The one item that caused me the most flip flopping was this essay on promotions and decorations.
I decided to leave it out of the book mostly for space reasons. It would have added another couple of pages at least to an already big book.
Without further introduction, I present the sidebar on Promotions and Decorations in a "little bit more polished than first draft" form.
Decorations and Promotions
In business, excellent performance is rewarded with promotions, raises, and bonuses. In combat excellent performance is likewise rewarded with promotions and medals. And just like business, these rewards are doled out not only on merit, but on favoritism and politics, too.
The following are guidelines for promoting characters and issuing medals for meritorious actions in combat.
The FSSF Talent Section usuconsists of one 1st lieutenant, one staff sergeant, two or more sergeants (usually of technical rank), with the rest corporals, or privates. No Talent landing in Naples had a rank lower than corporal. That changed as Talents manifested and joined the section.
Frederick favors a 1st Lieutenant as the leader of the Talent Section, as the unit usually reports directly to a battalion or regimental commander and exhibits a high degree of independent action. A lieutenant in charge of the section could be promoted to captain. This likely wouldn't happen until 1944, and it would be due to a major display of leadership ability. If enough Talents manifest and survive in the Force for an additional Talent section to form, the senior lieutenant could be promoted to captain as Talent commander. If the Talent Section's lieutenant is killed or cashiered due to injury, a sergeant will be promoted to 1st lieutenant. As in business, promotions are as much about filling a position or attaining a number of years of seniority as they are about rewarding performance.
If the staff sergeant is killed or wounded, his position will be filled by a sergeant (or a corporal, if casualties were heavy). In this case, the soldier might fill the position for a while before a promotion (if any) is confirmed.
The technician grades are for men with specific technical abilities, like radio operators, mechanics, navigators and medics. A technician fifth grade (T/5) wears the chevrons of a corporal and is addressed as "corporal". A technician fourth grade (T/4) is equivalent to a sergeant, and technician third grade (T/3) the equivalent to a staff sergeant. Forcemen are only promoted to technician grades if they completed specialist training. This includes Talents (Talent training does not qualify for a technician rank).
Soldiers are recommended for promotions and decorations by their commanding officers. In the case of the Talent Section, this duty falls on the 1st lieutenant, or the enlisted man commanding in his absence. American battlefield promotions amongst the Talents must be approved by the Force's commanding officer (for most of the Force's existence, this was Frederick). Canadian battlefield promotions must go through the ranking Canadian officer, the man in administrative command of the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion. Prior to Monte Majo, this was Col. Williamson. Afterwards, it is Col. Akehurst. Akhehurst was wounded prior to Monte Majo and didn't return until the Force was shifted to Anzio. In his absence, the ranking Canadian is Lt. Col. Tom Gilday.
In order to receive a decoration (medal), the soldier's commanding officer has to write a citation. The citation is then forwarded up the chain of command, depending on the level of gallantry and the medal to be awarded. Canadians were cited for American awards, which American authorities awarded without reservation. There were no Canadian-specific medals during the war (exception: the Memorial Cross). Instead, Canadians were eligible for British decorations. Astoundingly, no one set aside British medals for Canadian gallantry as part of the FSSF. Canadians weren't awarded medals from their own nation until November, 1944.
The most common U.S. Army medals, in order of merit, are:
Army Medal of Honor (also known as the Medal of Honor, or Congressional Medal of Honor): This is the nation's highest award. It goes to soldiers in action against an enemy for acts of bravery or self sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty. The act for which the medal is awarded must be so extraordinary as to distinguish the soldier from his comrades, and there must be incontestable proof of the action. The soldier's life must have been at risk. The medal is awarded by the president, in the name of Congress. When a soldier is in a combat theatre, the award is given by the general commanding his army or – if available – the general commanding the army group.
Note that a PC receiving the Medal of Honor will likely be pulled from the front line as soon as the citation is sent to Washington for confirmation. It took four months for Audie Murphy to receive his Medal of Honor after the precipitating incident in January 1945, but he was moved to a support position with his regiment almost immediately.
The award was considered so important for morale purposes that recipients were typically pulled from the front lines and sent stateside, usually to tour the country to drum up support for war bonds. A recipient could request a return to combat duties. One such man was Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, who received the Navy Medal of Honor for his actions on Guadalcanal. His request for a combat assignment was granted. Basilone died on 19 February, 1944 in action on Iwo Jima. He received the Navy Cross posthumously for his actions there.
There were over 400 Medals of Honor awarded during World War II, almost 300 of which were given to soldiers. As an indicator of the extreme achievement necessary to receive this award, about 60% of those awarded during World War II were done so posthumously. In spite of the hazardous nature of medic duty, there was an unwritten bias against medics receiving the Medal of Honor.
Army Distinguished Service Cross: Second only to the Medal of Honor, it is awarded to soldiers displaying extraordinary acts of heroism not justified for the Medal of Honor. The soldier must have been in action against the enemy, and his life must have been at risk. This is the highest award that can be given to non-American soldiers. This is awarded by the president or – if the soldier is in theatre – the army or army group commander.
Army Distinguished Service Medal: It is given to individuals who distinguish themselves with exceptionally meritorious service to the country in a duty of great responsibility. It can be awarded for combat and non-combat service. The president awards the medal. Foreigners can receive it, and it is often given to commanders of allied armies.
Silver Star: The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry during military actions against an enemy of the U.S. The heroism, though of lesser criteria than the Medal of Honor, must have been performed with distinction. The medal must be approved at a divisional level.
The Legion of Merit: This medal is primarily intended for foreign nationals who performed outstanding service to the United States, but could be given to American citizens. It is awarded to those who performed their duties in an exceptional manner. There are four grades to the medal: Chief Commander (goes to a head of state), Commander (awarded to the equivalent of a Chief of Staff general officer), Officer (given to a colonel or higher ranking officer), and Legionnaire (awarded to everyone else). American nationals receive an unnamed degree, though the physical medal is the same as that given for the Legionnaire degree. It is awarded by the president. Prior to September 19, 1942, instead of receiving this medal, a soldier meeting the Legion of Merit criteria would have received the Purple Heart.
The Soldier's Medal: Awarded to Americans or friendly nationals who distinguished themselves with heroism not involving actual conflict with the enemy. The recipient must have voluntarily risked life or put themselves in personal danger. Although not the only criteria, it is often given for saving another's life.
Bronze Star: This medal is for meritorious service or heroism while in action against the enemy. The recipient must have distinguished himself, though the criteria for the Bronze Star are less than that for the Silver Star. The medal must be approved at a regimental level. The Bronze Star was not awarded until February 1944, but it could apply to any service after December 6, 1941.
Purple Heart: Originally intended for many forms of meritorious service, on September 19, 1942 and thereafter the Purple Heart was awarded strictly to personnel killed or wounded by enemy action.
Good Conduct Medal: Given to soldiers who demonstrated exemplary service beyond that of his fellow comrades while serving in the army for at least a year (prior to 1943 it was for three years service). It was also awarded to those killed by enemy action prior to fulfilling the period of service. The award must be recommended by the commanding officer, and is given after termination of service.
Canadian Forcemen are eligible to receive British decorations. These were given out very sparingly. The Canadian officers in the Force were biased against decorations. In their minds, Canadian Forcemen volunteered for hazardous duty, so their appearance within the Force was recognition enough. A total of 67 American medals for bravery (Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Bronze Star) were issued to Canadians in the Force, but only 17 British medals were awarded.
The most common British army medals that a Canadian Forceman would likely receive, in order of merit, are:
Victoria Cross (VC): This is the British Commonwealth's highest award. As per the official requirements, it is awarded "for most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy." Three witnesses to the act are required, though this has occasionally been waved. The award can go to any soldier, regardless of rank, and can be awarded posthumously.
The application for the award is made at the regimental level. The award is granted by the British Monarch (King George VI) in an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Recipients are allowed to use the letters "VC" at the end of their names.
An act worthy of the Medal of Honor would likely be worthy of the Victoria Cross, though the "VC" is harder to receive. During World War II, only 182 were awarded to 181 individuals among all the Commonwealth nations participating in the war.
George Cross (GC): Equivalent to a Victoria Cross in rank, the George Cross is awarded "for acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger." It is awarded to civilians as well as members of the military. In the case of military action, it would be for heroism not in the face of the enemy or where a purely military award would not apply. It was instituted on September 26, 1940 at the height of the London Blitz. Like the Victoria Cross, it is awarded by the monarch.
