deadscare rpg elsa henry

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ELSA S. HENRY is here on Vodka O’Clock for the first time to talk about her feminist tabletop roleplaying game, DEAD SCARE, which has a few more days left on Kickstarter. You can download the preview of the playbook at the Kickstarter page. Since I’m a newb, Elsa walked me through what game play and design are like.

Download on iTunes, Stitcher or listen here.

“Dead Scare” is obviously a play on the red scare when America and Russia were considering nuking each other. The origin for DEAD SCARE came about because Elsa felt that THE WALKING DEAD didn’t have enough active female characters except for Michonne and the remaining women fell into tropes too easily. She’s also a historian and big fan of DOWNTON ABBEY, so you wouldn’t be shocked by her decisions to revisit the past and shake it up. She wants to show how tropes can be used creatively for engaged and active storytelling rather than treating women as objects.

DEAD SCARE is about a zombie apocalypse that happens in 1953 where most of the politicians in Washington D.C. have been infected, leaving Senator Joseph McCarthy in charge of the nation. Elsa and I discussed what was appealing to her as a writer taking on an era before any of the civil rights and equal rights movements. She wants to embrace the campiness of zombies and horror without excluding serious real world subject matter like anti-Semitism, racism, homo/transphobia, and feminism. The game design team is made up of all women or non-binary. Players can play as either women or children because in this world, the men have been infected by the zombie virus or they are trapped and unable to return to this neighborhood. You have choices like being The Goody Two-Shoes or The Preacher’s Wife or The Runner (Newsies that act as messenger systems).


The game has been tested a couple of Double Exposure gaming conventions. Once you get the playbook, all you need are a couple of D6 and a D20, which if you don’t have already, you should be able to easily get at a comic shop rather cheap.

The illustrations by Elizabeth Simins have loose pencil lines and greyscale shading with spots of blood red color.

The game’s publisher, Exploding Rogue Studios has 6 Kickstarters under their belt so that should inspire some confidence.

I have to say, I love the tier called Corporate Sponsor where you can pick a household product that gets turned into a mock 1950s ad. So if I were to say “lightbulbs” then somehow they’d make an ad showing the use for it in a zombie war. Whether it’s an appliance to mix together chemical weapons or cleaning solutions for removing blood and brains, Elsa is ready to come up with creative uses for your household products.

Writer and Designer: Elsa S. Henry
Editor: Lillian Cohen-Moore
Illustrator: Elizabeth Simins
Layout Artist: Tiara Lynn Agresta
Publisher: Exploding Rogue Studios
Stretch goal contributors include: Shanna Germain, Delilah S. Dawson, Shoshana Kessock, Whitney “Strix” Beltran, and Nora Last.


Elsa is the community manager of the online storytelling/sharing platform Storium. Right now Storium is still in beta so only the people who backed that Kickstarter are able to play. It’s team storytelling around a narrator. You don’t have to be logged in the same time as the other players unless the specific setup for that chapter.


Elsa has been targeted by Gam*rGate and people like them. She said they actually make their threats specifically trying to poke vulnerability in her disabilities. Her patreon is set up to fund her gaming reviews that address the gaming experiences she has with her vision impairment.



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