It’s the most wonderful time of the year – a time of ghosts and goblins and all things spooky! Halloween is the perfect time for pulling out a new horror game, but if you’re in the middle of a non-horror campaign, there’s still room to get in the spirit of the season. Here are five monsters that will give your players a scare no matter the setting.
1. Giant creatures
What’s scarier than an alligator, a snake, or a centipede? A GIANT alligator, snake, or centipede! While the adventurers in the Hollow Earth should have known better than to wander into a dark cave, they didn’t know the danger lurking within was a giant centipede with armored plating. Giant creatures are a great way to not only creep out your players, but keep the characters on edge. A giant creature will act differently from a true monster – most creatures will run away when the fight gets too tough. They’re just enough to bloody the noses of your party, and perhaps give them a false sense of security, thinking they’ve already faced the most dangerous part of the dungeon.
2. Urban legends
Hook hand. Stolen kidneys. Razors in the Halloween candy. Think of the scary stories that spread like wildfire through the playground when you were a kid, and bring them into your game. If you’re playing any kind of contemporary setting, it’s easy to port these in with only minor changes, but if you’re playing a long time ago and/or in a galaxy far, far away getting your kidney removed after a night of drinking might just be par for the course (Warhammer 40K, I’m looking at you). Weave something terrifying and slightly improbable into the landscape of whatever locale you’re playing in. What happens when the heroes report they’re being menaced by a masked psychopath only to have everyone discount their stories as wild imaginations? You can also take a page out of this week’s Sleepy Hollow, and have the truth behind the urban legend hit terrifyingly close to home – maybe a baddie from the party’s past has resurfaced and is doing her best to terrify the party by taking on a familiar but spooky guise.
3. Blast from the past
Why do we go see endless horror movie sequels? Because (at least the first few times), it’s terrifying to see how resilient Freddie, Jason, or the Aliens are. The rules of genre television have taught us that any time you don’t see a body on screen, the odds are the person isn’t dead. Horror takes it a step further and even if we see a dead body, they can still come back. Halloween is the perfect time to bring back a recurring villain – or turn a former one-time baddie into a recurring character. Fandible players and listeners alike loved the return of the Ink Monster, after all.
4. Misunderstood evil
A villain can often be evil for obvious reasons (a tortured past, a horrific trauma, not hugged enough as a child) or for no reason at all (See: Most slasher films). But what about someone who appears terrifyingly evil, only to be no such thing at all? Give your players the scare they crave at this time of year, but end with a gut punch of pathos. Think of a mama grizzly bear – she’s terrifying until you realize she’s just protecting her cubs (okay, even then she’s terrifying, but you understand where it’s coming from). Maybe an uncooperative witness in the middle of a killing field is just a senile old man in the wrong place. Maybe Norman Bates’ mother isn’t quite dead yet, and he’s just trying to protect her. Or the monster just has a paw stuck in a trap, and will become your snuggly dire-beast pet as soon as you free her, rather than cut off her head.
5. Mindless Hordes
The opposite advice from what started this article: don’t go big, go small. And make a lot of ‘em. Zombies, wildebeest, or bugs are run-of-the-mill obstacles one on one, but if there are hundreds of them, even the most well-equipped party is going to be at a disadvantage. Whether your system has rules for mass fighting or not, you can still have your party face off against a horde that may not be evil, per se, but is terrifying by sheer numbers. This may not be a fight the party can win, forcing the players to think outside of the default combat box in order to escape with their lives, or their sanity, intact.
Check out Fandible’s Horror section for more examples of horrific monsters to use to terrorize your party, as well as the horror tag here on the blog for other tips on making your campaigns truly scary. What terrifying plots are you hatching for your group this month?
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