Posted by : David Guyll July 22, 2014

Back in April I posted a play report for Fright Night, a game that Ben, Melissa, and I were working on. The game is intended to evoke the feel of horror movies, character generation is a breeze, the mechanics are simple, and both the "monster" and a lot of the story is randomly generated on the fly (meaning that even the Director does not know exactly what will happen).

We have since played a number of games, tried to play a number more, and had a few other groups also give it a shot, and though the game is not yet complete (we want to add more examples and some flavorful text here and there to help better set the tone), we feel that it is far enough along for other people to take a look at it and let us know what they think so far.

So, do that. Read it, tell me what you like and dislike in the comments. If you actually play a game we would love to hear how it went (especially because we have been playing with an in-depth knowledge of how the game is "supposed" to work).

Something that we specifically want to know is if you think creature bases and/or traits should have a mechanical impact (or, at least some of them). Like, should Giant count as a complication when you make a Brawn check against it? Should Bloodthirsty give the monster a +1 bonus to damage? On that note, we also want to know if you think any bases/traits should be added, removed, or shuffled about.

{ 6 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I'd be surprised if my normal group would be up for a horror game, but I had a chance to read it over. You're definitely on track for a sweet game.

    The layout hits a good horror note, but you'll definitely want a printer-friendly version when you do the finished PDF.

    This is a game I could run off a single page of steps and tables. That's awesome! I'd love to have that page up front.

    The rules in general are quite clean, but it feels like you have more stats than you need. You basically roll two dice, with an asset for what you're good at and a complication for what you're bad at. It seems like character creation could just be choosing those, even on the lines of 13th Age skills or FATE aspects.

    Player choices during the encounter phase have basically no rules impact on the climax, which is probably an issue. In play, I'm sure you give them weapons and carry forward assets and so forth, but the only concrete mechanical consequences are from Actor Attacks.

    Base/Traits:
    I don't particularly feel like they need mechanical bonuses, at least as light weight as things are now.

    You might want to go through the creature traits and add some more examples with eyes towards making them work with more bases. Objects, in particular, feel like they need a lot of good examples.

    For adding bases, I'd consider "Force" for disembodied malevolence and good old "Human." We are the greatest monsters, after all.

    The big trait I felt like was missing was "Impersonator" or the like. Replacing people is a key part of so many monsters.

    Much bigger thought, but are you sure you need to keep the bases separate? It might be worth just shuffling them in with traits.

    Some random notes:
    The Prometheus and Jason X example... I laughed.

    "Animated" and "Mutating" are missing descriptions.

    It might be worth having a chart for monstrous motivation. Because motivation is so very key. Or add more traits like "blood-thirsty" that speak to motivation.

    In the encounter phase, the table has "actor death" but the description is for the less scary "actor attack."

    Damage is mentioned under "Actor Attack," but doesn't get explained until "Evading the Monster."

    The check for climax is the only thing that uses Xd6+Y. I'd consider using the main mechanic and just add more dice as you go. I do appreciate the 13, though.

    Similarly, the monster damage being a d6 is kind of odd. I'd be tempted to use something like the escalation die, but even a flat 3 or 4 is probably fine.

    Couple typos (snape, Biship).

    Cheers!
    Kinak

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    Replies
    1. @Kinak: "I'd be surprised if my normal group would be up for a horror game, but I had a chance to read it over. You're definitely on track for a sweet game."

      Hoorays!

      "The layout hits a good horror note, but you'll definitely want a printer-friendly version when you do the finished PDF."

      We are going to make it at the least print on demand. Basically every book I do that is not just a couple pages I want to make print on demand, because I know I like having books in my hand. :-)

      "This is a game I could run off a single page of steps and tables. That's awesome! I'd love to have that page up front."

      We kind of have that with the Director sheet in the back, but I could easily whip up a quick reference sheet (as you see in games like Descent, where the rules fit on one card).

      "The rules in general are quite clean, but it feels like you have more stats than you need. You basically roll two dice, with an asset for what you're good at and a complication for what you're bad at. It seems like character creation could just be choosing those, even on the lines of 13th Age skills or FATE aspects."

      We had a Looks stat, but axed it because it basically never got used. I originally was lobbying for a kind of Apocalypse World hack (where each roll is 2d6+STAT), but we ended up going with an Arkham Horror kind of direction where you roll dice based on a stat, with a 5+ being a success.

      You mention aspects and skills, so to clarify you can have more than one asset or complication when you make a check, and they are generally independent of your character. We had you choose a skill originally, but they were all over the map in terms of usability and scope. Like, last session we did a kind a medieval game in which I had the Farmer skill and Ben took Charisma. I think mine got used once. We figured it was better to ditch skills and just let you add more dice based on circumstance, gear, what you do, and how you do it.

      "Player choices during the encounter phase have basically no rules impact on the climax, which is probably an issue. In play, I'm sure you give them weapons and carry forward assets and so forth, but the only concrete mechanical consequences are from Actor Attacks."

