This is my favorite subgenre of horror films.
Unless a game such as Slasher Flick from Spectrum Games is your thing, the group will most likely find themselves interacting with found footage more than being a part of it. I actually love this concept so much that my Monster of the Week game, Des Moines After Dark, is based on it. I’m finding that while found footage games take a lot of work up front, they are a lot of fun to play around with.
My goal with a found footage campaign is to basically provide a sequel to whatever happened during the event that was filmed. In other words, the Investigators are the ones that find the footage. Imagine being the person that found the Blair Witch Project tapes? Or being the realtor that discovered the Paranormal Activity camera in an empty house?
Once someone has this information, what do they do with it? How does it maybe affect their lives going forward? (Hint: What entity might have followed them home?) There are so many juicy stories waiting to be told after the original story is told. Plus we get to do a little foreshadowing, which is a nice literary plot device for a horror TTRPG.
Content Warning: Body horror, gore, occult, suicide.
Plot Idea 1: One of the Investigators receives a USB drive in the mail from an old friend in the paranormal investigative field. The drive holds several video and audio files from December 2017 through July 2018. The note in the envelope said, “Make sure you watch them all before you draw any conclusions. Make sure you’re protected before the last one. Do not watch any alone.”
The videos start out like any other paranormal investigation with a lot of B Reel and information gathering. A team of five researchers meticulously sets up and documents an investigation of an old asylum that’s due to be torn down. However, careful observers will note that a shadow seems to be following Greg, a PhD student in parapsychology.
As time goes on, the movements of the shadow in frames behind him begin to become more obvious. Also, Greg seems to be more withdrawn, sullen and losing weight. The young lady holding the camera, Sarah, asks him on several occasions if he’s feeling okay. He always answers, “Just peachy.”
Each video Greg’s voice becomes increasingly monotone. At one point it’s almost as if the shadow is hovering over Greg, pulling his strings as if he were a marionette. The rest of his crew begins taking notes on Greg and the rest of the investigation. At one point Liam, another researcher, mentioned the poltergeist case they had been working before taking on the asylum and how they technically never closed the books on it.
The day of the asylum investigation came. At first it was pretty quiet. There was a lot of standard haunted asylum stuff. Doors opening and closing by themselves. Soft moaning and random noises in the halls. There is one EVP attached that sounds like someone desperately wanting out of their cell.
Then things grow intensely dark as one by one the researchers begin to die off camera. The remaining researchers growing increasingly more panicked as each one is killed in a separate part of the asylum until only Greg remains. The last scene is of Greg’s feet dangling and for a brief moment a shadowy figure with horns and red eyes stares directly into the camera.
Armed with that information, the group is contacted by their friend who sent the tape and the land developers. The bodies of the five researchers were never recovered. Demolition of the asylum has been postponed until conclusive results are found.
Plot Idea 2: An envelope with two videotapes simply marked 1 and 2 arrives in the mail with no note or return address. The beginning of the first tape is just like anyone else with a new camcorder for Christmas. Greg and his fiancé, Sara got a brand new camcorder for Christmas in 1993. The first video is Greg’s brother fumbling around with the camera and Greg talking about his upcoming proposal. The next part of the video is Greg proposing and Sara accepting. It all seems pretty normal at first.
As the tape continues, it shows the couple picking out a location and attire for the wedding. There’s footage of the new couple trying out wedding cake and different restaurants. They seem exceptionally happy, never a cross word, and generally agreeable with one another.
The last video on the first tape shows a menacing group of hooded robed figures performing some sort of occult ritual on the bride’s sister. It is readily apparent whomever is filming the event was undetected until after the ritual completes and then the camera operator is chased.
The second tape starts with a video of a high school football game cut short by Greg’s brother becoming brutally, freakishly injured. The only other thing that seems out of place is the sound of a young woman laughing somewhere off camera following the young man being rushed of the field and into the ambulance.
The next clip is Greg’s brother being welcomed home. He is paralyzed from the chest down and only has partial use of his right arm. Sara and her younger sister are in the clip. For just a brief moment Sara’s sister has a wicked smile that almost makes her appear inhuman that makes Greg’s dad gasp as he holds the camera.
From there it gets increasingly dark. Greg’s parents barely survive a their car hitting a deer. Sara’s father is electrocuted during a freak office accident and dies. Greg almost chokes to death on a hot dog during a Rose Bowl party. Sara’s sister is almost hit by a falling tree limb during a mild thunderstorm.
The bachelor party is cancelled when the stripper the boys hired dies from a drug overdose in front of everyone. There is no video of the bachelorette party beyond someone saying, “A good time was had by all,” the morning before the wedding.
Finally the day of the wedding arrives. It’s a relatively small turnout and Greg’s mom appears to be running the camera. The only oddity on the wedding day is that the pastor had to be replaced at the last minute by someone no one in the wedding party had ever heard-of. The wedding vows were worded strangely and no one seems to remember the couple saying “I do.”
The next video is the wedding party on honeymoon in the Bahamas. There is a video of Greg’s brother being pushed off the dock in his wheelchair. Greg’s best friend goes missing off camera and Greg says “He’s gone.” Sara’s Maid of Honor is found dead in the shower, whoever is holding the camera is heard cackling in an unearthly voice.
The last full video clip is of Sara clinging on all fours to the ceiling in a completely disjointed fashion over Greg, who is tied to the bed. As the camera turns toward the hotel room mirror, Sara’s sister can be seen. Her skin is dark red, her eyes glow as embers and her ebon horns look razor sharp.
Finally, there is just a short picture of a house in the United States, house number clearly visible. The camera pans toward the street signs. Sara’s reflection is seen in the window with her holding the camera. It’s almost as if someone wants to be found 30 years later.
Added bonus: Tie the couple into someone’s backstory. Have the house in the last shot be one of the group members when they’re not home. Have someone who looks exactly like Sara’s sister be one of the Investigator’s bosses.
Plot Idea 3: A friend of the group sends one of the investigators footage of a ghost hunting group on YouTube. It turns out their last haunted house video is far different than the one shown on the channel three years prior. Sarah Supernatural and Greg the Ghost Hunter both went missing at about the same time. Each of their channels have videos hyping the big ghost hunt at the infamous “Murder Mansion”
Background videos show Sarah and Greg with their respective teams finding a strange mansion. They do a cooperative video showing research being done on a mansion that doesn’t appear on many official documents. However, there are a lot of police reports and local history about several horrible crimes having occurred at this address dating all the way back to the late 1800s.
The last video filmed with Greg’s camera is members of both groups being trapped in the house with all of the doors and windows locked and unbreakable. The power goes out. One by one each member of the group dies. It is clear there is a presence in the house that does not like intruders.
Sarah’s body and footage were never found. The other four YouTubers were found in a heap just inside the front door. Each with a mortified look of terror on their faces. The coroner ruled it a drug-induced group homicide/suicide.
The mansion’s address is clearly listed in the email. Sarah’s friends and family would like closure regarding her disappearance. Greg’s video could never be aired officially, but it does provide evidence that the house is otherwise a ghost hunter’s paradise.
Thank you for sticking around to the end. I appreciate it. I’ll be back tomorrow with something a little more personal. Taking a short breather from the horror.