How to Host a Halloween RPG Session

Halloween is the one time of year where you can be a total nerd in public and nobody is allowed to say anything- or whatever they said in Mean Girls.

Whether you play regularly or have a hard time organizing a group, Halloween is the perfect excuse for an over-the-top and deliciously spooky RPG night.

After a few years’ worth of Halloween themed game nights, I’ve collected some tips and tricks for making it a special event.

Have a discussion about your group’s desired spooky levels

A lot of RPG spaces have begun encouraging “consent forms” before starting a new game.

They usually aren’t complicated; consent forms just boil down to an agreement on what you’re comfortable seeing in your game.

That might be extra important if you’re planning a scary game. For example, some folks I play with can hear pretty intense descriptions of violence and be okay, but they absolutely don’t want to be part of any stories involving clowns.

This is also a good time to figure out if your group wants a scary horror game or a more lighthearted, family friendly Halloween-themed game.

Commit to the theme

Whatever tone you agree on, do your best to sell it!

Think of it this way: if you go to a scary movie with the intentions of making jokes and laughing through it, you’ll think it wasn’t very scary. If you go with the intention of experiencing the scary parts as much as possible, it’ll be more effective.

Maybe this goes without saying, but being willing to go along with even the silly parts of an RPG is helpful for players and GMs to have the overall best experience possible.

If you’ve planned a scary game, immerse yourself and let it be spooky. If you’ve planned something more lighthearted, then you can come in with your sillier characters.

Plan the right game

In many cases, you’ll be able to make a scary game as sort of a “special episode” of your running campaign.

Maybe the players find a haunted house to explore or hear about a spooky monster terrorizing a local community. You can get creative with eldritch horrors or call back to classic thriller monsters.

If you’re a Dungeons and Dragons group, I know for a fact there are vampires and werewolves ready to go in that game, and most other RPGs have some decently spooky creatures to battle.

If you’re playing something less fantastical or combat-centric, bringing in a more mysterious tone might be the way to go. Maybe some strange tracks outside hint at monsters that shouldn’t exist in your setting. Maybe a dangerous criminal has escaped a local jail.

Locked-room mysteries require a bit more planning but are almost always a hit no matter the setting.

Get your players to a dinner party or important meeting in a secluded location. Introduce them to a distinct cast of characters with different motivations, then in a moment of confusion or in a different room, kill off one NPC.

The more creative your clues and murder are, the bigger reveal you’ll get to do, but rein yourself in if this is a one-session mystery. Dimension 20’s Mice and Murder is a good place to look for how to make your players feel like detectives by sending them secret clues and helping them find answers themselves.

Don’t be afraid to get away from your usual game or system and plan something special.

Systems like Vampire: the Masquerade or Call of Cthulu are very popular and have Halloween energy built in. Monster of the Week is another good one, especially if you’re looking for something with lighter rules to learn quickly.

Decorate your game space

Make it a party! The room you’re playing a TTRPG in doesn’t usually matter much, but it’s way easier to get into the Halloween spirit with some decorations.

You could go hard with this and put up fake cobwebs, pumpkins and bats. Really, you can achieve a spooky vibe just from changing up the lighting.

Playing by candlelight would definitely provide a great atmosphere, but if you’re somewhere where you aren’t allowed to burn candles, string lights or something similar would be cool, too.

Virtual play may also put a stop to decorating plans. The best advice I can offer is if you’re using a virtual tabletop, pick out some spooky looking maps to play on.

Wear costumes

It’s Halloween! Get dressed up!

Whether you’re playing virtually or in person, costumes definitely make it feel like a Halloween party. I’d highly recommend dressing up as the characters you’ll be playing.

This can be low effort, like getting a wand to wave around as you talk or some mystical makeup to match whatever creature you’re playing as.

You can also go super hard and put together a full cosplay, like my group has done in the past. I’m talking weapons, cloaks, wigs… the whole thing.

If you do that, make sure to take photos.

Shake things up

The best part of a holiday game is that it feels like a special episode of your own personal TV show.

I’ve already suggested trying a different TTRPG than you’re used to, but a one-off session could also be a great time to try other new things.

This would be the perfect time for a player who hasn’t been the GM before to try it out. This gives the regular GM a week off from session prep and the chance to play just one character for a change.

It’s also always interesting to play a game designed by someone you aren’t used to.

Make it your own

Again, this may go without saying, but maybe you hate all my advice and don’t want to do any of it. That’s fine, of course.

The things I want to encourage are leaning into the ridiculous, nerdy parts of this hobby and shaking up your usual game time.

Try something new, feel kind of silly while you’re doing it. Halloween is a great time to do all of that and find some new things you like in your games.

Also, tell me what cool stuff you’ve done at Halloween TTRPG nights- I’d love to hear about it.