      We did, but yeah, I can see some either not doing that, not thinking to do that, or thinking that they shouldn't do that. What about making it more implicit that Environments and Omens should impose some kind of complication or outright change the set in some way? Like, an Environment roll could result in low-lighting (a Wits complication), a broken elevator (set change), or even something more drastic like life support failing?. This could be noted on the Director sheet.

      "Base/Traits:"

      Yeah, Ben was also against it. I was for it, but I like little mechanical gewjaws and felt we should get a majority opinion. :-)

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    2. I got more, but I wanted to get feedback on the overall system. There is going to be a Creature Feature that showcases some combinations, and the more well known ones from horror flicks.

      Objects do need a lot of examples, I agree. In play that was the one that seemed sometimes limiting, sometimes too open.

      "Force"

      Ooooh, that's a good one. We originally had a Mortal trait for a vanilla human, but figured Humanoid would be fine for that. We even thought of putting a note that, when in doubt/not modified by bases and traits, the monster is a mortal human.

      That is something I was going to use for a kind of "impersonator" (I had the creature from The Thing in mind when I thought of Mutating), but giving Impersonator its own trait sounds even better!

      "Much bigger thought, but are you sure you need to keep the bases separate? It might be worth just shuffling them in with traits."

      That is an interesting idea, and would just require another table...could do a 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6 roll, with sub-tables that have 11 results (since 2d6 gets you a 2-12).

      I'll see what Ben thinks and ask the Fright Night community on G+.

      "The Prometheus and Jason X example... I laughed."

      I laughed at those movies. Just...bleh. :-P

      "Animated and Mutating are missing descriptions."

      Yeah, didn't get around to finalizing what Animated means, and I had just added Mutating, but I think we could fold Mutating into a Shapeshifter trait and just let the Director determine what its limitations are.

      "It might be worth having a chart for monstrous motivation. Because motivation is so very key. Or add more traits like blood-thirsty that speak to motivation."

      I could see adding a table for random example motivations (the most iconic), but I think if we add a table of set motivations then players might try to guess what it is (kind of like when you play a scenario in Mansions of Madness often enough, you can guess what the Keeper needs to do).

      "In the encounter phase, the table has "actor death" but the description is for the less scary actor attack."

      I just checked the pdf and there are two entries for Extra Death (Ben wanted extras to get picked off pretty regularly). I'm not seeing an Actor Death mention.

      "Damage is mentioned under "Actor Attack," but doesn't get explained until Evading the Monster."

      In Actor Attack it works a bit differently: you make a stat check, and if you get no successes you just take 1 point of damage. Originally we treated it like a normal attack (take 1d6, then roll stat to reduce the amount), but were concerned that it would shave off too much, too early. What do you think? Too soft?

      "The check for climax is the only thing that uses Xd6+Y. I'd consider using the main mechanic and just add more dice as you go. I do appreciate the 13, though."

      Do you mean add more dice and still have it trigger on a 13+? Each die adds 3.5 to the average, which means that, if you count objects and information, that the game could end insanely quickly.

      What about having a countdown that requires 13 successes to complete? Each success made on the climax roll marks one tick off, and each scene, object, and information adds one? Ooooh! What if Omen adds one to the Climax pool, too? Another thought, the base Climax roll could depend on the number of actors (1d6/actor). This would help prevent the game from being too long with more players (especially if half the plot results add a die to the pool).

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    3. "Similarly, the monster damage being a d6 is kind of odd. I'd be tempted to use something like the escalation die, but even a flat 3 or 4 is probably fine."

      Escalation die? We used a d6 because it meant that actors could feasibly die in 2-4 hits, without having to use other dice. We also wanted to use a die instead of static damage so that the players couldn't know necessarily what to expect. If the damage is a flat value, then it means they would know exactly how many hits they can still take. Something I might have forgotten to mention is that the monster is supposed to act after each actor does, so more actors = more actions for it (we did this to prevent the monster from being overwhelmed by too many actors).

      "Couple typos (snape, Biship)."

      Derp. I'll get on that!

      Thanks for the feedback! This has given some key things to think about! :-D

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    4. Unplugged for a few days, don't mind me :)

      > In Actor Attack it works a bit differently: you make a stat check, and if you get no successes you just take 1 point of damage. Originally we treated it like a normal attack (take 1d6, then roll stat to reduce the amount), but were concerned that it would shave off too much, too early. What do you think? Too soft?

      I can't say if 1d6 is too much without playtesting, but 1 damage is unlikely to have any impact. You'd need to fail ten to die before the climax. I don't think you want actors dying all the time, but ten seems too soft.

      > That is an interesting idea, and would just require another table...could do a 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6 roll, with sub-tables that have 11 results (since 2d6 gets you a 2-12).

      You could also do a 1-6 by 1-6 table. That gives you about as many options without the centering effect 2d6 will have.

