A Nightmare Railroad for four players and one Game Master, based on ideas taken from the Giallo Trilogy, Welcome to St. Cloud and Postcards from Avalidad by Miguel Ribeiro, published by Postmortem Studios.
[PHOTOS BY SÍLVIA CLEMENTE]
This Old House is tribute to the following films: Evil Dead, Gothic, Poltergeist, Dead Alive aka Braindead, The Exorcist, Ghoulies, A Chinese Ghost Story and, of course, The House franchise. Massive thank you to House Of Hell, the Fighting Fantasy game book by Steve Jackson, published by Puffin Books.
Readers beware: the following contains some brutal description, scenes of violence and other horror elements some readers may find disturbing.
To get hold of these books and much more content Look out for “Grim Jim” Desborough in the following places:
Printed books can be found directly on James Desborough’s author’s page at Lulu.com, offering all manner of print options, Or Drivethrurpg if you want pdf. To buy them direct from James: Post-mort.com
Don’t worry if you don’t have four players, the game master can play the other characters. The only person who needs to read this text is the person running it. If you’re playing this tale of horror, I beg you: read no more. You will ruin all the fun and excitement!
The only way to escape the house is to cure it of its ills. Not every spirit within these walls wants to be here. They long to be freed from the creatures that inhabit this abode. These being can be anything you wish and they can also conjure up all sorts of events. Some may be real, others pure illusion. As quickly as an event can happen it can end.
The element surprise is your friend:
– There can be houses around, however entering those will only lead you back to the House.
– There are no neighbours.
– There are no telephones.
– Mobiles don’t get reception here.
– Characters are completely cut off.
This house has many secrets, you must discover them. The players can be part of its past, present or future. Perhaps they regress into the house’s past. Are they haunted or perhaps just suffering from déjà vu as soon as they enter the door? You can roll on the random possession table below. You can set the house up in any time period you wish. Upon entering the property the players get a feeling of peace and contentment, which may well soon turn into dread and fear.
In The Beginning
One of the players is particularly sensitive as to what is going on with this house. It could have been part of the reason drawn to it in the first place. Trying to ignore these feelings makes them more intense towards what mysterious are locked inside:
• A little bit of déjà vu.
• Shivers, tingles, gooseflesh.
• A lot of small insects crawling about.
• Taps shooting out gunk, goo, and brown slime.
• Pictures’ eyes moving.
• Creaking, low murmurs, groans.
• Thuds, bumps.
• The insects start to swarm and become more frequent.
More strange occurrences:
• Music playing for no reason.
• Lights turning on / off.
• Feelings of being watched.
• Power cut(s).
• Louder Bangs, Crashes and slams.
• Fissures and cracks in walls.
• Bleeding portraits.
Once entering the grounds, their only mission is to escape its prison. Secrets will come to light, the main one being: it’s been the ruin of many. The house exists in its own nexus; in a trans-dimensional state. This is due to incomplete rituals of magic, taken place over the years. Again, evidence for this will become apparent.
Knocking sounds, screams, and sensations of hot and cold, ancient bones and skeletons, symbols hidden within the walls or, perhaps, certain decorations.
Their wards are in certain rooms of the property. These rooms are quiet. A successful Spirit check will pick up on these signs and portents that have been placed.
When it comes to the inhabitants of this property, you have no real idea where are the people. A handwritten note is the only sign that anyone other the characters have been here. Of course there’s food: perhaps all the ingredients for various meals or a well-stocked freezer of delectable cuisine has been provided. So, at least, they won’t starve to death during their visit.
Manifestations Table (roll 1d8):
1. Shadows crawl all over the ceiling; they become a beast with glowing eyes issuing out the following words: “Be gone you are unclean. Are you ready for your cleansing?” Creatures dripping with buckets of blood throw them upon the players.
2. Skeletons with rotting flesh appear dancing and swinging to the melody of Cocoa Cabanas. The vocals and the music are a distorted reminiscent of that of The Misfits. The skeletons seem to multiply.
3. The first line of Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel is repeated over and over. The vocal gets faster and slower, doors slam in time. After 30 seconds this fades. The word “Friend” issues a rumbling and you hear booming knocks from the door. The door slams and footsteps rush forward. You hear screaming sounds.
4. Violent apparitions fill the house, shadows from depicting terrible events. You can hear soldiers marching. Nothing visible, but bombs start falling. The house starts burning. This lasts for hardly any time and then falls silent ‘till they hear knocking once more.
5. Strangers call round at inopportune moments. These are incarnations of the spirits.
6. Strange heads float around engulfed in mystical flame speaking in foreign tongues.
7. Strange creatures start to surround the house. They can appear in various forms, sometimes human, sometimes animal.
8. Zombie outbreak. The undead can take control of all objects. Their forms and shapes are grotesque. Flesh hangs off their bones. Even when destroyed these beings’ innards can reach out to consume. They are also capable of intercourse and can give birth.
