Why I don't like the haunt mechanics


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The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

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The way I see role playing, we are engaging in a sort of cooperative story telling where the choices players do matter. In my experience haunts don't make for cooperative story telling at all. The only choice the majority of players have is to participate in them or not. Let me explain.

Right off the bat, haunts are a passive, reactive thing. With traps, you can kick into paranoid mode and start searching places you suspect there might be a trap. You can also do things like flying or spider climb to bypass suspected traps. There are also spells to detect traps and class abilities which help you deal with them. Haunts rob players of the option to prepare.

When you interact with a haunt, you are also bereft of choice. You make a Perception check, then you roll initiative. Players who made their Perception check AND act before initiative count 10 can do *something*. What exactly is that *something*? For many characters the only choice is to run away because only a small number of classes can deal effectively with a haunt with positive energy. Worse, even the few classes who can deal positive energy damage, often can't do enough to destroy the trap outright. Players are robbed of the ability to react effectively against haunts.

Essentially, haunts turn a cooperative story telling experience into a bizarre circus ride where a party of adventurers is strapped in, going from place to place, hoping whatever damage the haunt mechanics crank out is less than lethal, and spending resources patching up after the fact. It's sort of the 'It's a Small World' ride at Disneyland only each country you visit you get smashed in the face.

Next time I see an adventure with haunts... I think I'll pass.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I agree with you that they are somewhat retricted in their value as a challenge and I think too much of them is a bad thing. That said, they're a useful tool for conveying information and backstory - finding yet another "journal" with the next plot hook can become a little tiresome.

I do wish there was some way for particularly strong-willed characters to overcome them and suppress them in some way other than just not being affected.


There are spells to help detect haunts.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Steve Geddes wrote:
That said, they're a useful tool for conveying information and backstory - finding yet another "journal" with the next plot hook can become a little tiresome.

Haunts are like finding a journal and getting smashed in the face...

I don't see that as much of an improvement from the players seat. Also, I've had two games where the haunts have resulted in character deaths. This is about as exciting as having your character get struck by lightning in the middle of a field.

Sczarni

I agree with you, Dennis. My players disliked the haunts in Haunting of Harrowstone for that very reason.


Ive encountered haunts in Two AP, Haunting of Harrowstone and Twice in Rise of the Runelords. all three times as a player. i have enjoyed them every time. I found as non combat encounters they were a blast provided your players have the right attitude. in the Base of Harrowstoen, one of the players doesnt handle fear very well and it unfortunately degrated the whole thing a bit for me. But the issue there wasnt the Haunts.

However this is al simply an issue of dealing with their effects throug RP ive never really worried about the mehcnaics of how they work, but it was not a problem. Really they ar elike area effect trap things waiting to go off. You walk in or do something to set it off and then saving throw.

I dont really see the issue to be honest.


Dennis Baker wrote:

The way I see role playing, we are engaging in a sort of cooperative story telling where the choices players do matter. In my experience haunts don't make for cooperative story telling at all. The only choice the majority of players have is to participate in them or not. Let me explain.

Right off the bat, haunts are a passive, reactive thing. With traps, you can kick into paranoid mode and start searching places you suspect there might be a trap. You can also do things like flying or spider climb to bypass suspected traps. There are also spells to detect traps and class abilities which help you deal with them. Haunts rob players of the option to prepare.

When you interact with a haunt, you are also bereft of choice. You make a Perception check, then you roll initiative. Players who made their Perception check AND act before initiative count 10 can do *something*. What exactly is that *something*? For many characters the only choice is to run away because only a small number of classes can deal effectively with a haunt with positive energy. Worse, even the few classes who can deal positive energy damage, often can't do enough to destroy the trap outright. Players are robbed of the ability to react effectively against haunts.

Essentially, haunts turn a cooperative story telling experience into a bizarre circus ride where a party of adventurers is strapped in, going from place to place, hoping whatever damage the haunt mechanics crank out is less than lethal, and spending resources patching up after the fact. It's sort of the 'It's a Small World' ride at Disneyland only each country you visit you get smashed in the face.

