Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Risky Business

Posted: May 28, 2010 in Dead of Night, design

With Dead of Night’s release just around the corner – it’ll be on sale at Games Expo on the 5th-6th June, and then available from me on the 7th – you’ll be able to read all about the new changes for yourself soon enough. I’ve saved talking about probably the biggest rules change until last, however – the introduction of Risk Checks.

In 1st edition, the only way to lose a Survival Point was by losing a combat check – i.e. failing an Assault or Protect check. This worked nicely, making combat nasty for both PCs and monsters. But, it didn’t entirely play to genre. After all, in the middle of a slasher movie you shouldn’t have to tool up to take on the big bad. Similarly, it ensured that Survival Point loss was fairly unsubtle, ignoring all the other ways characters can come to a sticky end that isn’t necessarily through being eaten.



Amongst the subtle tweaks to the rules, one of the things I wanted to change was how monsters worked to reflect how I’ve been using them in my game. In 1st edition, monsters were built like any other character, except you could buy monstrous specialisations – special powers, essentially, that bent the rules slightly – at the cost of a Survival Point each. Some of these monstrous specialisations needed a Survival Point to be spent to use them too. These two rules compounded and tended to mean that monsters with lots of cool powers didn’t last long, as they had either given up their Survival Points at creation or had to burn through Survival Points to use their powers.

In 2nd edition I’ve disconnected a monster’s pool of Survival Points from their powers, meaning that when creating a monster you simply pick some funky abilities, add in a vulnerability if required and then set its Survival Points to whatever number you want – the higher, the longer the game will last. And instead of forcing a monster to spend a Survival Point to trigger its powers, you spend a point of Tension. Simple.


The largest new chapter (scenarios excepted) is titled Genre, and is about emulating pretty much every horror movie genre in Dead of Night, from splatter horror to psychological horror and everything in between. In all there are 12 genres covered, including a sample scenario synopsis and set-up for each.

I’m really proud of this chapter, although at times it’s been a slog to do. At its most basic, the chapter is great for inspiring the reader to try out a different genre or style of horror movie. Did a little deeper and it provides suggestions for how to capture the feel of the genre chapter on the tabletop, including Tension settings, Survival Point ideas and suggestions for pacing the scenario.

Here’s a look at one of the genres, Body Horror, as well as one of my favourite bits of art for the accompanying sample movie, Symbiote.


One of the things I wanted to do with the Monstrous Archetypes was make it easier for the GM to go about creating his own monster, to take an idea and follow some easy steps to make it a potent foe in the game. But one of the things I wanted to keep from Dead of Night first edition was the ability for the GM to just go ahead and grab stuff ready-made out of the book, to really cut down on the prep time if that’s what the GM wanted. To that end, the book is packed with ready-made stuff, from pre-set Tension circumstances to complete scenarios and, of course, ready-to-eat-you monsters.

Each of the ten Monstrous Archetypes I talked about last week also comes with a sample monster, so you have ten fully statted monsters ready to go; everything from a vampire and werewolf, to a coven of witches and a haunted house (yes, as a monster, not a location). That’s not including the monsters included in the scenarios, which should be enough variety to keep even the most regular of Dead of Night GMs busy for months.


One of the chapters that has been expanded the most is the Monsters chapter, which tells you all that you need to know to make your own monster. I touched on this back in my first post where I talked about Monstrous Archetypes, and these form the core of this chapter.

Rather than just present a selection of fully formed monsters (although I do that as well, but we’ll talk about that another time), I strip it back a bit so that horror movie archetypes are all represented. Each archetype encompasses a  ‘template’ of sorts that helps guide you when making your own monster.


So, ever since I previewed the cover earlier in the week, I’ve been asked the same question about Dead of Night: what’s changing in the new edition?

The game, at its heart, is still the same game. The mechanics all work in pretty much the same way with a couple of differences – you don’t just lose survival points to combat checks now, but to any check designated “risky”, be that escaping from the werewolf into the woods or chanting a powerful magical ritual. There are also Bad Habits, which I touch upon in more detail here.


Bad Habits

Posted: April 1, 2010 in Dead of Night, design

Not much has changed with the rules for Dead of Night second edition, but one area that I’ve tweaked are the characters themselves. Victims in Dead of Night still have attribute pairs, specialisations and survival points, same as ever, but players can also choose a bad habit or two.

Think of a bad habit as a horror movie cliche personal to that character. So a character might have the bad habit “sneaks out for a cigarette at every opportunity”, and when they sneak off for a fag when they should be guarding the camp, they earn a survival point. It’s a simple enough rule, and hardwires in certain behaviours to each character.