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The Roleplaying Game of Personal Horror Fear Itself plunges ordinary people into a disturbing contemporary world of madness and violence — and inexorably draws them  into confrontation with creatures of the Outer Black, a realm of alien menace. GMs can re-create all the shudders and shocks of the horror genre at their table, whether they use the game’s distinctive mythology or one of their own choosing. Powered by the GUMSHOE investigative roleplaying system, Fear Itself is ideal for one-shot horror games (where few, if any, of the protagonists are expected to survive) or ongoing campaigns in which the characters gradually discover more about the disturbing supernatural reality that hides in the shadows of the ordinary world. Will they learn how to combat the darkness? Or spiral tragically into insanity and death? Read what reviewers are saying about Fear Itself. “I have given this product 5 stars: 4 because it delivers everything it promises; is written to a standard that I, as an ordinary gamer, cannot find fault with; and the 5th star because it brings truly new and innovative content to the industry. If you want scary and investigative – get this.” – William G., DriveThruRPG “This is very much a game of personal horror — so be prepared […]

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A One Sheet GUMSHOE scenario

Download a PDF of this adventure, and enter the One Sheet GUMSHOE competition here.

Spine: The player characters, all college-age young men and women from underprivileged or marginalized backgrounds, arrive for the first time at the exclusive university that has granted them scholarships. Weird events escalate as they are subliminally groomed to become enthralled servitors for the school’s legacies. These supernatural beings, from society’s top 1%, survive and prosper by draining human life essence.

Character Backstories

Instead of the worst things they ever did, players specify for their characters the grounds for their scholarships. Disallow sports scholarships: servitors (or Renfields as their predators call them) grow physically debilitated during the transitions, and athletes receive too much media attention. Players also specify the source of their isolation. The school hands these scholarships out to applicants lacking significant social networks. If they sicken, die or drift away from their former lives, no one will notice or care.

Antagonists

Although their powers and relationship to prey individuals somewhat parallel vampire mythology, the Uppers, as they call themselves, are not undead. Instead they belong to a mutant variant of the human species. Since the Dark Ages the Uppers have ruled mankind from within, perpetuating wealth and power over generations. Uppers founded this prestigious university (pick a real one of your choice, or thinly fictionalize) and use it not only to establish the mundane connections that will propel their offspring through life, but to provide them with Renfields who will feed them life energy and serve their perverse needs.

Match one of the following new Upper students to a player character they will attempt to enthrall:

Terry Leverett: piercing eyes, speaks in business jargon

Nick Mills: sybarite, always organizing the next party

Emily Caine: obsessive A-type, shoo-in at her sorority

Brandon Gawthorne: pretentious future film director

Jessica Shepley: presents herself as an activist, but has to be the one in charge

Set this outside the US by changing cultural details to fit elite universities of your locale.

Other GMCs

Samantha Gawthorne, Brandon’s older sister, an initiated Upper in charge of matching this year’s incoming Uppers to their scholarship program Renfields

Mareeka Stevens, orientation liaison to new scholarship students. A Renfield enthralled to Samantha. Grew up poor in inner city Baltimore, now a mouthpiece for the economic contributions of the ultra-rich. She introduces the PCs to their new situation, checks in on them as needed, and generally stage manages their transformations.

Gideon Bench, dean of scholarship affairs and the highest-level university administrator the PCs can hope to meet with. Also an Upper.

Rafael Martinez, head of the campus police. Gideon’s Renfield.

Paw Chang, another scholarship student. First member of her Hmong family to go to university.

Events

  • Orientation mixer, at which each scholarship student is paired with an incoming legacy in a program supposedly designed to break down social barriers between haves and have nots as the school. Actually designed to pair Uppers and Renfields. Nick focuses intently on Paw Chang before switching attention to a PC.
  • Distant sighting of woman being hustled into truck. When they come of age, Uppers get rid of the nannies who serve as their childhood Renfields. This is Julia Paredes, formerly Emily’s nanny.
  • Paw grows increasingly sick as the Renfield process fails to take (as it does in a percentage of cases) and instead starts to eat her up.
  • PCs suffer blackouts and evidence of having done weird or sinister things.
  • One wakes up with a severed hand under her bed. It’s Julia’s. She was ordered to get rid of her and shit went sideways.
  • Paw dies in horrific fashion.
  • Even as they learn enough to know better, PCs find themselves falling under the thrall of their Uppers.
  • Do they fight back and find a way out before their personalities fade out?
  • When they do, the Uppers train their burgeoning supernatural abilities to push back against them. They’re too enticing to kill outright unless they’re on the verge of discovering all, but have to be frightened into good behavior until the effect completes itself.

