A Shining example
Betrayal at House on the Hill has plenty of nods to It, The Shining and Carrie author Stephen King across the dozens of haunts set in the treacherous haunted mansion, but the co-op horror game almost had a more explicit link to the master of scary storytelling.
According to Rob Daviau, the Risk Legacy, Pandemic Legacy and SeaFall designer who contributed to the original Betrayal while working at Hasbro in the early noughties, the publisher considered whether to have King put his name on the Betrayal box – potentially making it the novelist’s first full foray onto the tabletop, following a print-and-play board game adaptation of The Shining released in 1998 that he is said to have co-designed.
“At my time at Hasbro, when I was working on it, there was pretty serious discussion for about six or nine months that they were going to get Stephen King to come on and be like 'Stephen King Presents: Betrayal at House on the Hill',” Daviau told Tabletop Gaming.
Daviau added that, had King’s name made it onto the finished game, the horror taking place in Betrayal would’ve been much darker than the lighter “B-movie tone" originally intended by original creator Bruce Glassco.
“I grew up in Maine and I grew up reading Stephen King, so I sort of shifted it to make it more of a Stephen King, more serious world,” Daviau said. “Then when that sort of fell apart because Stephen King wasn't going to be there, it went back a little bit to a B-movie and then when it went to [co-designer] Mike Selinker and Wizards of the Coast to finish it they brought it much more back to the B-movie.”
Although King was never directly tied to the project, Daviau revealed that hints of what might have been remain in Betrayal for fans to uncover.
“You'll still see in the original game, I think there's still some French-Canadian names inexplicably in the characters because for a while it was set in Maine.”
Daviau returned to the spooky universe for this year’s upcoming Betrayal Legacy, featuring a connected campaign set across four centuries that tells the origins of the house on the hill. He said that going back to Betrayal as lead designer allowed him to embrace some of the darker elements he explored while creating the first game.
“I had played around for a while with doing something a little more serious and thought that it worked and I kind of liked it that way,” he said. “Given I wanted to do something different [with Betrayal Legacy] I said, ‘Let's revisit this more serious tone.’”
Read our full interview with Rob Daviau about Betrayal Legacy in the October issue of Tabletop Gaming, out on September 28th