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The Darkest House is a different sort of TTRPG product – it is an adventure as well as an entire game system. It’s available from Monte Cook Games as a printed hardcover book (296 pages) or as a desktop application for Mac or Windows.
The Darkest House was released with the idea that the desktop application would be ideal for online use while the printed book would be best for in person play, however either format can be used in either situation. The game system in The Darkest House was designed to be as simple as possible, so that the story is paramount. It can be used with any other TTRPG system by converting characters from their native system to The Darkest House system. In fact the system assumes characters will be imported, not created for The Darkest House system. The idea of importing characters to The Darkest House is so that this can be used within any campaign. A GM can have the players find themselves accidentally trapped in the house, or purposely investigating the house, or any other situation that fits the game’s story. The game system uses only a few d6 and the players make all the rolls.
I used The Darkest House in my Dungeons & Dragons 5e campaign. This year we had a session scheduled for Halloween, so I decided to use it as a short adventure for that night. Note that at 296 pages, most of them detailing rooms in the house, this adventure is not designed to be a one-shot. In order to use it in this way I had to do quite a bit of prep, reading a lot of the book and choosing about 6 rooms that would lead to a satisfying adventure. One thing about The Darkest House as an adventure is that if you started it by not limiting the rooms, as I did, it’s hard to predict how many hours the PCs will spend in the house. They could escape in a single session with luck, but I could imagine this taking 7-8 sessions in some circumstances. GMs may find that the horror and danger involved lead to the players being very cautious, so each room may take longer to play through than you anticipate.
The theme of The Darkest House is that the house hates you. The PCs may never find out why, and perhaps there is no reason to discover, but it absolutely hates the PCs. This is more than a standard haunted house adventure, the house is active and will act on the PCs.
One idea I had about using The Darkest House is that it doesn’t have to be set in a single campaign. If you played this as its own adventure, I’d guess it might be fun to allow each player to bring characters from any TTRPG. It could be really fun if you had a character from D&D, one from Traveller, one from Cyberpunk, and they all had to play together to escape.
The first thing to note about The Darkest House is that you should have a discussion about its themes and tone before running it. There are many disturbing rooms in the house, and not just in a violent way. There are encounters which many players will find too disturbing emotionally or psychologically, so the GM should know their players and adjust accordingly.
The second thing is that the house can be quite deadly. Although there’s less combat than in most adventures in games like D&D or Pathfinder, the effects of encounters can be severe for the PCs. Characters have a decent chance of dying and even survivors may emerge with their characters changed. This is another reason to evaluate whether this works into your campaign and with your group of players. I would not suggest running this if one of the players will be absent and someone else needs to play their character as the player may resent it if they come back to a troubled character, or worse.
In our campaign the PCs all survived but they are now tormented by nightmares as a result of an encounter they had. The players all enjoyed it and it was a fun break from D&D. I really like this adventure and I would love to run it as a longer adventure at another time. There is a lot of artwork (in both formats) so for each room you have an overhead map, the view of the room when they enter as well as artwork depicting each NPC/creature, and graphic like letters as such as needed. It is a beautiful if creepy product. It should be noted that this game system is unique and not tied to Monte Cook Games’ Cypher System so it can easily be used with nearly any TTRPG.
Let us know if you have any comments or questions about The Darkest House.