One of the first tricks a game master learns is to steal plots from other media. It’s a grand old tradition stemming back to the beginning of the hobby. The tricky part is that the GM is likely running a game for fans of a certain genre, so taking from the obvious sources is difficult. With this time of year being all about spooky stories and spooky games, we’re here to rescue Game Masters, Dungeon Masters, Keepers and other horror fans with some fonts of inspiration that aren’t recognizable by their hockey masks or their high collared capes. These podcasts offer a range of strange stories from real ghost stories to unreal tales told in a surreal way.
Welcome To Night Vale
Welcome to Night Vale is best described as NPR from the Twilight Zone. This combination of mundane, small town stories and bizarre details makes Night Vale a possible setting for Game Masters wanting a surreal game of horror like Twin Peaks. The podcast has expanded beyond an audio affair, too; the creators tour as part of a live show and also have books telling more weird stories about the Dog Park.
A suggested hook: The Faceless Old Woman starts appearing to one of the PCs to warn them about something. But what? Could it have to do with one of the candidates for mayor in their hometown?
The Black Tapes
Dozens of TV shows and films have tried to recreate the formula that made The X-Files successful–pairing an open-minded investigator with a hard-to-please skeptic. The Black Tapes comes very close to recapturing that magic while exploring its own themes and idea. The titular tapes explore supernatural cases that the cynical Dr. Strand can’t dismiss off-hand as some explainable phenomena, while the inquisitive Alex Regan won’t dismiss as fakery. Games looking for creepy audio or monsters of the week like Delta Green and Monster of the Week will find plenty here to use.
A suggested hook: Demonic possession factors into many of the first season episodes. What if your investigators stumble upon a possession that’s fake… only to discover that the perpetrator has upset a real demon, who’s now out looking for revenge?
Aaron Mahnke’s love of ghost stories compelled him to start Lore, a podcast that digs into real life ghost stories to talk about the meanings behind them. Every legend has a lesson or a kernel of truth that Mahnke digs out to examine, but he also tells ghost stories like a seasoned pro. Supporting the podcast gets access to transcripts with links to his research for each show, which, because of its focus around New England, makes it an excellent resource of Call of Cthulhu Keepers looking to mix in local legend with their cosmic horror. Fans of the show are excited that an Amazon series based on the podcast is coming next year to bring these tales to life.
A suggested hook: The Afterglow Terrace has long since been thought a place where occult power collects. But someone has siphoned away that power a scant three days before Halloween for an unknown purpose.
Listeners seeking a short, spooky tale should check out Limetown, a series that follows an investigation by a reporter into a strange town in Tennessee where 300 people lived, worked, and disappeared 10 years ago. It’s a little Lost mixed with a little Fringe, and the strange conspiracy surrounding the project feels like a great basis for a Night’s Black Agents game.
A suggested hook: Every team of investigators has that researcher who comes through with vital clues. This MVP gets invited to investigate the disappearance of Limetown… and soon vanishes without a trace.
Have you used a podcast to help build your campaign? Let us know in the comments!
Featured Image Credit: Limetown