Shlock or b-movie horror seems to be a bit of a fashion in some circles of the tabletop roleplaying hobby right now.
We need only look at the news in recent days to see what I mean. Onyx Path Publishing announced plans for They Came From Beyond the Grave! Adjacently, the M.R. James ghost story RPG Casting the Runes is doing well on Kickstarter.
A review copy of Dead of Night: The Final Cut landed in my inbox towards the end of last year, and I’ve been stalking it ever since.
Graeme Patrick’s adventure only needs 2 players, can cope with many more but I recommend you don’t have more characters than can reasonably fit in a motorboat.
The concept is this: A emotional film director is going to have actors ad-lib and improvise their way through a found footage, shaky cam, horror about a group of academics researching rumours of fishmen.
The cons: Let’s start with the possible gotcha. “Dead of Night” isn’t just the title of the adventure. It’s the name of the RPG you need to play it, and that’s not made entirely clear on the DriveThruRPG description or even in the PDF itself.
Although easy to adapt, you will likely want Andrew Kenrick’s and SteamPowered Publishing’s Dead of Night, which costs $10 and is 186-pages long. This 2010 RPG is tailored for, yup, you guessed it, slasher and b-movie horror.
It’s also worth noting that in true b-movie spirit, your players are unlikely to be surprised by any of the events in the adventure.
That’s helpful as the product page for this on DriveThruRPG is a huge spoiler.
The pros: The set-up is simple and effective. The fact that your players will easily predict what happens that it’ll be fun to roleplay and add some tension.
It’s hard to go wrong, really.
I won’t reveal what happens in the plot in this review but imagine a b-movie horror where the setting is the shores of a mountain lake and people are running around in fishmen costume late at night. People start to vanish. Gee, I wonder what might be taking them.
There are about a dozen pages to read through in the main book. There are a few time I had to re-read a sentence or wonder of choice of word, but there’s no chance you’ll lose track.
This is a game that requires very little preparation if you’re confident with Dead of Night rules.
I think where Dead of Night: Final Cut deserves special mention is the use of handouts. You’re given a whole pack of them. Also, the main PDF starts with a single page of a small-town newspaper which could also be printed out and turned into a prop. That page explains the core set-up; that a monster movie with improvisation and walk-in extras is being filmed in the town.
The character pack includes 11 Polaroid (or Instagram) style images of NPCs; including our movie stars Crystal and Pablo. I’d say Tim the Tech Guy was my favourite, but the first prize has to go to the derpy monster suit.
There’s also a generous collection of maps. There’s a pair of detailed maps and some simpler ones to show what’s happening at various stages in the game.
The game itself is set in three acts, and you really have to join the dots yourself. I actually think this format works well. You’ve got the motivation of the people involved. You have some key events that are likely to happen. Just as the actors in the adventure are being trusted to find their best performance by ad-libbing the rest; so are you.
Finally, Dead of Night: The Final Cut is a pay ‘what you want’ download with a suggested price of $1.50. Sure, I don’t think this is an award-winning or groundbreaking adventure. It’s a bit of a b-movie of an adventure in its own right, quick and cheap fun.
Overall? A fun one-off to reach for if gamer guests turn up unexpectedly but you know they’ll appreciate rubber monster suit horror. If you prefer pre-written adventures with more handholding or plot twists, then this probably isn’t for you.
Disclaimer: My copy of Dead of Night: Final Cut was provided for review.
What do you think? Measured observations are welcome and you can leave them in the comment section below.