Fright Night: Ghost Ship gets Savaged!

From: Hogshead Publishing/Greywood Publishing
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Fright Night: Ghost Ship is a d20 RPG Adventure from Hogshead Publishing/Greywood Publishing.

This review is going to be a little different in that it is about an adventure I found, changed and ran.  So I am going to not only write about the adventure, I am going to write about the changes I made in hope they will inspire others and also about how easy it was to change to a different system (Savage Worlds).

JustUs Productions organizes a gaming cruise every other year, since 2013, and since I was going, I wanted to run a nautical themed horror game for it.  I searched far a wide for a appropriate game adventure.  My plan was to convert to a system I was comfortable with – Savage Worlds.  There were a few that were on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG.  I was trying to find something that would fit the concept I already had in mind. Then I stumbled across a fantastic adventure that I wanted to write about. It fit my concept perfectly.  It was the Ghost Ship adventure from Greywood Publishing/Hogshead Publishing Fright Night series.

From Page 6: The Fright Night series focuses on all aspects of horror in the 21st century. Each book is a self -contained adventure and source book based on a popular horror genre or archetype.

Ghost Ship is first and foremost a d20 3.x  edition adventure.  It is self contained with its own classes as well as additional skills and feats.  Of course, those sections mattered little to me as I was converting to Savage Worlds.  However, I did use some of the text from the classes and drew inspiration from them as I created characters for my Savage Worlds adventure.  I am also have my experience with d20 and these sections do have their merits.

Chapter 1: Horror stories gives your a good baseline for generic horror stories.  This is useful no matter what system you are running. Obviously, all the adventures in this series start out with this, but it is good insight on how to run a horror game, from the player and GM perspective. Although, my horror RPG experiences spans 20+ years, these was still some good advice in there.

Chapters 2 through 3 deal with primarily d20 character generation.  It includes 6 base classes that I used for inspiration in my Savage Worlds character generation.  It also includes several new feats and skills. Chapter 4 and 5 deals more in depth with horror in d2o combatting it.  It brings in some rules for combat against the horrific things one might see in this genre.  Including in this is interesting rules on darkness, running away from the horrors and fear rules.

From Page 35: The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible. – Oscar Wilde

The meat of the adventure starts in Chapter 6.  This is where I probably should warn the reader of possible spoilers.  The central concept to the adventure is key to its beauty and flexibility.  There are a number of cliches in this adventure as well as obvious movie inspirations, but regardless, it has so much potential, it is worth a read.  If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.

The characters are assumed to be part of a salvage team that are based on the Caribbean.  They are approached by elderly British guy who seeks a lost ship in the Bermuda Triangle.  The beginning is very cliched, admittedly but therein lies a lot of the charm of the adventure.  Exploring cliches and turning them on their head is one fun way a GM can create an adventure.  The player’s potential patron is willing to pay handsomely for their help in hunting down this lost ship.

Drawing inspiration from movies like Deep Rising and The Philadelphia Project (literally combining the concepts) with some links to real history (the Nazi hilfskreuzer program) this adventure explores a mysterious Nazi specialized warship (hilfskreuzer) that used a weird tech device to cloak itself and eventually got lost in time and space.  That concept alone, although cliched (yet again), opens up so many doors that I could not resist.  First off, the Bermuda Triangle is one of my things.  You had me at that.  On top of that, you stack a World War II connection – oh yea, take my money, dammit!  But of course, the basic concept was not enough for me and I had to take it step further.

The base adventure has this ship phasing in and out of time, from modern to World War II era.  Eventually, the players find themselves wrapped up in the original battle that placed this ship into the time-loop that it was in and they have to change things in order to get back to their own time. This was an awesome concept but like I have been saying, a little cliched an not enough “supernatural” elements for me.  However, that is why I like this adventure so much.  With very little effort, this adventure can be changed and shifted to whatever nature you want.

I ended up running this twice.  The first time was on the cruise but we never finished it and only got the first act in.  The second time was later in the year, in September, when I hosted a small game day with some close friends.  The second time, where I had a few more months to think about the changes I made and how I would approach the game, went incredibly well and we did complete the adventure in a little over 4 hours.  With a little adjustments, my version of the adventure as well as the original adventure can easily fit into a convention game time slot.

When you introduce a weird-tech device like this, you leave a lot to the imagination.  How does it work?  Where did they get it?  The adventure doesn’t get into too much about that (a little but not much).  So that is where my mind went first.  Additional, although it mentions that the ship is caught in “space and time,” it doesn’t explore the space part of that pairing.  All it explores is the time aspect.   Weird tech in Savage Worlds can be anything and I ran with that.  I wanted something more occult connected, perhaps Lovecraftian in nature.  The movie The Mist kept coming to mind.  I find that story very inspiring and how it was portrayed in the movie was incredible.

I also wanted to integrate more of the time aspect, and allow the players to see actions in the “ghost images” they were seeing and perhaps wither re-enact these circumstances or do something about those circumstances.  Laying out those clues would be difficult, but my goal was to have the players do more than just shut the device down at a specific time.

With this all my inspiration, I added a new aspect of the adventure.  The device was actually a captured being from another dimension by the Nazis, entrapped and unnaturally woven into the superstructure of the ship with semi-organic technology.  A bunch of other weird tech was hooked up to it to take advantage of its transdimensional abilities, which created the cloaking effect.  In doing this, I presented a moral dilemma that the players had to face on top of everything else.  However, I initially failed to convey this in my clues through their investigations.  I was a little too subtle with things, too afraid to reveal the truth too quickly.

Of course, the Nazis has no idea what they had tapped and when the ship ship was damaged, it got caught up in a endless loop.  However, the endless loop went through an additional location – the creature’s home.  This “home” is another dimension was fantastic and deadly creatures straight out of a Lovecraftian nightmare.

I also added an American agent that had infiltrated the hilfskreuzer program and had a mission to discover the nature of this new technology that the Germans were exploring.  When stuff hits the fan, he becomes a valuable ally in the final scenes during World War II.  He also is linked to the flashes that players see that help them fix the problem.

The challenge one faces in this adventure is the “wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.”   It is a double edged sword.  In my case, it worked out really well but in other cases, it can screw you up royally. It also can make the players feel like they are being railroaded so you need to play to be flexible.  You can also stretch this adventure out considerably, by adding new time and space locations.  I had the idea of a Pirates of the Caribbean encounter as well as a foreboding time when the ship is completely sunk.  I wanted to have another encounter where the players find their water-logged bodies in another room, foreshadowing the eventual demise of the ship if the players don’t do something.

I reviewed this adventure for two reasons.  First, it was a good concept and well written.  Secondly, I wanted to show that there are still some old gems out there on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG that still can be used.  This is a 10 year old adventure that I dug out in 2015 to run in a totally different system.  I highly recommend this adventure and this series for anything looking for cool horror adventures

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Fright Night: Ghost Ship
From: Hogshead Publishing/Greywood Publishing
Type of Game: RPG Adventure
Written by: Brian Underhill
Additional writing: Simon Parmar
Edited by: Adrian Bott
Cover Art: Ursula Vernon
Cover Design: Chris Pepper
Interior Art: Amandine Labarre, Marcio Fiorito and David Esbri
Interior Design and Layout: Jamie Wallis
Production Manager: Tracey Richardson
Number of Pages: 66
Game Components Included: one single PDF
Game Components Not Included: Core rulebooks
Retail Price: $7.50(US)
Reviewed by: Ron McClung