Pittsburgh City Paper reached to local game designer Tyler Crumrine to produce a list of games you can play online or in-person with a significant other, roommates, family members, or trusted close friends. Some of these were also tested and enjoyed by yours truly.
Available widely at most retailers for $35-45, 1-5 players, ages 10 and up
Released by Ravensburger, the board game Horrified pits players against various classic Universal movie monsters, including Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man. The game draws on settings and characters from its literary and film sources. While this is technically a board game, there are RPG elements, as players and the monster are given certain perks or weaknesses, and dice are involved to see how much damage is inflicted whenever a supernatural foe catches up to you.
Horrified makes for a quick, hour-long game and can be played with as few as two players. While it comes with a ton of tokens and other bits, it's surprisingly easy to learn while still being challenging enough to keep you interested. Because it's based more on strategy than story, it's also a good option for fright-averse players.
Fans of Dungeons & Dragons should try Bunker, an expansive world-building RPG by Pittsburgh-based game designer Michael Pisano of Haunted Meat and writing partner Matthew Kopel. The game website describes Bunker as being inspired by fears of climate change, as players enter a post-apocalyptic utopia “populated by earth witches and druid circles, by lordless knights who pledge to serve the woods, by smiths crafting reclaimed plastics and e-waste into magical armor.” As you and your party explore this new world, you encounter “horrific mutations, gross opulence, and dark magical powers." So far, the adventure takes place over two issues that can be bought together or separately.
$9, 4-8 players (including a "proctor," who facilitates the game)
Those with their own tarot decks should check out Black Mass, an indie RPG based on the Salem witch trials. It can be played over the course of two to three hours, and comes with a curated “suite of music" to stream.
The game follows Lydia and Catherine, who are ostracized from their community and return to the woods, where they must confront their past by conducting a black mass. As the game website explains, players draw tarot cards to overcome obstacles and add to a spread that represents the lives of Catherine and Lydia, each card symbolizing a moment in their past, present, and future.
$35, 1-5 players
For those who enjoy conspiracy theories or creepy narrative podcasts like Limetown, the game Cobwebs is for you. You and your group play as investigators who make terrifying discoveries over the course of the game, which involves a specially-made cloth play mat, as well as custom dice, cards, and tokens.
Get some use out of your Jenga set with Dread, a story-based game where you and your fellow players become part of your own horror tale. As the danger intensifies, each player's fate is determined by a pull from the Jenga tower. If the tower falls, you're out. (Be warned: I played this game one evening at a friend's cabin, and we definitely scared ourselves.)
$20-30, 3-6 players
If you're looking for something in the realm of Friday the 13th, try Sleepaway. More Lovecraftian nightmare than slasher film, you and your group play as counselors who must protect your campers from a monstrous cryptid known as the Lindworm. Besides the game manual, all you need are pens and paper, but the more organized can incorporate a corkboard and pushpins to keep track of the action. It can also be customized for either a one-off game or a longer campaign.
Something is Wrong Here
$20, 5-6 players plus a “Facilitator”
If the title is any indication, Something is Wrong Here will haunt you, but not in the way you think. In this card-based RPG inspired by the work of David Lynch, you and your group play as troubled humans who “struggle with their dark pasts and inner demons in order to make meaningful connections with each other.” Besides the game cards, you will need a few additional items, including name tags, a box, and a full-length mirror. Those missing Halloween parties will like that adult beverages and costumes are optional in this game.