There's a new Monster of the Week terrorising the neighbourhood. It’s shadowy, and the last time it was seen, it left a trail of mysterious green ooze behind. Maybe that’s a clue? The police haven’t got any leads but are feeling a bit twitchy about the whole situation. One of the kids said she saw what looked like a man with antennas from her bedroom window, but it was past her bedtime and she was sleepy. The neighbourhood is freaking out, but for The Irregulars, this is just another day of the week. Another monster to slay.
Monster of the Week is a rules light RPG system based on the Apocalypse World engine. It allows the players to immerse themselves in the sci-fi and antics of television series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files. It covers not only the creatures you may come face to face with, but also the dynamics of working as a group and the relationships that form when facing the clashing of these two worlds.
Monster of the Week is built upon the Apocalypse Word engine. In the system, one play will take the role of the Keeper. They present the Hunters the hook of a story to explore. As the Hunters play, they’ll uncover secrets about the monsters and edge towards facing them. They will do this by performing Moves. Moves are the main mechanic of the game; each time a player performs a Move two six-sided dice are rolled and the Hunter modifier is added or subtracted to give the final result. If the result is 10 or more, the Hunter does what they set out to do. Results between 7-9, they do it, but there’s always a cost or a choice to be made. However, if the result is 6 or below, things have not gone well…
Before all that though, Monster of the Week gets the players to sit down and decide on their group’s concept. Are they working for a secret government agency exploring things the mass population doesn’t know about? Are they the outcast teens that stumbled upon something unexpected? Each group concept will give some ideas as to the kinds of Hunters that would work well together and fit the narrative. Also, the groups in the book are just suggestions, so it’s all down to the players.
Once the type of game is decided, the players get to pick one of the unique Playbooks. The base book comes with 10 (from The Chosen, The Initiate, The Monstrous) but suggests more that are available online. Each playbook will ask the player a set of questions. These are decisions that range from dice modifiers, through to specific moves, all the way through to picking unique Hunter traits. For instance, the Chosen picks 4 fates, 2 heroic and 2 doomed. The Crooked gets to choose Heat, two people that want to get them for what they’ve done. Each Hunter then picks how they know each other Hunter at the table via prompts, forging history and relationships.
This book is primarily for use of the Keeper who will be running the game, about 200 of the 300 pages are dedicated to this. Don’t let that scare you though. Part of it explains about the Moves from the Keeper’s perspective, the Moves that the Keeper can use themselves, and introducing the game to the players.
The content will mainly help the Keeper in creating sessions. Monster of the Week gives fully written out scenarios to play, guidelines on creating sessions, and a breakdown of this process. This framework is about the Monster, the Minions, the By-standers, and the Locations used within the session. Monster of the Week gives a lot of these breakdowns and examples to work with, alongside general principles of running the session and how to be a good keeper.
The book itself is A5 sized and paperback. At first, I felt this may have been an issue. A4 and hardback tends to be a trend within RPGs, but this didn’t feel needed. With the simple rule set and the preparation taken by the Keeper, most of the game should be playable without referring to the rule book.
The artwork can be quite hit and miss at times as it varies in style. Some are closer to classic RPG line drawings, whereas the main pieces that fill pages are incredibly well done. This may be done stylistically though to represent the varied approaches to the genre. The book is in black and white. This works in most cases, but in others, some colour would help break up the text.
Monster of the Week offers a narrow slice of RPG, but does it incredibly well. Just flicking through the chapter titled Inspiration, you can really feel the world’s they’re trying to capture, the peak of '90s/'00s mainstream science fiction. I found this to be a blessing and a curse. A lot of this media could be seen as cliché by today’s standards, and as such, the game can also lean in this direction. The game does rely on these genre stereotypes but does give the players wriggle room to make it their own. Trying to pull players away from replicating their inspiration may be difficult though.
What really impressed me with this book is the support that it gives to the Keeper in creating ideas and running sessions. With a lot of RPGs, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with everything suddenly at your fingertips. However, Monster of the Week offers so much support presented in a few different ways that you feel you could write your own session without having played it. The frameworks are easy to use and the principles help ensure the game runs smoothly. Due to this, preparing as the Keeper doesn’t feel like a chore.
I’d highly recommend this to any group looking to relive and revel in the glories of the science-fiction driven series of the '90s. I’d also recommend this to anybody looking to create weird and unique worlds that they want to throw players straight into.