Obviously, Dread is my favorite horror RPG. But what if I want to play some other sort of horror RPG? There are a lot of options out there, but here are a few of my favorites. I recommend all of them highly, so if you’re looking for something else, check these out.
Don’t Rest Your Head is a game about insomniacs who see through the veil to the real world, and develop superpowers. Probably. It reminds me a bit of Dark City in both tone and setting. And it has one of the cleverest and most informative dice mechanics I’ve encountered, giving you not only degree of success or failure, but why you succeed, and what consequences come with failure, all in one roll. It does this by having a dice pool system with different colored dice for different aspects of the roll. The relatively simple character mechanics, coupled with some leading questions as part of character creation, make for intense, thematic play, and the dice mechanics make that play fast and simple.
Kult is the horror RPG I’ve always wanted to play. It’s an embodiment of the most extreme elements of the Gnostic worldview: we are gods trapped by the illusion of a false reality and deluded into forsaking our divinity. Those who are depraved or enlightened enough can see through the illusion, or maybe even escape it—but the beings of true reality are horrific to the unprepared mind. I’ve seen it called the darkest horror RPG, but what draws me to it is actually the juxtaposition of darkness and light—it is precisely that it equates enlightenment and depravity, and says that, unlike in Call of Cthulhu and so many other horror RPGs, you can break through the bounds of reality without descending.
My Life With Master is the storygame of minions. No, not the silly yellow guys—more like tragic hunchbacks. The PCs are deeply flawed, inhuman beings, both greater and lesser than humanity, who would like nothing more than to have some semblance of a normal life—or even just their own lives. The mechanics do an amazing job of focusing this tension into a wonderful game, and has led to some of the both funniest and most tragic gaming I’ve ever experienced.
There you have it: three horror RPGs covering a range of both setting and mechanics, from fairly traditional with a few clever twists (Kult) to My Life With Master (where rolls revolve around emotions and the game has win conditions).