Clues and Investigations

Medic: Track the group’s fevers, bursts of missing time and other subtle physiological symptoms and bodily changes.

History: Hit the library to learn how far back all the Upper families go, and how their old, old money connects to slave-trading, atrocities, and bursts of insane good fortune.

Photography: Notice how Uppers appear even sharper, clearer and better looking in photographs than face to face.

Occult Studies: Find parallels between Uppers and vampire mythology.

Social Science: Note the ease with which the Uppers use subliminal dominance techniques to gain cooperation even from strangers.

Social Science: Realize that all of the scholarship group have one thing in common: extreme disconnection from others.

Bureaucracy: Confirm that there’s something funny about the scholarship selection process. They were actively vetted to make sure they had no external connections to fall back on.

Architecture: Spot the way angles are constructed throughout the university’s architecture to impose on individual identity and encourage obedience to authority.

Computer Science: Discover the government-level encryption and security the Uppers maintain on their laptops and tablets—far from the casual disregard of most students.

Research: Uncover the suppressed truth of a campus shooting a few years ago. Portrayed as a lone gunman rampage by a mentally ill former student, it actually wiped out a crew of scholarship students. They figured out that they were being groomed as Renfields and were close to revealing the truth. Find Linh Tran, terrified lone survivor of that incident, who fears that the Uppers will track him down and finish the job.

Reassurance: Once they find her, get Tranh to open up.

Fleeing/Scuffling: Survive the anti-terror tac team that bursts onto the scene as soon as Tranh talks. The Uppers have been using the PCs to find her! You don’t need to be told that she dies in Stability-shredding fashion.

Impersonate: Gain info from totally enthralled Renfields by pretending to also be completely controlled.

Science: Get a DNA sample from an Upper, find that it isn’t quite human. Compare samples to tell Uppers from ordinary members of the ruling class.

Final Confrontation

In the big showdown, low-Stability PCs succumb and switch sides. Does it end with Uppers splattered all over, or a chilling downbeat epilogue in which all the main characters have lapsed utterly into eternal subservience?


Fear Itself is a game of contemporary horror that plunges ordinary people into a disturbing world of madness and violence. Use it to run one-shot sessions in which few (if any) of the protagonists survive, or an ongoing campaign in which the player characters gradually discover more about the terrifying supernatural reality which hides in the shadows of the ordinary world. Will they learn how to combat the creatures of the Outer Black? Or spiral tragically into insanity and death? Purchase Fear Itself in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In the latest episode of their well-laid podcast, Ken and Robin talk Crate Man, secret maps, prepping Cthulhu and the raid on Powell’s.

New creature for The Esoterrorists or Fear Itself

A hole opens up in the road outside your house. You pay no attention to this. Guarded by construction fence, it shows every sign of being regular repair work. Maybe they’re fixing the water mains. Or resurfacing the pavement. But then it gradually dawns that you never see anyone working on it during the day. It couldn’t possibly have opened up during the night, could it? You’d have heard them, and been disturbed by the noise. What construction projects get done in the darkness?

Projects by the workmen do. These beings from the Outer Dark materialize beneath busy urban areas. Drawn to neighborhoods in flux, they absorb and reflect anxieties of homeowners and renters alike. The nature of the change matters not. They show up where foreclosures are rampant, and where rising rents threaten to price out longterm residents. Anyone who gazes down into their holes becomes a psychic power battery. Once empowered they sneak from their tunnels, unlock your doors, and to stand over your bed at night, drinking your essence. As you start to die, your symptoms mimic those of hazardous chemical exposure. Doctors may try to find the source of the contamination, but no matter how many soil tests they perform they never turn up the real truth.

