Geek Girls Rule! #358 – Interview with Elsa S. Henry about Dead Scare (RPG)

Today I’d like to bring you a quick email interview with Elsa S. Henry, creator of Dead Scare, a powered by the Apocalypse game coming out on February 14th.  Because what says “Happy Valentine’s Day” like a zombie game?
What were your early gaming experiences like?  How did they lead you to designing games?
I played some D&D at camp when I was little, but I didn’t really start gaming until I was in high school. At that point, I was already hell bent on hacking games and writing them so that we could do things like play Sherlock Holmes in the Victorian Era with the new World of Darkness Rules (Since Victoriana’s were so convoluted), and making sure I could play a blind character or a Deaf character in 7th Sea. I’ve always liked tweaking.

Give me the elevator pitch for Dead Scare. 

It’s 1953, the Cold War is on and it’s about to turn hot. You play housewives and their children fighting zombies (zeds), most of whom are your dead husbands and neighbors. Also, Joseph McCarthy is President which is frightening all on its own.
Where did you get the idea for this game?
I hate zombie movies. I was watching The Walking Dead and I got mad that there weren’t enough stories about women, that women weren’t doing their own plots and branching out, and so I thought about writing something about women fighting zombies. Sure enough I ended up thinking about what would happen if zombies were something that happened in the past. I’m a historian, you see. Long ago and far away I studied McCarthyism and found it terifying – so… I put two and two together.

Describe the mechanics.
It’s an Apocalypse World hack, with some additional components like an infection track (and a secondary infection playbook!). Basically, you can play a character as they progress through the infection. You can beat it back, but the more infected you become, the better zed powers get. You’re more in tune with the horde, can even be a warning device. So it’s a trade off.
How long is gameplay?
Anywhere from a 4-6 hour one shot to a full on campaign. I’ve run it many times, and both are certainly possible. I’m looking forward to seeing what people do with it.
Does this game have an over-arching message or purpose? 
Dead Scare is about women rising up and fighting for what they believe in. It’s about communities banding together. I didn’t know the game would be coming out in a Trump Administration political climate, but I hope people find some catharsis from punching soviet engineered zombies in the face. Fascism is certainly an underlying threat in Dead Scare, as is totallitarianism and authoritarianism. I encourage people to see it for what it is: Both a game of whimsy where you can beat a zombie to death with a frying pan, and a serious game where you can be a part of the resistance. The game is dedicated to women who fight, everywhere.

Also, it’s fun?
What do you hope for this game?
Again, I think right now I just want people to find some solace in a world where they can win. We’re all scared right now, and I know I’m looking forward to playing the game again in our current climate. I hope it does well. More than anything, I hope people like it. It was my first game design, and I’ll always love it for that.
What does success look like for you, regarding this game?
Maybe writing some supplements. Success for me will be that people have fun, that they enjoy what I’ve created. I hope people dual wield a hoover vacuum and a frying pan, I hope people tell stories together about hope and resistance. Success looks like a lot of things. It looks like men playing a game written by and for women and nonbinary creators. It looks like a table full of women getting to play a game written specifically for them.

To me, it’s about those things and about the stories I haven’t even come close to envisioning.
I’d like to thank Elsa for sharing this with me!  You can reach her on Twitter at @snarkbat or her publisher at @explodingrogue  Also, I will update this post with a link to where you can buy Dead Scare once it goes live!!!

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