Distinguished Service Order (DSO): It is given to commissioned officers only "for distinguished services during active operations against the enemy". It was instituted to reward individual instances of meritorious or distinguished service in combat. Recipients are known as Companions of the Distinguished Service Order, and can use "DSO" at the end of their names. The award is given in a ceremony by the British monarch. This is roughly equivalent to the American Distinguished Service Cross.
Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM): This is the other ranks' equivalent of the DSO, awarded to soldiers below the rank of commissioned officer.George Medal (GM): Established in January 1941, it is awarded to civilians, or to military personnel in a non-combat situation, for "acts of great bravery". According to the Royal Warrant that created the medal, "The Medal is intended primarily for civilians and award in Our military services is to be confined to actions for which purely military Honours are not normally granted." It is awarded by the British monarch.
Military Cross (MC): This medal is awarded to warrant officers and commissioned officers of the rank of major or less "for gallantry during active operations against the enemy." This medal cannot be awarded posthumously. The award is usually given by the British monarch. It is roughly equivalent to the American Silver Star.
Military Medal (MM): This is the lower ranks' equivalent of the MM, awarded to soldiers below the rank of warrant officer.
Mentioned in Despatches: It is a military award for gallantry or conspicuous service. It literally means that a soldier performed an action so noteworthy that he was mentioned by name in reports sent to upper echelons by a senior officer. While the recipient did not receive a medal, he did receive a certificate and was allowed to wear a bronze oak leaf on the medal awarded for participating in a particular campaign. This honour is roughly equivalent to an American Bronze Star.
Memorial Cross: This is a Canadian medal, rather than a British medal, also known as the Silver Cross, and – during this time period – the Mother's Cross. It is not awarded to soldiers. Rather, it is given to the mother, widow, or next of kin of a member of the Canadian Forces who lost their life in active service.
Chivalric Orders: There are a number of chivalric orders in Britain that a Canadian PC could, theoretically, be invited to join due to gallantry in the field. Some of these orders confer knighthood, though most only do so at the very highest degrees of the order. Only one Forceman was awarded entry to one of these orders (other than the Distinguished Service Order). That Canadian was Major John "Jack" Biscoe, who became a Member (the lowest rank in the order) of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). This was for his activity throughout the war, with the FSSF, and in Canadian units in Europe and the Pacific after the FSSF was disbanded.
Since there is no specific medal, Canadian Forcemen can be "Mentioned in Despatches" from the start of the campaign. Otherwise, they will have to wait until after November 1944 to receive their British medal, even if their gallant act occurred much earlier. There is one exception, and that is listed at the end of Chapter 4, Scene 9.
The GM should encourage players to write the citations for the other PCs, if the players are so inclined.
First, though: Your books are on the way!
There are people who have been waiting for Bigger Bads for months, and others who’ve been waiting for Targets of Opportunity for two years. I know that annoys you, but rest assured that it causes stress that rises to the level of physical pain to me.
While Bigger Bads and Targets of Opportunity were at the printers, we signed a deal to have our publishing partners at Cubicle 7 Entertainment handle fulfillment of our direct-sales books as well as the titles that we develop for them to publish. The advantage there is that people can buy, say, Wild Talents Second Edition (a Cubicle 7 title developed by Arc Dream) and Progenitor (an Arc Dream direct title not yet sent to retail) at the same time and have them ship from the same place.
However, right about then Cubicle 7 was switching to a new warehouse. It was necessary; they had been sharing facilities with Mongoose, and Mongoose parted ways with both companies’ parent company The Rebellion Group and took their warehouse with them. So Cubicle 7 set up with the new warehouse, and I started having our printings delivered there, and everything just stalled. It was a lot of product for the new place to absorb at once, and it’s taken them a long while to adjust.
The latest I’ve heard is that the warehouse is up to speed and is starting to move things out the door. People should start getting shipping notices this week (it’s now Monday, August 16). Not all of you will have your books by the end of the week, but they’re on the way at last.
Now. What’s next?
The Walls Upon Which We Beat Our Heads
A few months ago I wrote about the ransom model, and Arc Dream’s plans to continue to rely heavily on it to avoid some of the pitfalls that face a small publisher in a small industry.
Well, that worked out for a short time. We held two successful ransoms, but it turns out there are some distinct dangers in holding ransoms too close to each other. So we stepped away from ransoms for a time.
For the last seven months Arc Dream has undertaken a crushing production schedule. We released Wild Talents Second Edition to worldwide retail distribution, and we aimed to bolster it with enough supplements, sourcebooks and related games that they would all catch and hold the attention of gamers, retailers and distributors. In the first half of 2010 we released one book to retail every single month. For a company that consists of one full-time editor, one part-time writer, and a handful of part-time freelancers, that’s a huge accomplishment, even with some of those products being new editions of old works.
The trouble is -- and there are a lot of reasons for this -- we just don’t usually do well with traditional releases.
I’m not just talking about the dangers of massive print runs, where you hope to sell a bunch of books so you spend a huge lump sum to print two or three thousand, and then it takes years to sell through the run. You can get around that with print on demand, if you don’t mind paying a lot more in the long run for the sake of avoiding that lump sum and long warehousing.
No, I mean that whenever we release a book that hasn’t been ransomed, sales tend to be way slower than we need to pay for the work that goes into their creation.
I’m told Wild Talents 2nd Edition has actually done reasonably well compared to other small-press retail releases. But we see a very small slice of its sale price from retail. If it sells in large enough numbers, that small slice adds up. But if it doesn’t -- well, then it doesn’t.
And we’re not going gangbusters with books that we release directly to consumers without sending them to retail, either. The recent Progenitor is a fast mover by our standards, with about 125 having sold in its first month; but again that’s nowhere near enough to pay for it. Other books are going more slowly. It leaves us and our writers and artists scrambling to pay the bills.
That brings us back to ransoms. With a ransom we put a book mostly together and then we see if the fans want to buy into it. If enough of them do, that allows us to pay the writer and artists. If the fans don’t go for it, then we cancel the project or just release it as an ashcan and pay the writer for his or her time.
Where we run into trouble is holding ransoms too close together. Many of the same gamers want to support all of our projects, but their wallets and energies get worn out when we hold one big fundraiser after another. And sometimes things take longer to come together after a ransom than we want, and it’s not fair to the customers to encourage them to support one product on spec when the last one (or two) that they supported hasn’t yet arrived.
So ransoms are a great solution to our financial challenges, but only if taken in moderation.
And yet we have a lot of great ideas, a fair number of fans who like them, and we want to support the things that we publish.
That points to a third publishing avenue: PDFs. We’ve been selling PDFs since the beginning, but we haven’t really focused much on the PDF market except as an offshoot of our printed books. That’s going to change.
Our publishing model for the foreseeable future aims to make the most of our strengths without bogging us down in the weaknesses of the small-press RPG market. That means a mix of occasional ransomed print books, retail editions that follow a short while later, and rapidfire PDF publishing.
We’ll have nowhere near as many big setting books like Progenitor, The Kerberos Club and This Favored Land. Instead, a project of that scope will likely be produced as a standalone game, with the rules tailored to its setting and characters.
For a core game book like that, we’ll post plenty of previews, early drafts, playtest documents, and so on. That will give prospective players a chance to get involved, to really see if it suits them, and to help us improve it. When it’s ready, we’ll hold a ransom for a limited edition going direct to the fans (with a PDF version to accompany it). When the limited edition sells out we’ll release an edition for retail sales through our distribution partners at Cubicle 7.
We’ll probably release no more than one big game like this a year, unless a particular game is a new edition that doesn’t require quite as much work as a new release. And we have ideas for smaller games that might come out in between.
What about supplements to support the games and the settings we’ve already published? That’s where PDFs come in.
First off, we aim to do a lot of very short One-Roll One Shots, very tight, focused adventures, two pages long, playable in a couple of hours. (If anyone accuses me of ripping this idea off from Pinnacle, I’ll gladly cop to it. It’s smart.)
We’ll also do supplements -- adventures, setting materials, that kind of thing -- in PDF that are a little more substantial, some in the 8 to 12-page range and some in the 16 to 32-page range.
If PDF supplements for a particular game or setting do well, we’ll collect them into a printed book for retail publication.
