A Fear Itself scenario outline
In this one-shot horror scenario, the players portray a heist crew that targets the wrong office building for its latest job.
Create pregenerated characters for this premise, fitting the investigative point spends to your number of players. Ignore Sources of Stability. Asking each player to specify, in a private communication to you, the Worst Thing I Ever Did. Stipulate that they must choose an event that occurred indoors.
The action begins with the group in a rented office in a downtown skyscraper that rents space to many businesses. It has hunkered down in an unfurnished office on the thirteenth floor to await the appointed time of their operation. Giovanna Megarian, the mastermind who planned their heist rented it for them. She has pinpointed a precise time when they are least likely to encounter anyone else in the building. The heroin-addicted security guard in the monitoring room will have nodded off by then. The janitorial staff will be long gone.
Of course Giovanna is not present for the mere physical completion of her scheme.
At 3:30 AM they are to proceed down the hall to Suite 1309, the office of Red Circle Trading, and crack its safe. Inside they will find several million dollars worth of cut and uncut diamonds, along with several antiquities. The antiquities go to Megarian; they split up the gems however they want.
As they make their way to 1309, characters who succeed at Difficulty 4 Sense Trouble tests feel an eerie sense of surveillance. The PC(s) with the highest result get a split second glimpse of a weird, bright red silhouette, like a two-dimensional figure somehow loosed into the three-dimensional world. Its gait is that of a portly older man.
Attempts to investigate it turn up nothing. Should they proceed with the heist, the crew finds the diamonds but only one antique, a fragile-seeming clay mask, painted bright red, with a wide, circular mouth. Humanities identifies it as an ancient Greek theatrical mask, depicting Hades.
When the crew attempts to leave the building, they find that they can’t. An otherworldly force has sealed all exits. When the robbers get desperate enough to try to attract the attention of passersby through the lobby’s thick glass windows, they find that the few people in the downtown core at night remain oblivious to all attempts to signal them.
As they move through the building in search of another way out, the office reconfigures itself. Lights flicker. Strange noises filter through the walls. The temperature rises. Dirty water leaks from the ceiling, dripping into the corridors. They again sense the presence of the red phantom.
Wherever they try to go, they keep winding up on the thirteenth floor.
When one of them enters a room alone, they undergo a Stability-shattering reenactment of the Worst Thing They Ever Did.
When two or more enter a room, they see phantasmal figures from the past tormented by misdeeds from their own mortal lives.
On realizing that the office tower has transformed into an extension of hell, the crew may break into an office to fire up a browser and conduct Research.
They discover that Megarian owns the building. Occult allows them to access covert Discords where the legend of the Hell Tower is discussed. When Megarian purchased the building he inherited the curse of its original developer, Levi Wells. This notoriously egotistical real estate baron consigned his soul and that of his partners to complete its construction, avoiding humiliating financial default. Apparently they thought they could weasel out of the deal later. Wells failed to anticipate that Hades wouldn’t wait until they died. He appeared to drag them into his realm exactly a year later.
Since then, on this night every year, Hades uses a cosmic loophole enabled by the deal. He sends his phantasmal servant, Levi Wells, to claim as many souls as signed the contract. He can take a number of victims equal to the party, minus one. In other word, even if Hades and the ghost of Wells get their way, one PC may survive.
Should the crew attempt to contact the outside world via phone, Internet or the like, they discover that they can reach some people but not others. That list includes only those who have committed acts at least as damning as theirs. Anyone meeting that criteria can enter the building, though this does not allow people trapped in it to leave.
The crew can call Megarian and try to lure her into the building. Since she knows about the curse she’ll require very credible trickery, and an apt 3-point Interpersonal spend, to lure her in. Characters may also think of other deserving candidates that Hades will want more than them.
They might also survive simply by making it to dawn, when Hades’ dominion over the building ends. Until then, though, he can come after them by sending red ghostly hellhounds or other damned spirits. To eke their way out of this they must do more than hunker down and wait.
Damned spirits have to obey Wells when he commands them in Hades’ name. However the crew might gain cooperation from them, as they believe that this night afford them the opportunity to escape in the mortal world, if only they can figure out how. They might be right or wrong, but since they believe it the crew may be able to take advantage and propose an alliance against Wells.
Alternately, the group may assume that they can’t get out of this together. This is a one-shot, after all. Each might instead scheme to become the sole survivor, leading the others into Wells’ clutches. A Survivor-style series of temporary alliances leading to ultimate betrayal could ensue. In that case, the scenario could end with the one escapee stumbling from the building at dawn, perhaps with thoughts of vengeance against Megarian.
Should the scenario turn into an exercise in all-against-all, eliminated characters can remain in play as newly minted red ghosts, working against the comrades who gave them the shiv.
Fear Itself is a game of contemporary horror that plunges ordinary people into horror situations. Use it to run one-shot sessions in which few (if any) of the protagonists survive, or an ongoing campaign in which the player characters gradually discover more about the terrifying supernatural reality which hides in the shadows of the ordinary world. Purchase Fear Itself in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.