Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Haunted House Comedy as a Game?

I love haunted house comedies.
After posting "Enchilada Man" yesterday, I got to thinking about how this sort of fun could be replicated in a game.

Abbot and Costello ponder a mystery
The "standard" approach would be to have the players investigate a supposedly haunted house.  The spooks could be real, imagined, or really racketeers or Nazi spies just trying to keep their activities a secret. 
Now any of the standard horror/pulp games would handle this sort of game easy peasy. However where is the comedy element? Using this approach the players would have to supply the guffaws and quite frankly not everyone is up for that sort of thing.

So what are some other options?

No doubt hilarity ensues

 What if the players have to shepherd a naive NPC through the madness? This guy or girl (or chimp or Great Dane) would wander blithely about, accidentally pushing secret panels, sitting on chairs that are actually chute traps, and encountering spooks when no one as with them.

In this game the goal of the players would be to not only solve the mystery but to find and repeatedly rescue their NPC associate.

This game would allow the game system to handle the pratfalls and zaniness of the Vaudevillian rather than placing that burden squarely on the shoulders of the players.

This one is, I think, workable as a co-op or solo game. Certainly with the right GM it would be no problem at all to pull off as a traditional RPG sort of deal.

Kay Kyser debates the finer points of spooks with Peter Lorre
There is a third approach that might work too.

What if the players are the spooks/racketeers and the game system handles the intruders?

This version might work best of all as the players maneuver their forces to cause the intruders to flee in panic yet the sublimely oblivious and endlessly lucky funnymen/women/animals shtick their way out of nearly any situation. 

I can see where this would generate a proper frustration level for the players and breed the associated hilarity as trap after trap is foiled.

While this approach perhaps best lends itself to a game system controlled opponent, the obvious hurtle is that in this genre the bad guys are supposed to lose. 

What to do? Victory points could be awarded for holding out against the forces of good as long as possible but is this really satisfying? Every game would be a "last stand" scenario.

Perhaps victory could be awarded for causing the intruders to flee the house in terror. Traps could be reset, the defense rearranged and then another party of do gooders dealt with.

A fun variation here might be to allow the players to be supernatural entities. Each party of do gooders would come from a slightly different era bringing different skills and gadgets to the game.

For example the first set of do gooders could from the silent movie era. Next up would a Laural and Hardy or Little Rascals group. Following this could be a Three Stooges interlude.
Next up would be Abbot and Costello, or Bowery Boys, followed by the more "sophisticated" approach of Hope and Crosby or Martin and Lewis.
Moving into more recent times the Scooby Gang would make an appearance followed by the high tech Ghostbusters.

If your spook crew could outlast all of these teams you would have achieved a mighty victory indeed!

On reflection all of this is probably more work than any pay off would warrant but like any R&D some ideas explored here might eventually find use in some other capacity down the road.

Hope I've stirred a thought or two or at least brought back a happy movie memory.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Very interesting ideas here, Mr Monkeydew! I thought I'd comment, simply because as I read this, I interpreted your option 3 as a more competitive option for players than as a co-operative option. I sort of imagined a deck of cards (these being trap evasions) that opposing players can play against each other once a player has 'trapped' an intruder. The objective really would be the funniest 'escape', something that would surface quite naturally if you tapped the human being's natural desire to shaft another -especially if the outcome is funny...

    In a related note, I'm sure you will already have seen the pictures of the mordheim models painted 'in black and white' - scenery and figures. Something like that would work beautifully for these proposals.

    Certainly, you've inspired a creative vein in me that I didn't know I had :)

    1. Grat thoughts!

      With your faboo Oldhammer story segments I thought you would find inspiration here.

      Here's to levity! There is little enough of it in the world.

  2. It would be so cool to play as the Stooges or as Abbot and Costello. And Gaj is right, the mordheim models painted in black and white would work perfectly. I follow a guy who just painted up 7 Samurai using the technique to honor Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai film.

    1. That sounds great.

      I'm well intimidated by the great black and white painting others have done.

  3. I was just reading a review of the old Ghostbusters (my favourite brand of haunted house comedy) RPG supplement, Scared Stiffs and thought how it'd make a refreshing change to my usual diet of fantasy.

    I quite like the idea of gaming the concept as an RPG but with miniatures on the table top - perhaps taking Ghostbusters as inspiration or using the RPG scenarios.

    Option 3 also sounds like a lot of fun.

    1. Ah! Had forgotten all about that game!

      Never got to play it but that sounds a good source of inspiration.