Between the One-Shots and the supplements and adventures, we hope to release one new PDF a week once we get up to speed. That ought to provide solid support for the great settings and games that we’ve already produced.
There will be outliers and exceptions. Delta Green and The Unspeakable Oath, for instance, are their own creatures with a long history behind them. The Unspeakable Oath is going forward without ransoms for the time being, on the hope that it will get enough subscriptions and direct sales to cover its costs in a timely manner. It’ll be available in print as well as in PDF and in e-reader format. And the new Delta Green books for Call of Cthulhu that we’re working on with Pagan Publishing will be big, hardcover setting and adventure books like the others in that line.
Bits and Mortar
While Arc Dream is scaling back its print release schedule, we’re staying engaged with physical stores in two ways. First, new printed material that does well will go to retail publication through Cubicle 7. Second, Arc Dream is a founding member of Bits and Mortar, a consortium of small-press RPG publishers who want to make the PDF copies of their games available to customers of brick-and-mortar stores as well as to online orderers. We’re in great company -- Evil Hat, Cubicle 7, Pelgrane, Rogue Games, Cellar Games and Galileo Games are also involved, and we’ll add more publishers in a few months once things get up to speed. For more information check out www.bits-and-mortar.com.
Our Imminent Schedule
So here’s what we have in the works at the moment. The first few printed projects are straightforward exceptions to the Plan that I outlined earlier, because they were completed before all that came to pass. Look for ransoms for several of them soon.
- Better Angels (Wild Talents)
- Black Devils Brigade (Godlike)
- Operation Torch (Godlike)
- The Kerberos Club (Hero System Edition)
- The Kerberos Club (Fate Edition)
- The Kerberos Club (Mutants & Masterminds Edition)
- The Talent Squad (Wild Talents—The World Gone Mad)
- Eschaton, Inc. (Wild Talents—Grim War)
- Murders on the Rue Orleans (Wild Talents—This Favored Land)
- Occurrence on Lookout Mountain (Wild Talents—This Favored Land)
- The Adventure of the Red-Handed Man (Wild Talents—The Kerberos Club)
- The Missing (Wild Talents—The World Gone Mad)
- Cultbusters! (Monsters and Other Childish Things)
- The Battle of Jericho Bay (Godlike)
- Wild Talents Essential Edition (rulebook)
- Delta Green: Denied to the Enemy (novel)
- Delta Green: Through a Glass, Darkly (novel)
This is such a different thing that it ought to get its own website, let along its own section in the product list. Arc Dream is helping to put together a fun web-based MMO game. Play a human investigator, a slavering Deep One or a corpse-eating Ghoul and join the crazed hunt for the fabled Necronomicon. Look for previews -- and a ransom where Arc Dream fans can get early access -- soon.
The Unspeakable Oath
We're about to review the submissions for issue 18, which will appear in December. That'll be the 20th anniversary of the Oath's first issue. Hell yeah.
Here are some things that are in the works now, but we don’t have firm schedules for them yet.
- Aeon Defenders
- Delta Green: A Night at the Opera (Call of Cthulhu sourcebook)
- Godlike Second Edition
- The Silver Pavilion
- Termination Shock
We’ll update that page from time to time with new material.
Way back in 2008, we launched a “ransom” to drum up the capital for printing and releasing a new Delta Green sourcebook, Targets of Opportunity. We had just released Delta Green Eyes Only in a hardback limited edition followed by a paperback edition for retail. Eyes Only was the first Delta Green project that Arc Dream created in partnership with Pagan Publishing, and it was a great success.
As it happened we had a LOT of material that had been written for Delta Green over the years since the previous retail release, Countdown, in 2000. I worked it out with the Delta Green Partnership and the authors of that old work to polish it up and release it as Targets of Opportunity. Since we had manuscripts in hand and they were in fairly good shape, we figured we’d have mainly editing to do and we could release Targets in short order. We launched the ransom, it passed muster with great support from the fans, and we went to work.
It turned out, we jumped the gun hugely on Targets of Opportunity, but at the time we had no idea we were jumping the gun. We had manuscripts in hand, we'd given them enough of a once-over to gain confidence and enthusiasm that we could polish them up quickly and move them out the door . . . and then the rewrites started. And kept going. And going. And going. And going.
In a different kind of publishing house, we could play hardball with everybody and say something like "Give me the final manuscript in 60 days or I'll get somebody else to write it." But this is Delta Green. We can't just pull in a stringer to replace a writer whose day job interferes with production. We use very specific writers for very specific reasons.
And I personally feel a great responsibility as project manager to NOT turn out substandard material, even if it takes way too long, because the standard was set so very high under John Tynes' leadership 10 years ago. I really do not want to become the guy who steered Delta Green into mediocrity. So, in that great tradition of Delta Green — I'm not the only one around here who waited on pins and needles from 1993 to 1997 for the first DG book to finally arrive — we'd rather release an awesome book that's a year late than a mediocre one that's on time.
What we've learned from all this is to be a LOT more conservative about when we start the pre-release process. Right now I have a complete DG novel manuscript in hand and most of the next Delta Green sourcebook — not to mention two finished Wild Talents books by Greg Stolze — but we're not doing a thing with those until the manuscripts have been thoroughly vetted, and we know exactly how long the revisions and art are going to take, so when we predict an ETA that prediction will have some weight.
But Where the Hell Is It?
Here’s the schedule for the remaining work in Targets of Opportunity and its release dates. These dates are firm.
As of March 8 we will have finished the final revisions on every chapter of the manuscript—even the ones that have given us the most trouble. Most chapters are finished and are already in copyediting, but the holdouts will come in over the next few days.
As of March 15, all copyediting will be finished and it will go to layout.
On April 12, layout will be finished and we’ll give it a once-over.
On April 19, we’ll do something that’s unprecedented with Delta Green: We’ll send a PDF ebook of Targets of Opportunity to all who ordered the hardback limited edition.
(You may already be asking whether the PDF will be available to those who eventually buy the paperback retail edition. I don’t know. That’ll be entirely in the hands of Pagan Publishing, and they haven’t decided yet.)
On April 26, we’ll send Targets to our printer. (Why wait a week? Because that gives readers time to read the ebook, and they’ll almost certainly find typos that we missed. As copy editors, we’re good, but it always happens.)
According to the printer’s estimates, on June 7 we’ll have the hardback in our warehouse and shipping to customers.
Targets of Opportunity is a fine book, and Dennis Detwiller, Scott Glancy and I owe a great debt of thanks to the writers who helped create it — Warren Banks, Kenneth Hite, and Greg Stolze — and to artist Todd Shearer, designer Daniel Solis, co-editor Adam Crossingham and copy editor James Knevitt, for their patience and goodwill as it has slowly taken shape.
We owe just as many thanks to you, the fans of Delta Green who jumped on the chance to support Targets of Opportunity back when we expected it to have a fast turnaround. I am personally very, very pleased to see new material for Delta Green — it’s been my favorite game setting since it first appeared in The Unspeakable Oath 18 years ago — and I’m incredibly grateful for the patience and support of its fans.
I can’t wait to show off Targets of Opportunity at last.
Arc Dream Publishing
Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity will be released in a limited-edition hardcover, available for pre-orders at www.arcdream.com. A paperback edition will follow for retail distribution.
Here's where we really justify the title of this book. Monsters so big they have boogers bigger than Great Danes. This brings it all together, the farness rules and and the stuff on menaces. When Combine-R is stomping towards you on his tractor legs—his arms made from grain threshing machines reaching out to get agrarian on your butt—knowing how fast he's coming is pretty significant. How likely are you to outdistance something that can cover half a football field in a step?
Likewise, if you manage to leap up onto his legs then Combibe-R becomes less an antagonist and more a location. Those big threshing blades become a hazard you have to negotiate before hopping from his elbow to his control linkages while leaping away from the robot scarecrows that infest him like lice.
So how do we meaningfully handle crazy disparities in the scale of different characters? If it's you and your friends (and their monstrous friends) teaming up against the Arisen Mognarch or The Burning Hot Giant Man Made of Wicker, then this system will give you and the GM what you need to keep everything straight.
Smaller characters are harder to hit but easier to hurt. Bigger characters are easier to hit but harder to hurt. They're slower to react but faster when moving. It's sort of a lot to keep track of. Do bigger creatures have bigger dice pools sometimes, and smaller dice pools other times? What if when two giant creatures of the same general scale tangle?
Here's how you do it.
