I vaguely remember the first time I saw Nightmare on Elm Street – I was a kid, maybe nine or ten years old and my big sister teased me into watching it with her, which I did. You can probably imagine how the rest of that night went – me running out of the living room, convincing our mother to let me stay up as late as possible to avoid falling asleep and then, when finally forced to bed, lying awake in the middle of the mattress, well away from the edges and absolutely terrified of falling asleep. Little did I realize, overcome by such raw fear, that Freddy Krueger had just become my very first encounter with an iconic horror movie villain.
I imagine my experience is fairly similar to others who came to view a horror movie at so tender an age. However, and this is why it may seem horror fans share some morbidly similar gene, the experience didn’t drive me away from horror movies. Quite the opposite in fact as I spent a lot of hours watching early nineties monster marathons on New York’s rerun-centered channel WPIX long before it gained the bouncy WB11 image overhaul. And when my allowance was enough to afford rentals, I raided the local West Coast Video weekly, gravitating past the comedy and action movies that were in the front and middle, to the single wall of horror films, just outside the adult section, as if the two genres were somehow intertwined.
I watched as many horror movies as I could, always searching for that same terrifying fear as the first time I watched Nightmare on Elm Street, sometimes successful, sometimes, given the campy nature of many horror films, less so. Needless to say, my first real exposure to horror had left a lasting impression and looking back now, I’m glad it came in the personality it did. Freddy Krueger, the dreamland slasher villain of the Elm Street series is without a doubt one of the most iconic movie villains and while watching the films now, his shlock may seem more campy than terrifying (save perhaps for the 2010 reboot), he’ll always hold a special place in my horrorbound heart. Hence why I chose to start off this new Horror Homage series of converting iconic (and not so iconic) horror movie villains into role-playing adversaries with the slasher himself: Freddy Krueger.
Conversion. Adding Freddy Krueger to 5th Edition D&D is aided by the fact that a monster with a very similar template already exists – the night hag. Freddy’s abilities, namely being able to enter the dreams of victims, attacking with claws, journeying in a separate ‘realm’ and physically possessing others and capturing the souls of those he kills are all featured abilities of the night hag. You can probably use a night hag without any real changes to get a respectable Krueger in your games. However if you do want a more Freddy than hag, there are some changes you can make.
First off, unlike the hag, Freddy is a spirit and therefore undead. Second, films depict him almost exclusively as existing in the dreams of his victims unless they somehow manage to pull him into the Material world, making him tactically much different than the hag, who largely operates in the physical world. Also, as terrifying as Freddy may be in the movies, against the overall bestiary of D&D, his powers seem fairly weak (even weaker than the night hags, which are actual fiends and thus carry a bit of infernal blood). So as much as I wanted to give Krueger a badass stat block, I think in keeping with his actual movie powers, he is a bit of a downgrade from an actual night hag.