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Old 07-11-2011, 08:23 PM   #1
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Austin, TX
Default Help Me! Monster Hunters: Review of Play

So the Saga of the West March online group decided to take a break from Dungeon Fantasy and try ourselves some Monster Hunters. As the GM, I've decided to write some commentary about the experience. Hopefully, some of the players will comment on it, too.

Here's the wiki for the game:

The first step of playing Monster Hunters was figuring out what seeds to use. We tossed around some ideas and eventually agreed on a mixed Exterminators for Hire/Road Trip campaign with some elements of Secret Wars. Essentially, the PCs would be mercenary monster hunters, traveling the US and Canada to find monsters or clients. Meanwhile, the monsters mostly have extensive but highly factional societies, so the hunters have to work around the edges of multiple warring monster domains.

When writing up the wiki, I called their company "FIXME" as a reminder that the PCs needed to come up with a name. They went with it, and we decided they worked for "Help Me!" Initially, Help Me! was going to be an entirely private organization, but I allowed the PCs to have Patrons and Wealth if they wanted to handle it that way. Help Me! became an undercover (and technically illegal) branch of the FBI.

With the background more or less set, we started working on character creation. That went slightly wonky, when the mercenary monster hunters included 4 Philanthropists, but then the PCs started talking to each other. We ended with a pretty good mix: a Criminal/Commando, an Operative/Experiment, an Atoner/(mummy) Inhuman, a Hired Gun(?)/ teleporting Psi, a Philanthropist/pseudo-Sleuth, and a Philanthropist/Witch. This was some discontent with the templates, and everyone rolled their own in at least some way -- Crakkerjakk based his Sleuth on the Action Scout, and Bruno's mummy Inhuman is an entirely new racial package based loosely on the Mummy from MH: Enemies.
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Old 07-11-2011, 08:40 PM   #2
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Austin, TX
Default Re: Help Me! Monster Hunters: Review of Play

The first session was tonight. I wanted to start the game in media res, to simplify things and get the action rolling immediately. I wanted it to be a scary fight, but not actually challenging. I didn't use any of the monsters in MH: Enemies because I started writing the adventure before the book came out, and I didn't want the PCs to know anything beforehand. Also, the monsters in Enemies are pretty hard core, and wanted something scary but not actually dangerous. Looking at wikipedia, I found the Shunka Warakin, a legendary Native American hyena-wolf that looked like it could be adjusted to fit what I needed.

The opening scenario was that Help Me! had a client in Colorado who wanted them to do some ghostbusting. Since this was explicitly in their charter, I figured they did some research, figured the guy was mostly legit, and went out to meet him. At the site, the guy seemed a little unsavory: dressed like a hippy, but seemingly an experienced rough-houser with an eye for concealed weapons. He made them leave all their weapons behind, and surprisingly, the PCs mostly agreed. Fortunately, Bruno managed to fast-talk him into thinking her throwing axe was a ritual tool. Unfortunately, the Experiment entirely refused to leave his sword behind and stayed with it at the cars.

The client led them up a "sacred, peaceful hill" and started ranting at them when suddenly a bunch of shunka warakin showed up. The shunka warakin charged toward the PCs at 60 mph, and the team scrambled for their guns, back at the cars some 150 yards away. There was a bit of confusion, as they forgot they had a teleporter with them, so half the group was running for the cars when the shunka reached the hilltop. The psi, the inhuman, and the witch were at the hilltop and a fight broke out.

The shunka came in waves of 2, 6, 8, and 1, though since the psi had teleported to collect weapons and the witch had high explosive charms loaded into some of his bullets, a few of the waves got thinned out on the approach. A general melee broke out, with the shunka using all-out double attacks to slam and grapple the champions. In general, this didn't work out too well for them, since they never managed to completely down anyone on the first hit and people with guns can kill stuff that can't dodge. So at the end of 3.5 rounds of combat (we started a bit late, and there was some dithering on people's parts) more than half the shunkas were down. The one bright spot, from their perspective, was that they had managed to entirely overwhelm the witch. Unfortunately, the witch had put up his DR120 ablative force field first, and the shunka had yet to actually harm him.

Our group has been playing DF together for about a year now, and we've ironed out many of the rules questions for that already. However, now we're dealing with guns, and there was quite a bit of confusion: we've never really needed to figure out how the range/speed chart works for creatures with Move 30 before, for instance. It wasn't entirely snappy, but we played through it.

