Tales of the Des Moines Remote Viewing Society (MotW TPG)

This is some of the backstory for my MotW RPG campaign. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is unintentional. This is a work of fiction.

Disclaimer: This is a fictional organization.

From the notes of Brenda Hart, Secretary of the Des Moines Remote Viewing Society:

Aug 3, 2016: Making it official tonight. Dan, Tom and I are going to start looking into the odd phenomena occurring here in Des Moines. I’m new here, only having moved from Colorado a few short years ago after my husband died. Ironic that I’m the one with the most experience in the field and the only trained remote viewer of the bunch.

Dan is our resident parapsychologist and tech guru. We wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for him and his website, The Midwest Monitor. He lives here in Des Moines and has seen a lot of strange things, more as of late. Most of his journals are on video in one form or another going back to the early 1990’s. He’s done a lot of investigations of local haunted houses.

If Dan is our parapsych and tech guy, Tom Ross is the exact opposite. He’s our resident spiritually conscious conspiracy guy. His intuition has led us to the tunnel network. (More on that later.) He’s also convinced Des Moines, IA is a popular stop on the extraterrestrial superhighway and a visitors center for the Reptiloid population. He also things a lot of the local happenings are eyeballs deep in the Illuminati, Freemasons, Nosferatu, shadow government, demons, Men in Black and so on. Tom’s notes are regularly mailed to my address as additional proof along with copies sent to friends, relatives and a random PO Box.

We have an unofficial fourth member named Lewis. He’s strictly on the Internet and goes by Big Lou 42 on most things. He’s a nice guy, but a lot secretive. I think he might be former government or a shadow corp employee turned whistleblower. He doesn’t live here, but he sure knows a lot about DsM. We have other internet friends, most live in BFN Iowa, MO, or MN. The local MUFON folks know we’re around, too. Dan used to be a member.

Tonight’s meeting was very informal. We met at Dan Miller’s house for pizza. It was our way of getting to know each other. Dan recently caught onto some sketchy activity in the cemetery over by the State Fairgrounds. It happens every year when the Fair crowd starts coming around.

Some teenagers were out partying near the cemetery when they saw some strange lights and bizarre fireworks coming from within the graveyard. They may have been drunk. They might not be credible. But I did manage to dig up some old newspaper files from the 1970’s and early 80’s of similar sightings.

In 1993 four college kids attempted to hold a seance in the middle of the night with a Ouija board. A week later, one of the teens died of an apparent suicide, two in a car accident, and the fourth went missing a few short years after college having been hospitalized in a mental institution suffering from multiple delusions and a nervous breakdown.

This year we’re going to do a very passive stakeout with cameras, trail cams and night vision gear mostly off the premises. If things look promising, we might move closer in toward the last nights of the Fair or after it’s all over. I’m going to do a reading three nights into the stakeout to see if I can determine where the disturbance might be coming from.

Tom says he has a lead on a bunch of activity near the cemetery in Pleasant Hill. That’s probably going to be the next destination just because of the close proximity and similar reports. Should be creepy fun.

-End of Entry.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Have a great week. See ya soon!

It’s Friday the 13th!

What happens if Buffy Summers and her crew runs into a guy wearing a hockey mask and carrying a machete?

I think we all know what that means.
Monster of the Week RPG!

Monster of the Week by Michael Sands, Evil Hat Studios.

MotW Cover.

What? No, I promise I’ll behave this time and not get all gory and violent. My new trigger warning graphic is posted at the end of the article. I’ve tried to make the warning as obvious and broad-reaching as possible, but I’m still not 200% sure about the wording.

How much is too much in Monster of the Week? I think serious Session Zero conversations need to be had and the players most assuredly need to know where the Keeper stands on certain topics. Obviously it’s best to make sure things aren’t too gory, too many jump scares, or too disturbing for sensitive players. I’ve seen plenty of horror games fall apart because it just plain got too dark for one or more players. Nobody wants to show up every week just to get more depressed or creeped-out. Most of us can probably relate.

I think MotW is more geared for the high-flyin’, butt-kickin’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer style game. At least, that’s sort of what I imagine running as opposed to the dreary World of Darkness style game. No, not all Storytellers run a dreary game, but WoD has that tone sorta built into it IMO.

Knocking down “scary” vampires and kicking monster butt is great, but what happens if they run into that one guy?

