A Race To The Top—The Fall Without End [Horror Scenario]

The Fall Without End

A “No Security” Horror Scenario

Author: Caleb Stokes
Publisher: Hebanon Games
Page Count: 20
Available Format: PDF (DTRPG) – PWYW

The year is 1931, and the U.S. Government is searching for a new “Lingburgh” to celebrate.  A large sum of taxpayers’ money has been funneled into the “McKinley or Bust” project to entice thrill-seekers to summit Mt. McKinley, also known as Denali, “the tall one.” It’s a race! The first team to reach the summit and return with proof gains fame, glory, and a large cash prize. Players take on the roles of seasoned mountaineers eager to be the next national heroes. The first to photograph themselves at the summit and safely return with the evidence is the winner. What could possibly go wrong?

The Fall Without End is a system-neutral cosmic horror adventure. Events, places, and people are without game mechanics. In their place are backgrounds, descriptions, and motives to aid the Gamemaster in applying the appropriate RPG mechanics of their choosing. Players pair off into teams of two or more and play against each other as they try to be the first to conquer Mt. McKinley, which stretches 20,320 feet into the sky; the third-highest point in the world above sea level. They can expect a difficult ascent. What they won’t be expecting is discovering something more terrifying than falling to their deaths.

The adventure contains out-of-this-world horror elements, but it works best if presented to players as a thrill-seeker adventure. As a system-neutral adventure, there is a handy guide with suggested traits best suited for creating appropriate characters. High proficiency in climbing and cold weather survival are two obvious main requirements for the adventure. Other traits characters should exhibit are keen instincts, lasting endurance, and great physical prowess.

As mentioned earlier, players can team up with each other or climb with an NPC partner. Either way, there must be a minimum of two people per team, lead climber, and belay. A belay is an anchor for the pair, supporting the lead climber and fulfilling other important duties. Players may choose either role as both are important and share equal danger.

The adventure begins with the player characters gathered in the Denali Trading Post the night before they head to base camp at the foot of the Alaska Range. A large celebration provided by Ted Carpenter, a government treasury employee, is in full swing. Reporters, photographers, and locals swarm the daredevil player characters with questions about their upcoming expedition. This is a great starting point. It allows the players to introduce their characters through one-on-one conversation and questions from the press.

Once the characters reach base camp, they will choose their paths up the mountain. A players’ flowchart outlines the various route they may take to the top. The routes have the same number of stopping points along the way to the top. What separates one route from the other is their difficulty in transversing. The players’ flowchart shows all the routes minus the paths hidden in the cloud layer. The gamemaster has the same flowchart plus all the routes not shown on the players’ flowchart.

The adventure is all about racing to the top. Expect risky decisions. These will rise once the players learn that another group of mountaineers is ahead of them, starting before the characters. It’s a race against each other and a team of NPCs with a head start. If that wasn’t enough, an unspeakable horror calls Mt. McKinley home, which will test the characters’ resolve.

Because a fall from such great heights would end the game rather quickly, it is highly recommended in the sidebar “Objective vs. Subjective Danger” that missed skill checks, especially ones involving climbing, fail forward. Fail forward in the scope of mountaineering should translate into little or no progress on their climb, allowing successful teams to pull ahead. It is also suggested that Gamemasters hide the horror elements of the adventure from players when pitching the game. Treating it as an action-packed high-adventure scenario will add to the terror once the true horror is revealed. The game will change from a race to survival, or if the players are desperate to win the prize and an even more incredible feat of heroism.

The adventure provides a nice glossary of mountaineering terms but not much background on Mt. McKinley or artic terrain. I’d suggest Gamemaster do a little research into artic survival and mountaineering to aid in creating the correct atmosphere. The internet is your best source. The National Park Services has information for mountaineering the peak which would need to be translated into the proper time period, but it makes for a great starting point.

The adventure is perfect for a convention or a single gaming session. I recommend using systems that use a fear or sanity loss type of game mechanic. The Esoteric Order of Roleplayers Podcast recorded their session of The Fall Without End using Call of Cthulhu, which fit the adventure quite nicely.

The Fall Without End has all the makings for an exciting roleplaying experience. Players will enjoy the competitiveness of the adventure, while the Gamemaster will relish in the hidden danger that lurks high above. I highly recommend keeping the horror elements a secret from your players until they stumble upon it as well as conducting a little extra research into mountaineering and Mt. McKinley (Denali) to enhance the experience. Pick a system your most comfortable with and have fun. I guarantee a session you and your players will talk about for years to come.

~Stephen Pennisi

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