To end an infestation you have to descend into their tunnels. Once underground one finds a labyrinthine dig defying ordinary geometry. Stopping them means finding the original gateway to the Outer Dark. The workmen, with their helmet-like heads, glowing eyes and skulking bodies, individually pose no greater threat than an ordinary person. But there are so, so many of them. And if they take you out in their subterranean home ground, you join their ranks, slaving eternally for more scraps of emotional residue…

Abilities: Athletics 6, Health 6, Scuffling 6

Hit Threshold: 3

Weapon: +1 (pick-axe or shovel)

Alertness Modifier: +1

Stealth Modifier: +2


The Esoterrorists are occult terrorists intent on tearing the fabric of the world – and you play elite investigators out to stop them. This is the game that revolutionized investigative RPGs by ensuring that players are never deprived of the crucial clues they need to move the story forward. Purchase The Esoterrorists in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.’

The Seventh Circle_cover_400l“Whereas the hand of God crafted this fine world, there are places, like that damned rock, that were not touched by His hand, but by those of another. Whatever it is that calls to those who walk its on shores, it waits in the darkness, within the rock, waiting to be let out. If you’re planning on going over there, may God protect you…”

You are the presenters and crew of a paranormal investigation television show. The show is building up to the end of its current season and has been presented with the opportunity to record an investigation on the remote Scottish island of Eilean Mòr. The island has a history of strange disappearances that stretches back over the last hundred years, but more recently a house was built there by a famous architect, Nathan Glaas, who went missing immediately after its completion. Even though no-one has entered the building in the last seven years, it is far from empty…

The Seventh Circle is a Fear Itself adventure for 4-6 players by Matthew Sanderson, author of The Love of Money. It is designed as a stand-alone adventure with pre-generated characters provided, but it can be tweaked to accommodate characters in a pre-existing group.

Stock #: PELG014 Author: Matthew Sanderson
Artist: David Lewis Johnson, Jethro Lentle, Martin Pikkaart Pages: 88 page perfect bound

Buy

bookA while back, Sune Nødskou designed a character sheet for Fear Itself. Spencer Sanders has taken Sune’s original sheet and made it fillable, as well as including spaces for the stereotype and a few languages. You can download Spencer’s new sheet as a PDF here.

GM’s Day Sale

Until 7th March get Esoterrorists, Fear Itself and supplements from the rpgnow.com sale.

Here is actual play of the Esoterrorists adventure Profane Miracles, with a home-designed follow up adventure using Fear Itself here, from the excellent Role Playing Public Radio. There is a bit of banter at the beginning, but they get into it pretty quickly and get on with the game.

I received an email from Ben Monroe, who had urged his friend Matt Steele to try Invasive Procedures, a disturbing adventure for Fear Itself. Matt’s comments are below. Matt also told me “As the Terror Rabbit and host of the Dead of Winter Horror Invitational, Invasive Procedures will be the scenario I bring to run”.

Beware, sweary language.

Continue reading…

Fear_Itself_CoverToC

Nominated for Best Adventure in the 2012 ENnie awards The kids all say Our Lady’s Hospital is haunted. You can see why, when you look at it, that big gloomy pile of staring windows and rusting beds. They should have torn the place down years ago, instead of letting it linger on like this. I’d hate to be a patient there. They send you there to die. You are a patient in an old, rambling hospital. Part of it is shut down, part of it lies in decay. The equipment is out of date, the staff are unmotivated and the whole place reeks of disinfectant, death and seventy years of despair. The hospital has ghosts and spirits walking the halls but they are the least of your worries. You should be afraid of what comes out at night. You should be afraid of what makes the ghosts flee. Dr Drake, the resident surgeon is a genius and like all genuises, he has his secrets, his obsessions and his madness. One such obsession has taken root in the hospital. You can’t stop it, all you can do is try to get out alive. Invasive Procedures is the new Fear Itself adventure […]

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We are $375 from a free Esoterrorists and Fear Itself, thanks to the wonders of crowdfunding. Why not take a look at all the perks still available here.

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