Happy “last GURPSDay before Halloween,” GURPS ghouls!
In honor, today’s post outlines a simple system for generating a random horror game for you to GM off-the-cuff. This is not going to provide you with pre-gen characters, maps, and a detailed background. Instead, it’s going to give you the most basic of adventure skeletons that answers the questions Who, What, When, Where, and Why, which you can then (hopefully) use to run a short but entertaining game. It’s for those times when you’re just looking to kill an hour or two with some gamer buddies.
So, I think the bare minimum I can get by with as far as adventure elements go is knowing Where and When the adventure takes place, and Why the PCs get involved; Who the PCs are; and What stands against them (the phrasing here is kind of stretching it — really, it’s “Who is the Villain?”).
To generate the first element, roll a single d6 and consult the table below.
WHERE does the adventure take place? WHY are the PCs involved?
- A haunted house on the outskirts of town. Because they will receive a valuable reward if they can rid the house of evil.
- A remote burial ground. Because the Villain attempts to abduct or kill them.
- A small town that doesn’t appear on any map. Because they need to rest and resupply if they want to make their deadline.
- A deserted ship. Because they need to get it repaired and underway before the Villain arrives.
- A temple to a dark god. Because they need to prevent a monster being summoned.
- A pocket Hell dimension full of demons. Because they must work together to escape.
As for the When, the above are intended to be generic enough that the GM can set them in any time period that sounds fun, so they can be tweaked even further. For example, “A small town…” could be a village in Feudal Japan, a town in Medieval France, a small moon base in the year 2150, whatever. If you really want to be random, make an extra roll on the chart below.
WHEN does the adventure take place?
- The Ice Age.
- Medieval period.
- Golden Age of Piracy.
- Old West.
- Modern Day.
- Future/Science Fiction.
Now that you have a setting, it’s time to find out who the characters are. For actually creating the PCs, I would suggest Quick-Start Character Creation or something even simpler, so you can get up and running as soon as possible!
WHO are the PCs?
- Everyday folks just going about their day, like a Delivery Person, Homemaker, Cashier, Homeless Drifter, Food Vendor, etc.
- Neighborhood children dressed up in a variety of Halloween costumes, like a Witch, Ghost, Ballerina, Spider-Man, Pirate, etc.
- Members of a gang, like the Leader, Second-in-Command, Bruiser, Medic, Psycho, etc.
- Monster hunter squad, like the Leader, Second-in-Command, Wizard, Medic, Metahuman, etc.
- Non-humans with human intelligence, like a Dog, Bird, Robot, Alien, Truck, etc.
- Severely broken/evil people, like a Serial Killer, Escaped Felon, Drug Dealer, Addict, Vigilante, etc.
And, finally, the heroes need a Villain to oppose.
WHAT stands against the PCs?
- A rival group that mirrors the PCs’ own.
- Well-funded and well-trained mercenaries.
- An immortal with only one real weakness.
- A monster/alien.
- Non-humans with human intelligence.
- Wicked, murderous demons.
That’s it! That’s as much as these charts are going to provide. Hopefully, it’s enough to give your imagination and creativity a poke if you find yourself needing a quick horror game.
For example, if you roll a 1, a 5, and a 2, you get:
“A haunted house on the outskirts of town. Because they will receive a valuable reward if they can rid the house of evil” for the setting, “Non-humans with human intelligence” for the PCs, and “Well-funded and well-trained mercenaries” for the Villains. Throwing that in the mental blender could yield…
- A fantasy game where the PCs are magically intelligent animal familiars of the local wizards. They explore the haunted house outside of town to collect the long-standing bounty, only to discover it isn’t “haunted” at all but rather being used as a base by an advance squad from an enemy kingdom.
- A modern era game where the PCs are woodland spirits, tasked by their elders with investigating the nearby haunted house, only to discover it is being purposely haunted by spirits from the Fey Council seeking to drive away the local humans.
- A near-future game where the PCs are governmental robots, tasked with investigating the “haunted house” to prove or disprove the existence of the supernatural, only to discover a wizard assembling his own small army of “magical robots” (golems) inside.
If you roll a 3, a 1, and a 4, you get:
“A small town that doesn’t appear on any map. Because they need to rest and resupply if they want to make their deadline” for the setting, “Everyday folks just going about their day” for the PCs, and “A monster/alien” for the Villain. You could bend this as…
- An Old West game where the PCs are a small railroad scouting crew that stumbles upon an unknown town as their supplies dwindle. Searching for supplies, they discover all of the original inhabitants are now good ol’ brain-eating zombies.
- A modern era game where the PCs are a group of ordinary friends out for a drive. They become lost and isolated, eventually running out of gas in a deserted town that is the lair of a vampire and his minions.
- A far-future game where the PCs are a group of terraformers on a distant planet. They discover a previous settlement that should not be there, and inadvertently release the powerful alien that wiped it out.
And, if you hadn’t noticed, if you roll 6, 6, 6, you get:
“A pocket Hell dimension full of demons. Because they must work together to escape” for the setting, “Severely broken/evil people” for the PCs, and “Wicked, murderous demons” for the Villains. The PCs could each be from very different times and places, with one thing in common — they are evil, they are in Hell, and they want to escape!
Of course, you can modify/expand the tables to include elements that you enjoy instead of things I enjoy, but this is a nice little framework to give your brain a kick if it needs it.
Have a fun Halloween! If you run any horror games for the holiday, using these tables or anything else, I’d love to hear how it went.
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