I will admit it, I am a big fan of Spectrum Games. I think they are one of best at genre emulation, really getting down to the essence of what makes the experience and trying to encapsulate that into a game.
As examples I will point to the reviews I did of Cartoon Action Hour and Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul. Given that it is the month of Halloween and I am all about horror movies, I think a review of Slasher Flick is appropriate.
I am actually going to review the Director's Cut which came out a while back. I know, I am quite remiss at reviewing this. There is also a regular version, Slasher Flick, which I have, but have not looked at in a while.
What is Slasher Flick: Director's Cut? Well simply put, it is an RPG where you play characters (emphasis on the plural) in a slasher film. You need to survive, but are expected to die.
Chapter 1 is our Introduction. It covers what is role-playing, what is fear, and what is a slasher flick and why you should play this game.
Chapter 2 covers the basics of Slasher Films. If you have ever read onr of Spectrum Games books before you know what you are getting here. In this book we cover the Killer, who is not really an NPC, but a plot device. I refer to these types of characters as "fists of the game master", they are here to punish the behavior of the characters in the most horrific way possible. The more horrific the better. There is a listing of a bunch of slasher film cliches as well. In this game you don't subvert the cliche (which is by the way cliche itself now) but instead you embrace them. That noise you hear was just a cat, THEN the killer jumps out. That sort of thing.
We wrap up with one of my favorite parts of all the Spectrum Games books. Cynthia's Guide to...this time it is here thoughts on various Slasher Flicks. All sorts are listed here and what she thought about them. Frankly this gold if you love horror movies like I do. Between this, CAH and CCVF I would love to see Cynthia Celeste Miller's video collection!
Chapter 3 is the rules. There are a couple of really cool features here. First are characters. You get to play a Primary Character, aka the starts of the "Flick" (an adventure) and some Secondary Characters. These characters can either be played by a particular player OR (and this is nice) they can be shared. So I can have my Primary character and then play what Secondary character I need.
Secondary Characters are here to get killed. They are the victims of our Slasher. Primary Characters might get killed too. But if they do it won't be till near the end. So don't get too attached to characters!
The characters have 4 basic stats. from the book:
Brawn: The character’s physical strength, resilience, toughness and
Finesse: The character’s agility, coordination, balance and reflexes.
Brains: The character’s intelligence, perception and knowledge.
Spirit: The character’s willpower, charisma, leadership and luck.
These define what you can do in most cases. They are all rated Poor, Normal or Good. Remember, you are playing teens and college age people here. Each of these are given a die type d10, d8 and d6 respectively. You roll two die per stat being tested (the director decides which two). You want pairs. so on two d6s (representing Good on a stat) you need (1,1)(2,2)(3,3)(4,4)(5,5) or (6,6) or 6 results out of a total of 36, or 1 in 6. Roll a (6,6) on a d6 is the same as doing it on a d8 or d10, but some scenes in the Flick might require something special and rolling a "Topper" will be better.
You also have various qualities (positive or negative) you can add to these, like “scrappy fighter” (Brawn) or "great with gadgets (Brains)". These can add (or subtract) die from your rolls. You still only need two matches to get a success.
Special situations such as "Freak Outs" and "Kill Scenes" are detailed. Note, not much really on combat or other skills. This because the characters are expected to run when confronted with the Killer/Slasher.
Chapter 4 Covers Creating Characters. Characters are built using stereotypes. This is a Slasher Flick after all. You are not playing Biff, the guy with a d6 in Brawn and a d10 in Brains, you are Biff, the Dumb Jock. Now lots of stereotypes are presented and a lot of Qualities. But you are free to make up your own. There are also some "Alterations" such as special abilities that can cost Genre Points. Like the girl with psychic powers (cost) or the Scream Queen which gives you points when you scream and the Slasher could hear it.
Chapter 5 is aimed at the Players. This includes advice on how to best play the game and acting like a character in a horror movie. Things like "Interact!", "Play Dumb!", "Accept Death!". There is also advice on how to play the secondary characters aka victims in the game.
Chapter 6 is for the Director. This details running the game; Preparing the Flick and making your Killer. There are sample Killers here and lots and lots of advice on how to cover a variety of scenes. In fact this chapter alone is great for it's utlity for other horror-themed games.
Chapter 7 is Quick Flicks, a bunch of Plot ideas to build a full Flick around.
Chapter 8 is The Vault, a full Flick to run.
In truth both chapters could be ported over to nearly any other horror game. Turn the killer into a Villain and it could be a plot for a Supers game.
The Appendix is nearly 55 pages of nothing but character Archetypes. Usually 2 per page. If you want to play right away you can take one of these out and use them. They work for Secondary Characters too.
All in all, this is a ridiculously fun game. It has the right amount of horror, camp and humor to be a perfect slasher flick emulation. While reading I kept thinking back to all the slasher flicks I have seen over the years and frankly I could not think of a one that I couldn't do with these rules.
Actually my thought also was that take the Slasher, make him more mundane and a Tertiary Character and you have a perfect Alfred Hitchcock or Agatha Christie like game.
My hat is off to Cynthia Celeste Miller and Spectrum Games once again.