Next time I see an adventure with haunts... I think I'll pass.

Sometimes to play a role means to play a character who is scared. It means to play a character who defeats the enemy through out smarting them rather than beating them with a sword.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Darkwing Duck wrote:
Sometimes to play a role means to play a character who is scared. It means to play a character who defeats the enemy through out smarting them rather than beating them with a sword.

How do you role play a situation where you have no control? You aren't doing anything, you usually *can't* do anything.

GM: *You hear a pounding on the wall* What do you do?
Player.... (roleplaying) "Oh Bugger!"
GM: Your character smashes her head through a plate window, take 50 points of damage
Player: (roleplaying) "Ouch"

I love roleplaying, I just don't see how getting smashed in the face is a role-play aid, I'll take an NPC to argue with or chat with every time.


Dennis Baker wrote:
Darkwing Duck wrote:
Sometimes to play a role means to play a character who is scared. It means to play a character who defeats the enemy through out smarting them rather than beating them with a sword.

How do you role play a situation where you have no control? You aren't doing anything, you usually *can't* do anything.

GM: *You hear a pounding on the wall* What do you do?
Player.... (roleplaying) "Oh Bugger!"
GM: Your character smashes her head through a plate window, take 50 points of damage
Player: (roleplaying) "Ouch"

I love roleplaying, I just don't see how getting smashed in the face is a role-play aid, I'll take an NPC to argue with or chat with every time.

Really? The only exit is a plate window?

I can see many options
1.) The character waits to see which exit someone takes and then takes the same one
2.) The character panics
3.) The character makes a knowledge check before running
4.) The character takes cover and observes in hopes that some clue will be revealed
5.) The character stands around dumbly
6.) The character casts an Abjuration


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

You make a very good point. Haunts are passive, and the PCs can often only react, most of the time with limited options.

However, sometimes that's the point of horror. The best haunts tell a story. They're related to whatever tragedy happened years ago, and can clue in the players to the history of a place or event.

In those ways, in the hands of a skilled GM, they can be a fun event. People enjoy a funhouse ride, even though it's a passive experience. Sometimes, the lack of control and limited options add to the tension. I'm not saying it should be like this all the time, but I think haunts are a great addition to the GM's toolkit. Especially for their role as storyteller.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Darkwing Duck wrote:
Dennis Baker wrote:
Darkwing Duck wrote:
Sometimes to play a role means to play a character who is scared. It means to play a character who defeats the enemy through out smarting them rather than beating them with a sword.

How do you role play a situation where you have no control? You aren't doing anything, you usually *can't* do anything.

GM: *You hear a pounding on the wall* What do you do?
Player.... (roleplaying) "Oh Bugger!"
GM: Your character smashes her head through a plate window, take 50 points of damage
Player: (roleplaying) "Ouch"

I love roleplaying, I just don't see how getting smashed in the face is a role-play aid, I'll take an NPC to argue with or chat with every time.

Really? The only exit is a plate window?

I can see many options
1.) The character waits to see which exit someone takes and then takes the same one
2.) The character panics
3.) The character makes a knowledge check before running
4.) The character takes cover and observes in hopes that some clue will be revealed
5.) The character stands around dumbly
6.) The character casts an Abjuration

Waiting, panicing, making knowledge checks, taking cover, standing around dumbly, or casting an abjuration, it doesn't make much difference, you wind up with your character smashing his face into a plate window (usually there is a save). As far as I know the only choices you have that can affect that are running away or with positive energy.

And that's assuming that you make the perception check and don't flub your initiative roll. The suckers with mediocre perception checks are totally screwed. Maybe I missed something?

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Stalwart wrote:
In those ways, in the hands of a skilled GM, they can be a fun event. People enjoy a funhouse ride, even though it's a passive experience. Sometimes, the lack of control and limited options add to the tension. I'm not saying it should be like this all the time, but I think haunts are a great addition to the GM's toolkit. Especially for their role as storyteller.