DURING THE GAME
The phone may ring. When this happens, it triggers one of the following:
1. An attacking spirit.
2. An attacking spirit
4. Ornaments flying about.
5. Creatures run through walls.
6. Insane creatures attack.
7. Innocent spirits scream for the light.
8. Insect infestation.
9. Zombies rise from the garden.
10. Ghostly fires.
Go all out and include undead cultists rising from the depths. Some can be illusion, some can be real. This is a house of horror. Corpses buried in the walls, smoke and stench, even trees outside may be able to drive your players into fits of despair and outrage, or give the impression that’s what is going on. Electrical appliances may have a will of their own here. Kettles whistling, exploding, unexplained fires from electrical sockets seem to start for no good reason. The power is located in the garage, but even without the fuses this place is still very much alive. You must ensure the horror, while the characters fight the enemy and do their best to survive this ghastly place.
They will discover more about the house’s past, present and future and, eventually, may be allowed to leave, or will just become another one of its victims. Utilise these ideas as you see fit.
Perhaps during the day the signs and sensations are not quite as strong. You could have animal bones scattered in certain areas, or let the characters uncover something in the garden, such as human skull with a large hole in it, another turning up later, that’s been smashed in half, perhaps a burial chamber within the walls of one of three buildings.
What is This Place?
The house, as I imagine it, it’s quite average: a few rooms upstairs, front back garden (overgrown). All in all, looks just like a vacant place that is just need of some care and attention. You can make it as large as you wish. Just remember the more rooms it has, the more you have to include. It’s possible that this could be just a one-shot or an on-going saga. For a never-ending story, as one player dies, another comes on to the familiar scene. Backgrounds are important for this reason. A spouse, a relative, perhaps a friend who knows they were going there, and haven’t heard from them, so they come looking.
What will they find?
Just another well stocked house filled with darkness, endlessly existing with its hideous secrets. Note that running away from the house is impossible. Players always find themselves returning to it, until the mysteries have all been solved. This is due to a curse that was placed upon it long ago. Clues to this will become apparent as long as players investigation checks are all good.
Why would anyone want to visit an abandoned old house?
1. An inheritance: you have been bequeathed this property by a dead relative; it needs a lot of cleaning up.
2. Tempted by greed: you have heard rumours of treasures buried here.
3. A storm beats down, the bridge is out: This is the nearest place to shelter. Dare you enter?
4. Simply curious: it’s as if you’re compelled by an urge to investigate.
5. Cause for concern: After not hearing from a relative/ friend for some time you are eager to find out what’s wrong. The address you have is for this place.
6. A cry for help: upon gazing at an old picture you hear a voice in your head, crying for salvation. You look to a house across the street and it’s exactly the same as the one in the picture. You hear the voice again, this time coming from the house.
7. Where did everybody go? You have been summoned to an address, unfortunately it looks nobody is there.
8. Meet the neighbours: having just moved into the neighbourhood, an invitation comes to your door; there is to be a party to welcome you. The address for the gathering is here.
9. House sitting: bills have started piling up and earning some extra cash is a priority. A job offer comes up; just stay a week until the owners come back, $150.00 for each of you and all expenses reimbursed. You must keep receipts for anything you purchase. You will need to stock the fridge. The whole house is yours to mind for seven days.
10. A simple bet that you lost: one night, that’s all. Just one night? I dare you!
Characters are relatively normal people with the following attributes:
Mind – Knowlege
Body – Physical
Spirit – Inner self
Mask – Profession
You can pick what you like here. The idea is your players are just average folks off the street.
The house is quite large, though dilapidated. A ragged looking driveway with old withered trees on either side leads up to the building. There is a garage attached to the house and two other out buildings. The garage appears empty but there is a hidden library, if investigated properly.
The kitchen is plain ordinary. There is a note welcoming you, and apologies why hosts aren’t there. One of the drawers contains various keys. Nothing indicates what opens what. One is of large size; one is of a small size.
The garage contains various rusted garden tools. A lawn mower, a chain saw and various other implements (e.g. hoe, rake, shears and a hedge trimmer).
One of the out buildings has a strong padlocked gate. Players can attempt to break it. They will find keys if they search the other out building, the largest. In this one, everything is rusted, dusty and stinks of damp. There is, however, a trap door bolted and tough to break. This is located under a heavy filing cabinet. If players don’t investigate thoroughly they may hear a knocking, scraping sound, like nails on a board. This sound increases in its intensity. Characters may well hear voices in the walls, see shadows in the upstairs windows.
What’s in this place?
Use the d100 table. You can flip these around at your leisure. It gives you an idea of what you could include:
1. Ancient photographs.
2. An old book of magical rituals.
3. Animal Bones.
6. Letters of correspondence that include information on the player characters.
7. A locked chest with a symbol upon it. One of the players might recognise it.
8. A map. An X marks a spot in the garden
9-15. A silver skeleton key.
16-21. Apparitions; roll on the d10 Possession table.
22-25. An ancient religious symbol that will stop the effect of possession for 1d4 rounds.
26-32. A cauldron of awful things that look as if they’ve been there for years.
33-44. Various id’s and passports.
