Itâ€™s the most wonderful time of the year – a time of ghosts and goblins and all things spooky! Halloween is the perfect time for pulling out a new horror game, but if youâ€™re in the middle of a non-horror campaign, thereâ€™s still room to get in the spirit of the season. Here are five monsters that will give your players a scare no matter the setting.
1. Giant creatures
Whatâ€™s scarier than an alligator, a snake, or a centipede? A GIANT alligator, snake, or centipede! While the adventurers in the Hollow Earth should have known better than to wander into a dark cave, they didnâ€™t know the danger lurking within was a giant centipede with armored plating. Giant creatures are a great way to not only creep out your players, but keep the characters on edge. A giant creature will act differently from a true monster – most creatures will run away when the fight gets too tough. Theyâ€™re just enough to bloody the noses of your party, and perhaps give them a false sense of security, thinking theyâ€™ve already faced the most dangerous part of the dungeon.
2. Urban legends
Hook hand. Stolen kidneys. Razors in the Halloween candy. Think of the scary stories that spread like wildfire through the playground when you were a kid, and bring them into your game. If youâ€™re playing any kind of contemporary setting, itâ€™s easy to port these in with only minor changes, but if youâ€™re playing a long time ago and/or in a galaxy far, far away getting your kidney removed after a night of drinking might just be par for the course (Warhammer 40K, Iâ€™m looking at you). Weave something terrifying and slightly improbable into the landscape of whatever locale youâ€™re playing in. What happens when the heroes report theyâ€™re being menaced by a masked psychopath only to have everyone discount their stories as wild imaginations? You can also take a page out of this weekâ€™s Sleepy Hollow, and have the truth behind the urban legend hit terrifyingly close to home – maybe a baddie from the partyâ€™s past has resurfaced and is doing her best to terrify the party by taking on a familiar but spooky guise.
3. Blast from the past
Why do we go see endless horror movie sequels? Because (at least the first few times), itâ€™s terrifying to see how resilient Freddie, Jason, or the Aliens are. The rules of genre television have taught us that any time you donâ€™t see a body on screen, the odds are the person isnâ€™t dead. Horror takes it a step further and even if we see a dead body, they can still come back. Halloween is the perfect time to bring back a recurring villain – or turn a former one-time baddie into a recurring character. Fandible players and listeners alike loved the return of the Ink Monster, after all.
4. Misunderstood evil
A villain can often be evil for obvious reasons (a tortured past, a horrific trauma, not hugged enough as a child) or for no reason at all (See: Most slasher films). But what about someone who appears terrifyingly evil, only to be no such thing at all? Give your players the scare they crave at this time of year, but end with a gut punch of pathos. Think of a mama grizzly bear – sheâ€™s terrifying until you realize sheâ€™s just protecting her cubs (okay, even then sheâ€™s terrifying, but you understand where itâ€™s coming from). Maybe an uncooperative witness in the middle of a killing field is just a senile old man in the wrong place. Maybe Norman Batesâ€™ mother isnâ€™t quite dead yet, and heâ€™s just trying to protect her. Or the monster just has a paw stuck in a trap, and will become your snuggly dire-beast pet as soon as you free her, rather than cut off her head.
5. Mindless Hordes
The opposite advice from what started this article: donâ€™t go big, go small. And make a lot of â€˜em. Zombies, wildebeest, or bugs are run-of-the-mill obstacles one on one, but if there are hundreds of them, even the most well-equipped party is going to be at a disadvantage. Whether your system has rules for mass fighting or not, you can still have your party face off against a horde that may not be evil, per se, but is terrifying by sheer numbers. This may not be a fight the party can win, forcing the players to think outside of the default combat box in order to escape with their lives, or their sanity, intact.
Check out Fandibleâ€™s Horror section for more examples of horrific monsters to use to terrorize your party, as well as the horror tag here on the blog for other tips on making your campaigns truly scary. What terrifying plots are you hatching for your group this month?
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5 comments on “5 Monsters for your Halloween Role Playing Game”
Angela I think you are addicted to gifs. Which is a fantastic thing for a blog. But yeah I use the hell out of number 4 due to my adoration of trying to make people question their morality. The power of perspective and a desire for people to always investigate or question anything they see is just something I always want in a game.
Gifs are a way of life 😀
We had some accidental #4 in the throwback Vampire: the Masquerade game this weekend. Can’t say much more than that (you all should get to hear it in November!), but it was kind of fun to watch the truth dawn on everyone and make them feel sheepish.
My current machinations started off with an outbreak because the’s never been done before right? Anyway, my Players are all Zombie lovers so I decided to steer things that way with a Zombie outbreak in our Session of Rogue Trader. It started off as a normal outbreak, mindless brutes roaming about gnawing on random citizens and the group quickly adapted to it. Often coming up with all manner of clever ways to lure the IQ Challenged undead to gruesome and well deserved deaths.
Unfortunately as all Viral Epidemics go.. this one is starting to evolve or mutate if you will..returning some of the intellect it so viciously stripped away but leaving the hunger as well.. So now they are starting to face Smart Zombies in ever increasing numbers.
So far it’s been a lot of fun watching them panic as the standard Zombie Survival protocols begin to fall apart around them. They almost staged a Riot when a group of Zombie Guardsmen drew their laspistols and opened fire on the group. So far the Zombies have the physical limitations of atrophying flesh (horrible aim..poor agilty etc) and so on..but now I have all of them speculating about what might happen if the virus mutates even further to render that advantage moot as well.
Lots of creepy fun.
Causing your players to question their morality can be great, but it is dependent on them having morality. I was running a Rogue Trader game where the crew was up against a mind controlling alien device, so they had to deal with the paranoia that anyone could be the enemy.
I staged a scene in a crowded street where random ‘civilians’ pulled guns and attacked the player. I had a young child run at them screaming for help to see how they would deal with this difficult choice under fire. Then the Astropath used Compel to just make the kid turn around and run the opposite direction; did not see that coming. Also did not predict the sniper deciding that, since he’d taken precautions in case the kid was a threat, there was no sense “wasting that aim action”…
I’ve tended to stick with standard threats from then on, but those other ideas are totally getting stolen. Great article.
To be fair, as a member of an RT crew in the 41st Millenium mowing down ‘civilian’ threats that may have been tainted by vile xenos technolog is totally stock morality.