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Monster of the Week» Forums » Sessions

Subject: SHS 7-42 Campaign Part 1: Set-Up rss

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Felix Lastname
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Campaign-in-Progress – SHS 7-42


This is the first installment of my write-up for an ongoing, ideally weekly tabletop “Monster of the Week” campaign.
In a hopefully somewhat regular manner, I will recount the glories and agonies of a team of monster hunters, seasoned with reflections on the game and its mechanics as we get to experience them in practice. As most people, I am fairly new to “MotW”, but its premise and promise seemed rich to both me and my regular group.

Our campaign focuses on a well-financed organization marked by its dubious motives, its secretive hierarchy and its official pull. They are called SHS, make of that what you will, they have a secret (!) headquarter (!) in an old cold war multi-storied underground bunker base (!) in the barren East German countryside (!), about 100 km outside of Berlin. SHS maintains teams of hunters to investigate potential monster sightings all over Europe and possibly beyond. That’s on a need-to-know basis. They are also happy if you, like, bring home some specimen, never to be seen again...

The day is today, and while I am toying with the idea to make up what MotW calls an “arc” (an ongoing storyline) touching on current events in Europe, the basic set-up came from my desire to have a game of monsterhunting set in a place utterly different to all the settings for the TV series and graphic novels which provide so much of the inspiration for MotW: Europe, where road trips are short and guns are rare and scary.
(In other news, I have started a campaign on the RPGGeek as well, and my poor players have to play in Europe as well, despite three of them being Americans, bless their hearts. So now I have two groups. In Europe. Did I say that already? Hunting monsters. Awesome. I am a fan.)


The guys: I have four players, a blessed relief that, considering our abandoned Savage Worlds campaign which had at times up to eight players.

To briefly introduce team 7-42:

B is playing “Smile”, The Professional, a veteran of the GDR armed forces, who has been with SHS for quite some time. His name? He doesn’t, or rather, he did, like, once. He is quite a dedicated teamleader, what with his Medic and Leave no man behind moves. It is rumored that he has led several teams before taking over 7-42, but none of the other hunters have any real information on that. Only implausible rumors.

D is playing “Callahan”, The Hard Case, who during the last days of the GDR (read: 20-odd years ago) happened to be decommissioning a military base in the Harz Mountains together with Smile, close to the border, when they came upon a Werewolf. Whereas Smile joined SHS soon after, Callahan traveled the world a bit more, got chewed up by a shark at some point, and due to Smile’s machinations, he was recruited eventually.

E is playing “Lukas”, The Chosen. For a long time a really normal guy, apparently, until on a geocaching trip he found a cache (you don’t say!) with a magic sword in it. Grabbing it, he sealed his eventual fate! And out of nowhere, in swooped a herd (?) of headless and yet fire-breathing horses, and an SHS team lurking next to the cache on standby fought them off together with him. Callahan drew the short straw in this story – he had been tasked to empty the cache before Lukas even arrived, but his rather binary set of morals stalled him – that sword looked like a thing belonging to the monsters’ side, so he hesitated. Callahan could have been The Chosen, had he but taken hold of “Alice”, as Lukas calls his enchanted cold iron blade. In frustration, he beats up Lukas then and there. It takes a little while, but then Lukas, not very clear on the specifics of his destiny just yet, joins SHS as well.

U is playing “Zantosa”, The Flake. Zantosa is an interesting and uncannily connected guy – a) he had provided Lukas with the coordinates of the cache described above, b) Smile meets him during a private cryptozoology seminar, where The Flake really catches his attention, c) and when Zantosa finally stumbles across a real animated mummy while allegedly geocaching in Egypt, and has to be saved by Lukas and some other SHS personnel who had been keeping an eye on him, it becomes quite clear that he would either have to meet an early 9mm retirement plan, or start working for the organization as well. Zantosa joins up (well, d’uh!).


There are some more details regarding the joint history and the bonds, and while some parts fit together better than others, it is interesting to behold how the playbook history options can actually shape the tenor of the whole campaign set-up. Zantosa, for example, has such weird histories with all the rest, so that the whole paranoiac “I can see patterns everywhere”-aspect of the Flake-playbook suddenly starts making perfect sense. There are patterns everywhere. The beauty of it shines through in combination with the game’s principle “play to find out” – it is totally feasible to set off with these weird R-Maps and still feel confident that while they seem rather construed and arbitrary, they will at some point during the game make perfect sense.
What I like about these histories vis-à-vis the Hx of Apocalypse World and the Bonds of Dungeon World is that they really help set up a team and focus it on its main (and, really, only) task – hunting monsters. While it is about how you know your companions, there are no XP to be gained from the histories, and you do not cycle through them either, and lastly, they rarely set-up inbuilt frictions.
Instead, the history options are all useful to establish the team, as they characterize how everybody relates, and then they fade in the background, ready to be invoked at a moment’s notice, but without pushing themselves to the foreground constantoy, screaming “resolve me/increase me for mechanical benefit”.


So, set-up complete, the team receives a briefing that there have been weird deaths at the Berlin Museum of Natural History (a real place, recently renovated for good effect) last night, whether they might not want to check it out and possibly procure some specimen if there were cryptids afoot?

Find out what happens in part II!
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