Let Us In: A One-Shot Horror

It is published.

A beautiful duotone risograph print limited edition is available at Exalted Funeral until stocks last (as of 31/10 still available) for 12.00 credits. It is also available as part of a special limited time Halloween bundle with Longwinter and Witchburner.

Digital editions are also available on the WTF Itkx (itch) store and Dtrpg for a bank-breaking 4.95 credits.

So What Is Let Us In?

Let Us In is a horror adventure with pre-made characters visiting a creepy mansion. I mean, that’s like the pitch of 90% of horror movies, right? It’s inspired by quite few 1970s horror movies (and some more recent ones, and some older ones), and—as is par for the genre—it asks the question of what truly makes a monster, what it is to be human. If someone saw parallels to some Stephen King novels, well, those were certainly inspirations and I marinated my brain in those when I was younger.

It features:

  • 4 ready characters, each with a few secrets and special abilities to keep from the others.
  • A cold open with a creepy mansion in a remote town.
  • Escalating pressure and random events.
  • A detailed, creepy antagonist.
  • A simple overlay system for using the adventure with other systems.
  • A sort-of half-page d6 micro-rpg system, which is generally enough to run a one-shot session.

And, for the more physically minded:

  • 16-pages, including cover.
  • 2 maps, one of the town and one of the mansion. The mansion map isn’t room by room, but it details what rooms are on each floor. The adventure doesn’t require the players to crawl through the mansion room by room, like it’s a dungeon.
  • About 30 locations, detailed with some tools and resources for the players to use.
  • A 3-hour realtime clock for events.
  • A table of rumours and a table of environmental effects.
  • A list of songs for inspiration.

The pdf also includes:

  • The maps, with labels and without, to use as handouts.
  • The characters set up as tarot-sized cards for handing out to players.
  • Five bonus characters to celebrate a seminal mystery franchise that started in 1969.
This is what the unlabelled handout map looks like. This is a false-colour cyanotype of the original, which is very orange. Pumpkin season and all. Someone asked what software I used to draw this map: my hand. It’s hand drawn.

On Running Horror

I mentioned this is a horror module, right? Well, running horror rpgs is hard. I don’t always succeed. I find two things helpful.

One. Don’t expect it to actually be scary. It might turn out campy or just silly, and that’s ok too. It’s nigh-impossible to force a tone. If a game night turns out to be just one dumb joke after another, but people still have fun, that’s still a success.

Two. Be careful. Know yourself and know your players, and pay attention. Horror themes are usually unsettling — and Let Us In deals with a few quite heavy topics, the reader suggesting a content warning wasn’t wrong — and horror doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. The point is to have a thrill, not leave the table bummed out. If you’re bringing a horror game to your table, you should review it and make sure it’ll work with your group. Even then, the top cat (aka. the GM) should read the room and the table — don’t go pushing players’ buttons, leave them in control of their characters, and if it helps your players, offer some way for them to discretely signal if they want to take a time out, gloss over a scene or skip something.

It can be a good idea to suggest some distance between players and their characters, have them think of this as more “navigating a character through a movie” than “being a character.”

On Running Let Us In

There are also a few things specifically about the structure of Let Us In.

Three. Let Us In uses a couple of twists, here and there, and telegraphing them in advance might ruin some of the suspense. With players who know and trust each other, this should be fine. With players who are unfamiliar with one another, one option is to telegraph more heavy themes than will actually appear and simply suggest that these are possible.

Four. Let Us In also uses special actions, which the players (can) keep secret from one another until they use them. This simulates how the characters don’t fully know one another when the adventure starts. It can also set up situations where betrayals can occur. This kind of player versus player game can be … challenging … to say the least in a roleplaying game. Again, it’s better to check in advance, how far the players are willing to go with this, and then during play read the room and step in as a referee to keep the session running smoothly. If necessary, stepping in, pausing the game and rewinding an event is perfectly ok. After all, the players are not fighting one another.*

*That’s a lie. There are some points in the adventure where sabotaging another character directly boosts a hero’s chances of success.

Again: reading the room and not being a doofus: good. Having fun: good. Leaving anyone sad that their toy character is broken: not good.


