, 83 tweets, 14 min read Read on Twitter
So, who wants an RPG storytime?

Too bad, you're getting one. This is the tale of how my @littlefears players almost got themselves killed over someone else's imaginary friend.
Pre-emptive apologies to @jasonlblair - If I didn't break the game on Saturday, I certainly bent parts of the rules into pretzels.
So, first up, let me explain the game @littlefears - players are children between the ages of 6 and 12 and the monsters in your closet are real. Parents don't believe because they've lost innocence. Older kids have more abilities but less belief, younger kids have inverse.
There's more to it than that but that's good enough for now. Now, let's get into the party.
Jo, a 4th grader athlete who acts like a big sister; Finnigan, a 5th grade bookworm who's a bit nervous; Catriona, an observant 5th grader who just transferred in from Christian school; Kelley, a 2nd grader full of love and hope; and Andi, who is chaos.
So far the party has learned about the existence of Closetland, a dimension where scary and magical things live; that kids have been vanishing from the town ever few years for a century and there's a pattern; and the school librarian fought these monsters when she was a kid.
They also found a Trapper Keeper full of missing posters. When another kid went missing, a new poster magically appeared in the poster. They don't know what's causing it, but they know Stranger Forces(tm) want that binder.
Okay, we're caught up mostly. So, I've been sending out things via discord to the players - like school bulletins or a travel guide for the town - to give hints and dangle plotlines at them. I mentioned this on Twitter a while back.
In the most recent weekly bulletin, there was art by students about their best friend who's far away. One was from a child named Mark, who drew his friend, Mr. Spindell. This is gonna shock you, but the party had concerns about this.
During the previous week's session, amongst other things, the kids learned a Kindergartner named Mark was getting beaten up by three 3rd graders over being weird and having an imaginary friend. The players put an end to this (Andi got to dive through a window at them)
They learned 1) this was the kid with the weird spidery imaginary friend 2) these three bullies made his life hell regularly. 3) Marc was in the same kindergarten class as Jo's baby brother, Tommy. Seems mundane so far, right?
All the kids go to their separate homes. Assorted plots advance (the players aren't big fans of mysterious kids with all-black eyes). Andi, an insomniac, gets out of bed and sits with their foster dad to watch the late news.
The game's in a small town in Northern Mississippi, so "news" is basically whatever happens to anyone. And, oh, hey. It turns out a child is in the hospital in critical condition after he was found in the woods, covered head to toe in spider bites.

It's one of the bullies.
The next day, the kids discuss this. There's a lot of, "It could be a coincidence" thrown around. Then they learned THAT one bully died. Later that day, one of the two surviving bullies attacks Mark and blames him for his friend's death. Players fend the bully off.
Repeat. Andi can't sleep, gets up, sits with their foster dad. News comes on. ANOTHER KID found covered in spider bites, this time dead. It's another one of the bullies. Cue local piece on children learning spider and woods safety. Andi is suddenly nervous.
The next day the group seeks out the (nervous) surviving bully to question him (Andi also knocks him about after learning he's the sorta kid who puts a mirror on his shoes to look up skirts). He swears he knows nothing about it and runs off.
No dead kids on that evening's news, but when they see the third surviving bully the next day he obviously hasn't slept. Just says he heard scratching in his walls all night before stumbling off. The party seeks out Mark, who's crying on the playground.
Now, up to this point, the party is pretty well convinced Mr. Spindell is actually a monster killing the bullies... except Jo. She feels it's too obvious and it doesn't sit right with her.

Mark, however, admits it IS Mr. Spindell, who's tired of Mark being victimized.
He tells them he begged Mr. Spindell not to do it but he's on a rampage. The party tells Mark they'll help stop Mr. Spindell if he leads them to the imaginary friend. He says he will. All the players sneak out of their homes that night and meet in the town's sketchiest park.
After keeping Kelley from trying to introduce herself to the dealer selling drugs out of his car, the kids follow Mark into the woods. They eventually find abandoned houses from the early days of the town, loot one, and keep walking until...
So there's three main ways to get into Closetland. One is doing a successful ritual. Fun fact, a ritual can get you into Closetland but CAN'T get you out. Another (bad) way is to follow a Monster into Closetland.
The third way is to find places where the line between this reality and Closetland overlap and you just sorta... end up there. The party did this once, by accident, in a dark ride at an amusement park. Mark led them to Closetland through the woods.
They eventually find a moss covered brick road leading through a grey landscape. It takes them to a house built with improbable angles next to a cemetery. FIRST THING FINNIGAN DOES is leave the rest of the kids to explore the cemetery.

