Most people don’t believe in them, but they’re real. Mostly, when someone finds out that monsters are real, that’s just before they die.
Monster of the Week by Michael Sands was brought to my attention through The Adventure Zone. In their second season, they have taken to playing this particular Powered by the Apocalypse system which embraces those cult 90s TV Shows such as Buffy, X-Files, Fringe, and Twin Peaks which most people my age grew up on. Each week they search for clues to determine how to kill the most recent Monster that has taken over their characters town. The book was put into print by Evil Hat Productions who wanted to bring the game to a wider audience than the PDF was receiving.
As a fan of the TV shows listed above and many others in the same genre, this game interested me greatly. A game where I can set up mysteries for my quirky friends to solve with a Big Bad waiting for them at the end. Sign me up!
Upon receiving the paperback I was instantly drawn in. The artwork on the front, by Eric Quigley, is very reminiscent of the 90s, bold colours and drama. The cover, sadly, is a matte material that shows up greasy fingerprints but that is the only issue I have with it. The paperback is a great size for travel and not too weighty, the paper is off-white and the font size and choice make reading it easy. The internal art is very comic book like and does an excellent job of sending me back to my childhood.
The book itself is split into 2 main sections, The Hunters, and The Keeper. Both sections are essential for The Keeper, however, your players, or The Hunters, need only understand the mechanics of how to build and play their character.
The book does an excellent job of running you through how to create a monster-fighting super team. Each build has a playbook attached to it which is included in the book but can also be downloaded here. You can choose to play The Chosen, The Crooked, The Expert, or the new Spell-Slinger (created by Fred from EHP) as well 8 other official ones, and countless unofficial fan-made home-brews. Once you have picked your Hunter playbook you are walked through the process of building your PC with simple instructions and no-nonsense sheets, it will take about 25 mins to finish. It took my party longer to come up with a team concept then it did to work out how to build a character from scratch!
The mechanics of the system work under two concepts: moves and ratings. Moves cover situations you need to try to do something out of the realms of what a normal person can do, such as a spell, or a dangerous fight, or when The Keeper wants a more exciting outcome. Ratings describe how good a PC is about certain areas important when hunting monsters and use a rating system against dice rolls.
After The Hunters are all set up it’s time for The Keeper to start planning a mystery. The mystery should offer chances for Hunters to be awesome, kick some ass and discover the secrets of the world they live in. Like the TV shows of the genre, the story is about The hunters, not the mystery. The game is largely improvised so you do need to be able to think on your feet. Also of note, the Keeper doesn’t roll any dice (for a dice-addict this is shocking!)
I jumped into this game without much preparation other than what I had read from the Keeper section of the book, which did take longer than the PC set-up so I had done this prior to us sitting down at the table. I picked out a hook (colleagues from work going missing), a monster (a man-made chimera much like that from the first season of Fringe) and plopped my Hunters into the world (our hometown of Dorking, but with strange goings-on being the norm here) with no further planning. What happened next was completely up to them. All I used was a pen and a notepad to write down things they added to the world, such as NPC names and places of interest.
The book allows for much more planning then I put in, and shows you how to do each step to make sure you prepare just enough for a longer session then I had planned, and it is important you stick to the Keeper Agenda and Principles to make sure the Hunters get the best possible experience. As we were only playing a quick one-shot there wasn’t much need to test out the Between Game Sessions part of the book, but what I really like is how your character only gains experience (and therefore a chance to level up) from failing. This leveling up is done during this between sessions “downtime”.
I love the ease in preparation for this game as the Keeper, the variation in the builds for the Hunters and the simple mechanics Monster of the Week. I love the nostalgic feeling the story and the art gives me, and the fun that I had with my friends as we played this game, and it is definitely one I want to play again.