Posted on September 20, 2011 by Megan
Available at RPGNow.com
Haunts have been one of the most intriguing and (from my side of the GM’s screen, anyway) entertaining additions to the panoply of challenges to throw at characters… and here they take another novel yet classical twist: the haunt that is associated with an item rather than a location.
The work opens with a pseudo-scholarly account, the sort of thing you might cast before the more intellectual kind of adventurer to send them haring off into the horrors you have prepared for them. This leads in to the promised collection of some 30 haunted objects, by way of a note on persistent haunts, which can be a bit puzzling. As haunts duplicate spell effects whatever they do has a duration which can be ‘instantaneous’ or it can last for a set period. A persistent haunt with an instantaneous effect is one which hangs around firing it off repeatedly, while ones whose effects last longer are considered persistent only if there’s a variation in the normal spell duration, it is triggered anew each round, or it is an effect that if you were creating it by casting a spell, you’d need to concentrate for the entire duration of that spell. A new ‘trigger’ is introduced as well. Haunts are normally triggered by proximity or touch, but some of the ones described herein are triggered by a gaze, by being looked upon. You defend against these in the same ways as you might protect against a gaze attack… but of course, you only take those sort of precautions if you are expecting one! Blindfolds and averted eyes can be very inconvenient when exploring…
The actual haunts are associated with a selection of items familiar to anyone who likes spooky stories, particularly those of a darker turn. Charred corpses, bloodied beds… and each one, of course, has a specific method of destroying the haunt, one that is not always obvious so if you use it you will need to work out how to present appropriate clues so that those characters who manage to stop running away and screaming long enough can figure it out. A delightfully sneaky one called the Determined Device, for example, resets a trap which the characters have already disarmed… as well as more classic examples like a flute that forces you to dance, a blisteringly-hot door knob, or a mirror that traps souls.
This magnificent array is followed by a description of an abandoned (and of course haunted!) temple and the ghost that masquerades as the resident deity. This location is the one described in the opening flavor text, complete with its own set of apposite haunts, and the whole could be used as a minor adventure in its own right.
The haunts are all well-developed, with coherent reasons as to how they came to be as they are, and logical ways to dispel and destroy them… can the characters but figure them out! Plenty to play with as you design your next game and pick one or two to terrify, annoy, or distract the characters. Build their stories into the plot you are weaving, and add atmosphere to your game.
Review Megan Robertson