Welcome to the second installment of RPG Lab Report. Each month we’ll be reviewing the game featured in last month’s RPG Lab, with input from both the GM and the players. This time around we’re also announcing Season Two events, so be sure to watch at the end of the article for instructions on signing up for events this summer! New to all of this and wondering about WHAT exactly is RPG Lab? CLICK HERE!
For May, we’ve chosen Arc Dream’s Monsters & Other Childish Things (hereafter M&OCT) by Benjamin Baugh. As M&OCT is written to complement a somewhat sandboxy play style, our challenge was to somehow manage a sufficient tour of what the game had to offer without completely undermining its atmosphere.
NOTE: The bits in italic quotations at the end of each section are player comments and not the expressed views of the RPG Lab coordinator.
The monsters of the M&OCT are a strange sort of demon that have odd compulsions and needs that an understanding and often imaginative companion will, at some point, have to satisfy. Some monsters require trouble, affection, or enormous heaps of food. Some simply need to engage in regular intervals of havoc. The lives of the young folk who traffic with such monsters are marked with chaos – sometimes fun, sometimes miserable. With a twist of delivery and an appropriate soundtrack, M&OCT is easily transmuted into a giant, drooling loveletter to Edward Gorey and the tradition of quasi-Victorian morality tales of nihilism and existential toil.
The scenario I selected was the story of a deranged school principal that obsessed over the capture and study of companion demons. The school is secretly a complex occult site filled with traps and peril for the foolhardy and ignorant. The story takes place a few weeks before the first day of school, a day which also happens to be a day of occult significance. If the kids can unravel the principal’s plans before the fateful day, they could have a great school year ahead of them. If not, the school (and possibly the entire town) could erupt into a demonic free-for-all.
“One may see *ill-defined* and *flapping in the breeze* here. Another would see *a great deal of potential.* There are several scenario and campaign books for Monsters, but by itself it’s a framework of a concept with little canon to run afoul of as you blaze your own trail. It is wholly permissible to go nuts creating your own setting and experience with it.”
This time, we kept it simple. The players just had dice and their core rulebooks. Although there are a number of exciting variants for M&OCT (especially if you opt for the advanced Wild Talents rules variant), we stuck to a standard pet demon premise. On my end, I used the Curriculum of Conspiracy mini campaign setting and chose an appropriate story from the back of that book. After some tweaking (since I was only going to use a small bit of the setting for RPG Lab’s purposes), we were ready to go.
The players seemed to find the creation of their characters pretty easy. Points are allocated to attributes and skills, and then six points are allocated to relevant relationships. These relationships are useful pools of dice that can be grown or stressed (and possibly lost) during gameplay. Some players meticulously custom built their monsters whereas others defaulted to the random system.
Backgrounds for characters included the studious prodigy, the well-meaning bully, and the alienated trickster. One player used his relationships to create some cool NPCs that evoked loads of story with a mere name such as “Sapphire Lucy, Exotic Dancer”.
“Overall, I thought character generation in M&OCT was fun. I have a hard time understanding new rules systems before I see them in play, so creating a character in such a loose environment can be a little overwhelming for me, but after talking to my co-labmates, I think I got a good grasp on it. I don’t feel like I really had my monster developed until week 2, but it was a lot for my feeble mind to hold on the first day. If I were playing this at conventions, I’d create a cheat-sheet for monster creation just to get all the bits in one place. Overall, pleasant process, fun, and allowed for some cool and funny moments. “
“Fun and easy. I used random rolls instead of planned build, but either way it provided me with something horrific and entertaining. With a top hat, yet!”
“Character generation is mechanically simple—all you really need to do is allocate some attribute points (Feet, Guts, Hands, Brains, Face), allocate some skill points, and fill in a few details of your child’s family life.
Monster generation is a bit more involved because there are options. It can’t be helped, since the monsters are the title characters in the game. (It’s not called Children and their Imaginary Furry Beasts.) Any location can have attack, defense, or utility to start with. Then dice can be “traded in” on those locations to add extra functionality. Of course, being a One Roll Engine game, they have rules for rolling up a monster at random: Just grab 10d10 and look on the table for any matches. Yes, it’ll likely be a hot, lopsided mess; monster means never having to make sense.”
The rules used in M&OCT are underpinned by the innovative system known as the One-Roll Engine (ORE) that also powers Arc Dream’s Wild Talents and Godlike RPGs. The game looks for matches within a dice pool. The number on the dice determines the height of the roll and the number of times that number occurs within the set determines its width. With these two axis generated by a single die roll, initiative, hit location, and damage are quickly realized and combat goes by quickly but without too much hand-waving.
“It’s simple, it’s playful, and it’s quick. I like it, and would play again if offered the opportunity.”
I have to say, jumping from the linear endeavor of Gamma World to something as open and narrative as M&OCT spun me around a bit GM-wise. Nonetheless, due to the cooperation and imaginative contributions of Donny, Kevin, David, and John we were able to spin up a bit of a story even with the short run of the game. Risks were taken, monsters did battle, and everyone still made it home on time for supper…. which was still hot.
“It was great. I tend to GM since no one else will, and I welcome the opportunity to explore new systems, but trying to GM a new system is pretty much ‘the thing that will never be’. This was a really cool thing to take part in, and I am stoked you and G&S have taken the time to create something like this. My selfish desire is that everything on the indie game endcap is eventually run by the store, and I get to partake in all of them. But that’s just crazy talk.”
RPG LAB SEASON 2:
So what’s coming up next for RPG LAB?:
Numenera (Monte Cook Games) in June (SOLD OUT)
and The One Ring (Cubicle 7) in July!
That’s right, for the first time, here’s the official announcement of Season 2 of RPG LAB!
July – THE ONE RING (Cubicle 7)
August – CONSPIRACY X (2nd edition. Eden Studios)
September – DON’T REST YOUR HEAD (Evil Hat Games)
How to to participate?
Interested folks can contact the organizer to reserve their spot for their game of choice. Players will be expected to commit for the full month. RPG Lab takes place on Tuesdays from 6pm to 9pm. Anyone who wishes to apply for multiple games within a season should submit their requests with the games ranked by order of interest. Generally speaking, a player will only be allowed to participate in one game per season, but if your preferred game fills up, or space opens up for a secondary game, you will be put on a waiting list. Each month there will be four available slots so it’s better to sign up sooner than later. The games WILL fill up, and in some cases, very quickly.
So don’t delay! Email us at: RPGLAB@GAMESANDSTUFFONLINE.COM
And here’s our usual disclaimer…
*This program is not for beginners. While obviously, no experience with the specific game is required, it is assumed that anyone participating in this program is familiar with more than a couple RPGs, understands intermediate RPG terminology, and is comfortable role-playing with an engaged group. Games & Stuff offers a number of opportunities for brand new and otherwise inexperienced players to get involved in the RPG hobby. RPG Lab is not that program.