Vignette Test: Monster of the Week to Unknown Armies

So the experiment of taking an Unknown Armies setup and fast-pacing it through Monsters of the Week was a lot of fun.

How things played out was inevitably different as the MOTW hunters had very different motives to the UA cabal. But there were some emotional and situational echoes from the one shot that helped me make better GMing decisions in the campaign episode.

The Monster of the Week group very quickly went right off-script. They dodged the first monster mystery but landed straight into a much more terrifying second mystery situation. Tension was high, stakes were sharp, and the group tested and learned plenty about the boundaries and possibilities of their characters and the world. They ended up fleeing the threat. That’s fine I thought – it could re-surface later in the arc.

But no! After a bitter and protracted battle, all bar one of the characters was dead set against trying to get too heroic by getting back up close and personal with it, but the one that wanted to was literally in the driving seat and managed to knock it out of the picture in the inevitable pursuit. One down, two to go.

The previously evaded Mystery Monster #1 had a direct connection with Mystery Monster #3 in the arc, and I decided to bring them together, so they ended up clashing in the final segment of play. By that time, the characters had convinced themselves that one of the monsters was not as monstrous as the other. By the time the final clash came, then, they were already committed to backing one of two evils. That could have ended a lot worse than it did for everyone. The UA campaign is still live, so I’m spoiler-cautious, so that’s all I’ll say on it for now.

On Monday I ran the subsequent episode of the Unknown Armies campaign that the MOTW vignettes were set against. The games played out differently – not least because the characters were assembled with very different motivations. Nonetheless, there were clear echoes in parts of that session to what ended up happening in the MOTW game, all driven by how the players responded to the situations presented. When the moment came for the monster sequence, I had a choice of bringing one of the three different foes to the scene. Any of them could have fitted with where the UA story had gotten to. Having tested (rather than rehearsed) them a few days earlier, it was much easier to decide what was the best dramatic option for the table mood as our play session over-ran.

And it seemed to work really well. The characters – all members of a local am-dram group – had already snubbed their society’s loyal playwright at the start of the campaign, driving him to drink and eventually into a horrific car accident. Reportedly, he’d died a few days earlier, so when he appeared hobbling down the street wielding a hospital crutch with extreme prejudice at a new-found ally, the heroic characters decided to rugby tackle him, grab his crutch and use it to point-blank their should-be-dead friend. Shockingly, they weren’t phased by this at all. The sequence cemented how inured they’d become, and how single-mindedly obsessed they are getting about that which they seek. We’ll start to deal with those consequences in the next episode.

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