2018-19 Tabletop RPG Horror Round Up
2018 was a busy year for the world of horror, and tabletop RPGs were no exception. As we head into the new year, here’s a roundup of everything that came out last year, as well as a peek at some new games due for release in 2019.
First up, Vampire: the Masquerade, published by White Wolf is a franchise that’s been around since 1991, so fans of the game were understandably excited when its most recent installment, 5th Edition, was released last year. The latest edition was focused on streamlining its ruleset and bringing vampires into the 21st century. Its cannon deals largely with the terror of the Second Inquisition, the conspiracies behind the Gehenna War, and the rekindling of the War of Ages. The publisher was kind enough to provide me with a review copy when the game was released, so you can read a more in-depth look at this game here.
In this dark fairy tale, players take on the roles of wicked winter spirits hunting down a human lost in a deadly blizzard as sustenance for Yuki Onna, their deadly mistress.
It’s a game designed for one-shots with zero-prep, 1-2 hour sessions, for one facilitator and four players.
Sometimes, survival is all that matters.
For those who relish the challenge, Xas Irkalla, released by Atramentis Games, is a self-described “hardcore difficult game” which uses the Strain survival-horror system. Players are pushed to the limits of their ingenuity in the dark and twisted world of Xas Irkalla.
They will either perish, or seize power for themselves by whatever means necessary.
Get your monster-hunter on! Beneath a Cursed Moon by Karrius is a Gothic fantasy game that uses an Apocalypse-World-inspired engine. You’ll need a GM and 1-6 players. Together you’ll take on the role of monster hunters to slay vampires, werewolves, mermen, and more. This game emphasizes investigation as the players race the clock to solve the mystery before time runs out.
Look to Castlevania and Bloodborne as inspirational touchstones for the feel of this game.
If you enjoy sleuthing out the horror that stalks the night, consider this scenario: It’s the forties. You live in a bayside city that’s secretly under the control of an insect cult, but tonight you’re going to bring that conspiracy to light.
Exuviae, by Sean Smith, is an investigative, horror-noir one-shot game. It requires only a pack of cards and the rules to play, with no ahead-of-time prep work.
By all accounts, it’s very easy to learn, so if you want a jumping-on point for
Horror has something for everyone these days and if economics and horror are your thing, then Red Markets by Caleb Stokes has you covered. Yeah, you read that right.
In Red Markets, characters risk their lives trading between the massive quarantine zones containing a zombie outbreak and the remains of civilization. The characters are all Takers: mercenary entrepreneurs unwilling to accept their abandonment. Bound together into competing crews, they seek to profit from mankind’s near-extinction before it claims them. They must hustle, scheme, and scam as hard as they fight if they hope to survive the competing factions and undead hordes the GM throws at them.
Next up in our 2018 roundup, KULT: Divinity Lost was also released this past year by Modiphius Entertainment. The game is a reboot of the horror role-playing game “Kult”, originally released in 1991.
This 4th edition of Kult features a completely new rule-set, and the setting is updated to the present day.
Escape your nightmares, strike bargains with demons, and try to stay alive in a world full of pain, torture, and death.
Finally, Evil Hat Productions released the Fate Horror Toolkit this past year. As the name suggests, it’s a supplement to the Fate system and offers a variety of tools, mechanics, and hacks to help you develop thematic horror in your game. It’s a new year; maybe it’s time to start a fresh, horror-filled campaign, hmm?
The Fate Horror Toolkit gives players a number of mechanics to pick from that allow them to explore certain themes of horror while still using a system designed around competent, proactive characters.
Not to be outdone, 2019 is already packed with fresh games. Here’s what lies ahead for horror tabletop RPG fans.
The critically acclaimed Bluebeard’s Bride was released back in 2017, following the story of the doomed bride of the famous fairytale, but Magpie Games still has a few fresh releases for the game. If you’d like to know more about this truly dark and highly-worth-playing exploration of horror, you can visit Magpie Games’ website, or check out Dread Central’s review of it by yours truly.
Just a few days ago, Bluebeard’s Bride‘s latest supplement Book of Mirrors was released on DriveThruRPG. You can expect physical copies to hit stores March 7th, while the supplementary Deck of Objects and Tarot of Servants came out February 7th.
Next up, League of Seekers, published by the FeralGamersInc Collective is due for release this March. It self-describes as “a Lovecraftian Grimdark tabletop RPG Set in an alternate 18th century Europe.” Monsters have come out of the woodworks in every corner of the world. The characters in this game are part of a secret society called The League of Seekers, invited because of their skills and knowledge. They are sent to vanquish the horrors, thwart cults, and banish the cosmic terrors that wish to control the world.
The game uses a roll under percentile system, with a selection of skills and statements. Characters can also choose past careers, advantages, and disadvantages. There is also a selection of other stats, sanity, humanity and dark knowledge that will play a part in beating back the terrors. Experience is through actions that affect individual skills so that characters only advance in those abilities they use.
If you’re a fan of the Call of Cthulhu franchise, then the Sassoon Files by Sons of Singularity might be right up your alley.
The story is set in 1920s Shanghai, an international crossroad of history. This newly-released campaign book is modular in design; each of the 4 scenarios included can stand on its own, but each scenario is connected by the thread of common location, time, characters, threats, and themes. You can play the scenarios in the order you see fit, but they can stand together as the basis of an entire campaign.
Sassoon Files are set to go on sale in April.
Vampire lore may never be forgotten, but vampires may forget themselves. Thousand Year Old Vampire by Tim Hutching is due for release on June 1st. In this game, you chronicle the many centuries of a vampire’s existence, beginning with the loss of mortality and ending with inevitable destruction. In the game, you explore your character’s human failings, villainous acts, and surprising victories. Expect gut-churning decisions and irreconcilable acts.
The gameplay looks to be pretty straightforward. You progress semi-randomly through a book of Prompts which let you explore your vampire’s wants and needs, resolve problems, and chart the decline into senescence. Play can happen entirely within the character sheet or can become a journaling activity.
If you’re interested in exploring the failing memories of a thousand-year-old vampire, there’s a free playtest .PDF available for you on the K
Finally, Magpie Games has yet another release scheduled for 2019 with the release of their Zombie World RPG sometime between late July and early August. This card-based ttRPG features survivors fighting against the living and the dead for their own place in the world. Players take on the roles of ordinary people caught up in a zombie apocalypse, struggling to survive day after day, month after month, year after year, in a world destroyed by the restless dead.
So there you have it. A lot happened in 2018, and 2019 is slated to be just as busy. Any games I missed? Drop ‘em in the comments below. May your 2019 be filled with good games, good friends, and just a touch of horror.
Happy gaming, everyone.