October is upon us, which means pumpkin spice lattes and telling ghost stories by the fire. For the person who enjoys a good scare, this time of year is the perfect excuse to lean into all the things that go bump in the night.
It’s also the perfect time to take your Tabletop RPG gaming from fantasy into full-on fright. While some sessions of Dungeons & Dragons can get downright scary, there’s a whole world of survival horror TTRPGs out there waiting to be discovered. If you’re trying to get spooky and get scared while rolling some dice with your friends, these survival horror TTRPGs can’t be missed.
If you’d rather try to survive an alien invasion than a zombie apocalypse, ALIEN is a solid option in the survival horror genre. The game is based on the ALIEN movies and has two main options for how you adventure. You can opt-in for cinematic play if you want to relive the ALIEN films in an adventure that loosely follows the same arc or get scared by something new with the campaign style of play.
Either way, you’ll enter into a futuristic world where survival is the name of the game. In addition to rolling to try and survive various scenarios, your character will also experience trauma from the events that occur throughout the game, adding a splash of realism to the terrifying TTRPG.
If you’re looking for a horror adventure that lends itself well to one-shots, Dread may very well be the game for you. Dread is a rules-light RPG where characters are created through a series of questions. Rather than a dice system, this TTRPG uses a Jenga tower to resolve actions. Even horror fans say this is an RPG that truly left them feeling scared, and the Beneath a Full Moon scenario, in particular, has a survival horror angle.
Dread isn’t fixed to a particular setting but gives a framework you can use to create a terrifying adventure in any setting you choose, so long as it’s deadly. The expectation is that most of the PCs won’t survive to the end, and knocking over the Jenga tower when you try to take an action usually leads to an in-game death.
All Flesh Must Be Eaten
As the title implies, All Flesh Must Be Eaten is a zombie apocalypse-style survival horror game where players must use their skills to stay alive while evading hordes of zombies out for flesh. It is widely credited as one of the first zombie-apocalypse-centered TTRPGs and draws from horror films for its depiction of zombies as mindless creatures out to consume.
The core rulebook features a variety of options for where to set your zombie invasion, as well as the game’s general rules, making it a solid starting point for your own zombie survival-themed TTRPG adventure.
For the D&D player attached to a more fantasy-based setting but still wants to get scared, Forbidden Lands is a great survival horror pick. In this game, you navigate an apocalyptic medieval open world as characters trying to survive and make their mark on the world after a horrific incident has decimated its population. Rather than hit points, the game tracks your strength and wits depending on the type of damage you’ve incurred, giving it a realistic life-or-death feel.
If you love a slasher film and want to pretend you’re in one, Slasher Flick is the TTRPG that will deliver. This game lets you step inside a number of classic horror film scenarios, where you’ll play as a primary and secondary character (because, let’s be real, they’re not going to survive for very long). This one lends well to one-shots as you play out situations from popular slasher films.
Mutant Year Zero
Fancy a post-apocalyptic scenario where humans have mutated into something… else? Mutant Year Zero is a post-apocalyptic survival horror RPG set in the last semblance of civilization. The gameplay consists of two modes, depending on whether you’re at home base amongst fellow mutants or out in the rest of the world, where horrors await. In order to survive in Mutant Year Zero, players must keep their home base up and running, which sometimes means leaving the relative safety to venture out for supplies.
Savage Worlds: War of the Dead
War of the Dead is an adventure using the popular Savage Worlds system. It spans several volumes for the gamer who wants an extended trip through the horrors of a zombie apocalypse. This game begins aboard a cruise ship when the outbreak that transforms humans into zombies begins, and your characters must make it back to dry land only to face countless dangers from a world transformed.
Epoch uses card-based mechanics to create a tense, character-driven horror experience in a single session. Players act as characters and audience, with more interesting roleplay and character development leading to increased chances of survival. The different scenarios on offer each emulate a particular brand of horror movie, making this another great choice for the fan of classic horror films.
STALKER: The Sci-Fi Roleplaying Game
STALKER is best known as a series of survival horror computer games, but it has been translated into a TTRPG for those who want to take the fear beyond the screen. In this game, the laws of nature no longer apply in certain Zones across the world, leading to all sorts of terrifying and dangerous anomalies. You play the role of a looter (or stalker) sent out into the Zones to try and retrieve the valuable secrets hidden within. To profit from what you acquire, you just have to survive long enough to get it back to the people willing to pay for it.
The End of the World
If you’re wanting to roleplay surviving the end of the world, this line of different apocalyptic scenarios has plenty of options. Try to survive the zombie apocalypse, the wrath of the gods, an attack of the machines, or an alien invasion. No matter what survival scenario scares you, there’s probably a The End of the World campaign to suit you. These games put you in the midst of the apocalypse itself, stretching your skills to survive the end of the world and whatever comes next.
This October, whether you’re looking for a months-long foray into the horrors of a post-apocalyptic world or a spooky one-shot to spice up your Halloween party, there’s a survival horror TTRPG for you.