Slasher Flick is a rules-light roleplaying game meant to emulate this horror film subgenre. The Director’s Cut is a nicely formatted version of the original rulebook, with some bonus material.
The rulebook is 170 pages and a pretty quick read, with good writing and organization. There’s occasional almost cartoonish art and lots of sidebars giving hints and rules advice. The pdf is not bookmarked, and there is a smattering of typos throughout.
The system is very streamlined and meant for fast play. Each character has four attributes (Brawn, Finesse, Brains, and Spirit) associated with a die size (d6, d8, d10). Task resolution requires rolling four of the appropriate dice; success requires matching numbers. Characters also have qualities that grant or take away situational extra dice, and the GM can also add/remove dice based on the task’s difficulty.
There are several innovative mechanics to emulate the slasher genre. First, players have both primary and secondary characters. The latter are less developed and die early and often. Second, players get “genre points” when their characters do something appropriate to the slasher flick genre – including death. These act like action points in other games.
Third, the killer is not treated as a normal character but more as an element of the story. He (or she) has no attributes. Each player’s goal is to accumulate 8 survival points during a “kill scene” by making appropriate checks – fall to zero and the character dies. A killer is very difficult to defeat, and the expectation that only one or two characters will survive is literally built into the game.
The rules are very brief, so there’s lots of additional material, including an enjoyable analysis of the tropes and plots of slasher flicks. There’s very useful advice for convincing players to go along with the genre and a long section for GMs on creating and running stories. There is a complete adventure (although I found it a confusing one). Finally, the Appendix presents a host of character templates – like “Brash Punk Rocker” and “Curious Archaeologist” – that are ready to use out of the box.
The creators of Slasher Flick set themselves a difficult task, to emulate a genre in which almost all the characters are meant to do stupid things and die. There are a lot of clever ideas in here for making it work. Nevertheless, the game forces you to stick pretty close to the tropes in a somewhat heavy-handed way, and there’s a bit of a sense of railroading there.
Overall, I think the unusual mechanics and structure would be fun for a one shot or two (especially a campy one), but – like the films themselves, at least to me – there’s little room for variation in the plots, so it wouldn’t sustain a long-term game. I did especially enjoy the advice and analysis of slasher flicks, so it is definitely a good read.
Note: I received a free review copy (in pdf form) of this title through DriveThruRPG.com.
[4 of 5 Stars!]