Everything has Bigness, a measure of which scale of action the creature or thing fits into. Kids and their monsters almost always have Bigness 1, meaning that their actions and their major challenges and concerns are on the kid scale. How about bigger stuff? That’s where the Bigness scale comes in. The bigger the Bigness, the bigger the monster.
Bigness has some direct effects on monster actions, which we’ll discuss below. Bigness also modifies how monster powers work according to Monster Might (see page 44 of Monsters and Other Childish Things). Each rank of Bigness multiplies Speed, Range, and Mass.
Bigness 1 (Normal Size)
Kids and their monsters, pets, family, friends, most stuff they think is important. x1 Speed/x1 Range/x1 Mass.
Bigness 2 (Big)
Really big animals like elephants and dinosaurs, and trucks that turn into robots. x2 Speed/x2 Range/x10 Mass.
Bigness 3 (Bigger)
The biggest animals, like whales. This is about as big as an all-natural, 100% meat creature can get, and then only in the ocean. On land it takes mojo or bones made of ultra-calcium (thanks to all the ultra-milk) to get this large and not collapse under the crushing weight of a physics buzzkill. Our favorite super-ape King Kong fits into this Bigness rank. x4 Speed/x5 Range/x100 Mass.
Bigness 4 (Biggest)
Huge, building-stomping beasties of this scale are big enough to sit AROUND the house when they sit around the house. Gamera is the classic cinematic exemplar of Bigness 4 monsters. It also fits the shiny, growing, monster-fighting heroes of the Science Patrol, Ultraman and his Ultrabuds. x8 Speed/x10 Range/x1,000 Mass.
Bigness 5 (Biggerest)
Only the most ginormous monsters achieve Bigness 5. They're creatures which can credibly be said to be civilization killers if they decide to stomp humanity back to the stone age. The all-time greatest and most super-sweet monster, Toho's Gojira, and his gallery of foes would be Bigness 5, which makes you wonder why they're always attacking little Japan. Fitting inside such a small country must be like trying to dance in pants two sizes too small. It'll make your butt look huge, and moving around comfortably is a trick. x10 Speed/x100 Range/x10,000 Mass.
And I'll Form the Left Arm!
Oh yeah, we got that covered.
You can use the monster creation system to build mecha, power-suits, and giant robotronic mayhem machines. In most ways, they're just like monsters. Some may have brains of their own, and in that case dealing with them is almost identical to dealing with monsters, except their Personality and Favorite Thing likely reflect their programming or directives. "OBEY ALL EXECUTIVES OF MEGA-DYNA-TECH-CO," or for lactose-intolerant mad inventors, "DESTROY ALL CHEESE."
But what about a mech that's like a big vehicle without a brain of its own? Something that has to be piloted around and whatnot?
Somebody has to drive it.
That could be a guy in a instrument-encrusted control chair, or a kid with a remote control, or a monkey genius doing kung-fu in a 3D sensor field, but somebody has to tell the mech what to do. When a piloted mech is doing stuff, you always roll the LOWER of the dice associated with the bit you're using or the driver’s Stat+Skill combo (which depends on the mech, and is set when the thing is built). The mech's dice are still used for tracking damage, and for determining how much stuff it can affect, but its actions are limited by its technical constraints and the pilot's skill.
The exception to this is when Relationships are added into the roll. These are dropped on top of whichever dice pool is being used, because the above-and-beyond motivation they represent allows a pilot to exceed both his own and his mech's limitations.
That's all a little confusing, so how about an example? Martie “Duke234” Pooley used to spend all day pwning newbs in Bronze Star Recent Warfare when he was recruited by Project BLACK BOOK. As it turns out, all those ultra-realistic battle sims were a combination training program and screening process. When BLACK BOOK ID'd Duke234 as a perfect candidate for their Tele-A.P.E. Program he ended up in the back of a black van playing Bronze Star FOR REAL. He pilots his remote mech with his Hands + GameBox Epic Win dice pool of 8d; but if he fires up the TELE-A.P.E.'s 6d weapons pod to spray a room full of shoo-spiders with high-velocity narcotic paintballs, he'd only roll six dice because that's the weapons pod's total dice pool and it’s lower than his own dice pool (“these controls suck!”). But if he busts his Tele-A.P.E. into the room and discovers his parents goobed to the wall by shoo-spider web, he could add his My Lame Parents 3d relationship to the weapons pod's 6d pool.
Now, what about all the other stuff monsters have going for them—like the fact that ordinary weapons don’t bother them?
Well, that's something of a judgment call depending on how you want to use mechs in your game. If you want them to pose threats to monsters, then let them ignore the normal advantages that monsters have when facing strictly mundane foes. If you want monsters to be able to rip Gammaton-7 a new fusion-chute, then leave those advantages in place. I'd recommend going ahead and giving mecha a pass on these things because there's nothing really mundane about giant robots anyway, and because MONSTER VS. ROBOT is such an iconic theme, resonating strongly with our geeky souls.
What about small robots that combine into big robots?
Each smaller bot becomes a hit location in the bigger bot, which must be one or two Bigness ranks larger than the component mechs. Use the largest dice pool from among the smaller mechs to represent the dice pool of the larger mech's bit, and assign it a hit location number based on the big mech's body shape. The players roll the dice that their individual mechs contribute to the big mech's abilities when they come up.
BigDiff: Using Bigness
If Bigness is the same between two characters or monsters, then ignore it. Seriously, you'll almost never have to reference it at all. About the only thing to keep up with is how Bigness multiplies a creature's Monster Might. Beyond that, two Bigness 5 monstrosities pounding on each other while the city crumbles around them are handled just like two regular monsters going to town in the produce section of the local Sweeny Mart (except that's not bananas they're squishing to goo under their clawed feet).
When creatures of different Bigness ranks tangle, what's really important is the difference between their Bigness ranks. This Bigness Differential (BigDiff) is used as a modifier in a few significant ways.
The Smaller Character . . .
- Gains the equivalent of Wicked Fast equal to BigDiff.
- Gains Awesome equal to BigDiff when attacking and defending against the bigger character (see page XX for information on having more than two ranks of Awesome).
- Gains Awesome equal to BigDiff when using small size to do tricky things.
- Gains the equivalent of Tough in all hit locations equal to BigDiff.
- Gains the equivalent of Gnarly equal to BigDiff.
- Attacks against smaller characters gain Splash (see page XX) equal to the BigDiff.
- Can move the BigDiff in additional Farness (see page XX) each round.
Remember, BigDiff is the source of most of these modifiers, not Bigness itself. If King Ug and Mi-Go'Jirra (both Bigness 5 creatures) tangle, then you can ignore the BigDiff modifiers—they're on the same scale. While the city might suffer horribly, there's no need to track size mechanically between the creatures. But if M-Force sends out a team of Spirit Rangers to try and use Bigness 1 monsters to fight the really big monsters, then the kids and their monster friends might be in for some serious trouble—at least until the Essence Engines wind up enough to power them up to the next Energy Level.
We Could Have Prom In One of His Nostrils
What about a monster so huge it’s more like scenery than an arch-enemy?
If the Bigdiff is 3 or more, instead of running it like a fight between the whole giant monster and the smaller characters, everyone can jump onto one of the big character's locations and stage a scene there—a fight, a chase, whatever. See the movement and range rules on page XX and the Threat rules on page XX, and combine them.
The location where the smaller characters are riding is treated like a Threat with dice, qualities, and extras as normal, and with additional dice equal to twice the BigDiff. It's then handled in play just like a Threat, while the real action goes down on the scale of the characters atop it. Getting swallowed sometimes works this way, and you can stage scenes inside the big critter's innards.
Moving around on the back of the giant monster means treating the critter's hit locations as if they were BigDiff Distance away. If the BigDiff is 3, then traveling from Combine-R's Legs to his Head would mean covering three Farness steps with an appropriate means of movement.
In this mode, the giant creature is treated more like a dangerous location or set-piece than a distinct entity to be bested.
A Huge Example
The agents of the Monster Investigation Bureau finally realize that trying to take Mr. Crocker with conventional means is a losing proposition, so they call in heavy support from their contacts in the Military Industrial Complex. The boys from the MIB and the boys from the MIC don't always get along, but they share a few funding streams in the public/private administration model. So one quick call to General "Stormy" Stern, and there's a black-bag tactical team in a warehouse downtown ready to deploy a Thunderbolt 10 A.P.E. infantry force enhancer (in other words, a big robotic gorilla suit). Piloting the A.P.E. is specially cross-trained Sergeant Agent Cornsilk. Programmed into the A.P.E.'s pheromone targeting system is a stinky reptilian smell, like the snake house at the zoo (or a certain Egyptian crocodile god's bathwater).