The Heroes

The characters are called heroes. Because they are protagonists, not because they are, necessarily, good people. They look like this:

I’ve redacted the motivations and special actions to prevent spoilers, but basically each character is presented like this. Players can share their special abilities with one another, but they don’t have to. Each character also has a special track, which is only visible to the referee (top cat) running the game. Yep. Players don’t have access to a resource that measures how well they are doing.

The bonus characters look like this:

The bonus handout cards look like this, but I want to fix the art on some of the characters. I’ll get around to that, but for now – it’s 10 pre-made characters, each with some special abilities.


The One Paragraph System

The adventure comes with an optional one-paragraph game system for those caught with no other rpg resources save a d6 (or a dice roller app) and a desire to roleplay and the booklet of Let Us In (available from reputable mimeograph merchants now!)

D6 Know Resolution

  • Heroes take turns in an order that makes sense to the referee.
  • Every time a hero attempts something risky, they roll a d6:
    • If competent • 1 failure, 2–3 marginal, 4–6 success.
    • If unskilled • 1–3 failure, 4–5 marginal, 6 success.
    • Failure: The character fails.
    • Marginal: The hero can succeed if they accept a complication devised by the referee—perhaps they try to rush past a po-hu, but it strikes them as they pass.
    • Success: The hero achieves their goal without further problems.
  • When circumstances or tools favour a character, they add a +1 bonus to their roll. If both envi‐ ronment and equipment are on their side, they add +2.

That’s it. That’s the whole system. Well, and the aforementioned resource track that the players can’t see.


The Music

I mentioned a list of music. Well, here it is:

  • Alain Goraguer – “Déshominisation (I)” – La Planète Sauvage (1971) Blur – “Song 2” – Blur (1997)
  • Can – “Mother Sky” – Soundtracks (1970)
  • Daft Punk – “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” – Discovery (2001) Daliborovo Granje – “Žal” – Hainin (2020)
  • Denis & Denis – “Noč” – Ja sam lazljiva (1985)
  • The Doors – “People Are Strange” – “Strange Days” (1967)
  • Electric Guest – “Troubleman” – Mondo (2012)
  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Static” – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like
  • Antennas to Heaven (2000)
  • Joy Division – “Candidate” – Unknown Pleasures (1979)
  • Lebanon Hanover – “I Believe You Can Survive” – Tomb For Two (2013) Lorn – “Anvil” – Vessel (2015)
  • Mariya Takeuchi – “Plastic Love” – Variety (1984)
  • Melanie Safka – “Beautiful People” – Affectionately Melanie (1969) Phantasmagoria – “Poziv U Raj” – single (1989)
  • Pink Floyd – “Echoes” – Meddle (1971)
  • Sleep Party People – “I’m Not Human At All” – Sleep Party People (2010) Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer” – Talking Heads:77 (1977)
  • Le Tigre – “Deceptacon” – Le Tigre (1999)
  • Tropic of Cancer – “Stop Suffering” – Stop Suffering (2015)
  • Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – “Valley of the Dolls” – Mind Control (2013) Unseen Guest – “Let Me In” – Out There (2005)

I also made a youtube playlist that doesn’t exactly match the list above because I didn’t update it properly. But, still. One can listen to it.


Final Thoughts Let Out

I have had the idea of Let Us In in my head since 2018 when I heard this song (Let Me In (2005) by The Unseen Guest):

I knew exactly how it would work. I even ran variations of it 4 or 5 times. But with everything that happened, I didn’t get the chance (and energy) to turn it into a thing. I want to thank everyone who played some variation of it. I want to thank Ahimsa Kerp of Knight Owl for listening to me talk about it on our walks. It would have been impossible without his input. I also have to thank Exalted Funeral, and Jert in particular, for encouraging me to hammer out the pdf and get it ready for print in record short time. The editor, the readers, and the heroes of the stratometaship. Thank you all.

The last few years have been a real journey, what with UVG and the patreon and writing seacat and other life things (hint: pandemic, death).

It’s been a lot. But, in a weird way, that all came together with this little 16-page zine. I honestly think it is one of the most cohesive things I’ve yet done. I like the art, I like the layout, and … I really, really like the creepy adventure at its heart.

So, if you’ve read this far.

Thank you.

And may a scary story or a creepy adventure remind you that every day lived is a good day with something to enjoy.

Now, I think I gotta go walk the doggo.

—Luka


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