Heav'n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn'd,
It's a great plot device: the vengeful ex, especially if the ex is a ghost.
HELL HATH NO FURY is my first scenario for The Ghost Hack RPG and this weekend it was playtested over Zoom. If you hate SPOILERS, look away, because I'm offering a session report and analysis.
Great cover, eh? That's artist Christopher Smith, working on drivethrurpg as Wooden Vampire Games
Creating characters from scratch can take an idea afternoon, but Ghost Hack is really simple, especially with the Quick Character Creation Templates. Four players invites a PC from each character class, so we soon arrived at:
The Oath Die
In Hell Hath No Fury I introduce a little mechanic to give ghostly RPGs some cohesion, one I stole from The One Ring RPG. This is the Oath Die; a d6 for a 4-player group. The players can call on their Oath to one another to get Advantage on a roll or to be 'just passing by' when they are needed. It's a usage die so you roll it every time you use it and on a 1-2 it shrinks, eventually turning into a d4 then disappearing, all used up. Of course, you can only call on your Oath to do things that are in the group's interest, not to pursue your side projects.
The story starts with each PC checking in on their Mortal Coil - the people or places or objects they still care about and which can fuel their powers. Peter finds young Dylan in great shape, starting an apprenticeship and attending rehab meetings. Lexi similarly finds the Lounge in great shape but is concerned that a bar worker, Jill York, has not been turning up for her shifts.
Gregg has a crisis. A businessman is talking to Fire Officer Reg about buying Bessie to put in a themepark. Gregg is a Nightmane and has no useful abilities for influencing the living, but uses the Oath Die to catch Lexi passing by. As a Revenant, Lexi excels at this sort of thing. While the buyer inspects the old truck in the shed, Lexi takes on her Charnel Form (an obese, rotting witch) and manifests in front of him, chasing him round and round the truck but disappearing when the sceptical Reg turns up. The businessman believes himself to be the victim of a hoax and storms off. Bessie is safe.
Joshua is tracking down a Japanese sword-cleaning kit he lent out to a young woman who seemed enraptured by it a year ago. Arriving at Jill York's flat, he finds the place a mess and Jill distraught, clutching a steak knife and about to harm herself. As a Poltergeist, he has no trouble wrestling the knife from her and embedding it in the wall. Terrified, Jill flees, leaving Joshua to explore. He finds a ghostly photograph pinned above Jill's bed: it's Jill and her ex, an Asian girl, but the photo has been ripped in half. Joshua keeps the photo and uses the Oath to have his friends drop by.
Spying on the Neighbours
The ghosts search the tiny flat and find a wormhole through to Hades under the bathroom sink. Something has crept into the flat, attracted by the misery here. Peter searches the aura of the place and confirms that ghostly Keening has caused Jill's self-harming. Lexi spots another ghost in the tenement opposite who has been spying on Jill's flat.
It's easy for Lexi and Joshua to walk through a wall and float down to the street below. It takes longer to climb the stairwell of the condemned building over the road. By the time they reach the loft, the peeping-tom is fleeing across the roof. Josh gives chase and captures the other ghost on the edge of a waste ground known as Pickman's Lot where a big Portal to Hades belches out stinking smoke.
Lexi searches the loft and concludes it's an old drug-users' gallery. There are two ghosts here that are mindless Echoes: a woman endlessly searching for her stash of money to pay her dealer, a man crouched in the corner, endlessly performing the ritual of shooting up. She realises the place is a Fane, a sanctum for ghosts.
Joshua drags his prisoner back: he's Derek Fiske and he spies on the living through a ghostly telescope at the loft's window. He's chronically shy and a little creepy but he saw Jill visited by an Asian lady ghost who keened over her to make her suicidal. He also saw a Miserlisk arrive to feed on the anguish.
Hunt the Miserlisk
Gregg tracks the Miserlisk down and Peter flushes it out by keening joyous feelings. Gregg whacks it with his fire axe a few times but it escapes through the wormhole, expanding the portal slightly.
Jill York returns with her friend Blythe. The women inspect the knife in the wall, but Blythe is dubious and thinks that Jill is being melodramatic. They discuss Mayu, Jill's ex, and the guilt Jill feels about not visiting her in hospital before she died, six months ago. Blythe is impatient: Mayu was a crazy stalker.
The ghosts decide it's not safe for the girls to stay here, so Peter keens joy into Jill, so that she suggests going out on the town. He then uses Ghostly Caress to blow a flyer for the Crash Lounge onto the floor. Blythe picks it up and suggests it as their venue. Greg and Josh accompany the women to keep an eye on them.
Desperately Seeking Mayu
Peter and Lexi visit the local hospital where Peter's Ghostly Caress can access the patient records and confirms Mayu Roberts died here after a self-inflicted wound. He also finds her address. The pair consider looking for the ward where she died, but find the hospital full of frenzied Echoes and highly territorial ghosts, so they head off to her address instead.
Mayu lived in an attic studio flat in an old and shabby boarding house. The room has been empty since but ghosts can see a spectral bloodstain on the floor where she harmed herself. Peter can sense the claustrophobic emotions here of love, loss and obsession.
Jill and Blythe have returned to the apartment and fallen asleep. Joshua and Gregg stop the Miserlisk from crawling inside Jill's mouth to possess her. They drag it out and chop the thing up.
