Don't Walk in Winter Wood is a rules-light collaborative horror game written and designed by Clint Krause and published by Red Moon Medicine Show. The game's intent is to capture the feeling of an evening of campfire ghost stories; as such, mood and narrative are prioritized.
The game is set roughly between the 17th and 18th centuries in a vague location in the American Colonies of Britain. The little villages established by intrepid or desperate colonists tend to be tight-knit and suspicious of strangers, whether they be the Native Americans who still dwell in the hills, or even folk from the next village over. The villagers work hard, keep to Christian virtues (certain... folkways notwithstanding), and for now consider themselves loyal English subjects. It's not an easy life, but they manage to get by.
Unfortunately for this particular village, there's a little extra problem: The Winter Wood that stands silent and unnaturally cold just beyond the creek. Though when necessity demands it the villagers hunt and harvest lumber in the Wood, no-one goes there if they can help it. Strange, unnatural occurrences are said to happen in Winter Wood, and now and then, something strange and unnatural comes out. The name of a cruel, cannibal Indian chief killed by his own warriors carves itself into trees. The ghost of a madwoman wails at night, mourning her husband and cursing the village. Cunning, sharp-toothed deer lure hunters to their doom. A coven of witches make unholy sacrifices to unknowable powers. Somewhere, burning bright in the cold darkness, a tunnel to hell tempts unscrupulous men to correspond with the damned.
All these stories and more might be true. At least they're true enough to devil villagers unlucky enough to draw the attention of something in Winter Wood. Left with no other options, the Walkers (player characters) must walk in Winter Wood, and find salvation or unspeakable horror. The Watcher (game master) guides their progress through the Wood, where madness and ruin are a dice roll away.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: In the title, and the Walkers and Watcher keep up the trend.
- Anyone Can Die: But of course, this is a horror game after all! The author outright tells the Watcher (GM) to keep the stakes high and put everything on the line for the climax so as to maintain a constantly tense and fearful atmosphere.
- Child Eater: There are a few in the Wood. And there are children who eat adults, too.
- Closed Circle: The village that the game takes place in is several miles away from the nearest settlement and very isolated from civilization. As such, the inhabitants of the town can forget about receiving any sort of outside help with whatever problem the current scenario has decided to afflict them with. That's where the Walkers come in...
- Don't Go in the Woods: It's right there in the title. The main goal of the game is to survive a trip into the local forest which has a reputation for many unexplained and supernatural events occurring around and inside it. Walkers braving the dangers of Winter Wood may encounter all sorts of hostile threats of both the more fantastical and completely mundane variety, such as witches and mythical monsters to common wild beasts and violent outlaws.
- Dwindling Party: As the game progresses it becomes more and more likely that Walkers will be eliminated from the story via amassing too many Cold Tokens due to how the gameplay system works. The Watcher is outright encouraged to let the players drop like flies and it is noted several times that some losses will be almost inevitable even if the villagers manage to accomplish their main goal.
- Everytown, America: A Colonial variant. Vagueness of location is intentional, in keeping with the campfire tale vibe.
- Evil Is Deathly Cold: Winter Wood got its name because it's always unseasonably chilly, and prone to thick fog. And if the Wood itself isn't evil, the things that live in it certainly are.
- Godzilla Threshold: People only go into Winter Wood if they're ignorant, foolhardy, or have exhausted all other options.
- Hell Gate: There's apparently one somewhere deep within Winter Woods and a local rumor claims that anyone who drops a letter into it will soon get a reply from demons or ghostly spirits. Given all of the other messed up crap Walkers might have to deal with while exploring the cursed forest this is probably one of the more mild dangers.
- Hypocrite: Appropriate to the time period, the villagers are mostly devout Christians who regard "heathen" practices with fear and disgust. This doesn't stop many people in the village from drawing a particular pagan sigil in their homes to ward off evil.
- Mundanger: In addition to the more supernatural threats plaguing Winter Wood the Walkers may encounter various forms of hostile wildlife such as bears, snakes, wolves and insects. Other hazards can include hostile humans, poisonous plants and dangerous terrain.
- Mysterious Mist: Winter Wood is always deathly cold and surrounded by a strange mist that is believed to be an indicator of magical supernatural forces.
- Noble Savage: Native American tribesmen can be very powerful allies in a few of the various story scenarios if the player group isn't hostile towards them, though they can also serve as enemies in certain encounters as well. (See below.)
- Ominous Fog: A stable of the areas surrounding Winter Wood, with the titular location always being cloaked in thick mist as well as a sinister chill in the air. In some causes the fog present in the adventure may be upgraded into Fog of Doom.
- Sanity Meter: The Cold Token mechanic mixes this trope with standard Hit Points to serve as a universal "health bar" for the player characters as they progress through the story. Walkers start out with a single Cold Token and get another one every time something harmful or scary happens to them and the number they currently have negatively affects their rolls as it steadily increases. If anyone gets to six that character is out of the game either due to suffering critical damage or a mental break that destroys their mind.
- The Savage Indian: This is how the villagers tend to regard the natives due to prejudice against non-Christians, though positive interactions aren't impossible. Notably, the natives are as scared of Winter Wood as the colonists.
- Snowed-In: This is the story behind the first year of the village where many families perished of starvation after a local hunter disappeared while trying to hunt for some food to feed everyone and no one was brave enough to go find him in the freezing weather. Sadly, that was just the start of their problems...
- Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: They and other creatures wait in Winter Wood. This is a game about old-fashioned ghost story fear, after all.
- Wicked Witch: The villagers live in fear of witches. They have good reason, but sometimes pick the wrong targets.
- When Trees Attack: Definitely a possibility, as The Chittering Tree legend demonstrates. Given that the tree monster in the tale manages to wipe out an entire search party sent to rescue a lost little girl (including the little girl herself) save for one man who managed to flee with her while it attacked the others it can be concluded that hostile trees are indeed a very serious threat in Winter Woods.