None of us really need an excuse to gather the party for an RPG session, but is there a better time of year for a spooky one-shot than Halloween?
No. There isn’t.
We went round the office, chatting to our resident GMs to gather some top tips to make your Halloween encounters suitably spooky.
1. Create The Right Kind Of Atmosphere
Spooky lighting, some creepy decorations, and a suitable spooky soundtrack will help get your players to start anticipating the horror to come. Yes, yes, all cheesy, and obvious steps BUT that’s the point. It immediately accustoms players to a new kind of game. A halloween game should feel different; let your players know how different from the minute they enter the room.
(This definitely won’t get rid of all of the stupid jokes and innuendos around the table, but it might lessen them by as much as 4-5% in my experience - Ed.)
2. Get In Costume
Wanna go all in on the immersive atmosphere? Get the party in costume.
Some of us dress up a bit for our RPG sessions. A set of tiefling horns, a pair of bracers, or some sort of jewellery to help us connect with our characters, ready to dive into the adventure.
What better reason to take this to the next level, with a full character costume, than Halloween! And even if your group doesn’t usually dress up it’s a great excuse to give this a try.
It can be a lot easier to step into your character’s shoes if you’re actually wearing their shoes!
(Some players aren’t going to want to do this. That’s fine. You just kill their characters first. - Ed.)
(In fairness, I wouldn’t do this either, but that’s why I’m GM. So I don’t have to. - Ed. Again.)
3. Themed Snacks
No Halloween party (or gaming session, now I come to think of it) is complete without an assortment of snacks. And before this blog gets turned into a snacks tier list, like we did in the office, let's be diplomatic and say there are no wrong answers to the question “what snacks should I bring”. (There definitely are, but that’s for another article - Ed.)
That being said, this blog’s all about a Halloween gaming session, so let’s ditch the usual choices and go for something on theme.
My thoughts immediately turn to childhood partie. Basically anything that can be made to look like a spider, mummy, zombie, or bat, and any red drink slapped with a sticky label saying “Blood”... I’m sure we can do better than this, drawing on the insane amount of creativity you all have. Jump over to our socials and give us some Halloween themed snacks. Preferably some that don’t look like we remembered about the school party 10 minutes before turning up.
4. Themed Sessions!
Even if you’re playing with your weekly gaming group, it can be a nice change of pace to jump into a one off themed night. Take a session away from the usual story, jump into a spooky side quest, and make sure it’s something suitably horrific.
For those of you who are like me and plan sessions to within an inch of its life, some help to put together this one off session and cut down the time investment is more than welcome.
Our range of out-of-the-box RPG one-shots, Epic Encounters, contains everything a budding GM needs to create a thrilling, cinematic encounter for their party. We’ve got a handful of dark and creepy sets, perfect for Halloween.
(They are authentically horrible. Especially Ghoul-Kin. There’s a lot of body horror in that. Icky stuff, I promise! - Ed.)
5. Choose Your Flavour Of Horror
As any horror aficionado will tell you: there are loads of genres within horror totally different from each other.
To run a really excellent RPG night for Halloween 2022, make sure you pick a style of horror, stick to it, and really dive into what makes it horrifying.
There’s gross-out body horror, Lovecraftian cosmic horror, and psychological horror to name a few. You might want to pit your party against a monstrously powerful slasher who’s terrorising the local neighbourhood. Alternatively, you could go for a more detective-style ‘whodunnit?’ where your players have to navigate a series of clues to solve a murder case.
There’s no right or wrong answer; it just depends what you and your players will vibe with the most. But make sure you choose one and do plenty of research into how to run a suspenseful session in that genre. Your players will thank you for it.
(Lovecraftian horror is always my favourite, but that’s because I like stories where nothing happens but someone thinks they understand things now. No, you’re weird. - Ed.)
6. Avoid Clichés
Ah, you’re gonna run a session with a vampire who can only be killed with a stake through the heart?... Maybe take a look at how to subvert expectations. Tons of horror tropes are widely known and going along with all of them can prevent your players from coming up with unique solutions and those crazy plans we love to listen to.
Chances are your players have already been to that haunted mansion, done that quest, and got the garlands of garlic and vampire heart postcard.
You could use the vampire’s quirks from Eastern European folklore to put a new spin on a slightly tired RPG monster. For instance, vampires were known in Eastern Europe (and China, interestingly enough) to be arithmomaniacs: they were obsessed with counting! (And yes, that’s what led Count von Count to be Sesame Street’s maths whiz…)
Why not give your party some subtle clues towards scattering millet seeds outside a house to keep the vampire occupied?
(Not that there’s anything wrong with some classic horror tropes. Especially on Halloween. As the great Ken Hite likes to say ‘a cliche isn’t a cliche when you’re inside it’ - Ed.)
7. Grab Spooky Minis
OK, we do happen to make a few suitable RPG miniatures ourselves… But, regardless, quality minis really can make the difference between a standard roleplaying evening and a stellar tabletop extravaganza.
“But, wait!” I hear you cry. “I don’t have any good minis for my Spooktacular Halloween 2022 RPG Night™.”
I think you can see where this is going…
Animal Adventures features zombies, skeletons, and other ‘orrible creatures, is perfect for cosy, family-friendly adventures.
(And if you’ve not heard of Animal Adventures, it’s our series of evocative RPG campaign settings populated by a range of adorable animals representing standard RPG classes, compelling NPCs, monsters, baddies, and more!)
So, that’s your lot! Jump onto our socials and let us know if you’ve ran spooky Halloween sessions before, and share your top tips!
Oh, and as always, have a great Halloween!
(or Samhain, for you wonderful witches, pagans, and servants of the great god, Pan! - Ed.)