & Dragons game, and he has appeared in a number of novels and rulebooks since his debut in Ravenloft. In an introduction to an online edition of Ravenloft II, author John D. Rateliff described Strahd as a then-unusual fusion of a monster with the abilities of a player character class; that is, a vampire magic-user. This design enables him to combine his own powers with the surrounding environment, making him a difficult opponent to defeat.
Tracy Hickman once ran the adventure as a Dungeon Master. According to him, the experience was like an old scary movie, with “the obligatory castle high on the craggy cliff with the wolves howling in the woods. Sure enough, the vampire was up there in the castle. To most of the players it seemed like a straight forward task: find the vampire and kill him.” One player discovered Strahd’s backstory and was so affected by it that when it came time to kill the vampire at the end of the adventure, despite having a sword capable of dispatching Strahd, he refused, and his companions were forced to complete the task. Afterwards, Hickman asked him why. “He deserved to die better than that,” his friend said, to which Hickman replied “Yes [...] But that is how it is with people who fall from greatness. He chose his end when he first chose to kill his brother. How could it be any different?”
Today Ravenloft is mostly a print on demand and pdf for the classic Dungeons and Dragons 1e as well as a updated version for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. What is a little sad is that Ravenloft was dropped when Dungeon and Dragons released its 4th edition in 2008. Now with the advent of Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, there are rumours circulating that Wizards of the Coast is going to be returning to the land of Barovia and the infamous count Sthrad. Best place to pick up the older editions of Ravenloft are at http://www.dndclassics.com/
After the release of Ravenloft the market started to change, more game companies were coming up with new and innovative ideas. Some systems were now touting themselves as Universal game systems catering to more than one genre. One of these systems was GURPS which stands for Generic Universal Roleplaying System.
Created by Steve Jackson GURPS was first published in 1986 with it’s two basic core books. By 1987 it had several supplements one of them was a horror themed supplement aptly named GURPS Horror. GURPS Horror was written by Scott Haring, and features a cover by Michael Whelan, and was published by Steve Jackson Games in 1987 as a 96-page book. It is a supplement of horror rules, including fright effects, character creation guidelines, monster descriptions, campaign backgrounds and scenarios, psionic powers, and magical items. Ken Rolston reviewed the first edition of GURPS Horror for Dragon magazine #138 (October 1988). Rolston wrote in his conclusion: “The GURPS system works better than Call of Cthulhu’s basic role-playing system for tactical role-playing, and those already playing GURPS games will find the GURPS Horror game’s mechanics useful. For a heroic supernatural campaign similar in tone to most fantasy role-playing campaigns (with the PCs as fearless crusaders against evil occult horrors), this supplement is a suitable system.” GURPS Horror is now in its fourth iteration and shows no sign of stopping. It is constantly among the top three to five lists of all time horror pen and paper games. I personally have owned and own all editions from 2e to 4e and enjoy playing them. 4th edition, I find has a bit of a learning curve. I recommend for new players to download the GURPS Lite (which is free, just clink the link to the left) that gives players a more streamlined rule set. you can pick up the GURPS Horror PDF here at http://www.warehouse23.com/products/gurps-horror-1
And that takes us to the end of Part One stay tuned for Part 2 of the History of horror Role-Playing games, where I continue on with the history of horror role-playing games as well as I give you a list of some new and not so new, great Horror roleplaying games to try out during Halloween in my two part Halloween Special The history of Horror roleplaying games.