The name says it all really, we’re going to be doing a zombie apocalypse. However, we aren’t going to be playing the game where the players are trying to stop it. Instead, we’re going to pull from things like The Walking Dead, Dead of Winter, […]
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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Alright, friends, get ready for some good ol’ fashioned fangirling! Today, I want to talk about my latest book obsession — Chemistry, by C.L. Lynch. As one glance at the book cover will tell you, Chemistry is a parody of Twilight, but with zombies this time instead […]
So we’ve kind of done this before with Table Top Picks, our top 7 board games, but since then, I’ve certainly played more games, so my list might have changed. I also tried to avoid looking back at my list so I wasn’t basing it off of what I had previously done. So without further ado, here are my top 5 board games.
5. Dead of Winter
This game isn’t without flaws/weird bits to it; the traitor, if there is one, generally can always tank the game during the last round if they don’t think they are going to win, in order to prevent everyone else from winning. And then everyone has secret objectives, so it kind of makes everyone look a bit like a traitor. I once wrote about how I’d like this to be turned into a legacy game, and I still think this would be one way to improve it. I think another way would be to rework it so that someone who completes their secret objective is the super-winner, even if the group wins the overall game; otherwise, as a non-traitor player in that last round, you might as well try to tank the game, or you’ll look 100% like the traitor.
That said, there are a ton of things I love about this game. The first being the crossroad system — on your turn, another player draws a crossroad card and reads it, and if you do a certain action or move someone to a certain spot that’s specified on the card, this acts as a sort of trigger. The other player then reads out a bit of a story, and you have to make a choice between two options the card gives you (at least most of the time; sometimes there is only one option). In the rules, it says to draw a card per each player’s turn; we draw two, and then if one of them is triggered by a player’s action, that is the one that the player has to deal with. This means that you get these cool story interjection moments. I also really like how gritty this game feels. Yes, it’s about surviving against a horde of zombies, but it’s in many ways more about the survivors themselves, like in The Walking Dead. That puts a different level of stress on you as a player, because you aren’t just worried about mowing down zombies all the time — there’s all kinds of other stuff to worry about. For example, can you feed your people? What do you do if you find more survivors? Is the base getting too messy? Dead of Winter is a fun game and a challenging one, and if you don’t like the hidden traitor aspect, you can certainly play it as a solely cooperative game.
Smallworld is a fun take on the area control concept — in this game, you have a fantasy race and trait that are randomly combined, and you control an army of soldiers bearing that race and trait to take over areas on a board. But whatever number of players you play with, the board is small enough that you’re going to have to take over other players’ areas. This game is meant for that, though, and it’s really hard to have hurt feelings over it (unlike with other area control games), because when you don’t have enough of your current race, you can put them into decline and get a new one and exact your revenge during the next turn. It’s also a ton of fun because you never know what sort of combinations you’re going to get. Maybe you have flying giants or underworld sorcerers or commando pixies. These combinations change every game, too, so it feels different every time you play it (and they have awesome expansions for even more variability). Players’ turns go quickly, and the game has a round limit on it, so it never takes that long to play. The rules are simple, and the fantasy is fun and crazy. This is an area control game that I would pull out to the table anytime, and even people who hate Risk will probably like to play this game.
3. Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
My first pure cooperative game on the list, Dresden Files is a fun game that is very hard at times. You play through the different books of the Dresden Files series in game form. It is an interesting game mechanically, in that you have action points that you need to use and you have a hand of cards that all cost action points. You have to balance playing cards and discarding cards to get more action points, but sometimes you have to discard a really good card.
This game, while being cooperative, does have some hidden information between players; in most cooperative games, you share openly what information you have on your cards, and often, your hand of cards is right in front of you, but not so in Dresden. You can give general descriptions of your cards, but the details can’t be said. Now, you do develop a sort of a shorthand for that as time goes on, but you never know for sure what other players have. Finally, this game really does feel a lot like playing through the books, which some other games based on books or movies don’t do quite as well. In the books, Harry is always almost losing or getting beat up, and in this game, you feel like that; it basically always comes down to the last little bit and the luck of a die roll to determine if you win or not.
2. Betrayal at House on the Hill
I love love love this game. It has that campy style of a haunted house or a horror movie where you know someone is going to accidentally piss off the zombie rednecks or turn into a ghost or call death to your location, and you’re going to have to deal with it. This is a surprise traitor game where you start out exploring this old haunted house and encountering weird things and finding omens. It’s a bit like Cabin in the Woods, in which the characters are stuck in a horror movie and somehow something horrible is going to happen to them. Depending on what they mess around with, though, they may trigger the omen that sets events in motion.
That is 100% what happens in this game, except one person is the traitor. This game does have one glaring flaw that becomes less of one the more you play the game — when you get to the haunt, the stage during which the traitor is revealed, sometimes the traitor rules or the survivor rules don’t make a ton of sense. The more you play, the more sense they make, but some of them are just weird and take a while to figure out. Like I said, this has the classic horror feel to it, and I love it; I’ll play it every chance I get, and I’m excited for Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, the D&D version of Betrayal at House on the Hill.
1. Pandemic/Pandemic Legacy
If you follow us on Facebook, you’d probably guess that this was going to be my number one. I am super jazzed for season 2 of Pandemic Legacy. Pandemic is a game where you work together to find cures for diseases while they are spreading all the time; it’s just a blast. It’s a fairly tough cooperative game that the legacy version then turns on its head and makes into something amazing. In that version, there are story elements that come up each “month” you play; you also find out new things as you go, and the rules change slightly as the game progresses. This game is a ton of fun, and I love bringing it to the table. It’s also an accessible cooperative game in that, although there is a fair amount of strategy, it’s easy enough to learn the base game. If you haven’t tried playing this game, definitely give it a whirl, and if it’s too easy, there are things that you can do to make it harder. And if you are looking for a way to change up your basic Pandemic gaming experience, the legacy version of the game is an awesome way to do that. There are a bunch of great expansions for the game as well, but I haven’t played all of those, so I can’t speak to them.
I always have to do some honorable mentions as well, since there are so many games that I’ve played and love, but can’t put on the list. Plus, it’s rare for me to run into a board game that I don’t like. First on my honorable mention list is Star Wars Rebellion; this game feels like the epic space opera that Star Wars is, in a box. I’ve played it a single time, and I want to play it again. Sushi Go! Party is a game that I can play over and over again, and it’s simple, fast, and has fun strategy to it. Arkham Horror/Elder Signs are how I like to get my HP Lovecraft fix, though Mansions of Madness is a game that I want to play even more and which might pass the other two up. Cosmic Encounters is a fun space game that plays pretty quickly and has fun alien race powers. Finally, Hogwarts Battle is a game that I just got to the table a second time last night, and it was a blast; you get to play as the main characters of Harry Potter and defeat villains as you play through the plot of the books.
What are some board games that you like to get to the table?
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So, if you follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Nerdologists/), you’ve seen me posting news about the newest season of Pandemic Legacy. I wanted to talk about the legacy games that Kristen and I’ve played thus far, and what we’ve found that works in these games and […]