Last warning: If you have any inclination to play in this game, turn back now. If you are a player, I recommend you return here.
The Kingston Castle
The full character sheets can be found in a GoogleDoc here. I recommend that you download the file and adjust the margins so that the questionnaires all fit on one page. The descriptions are spoiler free, and can be offered to your players to help them choose.
- Steven King’s Rose Red (miniseries and book)
- The Hoquiam Castle and the Aberdeen Mansion
- The restaurant Billy’s and the legend of Billy Ghol, the Ghoul of Grey’s Harbor
- Aberdeen itself, seriously, it’s a World of Darkness setting
- A Haunting (television show)
In my opinion, nothing sets the tone for a good Dread game like the right sound. Only use it for ambiance, however, and never to spook a player about to make a pull. I usually use Syrinscape for my games, but for this one I also used a number of Youtube videos. Always remember that in this case the loop setting is your friend. Nothing ruins a mood like a sudden commercial. Here’s what I used:
Syrincape Fantasy (found here)
Abandoned Lunatic Asylum–This one has Bee Swarm, Sour Winds, and Kocking, as well as a variety of quiet voices.
Deserted Desert House–Mostly in the end-game for various laughs and creepy music.
Friendly Tavern–Best used down on low in Maggie’s.
Spooky–All in the name.
Storm–Thunderstorms are fairly rare out here, but howling wind and rain storms are par for the course. Use sparingly, though
Witchwood–Bonus points, this one is part of the free trial. The Witchwood Harp is especially good for setting a generically creepy feel.
Syrinscape Sci-Fi (found here)
Frozen Moon–General purpose chilly winds. The Peninsula is markedly colder and more windy than the Seattle area.
Be sure to have these ready before game–you don’t want to have to deal with commercials
A re-purposed mansion turned bed and breakfast, named the Kingston Castle. It sits just outside of the town of Kingston Harbor (based on the town of Aberdeen, Washington). It is mid-January, just before the bulk of the rainy season hits. The mist is also especially thick, so if you have the time/money to take the extra step, invest in some bowls of dry ice. If you do not live around the PNW, a little background may be in order: There is an interesting sort of dread and pity that those around the Seattle area have for the Peninsula, and for Kingston Harbor (Aberdeen) in particular. It’s perceived as being poor, grimy, and full of addicts, as well as being suspiciously rural. While the real-life Aberdeen is much more multi-faceted, this is a horror game, and sympathetic towns are not the name of the game.
This is a psychological horror story in the form of a Dread game. The characters are mostly employees of the tech industry giant, Congo Solutions, and a few mutual friends. In order to get a break from the busy urban environment of Seattle, the group is going on a company retreat to the Peninsula. Part of the goal is to build as much suspense as possible before they get to the bed and breakfast, so the characters are as spooked as possible.
Each of the characters has one or more questions that hint towards some sort of phobia or mental delusion (some more than others) so be sure to leverage these to your advantage and have the players make some pulls. Furthermore, the town of Kingston Harbor has several potential red herrings meant to build tension, but that could soon run its course if you let them follow those too far. The Californian in particular has a reason to have an EMF detector, so be sure to use it going off to your best advantage.
Once they are at the Kingston Castle, make sure that things seem very slightly off. For example, the photos that were shown on the website show the house as looking more run down than it currently is, and there are flowers blooming that have no right to in the middle of January.
If you are lucky, one or more of the characters is inclined to murder, but if not, the house and its caretakers will definitely do the job. The house is trying to cause the deaths of the players to feed itself, and any corpses or bloody puddles quickly disappears. It may try to contact any mentally vulnerably or psychically sensitive individuals to do its bidding. Work up to this slowly, but definitely try for a murder attempt of some sort on the first night.
If the Tower Tumbles
It almost certainly means that someone has died, or is slated for death at the very least. Anyone who is Doomed can be picked off by a murderer or the house at a thematically appropriate time. Such characters may also be mind-controlled by the house, but may not make any pulls. Instead, they become hazards for the other characters. Either way, a character who is doomed should see iconography of the house as having a tree growing through it, soaking up blood through its massive roots.
Kingston Castle Dread–Act I: The Drive Down
The story starts on a Saturday morning, with the crew loading into the company van and heading south. Most of them may not even know where they are headed–in my game, the Californian told them the vague location, but specifically hid from them that this was all for his ghost hunting trip. He even insisted that all of his instruments were karaoke equipment. For more info on ghost hunting equipment, look here.
