That house on the outskirts of town, sitting empty behind a crumbling wall. The one people whisper about. The one that has gone unlived in for years. Sometimes a few hearty souls creep in, it is said, to see what treasures or secrets they can find. Most find nothing—just an empty old house. Some return shaken. A few don’t return at all.
You’ve seen this house before. If not in this city, then in some other. You’ve heard the rumors—and if not, well, someday they’ll find you.
What happens to a house when it sits alone for so many long years? What jealousies and hatreds does it quietly nurture? What whispers echo through its empty hallways? What waits, crouched within its dark rooms, hungering for the return of life?
Exploring The Darkest House
I think most have that shared experience of the old, creepy house from their hometown that draws their attention, dares them to explore, or even other kids dare them to enter. I grew up in Burrillville, RI specifically Harrisville and while I didn’t ever go into the house from The Conjuring, suffice to say there were plenty of creepy houses, run down shacks, and spooky places out in the woods. We’ve all heard stories of these places or maybe it’s an abandoned warehouse, storefront, or apartment building. There’s a hint of mystery that makes us want to know, to explore but a suggestion of malevolence that maybe we better not try. The Darkest House clearly builds on that promise.
I missed the kickstarter from Monte Cook Games, funded back in April, but thankfully my friend Ayde has brought it to my attention! I’m a big fan of the Cypher System so I figured I’d enjoy this as well. She approached quite a few of us with the premise of some Monster Hearts 2 characters getting invited to come check out this house for one reason or another. Wait what? Our Monster Hearts 2 characters? Yes! It’s especially made to be adaptable to all different kinds of game systems to bring those characters in and then have them leave changed forever! The kickstarter noted 5E (which I’m trying a bit of too, shhh more on that later) and the Cypher System but really you can adapt any character to bring in. Ayde’s done that for us as well as had us – and I”m not exactly sure if it’s part of the game or not – fill out a survey to give some more detail on our characters. I assume that’s to torment us with.
The Rules Are Simple
We’ve been told the house hates us. However, I think that survey information and Ayde’s knowledge of our characters fueled the invitations we got in character. I’ll get there, but I wanted to go a bit into the mechanics of the game. Ayde made our character sheets, which are simplistic, but represent a translation of what our actual characters in the other game system are capable of. Besides the survey we gave Ayde a copy of our latest character sheets for MonsterHearts. I’m using a character named Nik, who has the Angel skin and suffice to say his abilities boiled down to smiting evil and performing miracles, but at a cost. My Darkest House character sheet reflects that. Nik has an overall rating of 4 with a boon to smiting the wicked and with the ability to try and perform miracles, which is a GM discussion. What does that mean?
Well in the Darkest House when you want to take an action you roll 4d6, and be sure one of them is very clearly different from the others. Two of these dice are for your action, which you sum up and then add your overall rating. The GM – Ayde in this case – has an idea of the difficulty rating which is always at least 7. But there’s a problem: the house hates you. Much like a Powered by the Apocalypse game, the GM isn’t rolling dice. The players do. The players always roll a House Die. Should the player succeed at their roll but the House Die is higher than either of the action dice, the house gets to do something. That’s not good. Boons at least can add another die for you the player while a Bane (like if you’re cursed) add another House Die. My character’s boon to smiting the wicked means I’ll get to roll 3d6 instead and use the two highest dice. Let me at those baddies!
So trying to pick a lock? Roll your 2d6 action dice and the 1d6 house die. Add your overall rating to the 2d6 and hope you succeed. Also hopefully that d6 house die is less than both of the action dice. Else it’s definitely not good whatever the GM is going to do! Got a bane? Add the other d6. The only other main mechanic is healing. When you rest you roll to heal, and others can help. The rating of the wound determines the difficulty and success means you recover while failure means that wound is around a while, at least 24 hours. Wounds can get worse, let alone they act as a Bane. That is each wound is a Bane. Only want to benefit from boons is to have more boons than banes so picking up a few wounds can quickly mean your character might be facing their final moments. Ayde also reminded us we can try to do anything, just describe how and what and we’d go from there!
The Story Unfolds
One example of that started even before my character went to the house. In Monster Hearts there’s a mechanic to Gaze into the Abyss. Nik – my former angel – does it often to try and reconnect with the knowledge he once had. Well the invite he got signed from a certain P. H. had him investigating the address, the person, and the house both mundanely and magically. Offers to get back the ability to help he’d lost? A beckoning to come to this creepy place that some even suggested was alive in a dark, disturbing way? A trap sure – and a plot hook – but one Nik felt compared to handle.
As it turns out others were invited and all thought the house was in their state. But there we all were suddenly. Have I mentioned the game purchase is actually an app? There’s many images to aid you as I’ve included in this article. I love good art to set mood and inspire the GM and player alike. The house itself has that haunted spectral feel. After we’d looked around and gone inside, the shadowy dirty nature of the first room wasn’t much more inviting especially once we heard childlike laughter from the darkness. Of course there’s creepy notes from P. H. too: Phillip Harlock who lived long ago and never left the house. Will any of us? I’m not so sure because…
The house still hates you.
You hear it and you laugh. You read it and you chuckle. But you know, I’m starting to believe it. We’re doing a series of sessions so I can’t break down the entirety of my experience just yet, but don’t you worry I’ll have a follow up once we’re done. In the meantime if you want to bring a bit of exploratory horror to your characters – no matter what the game system – I suggest you invest in The Darkest House!
I wasn’t quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!
I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!
Banner – The Darkest House banner, Monte Cook Games