Fate Horror Toolkit Review
Oct. 28, 2018, 1:26 p.m.
Fear is an essential part of tabletop RPGs and storytelling in general. It's a part of life and can do a great deal to motivate or deter people from making decisions. So as storytellers, fear is a great tool to have and master.
The Fate Horror Toolkit is a book with loads of tips, tricks, and examples for using horror for your roleplaying games. The first chapter discusses horror as a tool for making enjoyable games, and also tells how to avoid some genre-wide pitfalls. It references some industry wide tools such as the X Card to make sure that your players are on board with the kinds of problems they'll encounter.
Each chapter after that covers a different kind of horror or major theme within it, and the list is pretty impressive. To name a few, the book includes thrasher gore, creepy hauntings, feminine horror, and even kid's horror found in shows like Scooby Doo or Stranger Things. Some of the subgenres I didn't even know existed until reading this book. It shows how much research and prep the writers for Evil Hat Productions do when taking on a new project.
Each chapter comes along with a list of inspirations for the chapter, methods to avoid overstepping anyone's comfort zone, an explanation of what the theme or subgenre is, and a whole slew of game mechanics and examples. The great thing about the theme-specific mechanics in each chapter is that they don't have to be used just for that specific type of game. Some are useful in non-horror games, and they are all very well developed.
To be honest, I'm not a huge horror buff myself. If there's anything I really enjoy in the genre, it is zombies and other post-apocalyptic settings, but this book had me excited the whole way through. The insights given inspire the mind to think of creative ways to craft horrific situations and truly exciting stories.
The book itself is also of great quality. If you have Fate Core, this will feel very similar with its matte cover and thick semi-glossy pages. And as always, the layout is clean and well organized with black and white art.
Rather than walk you through the book chapter by chapter, I thought it would be more fun to just talk about my favorite parts as I read through (and in some cases, tried) the ideas in this book.
In Chapter 2 there is a section on moral dilemmas that discusses how to use them well in roleplaying games. It goes over some fairly simple rules for incorporating moral dilemmas, but the real gold here is in the advice. Moral dilemmas are used in television and books constantly to help give the audience a better understanding of what the protagonist(s) really value. This is great for a horror game, but it could enhance any genre that you may be playing in.
The High Cost of Living
Chapter 6 covers zombie and post-apocalyptic survival settings, which I love, but to be honest I wasn't anticipating this chapter much. I like the simplicity of Fate, and I am usually trying to hack the system as little as possible when I need to model new situations. So when I heard that a way to track resources in an apocalypse was in development, I figured it would be too much crunch for me to use it in my games. After reading through it, I am very pleased to say that this section was awesome! It is elegantly simple. It uses modified aspects, and the result can create tons of complications and stories just like the ones found in survival horror movies. I can't wait to try this one!
The Other is something I am actually already kind of using in my current fantasy campaign. As the toolkit defines it, "The Other is any opponent with the ability and will to change the characters’ natures." (pg. 73). In my current campaign, the head of the current bad guys is a sorcerer with mind magic, who has been mind controlling large groups of people into doing her bidding. The reason I tell you this is because I hadn't ever seen this type of villain spelled out so clearly until I read the Horror Toolkit. This section of the book explains how the villain typically works, gives examples of it in various forms of media, and provides tips for how to progress the story appropriately. It's safe to say I'll be referencing this section a lot for the rest of our current arc.
We're All Going to Die
Chapter 5 focuses on stories where all of the protagonists are expected to die by the end of the game. This could be due to some cataclysmic event, or a monster reaching its full potential. This is another chapter that makes me want to start a game yesterday. I could even see the rules in this section working very well with any of the example scenarios in Dread (a horror focused TTRPG). And if your character does die early on the game, the toolkit also includes advice for keeping dead players in the game as ghosts or enemies.
Scooby Dooby Doo!
Chapter 8 focuses on horror for kids as found in works like Goosebumps, Stranger Things, The Goonies, and Scooby Doo. It's another well written chapter that is basically a mini toolkit on its own. Included are rules for creating a game in this sort of setting, rules for character creation, tips for working with younger audiences, and a sample scenario that you can use straight from the book. I wanted to include this chapter here because it really shows the breadth of Evil Hat's coverage on the horror genre. That, and I really want to run my own Stranger Things game now. I guess I'm going to need more players...
The Fate Horror Toolkit is another great resource to add to your bookshelf. It includes such a wide range of tools and tips that you're sure to find something useful for your games, even if you're not doing horror. The highlights I shared above are really just a fraction of the amazing advice in this book. So whether you're still planning your Halloween game or you want some more drama to your campaign, I think the Fate Horror Toolkit is worth a look. And if you do decide to buy it, you can get the PDF right away on Evil Hat's webstore so that you'll have it in time for Halloween!
Is there anything else you would like to know about this toolkit? Let me know in the comments below and I'll be sure to get back yo to you!
Paper miniatures are by Printable Heroes. Used without permission.
Tags: fate core horror review ttrpg
Older Post Newer Post
Copyright © 2018, Nathan Hare
All rights reserved