Jason Blair helps put children in scary situations. And a lot of people love it. In fact, they can't wait for him to do it again.
And he's about to.
In 2001, Blair designed and released a role-playing game - the Dungeons & Dragons kind, with dice and character sheets - called Little Fears. In it, players take on the role of kids battling things that go bump in the night.
Little Fears went out of print in 2004, but it garnered enough fans that ever since, the 33-year-old writer for Fitchburg videogame developer Big Rooster has received several emails a week from people asking where they can get a copy. "It's a bit of a cult classic," he says. "There are copies on Amazon that run $100 or $200."
Soon gamers won't have to drop that kind of cash. On Oct. 19, Blair is releasing Little Fears Nightmare Edition, a reboot that improves some rules and shifts the game's tone.
"The original game was much more focused on mood and serious horror, whereas the Nightmare Edition is more fantastic," he says. "It emulates films like Monster House and Monster Squad and even The Goonies." He started taking preorders in mid-September at littlefears.com.
Although most of his sales are almost certainly to experienced role-players, Blair says he created Nightmare Edition with newbies in mind.
"I've really taken a critical eye to a lot of RPGs and seen how unfit so many are to introduce people to role-playing," he says. "I'm writing on the basis of no assumptions. This is how I would teach someone, step by step, to play a role-playing game."
That philosophy will hold Oct. 17 at the Pizza Oven in Monona, where Blair and Matt McElroy, a writer and editor of the horror webzine Flames Rising, host the Halloween-themed second Madison Games Day. The free event invites everyone to, well, show up and play games.
It's focused on RPGs, but plenty of board and card games will be available to play too, including darker fare like Arkham Horror, lighthearted zombie fast-food romp Give Me the Brain and new medieval-fantasy adventure Castle Panic. Blair will have Little Fears Nightmare Edition for sale and will run sessions of it all day. The first Games Day, in May, drew around two dozen people.
"Last time, we had whole families - mom, dad and kids - show up, and that was great," McElroy says. "I have no idea what the turnout's going to be like - I just hope people have fun."
Madison Games Day 2
The Pizza Oven, 5417 Monona Dr., Saturday, Oct. 17, noon