What Do Monsters Want?

We playstormed up an idea for a game I had at Indiecon 2012; now, like six years later, I'm returning to that design to fine tune it, but I need help with a small detail about the resolution mechanics.

The game is about B-Movie monsters from the 50s & 60s (think The Fly, Terror from the Year 5,000, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) living in modern Britain, in a town specifically built to house all the inhuman being whom the British Government has neutralised & co-opted over the decades. Each monster is given a 'normal' human cover story, but can also be called upon to resolve 'unusual' problems: it's like Eureka populated with Universal Monsters and a dash of The Americans.

Here's the design question: the system calls for (at least) three thing the PCs care about, on both a personal and a global level, but so far, I've only got two that seem like a good fit.
Secrecy: Maintaining cover, both personally and in the general sense of keeping the existence of monstrous being out of the public eye.
Safety: Staying healthy and also preventing collateral damage, especially the sort caused by rampaging beasts.

So, what's the third issue in this triumvirate? I've got this one, but it just doesn't have the bite of the previous two:
Status: Maintaining your personal relationships & job security... can't think how this would apply on a global level though.

Any better suggestions for a third issue?


  • Don't they usually have a character-specific personal issue?

    Like they're in love with someone they can't have.

    Or they want to have some specific thing, or to escape a place.

    If Batman's a monster, his desire might be revenge, in some versions.

    So, Secrecy, Safety, and [Personal].
  • Yes, all the monsters have personal issues, usually related to the past they abandoned when they were turned by the British authorities, or the human thing they desire that is used to control them & insure their continued co-operation... unfortunately, those are reserved for a different mechanical function in the game and I can't see any global consequences they might have either, without treading on the toes of Secrecy & Safety anyway.
  • Then maybe Acceptance, Love, Belonging?
  • Following the S-notation, I'd go for Search — something they actively pursue possibly at the cost of all other things; some want to find a cure for their condition, some want to get out of the city, some want to find that doctor that screwed up the life-changing experiment, some want to find somebody to love.

    As a side remark: are you familiar with the daikaiju movies? Japan produced tons of them, each movie has at least on giant monster (think godzilla if you must, but they have all kinds of stuff varying from a three-headed mechanical dragon to pixie twin sisters) and they kinda share a setting and casually meet one another. Eventually they set up an island for all of them to live in; with different degrees of appreciation from the mosters and, obviously, regular breakouts.
  • While I'm never incredibly well-versed in monster movies, but my instincts here say the third want is Community. Secrecy protects them from unwanted attention from outside, Safety protects them in a very physical sense, and Community protects them from each other. It's obviously a very personal want (on the same track as Paul's Acceptance/Love/Belonging), but I feel the desire for a more global community is also something that hidden groups like these strive for, especially if there's pockets of monsters living elsewhere in the world (be they wild or in 'the Russian Eureka' or 'the Japanese Eureka' or whatever).

    Maybe that works for you then? If going with the S word thing, "Secrecy, Safety, Society"? I think community has more of the connotations that work here, but doesn't have the same poetic ring as an alliterative triplet.
  • As a side remark: are you familiar with the daikaiju movies? Japan produced tons of them, each movie has at least on giant monster (think godzilla if you must, but they have all kinds of stuff varying from a three-headed mechanical dragon to pixie twin sisters) and they kinda share a setting and casually meet one another. Eventually they set up an island for all of them to live in; with different degrees of appreciation from the mosters and, obviously, regular breakouts.
    Yes, I think I am familiar with the trope... :-)

  • Not sure how it could be named in a single word, but what about the very existence of the community? It seems like a branch in the government wanting to get rid of the monsters is a very natural adversary you would expect to see in this sort of stories...
    (I am not 100% sure as this might be a sort of overarching, overall value for Secrecy, Safety and...)
  • (I like this direction! That's where I was going with my Acceptance and Belonging, earlier.)
  • Another thing that just came to my mind - but I feel like I maybe don't know enough of this subject, so I might be completely out of track...
    What about Comfort (or Satisfaction, if you want to stick with S words)?
    I don't see how the monsters would just sit there and accept their status, unless there was some kind of comfort, for them, in this situation. Like a human would stick with a boring job just for the comfort of a regular paycheck, it seems to me that these monsters might have a reason to accept their new status.

    They are no longer a threat because, well, it's much more comfortable to live under cover, to maintain Secrecy and Safety - these guarantee that they won't be hunted and put down - and because they realize that this is so much more comfortable (or satisfying...) than just go ahead being the lonely monster against all humanity, and be eventually defeated.
    As long as they stick to the plan, and don't blow their cover, they can keep being monsters - within reasonable limits.

    I don't know how much you want to push things, but for example if I think of a vampire in such situation, I would say that Secrecy would fit the vampire in a very natural way. Then, Safety would be a natural part of the deal with the government; like the older vampires making sure the new recruits would not go around sucking blood from innocent citizens.
    But in the end, no vampire would accept this unless enough fresh blood was provided as part of the deal with the authorities, somehow.

    This issue of Comfort (or again, Satisfaction) also presents a great deal of potential for turning things sour: what happens when the monsters don't get what they "deserve" as part of the deal?
    Do they accept being exploited?
    Do they drown in sorrow and powerless despair? (Do they make the humans exploiting them look like the real monsters?)
    Do they step up and revolt, becoming wild, uncontrollable monsters once again?

    (Let me know if I am going off-track here)
  • Satisfaction is potentially interesting, because you could have a monster who has aspirations of becoming a famous painter, or writing an autobiography.

    (Apologies if that's drifting away from the genre in question; I'm not familiar with it.)
  • How would Satisfaction work on a global scale, in addition to the local/personal?

