Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy Friday the 13th!

My kind of M:TG card!

It's Friday the 13th, and the mind invariably drifts to slasher flicks and cheesy killers in hockey masks.

Okay, well that's what I was thinking about today, at least. Such a long dreary week.  Don't Be Afraid of the Dark came in the mail, and I'm excited to experience the Del Toro remake.  Tonight is a good night for some horror!

Far and away, the worst opponents in any horror game are the psychotic humans - the mad, deranged killers, and the hillbilly clan of cannibals.  When the group's attention is focused on monsters that look the part, they often fail to notice that they've entered the domain of a two-legged monster, that looks just like them, until it's too late.

Implacable and insane human opponents play a key role in a few of my favorite Call of Cthulhu scenarios - let's take a look at The Worm that Walks, and The Hills Rise Wild.

The Worm that Walks is one of the chapters in The Shadows of Yog Sothoth campaign; while the group is visiting a benefactor, they discover a lead that takes them out to an old cabin ("Don't go in the woods!") where something occult may have happened; what's really waiting for them out there are a bunch of characters straight out Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  The signature scene is when one of the killers bursts out of a pile of bones, startling any adjacent investigators, and whacking one of them with a huge axe.

In The Hills Rise Wild, the adventurers are trekking overland in rural Dunwich looking for a fallen meteor.  When they take advantage of some country hospitality, they put themselves at the mercy of a deranged cultist and his downbeaten and abused family.  It's quite creepy.

For a literary reference, take a look at Lovecraft's The Picture in the House.  It's one of the earlier tales, and has an ending reminscent of an Edgar Allen Poe story.  It's an excellently creep story.  A traveler in the Miskatonic Valley enters a lonely farmhouse when caught out in a storm; the minimalist story begins to get unsettling when he starts flipping through an old book and has a progressively more disturbing conversation with the menacing owner of the house.  I don't want to give the ending or twist away if you haven't read it; it's a short story so go check it out yourself.

I haven't been mean enough to put a nasty family of hillbilly cannibals into a regular D&D game; players accustomed to only seeing monsters where they have green skin or tusks would be far too easy to lure in - like shooting fish in a barrel.  But it's time I rectified this egregious oversight.  In the meantime, let me know how you've used "cannibal hillbillies" in the comments.

I'm off to see Don't Be Afraid of the Dark!


  1. I've run both the Cthulhu scenarios you mentioned. That chapter of Shadows of Yog-Sothoth was probably the most deadly for my group, resulting in one character being left at about 8 SAN and with insatiable cannibalistic curiosity, and another character dead from the shotgun in the icebox. A third character got his hands blown off when he tried to use the rusty shotgun in the closet. The hillbillies themselves weren't as effective at killing the investigators as the investigators were!

    When I ran the Hills Rise Wild, the cannibal hillbilly was, no lie, beaten to death by a panicking flapper with her purse. Using the BRP rules, she didn't roll higher than a 5 on her attack rolls with it, and even though it wasn't an impaling weapon, I decided to count it as a critical hit. Meanwhile, the cannibal hillbilly didn't roll under an 85 for anything...His one success was managing to crawl over and feed his dying blood to the totem pole monster, which rose up and chased after the PCs, until they tricked it into stumbling into a ravine, where they tried to imprison it by tying it to nearby trees. They left it there, and a few days later saw an article in the newspaper about a "freak tornado" touching down in Dunwich, and an accompanying photo in which the burned out remains of the totem can be seen. Their sanity loss for realizing that they were inadvertently responsible for the trashing of Dunwich...delicious.

  2. i have tried to use "cannibal hillbilly" type stuff, but my players generally resort to murder whenever an NPC is suspicious and is not a soldier, noble or guard, and they are out of the reach of the city watches...

  3. Funny you should post this. I'm a long-time fan of horror films, but my taste lean more towards early Universal films and Hammer than slasher-of-the-week types. But on Thursday night, I watched a film called Satan's Playground. It is a fairly terrible film in its own right, based upon the urban legend of the Jersey Devil. However, there is this creepy "cannibal" type family, and the combination of these deranged weirdos with a flying monster out in the woods and a random evil cult struck me as the perfect scenario for a D&D adventure.

    If you can force yourself to sit through the film, you may find it inspirational as I did. One of my thoughts on it is that the family could be portrayed in the game world as goblins who are using "glamour" type ability to seem human, although decidedly offbeat humans.

    I'm always looking for untraditional portrayals of monsters for my campaign setting


  4. Great stories, Bill - I agree that those traps are deadly. It's funny how the dice help tell their own story. Niccodaemus - added that one to the queue, I'll check it out.

    I agree with Setenta that cannibal hillbillies are quickly killed if the party suspects anything funny; the trick is to be completely disarming and helpful first. Betrayal at the hands of a psychopath is really disturbing.

  5. You ever have what might be called chained insanities? The character killed by the icebox trap was an Eastern Orthodox priest, whom one of the other Investigators had previously latched on to as a security blanket, trusting him to keep her safe (which was hilarious in its own right -- he was decided to be pyrophobic at character creation, stemming from a traumatic childhood experience involving his parents falling asleep while smoking in bed, while she was a big, butch Australian lady archaeologist with a baker's dozen of dead cultists in her wake). As he gurgled out his dying words -- "I am the way out of the Doleful City," as I recall -- I made her roll a SAN check for seeing her "safety blanket" bleed out. That didn't go too well for her, though damned if I can remember what happened next.