      > What about making it more implicit that Environments and Omens should impose some kind of complication or outright change the set in some way? Like, an Environment roll could result in low-lighting (a Wits complication), a broken elevator (set change), or even something more drastic like life support failing?. This could be noted on the Director sheet.

      I think something like that would help. Really anything that ties together the two main phases.

      Personally, I'd lean towards a system where you know you're screwed if the climax happens too early. And you need some sort of clues or items to stand a reasonable chance, so the climax is a looming threat.

      At the simplest level, successful resolution omen/environment scenes might reduce the monster's final HP (whether it's because the zombies got hurt crashing through your barricade or you found some silver to hurt the werewolves or found out something about the ghost or whatever). Or the person who successfully handled in gets an asset to claim during the climax. Or the monster gets bonus damage that's reduced by successful scenes. Or any of the above.

      With only negative things happening, though, the climax is actually a good thing. Which I'd want to avoid.

      > Something I might have forgotten to mention is that the monster is supposed to act after each actor does, so more actors = more actions for it (we did this to prevent the monster from being overwhelmed by too many actors).

      No, you mentioned that. I actually wanted to call that out for two thumbs up. Action economy kills bosses, which you just can't have for a horror game... unless your boss kills 1d4 PCs a round :)

      > What about having a countdown that requires 13 successes to complete? Each success made on the climax roll marks one tick off, and each scene, object, and information adds one? Ooooh! What if Omen adds one to the Climax pool, too? Another thought, the base Climax roll could depend on the number of actors (1d6/actor). This would help prevent the game from being too long with more players (especially if half the plot results add a die to the pool).

      This sounds pretty good.

      If you do a die per player, you could also have each player roll at the end of their turn. That'd mean you wouldn't have to keep track of rounds, which might be nice. And, assuming you keep the same "initiative order" in the climax phase, you're not really screwing anyone out of actions.

      Something about rolling after each scene gives it a nice Dread vibe too.

      > Thanks for the feedback! This has given some key things to think about! :-D

      You're welcome :)

      Cheers!
      Kinak

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    5. "Unplugged for a few days, don't mind me :)"

      I feel ya there...bleeeeeh. :-P

      "I can't say if 1d6 is too much without playtesting, but 1 damage is unlikely to have any impact. You'd need to fail ten to die before the climax. I don't think you want actors dying all the time, but ten seems too soft."

      We did 1d6 damage last session and it seemed to work out just fine. The first time it happened I rolled damage and Ben managed to soak it, the second time I rolled 2.

      "You could also do a 1-6 by 1-6 table. That gives you about as many options without the centering effect 2d6 will have."

      True, though we COULD use the "centering" effect to make certain traits more common (something that I had not thought of).

      "I think something like that would help. Really anything that ties together the two main phases."

      I used the Environment result last session to have Ben's motorcycle explode. Had he used it to escape the hellhound, it would have counted as an Agility asset. Basically I could see that sort of thing happening in a horror flick, but since it was the main way they could have easily escaped...HA.

      "At the simplest level, successful resolution omen/environment scenes might reduce the monster's final HP (whether it's because the zombies got hurt crashing through your barricade or you found some silver to hurt the werewolves or found out something about the ghost or whatever). Or the person who successfully handled in gets an asset to claim during the climax. Or the monster gets bonus damage that's reduced by successful scenes. Or any of the above."

      Now THIS I had not considered. I think information/object results should allow a test, with a success meaning that you get to claim an asset/reduce the monster's hit points.

      "With only negative things happening, though, the climax is actually a good thing. Which I'd want to avoid."

      What if omen and presence rolls increased the monster's hit points? I could even see extra death doing something similar.

      "No, you mentioned that. I actually wanted to call that out for two thumbs up. Action economy kills bosses, which you just can't have for a horror game... unless your boss kills 1d4 PCs a round :)"

      What we did last session was that each time an actor acts against the monster, it gets to make an attack. This is because Ben's character was dealing with a NPC on the side, and without him directly contributing to killing the monster it meant that it would have easily polished off Melissa and then taken him out, too.

      I could just see games with more actors, where if a couple are trapped or doing something else (like trying to fix a spaceship), that a monster getting to make like 4 attacks would decimate a single actor, and without everyone else whittling it down based on our hp/actor formula they would stand no chance.

      "This sounds pretty good."

      It worked out to a 5 act game, which is about what we were aiming for. The entire game took about 2 hours to wrap, and with more actors rolling extra dice I think it would reduce the overall number of acts, but since you get more scenes per act it is a wash.

      "If you do a die per player, you could also have each player roll at the end of their turn. That'd mean you wouldn't have to keep track of rounds, which might be nice. And, assuming you keep the same "initiative order" in the climax phase, you're not really screwing anyone out of actions."

      That's not a bad idea. That way they can kind of see how fast the climax is coming without knowing exactly.

      "Something about rolling after each scene gives it a nice Dread vibe too."

      Agreed!

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