I guess. I've run them once and been victim of them three times as a player. When I ran them they were Ok (Runelords) but as a player I was far less excited about them. Maybe it was the original implementation in Runelords was better done or perhaps I just nailed it as a GM. All I know is that most of the time they seem more frustrating than anything.


quite like the first one i met, in a pfs mod, it seemed fun n logical
despised the whole haunted house thing in ROTRL
in H0H there where slightly better implemented

I like the idea of them, but not the way they are statted up

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32

Darkwing Duck wrote:

I can see many options

1.) The character waits to see which exit someone takes and then takes the same one
2.) The character panics
3.) The character makes a knowledge check before running
4.) The character takes cover and observes in hopes that some clue will be revealed
5.) The character stands around dumbly
6.) The character casts an Abjuration

Those are the same options 1st-level PCs have when standing on the sidelines of a battle between two 20th-level NPCs whose actions render those of the PCs completely irrelevant.

Now roll initiative and save against that stray fireball...


What the deuce is a haunt.

Liberty's Edge

It's a one of these.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Hi Dennis.

:D

All I'm gonna say is that haunts are a spice that can be overused. Too much of anything is not good.

I do think one has to be thoughtful in their application.

HoH probably overdid it. I developed an internal logic for haunts (after the fact) that frankly wasn't adhered to closely when I wrote the scenario. Chris Mortika really demonstrated that to me well. That's because the rhythm and the sequence came to me after I'd finished writing and I was sitting back thinking about it. That's the god's truth, I'm not looking for cover or an excuse. I'd definitely tweak some of those if I had a time machine.

Its a learning experience.


DeathSpot wrote:

It's a one of these.

It seems that these would be nifty but could very quickly be overdone.

Dark Archive

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Dennis Baker wrote:
For many characters the only choice is to run away because only a small number of classes can deal effectively with a haunt with positive energy. Worse, even the few classes who can deal positive energy damage, often can't do enough to destroy the trap outright.

Having recently encountered some haunts as a druid playing sole healer in a party, made me think that, of all things that 3.X did *not* need, was another way for a party to *need* a cleric (and only a cleric) to deal with a situation.

Sczarni

There are enough haunts that don't deal severe amounts of damage, and the way the GM describes the haunt can really set a mood. A haunt is a good way to get across to your players that "this is a horror-themed game". They're also good for the GM who's tired of just throwing zombies at players, or having to come up with quirky NPCs for players to talk to.

Haunts are definitely meant to be used sparingly. Like, sparingly enough that the players forget they exist, and are thus even more taken aback by them. They're like jump scares in horror movies-- people complain about them because they're not "real scares", but one or two help with the pacing.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Dennis Baker wrote:
This is about as exciting as having your character get struck by lightning in the middle of a field.

I agree. My first experience with Haunts was today in a PFS adventure and it was not fun at all.


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Dennis Baker wrote:
For many characters the only choice is to run away because only a small number of classes can deal effectively with a haunt with positive energy.

I feel your pain. Three character deaths and taking 5 days to clear Haunting of Harrowstone because we had to stop the adventuring day as soon as your cleric ran out of channels. After all the PC deaths we had 3 characters that could channel just to keep the game going.

Sovereign Court

I guess my players love getting hit by lightning. When I ran Harrowstone they had a blast. They loved figuring out a way to put the haunts to rest. After dealing with the first few haunts they realized that it was an obstacle in the way of their goal and avoided them best as they could. Afterwards I made a joke about making up a campaign that was all haunts and the PCs would be ghostbusters. That was almost a year ago and they still ask me if I have started on it yet.

It may come down to play style. I do not give out experience points. My players do not feel they must defeat every challenge. They do not feel the need to search every room. They had so much fun running through the furnace room hoping to not get torched. They also had a lot of fun using the planchette to communicate with the restless spirits. For me haunts are a welcome addition to my GM tool box. In fairness I was a bit liberal in allowing holy water to help neutralize most haunts. They also made good use of the haunt siphons.


Maybe it is a playing Style thing as I enjoyed the Two haunts in Rise of the runelords as i said above.

