A Haunted Night was created out of a challenge to myself. I wanted to see if I could create a complete RPG and have the rules fit on one side of a standard sheet of paper. This means that the rules have to be easily explained, the conflict resolution needs to be simple, and above all that it has to grab and keep the audience’s attention in the first few sentences. There is not any room to waste on the usual extraneous text that goes into flavor or explanations.
I had been toying with some game ideas, most of them stemming from watching several J-Horror movies and the tropes. However, these were heading in the usual directions I took things at that time; Complex. The actual idea of forcing myself to pare back the complexity came from a contest hosted on The Forge, something I had recently joined. So I set the goal of trying to get the idea and the rules of the game down to a single page.
The big idea I had was to turn the tables on the usual ghost story. Instead of being the living trying to remove the haunting spirits, the players would be the haunting spirits and trying to bring horror to the living. In order to keep things simple, the main mechanic would revolve around the idea that the more scared the living, the more powerful the spirits. This came from observing that in many J-Horror movies, the ghosts or whatever don’t have the much power until the people they are trying to get at acknowledge them.
I then had to figure out how the players would carry out the haunting, their abilities and powers. I was able to come up with four or five pretty quickly. Pretty standard tropes that haunting spirits have: Possession, Illusion, Manifestation, Animation, and Silence. But these did not seem to be enough. I wanted to have a total of six and spent a few days trying to come up with the final one, Telekinesis. Players select three of these for their spirits and assign point values. The final part to spirits are a reason for haunting. I put three in the game and the player has to choose one and has to personalize it for their spirit.
The other side of the equation, Victims, are played by the GM. Like spirits they get to have a set of abilities, but these are better referred to as beliefs. These are Faith, Science, and Superstition. Each of these beliefs are what is used by the GM to disbelieve in the actions of the spirits and get a set of points put between them just as Spirits get with their own powers. Victims also have a Horror Meter that is how scared they currently are and a Flight Score, which is how scared they have to get before trying to get away. Both of these should be hidden from the Spirits, making the Victims a bit of a black box. Fear goes in and it is possible that Fear Points come out.
In an effort to break the open ended nature of most games, A Haunted Night comes with a victory condition. As soon as the Spirits have either scared off or killed all of the victims, the game is over. So it is not a victory in as much as a single player wins the session, but that the Spirits have exacted some measure of vengeance or have been able to spread their message of whatever to the living world.
To date I have gotten exactly one shot at running a session for people. It was fun and pointed out a couple of problems. The first was that I was running it for eight people. Charitably, I could call it chaotic. It was not easy giving everyone a chance to haunt and have fun. We played only the one situation I had set up, I was kinda stoked by how quickly my friends caught on to the idea and got in to it.
So, here you go, a chance to look it over and tell me what you think.
A Haunted Night
A Haunted Night by Matthew Parmeter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.