    Hey James, have you seen the Syfy show Sanctuary (starring Amanda Tapping)? It aired the same year as Eureka, and deals with a lot of these themes, though with slightly more fantasy monsters and less 60s B-Movie ones. The central concept is a secret home for monsters in Unknown City, run by a woman trying to both help them hide and survive in a world that fears them or, when necessary, seal up the ones thatprove uncontrollably dangerous. The first season involves a lot of travelling to capture various Abnormals (so maybe not the gameplay you're looking for, though it IS typically other Abnormals doing the capturing), but the general conceit of the secret home for monsters is quite similar. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.
  • You assume that all PCs care for those things.

    1) what happens if they behave in a way contrary to that?

    2) what about the PLAYERS? Why should they care for those? Is it relevant?
  • Self-actualization. Being a monster, being true to your core monster nature, instead of this kept pet the government has turned you into.
  • I'm strongly drawn towards the suggestions relating to the monsters' own personal goals, desires & ambitions: while Secrecy & Safety apply generically as a potential threat, there's no reason the third arm of the triumvirate can't be a variable that is personalised to each monster person of non-human descent.

    Satiety: Fulfilling your own desires, being happy & satisfied, getting what you want; globally, keeping the community of Newtown stable so that the residents can continue to pursue their lives as they choose. There are forces out there that want to shut Newtown down and kill the residents, deport them back to where they came from or keep using them but as prisoners rather than free citizens.
    You assume that all PCs care for those things.
    I'm not assuming it, I'm asserting it: it's a foundational condition of play, so if a player can't buy into that, then they shouldn't play the game. There's room for some maneuvering within that frame, so PCs can display varying degrees of co-operation with and commitment to the authorities, but the story will always gravitate back to the initial ground state.

  • Interesting, but that leaves open the question... what is the system doing to enforce such elements and/or have the players buy in?

    I mean... if the game is about monsters I can easily see people being down with the idea of playing monsters. It's like, if you play Vampire Masquerade you are supposed to be OK with the idea of playing the role of a vampire ;)

    But what you describe is different.
    You are doing much more than establish a starting situation the players all agree upon (so you are a team of investigators, but you also are monsters, and it's a secret).
    This is fair easy to "get" even before the game starts, and players can all agree to that.

    But you are instead asserting a list of things that have a HUGE impact on character behavior during every instant of play. Even players that initially say "yeah ok" will have a hard time sticking to those when faced with actual play situations.

    Secrecy... and what if I want to reveal my monstrous nature to a person I love?
    Safety... and what if I want to put myself in harm's way to save a friend?

    So I ask, have you thought of that?
    Are those dogmas just part of the setting? The fictional laws of the monster secret society that of course all monsters agree to follow, but then what really happens when shit hits the fan is anyone's guess?
    Or do they have mechanical value and repercussions?
    Like Orders from the Master in MLwM, or Humanity in Vampire Masquerade, or Moves in a PbtA, or Beliefs in The Burning Wheel?

    And in either case, why do you think you need to write them clearly in the rulebook?
  • edited February 2016
    Very roughly, the system is something like this:

    To resolve a task, the player picks one arm of the triumvirate that will be protected, i.e. they won't suffer that loss as a result of that task; they toss a coin to see which other arm is affected though.

    Therefore, a PC might want to act stealthily, so they protect Secrecy and toss a coin; on a Head, they succeed but their Safety, or that of the township, is threatened as a result.

    Characters also have strengths which let them get a success with no consequences and weaknesses which can lead to them failing and paying a consequence.

    There's no absolute statement that all the PCs must want to protect all three things all of the time: to use an analogy, in a game where the PCs are all cops, their triumvirate might be Upholding the Law, Keeping the Peace and Protecting the Public. There would be occasions where a PC was unable or unwilling to uphold all three, through their actions or decisions, but that triumvirate would still form the core principles of play.

    If a player joins that game but wants to play a serial killer or just a bar-owner who gets into comedic scrapes, they can play out that role for a session or two, but it is unlikely to be a satisfying experience for them, as the system doesn't support their desired style of play: if I've pitched a game about cops, then there is the expectation that the PCs will be cops, because that's the experience the system is designed to provide.

    It comes down to player buy-in and using rules that drive a certain type of play.
  • Much clearer now, thanks!
    Looks very similar to how Psi-Run works, are you familiar with that system?
  • No, never read or played Psi-Run: what are the similarities? And the differences?
  • Having been on the pointy end of the pitchfork before, what if these monsters want Justice? (How ever that may be defined.)
  • In Psi-Run (by Meguey Baker) the PCs are amnesiac people with powers escaping some dark corporation... states goals of every PC are the escape to safety and the recollection of their lost memories.

    Whenever a PC has to do something important/dangerous/difficult they roll a pool of d6.
    Depending on what you describe, how you describe, and your current status you will roll more or less dice:
    1 die because yes
    1 die because memories might always surface
    1 die because the bad guys are always chasing you
    1 die because you have a goal to accomplish here and now in the scene
    +1 if you use your powers
    +1 if there is any risk of injury

    Then you roll the pool and assign dice to all the possible OUTCOMES that are at stake.
    Each one is a small table with different fictional results depending on the score.
    A high score assigned to an Outcome means good things happen, or bad things are prevented. A low score means bad things happen.

    Goal = do I achieve my goal?
    Reveal = do I remember something from my past?
    Chase = do the Chasers gain on me?
    Psi = do my powers cause trouble?
    Harm = is anyone hurt?

    - - -

    In your game you do a similar thing.
    Players get some roll-related resourced that then have to be assigned to different "outcomes" ... things that are important for the PC and might be at risk.
  • Note that the memory thing is not just a throw away die. There's narrative control and game pacing tied into it. In a monster game, you could perhaps use it for humanity and emotional control.
Sign In or Register to comment.