Guide to Omens in Betrayal at House on the Hill

The meat of a Betrayal at the House on the Hill game is the haunt mechanic. Without Haunts, it would just be a bunch of people running around in a vaguely haunted house for no reason at all – which would be a decent enough game, true, but not enough to satisfy. And if there’s one crucial component for the Haunt, it’s the Omen cards.

Omens are just as they sound: they’re signs that something beyond a mere haunting is taking place in the house. They’re items and signals of power, an indication that some foul power is about to make itself known… usually through the revelation of a traitor in the party’s midst.

Like Events, Omens pop up when a player enters a particular room, in this case those with symbols of crows. After doing so, the player draws an Omen card, and makes the appropriate rolls or changes to their character as a reaction. Then the player counts up the number of Omens currently held by players, including the one he just received, and makes a roll with six dice. If the number is higher than the number of Omens collected, play continues; if not, the Haunt begins.

And that, usually, is the end of the Omen. Once the Haunt has begun and the traitor is revealed, play shifts from exploration to attack and defense. But should you just start ignoring Omens as a result?

Some might. Doing so isn’t terribly beneficial, however, as the Omens almost universally grant positive effects to their bearers. Sometimes these effects are statistical, such as the Little Girl or Dog, and sometimes they grant extra powers, such as the Ring. Indeed, in some cases continuing to pursue Omens is vital to success, so don’t give up on flipping new rooms just because the Haunt has begun.

It’s particularly important to note that Omens are not just static cards. They are usually also items that can be given between players, so long as it’s allowed – and doing so may prove quite beneficial to the party. For example, the Ring allows players to make Sanity attacks, and whomever has the Ring would do quite well to give it to the player with the highest Sanity so they can ravage monsters or the traitor. Don’t underestimate the value of swapping items in order to ensure overall survival.

Omens aren’t the end-all, be-all of most Betrayal sessions, a few Haunts where they’re absolutely vital aside. That said, however, they’re just as good as any item, and often even better since they’re more often positive than negative in effect. Just because they have an odd name doesn’t mean you should automatically assume an Omen is a bad thing.