Like... immediately.
While the party is trying to figure out how to get into this house where Mark says he first met Mr. Spindell, Finnigan is walking inside a crypt decorated with the statues of weeping cherubs THAT HAVE ACTUAL TEARS coming from their eyes.


Finnigan decides to leave the crypt (hearing the cherubs cry as he leaves) and rejoin the group, but not before seeing freshly dug graves - each with a tombstone and the name of a party member, as well as Mark. Only Catriona doesn't have a grave.
Catriona's player was sick, so I said Catriona was also sick. Also, she's the one with that magical Trapper Keeper I mentioned earlier - so it's at home with her. Finnigan rejoins the party as they find the locked root cellar door.
They eventually find a key for the root cellar's lock in a ragdoll under the porch. The ragdoll looks like a scarecrow that Kelley saw in her yard one night, watching her house. Kelley is suddenly less interested in going inside and opts to stay outside with Marc & Tommy.
The older kids search the cellar (after Finnigan falls through the rotting steps - not his night). Finnigan finds a stuffed animal's foot. Jo finds mason jars full of pretty liquid that smell like candy but realizes there's human teeth at the bottom of them and leaves the jars.
While the older kids start moving upstairs, Mark tells Kelley he needs to pee. She leads him to a tree and turns her back. After a bit of silence, Kelley turns around and sees Mark's missing. All that's left behind is spiderwebs.

Kelley, for some reason, freaks out.
After screaming for the other kids, Kelley tells them Mark is missing. She and Tommy join the party inside. A search of the kitchen turns up jars of body parts covered in spider bites. Then they hear racket upstairs.
They figure out it's coming from the attic. They gets in there and sees, from behind, a figure that MUST be Mr. Spindell. He's apparently watching over a wriggling mass of spiders, not looking at the players.

Here's where the players start going in a direction I didn't expect.
Jo has the negative quality "Hotheaded." Andi has the quality "Always Ready For a Fight." I expected them to jump Mr. Spindell immediately and get the drop on him, but Jo still isn't sure he's guilty. And Kelley wants to believe everyone is good.
So they start asking him questions. He doesn't answer until they ask "Yes or No" ones. "Are you behind that?" Headshake No. "Did you hurt the bullies?" Headshake No. "Are you okay?" Headshake no.
Getting closer, they see Mr. Spindell is bound and gagged, chained to the floor. He's also missing a foot that matches the one Finnigan found. They untie him and tell him the REAL villain got Mark and they need his help to find him. Mr. Spindell shakes his head sadly, no.
He then tells them Mark is the one who led HIM here and got him tied up and hobbled. Mark has a new friend, a big, mean new friend who helped him hurt the bullies because Mr. Spindell wouldn't. Mr. Spindell doesn't hurt, he protects.
Party reactions:
Jo is shocked.
Finnigan is freaked out.
Kelley is in denial that Mark would do that.
Andi wants to cut a bitch.
And that's when they all smell smoke. Someone's set the house on fire. Mr. Spindell opens his butt and pulls out a rope (he's a useful imaginary friend) and gets the kids out of the house. He tells them he'll get them home. They say no, they want to stop the villain.
Begrudgingly, he helps them search. They go to the garden behind the house and see pumpkins. They enter the garden. That's when Andi notices a pumpkin the size of a van is rocking slightly. They call everyone's attention to this as the vines in the garden reach for them.
They get out of the garden JUST as the giant pumpkin turns around and stands up on eight vine legs. It has a jack o'lantern face with green mandibles. It's mouth is dripping poison and spiders.