Rise of the Runelords:
In foxglove manner one of the players, was droppe down to i think 2 or 3 wisdom and ended up eating the fungus. Most of the Pc's were terrified to sleep and fighting amongst themselves due to fear exaustion or both. Over all i found it a great experience.

for the second one later looking for Xin Shalast, I enjoyed it also but it did seem a little more forced than Foxglove manor.

Haunting of Harrowstone:
i think the play style issue happend when i played HoH in that i knew one of the players wouldnt RP the fear aspect of things very well. and while his inability to grasp bad decisions based n previous experience did provide a detraction, the issue wasnt really the haunts.


Honestly, I can't stand games in which every encounter can be defeatedby facing them head on. I find such games one dimensional and lacking creativity. I find such characters to be flat and unimaginative and their players lazy and expecting everything to be handed to them on a silver platter.

I respect the fact that other people will disagree with me. This is how I feel.

What makes a character a hero is not that he can defeat everything that comes his way once initiative starts. It is how he deals with his game world. And, yes, some things in that game world are things he can't beat once initiative starts. So, how does he deal with them? In some cases, he needs to use his brain or go around them. Haunts are one of those things.

Grand Lodge

I like haunts but I do feel the Pathfinder rules need to be expanded to give characters methods of dealing with the dangers.

EG:
New wondrous item, Sacred Candle. Buy one from a good aligned temple. When you light it up, you gain a personal +5 sacred bonus to saves and AC against all haunt effects for 1d4 hours. If it is subject to magical wind it can be blown out for good. It can only be lit once, afterwards it is useless.

Holy water. When used against a haunt it deals 3d6 positive energy damage instead of just 1d6.

Ghost touch weapon. If you succeed on initiative against a haunt, you can ready an attack against a haunt effect. If you deal a variable amount of damage in this readied attack, you slice the haunt in half, exorcising it permanently.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

There are a lot of good points about ways haunts can be more interesting and fun... It just seems to me the success/ failure rate is pretty low. Not sure if it's a GM confusion issue, the adventures in play, or what exactly.

@Jim G. I was deliberately keeping specifics out of my post because I'm frustrated with them overall, not any single implementation.


Eh I don't really find traps that interesting.


WWWW wrote:
Eh I don't really find traps that interesting.

Traps are a waste of time. A rogue that's decent at his trade will nullify their use completely without even having to actively look for them (as their rogue abilities make finding them practically automatic). They're essentially free XP for the party unless you modify the heck out of them to boost their Perception and DD DC, at which point they become over-the-top CR for the party levels.

I still include traps because it helps the rogue feel useful, which is important. I don't spend much time creating traps because I don't have the time to waste writing up particulars on something that will be found and disarmed before it ever goes off.

My players had an absolute blast in RotR during the haunted house. I'd wager it does have something to do with play style when it comes to these things.

Sovereign Court

Dennis Baker wrote:

There are a lot of good points about ways haunts can be more interesting and fun... It just seems to me the success/ failure rate is pretty low. Not sure if it's a GM confusion issue, the adventures in play, or what exactly.

@Jim G. I was deliberately keeping specifics out of my post because I'm frustrated with them overall, not any single implementation.

What do you mean by Success/failure? Do you mean putting the haunt to rest once and for all? Simply neutralizing it? Or even bypassing the haunt without getting killed?

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Pan wrote:
What do you mean by Success/failure? Do you mean putting the haunt to rest once and for all? Simply neutralizing it? Or even bypassing the haunt without getting killed?

The number of times I found them interesting and additive to game play versus being an irritating burden. Most of the time I walked away feeling the game session would have been improved if they had just been left off.

Dark Archive

Dennis Baker wrote:
Most of the time I walked away feeling the game session would have been improved if they had just been left off.

I kinda think that the whole 'do something to lay the unquiet spirit to rest' thing is a great storytelling tool / idea, but not something that was in any way improved by adding a mechanical sub-system to it.


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The problem with haunts is that the solution does not involve uncovering the ghastly truth and setting the vengeful spirits to rest. Just channel energy or something and it's done with. Maybe people would have less trouble with them if they were called something other than 'haunts'.


