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Author Topic: Aaron The Pedantic Reviews: Actual Fucking Monsters  (Read 2503 times)

AaronThePedantic

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Aaron The Pedantic Reviews: Actual Fucking Monsters
« on: May 19, 2019, 04:11:32 AM »
A good day to yous, all.

Actual Fucking Monsters.  What is it?  Well, Actual Fucking Monsters is Grim Jim's answer to the age old question: What the fuck happened to murderous, sociopathic bad guys in horror films, can I be one in a Role Playing Game, and should they have wicked ass powers?  All right, age old questions.  Basically, "Everyone's all into moral relativistic hippie bullshit villains now, yes they can, and yes they should."

What is your typical game of Actual Fucking Monsters like?  Essentially, your players (or you, if you're lucky), will create customized monsters complete with origin stories, powers, banes (or vulnerabilities for the idjits in the audience), skills, equipment, and a day job, more or less.

The name of the game is survival for the monsters.  Merely surviving as a monster means that you must do horrible, despicable things, and each monster has preferences on how they do this.  The example character provided in the book resorted to Cannibalism, not out of curiosity on just how delicious long pig is, but from a disease turning him into a living ghoul.  Committing atrocities like Cannibalism, Torture, breaking hearts (not literally, all sensually like), provide your monster with Satiation.  Satiation lets you use your powers and keeps you alive, and a lack of satiation makes you weak, exposes your true nature to those around you, and will eventually kill you.  In essence, yes, you can have a monster who feeds itself by castrating people.  No, not eating the goods afterwards.  Just castrating does the trick.

Okay, so you've done your evil deed, what next?  Any time you do something stupid, there's a chance that someone will catch wind of it.  This could be local law enforcement hunting your trail, a grieving mother's hired Private Eye investigating your existence, or professional monster hunters (like Sam and Dean Winchester of Supernatural fame) chasing your raggedy ass down.  Occurrences like these are bound to happen, and they will kick off the spiral of shitstorms that will inevitably end with the death of your monster.  That is the gameplay loop, ladies and gentlemen.  You burn brightly as a star of morally bankrupt assholeisms, and are snuffed out like a little bitch by two brothers with an MTV People's Choice award for Best Bromance or something.  Your monster will struggle to avoid this fate by covering their tracks, living transiently, trusting few, and taking calculated risks.

Clearly by now you should be taking note that this game is striving hard to emulate a particular genre that isn't often experienced by players.  Grim Jim cites references of a ton of horror films I haven't seen, and a few that I have and I adore deeply such as The Thing, An American Werewolf in London, Hellraiser, and People Under The Stairs.  It's suggested that as a Game Master you encourage explicit, egregious depictions of violence in the game, and honestly, if your players aren't up for this, this probably isn't the best game for them.

Themes behind, let's talk about the system.  This is a very rules light system that is all about encouraging immersive, improvisational play.  You do not have conventional attribute scores, but rather levels of dice for each attribute.  You do not roll ability scores, in fact, the character creation process is entirely a matter of making choices.  The balance of the character creation resides in risk vs reward.  You can take additional positive things, but take on more vulnerabilities in doing so.  It's enough to allow some basic customization of your character's base mechanics without encouraging powergaming, which is a great decision since powergaming would completely undermine the point of this game.

Once characters are created, the brunt of the mechanics are focused around combat and skill challenges.  Both are handled very simply, though skill challenges even more so than the former.  In Combat you can perform three actions a turn.  These actions can be anything from dodging, running away, grabbing, attacking, or using a monstrous power.  When an attack happens, the attacker rolls and the defender rolls.  If the attack roll does not bypass the defense roll, the attack misses.  If it bypasses the defense roll, you get to roll the weapon die if applicable and add that to your remainder from your attack roll to calculate damage.  The game eschews modifiers in most instances, instead opting for combinations of dice and subtracting totals against each other.  It was jarring at first for me, having rooted most of my experience with D&D, but ultimately I think it's easy to grasp, especially for new players who commonly struggle to think of what modifiers are applicable in what situations.  Simply saying "Roll body and combat skill" is a lot more accessible in my opinion, while still keeping people engaged instead of "Roll the d20, add proficiency plus your relevant attack modifier plus any additional modifiers from magical weapons."