They have found the Arach O'Lantern.
The kids attempt to fight it. They've brought "weapons." Andi managed to find a container of bug spray before coming - highly flammable bug spray. Andi always carries a lighter. Andi ignites the spray wand but before they can throw fire a pumpkin is hurled & hits them.
Andi drops the flaming wand onto the dry grass everyone is standing on. The Arach O'Lantern is still advancing. Mr. Spindell makes a decision - the kids HAVE TO LEAVE. He'll stay behind to fight. There is arguing but in the end the kids relent.
As the kids retreat, they feel horrible for leaving Mr. Spindell behind. Then they hear the explosion of the pesticide canister. They're demoralized and seek out a way to get home. Someone notices a small line of spiders rushing from the garden into the woods. They follow.
Eventually, they turn around a tree and see... MR. SPINDELL STOMPING ON SPIDERS! He's alive... ish. He's leaking fluff at an alarming rate. He promises he'll help the kids get out of Closetland. They talk about how they'll help him get better. Eventually, he says no.
He's not going to get better. He's an imaginary friend whose child abandoned him. He's hurt. Once he leaves Closetland with them, he'll be just a toy again. The kids swear they won't let this happen.

This is when I point out that he was not meant to survive this game.
Like, he was always supposed to die.

When they leave Closetland, sure enough he turns into a torn up doll with a sad face painted on. Kelley takes his remains home. Everyone agrees they will revive him.

I start getting nervous because... uh... I don't foresee that happening.
And they're getting upset. And I don't just mean the characters. The players are UPSET because they blame themselves for Mr. Spindell getting torn up and hurt, even though he spent his last moments promising them none of this was their fault. They want revenge.
The next day is Friday. All the kids are tired. Kelley woke up and found out her moms had found Mr. Spindell and were fixing him, thinking he was one of her toys. At school, the kids SEEK OUT MARK cuz they are piiiiiiiiiissed off.
Jo's brother Tommy gets sent to the principal for attacking Mark. When the rest of the group confront Mark, he admits all of it. He has a new friend who "took care of the problem Mr. Spindell wouldn't."
When they tell him Mr. Spindell might be dead, Mark says, "I don't care. He was weak." & he really doesn't. Andi grabs Mark by the throat... and is caught by the principal. Their foster dad has to come in and handle the situation cuz it just looks like Andi beat up a little kid
Step-Dad smooths things over and (after lucky rolls) sides with Andi. They're chaotic but they don't just beat little kids up. The party convince all their parents to let them have a sleepover. Kelley finds out Mark's address.

Revenge is afoot.
Sleepover at Jo's. After her mom conks out, the kids sneak out and find Mark's house. They find his window and he's awake. He's looking in his closet, like he's calling for someone, and nervous. Finnigan decides to throw a rock at his window & hide to freak Mark out.
Finnigan breaks Mark's window.
His attention now fully grabbed, the whole party STORM into Mark's bedroom. They learn his "new friend" seems to have vanished and not returned. They also learned Mark intentionally lured them there cuz his friend said the price for bully removal was the PCs' lives.
BUT, when the Arach O'Lantern learned the kid with the Trapper Keeper wasn't there, he told Mark to go home cuz he'd have to lure her in later after he killed the PCs. That's when Finnigan tells Mark about how there was a grave for him, too.

Mark doesn't want to believe that.
Eventually, the part get it through his head that the monster was most likely going to kill him, too, when it got what it wanted. I decided Mark needed to make a fear check.

Okay, let me explain dice rolls REEEEEEAL quick.
So @littlefears Nightmare Edition runs off the Top 3 system. D6s. You get to roll a number of dice equal to a corresponding ability, plus extra dice for qualities or other bonuses. You take the best three and add 'em together. Reroll sixes and add the extra to the score. Simple.
If you beat a target by more than 3 it's a passing grade. Every additional three is another passing grade, so you do whatever it is better.

Miss by three and that's a failing grade. Failing grades stack, too.

Mark had a target of 18, five dice to roll.