I was actually very happy with how it played out: the PCs were properly suspicious, though not amazingly so. The monsters were scary on first pass - a horde of dogs moving at cheetah speeds is a threat - but fell apart nicely once the team got organized. The PCs also got to see how awesome their characters could be, as they smashed up some quite nasty critters despite being surprised and nearly unarmed.

Next session should hopefully quickly conclude the shunka fight, and get onto the real threats.

Text file of the first session at:

Last edited by mlangsdorf; 08-02-2011 at 09:03 AM. Reason: Added session log link
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Old 07-12-2011, 01:48 PM   #3
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Redmond, WA
Default Re: Help Me! Monster Hunters: Review of Play

I'm wondering how other people use the speed part of the speed/range calculation. IIRC in 3rd you only added the portion that was perpendicular to you but that seems to be gone now, at least that I can find. This makes it just as hard to shoot an oncoming car as one speeding by, which seems odd. I also still think if the target ended it's turn stopped then you should not have a penalty for it's move. After all, if I teleport someplace they have zero penalty to hit me.
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Old 07-12-2011, 04:05 PM   #4
Join Date: Jun 2011
Default Re: Help Me! Monster Hunters: Review of Play

Originally Posted by tbriggs View Post
I'm wondering how other people use the speed part of the speed/range calculation. IIRC in 3rd you only added the portion that was perpendicular to you but that seems to be gone now, at least that I can find. This makes it just as hard to shoot an oncoming car as one speeding by, which seems odd. I also still think if the target ended it's turn stopped then you should not have a penalty for it's move. After all, if I teleport someplace they have zero penalty to hit me.
The rules for speed/range are found on B.550, It basically says that if the GM rules speed an important factor then you add it otherwise forget it. Even when you do add it you just add the range to the speed then check the result in the column, which means the greater difference between the speed and the range the less it matters.

So your oncoming car is say 100 yards away traveling at speed 30 yards per second gives it a total penalty of 130 yards (-11) + size, 3 turns later the car is now 10 yards away still traveling at 30 yards per second for a total of 40 yards (-8) + size. As it says though if the car is coming straight for you anyway the GM is free to rule that speed is not a factor and just use the range.

That is how i understand it anyway.
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Old 07-26-2011, 09:13 AM   #5
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Austin, TX
Default Re: Help Me! Monster Hunters: Review of Play

Text file of the second session:

Although my group is supposed to be on a weekly schedule, we missed last week due to scheduling conflicts. So it goes.

Last night's session continued the fight against the shunka warakin. Several of the less successful predators started fleeing, but the small knot around the witch and the inhuman continued to fight. Unfortunately, it didn't go well for them: they still couldn't penetrate the witch's forcefield, the inhuman could still carve them up with her axe even while grappled, and the psi could take out the stragglers. I stopped the fight once it became a foregone conclusion.

The witch improvised a greater healing spell to heal all the wounded, and we discovered *why* its a bad idea to draw 50+ ambient energy with a skill of 13 and no grimoires or other aids. 17(!) quirks later, everyone was healed of their short term wounds and had mildly glowing, cancerous scars. This did not sit well with the PCs, but after I pointed out that this was more "mild skin cancer" than "late stage terminal invasive cancer" people mostly acceded. Hopefully the witch will prepare some charms that aren't 6d+15 explosive bullets in the future.

The team investigated the potential sniper site, and found the body of half dozen thugs with sniper rifles. The sleuth realized that the client had meant to ambush them, and there was muttering all around. They then tracked the shunka back to their lair, destroyed it with fire and explosives, and considered themselves to have done a good job. This was actually a surprisingly tense situation for me, as the GM, because I didn't want to have another fight with the shunka (a big waste of time) but the PCs kept trying to separate, run off ahead, and otherwise set themselves up for a bad time. Fortunately, the teleporter has Danger Sense and managed to realize that teleporting 100+ yards into the monster filled woods was not a safe move.

Finally, the team went back to the client and started interrogating him. He turned out to be a kidnappee from a Seelie court that the team had destroyed a while back. The client had believed the Seelies' promise that he was going to made into a beautiful and immortal faerie, and was rather upset that Help Me! had ruined everything. Hence the ambush.

As the team was conducting a rough interrogation of the client, the witch got a call from Liz Philips, a (sidekick) crusader he'd worked with before. She was having prophetic dreams and believed a recent murder was related to them. The team got ready to head out to Wyoming to meet with her, and we ended play.