As I said before, skills are even more simple.  If a player wants to accomplish something, you choose an appropriate die to express how intense a task is and another die to express how complex the task is. You add these totals together to get the difficulty.  All the player has to do is roll higher than the difficulty.  If they succeed by a good margin, they get a little bonus on top of it.

Honestly, that's the player's side of the system.  That's all they have to worry about mechanically, the rest is all you.  The simplicity of the system is, in my opinion, perfect for providing the kind of play that would easily facilitate the theme that Actual Fucking Monsters is going for.  Nothing kills the moment faster in an intense moment than the game breaking down because the GM argues with a player over what a spell lets them get away with.  If it's feasible for someone to do something with a power, they roll it.

The book itself contains some very grisly but well drawn art (in my amateur opinion, anyway) as well as tons of fantastic examples of all the little bits that make up characters in the game.  There's a bestiary, some fantastic advice on how to run the game thematically, lists of example powers, on and on.  One of the most intriguing questions you might have is addressed in the book, which is "why the hell would these monsters be working together in any capacity?"  The book is 108 pages and it's an extremely enjoyable read, well worth the money for the PDF, and I'm sure paying just around double that price for the hard copy is well worth it also.  By the time I finished reading the book, my mind was already reeling thinking of all the possibilities for cool as fuck monsters to play in a game using the powers provided, and even more powers I made up that are easily inserted in the game due to the simplicity of the system.  This game not only suggests that you and your players venture far outside the realms of what's on the pages, it beats you over the head with the DIY spirit.

So, now time for some criticism.  Kind of.  More like "buyer beware" for certain kinds of Game Masters.  This is NOT Baby's First RPG.  The improvisational spirit of the game requires that you think on your feet, be confident in the rulings you make, and draw lines when they are needed.  While mechanically intensive games annoy me to no end with their extensive prescriptive rules, they provide a great foundation for GMs lacking confidence in their craft to rely on.  "Because the book says so" is a great way to get a whiny player off your back, but this probably will not something you can fall back on with this game.  As stated before, this is a function and not a bug.  Less prescriptive mechanics means less getting bogged down on trivial bullshit that takes you away from your mindless slaughter.

Secondly, I personally would have liked to see the inclusion of some random tables that provide events by type of settlement.  For instance rolling on a chart for a small town could result in "bake sale," or "football game."  In a large city, you may have "activist demonstration," or "a pair of nuns walk by."  As previously said, the game is highly improvisational, and one of the best ways to kickstart the ol' creative juices is to roll on a chart to give us a possible encounter to deal with.  That being said, there is absolutely not a presumed setting for the game, and the game is so DIY in nature that it may be assumed that you will be fairly competent enough to provide yourself with your own aides for your game.  Perhaps in the future, supplements like this can be made, and Grim Jim definitely has made a fair amount of supplementary products that go up the alley of "giving your players shit to do."

All of these things being considered, Actual Fucking Monsters is an extremely refreshing take on Role Playing, especially with the prevalence of heroic fantasy.  When saving the day gets ho hum, it can be damn good to be the baddest motherfucker in town for a while, and this is a fantastic way to give that feeling to your players.

Spinachcat

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Aaron The Pedantic Reviews: Actual Fucking Monsters
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2019, 11:05:45 PM »
Interesting. Lots of questions for you.

Is it available POD?

108 pages is a good size. It's neither a pamphlet or a tome. Plenty of pages to get the job done right.


Quote from: AaronThePedantic;1088529
That is the gameplay loop, ladies and gentlemen.  You burn brightly as a star of morally bankrupt assholeisms, and are snuffed out like a little bitch by two brothers with an MTV People's Choice award for Best Bromance or something.


