Posted on May 17, 2011 by Megan
Available at RPGNow.com
Taking a new tack for Rite Publishing’s “30” series, this work looks not at items that you might find but a specific type of threat that you might encounter – the haunt. Indeed, not just any old haunts but those which have, for whatever reason, chosen to manifest in a house.
The product opens with an overview of haunts, which were introduced in Paizo’s GameMastery Guide – if you intend to make extensive use of haunts you may find a copy useful. Basically, haunts can develop in a location in which living creatures suffered in some way, and can be accompanied by undead. Despite having hit points and assorted capabilities, they can be thought of more as an atmosphere, an area in which effects are caused, than as actual beings in their own right. (I’m sure learned clerics and mages could argue for hours over that one!). They can only be removed from their location by performance of specific acts, based on the reasons why the haunt is there in the first place, although they can be damaged or negated such that they go away… but only for a while, they’ll manifest again later. The really fun thing is that they manifest by duplicating a spell effect – which makes the game mechanics straightforward as you can treat the haunt’s effect as if someone had cast the spell in question.
Straight on, then, to a collection of haunts ready to use, beginning with minor haunts – the sort of restless spirit that slams doors, walks around with heavy feet, or plays an instrument. They usually cause annoyance rather than harm, and manifest in ways that suggest ‘This place is haunted’ to the average paranormal investigator. Perhaps the area gets very chilly all of a sudden or things start to move apparently of their own accord (as if an unseen servant spell had been cast. For most of these, there’s a standard riposte, the casting of an appropriate spell will negate the haunt… until it resets, that is.
Next comes the concept of ‘associated haunts’ – these are combinations of haunts that work together, and one example is given, in which a Fire Starter Haunt (which whispers in your ear that it would be a good idea to light a fire, with the effect of a suggestion spell) is combined with one called the Unrepentant Smoker, which causes a lit fire to billow smoke uncontrollably, and the Charred Man Haunt, where swirling smoke coalesces into what appears to be the form of a burned body… spooky indeed!
This idea for effective uses of haunts is followed by some more substantial threats. These can actually hurt, rather than annoy or scare: perhaps possessing your familiar and causing the poor thing to bite you, or a shadowy form manifests and appears to reach out through someone to grab and squeeze their heart! Again, many of these haunts are resonant with the sort of things that happen in ghost or horror stories… and should terrify the characters which encounter them, at least until they find out how to stop the manifestation occurring.
Finally, there’s a fully-detailed NPC. Pers Veilborn studies haunts, he follows a goddess of knowledge and death, and can be persuaded to accompany adventurers who have encountered manifestations that need to be dealt with.
If you like spooky, haunted places to investigate, this work will give you hours of fun at the expense of your characters: all in the very best horror story style. Very effective and atmospheric…
Review by Megan Robertson