Escape from Innsmouth
Image courtesy Morguefile

Horror Games

In the literature that inspired role playing games, the heroes usually succeeded against insurmountable odds. While D&D and its successors may have had high death rates, there was an expectation of eventual success, and if a character could gain enough experience points, he or she could be nigh-unstoppable save by the mightiest of foes. But horror liturature was built around a different kind of protagonist: one who was aware that failure was more likely than success, and long-term survival was almost impossible. For horror to work, the hero was expected to be far weaker than his opponents, and this contradicted the heroic role playing paradigm.

Sandy Peterson's Call of Cthulhu game changed that. His brilliant Sanity mechanic gave players a way to have fun while their characters suffered and were gradually driven mad. A number of games were written about stalwart investigators poking into Things We Were Better Off Not Knowing. The White Wolf game company eventually created an entirely new line of role playing, involving horror, alienation, and pathos. Horror has become an important thread in role playing, and there are many groundbreaking games to remember.

White Wolf occupies a special niche in horror roleplaying, with their World of Darkness line. Players took the role of supernatural beings in the World of Darkness, struggling at least as much with their internal conflicts as against their overwhelming foes. We have a respectable number of their second edition releases, all found in our World of Darkness special collection .

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Call of Cthulhu

Call of Cthulhu, 1st edition (1981)

The first and classic horror RPG, exploring the fiction of HP Lovecraft.


Chill (1984)

A basic game for facing vampires, mummies, and werewolves. Excellent for beginners.


Ghostbusters (1986)

Comedic horror. A perfect mixture of rules and setting.


Bureau 13 (1992)

Supernatural investigation with super-detailed rules.

Little Fears

Little Fears (2001)

The bogeyman is real and nothing to laugh at.

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Last revised September 5, 2011.