The trip down can be as eventful or not as you want, but it does need to build tension. In my game, the Midwesterner (who was straight up a serial killer) had the woman he loved (and had murdered) appear to him on the route. He was driving and pulled over suddenly to talk to her, and she gave him a symbol on his palm. I chose the owl symbol from Twin Peaks, but anything properly spooky could work, as long as it seems meaningful and pops up in the wrong places.
Potential pulls along the way include:
- Black ice–it’s been snowing, and on the way from Olympia to Kingston Harbor is a mountain pass
- Seeing someone from their delusions or past
- The Castle calling to them from a distance
- The car revs mysteriously and tries to kick into drive while parked
The drive is creepy all on its own, and here are some real-life local landmarks you can use to set the mood:
- Various huge metal cow statues
- Two nuclear cooling towers
- o They’ve never been used and are currently abandoned
- o There is a continual stream of steam/smoke that comes from nearby
- There’s an old golf course called Oak Ridge Golf
- o Some of the letters have fallen into disrepair, making it seem to read Dark Ridge Gulf
- o The course is in excellent condition, even as the building has fallen apart
- The mountain pass is very “Misty Mountains old” feeling
- There are lots of tidal plains and swamps
- o This has lead to a lot of scraggly/dead trees
- o Random animal corpses also wash in
- o Since it’s cloudy this time of year, the water is a dull grey as well
Somewhere along the way, broadcast the following message:
<Emergency Radio Tone>
The National Aeronautic and Space Administration out of Washington D.C. is reporting unusually strong solar flare activity. Communities in the listening area are expected to experience periods of poor cell reception as well as possible power outages, unusual weather, strange lights, or other phenomenon.
<Emergency Radio Tone>
This gives you license to do all sorts of weird things, as well as keep them off the internet and smart phones as appropriate.
The minivan is passing through a typical small town downtown. The buildings are old, and a character with an eye for history or architecture can place them around the turn of the 20th century. There are several homeless people clustered in doorways. The remnants of several “downtown revival” campaigns are visible in the form of aging statues, abandoned fountains, and several neglected miniature city parks.
Occasional flickers from the obtusely modern L.E.D. street lamps and gusts of wind and auroras remind the players of the ongoing solar storm.
Any character who prepared for the trip knows that the restaurant just coming visible in the thick fog is Maggie’s. The place is highly rated for its food and cocktails made with locally distilled spirits, and is reportedly haunted by its namesake Maggie Krieger, the Creeper of Kingston Harbor, and several of her victims.
Maggie’s Place Restaurant
The interior of the restaurant is long and thin like the building. The western wall is mirrored to create the illusion of a larger dining hall. Also along the western wall about a third of the way in a beautiful antique bar houses an attractive young man tending bar and tools of his trade. The group is seated by a host and told that Veronica will be right with them.
Veronica makes small talk about new faces and the off season. She lays on the small town
in hopes of a large tip. If she is asked about the supposed haunting she will relay the following:
“They say Maggie was the most prolific serial killer of her day. She was a nurse at the hospital built for the loggers and sailors that would pass through. Her job gave her lots of access to men who could go missing without much fuss. Over time she started extorting the sick for money. Apparently whether they could pay or not she would eventually get bored with them. Once that happened she would incapacitate them with ether and play with them for a while before giving them a lethal injection. Then she’d have them delivered to the harbor by her son, who worked maintenance for the hospital.
“Spooky huh? And that hospital, it was in this building. Can you believe it? Forty-nine people dumped in the harbor at high tide, from right here. It was so bad that they called it the Harbor of Missing Men for all the bodies. We had a paranormal normal team come in. Check out these pictures.”
Veronica will show them pictures of shadows and orbs as well as an impressive photo of a woman’s reflection in the glass wearing old-timey clothing.
Either Veronica or the Native that it was once the house of a local timber baron, James Rinbor. There are stories about how Maggie and James were lovers, and became so after she assisted in killing his wife, Annabelle–though no body was ever found. They later were in cahoots with some of Maggie’s killings, until she eventually did him in. It was Rinbor’s death that actually took Maggie to court and stopped her murder streak.
Maggie’s is definitely haunted, but how you manifest this is up to you. In my game, the Good Samaritan had a glass eye through which he saw dead people floating in the harbor. Things could fly across the room and smash, cold spots could happen, a mysterious symbol could be present, something related to a phobia could appear. There is also a red herring in the form of a copycat killer around, mimicking Maggie’s MO, which is reported in the local news. Whether you want to have them be supernatural or not is a matter of choice, as is any returning roll.
