Welcome back, dice fondlers! We continue our march into the spooky depths of October this week with Slasher Flick, hands down the best RPG I’ve ever played for emulating the feel and pacing of a horror movie. Players control multiple characters in order to let the body count pad out to appropriate lengths. This RPG also has some interesting narrative control choices baked into it. None of this should really be a surprise, as it’s published by Spectrum Games— a company that’s built their reputation on genre emulation, be it Saturday morning cartoons or old-time radio shows. With that said, let’s start talking horror movies.
Slasher Flick: Director’s Cut Setup
One of the first things you’ll notice opening the PDF for Slasher Flick: Director’s Cut is that the first tenth of the book is geared to setting expectations. It briefly covers how RPGs work and why… if this is your first one, you should leave any baggage about “winning” or “losing” at the door. This isn’t a game about making all your characters survive through superior play; this is a game where the vast majority of characters will be brutally murdered in order to advance the plot and learn about the killer. A full ten pages are devoted to explaining horror movie tropes and suggesting both “required” and “almost required” reading/watching for those trying to make the most out of the game.
Character Mechanics: Boosts, Qualities, & Alterations
As for the game itself, the mechanics are pretty simple. There are four types of characters in Slasher Flick: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and The Killer. Players get to run both Primary and Secondary characters, while the Tertiary characters are strictly NPCs for the Director (their word for GM) to control. Primary and Secondary characters are composed of four stats (Brawn, Finesse, Brains, and Spirit) that have one of three ratings (Poor, Normal, and Good).
Characters all start with their stats at Poor, but Primary characters get four Boosts in creation that can raise a stat one level at a time. Secondary characters only get three Boosts. Primary characters also gain four positive Qualities. These Qualities are keywords that let us know what the character’s specialties are. Secondary characters only get three of these. Finally, both Primary and Secondary characters have to create a Negative Quality, something that is a downfall of theirs. The rules recommend that each player create both a Primary and Secondary character. Now, these Secondary characters can be pooled together so that any player may use them in a scene (helping spread around roleplay and spotlight time!) or they can be explicitly paired with each player. This is purely a choice for the players at the table and doesn’t affect game mechanics.
How does all this mesh together? Well, this game uses 10-sided, 8-sided, and 6-sided dice. When your character performs an action, you roll four dice and the player looks for matches. The better the stat rating, the smaller the die you roll. For instance, Poor stats roll the d10, while Good stats roll the d6, allowing for your best stats to have higher rates of matches. Qualities come into play by adding or subtracting a die when they are relevant. If you decided to have a Negative Quality called “Scared of the Dark,” Spirit rolls to avoid freaking (have one die less when in dark places). However, if you’re running from the Killer and have the Quality “Track and Field Superstar,” you get an extra die to work with.
Next, characters receive Alterations, or special abilities that can be activated with Genre points. Primary characters receive two where Secondary characters typically receive one. There are special rules for games where each player runs multiple Secondary characters, but we’ll not get into that here.
Action! And Cut!
Slasher Flick plays quite loose from here, with the Director setting scenes for the players, and awarding them “Genre Points” for behaving like characters in a horror movie. Once the Director isolates a character, they can start enacting Kill Scenes. During a Kill Scene, the Killer comes after the featured character who struggles to survive. Depending on their success and failures, the character accumulates Survival Points until they either reach 8 points or drop below 0. If they reach 8 points, they somehow evade the Killer for now and the scene ends. If they fall below 0… well, everyone else is one step closer to facing the Killer.
What’s that, I hear you asking? Why does it move them all one step closer? Well, in classic slasher movies, it was rare for anyone beyond “The Final Girl” to survive (There’s actually a game specifically called The Final Girl, but I digress.). In Slasher Flick, in order for the Killer to become Exerted, the state where they can be killed once and for all, the number of player controlled characters has to drop to 2 or less. Any higher than that and damage is not only nearly impossible to inflict, but only temporary success can be gained. To end the movie, the cast must have been sufficiently whittled down.
Once the body count has risen high enough, players will be able to specifically choose to attack the Killer in a Kill Scene, inflicting damage with matching dice. Once the damage spikes over the Killer’s Damage Threshold, they’re down for good… or at least until the sequel.
All in all, Slasher Flick is an extraordinarily easy game to learn and a fantastic option for Halloween one-shots. Watch a couple of horror movies, put on some creepy music, and dive into the world of Slasher Flick. With that my gorey dicehounds, I leave you. Come by next week for yet another Spooktober recommendation. Until then, of course…