So wasn’t originally going to be part of the “This is Halloween” series, but felt like it fit in still. I’ve been giving advice on shows, movies, games, etc. and this advice is just a little bit different, but it’s still going to be suggestions on how you can create your own one shot for Halloween.
In a Halloween game, you’re obviously looking at a few basic ideas. You either are going with a monster situation, so something like a vampire, Frankenstein’s monster, werewolves, or zombies – the classics, or you might be looking at a cult, or you might be going with something more twisted and sinister, but it isn’t going to be a story about picking daisies in a meadow somewhere. The story ideas are going to be a bit more grim, a lot of the time. But before you go making the darkest D&D game possible for Halloween, we get to our first point.
If you think about D&D as a movie, what sort of Halloween movie do you want this to be like? Are you going to go with something dark and gritty like Repulsion, see my Halloween Movies Post for what it’s like, or something that’s a little bit more off the wall like Repo! The Genetic Opera or Cabin the Woods? Both of these are fun things, and you can go quite goofy with the latter. But it depends on the feel that you are going for. So, as you’re planning picking which type you’re going for will determine a lot of other things.
From here a lot of your game building is going to be fairly similar to a normal one shot. Think about what sort of encounters you want, keep them varied, do combat, social, investigative, even skill challenges. Try and focus the theme down more so onto the game that you are going for. Also, plan out some more description than you might normally. The more you can describe, the more you can set the theme for your game. If you’re going for something that’s more serious, set it with description that demonstrates how the world seems off. Plan this out ahead of time, because it’ll be tricky to do it all on the fly and it’ll be one of your bigger tools to use.
When it comes to the actual session, there are things you can do to reinforce the scene. If you normally play in a well lit room or during daytime, move it to a darker location or at night. Running the game outside can even be fun. But, for example, if you are playing a Gothic style of vampire game, play at a table light in a room that is primarily lit by candle light. Just have enough light that you can see the player sheets. Music is also going to be nice and easy to create the feel that you are going for. It can either be ambient noises like a woods if you are hunting down werewolves in a dark forest or it can be be organ music for when you come to the vampires castle. It might be cheesy, but if that’s the type of game that you are going for, it’ll work out just fine.
That’s how I’d run a one shot for Halloween. I wouldn’t recommend doing it at a convention, unless you have your own room where you can control the atmosphere, a big convention hall just won’t work.
But what are some ideas, because that’s what I really like coming up with:
Your players are a team of vampire hunters who are pretty skilled at what they do. They’ve managed to figure out when the vampire lord Dracula lives. It’s a pretty straight forward murder Dracula game. What I’d do is create it into a house of horrors, the castle that Dracula lives in. Start with the players getting social interactions with some villagers who can help them find a “secret” entrance into Dracula’s lair. Then once in the lair, have Dracula show up and taunt them, throw Renfields at them, other vampire spawn they have to deal with, and traps and puzzles they have to figure out. None of the combats/challenges should be too hard, but the players shouldn’t have a chance to rest. Make it about resource management for them, and let them figure it out as they go along, and then allow creative solutions to problems.
The Last Night
A zombie outbreak has happened and only pockets of nomadic people are still around. The adventuring party has banded together and is being forced to defend a small tent town from a horde of zombies that is coming over the hill at them. Another game idea where you’re trying to keep enough resources in reserve in some ways, but I’d probably borrow from my Pride, PrejuDICE, and Zombies game where there is one head zombie. The players have to make rolls for the army of humans or for themselves to take out a large horde of zombies, but mainly, they are trying to take out the necromancer who is controlling the zombies. But if rolls are going poorly enough, have some way to track if the zombies are getting closer to the civilians or not. Lots of women and children in that group will probably mean that the players try and stop the attack. So dealing with the horde is a skill challenge whereas dealing with the necromancer or head zombie is going to be straight up combat. You could also make this on the road and the players being harried by zombie attacks as they try and keep the civilians safe and make it to a safe zone.
A werewolf is madly in love with a village boy and they enlist the adventuring parties help to get the boy to notice the werewolf and possibly agree to become a werewolf. This game is clearly on the sillier side of things, but it would be a number of quick quests that the players can do. Vary them up from collecting a certain flower or weapon that is lost deep in the woods, finding a master poet to write a poem for the werewolf to give to the boy, fight through a band of goblins to keep the boy safe while they are out hunting in the woods, etc. Find a few of those and make them fairly absurd how the players have to do it so that the game has more of a lighter feel to it. Maybe even hold off on the werewolf reveal until a few minutes into the game when the players have already agreed to help. They shouldn’t attack the werewolf because the players have agreed to play in the game, and you can also create PC’s for them to play who aren’t going to be apt to kill the werewolf as a monster.
Have you ran a horror through D&D before? How did that work, would it work well for a Halloween game?
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