It’s an odd staple that schools can be scary places. I don’t just mean from the constant threats of detention or being stuffed into your locker, either. Rather, schools are scary because, at night, they become the exact opposite of how you envision them. Instead or bright, crowded, noisy places, they become shadow-filled corridors of vast, silent emptiness…the kind that are perfect for some sort of monster to lurk in. Could there be a better, or more accessible, place to adventure in? The Haunted School supplement of Greywood Publishing’s Fright Night line takes a look.
The book comes as a single PDF file, almost four megabytes in size. The book is sixty-four pages long, and has Optical Character Recognition, but no bookmarks, which is unfortunate. Somewhat annoyingly, the font for the book is all set to look like an old-style typewriter. While this is cool at first, the entire book is written this way, and it quickly becomes annoying since it slightly inhibits readability.
The book is entirely in black and white. Despite the cover shown on the product page, the PDF has neither a front nor back cover. Periodic illustrations break up the text, and while the (slightly anime-style) drawings are nicely done, they don’t seem to have taken to being scanned too well; they’re all slightly pixelized. Pages have bloodstains forming borders along the sides and top. Since this product was pretty clearly a printed book before being put out as a PDF, you may be better served to just find the actual book if you’re considering printing the entire product.
So how well does Haunted School cover its namesake’s genre? Interestingly, and rather oddly since this book debuted in 2004, it mainly styles itself on the D&D PHB rather than d20 modern, but despite that it adopts a large number of d20 Modern tropes. For example, all of the classes it introduces (which are meant for students attending school) are ten-level base classes that have a built-in AC bonus. But there’s no Reputation bonus, despite how much sense that makes in a clique-ish high school, and skills are based off those listed in the PHB, with d20 Modern skills (such as Computer Use) listed and explained here in the book.
Of course, the book has more than just character rules. Its introduction does a decent job of explaining how to run a horror game. Backing this up later in the book are a few short chapters with new rules. Ranging from the expected things like mechanics for fear and insanity are the unexpected, but fun, additions of things like rules for trying to verbally humiliate other students, or gaining a free feat based on your clique.
The book also walks you through a sample location and adventure. A sample haunted school is given, not just with a map and description, but also a few antagonists. The last part of the book then walks you through a short mini-campaign set in the haunted school, giving you guidelines rather than a full set of short adventures.
All in all, Haunted School isn’t a bad supplement, but it’s not superb either. Things such as the typeset font, the lack of bookmarks, and the hybrid of D&D and d20 Modern rules make it stumble on the technical side of things. However, when it does introduce new rules, it does so well, and I’d go so far as to use as least some of these rules (such as the social interaction ones) for most Modern games – or at the very least, ones with teenagers. In short, this is a mixed bag of a product; not great, but it may be just what you’re looking for, since it covers a rather specific niche (the eponymous haunted school) within a niche (horror RPGs). If I were the teacher, I’d give this book a C+.