I’m here a day earlier than normal to coincide with Halloween, a holiday all about scary stories and creeping strangeness. While there are plenty of ways to tie this spooky season into your RPGs, I’m here with twenty horror-themed plot hooks that you are free to borrow and use.
While there are some specific items in here, I tried to keep things vague. They center around a small town in a remote area but beyond that you should be able to slot them into whatever story you like. You should be able to use them as-is in a wide variety of campaign settings including classic fantasy, modern, gothic, medieval, Western, steampunk, alternative history, etc. The town in question could be in Ohio, Westeros, or Bavaria without much rewriting and if you want to use them in sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, or less European-style stories then it should take just a little adjustment.
As always, if you use these in your game I absolutely want to know! Enjoy!
People are disappearing from town for the last few months. While nearly a dozen people have disappeared, they cluster together. The last ones happened 25 days ago… just during the last New Moon. The next New Moon is in three days, can the party figure out who is responsible in time?
The local waterfall is said to be a place for lovers, the scene of many marriage proposals. When the usual crowds were gathered there last weekend they witnessed the waters starting to run red like blood. Priests in town claim it is a sign of haunting and possession, but what’s the truth?
This town was founded a century ago amid a harsh disagreement. An old woman, some said a witch, warned that the site was cursed and the town would stand “no more than a hundred years.” With the community’s centennial coming up, some are starting to see that as prophecy.
A monster has been sighted! Rumors have spread over the last few weeks that a half-human thing has been prowling around the edges of town. The most recent rumors, though, is that an ethnic group living just outside of town has reported “hunters” using the sightings as an excuse to intrude on their community. Is it all just a cover for racist actions or an opportunistic conincidence?
A century ago a broken promise and dramatic fight lead to a rift between two families that continues to this day. Recently, one of the families has experienced mysterious bad fortune on their farm and personally. They claim the other family is using dark ritual to curse them and point to the rising of a curse star in the sky, but the truth is even more complicated.
Things have started to disappear around town, small things but the pattern is growing. Nearly everyone has lost something from their home, almost as if the thief is gathering mementos. Why would they need mementos of the townsfolk and is it a good sign or a bad sign that the thefts stopped three nights ago.
Nobody can remember a time before the abandoned house on the edge of town was anything but a spooky shell. Still, it was simply a silent building that local children would make the subject of their dares. Last week, though, a light in the attic began turning on each evening until the dawn.
A member of the community has been living under a threat for years now after making some sort of pact. The time of collection is coming up soon but they think they found a way of avoiding fate. Will the party help them or is it too horrible to consider?
A local place of worship has been desecrated, a statue of a divine protector shattered to pieces. The clergy warn of demonic involvement and the town is starting to get mobilized to search out the influence. This is when the party stumbles on the true cause: a bunch of teens who were messing around and accidentally broke the statue. Can they stop things from going too far?
He was ostracized for his dark sorcery and sent away from town years ago. Continuing to study, though, the warlock learned to craft magical disguises and now he has secretly returned so that he and his acolytes can replace townsfolk one by one.
For as long as anyone remembers, the Oaken Wreath has hung above the town hall. Legend says it is good fortune against evil though attitudes are mixed about how real this is. Still, when the wreath went missing a week ago it caused some nervousness… especially since the animals in the surrounding land have been silent for days now.
A respected member of the community has been living with a secret shame for years. Whatever happened in the past, they have kept quiet about it out of shame. A week ago, someone placed twenty posts in the town square, sunk deep in the earth. Each night another disappears and the secret-holder is increasingly frantic about what will happen when the last one goes.
Last month, members of the town dug up an old time capsule buried decades ago. Among the articles in it there is a picture of a young child with the words “do not trust” underneath. The picture bears a striking resemblance to a seven-year-old child born nearly fifty years after the picture was made. Understandably, the child’s guardians are scared out of their minds.
The town feared the worst when a group seemed possessed by dark forces, but some investigation revealed that it was really exposure to hallucinogenic fungi in their homes. Cleaning is underway and the town is moving on but the party discovers the fungi may have been purposefully grown using dark magics. Could the fears actually be true after all?
In a trial which captivated the town for weeks, a young person was convicted and sent to a distant prison despite insisting on their innocence. Now those who sat in judgement at the trial are turning up dead. Who is responsible for this revenge and is it more criminal activity or a desperate attempt to right an injustice?
A vicious predator has been harassing the town (and livestock) for nearly a year and folk had begun to give up on trying to stop it. When the creature’s skull showed up in the middle of town one morning, then, it was cause for rejoicing… That is, until the note was found underneath reading “This town is mine.” Who has claimed this place and for what purpose? And how could they kill something so fearsome.
A ghost has taken up residence in one of the homes in town and the family that lives there is terrified. There seems to be more to the story, however, as the ghost is leaving nightly clues. Could they be trying to warn the family of something? And why is the mayor so insistent on knocking the house down?
Three months ago, a nearby lake started to turn cloudy and then the waters became oily and black. No one could say why but the corruption soon started to spread into the soil… but only in the direction of town. People are desperate and hope the party can figure out what’s happening as the black pollution is only a few hundred yards from town.
A mysterious woman arrives during a dramatic storm, dressed in old styles of clothing and with a strange air about her. She matches, in fact, a figure from an old legend about a witch who would return to destroy the town. To the party she claims that the legend is a work of propaganda, that she is actually here to save the town. Can they hold off the angry mob long enough to figure out the truth?
At the start of the story, the party must find and confront a murderer. There is no question that the person is guilty of heinous crimes and after the fight the party can dispatch or imprison the culprit as they see fit. It doesn’t end there, though, as they are targeted by an insidious and vengeful force. Who or what is targeting them and what does this new threat have to do with he murderer they stopped?