Welcome to Tabletop Terrors! In this monthly series, we’ll help you recreate some of the terror, tension, and fun of scary stories by examining what the world of tabletop gaming has to offer horror fans. We’ll look at board games, card games, pen and paper RPGs, and miniature war games. We’ll offer reviews, insights, and tips on how to create an immersive and awesome game night.
Every month at Nightmare on Film Street, we throw a four weeks and several days long shindig in honor of a specific horror elements. If you’re just joining us, welcome! You’ve arrived fashionably late to a party that’s sure to be a graveyard smash! Because it’s Monster Mash month at NOFS! Me and my colleagues are celebrating with pieces that will delve into stories where all manner of things that go bump in the night run wild. So, instead of looking at one of the many horror games where you battle monsters we’re going to tackle something a different; a game that actually allows you to become a creature of the night!
We’re going to delve into Ross Watson and Jason Marker’s Accursed role playing game from Melior Via, which uses Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage Worlds rules system. We’ll look at the different breeds of monsters characters that players can make, the dark fantasy world it’s set in, and the basic set up; players are humans who’ve been transformed into different types of creatures that must use their monstrous powers to fight back against the army of malevolent witches that have conquered the land. Plus, we’ll have our usual selection of themed food and drink, and some music choices to help get players in the mood to monster mash some evil witches.
Accursed is not a complete game in and of itself. You need to own some other books to play it, but if you’re a fan of this column there’s a chance you might already have those two books. In May’s installment of Table Top Terrors I looked at how the Savage Worlds Adventure Edition Core Rules and The Savage Worlds Horror Companion can be used to help you tell stories of murderous prom nights or aquatic horrors. TLDR: Both books are very versatile and can be used to help you create a variety of collaborative horror stories between players and game masters. The Savage Worlds system is also very friendly to new gamers.
Those books provide the basic rules for creating characters, running fights, suggestions for telling different types of scary stories, and stats for a whole host of creatures, specters, and fiends for players to battle. So they’re sort of the skeleton, and Accursed is a setting that builds on that frameworks with some incredibly cool and creepy ideas.
Accursed is set in a fantasy world called Morden, but it’s not a Tolkienesque place of wizards, knights, and elves. No, Morden is a nightmarish, war torn place that was recently conquered by a grand coven of evil witches that invaded from over the nearby mountains. The witches’ war machine included their dark magics, blackhearted human mercenaries, and inhuman creatures. They’re shock troops though were the titular characters of Accursed; The Witchbreed who are humans that were transformed into a variety of different monsters by the magics of the witches who remained in Morden after the final battle in what was called “The Bane War.”
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In the aftermath of the Bane War many of the Witchbreed were released from their mistresses’ armies. Their monstrous forms and cursed natures made a return to their previous lives impossible. Plus, many of their homes were destroyed during the war. So, a number of Witchbreed became mercenaries and adventurers. A select few even became heroes seeking to escape their curses and using their supernatural powers to fight back against the evils ravaging their lands.
The player characters are these monster heroes and one of the coolest part of the game is they have a wide variety of creature character types to choose from. Want to essentially be the title character from Blade? Then the Dhampir is the Witchbreed for you! Golems are for players looking to create hulking characters in the vein of Frankenstein’s Monster. Mongrels allow players to create a weird and wonderful type of human-animal hybrid; people who have animal parts grafted to them by dark magics. Fans of Universal’s legendary Egyptian monster will want to check out the Mummy Witchbreed. Ophidians are human-reptile hybrids that can slither through small spaces and and are armed with a venomous bite. Revenants are super, tough zombies that have managed to hold onto their consciousness. Got a player looking for a particularly spooky Witchbreed? Show them the ghostly Shades. Finally, players looking for a more classic creature archetype we’ll want to check out the Vargr; Accursed‘s take on werewolves.
All of the Witchbreed come with special powers and weaknesses, but they’re also customizable too. During character creation and progression you can purchase unique traits. For instance; a Golem player can give his artificial human avatar the ability to detach a limb and have it continue to function, Shades can develop the ability to fly, and Vargr can become incredibly strong in beast form.
Accursed‘s other really cool and highly thematic bit of character customization is that players have the freedom for how to approach their character’s curse. Some players might choose to accept their avatar’s monstrous nature and become the thing that all other creatures fear. Others might choose to defy it and try to hold onto or regain their humanity. Each of the Witchbreed have their own three stage tracks of acceptance and defiance. Each of the stages have effects that endow a player with new strengths and weaknesses.
Creating and customizing monsters is only half the fun of Accursed. The other half is letting your Witchbreed run loose in the diverse, creepy, and fully realized world of Morden. It’s composed of six different nations each with their own fantasy flavor as well as the unknown “Outlands.” Those countries include the Celtic themed Cairn Kainen; Hyphrates, an ancient Egypt style nation; Steppengrad, a country clearly inspired by Russian folklore; and Manreia, a country of trade and technology that’s home to things like steam punk style firearms. Each of these realms is fleshed out in the book and game masters are given a number of details on how to use them as backdrops for a variety of adventures.
Morden is also a world of magic. The main book contains rules for alchemical potions and witchcraft spells. Players can also arm themselves with melee weapons, black powder style fire arms, and enchanted arms and artifacts.
They’ll use those items and their monstrous abilities to combat the unholy might of the witches that control Morden. Another great and diverse facet of Accursed is that those eight witches are all very different and their magics were responsible for the various Witchbreed. There’s Baba Yaga who created the Vargr. The Blood Witch’s magic is responsible for the Dhampir. The Chimera’s dark arts gave birth the Mongrels. The Crone created Golems. Hecate (AKA The Dark Queen) is responsible for the Shades. The Djinn gave birth to Mummies. The Ophidians are the children of the witch known as the Gorgon, and The Morrigan’s sorcery spawned the Revenants.
So, Accursed includes a lot of material that can be used for telling creepy one-off tales or epic, dark fantasy, campaigns. If players and game masters are looking for more detail they can pick up Accursed: The World of Morden; a sourcebook that fleshes out the titular setting in even greater detail. It includes new info on Morden’s many nations and the monsters that dwell within their borders. There are also descriptions of cities, influential people, and cultural details like holidays.
“Creating and customizing monsters is only half the fun of Accursed. The other half is letting your Witchbreed run loose in the diverse, creepy, and fully realized world of Morden.”
With such a diverse and vast wealth of material available you’re certain to spend many hours around the table playing Accursed, which means you’re going to want to offer players liquid refreshments and snacks to fuel their monster mashing. For the former, we suggest “The Monster Mash,” a smooth, blended drink from Madtini.com. For the latter, try these delicious sounding and easy to make Monster S’Mores from Cutefetti.com.
There’s a definite gothic horror feel to Accursed and you can bring that out with the right soundtrack. We’ve got three different film scores that you can mix and match tracks from to build the ultimate Accursed playlist. The first is Wojciech Kilar’s music for Francis Ford Coppola’s acclaimed 1992 vampire epic, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The second is Fernando Velazquez’s score to Guillermo’s del Toro’s 2015 gothic ghost story masterpiece, Crimson Peak. Last, but not least, is Abel Korzeniowski’s creepy music to the Conjuring Universe’s 2018 underrated ode to Hammer style horror, The Nun.
Let us know all about your own immersive game night setups, and your favorite horror-based board games. Who knows, your recommendation might become our focus for next month’s installment of Table Top Terrors. Roll the dice and spill your guts over Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!