First Impressions of Directors Cut: Survival Horror

While at Gen Con last week, I was privileged to attend a presentation on an RPG called "Directors Cut: Survival Horror" hosted by its creators Amy and David Claxton. The developers intend on releasing other genres, which is why the name has a sub-title; so, if horror isn’t your thing, keep an eye open for other offerings. Directors Cut has a novel concept, and is quick to learn, so I anticipate it taking off really well.

The rules are extremely simple and can be learned very quickly. In fact, the core rule book is only about 100 pages, and, if you remove the images from it, there are really only about 80 pages of text. The book is brief because many things are left up to the group playing (i.e. whether to use for the bludgeon or improvised weapon skill for a broken hand rail). In this regard, it is very much like classic D&D where house rules were encouraged.

Amy and David provide a significant amount of material to help new directors get started. There are several example "monsters" of differing power levels to show a few of the possibilities for antagonists. Several pre-made character sheets are provided as examples, or for getting new players into the game quickly. Many suggestions for setting the mood are also provided so that the actors feel the same sense of dread and foreboding that the characters would and helps to immerse players into the game. One feature that truly exemplifies this immersion is the "death scene" where the actor or director describe in graphic detail how the character met their demise. Also, throughout the book sample interactions are given to aid in learning the flow of the game before your first session even begins.

Since death is highly likely, the procedure for creating new characters was streamlined so that the game can resume in a timely manner. Though I would suggest having the players create a couple of extra characters before each game to speed this up even more. The process is stated as taking under 5 minutes and there is no dice rolling; players start with 50 points to allocate into skills and edges (similar to feats in D&D). Those who survive may opt to appear in sequels with extra points to improve their abilities.

Because of the easy to learn rules and their flexible nature, even those new to gaming should pick this system up quickly. The entire game requires just 5d6, so new players or casual gamers can raid their board game boxes and not have to invest any money. Skill checks, attacks, and everything else are performed with varying numbers of 6 sided dice. Also, there are less numbers to keep track of than in most other role-playing games; action points serve as hit points and ability points which simulates damage and exhaustion: you can swing at the monster again, but you will wear yourself out quicker. This combination is very intuitive as over-exertion can cause damage to one’s health.

Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to direct or act yet since I just received my promotional copy at Gen Con last week, but I hope to try it out soon. For my first movie, I intend to run a one-player (and about 10 NPCs) game in the style of "Scream" or "Howling IV". Everyone will know that the killer is a member the group, but not which one. This should instill a healthy dose of fear and paranoia in my wife on whom I test run every new game with before I inflict my clumsy GMing skills on the general populace.


  1. Nakay said:

    I was one of the play testers and I agree with everything that has been said here. It’s an awesome game and you’ll love it once you actually play!

    August 13, 2010
    • cball said:

      Thanks for the comment. I hope to play in a couple of weeks when projects at work settle down a bit.

      August 13, 2010
  2. […] not tried Director’s Cut: Survival Horror, I would encourage you to do so. You can read my review of the game from two years ago for more details. Be Sociable, Share! Tweet(function() {var s = […]

    October 18, 2012

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