Haunted House
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Basic Information

A classic adventure location that just the mention of gives a whole raft of mental images that a GM can utilise and subvert, knowing that the players have a common store of images. It's the house at the end of the street or in the middle of nowhere, the spooky place that you really shouldn't investigate yet seem to end up at as the sun is going down or the full moon rising.

Even before the characters get there, the legend of the house will probably have been planted. A local yokel having spun the old yarn about the old Saunders place and what may have happened there.

Once the characters are there, they will be subject to the usual haunting tricks, taking on whatever malevolent entity resides there. There will probably be some special method of laying the ghost (or ghosts) to rest but sometimes you just need to get out of there. Other alternatives include the reputation existing because something non-undead but still unpleasant uses the property (occurs in Stephen King's IT with the old house that Pennywise uses for sewer access), the house being a bad place where ghosts and other spiritual entities spawn into the living world, or the house itself being a malevolent entity due to a hostile genius-loci.

The other end of this trope is for the PCs to acquire a house/castle/other property - possibly at great expense - which has an unfortunate "unadvertised feature" in the form of a ghost. Alternatively, the haunting may occur during their possession of things in the house get nasty enough - or as the result of magical botches or the activities of the PCs enemies.


4. Boardgame: Betrayal At House On The Hill is packed with ideas for haunted houses, and the sorts of things that happen inside them. Plus it has a modular board you could use to lay out floorplans.
5. Book: Gather, Darkness! by Fritz Leiber includes a science fiction version, courtesy of a trickster and Lost Technology.

Game and Story Use

  • For Scooby Doo fans there is always the possibility of subverting this trope as well - the rumors are a deliberate fabrication to keep superstitious locals from straying to close to a location that is being used for some kind of covert activity (and, of course to explain away any strange lights, noises or smells coming from an allegedly abandoned property).
    • One twist this arcanist used was that the rumors were a fabrication… to keep locals from poking into something even weirder and more dangerous.
    • Besides Scooby-Doo, an early module1 for that RPG used this kind of subversion as a plot element, presumably either a meta-play or allowing that the haunted house meme exists in universe.
  • Another possible subversion is for the haunting entity to be non-malevolent. Perhaps it's trying to warn the PCs away from danger… or lead them to something that needs destroyed.
  • And of course, you can play it straight.
  • Some effort may be required to avoid the PCs simply kicking the door in in the daytime - or the adventure scaled so daylight has no bearing, but that can lose a lot of atmosphere.
  • For many editions, a haunted house scenario - The Haunting - was the introductory scenario for Call of Cthulhu.
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