45-55. A voodoo doll.
56-65. A book of ancient verses in Aramaic.
66-76. Creatures that move and twist, screaming vengeance.
77-87. Old photographs of Native Americans.
88-90. A set of ancient African swords and blow-guns.
91-95 Petrol for the mower in the out building.
96-99. Shot and shells
00. Pictures of the players and their families, with their faces scrawled out in red and black crosses.
An ancient text is also hidden if the players investigate further, one clearly written in blood. REVENGE!
They may be tempted to destroy the house. Attempts to do this will always end in disaster. It makes spirits possess it stronger. Characters can attempt to resist the entities by passing spirit checks. If those checks fail, they must roll on a d10 table. Possessions last for minimum of d4 rounds and the severity depend on the length of the possession. At the end of each possession the characters will not be aware anything has happened.
1. You start to fly around the room screaming “Get Out”.
2. You vomit flies profusely.
3. Your eyes roll back into their sockets, your face turns into that of a ravenous beast and you laugh manically.
4. You start speaking in an ancient language. Lights flicker, doors crash and bang.
5. Voices fill your mind and you have vivid hallucinations of sacrifice and bloodshed.
6. You resort back to childhood, screaming for your parents.
7. You levitate outside grabbing the key and opening the door.
8. You scream at the top of your lungs: “Mercy don’t lock the children, please, not the children!”
9. Panicky and frightened, you hide and whimper, as blood starts pouring from your nose and mouth.
10. You’re copiously sick, bile seems to just flow out of your mouth, and you start to choke.
Using the old house in the Quintet of Horrors presented by Miguel Ribeiro:
1. Postmortem Giallo: Orpheum Lofts: The Lofts was a magnificently large apartment block, luxurious and expensive owned by the notorious Paul Abramowitz. The Old House has been in the Abramowitz family for generations. It’s been left to go to ruin. Paul initially got hold of the house through his deceased father’s inheritance. It’s located a few miles from Orpheum Lofts and relatively secluded. He has been known to encourage local down-and-outs to stay there, offering carefully chosen homeless folks to stay in the Old House, knowing full well it will take the victims for its own. If you wanted to you could have all intensity locked inside one apartment within the Loft themselves. A doorway could simply appear that seems to be a never-ending corridor with doors on either side, each one unable to open. Then suddenly one door does and you are in what appears to be another apartment. The Sound of Silence by Simon Garfunkel begins to play.
2. Postmortem Giallo: The Memorial: a hospital of mystery intrigue. The house could be located in the grounds, or in a secluded area not to far away. However upon entry to The House the restless spirits dwelling within play havoc on the minds of your players. It’s as if nothing exists apart from the house. Otherwise, when you read the VIP lounge section you can find plenty of people who could have at one point owned/ inherited the House. Perhaps the House could have been used for respite care, a place where they “rehabilitated” patients. Those who have since (according to the records) been relocated, are now living independent lives. The reality is they have not. They have been buried in the murky depths.
3: Postmortem Giallo: The Sisters of the Seven Sins: the House is located near the covenant. There are various rumours that surround who actually own the property. This has caused a bit of feud. In order to quell this feud, Father Cabyde bought the property and uses it for his own amusement.
4. Welcome to St Cloud: the house could be just another cabin in the woods. Also, in St Cloud you will come across inbred with some peculiar appetites. They would make a great addition to The House. There’s plenty of wilderness where the House could be found just waiting to be discovered.
5: Postcards from Avalidad: in Postcards you will meet the Apostles of Pain; these beings (or the followers) would be ideal to include in the house. The house could make an excellent nightclub or if you wanted to include in the suburbs, as an urban legend that needs investigating; that would also work. Perhaps somebody from a corporation is on the hunt for an artefact they believe it’s located somewhere in the House. When using The House in the Postcards from Avalidad just be ware, the tech level can be rather high. In order to keep The House ideas on a low level of tech bring in malfunctions. The supernatural that dwell produce energy that interferes with the technology aspects those players may have. The House and its inhabitants can only be defeated by the player’s wits, intelligence and cunning.
Creatures (roll d8):
3. Wild gang of biker clowns
5. Maniacal Cannibals
6. Homicidal Inbred loons (with or without chainsaws)
7. Black Pig-faced bipeds
8. Two-headed obese ogres
[All of these can just be apparitions or physical entities]
Defending yourself (roll d12):
1. Candle sticks d4
2. Heavy book d4
3. Fire Poker d4
4. Kitchen knife small d4
5. Large kitchen knife d4+2
6. Garden tools d4-d6
7. Old wood axe d6
8. Revolver d6
9. Crossbow short d6
10. Rifle d8
11. Hedge trimmer d8
12. Chainsaw d12
Supernatural Damage (roll d12)
1. Madness induced, roll d6
2. Dribbling and frothing you can’t act for d4 rounds
3-4. you are in the grip of full blown hysterics D6 rounds
5-6. Everywhere you look you see dead people
7-8 Panic Ensues
9. Begging for mercy
10-12. Induces a possession