From: Timeout Diversions
Reviewed by: Sitting Duck
There are several horror RPGs on the market, most of which involve you playing a reasonably competent investigator of the unknown. But is this sort of thing truly reflective of the horror genre? If you think about it, the answer is, “Not really.” This is because, to paraphrase from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, people in horror movies are idiots. They go about doing inane things like checking out sinister noises without letting anyone else know where they’re going or investigating a dark basement without so much as a flashlight. And if the character in question happens to be a nubile female, through contrived circumstances she’ll likely perform these actions while nude (or at the very least in just a towel or her underwear). It’s this style of horror story which Killer Thriller seeks to model.
From page 3:
“Wilder than Killer Klowns From Outer Space! (Gasp!)
Scarier than Cannibal Apocalypse! (Arghhhhh!)
Bigger than The Blob and twice as ugly! (Eeeek!)”
The PDF itself is quite minimalist, with vitually no artwork. For the most part, this is a non-issue. However, some of the chapters end less than halfway through the page, leaving a huge blank space which some sort of illustration could have been used to fill up. A particularly egregious instance occurs at the end of Chapter Two, where there is a total of six lines of text (two of which are footnotes) on the last page.
Chapter One covers the details of creating characters (referred to as Victims), as well as how their stats work. Chapter Two goes into further detail on playing the game and provides a list of common weapons. Chapter Three goes over the basics of creating monsters, listing a wide variety of monster types to offer inspiration. Chapter Four provides some director (i.e. GM) tips on running the game. Chapter Five wraps things up with a double feature. The first is an abandoned town scenario which provides considerable flexibility for the director regarding the motivation of the monster. The second one involves an invasion by gullible aliens whose idea of what Earth is like comes from B-movies shown on cable. The invasion involves faithful duplicates of famous movie monsters with the serial numbers filed off. The text is peppered with plenty of examples of how the rules work, doing away with what little ambiguity there may have been. Each section is also headed with an appropriate quote from a horror movie in the style of A Certain Other RPG.
In schlocky horror movies, most characters will have the life span of a fruit fly, so rather than each player designing and controlling one character, everyone gets a minimum of three victims. With having to manage multiple victims, their stats are fairly simple. As the victims are supposed to be incompetent, they possess what are known as Inabilities. These are Unwise (reflecting how likely the victim will do something stupid), Unluck (reflecting how likely the victim will be visited with misfortune), and Undone (reflecting how prone the victim is to panic). Among these Inabilities, a seven, an eight, and a nine are assigned as desired. Victims also have 1d6+6 Unharm, which act as hit points. Finally, each victim receives a Stereotype, which sums up the basic characterization of the victim. Besides providing a cardboard personality, it also serves as the basis for the Free Pass. Once per game, a victim may automatically succeed at a task if it’s somehow associated with the Stereotype. For players who wish to get more fiddly with their victims, they can also take Unreal and Unthinkable. These roughly correspond to Advantages and Disadvantages respectively which are commonly seen in point build-style RPG systems. They are primarily used in adjusting Inabilities and Unharm, as well as gaining extra Free Passes. The only restrictions are that no more than two Unthinkable may be taken, and Inabilities may not go higher than ten.
So how do you go about using these Inabilities? Whenever the director calls for you to test an Inability, you roll 2d6. No modifiers or other such crunchy bits, just a straight roll. You succeed if you roll lower than the Inability and fail if you roll higher. However, since these are Inabilities, success is actually failure and failure is actually success. You may have noticed that I said nothing about what happens if the result is equal to the Inability. When that occurs, the victim experiences an Epic Fail. This means that the Inability succeeds (or in practical terms, fails) in such a way that the victim is injured, taking Unharm damage equal to the Inability.
As you can see, death comes easily in Killer Thriller. But one victim’s gory dismemberment is another victim’s power-up opportunity. Whenever a victim dies, the player assigns another one of his/her victims Unharm points equal to the base amount of the dead victim’s Unharm. At the director’s discretion, bonus Unharm may be awarded if the player gives a spectacular description of the victim’s death or walked into his/her demise without being prompted into it with Inability rolls. Should this enhanced victim get knocked off anyway, the recipient victim gains Unharm equal to the total Unharm accumulated by the previous victim. So when a player is down to one victim (known as the Last Survivor), he/she is going to be incredibly buff.
From page 18:
“It’s a Monster’s duty to oblige when a victim affords the opportunity for massacre, whether by taking a bath, doing the nasty, being exceedingly obnoxious, becoming startled by a cat leaping out of the attic, or daring to utter the phrase ‘I’ll be right back’… It must show up according to the laws of cinema and fulfills its role as the cleaner of the gene pool.”
Of course every horror story needs a monster. In Killer Thriller, they come in two varieties, Minion and Boss. Minions are relatively wimpy and any victim should be able to take them on. Boss Monsters are a completely different matter and initially don’t even have stats. Whatever task it attempts, it is successful as long as the targeted victim succeeds at the relevant Inability roll. Note, however, I said initially. You may have noticed how, when the cast of a schlocky horror movie has been whittled down to the last few you know are going to survive, the Big Bad suddenly becomes less capable. Well, when a Boss Monster goes up against a Last Survivor, it will possess Inabilities just like everyone else.
In conclusion, though there are some editing issues with the PDF, this has absolutely no effect on actual gameplay. The simple beer and pretzels mechanics make for a smooth playing out of a cliche-riddled horror story and can handle anything from rubber-suited monsters that would be at home on Mystery Science Theater 3000 to Eighties-style slashers.
From: Timeout Diversions
Type of Game: RPG
Written by: Tony Lee
Number of Pages: 28
Retail Price: $3.00
Reviewed by: Sitting Duck