They are surprised by the appearance of Mayu's ghost. She is deathly pale, soaked in blood and carries a katana. She is trying to whisper into Jill's sleeping mind but Gregg drags her away. Mayu cuts a portal in the air and escapes into Hades. At the same time, the Dread erupts out of Hades to imperil ghosts in the Living World.
Amazing illustration by Alex Borg
Gregg and Josh shelter from the malevolent mist in Derek Fiske's Fane. Lexi and Peter retreat through the false wall into Mayu's secret room and find that it too is a Fane. It is also a shrine to Mayu's twin obsessions: martial arts and Jill. They piece together the timeline of Mayu and Jill's relationship, Mayu's obsession and attempted seppuku and they gather some totems, which are ghostly objects that are real to the dead. They also find Joshua's missing sword-cleaning kit.
The next day, Jill's friend Vaughan visits her, offering a shoulder to cry on. Mayu manifests again and easily evades the PC ghosts. She possesses Vaughan but Peter (from the loft opposite, via the telescope) uses Keening to create joy in her. There is an almost-reconciliation between Mayu-as-Vaughan and Jill, that comes unstuck when Mayu/Vaughan tells Jill he loves her and she rejects him. Mayu delivers a vicious diatribe through Vaughan's mouth and storms out. In the street outside, she positions Vaughan before oncoming traffic and then steps out, leaving him to be killed in front of Jill's eyes.
Lexi possesses Jill to stop her doing anything reckless. The other three ghosts rush to confront Mayu. Despite her sword skills, they overwhelm her but she returns from defeat as an invulnerable Wight and once more escapes into Hades, pursued by Gregg.
The PCs decide they need more powerful weapons against a Wight and head to Pickman's Lot, where the Detritus Gate is belching out ectoplasm from Hades while booming like a bell. Lots of ghosts arrive to pick through the flotsam, looking for totems. A helpful old lady Irina advises the PCs to visit Fort Pluto, on the other side of the Gate. Among the refuse, they find a few valuable totems, including a 17th century breastplate.
On the other side of the Gate, Hades appears as a leafless forest with a safe trail cutting through the mists of the Dread. Fort Pluto is a trading post run by the enterprising Reuben Dismal-Jones who serves up distilled-emotion ichor to Nightmanes and trades in Echoes and totems. In exchange for the breastplate, some totems and a soul crystal he offers a pair of soultempered weapons, a sword and dagger that can inflict Grave Damage on ghosts and Wights.
Gregg arrives. He has plotted a route through Hades to the wormhole in Jill's flat. Using the Pallid Lamp to protect them, the ghosts cut through the Dread and pass through the portal into the apartment, in time to find the Mayu-Wight wrecking the place.
The battle is a satisfying one, because as well as their soultempered weapons, the PCs use the totem-photos from Mayu's lair to stun the Wight with grief and joy. Once the Wight is destroyed, Lexi releases Jill, who remembers little of what occurred. Jill and Blythe attend Vaughan's funeral and, by offering comfort to her friend, Jill learns to overcome her own troubled past.
This sort of roleplaying is never best through the online medium. It's hard to establish the intimacy and set the tone. Nonetheless, the story unfolded in a single afternoon session and if it started uncertainly it quickly became compelling. The players felt that this was a superior roleplaying experience and were struck by the element of emotional detective work, the value of empathy as a weapon and the contrast between high fantasy and the ordinary everyday, as ghosts battle it out on the roofs of cars while crowds gather round a tragic road accident victim.
I rushed things a bit to get it to fit the time frame. Jill's relationship with Blythe and Vaughan only got lightly sketched. Bogart and Tomasz never appeared. Shamus and his goons never threatened anyone. Fort Pluto could not be explored properly for lack of time. I allowed Lexi to possess Jill even though she shouldn't (Jill has 2HD and Lexi is first level) but Emily had to step out early so it provided a fitting way for her character to contribute as a NPC.
Nevertheless, the the ending was meaningful, so the story works even in condensed form.
There are some things the scenario needs. One is scaling. Mayu is a daunting opponent for a couple of ghosts, but four ghosts never felt seriously threatened by her, even though she's 4th level. I did however forget to use her Haste power to attack twice a round. Nonetheless, a simple scaling mechanism is called for to beef up Mayu and the Miserlisk for groups of 4-5 and 6+.
Usage Dice are funny things. Jill never lost one die during the scenario, despite rolling six or seven times. If she had deriorated rapidly, events would have been on more of a knife's-edge. But that's dice for you!
Soul Dice were rarely used and consequently Mortal Coils were not needed to recharge. In part, this is because it wasn't really a combat-heavy adventure rather than a problem needing fixing. Soul Usage is a bit all-or-nothing: with 1d4 for the Soul Dice, starting characters tend only to get one or perhaps two uses out of them, so if you demand more rolls you exhaust more characters.
The next scenario project is TEARS SUCH AS ANGELS WEEP, which is a bit more epic in scope. An angel recruits the PCs to travel to an Inferno to rescue a soul from its own private hell. That should offer more danger and Soul Usage but it will take me a few weeks to put together.
30 Minute Dungeons
Essays on Forge
I'm a teacher and a writer and I love board games and RPGs. I got into D&D back in the '70s with Eric Holmes' 'Blue Book' set and I've started writing my own OSR-inspired games - as well as fantasy and supernatural fiction..
The shoddy PDF rulebook available at drivethrurpg is missing pp 66-67, 82-83, 86-87, 126-127, 140-141 and 162-5. You can read or download these below: