This year for Christmas, my husband and I took a visiting friend to a cabin in the woods. Our friend, in the country from Australia, had never seen snow in her adult life and we could think of few things better to do with that than try to get snowed in somewhere with some games, some good food, and some drinks. So we booked a cabin in NY after doing some research on yearly snow and then drove up, locked ourselves in, and set about having some fun.
There are few things as magical as watching as an adult experience snowfall for the first time. To see the sheer wonderment on her face, watch her wander around the yard with boots crunching under her feet, or the joy of making a fire in the fireplace was quite special. It was a backdrop of innocence to a weekend that was made for horror.
You see, when selecting this cabin, Cookie had declared that it looked like the kind of place that you would be harassed by Wendigos. With that in mind, we spent our holiday with some horror-themed fun. We watched Cabin Fever on the first night and the next two played some horror-themed RPGs; namely, the first module of Curse of Strahd and one of the free adventures inside the Call of Cthulu manual.
If you've not seen Cabin Fever, it's worth a watch... at least is bad, 90s style horror flicks are your thing. The blood is all clearly fake, the plot is...loose at best, and the assortment of random people that just wander into the story is amusing.
It's the RPGs, though, that drove our evenings and made us ask, consistently, "When did 2 am get here?"
Curse of Strahd
Neither Loren nor Cookie had ever played D&D before, so I sat them down with DNDBeyond and helped them make a few characters. The website is pretty fantastic for people who are just getting started. The guided character creation was a real help that allowed me to download the first module of Strahd and read through it while they sat around the table eating taco dip and occasionally asking for advice.
The first module was low on horror, but honestly, there was room for it and I'm excited about working through Barovia with them. Each player played two characters, leaving us with a party makeup like this:
- An Eladrin Bard of a noble line, whiney and frequently professing boredom.
- A goliath barbarian, excelling in finding grog and men to share his bed or taking arrows repeatedly.
- A genasi swamp druid, too frequently left to babysit the noble.
- A half-elven ranger with his dog, General.
To give the party a reason to all be together, after seeing their makeup, I decided that the ranger and barbarian had been hired to escort the noble to Neverwinter to meet his fiance, and having crossed through her territory and lost one of their party to some lurking danger in the swamp, the druid felt guilty and signed on with them. It was a blast, and the two played off each other with their characters the whole way.
While I had given them two characters each so that the module would work a little better, they quickly decided to leave the whiny noble at the inn with the Druid, while the two manly men tromped off into the snow in search of the lost hunters. The game was a riot, full of laughter and drama, to the point that taking a break here and there for refueling had them discussing who else we could drag into the game.
Call of Cthulu
On Christmas day we took a different approach to things. Loren took over the reins of running a game and Cookie and I made characters for a Call of Cthulu adventure set in the 1920s. We each made up two characters, again, and set off for the wilds of Vermont, dispatched by the organization we all worked for.
By the time the characters were made, we decided to do our session zero in the hot tub, out in the snow. I cannot recommend this enough: if you get a chance to chill somewhere like that for your session zero, do it. It's a pretty good reminder that, whatever else you're doing, you're here to have fun with your friends.
It was highly amusing to watch how our rough-and-tumble characters (we had one each) would get themselves in trouble while our upper-crust, Intellectual Brits would walk through the worst situations with aplomb and ease. In the end, my American Officer lost his leg and 1/5 of his sanity, and no one came out unscathed.
We've also decided we needed floating dice trays.
Do it Again?
Absolutely! Loren and I have already started talking about coming back to this place in the fall, hopefully with a group of 4-6 other friends interested in taking a long weekend just playing RPGs and tabletops.
What's your favorite horror game to play? And where do you want to play it? Leave some comments or hit me up on twitter to let me know!