For over a week, all is good (for a particularly exciting and perilous value of "good") for Benny and Mr. Crocker.
And then, on the way home after school one day, somebody throws a car at Benny. A sturdy Swedish car whose exceptional safety standards and robust diesel engine make it quite heavy.
Sometimes, it's good to be friends with a monster.
Mr. Crocker's big belly is way bigger inside than out, easily big enough to swallow all that fine European craftsmanship. Which, with a tidy roll, he manages with style, even if the space-warping gulp makes onlookers mildly queasy.
Then, from its loudspeakers, the A.P.E. speaks: "CEASE AND DESIST ALL SUPER-, PARA-, SEMI-, AB-, and UN-NATURAL ACTIVITIES IMMEDIATELY, AND SURRENDER FOR PROCESSING!"
To which Mr. Crocker answers, "Bring it."
But when the A.P.E. lumbers out from behind the Gas'n'Gulp, Mr. Crocker's nervous swallow is made more noticeable by the plaintive bleating of a car alarm from somewhere in the depths of his extra-dimensional innards.
The A.P.E. has Bigness 2, meaning a BigDiff of 1. It looms over Mr. Crocker even when he stands up straight and doesn't slouch. When they start fighting, here are the advantages each will have:
- Gains x1 Wicked Fast for all actions.
- Gains x1 Awesome when attacking the A.P.E.
- Gains x1 Awesome when doing tricky things that take advantage of his smaller size.
- Gains x1 Tough to all locations.
- Gains x1 Gnarly on all attacks.
- Moves +1 Farness ranks (if the optional range rules from page XX are used).
- Gains x1 Splash on all attacks.
The following excerpt is by Benjamin Baugh, © 2010. Enjoy.
Here are a few tweaks and nuances to the Monsters and Other Childish Things core rules, stuff that is already implicit but not explicit enough. It'll be useful later on when we get to the titular (hush, you—it doesn't mean that) big, bad GIANT MONSTERS. There's stuff about range and distance, stuff about stats for menaces and dangers that aren't exactly characters but are more than just a difficulty number to beat with a roll. Combined, these things let you know how hard you'll have to run to escape the dreaded Mecha-Rooster, and if you climb onto his leg, how hard it'll be fighting your way past his razor-sharp feathers and mecha-mites to get close enough to sock him in the vulnerable mecha-giblets. Sometimes, a giant monster is more a place than a person.
Pushing and Shoving
Sometimes, in the chaotic melee of an action scene or a crazy social blowout scene, you want your kid or monster to do something that doesn’t really hurt the other guy, but makes him do something or NOT do something. If you can set your foes up like suckers so you’re friends can put the chomp on them, even better.
This allows anybody to take an action that’s pretty similar to what a monster can do with a Useful power as outlined on page 43 of Monsters and Other Childish Things, specifically similar to the Tangle and Hold moves.
Basically what you do is this: During the Declare phase of the round, tell the GM what you want to force the other guy into, and make sure you and the GM have a good sense of what that’ll mean. You can limit your enemy’s choices, restrict his movement, or change his target for a little while, but you can’t win the fight automatically or totally take him out. The effects of this kind of pushing and shoving last for Width – 1 rounds.
The MIB’s are trying to jab Mr. Crocker with a weird gizmo that paralyzes him, and so Benny decides to put himself between his buddy and a zapping. During the Declaration phase of the round, Benny’s player says that his intent is to keep the MIBs from being able to attack Mr. Crocker by FORCING them to attack HIM instead. His player suggests this would best be rolled as GUTS + COURAGE, and the GM agrees; throwing yourself into the path of a MIB zap-prod is a pretty courageous thing to do. What this will do is prevent the MIBs from attacking anybody except Benny for the width of his roll minus one in rounds.
And while Benny is getting the heck zapped out of him, Mr. Crocker can seriously put the bite on these black-suited bullies without worrying about the zap himself.
Sometimes you want to do your friends a solid rather than do your foes a hurt. If this is your intent, then Declare it as usual and roll the appropriate dice pool. Perhaps you shout some useful factoid (like, “His weak part is his bladder sac! Kick him in the bladder sac!") and roll Brains + Remember. Or perhaps you feint an attack with Hands + Punching so your monster can get a more solid slap in with his spiky tail-knob.
The character you’re helping adds dice equal to your roll’s width to their dice pool next round.
The only restriction is that monsters can't do this. This is a kid-only trick. It has something to do with human empathy and egalitarianism, but has even more to do with a monster’s sometimes very distressing inability to tell the difference in shoving a friend out of the way to assist their Dodge skill and shoving a friend out of the way to assist their Achieve Low Earth Orbit Without a Rocket skill.
Benny then wonders briefly if being friends with Mr. Crocker has made him weird, because his first thought on seeing the MIB innards is, “At least they have some color other than black and white.”
Those Who Help Themselves
Can you do your own “Helping Hands” actions and reap the benefits in your own dice pool? Sure! Set yourself up for a cool combo move next round and add your roll’s width in dice to your next action.
Of course, your next action has to make sense given the setup action.
You Declare your intention to do the setup action, but you don’t have to Declare ahead of time what you’re setting the other guy up for. You do that the next round, taking into account what you used for the self-help. This gives you some flexibility, so you might not declare the action you’d intended in the following round if the situation changes, but you can likely come up with something that’ll take advantage of the extra dice.
For example, let’s say you want to distract another kid with a nasty insult (Face + Putdown; let’s call it 4d in this case) and then sock him in the belly while he’s shaking his head and yelling at you (Hands + Punching). In the first round you declare the nasty insult and say you’re using it to set the guy up for something later. You roll four dice and get 2x7. The next round, you describe how adding insult helps you do injury, and if the GM thinks it makes sense you add those two dice to your Hands + Punching roll.
Extras: I Didn't Know You Could Do That!
Here are some new extras and some tweaked uses of old ones.
Here are a few new monster Extras. Ask your GM before you use them.
Big: This Extra plugs into the Bigness rules. Bigness is a special-case Extra that has to be taken for each separate location. If you do that, it lets the monster operate higher on the Bigness scale.
Bounce: If your defensive roll beats an attack’s Width and Height, in addition to gobbling the attack’s dice safely, you can also bounce it back and inflict an attack on your attacker equal to his or her own roll. Each additional rank of Bounce allows you to either deflect another attack, or bounce it with one of the attacker's Extras. So, if you get nailed by a 2x5 attack with Gnarly x3 and defend with a 3x6 that has one rank of Bouncy, you can deliver that 2x5 attack right back at the other (very surprised) monster. If you have four ranks of Bounce, you can do that with all three of those Gnarly ranks too!
Immunity: Each rank of this extra makes a single monster location totally immune to something fairly specific—falling, fire, piercing, the judgment of others—even if it’s done by a monster or some other force that can hurt monsters. For all-over immunity, take this in every hit location. If the GM raises an eyebrow and goes “Hmmmmm” when you suggest and immunity to something like “Stuff That Hurts,” you can assume it means you’re reaching, and should dial it back to something more specific, like “Pointy Stuff That Hurts.”
Range: This one applies if you’re using the new “Farness” rules. It gets a proper description in that section. If you’re not using those rules, then don’t take this extra. It'll be less use than the panicked micro-cram you do minutes after you walk into class and realize the final exam is today and not Friday.
Sweet: Each rank of Sweet increases the Width of a successful roll for a Useful power when determining how well you do. It’s like Gnarly but for stuff that doesn't do damage. This doesn't improve your chance of getting a success—you still need to roll a set before you get to be totally Sweet—but it makes successes that you do roll that much nicer. Sweet also doesn’t affect Width for the purposes of initiative. If you want to be quicker, you still need Wicked Fast.
Splash: Each rank of Splash lets a power hit a second adjacent hit location on a target that’s roughly the same size as you (the same level of “Bigness”). If you hit a target's 1–2 location, and have one rank of Splash, then it also hits the 3–4 location. With five ranks of Splash you can hit six locations in one blast—that’s a whole person! (With monsters that's not as sure a thing, what with their tendency to have more limbs than is generally considered decent.) If there’s any choice to be made between available hit locations, the target gets to pick where your attack splashes. Spash damage does not ignore any Toughness the splashed locations might have, so it's not quite the same as how damage will roll-over if it hits a location without any more dice.
