View Full Version : Good horror pen&paper RPG system?

01-05-2012, 02:56 AM
My husband and I are currently playing Corpse Party for the PSP. It's similar to Higurashi When They Cry, for those who are familiar. For those not, the basic premise is that the characters are in a nearly impossible to escape situation, and almost anything they do will lead to their very gruesome deaths or them going insane. Only a very specific path is "right" and until they find that path, they are stuck in an endless loop that keeps repeating itself.

We'd really like to run a game with our RPG group similar to this, but are trying to find a good system that it would work with. We're mostly familiar with D&D 3.x and Pathfinder, but we want to avoid those because they emphasize combat and we are looking for something that promotes puzzle solving and avoiding fighting (even going so far as engaging in fights may result in very gruesome deaths.) We've also played some Gumshoe, which we thought might work, since it seems to emphasize mystery and puzzle solving.

We're not looking to necessarily recreate the endless "loop" that happens in Corpse Party or Higurashi, but we do want to create a very spooky atmosphere for the players and give them the impression that if they screw up, the results could be very, very bad. In most games, at least in our Pathfinder games, it's hard to do this since, even if the characters are scared in-game, the players usually know that they won't be put into an impossible situation so it's hard to make the players themselves scared, which is what we want to do. We have a large gaming group (8 people total including us) and we figured one thing we could do would be to split the party up occasionally; if both my husband and I act as DMs, we could each take 2-4 players and have them go on different paths (this happens a lot in Corpse Party.)

Any other suggestions or ideas are welcome. :D

01-05-2012, 03:12 AM
A popular 'horror' RPG would be anything cthulhu based (the Call of Cthulhu series is meant to be good), other than that maybe ask at your local gaming shop? They might have some suggestions

Hawaiian Eskimo
01-05-2012, 03:17 AM
Hmm. Not much of an RPer myself (ok, I lied. I haven't RPed. Ever.), although what I would do is take a system you think would work (like Gumshoe) and modify it to your own needs.

As far as setting the mood, set off an event or two very early in the game that emphasizes the fact that if you screw up YOU WILL DIE (or have your soul thrown into oblivion, or be turned to stone, or what have you). Possibly have a couple NPCs tag along with the original group and have them killed off (hell, you could have one killed off during the event that splits them). Perhaps put the players into one of the aforementioned "impossible" situations, and kill off one of the NPCs if they screw up.

01-05-2012, 09:49 AM
I would agree that what I have heard about Call of Cthulhu that would be probably your best bet for what you are looking for. As far as I know, every time you encounter a monster you have to roll a SAN check to see if your character goes insane from the sheer otherworldliness of the monster before you even begin the fight, so it sounds right up your alley.

01-05-2012, 01:13 PM
I'll toss in that it all boils down to how you run it.

My friends and I play Arkham Horror (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/15987/arkham-horror) and Betrayal at House on the Hill (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/10547/betrayal-at-house-on-the-hill) a lot, and the games CAN be creepy, however they rarely are when we play (it isn't what we are going for, so hobos punching elder gods in the face is just kinda funny).

Arkham Horror has the downside that you have no GM, so it's up to each player to keep the game going, and keep it interesting/creepy.

Betrayal works a bit better, but it's still down to each player, as the mechanic is that part way through the game a Haunt happens, which then gives the players their goal, and turns one of the players into the betrayer who now kinda runs it as a GM.

Call of Cthulhu (the RPG) is currently (iirc) a D20 system, which can help if D&D is the system you are familiar with. Picking up a copy of that and then modifying, or just borrowing inspiration from where it goes, it for what you want can be fun.

Another system that you might want to try and get your hands on as a starting point would be Paranoia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranoia_%28role-playing_game%29). While Paranoia is designed as a comedy game, it's idea of hidden agendas and cross purposes works just as well in a horror setting (especially if you only have one life).

Again, much like toon, a successful horror game all hinges on if the GM can pull it off.

Oh, one last suggestions:
All flesh Must Be Eaten.
Originally running on Tri-Stat (same system as BESM, a system really designed for story telling), it's now out as D20. The books mainly exist as settings and plot ideas, though it does cover how to handle zombie antagonists rather well. I have played 2 All Flesh games. The first was a standard survival horror on a tropical island (which went rather well), the 2nd was a take on old Chinese kung-fu/slapstick movies by way of Mr. Vampire.

Ninja Addendum:
There is a 3rd game that I know of that's in between Betrayal and Arkham Horror called Mansion of Madness. MoM has a GM running things who knows the entire scenario ahead of time and can thus bend the flow of the game to fit being actually creepy a bit better.

01-05-2012, 03:32 PM
*Eyetwitch.* I think I must be entirely too tired, because I'm starting to get the impression that a tabletop RPG based off of Uzumaki would be a FABULOUS idea.

Geek King
01-05-2012, 05:40 PM
Call of Cthuhlu is a great game system, especially with a good GM. You can also look for Delta Green, which is a spinoff of CoC, updated for and set in the modern era.

01-05-2012, 10:52 PM
Old school but Ravenloft. ;)

01-05-2012, 10:56 PM
I've been mostly out of the scene lately, but I remember GURPS can cover just about anything. Maybe White Wolfe also. Or..something I like to do..freeform. Fewer rules, make your own :D

01-06-2012, 03:38 AM
I was going to recommend Call of Cthulhu or Paranoia as starting points.

El Pollo Guerrera
01-06-2012, 04:01 AM
Truthfully, any game can be a horror game. I had a GM who set a horror-style campaign in a CyberPunk game system.

The only thing scarier than a player's full borg combat solo is a POSSESSED full borg combat solo...

01-06-2012, 02:14 PM
I've been mostly out of the scene lately, but I remember GURPS can cover just about anything. Maybe White Wolfe also. Or..something I like to do..freeform. Fewer rules, make your own :D

I'll tag in on WW. If your players are not familiar with the WoD it's actually a REALLY great system. WoD focuses much of it's flavor on the various supernaturals hiding them selves from humans (And other supernaturals alike). Run the game as a bunch of normals (Investigators always works well, as CoC has shown us), and then brush them against various aspects of the WoD, eventually possibly dropping them into something full on (a Nosferatu or Tzimisce for the added ich factor, or something from the Unseelie court)

01-06-2012, 02:37 PM
Another vote for Call of Cthulhu. I started with the d20 version, which I think is out of print now. But once I discovered the BRP (Basic Roleplaying) rules, I much preferred those. Much simpler to deal with for me. And I also vote for World of Darkness base rules. The only time I ran a WoD game, it turned out to be basically Call of Cthulhu but with WoD rules. But BRP Call of Cthulhu is my favorite. I love the Sanity mechanic.

Hmm, I've had an idea brewing for a Hunter: the Vigil game...I should work on it...