Monster of the Week – TTRPG Review

Have you ever watched Buffy, Supernatural, or the X-Files and wanted to be there alongside them fighting monsters and aliens? In Monster of the Week, you assume the role of archetypal characters from ‘monster of the week’ style shows and hunt down monsters in an action-horror RPG. Someone assumes the rule of the Keeper who runs episodic sessions for the Hunters, each featuring a new terror a la the trope of the same name. 

Monster of the Week is an action-horror RPG inspired by Apocalypse World Engine and created by Michael Sands and Stevie Hicks. It was picked up and published by Evil Hat productions in 2015 for a 320-page paperback copy. While the single book comes with all the content for both the Keeper and Hunters, you’ll still need to acquire a pair of d6s for each Hunter and print out reference sheets for the Hunters and the Keeper. These reference sheets can be found online for free, however.

The book is written in order of what you’ll need as the Hunter, saving the second half of the book for the Keeper. Hunters, 2-4 are recommended for play, start by picking a team concept as a group then each Hunter picks a Playbook. Each playbook covers a trope in TV like ‘The Chosen One’ or ‘The Mundane’, however, each playbook can only be picked once. From there the Hunters work with the Keeper to determine gear.

Because Monster of the Week is a rules-lite system most of the rules fit on the next few pages. Hunters have a list of Moves they can use to affect the game. This short list of eight actions covers almost everything you can do in the game. This is the main mechanic of the game, all of the Playbooks play off of these actions.

Finally, the Hunters go around and create a group history. Included in each playbook are a few suggested Histories that Hunters can work out with other players. Like the previous section, this section has very few rules and heavily relies on improv between Hunters to think up an interesting story, which will typically be further developed by probing questions from the Keeper.

The rest of the book, roughly 200 pages, covers the job of the Keeper and the tools they’ll use to facilitate the game. The Keeper’s job is to start off the story and each session with a mystery for the Hunters to investigate. Their job isn’t to plan the story ahead, only to set one up and supervise its progression. The goal of the game is to create a dynamic conversation between the Hunters and the Keeper, so the Keeper’s power is intended to be limited.

Monster of the Week is unique from TTRPGs that most people in the community are familiar with, like D&D and Pathfinder, in that the core conflict resolution mechanic utilizes two six-sided dice for all challenges, as opposed to a single twenty-sided dice. For whatever challenges the dice are used, a roll of 6 or below is a Failure, 7-9 is a Success, and a 10 is a Resounding Success which comes with additional benefits. This method allows Hunters and the Keeper alike to be always aware of their numerical goal, as opposed to rolling in order to beat an unknown value.

Monster of the Week - a Buffy inspired highschool monster fighting rpg |  Monster, Character reference sheet, Character design

Another benefit of Monsters of the Week being rules-lite: while the characters are limited in their basic Moves, most actions in the game don’t require you to roll. The game’s first and foremost objective is to tell a story, and sometimes rules can get in the way of that, so thoughts of balance or rules are put aside when the need arises to fulfill that primary goal. 

Like many other TTRPGs, magic is prevalent within this one. However, unlike magic in other systems that constrain it with strict mechanics or smother it with long-winded prerequisites and studying of the rules to understand it, MotW leaves magic completely freeform for the Hunter and Keeper. While there are a few suggestions for how things could work out when magic is used, the final say in a Hunter’s magic is the Hunter’s. However, to keep it fair and interesting, magic almost always comes with drawbacks that the Hunter also gets to decide.

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