The Portal at Hill House, a Play Through

Travis D. Hill and Lindi M. Farris-Hill bring us a game of cosmic horror, in a cute A6 booklet that comes in at 20 pages. Published by Press Pot Games give us an easy setup, a deck of cards, a d6, a pencil and paper are all that are needed to have an amazing adventure. I have tried a few journaling solo games before but usually fall short of finishing. I took the time out of my day today to play through this game. I honestly lost track of the time and found myself making things up that did not necessarily come from the book, but as a solo game, who cares! Besides I kickstarted this back in 2020 so its nice just to pull it off the shelf and finally give one of those old games some love, and I think it for sure gave me love back.

The game played quick and involved very little prep work, aside from drawing the blueprint of a house (a quick google search fixed that for me and I had a blueprint in seconds). Then I let my imagination run wild, the prompts from the cards were just enough to give me a little bit of a jump and then off I went. Now, I am not a prolific writer and I actually write this blog partially to help me grow my writing skills, so do not expect anything ground shaking here. I think it was a good exercise in what a journal game should be, cosmic horror looms ahead and you need to get your shit together to fix it or the world will be devoured.

Travis just released out a new version, The Mirror in Hill House, for two people and while I have not had a chance to look through it yet I believe that it could be something worth grabbing if you have someone who is also interested in this type of game. Plus it is made for playing on a shared google doc, now that is a game for the times!

In closing I will give you my play through in its base form, just what i wrote while playing, unedited. Each room has three cards listed, those are what the game uses to prompt you for each room. for more details get the game it’s only a few bucks on Itch, or is available for purchase in physical on Press Pot Games official site. While your there take a look at the rest of the games available there are a bunch there and for the price a few small games to play solo or with one other person can be a great way to pass a few hours of time (or so I am just now finding out.)


Hill House

The house looms ahead of me on the hilltop, the lush green forest behind and around it seems to become dull as I look on at the two story house, whose cream colored siding is showing clear signs of decay, the bright forest green shutters appear to have been recently repainted, as if that could hide what it truly hides inside. This house could be from colonial times, as old as our country, though the feeling it radiates is much older and precedes written history.

Needed:

5 Hearts – Parchment

Ace Clubs – Regulus

6 Diamonds – Flame of Fhu

I approach the front porch, the door looms in front of me slightly ajar. Something pulls at me to open the door. There is something calling to me, why would the rift want me to enter? I must find the tools necessary to close it, but if the tools are here why would it want me in to enter?

1 The Foyer

QH – 3C – AD

A deck of playing cards, burned, lay littered on the floor of the foyer, they form the outline of a human, drawing their outline like chalk at a murder scene. There is no body thought he floor below is also scorched as if the body did burn here but was removed by someone, or something. Stepping around the gruesome scene I make my way towards the living room that appears before me once I pull my eyes away.

2 Living Room

KH – AC – 8D

The item called to me, It almost had a glow to it, in the waning light of the sunset coming through the windows, the lacy drapes letting in the last few pieces of light. The rot of wood and plaster clung in my nose making me sick as I crossed the creaking floor, watching carefully for spots that might collapse on me. I had found the first piece, I took the Regulus off of the table by the window and rolled it in my hands. It was cool and smooth in many spots but lumpy and malformed in others. The piece of metal glowed with a light I could not explain. It was not simply a reflection of the dying sun’s light, it was something more. I lifted it and as the light continued to fade from the window I felt ready to leave this putrid space. I did not know that wood and plaster could give this smell.

3 Kitchen

6H – 10C – JD

Holding the Regulus up above my head I enter the kitchen and feel a cool wind blow past me. There is a smell coming from the refrigerator that I cannot place.  Incredibly the sliding glass door is busted open, the desk in the corner has papers strewn about. After looking through the papers for a clue, I found no clues to my query.  I make my way towards the fridge, thinking I should open it and see what the smell is. As I get closer I cannot bring myself to do it. I backtrack through the house into the foyer where I look up the staircase to the second floor.

4 Staircase

3H – JC – 7D

The walls of the staircase are yellow with time, the paper peeling off and showing the plaster beneath. Stains litter the walls, obviously water seeping in from outside for many years has caused this. A wet looking yellow fungus covers the ceiling from the corner of the stairwell to most of the ceiling high above, as I slowly walk upward around the stairs I see in the center of the landing is a set of stones erected to mimic some ancient calendar or perhaps a circle of summoning that has called the beast from the great beyond. It is unclear which of these explanations truly encompasses their purpose here. Careful as to not disturb them I make my way to the next doorway on the left.

