It has been a long while ago, so my memory of it is pretty spotty, but I realised I did not post a write-up of a notable Best Left Buried horror game set in a remote wilderness.
Which was a disaster.
But that was on me, and we will get to that.
The PC party back then was made up of a group of various people, with, most dominant in the adventure, a huntress (of deer, not vampires) and a zealot, an outspoken believer in things demonic and the eternal struggle. Some of the players were young teens, which will become relevant.
They moved with a caravan through the deep countryside, when suddenly, at a night’s stop, the guards noticed the presence of something big stalking the woods. A bear? The guard wasted no time doing heroic stuff, but rather shook everyone awake fast. The stalker in the woods disappeared, and the party went investigating. They found deep, heavy paw prints, and concluded: Some kind of mega-wolf.
The huntress decided to follow it, carefully, but only to make sure it would not follow along the road. She was stunned to find that some of the prints looked more like hands than paws. A werewolf? When she saw that it veered off to the south instead of following the road, she came back, and the party moved the caravan to the next town safely and quickly.
No one tracks like Gaston
The next town actually had a famous master huntsman, a dude called Gaston, who knew the PC huntress well; as colleagues, they respected each other. Gaston greeted her happily and immediately showered all the other girls in the group with compliments, and expressed hopes that they might get to know each other better soon. They all liked him well, and soon noticed that they were not alone with that: The whole town seemed to be best friends with him. Well, all except some pretty girl who liked only books and did not get along well with people. The party assumed she was some kind of witch, and suspected she may have something to do with the monster.
The group went to hang out in the tavern, where they heard fascinating rumors about a gigantic beast threatening travellers and hunters alike. Gaston himself had tried to follow its tracks, but failed. Still, the townspeople were sure that if anyone would best the monster, it would be him. Still the party suspected the book girl, but did not voice that idea.
The Mansion in the woods
They also heard details about the landscape an that there was a big private property some ways south, although no one had heard from there in a while, and it was unknown if the lord of that estate also had trouble with the monster. Despite warnings that the estate holders were not friendly to strangers, the party decided to go there to find out if all was well, or if they could find evidence that the book girl was involved. Gaston gave them some pointers to find the way; then it was time to hit the sack.
The next morning they said their goodbyes to Gaston and went to get to the house. The way was difficult, and they went slow because they did their best to be quiet to not attract the monster. The mood was creepy, and we took a break to calm nerves.
Finally they found the estate, overgrown and derelict, a right unsettling house. No sign of life! And the windows almost blind. The huntress looked for monster tracks, and found them. They assumed something terrible must have happened and scouted it very carefully. There were enough clues now so the puzzle made sense: The players recognised the setting: A monster; a book girl; Gaston…. Beauty and the Beast!
That considerably lightened the mood, and with many merry laughs, the party prepared to go in.
The PCs broke into the mansion, expecting nice red carpets and golden chandeliers inside. Instead they found a cold, forbidding place, oddly well tended compared to the vine-covered exterior, but not at all welcoming: A dead and still place, frozen in time! And then they met the clock. A huge grandfather clock came to life as they passed it, and attacked them!
Shocked, they fought back, but their swords and arrows did little against the tough oak wood. Luckily, it was at least slow! Then the zealot sprayed it with oil and set it aflame. Howling, the burning clock hunted after them, they burst through the door to get outside, and it fell apart and died on front steps. That was a bummer, especially for the younger players, who vowed to repair it and get it back to work as soon as possible.
Weirded out, the party went back in, but now saw a gigantic candle holder come down the stairs — much faster than the clock, and wielding fire! They hastily slammed the door and blocked it, while the candle holder tried to get through at them, until they managed to wedge a big stone angel from the front yard against it.
“Bleed” (The RPG concept)
The disconnect between bright Disney colours and horror mood creeped the players out, especially the young, and it got worse when two of them, the zealot and one other, broke in via the roof on the top floor, with the plan to find the Beast and explain that they were the good guys and could help. They were opposed by rugs and cupboards and coat racks who organised resistance against the intruders, and while the furniture was not super strong, the very act of destroying furniture that the party knew was actually cursed people put a strain on the younger players.
The two intruders wanted to go on, but the rest of the party opposed it strongly.
I broke off the game when the argument crossed over into real life accusations and ad hominems, and instead of finishing the game I wrapped it for good, we talked it over, I traded my GM seat with one of the younger players for a quick, light hearted Risus one-shot, and then we watched a family friendly movie together. Nerves calmed, tensions eased.
That worked very well, and later all the players recalled the Beast adventure as a great experience and spoke about it in favourable terms. Which is why I got reminded of it. But despite the praise, there is a…
Disney and horror mix TOO well …
or, since this is not the first time my horror games break, I deliver it too intensely.
Or Maybe both.
Photo by Nick Night on Unsplash