I don't know about your adventuring parties, but our's don't walk en masse into any encounter, let alone a trap or haunt. There's always one guy up front (a ranger at point, usually), so it's never a roll for all party members to notice a haunt, it's usually only one.

I've been doing things like having multiple haunts in a given area all under the control of a single undead (usually ghost) entity or powerful necromancer, and killing/defeating the undead or necromancer destroys the haunts. So the party will encounter a few haunts, avoiding some, activating others, eventually getting to the bad guy and deactivating all the haunts. You can't get that to happen to normal traps.

Haunts are very much story telling elements that hurt you, but give you clues and tell a story itself.

In Rite Publishing's #30 Haunts for Kaidan, there are related haunts, some that don't even hurt the party directly. Say one haunt causes desecrate which doesn't really hurt anybody, but that haunt also triggers the second haunt, say one that does animate dead, now the dead bodies in the shallow graves around you rise up and attack.

There is also a magic item in this volume that let's you detect haunts.

I think Trevor Gulliver really delivered in that haunt release, because in it, complete little stories are created involving a legend or tragic event, with several related haunts and sometimes a ghost, wight, or other monster encounter that make haunts have a real purpose that are fully developed in their surroundings that make such encounters exciting, and fun to play.

A haunt by itself, like a trap can be an interesting surprise. Too many haunts or traps and it's drudgery. But combined with an encounter, a treasure, elements that move the plot forward and it becomes an intrinsic part of the story/campaign.

I rarely use haunts that kill directly - though they definitely hurt you, sometimes haunts are good for getting parties to spending resources as the primary goal.

Like anything its the delivery that matters.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32

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gamer-printer wrote:
Say one haunt causes desecrate which doesn't really hurt anybody, but that haunt also triggers the second haunt, say one that does animate dead, now the dead bodies in the shallow graves around you rise up and attack.

Or the GM just declares that the graveyard is desecrated and the corpses are zombies. There's no need for pseudo-trap rules that allow a cleric with a good initiative modifier to negate the entire encounter before it happens.

I'm with Set on this one: ghostly hauntings are a great story-telling tool, but they aren't improved by the mechanics of the haunt sub-system.

Now, if Pathfinder had a single unified mechanic that handled all hazards (including haunts and traps) the same way, just as it has a single unified mechanic for afflictions, I might be of a different opinion. At least in that case, everything would be streamlined. As it is, haunts are a clunky sub-system that isn't integrated with anything else, and expanding the rules for haunts can only make the sub-system even clunkier and less integrated with the rest of the game.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Dennis Baker wrote:

@Jim G. I was deliberately keeping specifics out of my post because I'm frustrated with them overall, not any single implementation.

I'm sorry Dennis.

I did have one thread dedicated to that subject, so it's hard to disengage. I'll let the discussion continue without comment.


Epic Meepo wrote:
Or the GM just declares that the graveyard is desecrated and the corpses are zombies. There's no need for pseudo-trap rules that allow a cleric with a good initiative modifier to negate the entire encounter before it happens.

Of course, it was just an example.

Epic Meepo wrote:

I'm with Set on this one: ghostly hauntings are a great story-telling tool, but they aren't improved by the mechanics of the haunt sub-system.

Now, if Pathfinder had a single unified mechanic that handled all hazards (including haunts and traps) the same way, just as it has a single unified mechanic for afflictions, I might be of a different opinion. At least in that case, everything would be streamlined. As it is, haunts are a clunky sub-system that isn't integrated with anything else, and expanding the rules for haunts can only make the sub-system even clunkier and less integrated with the rest of the game.

I agree that a unified mechanic would be an improvement, but I won't abstain from using haunts, traps, hazards because of the difference. Used sparingly and in the right place, haunts are an effective part of the game.


Dennis Baker wrote:


The number of times I found them interesting and additive to game play versus being an irritating burden. Most of the time I walked away feeling the game session would have been improved if they had just been left off.

