Thursday, November 22, 2012

Too Late for Halloween?

We played our annual Halloween game this past weekend and it went off without a hitch! I've got to say, I'm pretty proud of the job I did writing and running this adventure of horror and mystery.

As with all of our Halloween games, it was based on a horror movie. This particular incarnation was based on House on Haunted Hill, a classic "spend the night in a haunted mansion" scenario. 

 Vincent Price, star of House on Haunted Hill

The premise was simple: A wealthy lumber baron by the name of Malcom Dodson invited the  players to a birthday party; it took place at the defunct Essware Asylum for the Feeble Minded. The invitations included an offer of 1000 gold pieces to each player who attended. The only requirement was that they entertain Malcom's wife Flossie, who had fallen into poor health. Flossie was an avid reader of adventure books and bards' tales. What better gift than to provide her with real adventurers who could regale her with first hand tales of danger?

The players jumped at the opportunity for a bit of easy coin and a free meal. They arrived on schedule and enjoyed an evening of food, liquor and tales of horror provided by Francis, the asylum's current caretaker. They met Malcom, Flossie and a pair of wealthy landowners known as Klaus and Verner Kull. Francis told them of the asylum's spotless reputation, it's charitable works and the escaped inmates that brought the whole place down in a psychotic riot. They toured the various wings and discovered a large slab of iron behind the grand staircase. They retired to their rooms for a good night's sleep and an early start the next morning.

Or so they thought...

The silence of night was shattered by a blood curdling scream! Viktor the monk and Stella the mousefolk wizard dashed toward the scream while their eccentric cleric, 'St. Jubal the Insane' was assaulted by his own bedsheets. The haunted linen lashed out in an attempt to strangle him but he managed to call for help. The group's fighter, Maximus, heard the pleading and came to the door to find it mysteriously locked. As he tried forcing the door he began sinking into the floor, the house was trying to eat him!

Meanwhile, Viktor and Stella made their way to the main hall. Peering over the second floor balcony they spotted the lifeless corpse of Flossie on the floor below, apparently pushed from the catwalk opposite them. They didn't have long to investigate, as they heard Maximus calling out for help. They ran to him and found him laying in the hall holding a doorknob with one hand and a glass of scotch with the other. He and Jubal relayed stories of their encounter and the group proceeded to Malcom's room, where he was pounding on the locked door, demanding release.

Following his release from his own room, Malcom discovered his dead wife and flew into a rage. She not only fell, but was brutally stabbed, the dagger still present in her belly. He began accusing everyone present of the crime and revealed that the Kull brothers were his bodyguards and not wealthy landowners. Malcom locked the doors and gathered everyone in the parlor, including the chef, servants and maids. He was determined to find the culprit.

Stella and a maid ventured to the kitchen to retrieve more wine while everyone else mulled about the parlor. The lights suddenly went dark and Jubal was possessed by the spirit of Flossie. He screamed an ominous message before falling to the floor. As his body hit the ground an earsplitting bang came from the main hall. In same time frame, Stella managed to save the life of the maid, who was attacked by a spectrally wielded butcher's knife in the kitchen. Thank goodness for darkvision.

Shaken, the party gathered in the main hall to find the iron slab behind the stairs had split, revealing a staircase to forgotten levels below the asylum. Being adventurer's, they dove right in.

The dungeon crawl was pretty straight forward. They battled various undead mini-bosses and collected a relic from each one. Each encounter was difficult, but also had a particular weakness; discovered by searching their respective rooms in the upper levels of the asylum.  Each relic solved a piece of a puzzle which in turn, opened another level below. There were a variety of spectral traps including ghostly shoves into cells, attacking chains, devouring floors and grasping hands that melted out from the walls. The bad guy gallery included the head doctor and his nurse, the pharmacist, a flagellant cleric, a disorderly orderly and the head of staff.

My favorite encounter was the cleric's ghost. They managed to acquire his relic without combat by convincing him that they were true believers... Of course the 'convincing' required that they scourge themselves for some pretty hefty damage to prove their faith.

The lowest level pitted the group against the true evil of the asylum, an immense human heart, wrapped in chains and formed from the memories and torment of the former inmates. It was a grueling fight as the heart sent out waves of pain, cursed the adventurers and attacked with ghostly chains. The tide of battle turned when St. Jubal plunged a toy soldier (an item found earlier in the dungeon) into the heart, shattering it's magical defenses and denying it it's normal damage resistance. After a long fight the PCs came out on top although a little worse for wear. Maximus had only 1 point of strength left (the rest was drained) and was on the verge of death. Viktor also found himself permanently cursed, an affliction that causes him to lose his actions 50% of the time.

We didn't have a human heart laying around, so we used a soda can on the map in it's place.

By the time they resurfaced the sun was up and Malcom rewarded them for their efforts with 1250 gold pieces each. They were happy they broke the curse on the house and Francis informed them that they are welcome any time. He intends to turn it into a tourist attraction.

Unfortunately, they failed to discover that Malcom had actually murdered his own wife, as he was tired of her sickly condition. It was the spilling of her blood that awakened the evil in the house in the first place!

All in all it was a fun game. It ran until the wee hours of the morning, a fact no one realized until we were packing up. A few of us headed for a diner around the corner and had a completely different adventure, but thats a story for another time...

Until next time, happy gaming!     


1 comment:

  1. while their eccentric cleric, 'St. Jubal the Insane' was assaulted by his own bedsheets.
    This may well be the most epic thing I will read for the entire day (at the very least).