5 Library

5H – KC – 10D

The ceiling seems to extend up forever here, no light comes through, a stone this one 100 feet high stands in the center, a pool of water around it, as if the stone has warped the floor and made a sunken set of boards for the water to pool into. Attached to the stone is a piece of parchment.  Upon seeing this I know I must get to it itmust have what I need to seal this rip in space and time, before the beasts front he other realm pour forth and swallow up the Earth.

I wade into the water, the room opening up to reveal a much larger space than could be possible in the footprint of the house. Up to my waist I approach the stone, the parchment sitting still upon the monolith.  As I take it I feel a warmth in my hand as writing appears upon it, some language I cannot parse. But I know this is needed to complete the closing. But what else is there I could possibly need? I must continue my search and I make my back across the vastness of the room. It continues to grow as I close in on the door. I struggle but make it and close the door behind me.

6 Nursery

10H – 9C – KD

The entrance to the nursery is blown wide open, I enter and see that a window here has burst open and glass from it has been strewn across the floor and some pieces even stick in the walls around the room.  What once was a nursery so full of life and color now lies in ruins, a crib tipped over, diapers scattered across the floor and swollen from water that has gathered here over what feels like centuries. The walls that once were bright and painted are peeled and bare, only the dull gray showing now. I leave with haste. This is an insignificant place and lends me no help in my cause.

7 Bathroom

8H – 8C – 3D

The bathroom doors opens with a creak and beyond I see a grand bookshelf, the true library awaits. Books of jokes and humor fill the shelf, colorful bindings that show a rainbow of color reflecting back from the light of the Regulus, the colors swirl in my eyes and draw me deeper into the room, I remain mesmerized looking at the shelves full of so many books of potty humor. I flip through a few and before I know it more time than I realized has passed. But now I must forge on, the rest of the ritual calls to me, the noises from outside, once a dull hum, have grown, now it is a constant noise that invades my ears. I leave the bathroom holding the Regulus in one hand and the parchment glowing red with unknown runes. I peek out and look to the last door in the hall, it must be in here…

8 Master Bedroom

AH – QC – 6D

As the door opens i sense a complete silence from within, the room ahead of me has none of the drone that has been growing since I found this cursed Hill House. It is as if a switch has turned all sound off here, a tension hangs in the air, stepping slowly into the room I lift the Regulus above my head trying to shed light into the dark room.  All light has faded outside, a door ahead of me is larger than any door that should be in this house, I approach it not even my footsteps on the wooden floor release noise to my ears.

I creep towards the door and place my hand on the knob, it is large, and cold to the touch, I pull my hand away before replacing it and forcing myself to turn the handle.

On the other side of the door is a large stone room, this is not part of the house it is a grand hall and the voice of a child giggles as I enter and approach the object that I need to complete the ritual. A fire blue and cold burns in a brazer in the middle of this vast room. A Large throne sits across on the far side, it sits empty, perhaps the creature who normally occupies it has been called away to pull a world into its maw. 

I dip the Regulus into the blue flame It ignites and burns with the light of a thousand suns the giggling stops and in its place is a scream that rings out through the immense hall.

The parchment previously rolled and tucked into the back pocket of my jeans slides out and a chanting explodes from the very walls of the room. As the voices chant the runes turn from red to blue. I know my time is limited and I turn and run back towards the doorway I came through, it has grown larger still and it is slowly closing. I pick up my pace and sprint at the doorway, only to have it close violently on my hand as I squeeze through the opening. 

Pain washes over me as everything turns to white then the inky black that almost appears red as I lose consciousness. 

The Hill House let me live this time and I stopped the creature from swallowing all of mankind as we know it. But I am changed, no not just the fact that I am missing my hand. I am missing much more than just my hand. I am missing some part of me that was taken that day wandering those impossible rooms of the Hill House did something to me. I do not know if I’ll ever truly be able to return to the world I knew before. I see those around me and I hear them bauble on. They get me things and read to me, put the cup to my mouth with the straw and I sip. It is an automatic response though, I will never know how they came to find me in that place. Nor will I ever be able to ask for myself. But the world will go on, at least for now…

Mechanical appendix, thanks Luka for the suggestion.

Incase your confused about the stuff that happened here is a brief breakdown of the mechanics at work here.

You draw a card from each deck (separated by suit) there are prompts for each card in the book and then put them together. If something didn’t fully fit I just made it work. Like a 100ft tall stone slab in the upstairs library room of this house, lol so I expanded the room like a good cosmic horror story should have. Each item you need to find is represented by the 1-6 of the heart, clubs and diamonds suit decks (roll a d6 at the start to decide which you are going for in each deck), when you pull those you get one of the three pieces to close the rift. 6ou are given a lot of leeway to do as you will, plus it’s solo so bend and break the rules as necessary as long as it doesn’t break the game.

