Okay, so let’s detail the setting.
Based off of Resident Evil, I picture a mansion in the English style. Art décor abounds in the posh sections, while doors mark off the servants’ quarters. For setting reasons, no PC can be one of the servants, and I will explain why when I detail the masters.
The masters’ quarters are posh and well furnished, but ill-kept and messy. A pungent odour hangs in the rooms like that of a kennel. We could use zombies, as I said yesterday, but Victorians had a more setting appropriate fear, of Jekyll and Hyde transformations, of opium dens turning men into beasts. I choose to take those fears literally, working an illegal drug (though legal in the master’s private estate) into a deadly vector for transformations.
The master and his family need not physically change. They can still be anatomically human. They will let their hair grow in, and their manners will change drastically to act as though wild and feral. Rooms can be described with words like pungent odors, smell of offal, and eerily quiet. This also hints at the greatest change from Resident Evil. You are stuck in a mansion with zombies and a gun with no ammo. Zombies need a lot of bullets, or headshots to make them stop moving. Redskulls are zombies who get back up even after all of that. It is terrifying, but also predictable.
The masters will have beast intelligence. They can’t fire weapons or use tools, but any thrown object or planned ambush is still available to them. I don’t want to cut too close to Los Gannados either, so let’s have them retreat when overpowered. They are smart and deadly, as beasts go, and they will change the environment to ensure that player characters cannot just leave. They will bar doors and set traps, and without fail when the PCs stop to rest, they will wait for the moment and then strike. Most importantly, leaving will not be easy, so the masters will take their time, be patient, and attempt to wittle the PCs down.
This actually works very well for the purpose, as few PCs will take kindly to this treatment, but they will be long into the game before they start feeling really scared. At some point, the front door needs to be barred. This prevents the PCs from “taking their chances” with whatever monsters are outside. If the DM is challenged over this, he needs simply to stage a scene where the monsters outside and the masters are working together. The opium affects them both, and makes them comfortable allies. The masters could have slipped out the back way and casually and safely barred the front door from the outside, locking the PCs in, and forcing them to go find the back door.
Or make a new one. Hmm, that’s another thought that needs to be addressed. And a country manor is going to have ground floor windows. In order to keep the PCs in the mansion, they have to believe that there is going to be a safer exit somewhere inside than just booking it out the front door. Even with the front door barred, the back door isn’t a better objective because it too leads out into the woods with all those monsters. We need a monster that can scare the PCs into the mansion but that they can eventually get away from by finding something inside.
In RE1, that was the Cerberus BOWs, who can’t fly. The helicopter could. In RE0, you had a cliff outside the front door, a train wreck at your point of entry, and an exit through a cargo elevator. We can work with the cliff idea, but the train and elevator are both modern machines that don’t lend themselves to the setting. In RE2, the way out of the Police Station was a ladder in the attic leading down into the sewer. Sewers are a great idea, but remember that this is out in the boonies and not in downtown London. Escape underground requires tunnels dug for some unfathomable plot reasons.
In RE3, Jill and Carlos were never safe, and escape led them to every possible means they could find. Without a central room or hall to build around, RE3 is not going to be helpful here. Escaping Rockfort Island was courtesy of the Ashford’s great love of military hardware, a cargo plane, an Antarctic ATV, even a fighter jet. You might be able to adapt this one, recalling that 19th century warfare relied very heavily on movement at sea. An idea is percolating that draws from Resident Evil Code Veronica together with Super Mario 64! I love the symmetry!
The mansion is up in the cliffs, rather than hills. The monsters outside have you penned inside the Mansion. In the first act you can hear them paw, scrapping, howling and whining to be let in at you. If you open the door, they surge forward. In the second act they have settled down, but like my hound, they are camped out in front of the door. The PCs cannot physically move the door without disturbing one, who is lying right up next to it. Escape in the final act means breaking through to the underground harbor, a natural inlet of sea water that they sometimes use to bring in victims. There is a convenient boat tied up down there! And there is an obligatory underwater monster to defeat before you can leave. All of this is hinted at with recoverable notes, documents, and reports from before the master’s fall to beast hood. I love every part of it, and it makes for some exciting and terrifying escapes.
More on character options tomorrow.