Taking refuge in the infamous House of Hell has to be the worst mistake of your life! The dangers of the torrential storm outside are nothing compared to the blood-curdling adventures that await you inside. Who knows how many hapless wanderers like yourself have perished within its gruesome walls? Be warned! Tonight is going to be a night to remember …
Gleefully ticking off horror cliches left and right, House of Hell throws you straight into a car journey through a dark and stormy night, a white-haired old man has given you directions down some back-road to nowhere. A flash of lightning and a figure appears in the road ahead, thumping into your bumper, but on exploring in the torrential downpour outside, no body is to be found… and the figure looked very much like the man who gave you your directions. Of course your car now won’t start, you’re in the middle of no-where, freaked out and running the risk of missing tomorrows big appointment – which I’d argue at this point would be the very least of your worries – but then in the distance, a bedroom light clicks on! A house! It’s very old and in a shocking state of repair, but they’ll surely let you use their phone, right? I’ll state on the record right now that this is absolutely, definitely going to work out fine.
Eerie silence accompanied the squelchy walk up to the porch, broken momentarily by an owls hoot and then softened by a glow of another light being turned on within the house. Given the choice of trying the door knocker or a pull-cord for a bell, I neglected to take either option and instead snuck off round the side to see where the light had come from. A window into a kitchen was the source and from within, voices could be heard, two men, one asking if they would be ‘visited’. The other stating calmly, ‘I’m having doubts about this whole affair. She is so young and came here in all innocence. I just don’t know’. Both walked into view and were dressed in long white gowns. Yep, it’s still all going to be fine.
Listening further as they walked away, the doubtful individual was given a dressing down by the other, having his commitment to ‘the Masters’ teachings questioned by the other, only to then reassert his belief in whatever they had planned. So let’s go knock on the door and say hi, shall we? Getting their attention needed a Luck test which was fine as I’d awesomely rolled up a 12/19/12 character! As is par for the course with a Steve Jackson book though, there are some new rules to consider. Firstly, until I find a weapon, I have -3 Skill in combat. Secondly, I have a ‘Fear’ score (1D6+6) and as I encounter the inhabitants of the house I will accrue Fear points, if I exceed my Fear score I am considered to have been scared to death and it’s game over. Thankfully, mine came out as a nice and high 11. The two men came back to the door, questioning who would be knocking, supposing it could be ‘one of the bretheren’. Of course, when they asked who was there, I announced myself to be one of the bretheren. My ruse did not last long however, as soon as they saw my face they realised something was amiss and before I could build on my lie I was clubbed from behind by one of the men, costing me 4 Stamina and my consciousness.
Head spinning, I awoke in an empty room, hands and feet bound by rope, wind and rain still thrashing the night outside the window. My escape was made through another Luck test having me safely break the glass and cutting through my binds with the broken edges. In my first stroke of luck yet this evening, other than my successful Luck tests I guess, the door to this room was unlocked! Slipping out I found myself on a first-floor landing, a balustrade between me and the entrance hall below, the landing running left and right – I chose to explore the left-hand route. Two doors were set into the corner of the balcony, one named Balthus was the first I would explore. Other than a hearth, a box on the mantle-piece and an un-naturally bulging curtain, the room was bare. Now if Resident Evil has taught us anything, it’s that there is definitely something unpleasant waiting for me behind the curtain. Despite this, I went straight for the box which was held shut by a catch, but only then did I hear movement from behind the curtain, and so I went to check that instead…
Probably one of the best drawn illustrations in the book awaited me, a zombie lunged out, costing me 2 Stamina and adding 2 Fear points. Despite me being unarmed at this point, I was still more than able to take him down as he was fairly weak at 7/6. It’s at this point I should remind the good reader that I have no provisions and so I need to cling to as much Stamina as I can. Going back to the box on the mantle, I found it contained a key, my excitement at finding this precious item was soon quashed as I realised that it was the key to the room I was in and simply allowed me to leave. Brilliant; the net result of this encounter is a negative one. Plenty more where that came from too… And so I continued, entering the other door at the corner of the balcony which took me down a separate corridor with a door on the left side and ending at a window. I opted to check the door first, which was apparently to the Diabolus room. Completely empty, I took the chance to rest in here and regained 2 Stamina points. It seemed that I wasn’t to remain alone in the room for long though, the curtains began to drift slightly and a soft voice called my name. Leaping back against a wall I saw a figure begin to pass through the wall and into the room with me, a hideous apparition of a man carrying his own disembodied head. Add 2 Fear points. I’m fairly sure that’s Stephen from Dawn of the Dead too.
