The old house on the hill has been abandoned for as long as anyone in town can remember. Even the bravest kids never go past the front porch, and many adults nod their heads and say there just may be something to those old rumors. Anyway, why tempt fate?
One day, the bus you’re riding breaks down outside of town. You're walking toward the nearest gas station when a tremendous thunderstorm blows up out of nowhere. The only shelter for miles around is the old house. Surely it can’t be dangerous to go up onto the front porch, can it? The porch isn’t much shelter, though, and the front door is wide open. Why not step inside until the storm is over, just to dry off?
As soon as the last passenger is inside, the door slams shut behind you! All your pulling and tugging can’t budge it. It must have been the wind that closed the door, and the misshapen wood of the old doorframe is keeping it stuck shut … right? If you're stuck here for a while, at least the place looks interesting. Maybe if everyone splits up and looks around, someone will find a telephone or another way out.
What you don't yet know is, the old stories are true. Something lurks in the depths of the house -- something evil. Your visit here is no coincidence. One of your fellow explorers is already infected with the house’s taint. Soon, that presence will be uncovered, the mask of humanity will be stripped away, and everyone will see the true extent of the horror they must face.
What is lurking inside the House On the Hill? Do vampires sleep in its crypt? Does a werewolf prowl its shadows? Have the plants in the conservatory developed a taste for human flesh? Is the underground lake home to a tentacled creature hoping to drag unwary explorers to a watery grave? Does a cloaked alien craft hover silently and invisibly overhead, preparing human specimens and plotting conquest? No one knows, because fifty different threats can be discovered in the House On the Hill. You never know which horror you will face until it's too late.
Did You Say Fifty?
That’s right. Betrayal at House On the Hill is actually fifty different games. You won’t know which danger you face until the explorers are spread through the house, searching for clues. At the beginning of the game, you won’t even know what you need to do to win. You must explore as much of the house as you can, looking for useful items and avoiding traps. Eventually, someone will find the clue that reveals what’s actually going on.
As soon as that happens, the tone of the game changes. So far, everyone has been cooperating in the search for clues. Once the Haunt is discovered, you’ll learn which of the characters is actually a traitor. That character has either decided to join with the dark powers infesting the house or been coerced to the path of evil.
If you’re the traitor, you’ll leave the room, taking along the Traitor’s Tome. This book contains all the secrets of the dark forces within the house -- what the monster is, where it lurks, what special powers it gives to you as its servant, and most importantly, what you must do in order to accomplish your dark master’s evil designs and win the game. You might need to recover a particular item, keep everyone else occupied while a sinister ritual is performed, or assist the monster within the house as it emerges from its lair and hunts down your former friends.
While the traitor is discovering the secrets of the Traitor’s Tome, the rest of the explorers are reading from the Secrets of Survival. That’s where they’ll learn what they need to do to defeat the house’s evil. Perhaps they must find information in the library that will allow a malevolent spirit to rest in peace. Perhaps they must assemble the ingredients for a weed-killing spray to wipe out carnivorous ivy before it drags them all to certain doom. Perhaps they need to make a handful of silver bullets to defeat a werewolf, or perhaps they just need to round up enough weapons to kill a host of zombies before the zombies kill them.
When the traitor comes back into the room, the story's climax begins. Neither the traitor nor the other explorers know exactly what the other side is trying to accomplish. All they know is that their enemies must be stopped at any cost. This is a matter of life and death -- for the characters, their town, maybe even the whole world!
I’m Bruce Glassco, the primary designer of Betrayal at House On the Hill. This series of preview articles will give you an advance look at the game. In the next article, you'll learn some of the ways in which we've tried to make HotH the spookiest horror game ever.
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.
Catch up on any previews you missed!
- Fifty Doorways to Doom
- History and Mystery
- Cast of Characters
- What's Behind Door Number One?
- House of Danger, House of Treasure
- Omen, Omen, Omen, Haunt!
- Sheer Evil
- Selfless Acts of Heroism