This year for Halloween, I offer you a tricks and treats combo of game systems and modules (official and homebrew) suitable to the night. Links for the modules and/or core books are included.
Parental Guidance: I do include my take on which of the featured materials are for young gamers, or not, but YMMV. So check out any system or module you aren’t familiar with, if your group includes youngsters. You will probably want to make sure other parents are on the same page, if some of the kids aren’t your own.
“The Apple of Her Eye” (Shadow of the Demon Lord): I have never played the SotDL system, but my good friend Jon Stevens adapted this for 7th Seas 2e as “Once Upon a Harvest Moon.” He later ran it at GNC IV and I had so much fun the first time, I played it again there, with a different pregen. At $1.99 on Drivethru RPG, “The Apple of Her Eye” is certainly worth picking up to borrow the plot for your favorite system, even if you have no interest in SotDL itself. Jon’s “Harvest Moon” is available (with pregens) at his Gaming & Etc. blog. Due to the plot, I recommend both “Apple” and “Harvest Moon” for midteens and up.
Call of Cthulhu: Even though I’m not a big horror fan, I have many fond memories of playing the original Cthulhu RPG, under a talented GM who knew Howard’s work so well that he could turn just about any genre or era into an insanity-inducing Cthulhu adventure. My PCs included an early 20th century former suffragette and a modern US Air Force officer, for example. On its seventh edition, this system has lived longer than any Investigator. Older teens and adults.
“Curse of Strahd” (D&D, various editions): Since this is a full-length campaign book, it’s not suitable for a single night’s gaming, but Halloween is a great time to start–or finish–this classic gothic D&D adventure, now recreated for 5e. A few months ago, I wrote about my group’s early “Strahd” play experience here. Older teens and adults.
Dresden Files RPGs (FATE and Fate Accelerated, Evil Hat): This RPG, based on Jim Butcher’s popular urban fantasy series, is a natural for Halloween. My group found the mechanics of the older FATE version (Our World, Your Story, Paranet Papers) to be too complex, although we loved the format and fluff. However, we are quite enthusiastic about the new Dresden Files Accelerated, based on the Fate Accelerated mechanics. Dresden Files Accelerated has an example campaign, “We’ll Always Have Parish,” based in New Orleans, but no modules. The DFRPG does have several free Case Files (scenarios), free on Drive Thru RPG, which could be converted to DFA, with a little work. Older teens and adults.
“Ice Station Zulu” (Edge of the Empire): A horror Star Wars module, featuring Hoth, secret Imperial research, and terrifying creatures from 2 beloved SW eras. Per author “GM Dave” Villegas, this adventure is for mature gamers only, not just for the horror theme but mature topics such as addictions. It is available on the D20 Radio Backerzone, along with other SW scenarios from previous Gamer Nation Con Kickstarters that are now available to all.
Mutants & Masterminds (Green Ronin): For decades superheroes and villains have dabbled in the Halloween mainstays of magic and the supernatural. M&M sourcebooks have this covered with Book of Magic (2e) and Gadget Guide: Magic and Supernatural Handbook (both 3e), all available in either print or PDF. I haven’t read any of these except the Gadget Guide. You can read my review here. Some types of campaigns/one-shots are suitable for older elementary children, such as Gold/Silver Age subgenres.
vs Stranger Stuff (Fat Goblin Games): Inspired by Eighties vintage adventure movies and the like. See my review of vs Stranger Stuff: Send in the Clowns Special Edition for an in-depth look, plus a list of other vsSS PDFs, all of which look good for Halloween gaming. Some types of campaigns/one-shots may be suitable for older elementary or middle school age children.
“Witchdusters” (Toon): My son ran this for our Skype group last year and we had a great time! You can read our play experience here. Toon (and supplements) are still available as PDFs (simple scans of the printed versions) at the first link. “Witchdusters” (or anything Toon) is excellent for groups with younger kids and/or RPG newcomers–or any game group who would rather laugh than scream their way through an adventure.
Witch Girls Respelled (Channel M Publishing): I haven’t had a chance to do more than skim through this one. It’s a charming little RPG aimed at pre-teen girls, a group that is relatively neglected when it comes to the hobby. But it looks like fun for all demographics, especially if you use the Harry Potter variant included.
So grab your brooms, wands, plastic pumpkins of treat-holding, mystery vans, stakes, robes, enchanted weapons, grimoires, ghosts, and whatever else & go forth to battle those who haunt the night. Or haunt it yourself, if that’s how you roll. Have a Happy Halloween!