And here are some tweaks on old Extras. Again, ask your GM first to make sure the changes are fair.
Awesome: What if you want more than two levels of Awesome? If the GM is cool with it, you can keep buying Awesome. Every two ranks lets you flip another die to whatever you like after you roll, and any remaining single ranks let you set one before the roll. So, five ranks of Awesome let you set one die before the roll and two dice after. Be careful not to spend too much on Awesome, though—if you can flip more dice than you have, you'll be in trouble unless your monster is mainlining a Relationship.
Spray: As written, Spray doesn’t scale and can be really dominant. Here’s a less macho version: Each time you take a rank in Spray, you can use one additional set to spam your declared action each time you take a rank of Spray. So to use two extra sets (up to three total), you'd need Spray x2.
Thunder Strike Fist Alpha!
As an optional rule, if you strike a dramatic pose and shout out the name of your attack, you can trade dice from the pool you roll on the attack for levels of Gnarly if you land a hit.
And when I say “you” I actually mean “you”—the personal sitting at the gaming table with your friends, who will almost certainly not totally lose it when you leap to your feat, do a few karate passes, and shout “Momma-Insulting Comeback Style!” in order to make your Face + Putdown attack really really hurt.
You have to strike a different pose and shout a different attack name every time you want to do this—you can't just spam your “Rocket Mandible Acid Bomb!!” over and over without earning the justified mockery of your peers.
As a preview, here's a group of small enemies who can pose a very large threat.
Monkey Aliens from Planet K
"You have unmasked us! But you will not win—not while we control the power of Mecha Mi-Go'Jirra!"
Who are those guys in the ’70s suits with the sideburns and the really unconvincing accents? It's not just the clothes that make them weird. Some teachers at school are worse fashion victims. It's more how they're always sneering evilly, like they're so much better than everyone else. And how they tend to break out into maniacal laughter. And how they all seem to work for the same new company nobody has every heard of. And how they're always muttering "Puny humans!" under their breath. And how when they're angry, it's like for a split second they're not people anymore, and their faces are replaced by the coal-black mask-like faces of angry, angry monkeys.
BIGNESS: 1 (Normal size)
REAL DEAL: The Monkey Aliens from Planet K are an aggressive species of furry black space monkey, big and bipedal, strong and ruthless. Planet K is a cold, dark world circling a dead star, and their species is dying. They came to Earth to steal our resources, our water, our rich supply of monsters and other paranatural space-event vortices. They want to pollute and poison our planet to make it a comfy new home for Monkey Aliens.
There aren't many Monkey Aliens, most having died out on their own world, and those that survived are ruthless and cruel. They’re willing to do anything to prepare Earth for when their vast moonship arrives, carrying all the survivors of their homeworld and all the things they refused to leave behind—their favorite furniture, their space-CD collections, their army of robotic murder machines to destroy all puny humans....
The advanced force of Monkey Aliens who operate on Earth arrived via D-MAT Portal, a one-way and limited-use interplanetary teleporter carried on a robotic rocket probe. They have been specially prepared to blend in with humans—hence the wardrobe and the sideburns (all their data was from the 1970s). They are hidden by the use of polymorphic photonic mildew colonies which infest their skin and project the image of a regular human over each Monkey Alien. Well, approximately a regular human. When angered, injured, killed, or just feeling like letting it all hang out, a Monkey Alien's true monkey face is revealed.
The Monkey Aliens must take special precautions to survive in Earth's dangerously pure environment. All Monkey Aliens smoke three packs a day, and in this age of no smoking, they stand out. When fighting the Monkey Aliens, the question "Do you smell cigarette smoke?" should make you pay attention. Their diet consists almost entirely of refined sugars, saturated fats and cholesterol via pre-packaged snack cakes, from which they also extract vital artificial colorings and preservatives. They regularly sleep in beds lined in soil taken from toxic waste dumps and old glow-in-the-dark clock factories so they can get their daily dose of low-grade radiation. If you see a glowering guy dressed for disco stuffing his face with a Big Barn Double Cheesy, an Amish-Sized Spud Sack, and a Great Chuga'Lug while smoking and laughing mockingly as he reads a copy of Green Lifestyle, you might have found yourself a Monkey Alien from Planet K. Or just a regular, fashion-challenged human jerkwad.
Monkey Aliens often find work as “environmental consultants” and promote projects which will bring the Earth's environment in line with their requirements.
MODUS OPERANDI: The Monkey Aliens infiltrate human organizations, working their way to the top with a ruthless ambition that serves them as well in the corporate world as in their home jungles. They further their schemes to poison the Earth and to capture and study any weird or otherworldly creatures they encounter. Their advanced technology includes star metals hundreds of time stronger than steel, supercomputers, video game systems offering bloodier and higher-res games than anybody else; and, held in reserve, fearsome robotics technology based around a process called “bio-mechanization,” through which they can quickly build robotic duplicates of living creatures. But they don't trust thinking machines, so no artificial intelligence drives these things. Even when they build a replicon to replace a specific human, it must still be remote-controlled by a nearby Monkey Alien.
The Monkey Aliens will do just about anything to avoid being uncovered and exposed. There are not enough of them to fight all of humanity openly—at least, not yet—so they guard their conspiracy murderously. Somebody asking the wrong questions around a Monkey Alien-controlled project is going to have “a little accident” involving stumbling into the path of a ruby-light zapgun's scintillating disintegration beam.
The Monkey Aliens create biomech duplicates of any monster from which they can get a tissue sample, especially any giant monsters they encounter. When they're near defeat, the Monkey Aliens get manic, laugh a whole lot, and send out their biggest most dangerous mecha-replicon to smash, well, pretty much everything.
The Monkey Aliens have a hard time telling one human from another (they keep notes and have unflattering nicknames for humans based on obvious physical features), but recognize that little humans are usually young ones, and bigger humans are adult ones. They have dismissed the danger posed by little humans—having, in their outdated survey of Puny Earth Culture, missed all those kid-takes-out-the-burglars-at-Christmas movies. They consider children amusing rather than threatening, which means they like to be cruel to them rather than simply zap them until they're charred outlines on the wall. They're more likely to zap a cherished toy or family pet and then laugh at a child's tears, while utterly failing to recognize that some children have friends who can reach through time and poke an unwary Monkey Alien in the back when he was only five songars old and taking his first walk out on the petrified limbs of Home Tree, sending him teetering off the edge so his grownup self vanishes in a puff of logic.
So the Monkey Aliens present another one of those cases where they're more likely to do you some sort of horrible injury the older you are. Growing up is hard enough without creeps like this waiting to make it harder.
An interesting thing has started to happen for the Monkey Aliens, though—they've started to have kids on Earth. These young Monkey Aliens, by a total coincidence, end up in the same grade level as the player's kid characters. Adult and Kid Monkey Aliens conform to the usual types (dredged from your own hateful memories of school, work, and daily life, or from pages 96 to 112 of Monsters and Other Childish Things), with the modifiers below applied. A grownup Monkey Alien might be like the Mad Science Teacher with Monkey Alien modifiers, while her son might be like the Jock with Monkey Alien modifiers.
While adult Monkey Aliens are universally hateful, despising humanity and all its puny ways, their kids are—well, they've never seen Planet K. Never stared at the hideous wonder of the Chasms of Grue. Never wakened in their Home Tree to find their whole family poisoned by a rival clan. Never stared up at the dark star and really, really hated it. All they know is Earth, and GameBox, and TV, and fast food, and dodgeball (for which their natural cruelty is well suited). They don't even speak K'inglish particularly well, or take the Sacred Rites seriously. They still hate humanity, but in a vague sort of way they never really thought about. When they start meeting other kids who have seen way weirder things than an unmasked Monkey Alien, they might start to rethink this whole invasion thing.
Monkey Alien Modifiers—Stats and Skills
FEET: +0 (P.E. +2)
HANDS: +1 (Shop +2)
BRAINS: +1 (Out-Think +2)
FACE: –1 (Charm –1, Putdown +2, Connive +2)
ADULTS: Planet K +3.
KIDS: Planet K +1; Earth +2.