I think we all know which guy I’m talking about. Yeah… Michael Meyers. Ha! No, Freddy Krueger. Wait, Chucky? Leatherface? Hannibal Lecter? No…

How was this guy not going to come up?

Most of us get the idea of the iconic Urban Legend serial stalker. That guy with the kitchen knife, machete or weed eater that literally tries to go after the whole cheerleading squad. I think it makes for awesomesauce bad guy material in MotW. Others may not. As a player I might be a bit unnerved by getting chased by our favorite hockey mask wearing psycho.

Guys like Michael Meyers and Jason Vorhees just keep coming in the standard issue slasher flick. There’s no stake through the heart or tranq dart that’s going to stop them for long. Some are far worse than others, having their own dimension to hide in when things get rough (Freddy, Pinhead.)

Buffy Summers- Jason Voorhees. Jason- Buffy. There, now we’re all introduced.

The heck with Freddy vs Jason. I want to see Buffy vs Jason. Some guy that’s short of needing locked and chained in a locker and drowned. In game terms, hes seemingly unkillable. Or at least permanently unkillable. MotW even mentions letting baddies come back if the group fails to use the monster’s weakness.

Personally, I think it’s frustrating for players to get their butts handed to them every week by the same bad guy. On the other hand, most Keepers love having a recurring villain that literally everyone dreads. The Keeper starts hinting that we might be dealing with a situation similar to one we’ve seen several episodes back.
Jack: It- it can’t be. We killed him. We literally watched him burn.
Keeper: What if he wasn’t human?
Serena: Copycat crime, maybe?
Keeper: Maybe. Some supernatural beings can come back, though.
Bob: He did eat three bullets, a shotgun blast, a sickle, two tranq darts, a katana, and got pushed off a cliff before the fire. Maybe he survived? Somehow?
Keeper: Bwah ha-ha. Did anyone actually find his body?
Group: <gulp!> Uh-oh. (In unison.)

Sometimes the best way to get rid of it is to change campaigns before the next session.

I hope it never comes to that. Jason is a villain that has survived any number of atrocities that should have killed a regular human being a few dozen times over. The MotW doesn’t have to be quite so durable. What if it’s a demon that can be cleansed? What if he actually has some sort of wolfsbane, cold wrought iron, garlic, or some other substance that can kill it. Has anyone tried a simple circle of salt? What about legit magic?

The point is, just because something seems unkillable, doesn’t mean it is unkillable. Personally, I like villains that have more lives than a Batman villain. But the players have to have a chance to come out ahead or break even. MotW villains mean business and not putting one down could spell disaster for the characters and innocents alike.

So, here’s to treading that fine line between safe and unsafe, sane and insane, here in the Twilight Zone…

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend! Stay safe. Be back soon.

Too much or not enough?

Monster of the Week: Continuing the Conversation

I’m loving Monster of the Week more every day. This game is well-designed and has so much to offer new Keepers.

Monster of the Week by Evil Hat Productions.

MotW is a fascinating RPG.

I really dig this game, but it’s taking a little bit of getting used to. Specifically, the Keeper’s section. I’m probably going to have to run a couple of mysteries before I get the hang of the system.

I still feel like it’s a little stiff and rigid from the Keeper’s side of the table. Then again, I’ve always felt that PbtA in general is a push toward GM-less roleplaying. As I say often, if that’s what you’re into, go for it.MotW would be a tough run without a Keeper because someone has to come up with all the cool monster and plot stuff, right?

I keep coming back to Page 131.

I actually think MotW is great for new GMs (Keepers.) They give you a play-by-play how to way to run a game session. They give all kinds of really solid advice on running a #ttrpg. The core book gives two mysteries and walks the reader through how to run them.

How awesome is that if you’re brand new? I would have loved this back in ye olden days. I’m still wrestling with it mentally now. It’s like learning to run a game all over again.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It’s the same thing I’m already used to doing, but I never referred to it as “using moves.” Up until this came up, I never had a strict list of principles to stick with in order to run the game.

My long standing way of setting up a campaign (*Oops! Not supposed to say, “campaign” any more. Now they’re “plot points.”) So, my long standing way of setting up plot points is episodic in format. I plan 24 sessions/games. At one episode per week that’s about half the year give or take. It rarely works that way, but that’s how I plan it.

