Welcome back, dice fondlers! It’s the first Friday of October, so that means it’s time to start getting spooky with it. I don’t think there’s any better way to get started with our fear-filled month than with Little Fears: Nightmare Edition. So, check under your bed and in your closet, we’ve got a boogeyman to watch out for.
Little Fears: Nightmare Edition
Little Fears: Nightmare Edition is a game where the players take on the roles of children dealing with the horrors that only they can see. These monsters come from a place of pure nightmare, the boogeyman’s kingdom: Closetland. Make no mistake, the monsters in Little Fears are very real to the children of the world. Even though adults have lost the ability to believe in and see them, the beasties are responsible for creaking floors, breaking toys, and putting all the blame on the children. They’re also the reason why children who walk alone go missing— either abducted to Closetland or swallowed whole. The players are those kids who have decided to fight back and deal with the terrors that live in their neighborhood.
The Dreaded Game Setup
For this game, you’ll need d6s and a pile of tokens. The book recommends ten tokens per player and a stack for the GM as well. Players will pick a relevant Ability (Move, Speak, Fight, Think, and Care) and a relevant Quality (useful descriptors) and roll as many dice as the two added together. The player picks three dice and adds them together to see how successful you are. Success and failure are measured not only by a target number but by how far above or below the number you end up. Keeping in theme, situations where you roll dice are named after dreaded schoolwork— Quizzes for basic contests, Tests for opposed dice rolls, Exams for sustained rolls. Your children characters have four Health Levels: I Feel Fine, I Feel Sore, I Feel Hurt, and I Feel Cold. There’s a definite death spiral here as kids that are injured take a -2 at Sore, -4 at Hurt, -6 at Cold. Characters can absolutely die in-game – but players have the choice as to whether they are literally dead or if they are simply removed from play by, say, a monster’s bite turning them into a monster themselves, or them being changed into one of the strange butterflies in the sickly meadows of Closetland.
Children & Belief: Game Mechanics
One of the most interesting mechanics in Little Fears: Nightmare Edition is the Belief mechanic. It allows you to aid yourself or others by Believing In Them, but far more interestingly, Belief lets your character perform Rituals (like saying prayers or making a ring of salt or singing a song to their teddy bear), lets you define a monster’s Weaknesses, and, finally, lets you Destroy monsters for good. On the flip side, your character also has Spirit and a Fear. The more Afraid they get and the more weakened Spirit gets, they begin taking penalties for each of their Abilities as they become (in order) Mean, Weak, Lazy, Quiet, and Confused.
A Chilling Atmosphere
Where the first half of the book is primarily mechanics for choosing relevant Qualities (such as I Am Cute), and relevant Fears, the back half of the book is all wonderful world-building. Closetland truly is a land distilled of the fears of little children and is a terrific read. While I don’t want to spoil all the unnerving bits that players can stumble upon, one of my favorite world-building bits is a group in the real world that provides aid to the characters— The Army of St. Nicholas. The Army of St. Nicholas, known collectively as Nicks, are adults who still have that tiny spark of Belief in them. The Nicks remember the monsters that also pursued them as children and do what they can to provide support to the children who waging a war against the monsters the Nicks literally cannot fight anymore. Another wonderful support character is the Blue Angel. Unlike monsters who are brought to life by children’s Belief in their fear, the Blue Angel is Hope and Love made manifest. It has attempted to do battle with monsters on the children’s behalf, sometimes nearly being destroyed itself, and only saved by the further Belief of the children it was helping.
With Halloween coming soon, I definitely recommend taking a look at this game for expanding your spooky options. If you’re interested in Little Fears: Nightmare Edition, you can pick it up at Drive Thru RPG. With that, I shall leave you, promising to return next week with more spooky offerings. Until then, remember to…