Betrayal at House On the Hill:
Selfless Acts of Heroism
The last article talked about how the traitor goes out to the other room and cackleg to himself as he reads the Traitor’s Tome. Now it’s time to look at the situation from the perspective of the rest of the players. Before getting into that, though, you need to understand how combat works. You didn’t think that the heroes and monsters would settle their differences with harsh language, did you?
Combat is handled straightforwardly in Betrayal at House on the Hill. It’s always one-on-one -- one hero attacking one monster, or vice versa. Each explorer and monster can attack once per turn. Both sides roll a number of dice equal to their current Might score. Whoever comes up with the most pips, wins! If the loser is a monster, it’s stunned. If the loser is an explorer, he or she takes points of physical damage equal to the difference between the two rolls.
There are a few other possible complications to combat. The Ring omen gives a unique way of stopping an otherwise unstoppable creature -- whoever wields it gets to attack using Sanity instead of Might to resolve fights. Of course, if a traitor gets his hands on this thing, he could use it to drive everyone else insane!
The revolver is another item that lets you substitute a different trait for Might; in this case, Speed.
If you defeat an opponent in regular combat by two or more pips, you can take an item from him instead of doing damage. When the traitor and the heroes both want the same item, it can pass back and forth several times.
While the traitor is in the other room reading the Traitor’s Tome and practicing evil laughter, everyone else should gather aroundwhile someone reads Secrets of Survival. This is similar to the Traitor’s Tome in many ways. It tells you about any extra counters you need to set up and any special actions your explorers can take (like looking for a particular spell in the Library or finding the components for a plant-killing spray in various rooms in the house or many other possible options). Just like the Traitor’s Tome, the book tells you what you need to do to win the game.
Here’s an example of a ritual that the heroes might have to perform in a few Haunts involving traditional ghosts -- an Exorcism.
An Exorcism requires a number of successful rolls equal to the number of players. These rolls are a combination of Sanity and Knowledge rolls performed in certain locations or with certain items.
You can make only one Exorcism roll each turn. Also, each can only be successfully done once. For example, if you successfully perform a Sanity roll in the chapel, then you cannot use the chapel again.
The Grand Finale
Once everyone has figured out what they’re trying to accomplish, everyone reconvenes around the map of the house and plays out the final reel of the movie. Things proceed more or less the way they did before except that you don’t need to make haunt rolls when you find omens. Sometimes the exploration of the house will come to a halt while everyone enters into a grand melee. Other times, the pace of exploration picks up as the heroes search frantically for the one room or omen they need to finally defeat the traitor.
There’s one other big difference, of course. Explorers can die during the last reel.
The heroes need to cooperate to accomplish their goals and win. That may mean that some keep the monsters busy while others go and look for needed items. Of course, all too often you’ll have almost everything you need to complete a ritual when a trap door will open and dump the character about to complete the formula down into the basement to face the creature. That’s the way things go in the movies.
Keep those batteries in your flashlight fresh!
There is ruin and decay
-- Edwin Arlington Robinson
Bruce Glassco is a professor of English who has also been a gamer since the early ‘80s. His werewolf story, “Taking Loup,” was in the 1999 edition of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Other of Bruce's stories and poems have appeared in the magazines Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales. House on the Hill is his first published game.
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