For some reason, I declined the opportunity to run and stuck around to listen to what the thing had to say as it began to speak. ‘Prepare yourself for death, miserable mortal!‘, it announced. Apparently I was going to die and be forced to haunt the corridors of this house for all eternity. Add 2 more Fear points. Blimey, I get a kick-ass Skill score and at this rate I’m just going to die out of sheer fear instead of somethings blade or fists. Leaving the room I took a look at the window at the end of the corridor. Still the storm outside raged and it became apparent that heavy iron bars lay against the glass, but it wasn’t apparent if they were to keep people out or in! Despite this though, a clue was to be found here as in the condensation on the glass, a message was written, ‘Mordana in Abaddon‘. Meaning nothing to me at the moment, the text instructed me that at some point it will and that I should turn to page 88 when it does. Good stuff. My only option now was to head back to the balcony. Continuing further round the left side I came to a small junction where I would either press further along the balcony, descend a flight of stairs or open a door to my left. I opted for the door which turned out to be a store room. A nice shiny meat-knife was my first prize, bumping my Skill up to 12 for my next fight, but also a few cloves of garlic… which by now is probably something which should just be included in your starting kit for all Fighting Fantasy adventures for the obligatory vampire encounter. Also sitting there was a bottle of clear liquid, which given the lack of trust I have developed after having success when being offered multiple items, I decided not to drink.
Opening a door on the opposite side of the store room took me out into another corridor with two doors, one leading to the Shaitan room, the other to the Mammon room. I went for the Shaitan room which turned out to be a lavishly decorated room, complete with roaring fireplace and a leather three-piece suite, two doors led away on the opposite side to my entrance. As I stepped in, the door locked shut behind me and a horrid voice spoke out, ‘So our visitor is inquisitive, eh? Or are you trying to leave the house? Perhaps you would like to see some more – shall we say – amusements?’. Another Fear point added on. Staying in the room a figure rose from a high-backed arm chair which was facing away from me. The pale skinned man had slick black hair and a cape fastened around his neck. If that doesn’t make you scream ‘DAS VAMPYR!’, then the illustration certainly will.
Before he could make a move I produced my garlic cloves and the greasy swine started sweating and ran for one of the doors leading out through the opposite wall. I threw the garlic at him and went through the door he had intended to leave through as he cowered against the wall. The door opened up into a cupboard, but the back had slid away revealing a secret passageway which I took, slamming the doors closed behind me. I had made my way into a dark, narrow corridor which soon turned into a descending staircase, eventually I came to a landing and had the option of turning off through a door to the right or continuing my descent. Going through the door I found myself in a room with a door on the opposite side and an oddly shimmering mirror on another wall. The door required the Golden Key to open and so that wasn’t an option I could take, but investigating the mirror actually revealed it to be a portal of some kind that opened up into a reception room elsewhere in the house.
I stepped through the portal and having heard voices, I quickly moved out of the reception room into an adjoining corridor. A locked door was to my left and so I continued to the right down the corridor to a T-junction. The left hand door required me to have an Iron key with a (page) number etched into it, so I took the right hand door instead which led me into a kitchen. Immaculately tidy, the kitchen had two doors leading off it, one of which led outside as well as a set of keys laid on top of the cooker. Now I was fairly confident the keys were a trick as why else would they be on the cooker? So I tried the unmarked door which took me into a pantry which was being maintained by a Ghoul it seems! The chance to grab a knife was wasted on me as I was already armed, so I launched into combat with my 8/7 opponent and killed him without taking a hit.
As I killed the monster, it crashed into a wall of pots and pans, creating an awful din. This hadn’t gone un-noticed as the doors opened and four men in white robes and goat-head masks, carrying knives entered. Resistance was useless and they took me off to a prison cell where I was to be detained at the pleasure of the Earl of Drumer.
My adventure was over.
However, a little page flicking took me back into the kitchen; the door leading outside was locked, so let’s bite the bullet and try those keys shall we? Arrrrrrrrrghh!! Yes, my suspicions were correct, the keys were red-hot and I’d badly burned my weapon-hand, losing 3 Stamina and 2 Skill, but a succesful Luck roll reduced this to just 1 Stamina. However, the scream and clatter of falling keys made enough noise to take me to the exact same passage as the noise the ghouls death had made. So what was the point in that Luck roll then if I was just being taken to insta-death? And indeed, what’s the point in the whole kitchen section as there appears to be no way out alive? One massive dead-end of a red-herring!
As much as I’m enjoying it, I think House of Hell is going to be a tricksy little bastard. Next time, we’ll be doing a little back-tracking me-thinks…