Mark... went... catatonic. At which point the party decided to leave.
The group decides they still have to revive Mr. Spindell. At this point I'm dropping hints that may not be possible. They decide they need to get BACK to Closetland to do it. But Mark knew the way in the woods. They need a different way.
A while back, the players found the childhood diary of the school librarian, written in the 40s, about her adventures in Closetland. There's a map to known entry points into Closetland. Now, Closetland shifts and there's no guarantee those still work.
And a lot of them are now built over and impossible. But the town's resident abandoned mansion isn't. AND IT WAS MEANT FOR NEXT SESSION. But the players have decided, "fuck it, we're breaking in cuz we have to save Mr. Spindell."
So they sneak out AGAIN that night and break into an abandoned, dilapidated, DANGEROUS building to save an imaginary friend who ISN'T THEIRS. And MIGHT NOT BE SAVEABLE.
I am trying... so hard.. to discourage them. LIKE REALLY HARD. They find out the entrance to Closetland was in the attic. The ladder to the attic is covered in nails, points out. THEY FIND A WAY UP WITHOUT GETTING HURT.
The attic is FULL of Victorian dollhouses... and no dolls in site. A mansion's attic... full of lit, empty dollhouses. And they decide, "Well, we gotta save Mr. Spindell soooooo...."
And, shock of shocks, the dolls DO come out eventually... in droves. Hundreds of tiny dolls... calling their names. Dolls who've turned seamstress mannequins into siege weapons. Again, assuming they'll turn and leave.

NOPE. They manage to escape and find the entrance.
And I should point out it's a "barely made it" - like one point of a dice roll was all that stood between the kids escaping and getting speared and dragged back into a swarm of glassy dolls who were clacking their teeth.

They get into Closetland. They look at Mr. Spindell. He's still an inanimate doll. They decide to do a ritual. They're going to raise him. Kelley has the most belief and most Care (an attribute). Other players "believe in her," giving her extra dice. She has nine dice
So, they'd been rolling great all nice.

That ends.

She rolls a three, a two, and the rest are ones. Kelley's player lets out a stream of justified obscenities.
And because Kelley failed the roll so bad, she actually LOSES belief. Andi decides they'll try. I start to say no but they want this so bad. I let them.

Total fail roll.
At this point, the spirit of Mr. Spindell rises from the doll and thanks them. He tells them it's good to know someone loved him. I assume that's the end of it NOPE JO WANTS TO ROLL.

Oh god they won't let him die.
Everyone tries. Everyone.

And everyone fails DISASTROUSLY.
And, again, the characters aren't just upset. The players are HEARTBROKEN. They want to save him. Andi's player points out how Mr. Spindell ticks off all the boxes of someone they'd love instantly. He's the group dad now. They're watching the group dad DIE.
I... just assumed he'd be a memory by now but they're recounting how he stood between them and doom and then with his last "breath" led them out of danger. They are UPSET. I'm trying to think of something... aaaaaanything.
So, not everything and everyone in Closetland is evil. There are good monsters. There are people there, too - children who've never left for one reason or another. There's a group of children there called the Butterfly Knights who protect others.
And I'd planned on the party meeting one of them in the next session. THAT GOT PUSHED UP. The Knights knew about them since the second session but I decided one of their "elders" had been watching all of this and just couldn't take it anymore.
I can't remember how I said it but basically the Knight said, "If I help you save him will you stop making me feel sad? Cuz I feel sad because of all of you." And yes, they wanted that help from a TOTAL STRANGER WHO COULD BE EVIL FOR ALL THEY KNOW.
And the ritual was done... properly. And Mr. Spindell was revived. And the Knight slipped away while the party, and players, rejoiced. And holy shit it was actually really emotional.
After that, I decided he was ALL of their imaginary friend. So each player now has a point of Mr. Spindell on their character sheet to show the bond they have with him. But Kelley gets to keep him when he's a plush.
Oh, and by the way... all of this? Everything I've said since Mark told the party about Mr. Spindell? That was one session.

That was the most INTENSE three hours of a game I've ever been a party to.

But goddamnit, they got Mr. Spindell. They believe in him.
And he believes in them.

And guess what else....
Next time we'll cover Sob, the feral maine coon who follows Kelley around to make sure nothing steals and/or eats her.
BTW if you're interested in @littlefears you can learn more/get the books/PDFs here. littlefears.com We're using Nightmare Edition.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Randy Milholland
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!