Ok, we got the message, you don't like them.

I suggest you don't use them.

I suggest those who do like them, do use them.

[/end thread]


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Well some of us are hoping open discussion might let others see through different points of view, perhaps changing how a haunt is delivered to make it palatable to the OP and others. We aren't arguing for argument sake - so no need to end thread...


gamer-printer wrote:
Well some of us are hoping open discussion might let others see through different points of view, perhaps changing how a haunt is delivered to make it palatable to the OP and others. We aren't arguing for argument sake - so no need to end thread...

I understand that!

Some people, however, don't appear to want a solution.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

stuart haffenden wrote:
Ok, we got the message, you don't like them.

It's funny that you quoted that post the way you did, I wasn't trying to harp on the point, I was answering a direct question.

Quote:
[/end thread]

There is a little button next to every thread in the forums that allow you to end them whenever you'd like (hint looks like this ). Rather than make snarky posts why not just use that button and move on?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'll say this... I like Haunts a heck of a lot more than simply having battalions of weak ghosts or other incorporeal threats. A threat that can't simply be blasted with Force effects and which does creepy, creepy stuff is a godsend to an old Ravenloft junkie like myself.

Sometimes, the party isn't there to "win," they're there to have an experience.

Now, if your goal is epic heroism, or even just Indiana Jones heroism? Just keep the visual effects and leave Haunts as a mechanic high and dry.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32

Cole Deschain wrote:
Now, if your goal is epic heroism, or even just Indiana Jones heroism? Just keep the visual effects and leave Haunts as a mechanic high and dry.

That also works if your goal is gothic horror.

The haunt mechanics don't contribute anything atmospheric than can't already be done with the mechanics for the permanency spell and the programmed image spell.

EDIT: Of course, if you happen to enjoy the haunt mechanics, by all means, use them. I just tend to dislike complicated subsystems that exist to serve only a handful of very specific in-game situations.


I like ghost stories, so I'm going to say I enjoy the concept of haunts.

1) Would I wish that some of them were non-damaging and just there for storytelling? Yes. (Ghost stories are creepy for a reason, and if the cleric wants to blow their resources on cosmetics only... go ahead. Adds to the creep factor).

2) Do I wish there was benefit for having the story told to you? Yes. (For example, without seeing the haunt, you'll never put the spirits to rest).

3) Do I wish there were other methods (besides even destroying) of dealing with them. Yes. (For example, the haunt sets several rooms on fire. How would you deal with that normally?)

4) Do I wish they were more than a supernatural "trap"? Yes. (Traps get boring when overused. Haunts, like ghost stories, can be so much more, they can transform the entire environment for a short time. It's such a waste to use them as traps only).

5) Do I think it's fun to be one shot killed? No, and if that's what's happenning, I dislike those particular implementations of haunts. I would rather the haunt do a little damage every few rounds, while telling a story, and the story would make it worthwhile staying. Now that's interesting.

Because they're being billed as a supernatural "trap", a lot of GMs will play them that way. Dry, boring, uninteresting, and here's your damage. But I think some GMs can make them much more interesting too.

And it's obviously important how they're written.


I personally abstain from any sub-system that basically states, "I don't care what your actions are you are screwed."

It's like playing a game of, "You lose." The only real way to win is to not play, only this game (haunts) drag you in regardless.

Honestly it's like the ultimate railroad device for a Gm beyond "Rocks fall: everyone dies."

And once you are done with it? Nothing. You have nothing except your wounds and the vague idea of being violated to no point or purpose.

If I want to be an automaton where my actions don't actually matter I'll go back to working in a factory -- not play a role playing game.


Haunts are reactive, that I'll grant you. But they are an element of a horror campaign. Their effect takes place in a six second increment. Ex: the little boy walks down the creepy hallway in the old hotel when he turns a corner and hears a rubber ball bouncing. He peers around to see what's happening and sees a pair of twin girls at the end of the hall; within seconds the whole scene is awash with blood. The kid freaks and runs screaming.

