CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Next Time on the CRB

Running Monster of the Week Games

Crab Man Illustration by Luis Perez
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, monster of the week TV series are incredibly popular. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons and Supernatural is in its twelfth season right now. Star Trek the original series and  Next Generation were both effectively space versions of monster of the week. We’ve seen numerous series come and go that follow this same basic premise, some with an overarching background story and some not.

Over the course of the evolution of RPGs, one shots have become more and more popular. Some of this love of one off games boils down to not being able to find a full time group. For me, I have an ever changing schedule and a desire to role play as often as possible, so one shots fit my needs perfectly. The thing about one shots is that they do quite nicely for the monster of the week formula; a small story that only runs for a few hours where the players deal with one specific threat until it is removed. Although I’m going to be talking in terms of pathfinder because that’s my game of choice, I would be remiss if I do not actually mention the wonderful game Monster of the Week by Evil Hat Productions.

So how do we set up a good monster of the week story for our players? Our first job is to pick an interesting monster that will challenge our players, and in Pathfinder we have a lot of choices. Since you don’t want the monster to be the only combat in your game, monsters that can create, summon, or mentally dominate minions are usually your best bet. Creatures that move in groups, like a pack of werewolves, can also provide a few combat encounters on top of the face-off with their pack leader. If you’d like to throw your players a curveball try a creature that isn’t evil but just living off instinct, or trying to survive a hostile populace.

I think one of the great things about monster of the week campaigns is they have a lot of room for non-combat encounters. Looking back on any of these shows, investigation tends to be a very strong component to the protagonists finally getting their man—erm, creature. Laying out clues that will bring your players closer to the creature in question is actually harder than just throwing the monster directly in their path.

Let’s take a look at the Dybbuk. An interesting if underused undead, we need to figure out how to present it to our players as both a monster and a mystery. Between its Malevolence ability and its ability to modify memories we can start by having the players come across a town where people have committed horrible acts of violence but have no memories of doing so. This sets up a mystery, something definitely out of the ordinary for our players to get sucked into.

As the players begin to investigate, the angry spirit can use its telekinesis to hurl objects or even players about.  This allows you to have the monster interact with them with a good chance it can escape without being seen. The Dominate Monster ability will allow your Dybbuk to force innocents to attack your players, giving them both combat encounters and moral choices.Hunting monsters will also bring a lot skill checks into the mix. Tracking, knowledge skills, diplomacy for gathering information, and sense motive will almost definitely come into use in these types of games. 

As the GM it is your job to leave clues for these types of skill checks. A dybbuk is a restless spirit, so having it attack people it feels have wronged it in life is a good start. Gather Information and Sense Motive can help come up with these things. Putting together what abilities it has is another thing the players can do and use their knowledge skills to figure it out. They may take some wrong turns, like guessing it’s just a ghost at first, but that’s part of the process.

Monster of the week games aren’t for everyone but I enjoy them myself. I find they’re especially useful when one or two of your main group are going to miss a sessions but you still want to run. I’ve used these mini games to great effect and I think you can too.

Have you run a monster of the week game before? What are some of your favorite monsters to use for these? How do you lay out the clues for your players?

Like the monster of the week, the CRB will be here every Wednesday with something new for you to investigate. If you find that your search for answers in the pages of my blog has helped your gaming then please consider contributing to my Patreon. The CRB is also out there on social media ready to interact with you my loyal viewers. You can follow me on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Twitter. My inbox on each platform is always open.

The opening illustration was created by a fine artist Luis Perez. You can find him on Twitter and on Instagram at luisperezart.

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