On the mechanical side, I incorporated some of the ranged movement discussion from this thread: the psi took no speed penalty when a Shunka rushed him in a straight line, for instance. I also noted that ranged attacks against the psi while he was teleporting where going to be treated as pop-up attacks at least, and possibly worse depending on the circumstances.

The other tricky question was how the Innerportation malediction attack worked with targeting body parts, especially when the target was involved in close combat. Is it possible to miss with a malediction? I made some goofy rules and got called on them, and we finally decided that while maledictions normally can't target hit locations, the Selective enhancement allowed that. So that worked out.

On the funny observations about play, there'd be an email discussion about how people were peeved about being deceived by such a shady client. They would have done RESEARCH, I was told, and not run off unprepared. I tried to explain that they had done research and nothing too shady had popped up (there was a fair bit of backstory on how the client had stolen another person's identity, etc that was revealed this session). Ironically after all that, the PCs were quite willing to run off after the shunka warakin with hardly a concern about running into potential ambushes or other monsters out in the wilderness, and at least 1 PC wanted to take an overnight flight to get to Liz Philips as quickly as possible - even though they had no way of knowing whether or not she was lying to them or if it was another ambush of some kind. Well, I thought it was funny, anyway.

Best two quotes:
Kevin: "you are drunk" - Greater Control Mind 5, Drunk +4, 300 lbs +2, 30 minutes +2? Total energy cost 39?
GM: Yeah, and it's a Lesser effect if you use a ritual element known as "Everclear"

GM: Some of you may be newer to the team than others. Nick may be experimenting with who he wants to hire - or fire.
Kevin (Nick's player, and team leader): So far Nick is getting my vote for 'most fireable'. ...Just like management everywhere else.

Last edited by mlangsdorf; 08-10-2011 at 03:55 PM. Reason: session log added
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Old 08-10-2011, 04:14 PM   #6
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Austin, TX
Default Re: Help Me! Monster Hunters: Review of Play

3rd session log:
4th session log:

The group met for the last two weeks; I've just been late in posting about them.

These two sessions covered the initial investigation of the murders mentioned at the end of Session 2. The PCs conducted autopsies, investigated crime scenes, gathered and interrogated witnesses, and did research. Along the way, they found out a bunch of things:

* Someone is killing the guardians of monsters
* Apparently as a favor to the powerful and enigmatic free spirits known as the Bargainers
* Something awful is going to be freed
* Human cultists and some kind of spirit-enhanced spell-caster are involved
* The cultists might be working for some other spirit that is working for the Bargainers
* The plot that they know about doesn't make sense; they're clearly missing details

These two sessions were a bit intimidating for me. I've ran carefully plotted murder mysteries before, and I've run loose, improvisational games before, but I've never an a loose, improvisational murder mystery/investigation. For this game, I know who the Big Bad is, I have a rough timeline of events and a couple of important clues that I wanted to make the PCs picked up, but I also had several important clues that I had no idea how I was going to get to the PCs. When I started these sessions, I apologized in advance to the players that they might be very bored and upset.

As it turned out, everyone had a good time. My plot is sufficiently baroque and complex that I'm pretty sure the players aren't figuring it out on their own, though they have figured out some bits and pieces. The deduction rules help a bit here - I can make a set of rolls and just tell them stuff that their characters have figured out. It's actually pretty elegant: the players figure out some stuff, and I reveal some of the trickier/less obvious bits.

That said, mechanically, the Deduction rolls are a pain. For something like a "What" deduction about a cryptid, I have to roll for each of 6 PCs on 1 of 3 different skills, depending on which one that PC is most skilled at. I have a huge spreadsheet listing each PC's skill at all of Deduction skills, sorted by skill use, and it's still a bother. I like how Deduction rolls work in play, I just wish they were mechanically less awful.**

The rest of the investigation rules have worked pretty well, too. So far the PCs have mostly stuck to Social Engineering and Research, but there's plenty of good guidance in the book for that. Next week, they're going to survey and break into a suspect's house, so it will be interesting to see how that goes.

** Imbuments and Ritual Path Magic both share this flaw of being neat, conceptually elegant subsystems that require too many die rolls in play. Watching a witch roll the dice a dozen times, tallying MoS while accumulating penalties, is a drag. Since we play on a virtual tabletop and Bruno wrote a great macro to resolve all that, it's not as big a deal but it drags out when I'm playing a sage in my F2F game.
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