Hauntings & Households

If you follow both my professional career and my personal history as a tabletop gamer you’ll see a couple of clear trends: I love traditional fantasy gaming (i.e. Dungeons & Dragons), I adore horror as a genre, and sometimes I just want to make people laugh. Larry Elmore’s SnarfQuest comic took a D&D-style setup and threw in ridiculous situations, bizarre characters, and slapstick comedy—making it a true labor of love for me to translate the comic into game form so folks could re-create those kinds of laughs at the table.

SnarfQuest RPG Worldbook

Yes, Snarf came WAY before Jar-Jar Binks

Approximately a gajillion years ago I grabbed the original Ghostbusters RPG—a “Frightfully Cheerful Roleplaying Game”—the moment it hit our local game store and ran it infrequently for several years. Not only do I still have my Ghost Die (a d6 with the iconic logo on one face) but some of the jokes and ideas drifted later into the Demon Hunters RPG. Ghostbusters featured fast character creation, simple game mechanics, and taught me an improvisational style that requires very little in the way of prep.

Ghostbusters RPG

Bustin’ makes me feel good!

At Gen Con 1994 I had the chance to play the Tabloid RPG from TSR with David “Zeb” Cook, another game that blended supernatural weirdness with comedy. Character creation was almost as much fun as actual play, game mechanics were dirt-simple, and the Gen Con session ended with my character strapped in a crop-duster biplane wearing a Big Bird costume while the pilot was lost in a raving Vietnam flashback.

Tabloid RPG

Death was only likely if it made for a good story.

I’m itching to create a game that carries on this glorious tradition, and my mission is clear:

  1. Blend the horror and comedy genres.
  2. Make character creation fun and build-in easy roleplaying hooks.
  3. Simple game mechanics so players can jump right in and make it easy for the Game Master to improvise.

My notion is to make a game about amateur paranormal investigators, the folks who check out local hauntings and strange rumors, out to prove the existence of ghosts and poltergeists. But our “heroes” are not scientists or adventurers, they are ordinary folks with a strange hobby. They have day jobs, families, and possibly parole officers. And each have their own reasons for being with the group, whether it’s obsession with life-after-death, avoidance of an unhappy home life, or carrying a secret torch for another member.

The game engine driving this payload will be System 26™, the rules first seen in Metamorphosis Alpha 5th Edition. But whereas MA was the “crunchy” version, this new game will feature uncomplicated characters and streamlined rules. I’d like to be able to comfortably fit characters onto a 3” x 5” index card. If you’d like an intro the core concepts of System 26 I wrote a blog about it or you can check out the Metamorphosis Alpha basic rules for free.

I have no final title for this game yet, but Hauntings & Households is the one that keeps sticking in my brain. I’m open to suggestions!

Hauntings & Households - Design Notes

Notes from my brain and pen.

This game is currently a side-project, something I’m going to build over time before I even consider putting it on a production schedule. It’s one of the things supported by the wonderful people who contribute on Patreon, a platform that allows you to directly support creators whose work you enjoy. If I make stuff that you like, I’d certainly appreciate your patronage. If even half of my Facebook friends contributed only one dollar per month, it could quite literally change my life. Those who participate via Patreon will get early access to the game in development and a chance to participate in early playtests, along with other opportunities  that will open up later!

If you’d rather wait and simply check out the final product when it’s done, that’s understandable and completely cool. I couldn’t be more grateful for my customers, players of my games, and fans of my work. You make it possible to make games and tell stories for a living, and for that you rock.

Happy Halloween! I hope the rest of your month is filled with safe scares and gut-busting laughter.

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Images above are believed to be used under ‘fair use’ as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law, and will be removed at the request of the copyright holder.

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