The last mechanic I didn’t include in my write up was the spades deck that you draw after each turn you are trying to beat the deck, if it runs out you lose. The Face cards draw extra cards and speed up the game.

Wormskin Questions, Updates and things to come

I was asked a few questions about my Wormskin post this past week that I feel I should address. Then stay tuned for a quick update on a new section I will be bringing to you.

First: But why would I buy this instead of waiting for the big Kickstarter that will inevitably come from Necrotic Gnome?

Answer: We’ll you don’t need to buy these pieces, because undoubtedly the product you back as a Kickstarter down the road will be a much more concise, put together, full and far reaching for the entirety of the Dolmenwood universe. Anyone looking to get access to a lot of this stuff can easily pump into the Necrotic Gnome Patreon and get a large portion of this material plus so much more for only a few dollars a month. But with that said there is something nice about looking at the source material.

I have enjoyed flipping through these tomes and love the simplicity in which they were created. There is also a nice progression you get to see as the issues progress. The Abbey of St. Clewd is a wonderful little adventure that could be slotted into any adventure and while I do not know if that will be available after in the new Dolmenwood materials, I am glad I have it to throw at my players in the future.

Now I’m not sure that I’ve really solidified my place on this stage of showing that The Wormskin Zines are totally worth the purchase, and… well I’m not sure that that was really my goal. I think they are great reference material and if you are really curious about what is actually contained in the 8 zines feel free to check out Question Beast’s videos as Ben showcases all of the finer points.

So in closing should you go out and spend the $80 USD on this? Yeah probably, but if you are hesitant at all, then maybe just check out the Patreon instead for all for the most up to date information available straight from the source, most of which is completely usable in your campaign today! You will know if your FOMO needs you to get this today before it is gone forever.

Second: Why didn’t you mention The Weird that Befell Drigbolton?

Answer: Frankly because I had not really thought about including it. However, that should not say that I do not love this book! It is totally worth it to get this adventure! I got to play through this as a player and let me tell you it was lovely, scary and oh so freaky. Here is just the tip of the iceberg on what is contained within…

Weird otherworldly beasts! A clock to race against before the world completely implodes on itself! Animated Meats? A hex crawl based around a quaint little Hamlet known as Drigbolton. A lake filled with jelly. A setting that can be slotted into any old campaign you may be running. And yeah I did say animated meats. Seriously though animated meats, you have got to see this!

It is worth checking out. Wormskin is not required, though it can be used to enhance the game greatly with all of the additional resources available within, maybe if you’re still on the fence grab this adventure and run through it. I do not know if this will still be available after the Dolmenwood Kickstarter or if it will be recreated for the Kickstarter? But either way It is worth a flip now and fits perfectly into any fantasy OSE style game you may be playing right now


Now onto more important things… Or well at least new things.

I have completed my affiliate program signup with DriveThruRPG, so now you can shop through my affiliate link HERE, or just about any link that takes you to DriveThruRPG from my site. I get a little bit of a percent of each sale that is made through my link clicks, and that cash will be used to purchase other pieces of work for me to look at and bring to you here in the blog. So should you feel like you would like to order something and help me out at no additional cost to you then please do not fret buying through the links around my pages. And hey, seriously thanks if you do.

Next order of business is the outlook of the future of what I will be writing about. Since the beginning of the pandemic (and some before that even) I have looked into a read through many solo RPGs. I have a few that are my favorite, and then some that I think are not worth the time getting through. So with that said I plan on starting a segment where I will be talking about Solo RPGs, maybe one every other week, or so? I’ll add a catchy little title to the beginning of each blog post so you know what’s coming.

I will focus on both Solos I’ve read and think would be fun, as well as ones I have played and enjoyed myself. What I will not be doing is bashing any Solos I have read and not liked, whether through play or just reading, because I don’t think that is fair, I may call on some of these to talk about mechanics that i enjoyed from them but ultimately I want my blog to be a happy place to read from and not a negative space. So If your Solo game makes it here congrats you have won the opportunity for this RPG geek to write a bit about it and alternatively if your game does not make this space, you should not be upset, because you don’t know if I didn’t like it or if I just never got to it.

I find that if i want to rad good things about a game I can always find them, and when someone writes about those great games they usually give any downfalls that they can see too. You will find that here, and I will be honest but kind about doing so when it is necessary.

Well there is a thousand words written, and I hope you enjoyed them. I do plan on another post this week so keep up to date by signing up for the mailing list below or following the blog if you’ve enjoyed what was written here or elsewhere in the past.

Thanks again as always,

Derek Bizier, the Halfling Master