Monkey Alien Mind-Mites
Imagine, if you will, a robot crab the size of a toilet. Add long, waving antennae and fangs that inject mind-altering drugs, and give the robot crab about a hundred brothers and sisters. Imagine it and its kin buried like ticks in the skin of some vast and terrible monster, controlling its lumbering actions with painful nips and ladles of brain gravy. Now, imagine yourself climbing desperately up the leg of this vast beast, and these robotic parasites burst free and come towards you, clacking their claws and grinding mouthparts that sound like Symphony for Buzzaw and Car-Crash in D Minor.
The Mind-Mites are the Monkey Aliens’ answer to monsters that they can't duplicate, and their weapon when they need to unleash destruction without revealing their mechs. The Mites infest a monster of Bigness 2 or bigger, and let the Monkey Aliens drive it like a remote-controlled race car (not very well, of course—more like an R.C. race car driven with your feet and tongue—but well enough to point it at the city you want messed up). If enterprising kids decide to climb up onto the giant monster, the Mind-Mites will disengage and fight them. Of course, this means the beast becomes uncontrolled, starts to thrash about, roars, and SCRATCHES at that darned itchy spot on its back....
The Mind-Mites are a Threat (see Chapter 2) with whatever dice pool you want to inflict on the players.
ATTACKS: The Mind-Mites are built to burrow into the impossibly dense skin of monsters the size of cruise liners. The thin skin of puny humans poses no challenge.
DEFENDS: Mind-Mites have simple programming. Attack first, and if they suffer losses, alternate defending and attacking. They'll attack one round, defend the next, and so on. Figuring out the pattern requires the same ingenuity and pattern recognition that a kid would use to learn Tic-Tac-Toe.
USEFUL: Mind-Mites can control the minds of giant monsters, which is pretty useful. They're not bright enough to use more complicated tactics though unless there's a Monkey Alien around to shout orders at them in the barking guttural language of Planet K.
EXTRAS: Area x1, Gnarly x1, Tough x1.
Weird Kid Power Source: Monkey Tech
The Monkey Aliens from Planet K brought technological wonders and horrors from their dying homeworld—devices able to transmute matter, read minds, and get five bars of reception on their Monkey Phones even when driving through a tunnel. Monkey Technology is biochemically keyed to the Monkey Alien who uses it, and disintegrates into a pile of inert and chemically boring sand if a puny hu-mon gets dirty hu-mon fingerprints all over it. But just as the children of Earth sometimes get the keys to the car, Monkey Aliens from Planet K sometimes loan choice gear to their ungrateful offspring.
Young Monkey Aliens can be played as Weird Kids. They get most of their kewl powerz from biochemically-coded Monkey Tech which is either disguised as ordinary objects or hidden under its own layer of polymorphic photonic mildew. Most Monkey Aliens share a general immunity to toxicity and ick, which can be represented by a 0-die skill in all their locations called “Immune to Ick,” which Defends and gives them 1 rank of the Immunity extra. This means they can drink toxic waste and rub arsenic on their legs and only find it as irritating as they generally find everything.
Young Monkey Aliens may have lost this immunity after growing up in Earth’s pristine environment, so if you’re playing a Monster Alien kid, you don’t have to use your Weird Dice on this if you don’t want.
Here are some examples of Monkey Tech to get you started.
Multiplex Super Suit (10 dice total)
This silvery gray jumpsuit can look like whatever you want it to look like, and includes the following Weird Skills:
• Hands: Rip-Stop Super Weave 0d (Tough 1), Mylo-Muscle Fibers 1d (Useful: super-strong; Attacks).
• Feet: Rip-Stop Super Weave 0d (Tough 1), Energy Return Thrusters 1d (Useful: super jump; Defends).
• Guts: Rip-Stop Super Weave 0d (Tough 1).
• Face: Rip-Stop Super Weave 0d (Tough 1), Fashion Sensor 2d (Useful: shift appearance to look cool).
A big, clunky, retro-looking watch with all sorts of unexpected special features.
• Hands: Zap! 2d (Attacks).
• Brains: Magneto-Kinesis 2d (Useful: move stuff around with magnetic fields), Hack-o-Matic 1d (Useful: automatically hack into electronic machines).
Basilisk Shades 5d
A pair of shiny, gold Elvis sunglasses.
• Face: I Am Cooler Than You 2d (Useful: make others think you’re the coolest; Attacks: make others feel so bad about not being cool, they want to die), Freeze! 2d (Useful: paralyze a target with a neural feedback loop).
Rocket Chucks 5d
These sneakers look like an ordinary pair of Chuck Taylors, except the star emblem looks more like a black planet orbiting a dead sun. Also, there’s a certain funky footy smell. They let a Monkey Kid fly or, if he’s inclined, deliver rocket-assisted kicks to the giblets.
• Feet: Woosh! 2d (Useful: fly!; Defends; Attacks).
Fly Eye for the Monkey Guy 5d
A pair of thick, nerdy glasses and a cloud of tiny robot flies. The one flies around and shows a Monkey Kid what it sees on the other.
• Brains: I.C.U. 2d (Useful: see what the flies see), Tagged and Bagged 2d (Useful: tag somebody with a fly and follow them anywhere), Strafing Run 1d (Attacks: teeny tiny robot flies with teeny tiny LAZORZ).
Mecha Mi-Go'Jirra, Attack!
You can turn any non-robot giant monster into a robot pretty easily, just by changing its physical descriptions a little bit and varying the FX on some of its abilities. See page XX for more info on the different sorts of mechs: piloted, autonomous, robot, remote-controlled, etc.
The Monkey Aliens like to use a remote control to activate a robot's simple programmed routines—walk, jump, fly, shoot the Omega Beam. Sometimes these remote controls are small and handheld, and sometimes they're big consoles with huge dual view-screens showing an image from each of the robot's eyes.
One semi-classic model here is to put control of the mech version of a heroic giant monster in the hands of a semi-sympathetic NPC. Even if the Monkey Aliens from Planet K are responsible for the creation of your monster's mecha doppelganger, that new girl in school who you have a crush on could still be secretly controlling the mecha-monster, possibly via a radio-relay built into her life-saving artificial cybernetic heart...
Yeah! Pathos, baby! Bring it.
“That thing is pretty big.”
“You said it. BIG.”
“I’d even say huge.”
“You know what’s the worst thing about something that big?”
“I can think of a few things. . . ”
“It’s like being really close to a high-school kid, and seeing all the pores gaping open and oozing grease or clogged up with black ick and bulging with gunk. Even from all the way over here, I can totally see how gross that thing’s skin is.”
“That’s a pretty weird thing to be grossed out by, for a shiny, green, iridescent mantis the size of my dad’s car.”
“Yeah, but SHINY. I do not ooze gunk, except from my warp-glands, and that’s totally rad gunk.”
“Well, I don’t leak gunk either.”
“Not yet. When you get to high school, they do something to your face. I’ve been studying humanity, so I figured out how it works. They drill out your pores so they leak, they poke your larynx so your voice comes out all broken and weird, and they make you grow a completely tragic, wispy little mustache, possibly through the use of exotic radiation. Also, they make you smell like yak butt, but this is possibly some kind of scam to get you to buy body spray, or so the television leads me to believe.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear any of that.”
“I just discovered something even more horrible about a creature that big than how easy it is to see its goopy pores.”
“The size of its dumps.”
“Oh dude, I really did not want to go there.”
“Well we’re going to have to. It just dropped a duke on our neighborhood, and everybody is visiting from out of town.”
“This is the worst Thanksgiving ever.”
Bigger Bads is a new, 112-page sourcebook for the roleplaying game Monsters and Other Childish Things, written by Monsters creator Benjamin Baugh—multiple Ennie Award nominee for Monsters and Other Childish Things and the Monsters sourcebook The Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor—and illustrated by Monsters artist Robert Mansperger.
Bigger Bads is a book about monsters. Big monsters. Giant monsters. Ginormous monsters. Ginormous monsters and the kids who love them (or who get eaten by them).
We play loose with scale in the Monsters and Other Childish Things core rules, leaving questions of size vaguely vague. My monster is the size of a Jeep, yours is as big as three rusty old refrigerators, Dave’s is the size of a Pez dispenser—but dude, it is a seriously gnarly Pez dispenser, and when its head snaps back it isn’t chalky candy lozenges that pop out, it’s 500 pounds of broken bones and teeth and dried-up hairballs. It’s noisy, messy, and smells like a mummy threw up.
