Evenings of Terror with Elvira
* Chill: Evenings of Terror (book of scenarios hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark)
Evenings of Terror with Elvira®: The night approaches and the roads grow dark and treacherous. At times like this, you should not be alone. So Elvira®, Mistress of the Dark®, will join you and lead you to towns haunted by myriad forms of hideous death, to houses where unspeakable secrets dwell, to rooms where only the dead can rest, and to more places guaranteed to give you unpleasant dreams. This book contains nine different adventures of horror and humor, if you find death amusing. Format: 96 page perfect bound book; 8-1/2x11". Stock No. 2015; $14.95.
1. The Epidemic
A monster turns a small town into zombies — starting with the pets!
This adventure certainly needs work, for one thing, why is Katie Mattingly still alive to spill the beans to the investigating PCs? And the small town is just not isolated enough for the inhabitants to just sit and be turned into zombies one by one instead of screaming for the authorities.
2. Lanier House
The PCs must escape or destroy a living house that wants to eat them.
This is a nice twist; the house is not haunted by an evil creature, but is the evil creature itself! Sadly, the author didn't go the whole nine yards, so the effect is the same. Why does the house need the "Gnarl" spell to bend its own steps? Or why is the building's plan fixed at all if it is a living creature? Changing rooms would call up a surreal feeling without giving away the solution and confuse the players no end. What's more, the house does change. It looks like a 1800s mansion today, but it has been around for a long time and I'm sure it has put on a Las-Vegas-style teepee face to lure in the indians.
The plot is extremely dull, the encounters are just a rundown of the rooms and it starts the very opposite of subtle, with the doors slamming shut the minute all PCs are inside. The PCs are trying to get out while the house tries to scare them out of their Willpower stat and eat them.
3. A Little Room
The PCs are called to bust an angry, troubled revenant ghost in a room overlooking a 300 foot drop (IEEE, to recycle the old Pentium joke).
This is the epitome of closed-room drama: The PCs enter, the doors slam shut (again — and by the way, what does the "Slam" spell do if the PCs have taken the door off its hinges beforehand?), and they are trapped in a single room with no resources besides those they carried in.
Here we have an interesting, if brief, background motivation. It's a stock haunting of sorts, but nicely fleshed out. Unfortunately, the adventure quickly deteriorates into an exercise in Willpower economics, with the ghost alternating between spending it on a killing spree and recovering it in long hours of rest. I probably wouldn't have fun GMing that. Come to think of it, I'm not sure it works at all: The PCs just have to force the ghost to "Haywire" their cell phones (alright, walkie-talkies, it's 1985 after all) for 24 minutes to drain its Willpower completely.
Let's hope one of them had a prescient dream the night before, because the three ways of defeating the revenant are (1) unlikely to succeed, (2) almost impossible to do (the author even says so) and (3) look positively suicidal and the only way to figure out it's not is by way of a prescient dream. The "Matter of Dream" section is all-important in this adventure. If the PCs don't dream, there are a few hints leading to method (3), but since it boils down to throwing themselves off the cliff I doubt very much my players would implement it. Come to think of it, the assignment letter would probably have them asking S.A.V.E. (and the GM) for a severance package.
In the unlikely event that (a) the PCs accept their assignment and (b) live through the ordeal, they'll probably stone the GM in effigie for the adventure's author. You see, the doors open and the ragged survivors stumble into the presence of the housekeeper, who has just found an old diary explaining it all! If I were a card-carrying cthulhoid satanist so eevil as to be expelled from his church of other card-carrying cthulhoid satanists, I'd know who I'd put a curse of eternal flatulence on.
4. Animal House
A ghost vet turns the PCs into a row of animals to get them into the local SPCA chapter.
If you ever wanted to rub your PCs' noses in the mess they leave behind, this is the adventure for you. They are to look for missing persons in a city troubled by the strange behaviour of its pets. When the envoys confront the vet who, as they'll quickly find out, treated all the animals, he metamorphs them into dogs, cats, mynah birds and finally guppies and gives them to a different family each day so they can experience first-hand the humiliations pets have to suffer.
My issue with this adventure is twofold. First, the players won't like the humiliation of being turned into a procession of Snoopy-, Tweety- (complete with Sylvester!) or Nemo-clones and of being subject to humiliating treatment. They can't even do anything about it, the GM effectively leads them by their noses through the whole adventure. If they are like my players, they'll resent being stuck in animal bodies, even if they realize that the death of the spell caster will eventually reverse the metamorphosis. Second, PCs turned into poodles? Come on! This might work in a silly game like Pandemonium! but not in Chill, which has a much darker tone.
