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Haunts and Horrors 2nd Edition $10.00 $8.00
Average Rating:4.0 / 5
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Haunts and Horrors 2nd Edition
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Haunts and Horrors 2nd Edition
Publisher: Gethsemane Games
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2011 19:56:13

Okay let me just say right from the start, I am now a Gethsemane Games sqeeing fan girl.  This game is now my favourite RPG of all time, even over their fantasy game Spelldancer.  A lot of work has gone into researching the mythology of the creatures and the magical traditions in the game.

Character generation is very similar to Spelldancer (pretty much the same but with more skills available).  The older your character is when you start the more experience points they start with – you use these to buy or improve skills, spells or psychic powers.  Be careful though, ‘cos the older you are the more disadvantage points you have and you have to buy them off by either taking disadvantages or sacrificing experience. Psychic powers are new – they didn’t appear in Spelldancer but are a must for a Horror Game.  The magic system is all new too.  Gone are the Arcaniums and the flashy magic of the Fantasy game.  This magic system “feels” more like a horror games magic system should. Practitioners of magic much select a tradition that dictates what spells they can and can’t learn.  Each tradition has spells they specialise in – which are the easiest to learn and cast, “neutral” spells which the practitioners of the tradition can use but it cost more to learn them and you will not be as efficient, and excluded spells, which practitioners of that tradition can never learn.  Spells aren’t the only things that mark out the traditions either. There are other things that make them all feel different from each other.  The 3 fold law of the new way wiccans or the way Zoroastrian magi lose willpower for performing “Druj” (evil) actions with their magic.

The curses are neat too but are lifted directly from Spelldancer.  The diseases section is great, and with so many creatures that can infect you it is very important.

The monsters are a mix of classic Horror beasties and some more obscure ones, but everything is taken from real world folklore and mythology.  On the besties, the “preturnatural abilities” gives them a range of supernatural powers that humans can’t learn.

Ghosts are very well handled as well, with fettered and unfettered ghosts, be careful not to destroy a ghosts fetter till you are sure that is the right way to destroy the ghost, ‘cos they get a lot more dangerous if you accidentally unfettered one – that just lifts it’s limitations!

I love how flexible the game is and the way you can set it in any historical period – although most of the art and the examples are Victorian.

Again, the layout is noting special but this makes it far easier on the printer ink, although I could have done without the full page picture of the vampire at the end of the vampire section which will just use printer ink I didn’t need to use.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Haunts and Horrors 2nd Edition
Publisher: Gethsemane Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/04/2011 13:25:37

I love horror games. I love reading new ones, trying new ones and each time I try to do or learn something new. So it was is with great interest that I got the new “Haunts and Horrors” RPG (H+H RPG).

H+H RPG is a 126 page book. The art is predominantly public domain with some other pieces that are newer, but all are black and white. I bring this up for two reasons, first off the art is sparse which gives the book a “less than polished look” but the art is also thematically appropriate for the tone of the game. While I like newer art in a game, I think this works well for this game. The layout looks like a simple affair with clip-art borders.

H+H RPG is a fairly typical RPG, it starts out with “What is an RPG?” to Character Creation. I like the starting age effects starting XP section. It is an interesting take on how to deal with starting at different ages.

Points are given to buy attributes, skills and edges and disadvantages dependent on starting age.

Attributes are mentioned (Strength, Size, Willpower…) and then abbreviations are used (STR, SIZ, WIP) but nothing connecting the two. Granted a semi-experienced gamer could figure it out, but a novice will be scratching their head for a second or two. There are some generated secondary attributes as well, including something called “Killing Power Adjustment” which seems a bit off in a horror game; not that things don’t kill things, but often killing is not the focus, but I am fine with it. There is a section of previous experience which is interesting.

Lots of disadvantages (not sure why hay fever is worth more than partially deaf or partially blind, or why it was not just folded into Allergy). Though it does a much better job with the mental drawbacks than most games (eg it makes Multiple Personality Disorder different from Schizophrenia, a pet peeve of mine). Disadvantages are bought with points, any extra disadvantage points have to be bought off with experience points. I like that to be honest. It casts disadvantages in a different light. Instead of using disadvantages as a means to gain extra points, but rather as something that must be bought off. For a horror game it is a good model.

The skill system reminds of me a bit of Chill. Some will find this refreshingly “old school” others might find it “old” or “out moded”. I think given the atmosphere the game is trying go with I am going with “Classically oriented” and think it works fine for this game. There are a lot of skills too, which is also very old school in feel as opposed to more “cinematic” games that try to get more done with less skills.

There is a good section on Weapons which deals with a lot of standard weapons (guns, sticks, and archaic stuff).

The next section is on Psychic abilities and mention they can be bought by anyone with a high Perception, so a little different than saying buying a “psychic edge” and then buying the abilities. The psychic abilities seem work fine and feel right here. Again, I am feeling a bit of Chill here, though the magic and psychic powers are not the same as Chill’s magic, it’s the overall vibe; more magic than Call of Cthulhu, less than C.J. Carella’s WitchCraft.

Next up is magic. (Speaking of magic, on page 41 the formatting shifts down by an inch or so for the rest of the magic secction. Nothing is unreadable, but looks odd.)

Magic is divided up into traditions (like that) and talks about what a tradition is and how they have access to some spells, but not all (like that too). Each tradition also has various mechanical things that can happen to them via their magic, so each one does feel different than the other.

Spells are supposedly bought like Psychic abilities, but I have not found a guide anywhere in my reading.

Combat is next (odd that it is not with Weapons) along with misadventures, healing and diseases.

The chapters on creatures and their powers are next and it is full of the horror show mainstays and a few new ones. I like that there are multiple types of vampires for example.

A section on curses is also provided which would be useful for any game with curses.

All in all there are some interesting things in this game, though nothing terribly unique. I like some of the character creation options. The magic system has some neat points but not quite unique in and of itself really. My biggest issue with the game is that I expected more, and the layout is far below what I would have expected from an established game company. There are also a number distracting typos, while I normally would ignore these, but some made it difficult to understand the text.

The game itself looks like it would fun with the right mindset. There is a darker tone to it that puts it somewhere between Chill and Call of Cthulhu. Though it lacks a bit of focus; is it Victorian, is it Modern? And what do characters do in the game? The motivations of the characters are unclear too. What do they do, why are they doing it? I think this needs to be better defined.

I would have liked to see some character write-ups so we could see how characters look when done.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thank you Timothy for your forth-rite review. We have taken on board your comments and have updated the product to clarify the stat abbreviations and address the layout problem that was causing the drop effect you mentioned. This issue has now been resolved. The cost of buying spells is mentioned under the magic introduction, which was on pg 41 I believe of your original version but which is now on pg 44 as some material has been added to the book. In order to make it less likely that this can be missed we have also added mention of it to the character generation section along with some notes on character motivations and some ideas of what characters may be doing becoming involved with the horrors and why, as per your suggestion. We have intentionally create the game to allow players to set it in any time period they please although I must admit, my own Victorian period bias does show in the examples :)
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