Posted on April 13, 2009 by davidahilljr
Unstoppable maniacs. Gratuitous violence. Nail-biting suspense. Oversexed camp counselors.
Slasher Flick is just over 100 pages, an RPG all about octopi. (That’s actually not true.) It’s written and designed by Cynthia Celeste Miller, produced by Spectrum Games. The game is called Slasher Flick. The pages are edged with blood. It’s not a game about serious exploration of the serial killer phenomenon, it’s not a strategy wargame. It’s a game about sitting around a table, having a night like one spent with an actual slasher movie, only in RPG form.
What It Is
Slasher Flick is simple and focused in nature. Mechanics focus on the drama and tropes of the genre, instead of “killing the bad guy.” Characters are more likely to think the sound of the villain sneaking up is the wind, than a sign that they need to go monster hunting.
What I Think
I think Slasher Flick does a wonderful job defining what it is, and what it isn’t. In fact, it does better than many modern RPGs. It’s unapologetic in its narrow scope. It’s very faithful to the genre, and doesn’t try to bend it to accommodate the RPG norms, instead bends the RPG norms to accommodate the genre. It devotes a number of pages to trope ideas, that alone makes it an amusing read.
There’s a nice list of classic films, and commentary on what they do for the genre and how their themes can add to the game. Evil Dead got no love. That is unacceptable. Although Slasher Flick focuses more on single-killer films, I don’t think you get better films full of dead teenagers than ED.
The setting is all but nonexistent, you are expected to build your own with some of their tools. The tools are many though, the system and ideas really give a full kit to build an excellent atmosphere.
The system uses 6, 8, and 10-sided dice. Characters have four basic Attributes, Brawl, Finesse, Brains, and Spirit, and each has three possible ratings, Poor, Normal, and Good. Most other traits are handled as “Positive Qualities,” and “Negative Qualities.” Characters receive “genre points” for acting true to genre, which is a nice idea for a game where it’s actually counter-intuitive to do what’s in your character’s best interest. Genre points can help give edges later on, or can cause other table-turning scenarios.
Challenge resolution is a pretty simple system, Attribute ratings determine the die type used. You roll four of that type of die, if two dice turn up the same number, the action succeeds. Qualities add or subtract dice as the situation dictates. My only problem with this resolution mechanic, and it’s a little one, I just don’t have that many d8s. Most of my players have one each, if any. I have three personally. A small number of other permutations exist, but they’re really just additional seasoning on the rather simple mechanic. It seems a little difficult to explain to new players, but it’s far easier than the bulk of RPGs out there.
Characters even come in multiple types, reflecting their importance to the story and their chances of death. In fact, players play multiple characters. Each player gets a primary character, secondary characters are split amongst the cast. Tertiary characters (NPCs,) and the Killer get treatment by the Director (GM.) This method of play allows each player to get in on some nice death scenes, even if their primary character doesn’t die. The Killer character doesn’t actually have stats, which I think is a nice way to reflect the nature of the genre.
The game really picks up with Kill Scenes, which are confrontations with the murderer. The method is highly narrative, in a loosely turn-based style, where characters accumulate “survival points,” until they reach a goal that allows escape or temporary victory against the Killer. Characters start with either 0 or 1 survival point, gaining them after successful actions, losing them after failed ones. This can lead to quick kills and drawn-out chases, very much horror movie faire.
The game is all about story telling, and it doesn’t fail. All the systems are made to facilitate that. Some are a bit more complex than I might like, but don’t really slow the game down. The book is full of ideas for how to tweak things for genre, and how to solve small problems that might arise.
Players make supporting cast members, and pass them around. Every character has at least one negative trait, positives are very limited. There are “special abilities,” that involve things like taking stupid actions, coming back for one last swing, and dumb luck. Clearly thematic in design. Stereotypes play heavily into character design.
The goal was for all elements to support the telling of a genre-appropriate story, and I really can’t find any place where it doesn’t do just that.
The art is very funny. It’s not Da Vinci, but it conveys what it’s supposed to. Each chapter gets a fake horror movie poster, each is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
Who Would Like It
Anyone who has yelled at their television, telling the on-screen cast how they should behave for optimal survival. This gives you the chance to be those morons. I’m sure most gamers have had these moments, I can say that most gamers should probably at least get one good night’s gaming out of this one.
Who Wouldn’t Like It
It’s not a hard or crunchy game, by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not made to “win.” In fact, it’s made to die in some of the coolest ways possible.
3/5 It’s a fun read. It’s well-written, it’s well-edited, and it conveys every message it’s supposed to convey. It doesn’t take a lot of planning, it’s definitely a good, “what are we gonna play tonight” style game. I don’t see a whole lot of replay value, but there’s a lot of potential for a fun one-shot. It’s not versatile, but it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s well worth the few dollars for the PDF, and some of the ideas and material could be easily adapted to other games for a bit of flavor.
Slight side note: I think the game would serve to benefit from a half-page secondary character sheet.
Review By David A Hill Jr