When your characters fan out through the house to explore it, they can find many items and have encounters that are both helpful and harmful. To understand those, however, you need to know how characters test themselves against the house’s dangers.
Betrayal at House on the Hill has a randomizing system that is very simple but can be used in lots of ways. The game comes with eight six-sided dice. Each die actually has only three sides -- two blank sides, two sides with one pip, and two sides with two pips. Rolling three dice gives an average result of three pips, with a distribution from zero to six.
Two different kinds of dice rolls are called for in the game. Some cards tell you to roll a certain number of dice. For instance, the "Phone Call" event card, that you might draw while you’re exploring the house, tells you to roll two dice and gives you the result for each possible number of pips you could roll (0, 1, 2, 3, or 4).
A more common type of event asks you to roll against a particular trait. A trap event card such as "Something Slimy" asks you to make a Speed roll (nimble feet might help you escape). You roll a number of dice equal to the number that your Speed marker is currently on. The card tells you how well you managed to avoid the thing creeping around your ankle, based on your result.
In both cases, the more pips that show on the dice, the better.
Now let’s find out what dangers lurk inside the house!
A Sequence of Sinister Events
The library tile, shown at right, has a spiral symbol on it. The first time this room is entered, the explorer who enters it must end his or her movement for the turn and draw an event card.
Events can be good, bad, or somewhere in between. They might do damage to you, or they might move you to a different part of the house entirely. Some of them affect only the person who draws the card, some affect everyone on a particular floor, and some affect everyone in the house. Some of them permanently add a new feature to the room they were drawn in. When you draw from this deck, you never know what you’re going to encounter.
Many trap events require you to make some kind of die roll, like the two mentioned earlier. Other types of events don’t, such as "Lights Out." It’s bad enough to be lost inside a spooky old house, but what if you’re lost, alone and in the dark?
Lots of events can suddenly relocate you, or reveal secret passages in the house, or otherwise change the house’s connectivity in unexpected ways. Every haunted house needs a revolving wall; if you’ve seen Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein, you know why.
A Nifty Item to Have in a Crisis
With all these dreadful events out there ready to deal mental and physical damage to you, drop you into the basement, and generally mess you up, not to mention the threat of finding the eventual Haunt, why should you ever bother to leave the safety of the Entrance Hall? For one thing, it wouldn’t be much of a game if everyone stayed huddled inside the front door. Also, there are powerful items scattered throughout the house, and finding them might make you powerful enough to defeat the house’s evil.
You can draw an item card whenever you discover a room with the horned skull symbol on it, like the Storeroom shown at right. The light of the full moon shining through the window illuminates the item you are seeking. As with an Event, finding an Item room for the first time ends your turn.
Items are almost always good. Some of them will raise your various traits, while others can be restore lost traits, like the Healing Salve that repairs physical damage or the Smelling Salts that fix mental damage. The Lucky Stone lets you reroll a die roll, once per turn.
We know what you really want, though -- weapons, like the axe, dynamite, and revolver. Some weapons are more sinister, like the Blood Dagger.
Finally, there are items whose application is unknown until you actually use them, like bottles containing unidentifiable liquids.
Items can be traded between players. They can be dropped, on purpose or not -- some events cause you to lose items. When you leave items somewhere (by, say, getting killed), their location is marked with an Item Pile marker.
One more type of room and card needs to be discussed, and that’s the Omen. One of the Omens that you discover will finally reveal what malignant evil lurks at the heart of the House on the Hill. To find out about that, you’ll have to read the next article.
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