Monday, October 5, 2015

Side Trek: Haunted House

Haunted houses have captured the imagination of people around camp fires and Halloween gatherings for years. Every family and group of friends has their own stories to tell about strange occurrences that may have been supernatural phenomena. As a kid I can recall many abandoned and creepy houses that my friends and I found in the woods. At least one of those times several of us thought we saw some pale face staring back at us from an attic window. During October game sessions I think players are expecting the DM to whip up something scary. So below please find a side trek to add to your seasonal tool belt of horror. 

This house once belonged to a family which retained a gypsy to conduct a séance. They wished to make contact with the other side to determine if the house was haunted. Strange things had been occurring in and around the home which caused some significant injuries. One family member had fallen from a ladder but reported they were actually pushed off.  One of the children became lost in the woods and nearly drowned in the nearby river before being discovered. The child’s story was she was lead to the river by a nice old lady.

The gypsy was well regarded and arrived to work as a medium with the help of her Ouija board. Legend holds that whatever malevolent spirit indeed haunted the house became enraged when the séance began. The poltergeist possessed the body of the gypsy and violently attacked the assembled family. What became of them still to this day no one can say but the house has been long abandoned.

Player Hooks (1d4)
1.    The player characters learn about the haunted house while frequenting a local tavern. Use some of the background information mixed with false rumors.
2.    After traveling for several hours and exhausted the characters decide to seek shelter from the rain in what appears to be an abandoned house.
3.    One of the characters was related to the now deceased family of the house. While passing through the area in-between adventurers they decide to visit.
4.    The player characters are hired by the nearby village to clean the house of the evil spirit which dwells there. Again use the background information to fill in the story.

The Home: dilapidated condition; broken glass underfoot; odor of decay; strange air pressure; oppressive darkness. When the characters venture inside they find dried brown splatters of blood everywhere. The only remaining objects inside are a table and six chairs which appear untouched by weather or time. Lying atop the table is a flat board with the letters of the alphabet arrayed in two semi-circles above the numbers 0 through 9; the words “yes” and “no” in the uppermost corners, “goodbye” at the bottom. A tear dropped piece of wood lays atop the board.

Note: Any player character touching the Ouija board will automatically summon the poltergeist. They along with any companions will be instantly teleported onto the chairs around the table. Unable to move or leave the chairs, they will be compelled to engage the poltergeist with the Ouija board.

Game Outside the Box: You will need a real Ouija board for this part of the adventure to work correctly. Just a quick Google search and I found plenty that are relatively inexpensive. The poltergeist will answer as many questions as the DM will allow the characters to ask. As long as the players are having fun I would continue the exercise and really get the hair on nape of everyone’s neck on end. 

My suggestion is conduct the séance by real candlelight and maybe include some very faint haunting music in the background. When an opportune time presents itself a sudden outburst from the DM should really startle the players good. This could be either role playing the poltergeist or demanding initiative rolls be made!

The poltergeist still has control over the corpse of the long dead gypsy. Through the use of dark eldritch magic it has been preserved so the poltergeist has a physical host. The poltergeist uses the question time around the Ouija board to evaluate a potential new host among the player characters. The characters should have to make a very difficult Wisdom check to break free of the magic hold. If successful they regain control of their bodies in this order:

Round 1: Head
Round 2: Upper extremities
Round 3: Lower

The poltergeist will appear as the horrific corpse of the gypsy woman complete with a sickening pallor and terrible evil eye. The former will be used by the poltergeist to cause necrotic damage in a 20’ cone to anyone who tries to stop it from possessing a target. If the player characters destroy the corpse host the poltergeist will abandon the area and return another day. In terms of statistics match the encounter to the level of the party but make sure it’s a tough fight. 

New Magic Item

Ouija Board
This strange board was crafted from a petrified tree found in an ancient graveyard. For some inexplicable reason the spirits of those which have perished violently in life are attracted to it. Legend holds using the Ouija board is extremely unpredictable and often dangerous. The Ouija board allows the casting of Speak with Dead and Augury each three times per day. Alternatively use a real Ouija board and use the results as part of your story and role playing. Tormented spirits will seek out the owner of the
Ouija board wherever they may travel. 
This beautiful Ouija board can be found at on Etsy.

If you enjoyed this post and are looking for more Halloween inspiration it can be found in Tales from the Game Tavern. The theme of issue one is Halloween and there are plenty of additional adventure seeds and material to make your October games memorable!