Friday, March 4, 2011

Review: Haunts and Horrors

Haunts and Horrors

I love horror games. I love reading new ones, trying new ones and each time I try to do or learn something new. So it was is with great interest that I got the new “Haunts and Horrors” RPG (H+H RPG).

H+H RPG is a 126 page book. The art is predominantly public domain with some other pieces that are newer, but all are black and white. I bring this up for two reasons, first off the art is sparse which gives the book a “less than polished look” but the art is also thematically appropriate for the tone of the game. While I like newer art in a game, I think this works well for this game. The layout looks like a simple affair with clip-art borders.

H+H RPG is a fairly typical RPG, it starts out with “What is an RPG?” to Character Creation. I like the starting age effects starting XP section. It is an interesting take on how to deal with starting at different ages.

Points are given to buy attributes, skills and edges and disadvantages dependent on starting age.

Attributes are mentioned (Strength, Size, Willpower…) and then abbreviations are used (STR, SIZ, WIP) but nothing connecting the two. Granted a semi-experienced gamer could figure it out, but a novice will be scratching their head for a second or two. There are some generated secondary attributes as well, including something called “Killing Power Adjustment” which seems a bit off in a horror game; not that things don’t kill things, but often killing is not the focus, but I am fine with it. There is a section of previous experience which is interesting.

Lots of disadvantages (not sure why hay fever is worth more than partially deaf or partially blind, or why it was not just folded into Allergy). Though it does a much better job with the mental drawbacks than most games (eg it makes Multiple Personality Disorder different from Schizophrenia, a pet peeve of mine). Disadvantages are bought with points, any extra disadvantage points have to be bought off with experience points. I like that to be honest. It casts disadvantages in a different light. Instead of using disadvantages as a means to gain extra points, but rather as something that must be bought off. For a horror game it is a good model.

The skill system reminds of me a bit of Chill. Some will find this refreshingly “old school” others might find it “old” or “out moded”. I think given the atmosphere the game is trying go with I am going with “Classically oriented” and think it works fine for this game. There are a lot of skills too, which is also very old school in feel as opposed to more “cinematic” games that try to get more done with less skills.

There is a good section on Weapons which deals with a lot of standard weapons (guns, sticks, and archaic stuff).

The next section is on Psychic abilities and mention they can be bought by anyone with a high Perception, so a little different than saying buying a “psychic edge” and then buying the abilities.
The psychic abilities seem work fine and feel right here. Again, I am feeling a bit of Chill here, though the magic and psychic powers are not the same as Chill’s magic, it’s the overall vibe; more magic than Call of Cthulhu, less than C.J. Carella’s WitchCraft.

Next up is magic.
(Speaking of magic, on page 41 the formatting shifts down by an inch or so for the rest of the magic secction. Nothing is unreadable, but looks odd.)

Magic is divided up into traditions (like that) and talks about what a tradition is and how they have access to some spells, but not all (like that too). Each tradition also has various mechanical things that can happen to them via their magic, so each one does feel different than the other.

Spells are supposedly bought like Psychic abilities, but I have not found a guide anywhere in my reading.

Combat is next (odd that it is not with Weapons) along with misadventures, healing and diseases.

The chapters on creatures and their powers are next and it is full of the horror show mainstays and a few new ones. I like that there are multiple types of vampires for example.

A section on curses is also provided which would be useful for any game with curses.

All in all there are some interesting things in this game, though nothing terribly unique. I like some of the character creation options. The magic system has some neat points but not quite unique in and of itself really. My biggest issue with the game is that I expected more, and the layout is far below what I would have expected from an established game company. There are also a number distracting typos, while I normally would ignore these, but some made it difficult to understand the text.

The game itself looks like it would fun with the right mindset. There is a darker tone to it that puts it somewhere between Chill and Call of Cthulhu. Though it lacks a bit of focus; is it Victorian, is it Modern? And what do characters do in the game? The motivations of the characters are unclear too. What do they do, why are they doing it? I think this needs to be better defined.
I would have liked to see some character write-ups so we could see how characters look when done.


BlUsKrEEm said...

Anything with hints of Chill has my attention, I'll have to take a look. Your link doesn't seem to be working for me however (just leads to a blank page.)

Timothy S. Brannan said...

It reminds me of Chill, but there are enough differences. The link should be working now.

Game Master Rob Adams said...

" And what do characters do in the game? The motivations of the characters are unclear too. What do they do, why are they doing it? I think this needs to be better defined."

Sounds like they run, hide,shoot at whatever's scaring them and then die.