My original planning for this game was to set up 24 episodes with pretty specific agenda. So, I hit rewind. It’s going to be more of a sandbox now, kinda like I planned Power Rangers RPG campaign. (Which is also still in the works, btw.)

I’m going to build a set of case files that the group can fall back on for clues and in-character advice. They’re following a group of three hunters that have vanished or moved off grid for mysterious reasons. Not really X-Files, but more like Giles’ school library in early Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The group’s mystery files won’t cover every mystery, though.

I already know who the first season BBEG looks like and what they’ve got going on. We’re going to touch on some real world conspiracies and paranormal events. I already know who most of my Bystanders, Minions, and Monsters are going to be. I have most of the behind-the-scenes stuff worked out. I think we’re still going to do episodes, but they’re going to be more like story arcs and done similarly to the way they’re described in the MotW core rules.

They have a very nice template worked out for writing mysteries. They walk the reader through all of the steps of mystery creation. It’s brilliant! Other game companies could learn from Michael Sands.

In short, with any game system, harvest what you like, pass on the rest. There is no one set way to run a game, as many, many of us have said. I’m personally just struggling to learn and adapt to the PbtA way of doing things.

I’m going to be dropping some of my mysteries on here, since I’m not expecting my players will read my blog. Bwah Ha Ha. I’ll put trigger warnings on the really gruesome stuff. I have an in-game calendar of events in my head, depending on which hooks get a bite. <“evil” Grognard Keeper noises.>

Thanks for being here all. I appreciate you! Have a great weekend!

My Recent Foray into Monster of the Week.

I will say this game truly inspired me to go back to my old Hunters Hunted and Call of Cthulhu: Delta Green notes. I’ve always wanted to run a sort of detective agency mystery/horror game.

Monster of the Week from Evil Hat Games.

Monster of the Week by Michael Sands

I kept seeing this game go by in various places and I finally got curious. While I have sort of a love-hate relationship with horror games, this got my attention because it’s more focused on the good guys. I prefer my horror games to be A.) Not completely hopeless for the PCs, and B.) Told from the perspective of regular people fighting the darkness. Monster of the Week gets it done for the most part.

A friend on RPG Twitter mentioned this as their favorite game and I became curious. My first venture into the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) system was with Henshin:Sentai the RPG and I have to say left a bad taste in my mouth. I still kinda feel like PbtA is a bit restrictive in terms of the PC actions and character creation. It feels to me like we’re constantly using Pre-gen characters. A lot of experienced gamers prefer to customize heavily.

I will say this game truly inspired me to go back to my old Hunters Hunted and Call of Cthulhu: Delta Green notes. I’ve always wanted to run a sort of detective agency mystery/horror game. My wife is a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. I’m big on Evil Dead/Army of Darkness. I also have my own personal freaky experiences to draw from if so desired.

Honestly, I love horror movies. I see so many things that are just laughably stupid. No one in their right mind would do some of the things characters in horror movies do and I find it amazing that some of the simplest solutions to these paranormal terrors are often overlooked.

I have so many scenarios in mind for this game already, I’m having trouble writing them all down fast enough. I’m inspired. Don’t know if I’ll have a group or if this will be an online game just yet, but I’m excited nonetheless.

One thing I really admire about the game is that they seem to have a playbook for just about everyone. Great job! It does take some of the analysis paralysis out of character creation.

Powered by the Apocalypse.

Evil Hat delivers once again!

Tome of Mysteries for MotW. Fantastic Sourcebook!

I’m a big fan of FATE as well. Part of the appeal of Monster of the Week was the quality that comes with all of the games I’ve seen from Evil Hat. (*Minus Thirsty Sword Lesbians because I haven’t read through it yet.) These folks also write a heck of a sourcebook, IMO.

I’m talking about Tome of Mysteries for Monster of the Week. They added more moves, playbooks, and a bunch of GM Advice. I felt some of the moves they added in this book were overdue and excellent additions. The GM support for MotW in general has been awesome. It has made setting up a sandbox easier for this game and dispelled some of my long-held beliefs about writing for horror games. I give it a huge thumbs up.

I can’t wait to get a chance to try this game out. I have a LOT of projects in the works right now. I hope to get some of my series outline posted eventually, as soon as my calendar clears up.

Thank you for stopping by. Happy May Day. I appreciate you!

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