In game terms: roll a perception (you got a 21). You hear a ball bouncing in the hallway. I peer around to see what's up. You spot 2 little girls that ask you to come play w/them; they instantly explode in a font of blood which jets right at you. Make a will save (PC rolls a 12). Sorry, you didn't make it. You're frightened beyond all rational thought. You run away screaming.

If your entire game goes this way you're a railroady GM. If one or 2 moments go like this, interspersed with 3 clues that all add up to something TERRIBLE having been inflicted on the girls by their insane former-caretaker father; now you've got a story.

But the lack of choice thing I don't see as a problem at all. In fact I'm planning some non-standard "haunts" for my game right now. They are echoes of a dark fey revel and the PCs will have any number of ending the effects IF they get to act in the surprise round; one for example is a drinking contest. If the PC joins right in I'll have him roll Fort instead of will and if he succeeds, he beats the haunt.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Epic Meepo wrote:

That also works if your goal is gothic horror.

The haunt mechanics don't contribute anything atmospheric than can't already be done with the mechanics for the permanency spell and the programmed image spell.

Oh, without doubt, and in some groups I've gamed in? We never had anyone roll Willpower/Spend Willpower/Will Save/Fear Checks/whatever, because everybody could be trusted to play their characters' reactions appropriately.

But the mechanics can be handy when such a (wonderful) situation doesn't exist.


A haunt is just a spell in creepy clothing. While certainly some spells can be devastating, that's just something in the normal game. A haunt doesn't work like "you lose", it's still a spell, you've got saving throws. If a wizard with Greater Invisibility suddenly casts a spell on you with the same effect as a haunt is that something unexpected or a case of "you lose"? The only difference is the haunt is the caster, and you have a chance to notice it and avoid it's effects.

If you fail your perception check to notice, and then fail your save versus the spell effect, yeah, then you're screwed perhaps. That can happen with any spell cast on you, I don't see the difference.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32

Cole Deschain wrote:
Epic Meepo wrote:
The haunt mechanics don't contribute anything atmospheric than can't already be done with the mechanics for the permanency spell and the programmed image spell.

Oh, without doubt, and in some groups I've gamed in? We never had anyone roll Willpower/Spend Willpower/Will Save/Fear Checks/whatever, because everybody could be trusted to play their characters' reactions appropriately.

But the mechanics can be handy when such a (wonderful) situation doesn't exist.

Combine permanency, programmed image, and magical traps and you have all the mechanics you need, no haunts required.

For example, here's a "haunt" which creates the illusion of a woman burning to death in a furnace, and which incinerates anyone who backs away instead of braving apparent flames to mount a rescue:

Crematorium:
A crematorium occupies the basement of the old Henderson House. It is here that the house's former owner murdered his wife by kicking her into a furnace. After burning her alive, he buried her ashes under the basement floor.

The echoes of Mrs. Henderson's death still haunt the room, producing several magical effects:

-There is a programmed image effect on the furnace in the corner. If anyone enters the space adjacent to the furnace, the effect produces a figment of a woman burning to death inside the furnace. She is screaming for help, but the furnace seems hot enough to burn anyone attempting a rescue. The image ends immediately if someone nonetheless attempts to rescue the woman.

-There is a permanent phase door effect on Mrs. Henderson's grave, which is five feet back from the entrance to the furnace. The phase door allows any creature moving away from the furnace to pass through (falling into Mrs. Henderson's grave), but only if the programmed image on the furnace is currently active. Creatures moving towards the furnace cannot pass through, nor can creatures moving away from the furnace when the programmed image is not active.

-There is a flame strike trap at the bottom of Mrs. Henderson's grave. The trap only triggers if a creature enters the grave through the phase door above the grave, and only affects creatures within the grave when triggered.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Nope, don't care for it. Because you can detect magic, then dispel it, going on a purely mechanical consideration. And being able to simply "dispel" a creepy effect is very "meh."

Now, certainly, you can rule that these "aren't actually magic per se," but at that point, you're creating the selfsame problem many people seem to have with haunts as they exist- namely, you've nerfed the PCs' ability to do anything.

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