Kingston Castle Dread–Act II: The Castle
Again, this is a great time to call for pulls regarding the character’s various tics. On a more mundane note, the drive up to the Castle is tricky–there has been snow, and the locals aren’t well equipped to take care of it. Since the Castle is on a little-used road and sits high above the valley that Kingston Harbor rests in, the drive up should require at least one pull
Upon arrival, the Californian at least notices (perhaps with regret) that the place doesn’t look nearly as haunted as it did online–the trip has been repainted, and some flowers are blooming around the front step. Any character even vaguely aware of local flora knows that this is very strange for this time of year, but it’s not blatantly supernatural. It could have been caused by heat from the foundation. Clearly.
One of the other things the characters should notice is Hank. Hank is the brother of one of the owners, and serves as the Castle’s groundskeeper. He should be a menacing presence at best, always holding something potentially dangerous but explainable, like sheers or a hoe. He is lanky, with a hollow face and dark, dark eyes. If the characters commit any murders, he will quietly cover them up until the Castle takes the body.
Inside, the elderly caretakers, Ms. Edna Porter and Mrs. Agatha Wright, greet them, and ask for a group picture with their old Polaroid instant camera. They mention the rules of the house, including that breakfast is at 8AM, lunch at noon, and supper at 6PM, and that the characters are never, ever to go in the kitchen. Sanitation requirements and all that. They also go on about the haunted history of the place, and clearly most of the Castle’s reputation and business are built on it being haunted.
The couple are very sweet and grandmotherly-seeming, but in reality they serve the house. Arsenic in tea, sleeping drugs in supper, the whole lot. They are very sensitive to respect for one’s elder’s however, and will spare any character who is consistently polite. They dislike the idea of coffee, and will definitely attempt to poison any character who asks for it. Anyone who happens to murder one of the other characters is treated very well, and secretly given sweets or other special treats.
Their housekeeper, Liza, is aware of the house. Though she doesn’t serve it directly, she turns a blind eye to the goings on there. Any character that is kind to her, however, receives a note on their pillow, reiterating the warning not to go into the kitchen.
The characters are shown to the coat closet. If any character has an EMF detector, it will definitely get some high readings here. Strangely, the coat closet has a chimney inside it. If there is any investigation, it is revealed that there is a very old skeleton stuffed up it. This is the body of Annabelle Rinbor, though it’s very difficult to tell by this point.
The characters are welcome to pick their own rooms. The number is variable, but I chose 13 (to better agitate the phobia of the Hipster), including the Sequoia Suite, which takes up the small third floor. Edna and Agatha stay downstairs in one of the rooms, while Hank is on the second floor in another.
From here, the game is fairly open. The Castle doesn’t want anyone to leave the grounds once they’ve arrived, however, so journeys back to town are discouraged in a number of supernatural ways. Ideally, the murders (or the inclination to murder) should start soon.
One of he facets of the house is that it has the ability to manifest strange-looking hornets. They should start somewhere strange but ultimately explainable. In my game, I chose the coat closet under the stairs. The closet is strange enough in that it has a chimney, and adding the low drone of a collection of hornets up inside simply makes it worse. The hornets can also infest the engine block of the company van if characters are thinking of leaving. While they are a construct of the house and can vanish, they can still sting painfully.
Another ability of the house is that it can replicate the vision and voice of the character’s loved ones or enemies. These have no direct power, but are meant to lead characters into the pond out back to drown, or similar circumstance. Any who have died in the house can be manifested more physically, and can attack the living. When someone dies in the house, the corpse and any blood disappear fairly quickly when no one is looking, As more deaths occur, the house starts to look more and more well-kept; floors are suddenly polished, trees bloom from nowhere, lights seem brighter.
The kitchen is where some of the previous guests have been stored in a huge walk-in freezer. Their things, pictures, and mementos are stored in Edna and Agatha’s room. Many of these are worked into a huge shrine to the house.
Kingston Castle Dread–Act III: The Castle Feeds
Act II should take as long as it needs to, but as folks start to get suspicious or try to escape, move into Act III. Hank will finally step in as a murderer, or assistant to any existing murderers; Edna and Agatha will augment their poisoning with carving knives. As it gets more powerful, the Castle itself can act more and more, forcing more characters to make a pull to resist the urge to attack their friends.
Escape is possible, but difficult, as the Castle is surrounded by invasive (and incredibly prickle) Himalayan blackberries, which might be partially animate by this point. Even running down the hill should require a pull, as the snow has melted and refrozen to make it a dangerously slippery slope.