5. The House on the Hill
The envoys stumble on a scene right out of Frankenstein — not!
This is probably intended to be the "comic relief" adventure. In the midst of a torrential rain, the PCs' car breaks down and they have to take shelter in the Gothic mansion they can see in the flashes of lightning. A hunchbacked servant welcomes them in and promptly leaves them to wander about aimlessly until they hear screaming from the cellar. There, a man viss a German accent administers emergency surgery to a young woman. Break out the stakes! Sorry, wrong movie. And sorry, no monsters, the doctor and patient are real!
The only hint that the immigrant physician is really trying to save the lift of the young woman, who was injured in another car crash, is that the cliché is thick enough to cut. I wonder why the mansion doesn't have a fizzling neon sign saying "Hermann Bates, M.D." and a row of six by three foot mounds of earth behind with a shovel sticking in one of them.
If they don't get the picture, it'll be bloody mayhem before they find out that nothing untoward is going on. At least the girl will have died because the PCs delayed the good doctor in patching her up. The way he comes across initially, he'll soon be dead of lead poisoning, players being what they are. Little Igor will come a-runnin with a pitchfork and won't accept any lame excuses. Or, as the author put it: "One can only hope that no player character has killed anybody!" Indeed!
A dangerous aspect of this is that a GM might take it as an edifying experience for trigger-happy PCs. It isn't. Events are unlikely to stop at the point the GM wants to make, and the PCs will come out as murderers and fugitives. If they enter the house at all — you wouldn't willingly enter a building right out of an Oxnard Montalvo film, at the dead of night, unprepared and without being able to call for support, would you?
6. Still Life
A fellow envoy and art critic is murdered, by the hands of a 17th century Dutch painter.
This is one of the better adventures of Evenings of Terror. It has an original idea and well-rounded characters, in my opinion. The only thing that detracts from it is the fact that the victim is a member of S.A.V.E., the ghost-busting agency of the PCs. He is aware of the situation and has called for help, but he doesn't seem to take any precautions and so is murdered in his sleep. On the other side, the PCs, who form a team hastily assembled to bail out one of their colleagues, are expected to kick their heels in their hotel rooms for six hours because the didn't get an earlier appointment with the victim. However, this is easily remedied: Just make poor Driskell DOA.
7. Rounded by a Sleep
Guests in a posh New York hotel room are killed in their sleep.
Another example of the clueless envoy! The manager is a member of S.A.V.E., and the only justification for it is that he can cry for his buddies to help him. Which is the only thing he does, I mean, this is a variation of a classic haunting, and he can't even supply information about the first death that happened in the room twenty years ago and spawned the evil ghost. Who hired that man?
What follows is a so-so dream world adventure. The ending is difficult to play, because once again the PCs have to dive into the abyss without a tangible clue they can survive it. While this works in a (scripted) movie, the GM will have a hard time generating the fear and despair the PCs need to feel to put themselves into positions bordering on suicidal. And together with a little railroading this may cause the players to enter a bored "enjoy the ride" mind-state.
8. Crime Magazine
The PCs tangle with mobsters controlled by an evil gun.
For all you Chill fans out there, the adventure probably is not connected with the excellent short story "Gun Control" by Steve Antczak, which appeared in the later, Mayfair Games collection Chilled to the Bone. So the revolver which is the physical part of an evil multidimensional being is another original, and clever, idea, and supported by background. However, the adventure is marred by a number of annoying flaws.
For one thing the ending is less than sketchy, really not much more than "and now you only have to take the Gun to Germany, smuggle it through customs, dig up its long-dead maker and shoot the corpse with it, while all the time it controls whoever is holding it and tries to make him shoot his fellow envoys". For another, it is a needless attempt at a 30ies film noir setting with a beautiful, not quite innocent girl, a Bogart-style gumshoe and greasy mafiosi. This just doesn't work in the 80ies, I think.
Talking of the gumshoe, since he stumbled across zombies animated by the Gun, he is to be induced into S.A.V.E. by the PCs. A very interesting idea, because it gives the PCs an opportunity to deliver a sales rap which might help the players get deeper into their characters. But it never happens. The detective seems to be a S.A.V.E. member in all but name and leads the PCs directly into the adventure.
9. Haunt Thy Native Place
Vampires take over a roadside village and live on motorists.