Carrying horror roleplaying games is practically a must for every retailer that has an RPG shelf in the store.  Although the fantasy settings generally dominate this space in the store (as D&D books often yield exponentially more in sales than other brands), not all RPG players are into meeting at a medieval inn to sign up for the town's annual sword fighting tournament.  Some RPG enthusiasts have a darker side and seek the thrill of being terrified rather than the glory of delving into a dungeon to fight a monster.  Luckily, there are a number of manufacturers that make these more macabre RPGs.

Before getting into who makes which books, it is important to understand the appeal of horror RPGs.  The appeal of these games is inherently tied to the same reasons why people pile into theaters to watch the newest Scream movie (see "Scream 6"), pick up the latest Stephen King novel, or go to haunted house attractions every year around Halloween.  Some people love to be scared because the threat of imminent danger gives them an adrenaline rush, and approaching the terrifying unknown carries a sense of intrigue.  Horror RPGs are another form of engaging, creative works that help bring on these emotions, for those who crave them, which makes them potential moneymakers in a retail setting.

The mainstay horror RPG brand to stock on shelves has always been the World of Darkness books created by White Wolf Publishing and now published by Renegade Game Studios.  The World of Darkness brand began with Vampire: The Masquerade in 1991 and expanded to include other books with other "By Night" creatures like werewolves, mages, changelings, and even mummies.

After White Wolf Publishing developed a new version of Vampire: The Masquerade in house in 2017 (distributed and later produced by Modiphius), White Wolf parent Paradox Interactive licensed Renegade Game Studios to produce Werewolf: The Apocalypse in 2019, and then partnered with Renegade for the core Vampire: The Masquerade game beginning in 2020 (see "Partner for 'World of Darkness'"), with Renegade printings hitting the market in 2021 see "'Vampire: The Masquerade 5E' Books are Headed to Retail").  They've also published a new Hunter: The Reckoning book (see "'Hunter: The Reckoning Core Rulebook'").  Sales of the group have been good, placing in the top five RPGs in ICv2’s chart of the top RPGs in the hobby channel (see “RPG Top Brands”).

One cannot suggest carrying horror RPGs without mentioning the Elder God of RPG Horror Brands, the Call of Cthulhu line. Chaosium's Lovecraft-based RPG books have been a staple for retailers looking to add horror to their shelves.  The company is now on the seventh edition of the game, recently releasing another printing of their Starter Set (see "'Call of Cthulhu 7E: Starter Set'"), and the brand is still going strong.  However, as more and more of Lovecraft's work became public domain over the last decade, there have been a number of companies also publishing Lovecraft-themed RPG books and board games, which have been diluting Chaosium's hold on their audience.  Regardless, Call of Cthulhu RPG remains one of the most well-known RPGs for retailers to consider for their horror stock.

Pinnacle Entertainment Group is another time-tested maker of horror RPGs. Deadlands RPG, which sends players into the Weird West to battle all sorts of Harrowed individuals and undead monsters, is probably their best-known horror RPG. PEG has also published other horror campaign settings through Savage Worlds.  They recently ran a Kickstarter for Holler: An Appalachian Apocalypse (see "'Holler RPG'"), an indie RPG setting that has a truly unique lore.  Players can use this book to weave tales of miners, moonshiners, and bluegrass pickers as they struggle against post-apocalyptic horrors in the Appalachian mountains.

Also in the genre of horror Westerns, it is worth taking a look at Haunted West RPG by Darker Hue Studios.  There was a lot of buzz around this game as it was nominated for the 2022 Diana Jones Award (see "Diana Jones Award").  Haunted West RPG is set in an alternate history after the American Civil War, and focuses on marginalized people during the Old West era.  The core book lays out the alternate timeline from prehistoric times through the last stagecoach robbery.  It was recently brought to retail by R. Talsorian Games, and is definitely worth considering (see "R.Talsorian Will Bring 'Haunted West RPG' to Market").

This coverage is part of RPG Week, celebrating all things RPG at ICv2.  For more ICv2 RPG Week articles, click here.