The boys, Aug and Frank, were excited about the impromptu sleepover and gaming night, so I sent them outside for a Nerf sword fight in the back lawn. Warning them to watch out for dog poops, I ordered pizza and prepared the game. I’d made good notes, especially for a four page adventure, and found there wasn’t too much left to do. I puttered around with a paid writing assignment – I need to determine if I can meet the deadline or not – until the doorbell announced the arrival of the steaming pizza.
The boys came in, washed up, and we ate. I sent the pair upstairs to brush their teeth and I cleaned up and prepared the table. Within in minutes we “got our game on”. Vs. Monster is an extremely light rules system and it was quick and easy to make characters. I had each boy make two, having read how lethal “The Haunting” can be. The characters were all students at Miskatonic University, and while having coffee at the local dinner were hired by a friend’s father to check out the Corbitt House. Naturally, they agreed and we were off.
The boys had no idea how to look for clues, especially when they discovered that their playing ground was the city of Boston . Neither 12-year-old had bought a house recently and did not knew that deeds and other records were kept at the court house. I helped them along, having them make Thinking checks whenever the adventure asked for a Library check or Social Contact check or what have you check. Call of Cthulhu has a lot of “find clues in a library or newspaper” checks, but Vs. Monsters uses Thinking for all that kind of thing. The boys had fun sniffing out clues, and slowly uncovered the end result of the house’s former inhabitants: insanity and/or horrible accident. Eventually, at the police station, they found information that led them to the abandoned ruin of the Chapel of Contemplation. Falling in the pit, they found the Mythos book and the information that the body of Mr. Corbitt was buried in the basement.
We took a break at the end of part one. I brewed a cup of coffee and the boys lounged in the living room discussing more places they could look for clues and more questions they could ask the clue-givers that they had already interviewed. They were stoked and pumped up and ready for more. My coffee steaming and their cups of juice filled, we reconvened at the table.
In part two the characters were heading into the haunted house. I turned all the lights off and lit several candles, placed around the table. Since Vs. Monsters uses cards to resolve combat and success, we didn’t have to squint to see the results. I did have to use a small flashlight to read the adventure text here and there. In they went, creeping around, snapping on lights and looking at the ground floor rooms. They found Mr. Corbitt’s diaries and decided not to read them. They didn’t take them, either. How quickly the regular D&D “kill ’em and take their stuff” attitude changed. As they progressed down the main hall, they heard a loud THUMP from upstairs, which got their blood flowing. They investigated the bedroom, Corbitt’s room when he was alive, and saw blood streaming down the plasterboard walls.
That was it for my kid. He had his character run away. Frank’s character chased him, and they both ran to the fellow who initially hired them to investigate the house. “Something is horrible wrong,” they started spilling their guts, hoping that just seeing a bloody-spouting wall was enough to end the adventure. No dice. The fellow said, “Get back in there and fix it,” and they returned.
Aug was scared and he said so. I said: “Great, you are supposed to be scared. Are you too scared to keep playing?”
“No way! This is great!”
Back in the house and more thumping and it was getting on their nerves. As they walked back up the hallway all I had to do was say, “Thump”, and Aug would say, “Quit it, dad.” He’d look at Frank and Frank would look at him and they would both look at me and I would say, “Thump”, a little louder. Then, I said, “thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, ” and Aug squealed and said, “Now you’re really scaring me!” He got out of his chair and re-positioned himself so that he could sit on his feet.
Inside the bedroom, they heard a scratching at the window. The boys said one of their characters investigated, the character with the lantern pulled the curtains back to look out, while the other one stood ready with his revolver. I ran upstairs and got a Nerf pistol. I gave Frank a candle, Aug the Nerf pistol, and pointed to a curtained window in the living room. “Show me how you do it.” The boys crept towards the window on tiptoes. Frank pulled back the curtain and Aug shakily held the Nerf pistol ready. Good, good. I had them sit down again, leaned forward and said in a low voice, “as you cautiously pull back the curtain and look out, you don’t see anything, when suddenly,” and then in a much louder voice: “screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech, the bed slides across the floor and smashes into the wall, possibly throwing Frank’s character through the window.” Aug jumped and Frank sat frozen. Frank’s character dodged the bed, and after a few minutes the boys headed into the basement.
The last scare of the night. As expected, they found Corbitt’s corpse laying on a pallet in a hidden room in the basement. Aug wanted his character to poke the corpse. I think we all knew it was going to animate. I leaned back in my chair, mimicking a supine corpse. He kept saying that his character pokes the corpse, but I didn’t respond and remained frozen. Aug leaned closer to me. “Dad, I poke the body. Dad. Dad,” and I leaped forward and raised my hands as claws and growled, “Ahhhhh!” Aug screamed. I laughed and combat ensued. A tough fight, but the boys ultimately beat the animated corpse. Yeah, well done.
We turned the lights on and flopped out on the living room couch and chairs and chatted about the game. The boys loved it. I loved it. It was great fun. Aug admitted that we was scared several times. Frank was more hesitant to admit it, and said that he didn’t get as scared as Aug did. However, as he said, “I wasn’t sitting next to your dad.”
We had a good time. They actually fell asleep within fifteen minutes of getting into bed. I was a little worried that the game might be too scary and keep them up, but they were snoring soon enough. The night was a total success, and I hope the three of us get to do it again.