Is this supported in the system mechanically?

How long does a PC normally last?

How does survival success get rated? AKA, how many sessions of survival represents poor, average or good gameplay?  


Quote from: AaronThePedantic;1088529
Your monster will struggle to avoid this fate by covering their tracks, living transiently, trusting few, and taking calculated risks.


Explain more. Again, any system support or is this just player description and GM handwaive? Built upon skills or talents?


Quote from: AaronThePedantic;1088529
You do not have conventional attribute scores, but rather levels of dice for each attribute.  You do not roll ability scores, in fact, the character creation process is entirely a matter of making choices.  The balance of the character creation resides in risk vs reward.  You can take additional positive things, but take on more vulnerabilities in doing so.  It's enough to allow some basic customization of your character's base mechanics without encouraging powergaming, which is a great decision since powergaming would completely undermine the point of this game.


Interesting. Any link to a character sheet?

Also, write up a character for us. Be interested to see what a PC looks like.


Quote from: AaronThePedantic;1088529
One of the most intriguing questions you might have is addressed in the book, which is "why the hell would these monsters be working together in any capacity?"


And what's the answer???

THIS is my number one concern about the game.

BoxCrayonTales

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Aaron The Pedantic Reviews: Actual Fucking Monsters
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2019, 07:48:54 AM »
It's good to hear there's now an RPG for replicating the experience of being a monster(s) in a horror movie, but I'm still bummed there isn't an RPG yet for supernatural soap opera series in the 18-30+ demographic. Rosemont Bay seemed great in theory, but the author lost his mind and it died.

AaronThePedantic

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Aaron The Pedantic Reviews: Actual Fucking Monsters
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2019, 09:34:16 AM »
I'm just on mobile at work at the moment, but I'll try to address all your points as best I can.

It has POD on Lulu for about 15 USD, not including shipping. Check it out here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/james-desborough/actual-fucking-monsters/paperback/product-24105446.html

The book is light on mechanics and heavy on flavor, so it's a book I'd get the POD for more for collecting and preference than for utility. You'd do perfectly well to get the PDF and print out the basic rules as needed, since admittedly the rules are simple.

Re: Gameplay loop, there is a simple mechanic he provides for adding these complications in your sessions. You roll a die for each event that may have left a trail in the preceding days (d4 for likeliest to cause problems, d12 for least likely), and on a 1, that issue surfaces. Each time you don't roll a 1 on it, the die decreases toward a d4. This creates a spiral effect wherein the game propels itself into more and more serious situations.

A careful monster could keep this going on for some time, but eventually the odds will work against them. The book reckons a game may be anywhere from 3 sessions to 12 in a long game if you aren't as ruthless as you probably should be.

Re: skills

You have what's called a "Mask," which gives you a day job more or less and explains how you fit into everyday society. You get skill bonuses with the example Masks to add to your skill checks but there is no prescribed set of skills IIRC.

Re: struggling to survive
I think I answered this above but I'll add that the system is relatively lethal inherently. Most things as written are handled through improvisation, which is why one of my few gripes is the lack of GM tools. I prefer to not be buried in rules, but I love random tables.

Re: character sheet
I'll try to find one, if not, I'll make one. There is a character sheet example included in the book. My wife and I will be making a video going through the process of making characters, since we're going to be getting a game going and we want to have a reference for the players.

Re: cooperation
I'll have to double check for wording, but IIRC it's just about how you would expect with playing terrible humanlike creatures in a world where humans want to kill you. Survival. Other monsters are about the only ones you can trust to keep your secret, lest their secret be exposed as well. There are some very cool suggestions on how your monsters know of each other, and they serve as great inspirations for starting a game.  My personal favorite: Monster Support Group consisting of people who believe they're not human, and people who are ACTUALLY not human.

After work I'll double check all this for accuracy, but it's relatively fresh in my mind so it should be on point.

Thanks for the questions, man! You're helping me be a better reviewer.