What’s more terrifying than the horrific monster charging towards you? The horrific monster you can’t see or understand. Mysteries are impossible to anticipate, and each can be a source of dread for your party. Intrigue occurs when your party goes to the mystery. Horror occurs when the mystery comes for them. In this special article by yours truly, the Malicious Manager, we’ll explore three types of unavoidable dooms that can stalk your PCs, make them distrust each other or even their own perceptions. The outcomes of these tales are played for dramatic effect. You wouldn’t let such terrible fates befall your PCs, would you?
1) The Inevitable Storm
It starts with a low rumble. The trundling of dark clouds across the twilit sky comes next, edging ever closer. You can't help but stare into the encroaching darkness, lost in the shifting shadows that play along the horizon. Look too long and you might see a face, or maybe just a pair of cold, dead eyes, looking back at you. It mocks you and your insignificance. You think to warn the others, but they don’t see what you see. A thunderstorm holds fear only for children, they tell you. You look again. It sneers from the heavens and presses ever closer.
Now you can hear it. The very air you breathe is heavy with its whispers. They fill you, mind, body, and soul. The rumbling is getting louder. Flashes of light crack within its profound darkness, and with each illumination, more of the presence can be seen. Panic starts setting in. You try to fight it, to tell yourself it’s all a trick of the light. You’re just imagining things. Then the storm covers the moon and darkness spreads across the town like a funeral shroud.
Twisted terrors stumble out of the shadows at the edge of your perception. You cry to passerbys, to acquaintances, to your own friends, but no one believes you. They tell you to come inside the tavern, sit down, and remain calm. The storm will pass soon. You sit, wrapped in a quilt and sip warm cider by the fire. The shadows flicker and dance on the walls, but then, they aren’t your shadows. There’s a knock on the door. Before you can stop them, your friends open it wide. The crashing thunder mixes with their screams.
The storm is here.
2) The Hunting Horror
You’ve been traveling for a long while now through foreign lands, a guest of the local regency on a quest to pacify a cult-like insurrection. It’s nothing you and your companions haven’t dealt with before. The woods are especially dark at night, however, and a sense of unease is visited upon your camp before you sleep. One of your trusted friends reports hearing strange noises when they woke after midnight. You try to put such concerns out of your mind; it won’t be but another day before you reach the insurgents’ encampment.
You reach the encampment the next day, or at least where it should be. It’s merely a circle of bleach-white stones, interlaid with a complex pattern of gashes carved into the earth. Neither your cleric nor warlock can make sense of the symbol. They conjure spells of detection and scrying to seek out nearby energies or life forms. Nothing can be found. Your cleric insists on purifying the earth before you move on, and they seem particularly troubled. You all agree and let them set to work.
It happens faster than you can react. The cleric is pulled from the circle by a sickly green blur. You draw weapons, but all you see is the circle of stones, spinning and dancing through the air. The warlock is next, ripped bodily from your presence and into the surrounding wood. You are alone now.
The insurrection never existed. This is the outcome intended by the regency. You hear it breathing now, still hungering, still slavering. It comes for you.
3) The Dread Within
It’s really not a problem, you have to keep telling your party. It’s just a sense of malaise, something that all seasoned adventurers feel on occasion and let pass through them. The holy warrior you’ve come to trust with your life insists you visit a temple to seek succor, but you dismiss the notion. After all, your party won’t be able to track down those missing children without you, their trusty ranger.
You follow the signs of passage through the marshlands. Fetid air surrounds you, causing a few of your number to double over and retch. The malaise has now become a serious headache, no doubt compounded by the stress of this particular quest and the uninviting conditions of the region. You press on, however, deeper into the swamp. The tracks suddenly stop, and what’s worse, you can’t even find the path you took that led you here. This is plainly impossible; you reassure your comrades, and yourself, that you will soon find the path.
Indeed you do. Strange markings and crusted blood line the rotten trees, leading you down a long, empty road. A child suddenly steps from the woodwork, not but thirty meters away. You call out, trying get their attention. The child smiles. Your head pounds and you drop to your knees. When you look up, the child, if that’s what it was, is gone. You hear chuckling all around you. Your companions are laughing at you! One of them turns suddenly and you realize that you can’t recognize them anymore. They all close in on you, suffocating you with their stink. Their faces are misshapen mockeries of natural forms. You draw your blade. They cackle and produce yellow claws at the tips of their withered fingers.
When you’re finally found, you can’t explain why you slaughtered your companions in their sleep.
Your rescuers listen to your tale and one of them looks at another worriedly.
“What missing children?” he asks.
That concludes this series of stories, kiddies. Doom waits for no one, and now I am called away for another year, only to return next All Hallows’ Eve. Until then, may you roll well. In your graves, that is!
David Horwitz (the Malicious Manager) is at once writer, editor, and blog manager for HLG. His love of horror media extends even to B Movie schlock, and will happily chat the night away with fellow connoisseurs of creepiness. You can find his work and contact info at his site, www.davidhorwitzwrites.com. Happy Halloween!
Picture Reference: https://non-aliencreatures.fandom.com/wiki/File:CryptKeeper.png
All blog materials created and developed by the staff here at High Level Games