What matters most in Monsters is the scale of action that the monsters operated on and paid attention to—stuff that was kid-scale and affected kid life. It doesn’t really matter if one monster is the size of a parrot and the other the size of a Peugeot.
Well, folks, it’s time we changed all that.
Bigger Bads gives you a system to take the action from kid scale all the way up to giga-kid scale. With Bigger Bads you can build, play, fight, flee, and befriend monsters big enough to eat mountains and poo significantly-smellier mountains. Sometimes, a monster gets so big that it’s less a character or antagonist and more a location to stage some crazy action. Implausible, you say—but you’ll eat that word in a crow sandwich when you have your first crazy monster-fight on the back of Mi-Go'Jirra against the monkey aliens from Planet K controlling the great beast’s prehuman brain with psychic mega-lice.
And that's just the start. A new mini-setting, new rules for range, threats, and weird kid powers, and a whole slew of new antagonists round it out.
What’s In Bigger Bads?
Glad you asked!
Chapter 1: Fiddly Bits
- Pushing and Shoving
- Helping Hands
- New Extras
- Tweaked Extras
Chapter 2: Threats—Bad Things Happening to Good People
- Threat Dice Pools
- Threat Actions
- Threat Qualities and Extras
- To Me, My Minions!
- ‘Hurting’ a Threat
- A Menagerie of Menaces
- Escaped Ebola Monkeys
- Snakes—Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?
- The Collapsing Building Is Now On Fire
- MIB Grab-Squad
- Excruciator Hatchings
- The Mean Kids
- Traversing the Treacherous Nighttime Rooftops of Our Fair City
- Possessed Toy Factory
- The Seven Stars Secret Kung Fu Brotherhood
- The Goo That Ate the Cafeteria
- The Luchacabra Fighters
Chapter 3: Farness—I Can Melt Your Face From Way Over Here
- Come Over Here and Say That
- Hey! Can You Hear Me, Jerkwad?
- Default Farness
- How Far Can His Pus Glands Squirt?
- Getting Closer (or Farther)
- Playing Chase
- Children Fly for Free!
Chapter 4: Bigness—My Pal Leviathan
- The Scales of Bigness
- Bigness 1: Normal Size
- Bigness 2: Big (elephant)
- Bigness 3: Bigger (whale)
- Bigness 4: Biggest (skyscraper)
- Bigness 5: Biggerest (Mi-Go’Jirrah)
- And I’ll Form the Left Arm!
- Using Bigness
- Bigness and Hauling Butt
- We Could Have Prom In One of His Nostrils
- A Huge Example
Chapter 5: Why Are You So Weird?
- Who Are These Weird Kids?
- Wait, Weird Skills? That’s Not In the Core Book!
- Where Do Weird Skills Come From?
- Weird Skills Are Creepy
- Making Your Own Weird Skills
- The Down Side
- Caught Between Two Worlds
- Dude, Seriously? The More I Screw Up My Family, The More Awesome I Am?
- Don’t Take My Character Away!
- No Monster
- How It Works
Chapter 6: Agonizing Antagonists
- Agent C. Occupant (Bigness 1)
- Clueless S.O. (Bigness 1)
- Col. Brodie Block, Commander of Project Black Book (Bigness 1)
- The Grumps (Bigness 1)
- Monkey Aliens From Planet K (Bigness 1)
- Weird Monkey Tech
- Mecha Mi-Go’Jirra, Attack!
- Sidekick the Eager Hostage (Bigness 1)
- Your Hot New Stepmom From California (Bigness 1)
- Bugnutz Reloaded (Bigness 2)
- Killdozer, the Dozer That . . . Killlllllls (Bigness 2)
- Thunderbolt 10 A.P.E. (aka Thundermonkey) (Bigness 2)
- Agents of I.N.C. (International Neoscience Council, aka Inflatable Ninja Corp.) (Bigness 3)
- Weird Kid Power Source: Neoscience!
- So, You Have Decided to Purchase a New I.N.C. Neo-Energizer
- Combine-R (Bigness 3)
- Sal Nath (Bigness 1)
- The Doom That Came to Sal Nath’s (Bigness 3)
- Gargantua-Mago, the Ginormous Man (Bigness 4)
- Weird Kid Power Source: The Dirty Dank Dark Arts
- Levia A. Than, CEO of Maximega Co. LLC (Bigness 4)
- Leviathan, Squamous Fish-God of the Dread Subhumanoids (Bigness 4)
- Maximega Co. Security Associates (Bigness 1)
- Subhumanoid H.R. Rep. (Bigness 1)
- There’s Something Fishy About That New Kid . . .
- Weird Kid Power Source: Subhumanoid Hybridization
- Weird Kid Power Source: Mi-Cells
Chapter 7: Campaign Jumpstart—Go Go Monster Force Zeta!
For Arc Dream, first there was “Wild Talents,” our most famous case. Then there was the “Godlike” Game Moderator’s Screen. There were two Delta Green books, developed and published in an arrangement with Pagan Publishing. Now we have the “Reign Enchiridion,” and we’ll be using the same system for most of our upcoming projects.
With our games it’s not strictly speaking a ransom, of course. In a classic ransom, seen most often with Greg’s “Reign” supplements and “Meatbot Massacre,” if you collect enough money from contributors you release the project as a free download for anyone and everyone. That works well for a downloadable PDF. It doesn’t work as well for a physical book with its more extensive costs.
With Arc Dream’s version, we ask prospective customers to “pledge” to pre-order the game. If we get enough pledges, we collect the money and use it to finish and manufacture the book. Each person who contributed to the pledge drive gets a copy. The rest that we manufacture are then available for sale.
If we don’t get enough pledges to cover the costs, then we don’t release the book. We pay the writer for his or her work, but we don’t sink any more money into the project. At best it might show up later as a simple PDF in “ashcan” format, with no art, available for sale to help recoup the investment that we made in the writing. But no book.
One question comes up pretty often: Why do it this way?
The Bills, and How to Pay Them
First, a ransom scheme is a quick and dirty market study. Arc Dream and its writers are pretty well established with a core audience of regular players. If we can’t get a couple hundred of those gamers to buy into a project that we at Arc Dream really love, then what chance do we have of selling it to the rest of the gaming world? For a cash-poor company like ours—yes, after all these years we remain cash poor and probably always will—that’s the best kind of market research that we can get.
Second, did I mention how we’re cash poor? Manufacturing a book, shipping it on very heavy pallets across the country or around the world, storing it safely in a warehouse, maintaining inventory controls and packaging it safely for shipment to consumers—all those things cost money. And then there’s the work that’s involved beforehand, all the man-hours that go into writing, editing, art, and page design. If Arc Dream had deep pockets, we’d pay for all that stuff out of hand and count on annual sales to cover the expenses, just like a real grown-up publisher. But we aren’t, and we don’t.
The fact is, Arc Dream exists pretty much just so that Dennis Detwiller and I can make the games that we love the way that we want to see them made. Using a ransom to verify that there’s a minimum baseline level of interest in a product is about our only nod to market forces.
The up side? If you share our sensibilities, you get to enjoy the resulting products just like we do. The down side? We have rather specific sensibilities and no marketing budget to expand our customer base, so we don’t often sell very many books. And that’s OK—as long as a project doesn’t leave us poorer than when we started.
The ransom guarantees that a new game will sell at least enough copies to pay for itself.
Now, How Can We Sweeten the Pot?
The ransom model—for lack of a better term—has worked out pretty well for us so far. But there’s one issue where we need some feedback: What can we do to reward contributors who pledge to make the book happen rather than waiting to buy it after its release? Those folks show us a lot of trust by putting up cash for a product based only on a few previews and our word that it’ll be good. They deserve something special.
One possibility is releasing the initial version with a unique cover. If you pledge for the book, you get a copy that has different cover art than the version that we print for sale to the rest of the world.
(EDIT BY SHANE: A unique cover is something we'll do for future projects, but it's probably not feasible for the Reign Enchiridion. The Enchiridion has such a low price point that multiple short printings will make it lose money.)
In addition, you get listed by name in the book’s masthead—the page with all the copyright information at the beginning of the book—as a contributor who helped make the book a reality.
Is that enough? What else could we do to reward contributors?
And before you mention it, autographed copies aren’t feasible. I’m in Alabama, Dennis is in Vancouver, Greg is in Chicago, Benjamin Baugh is in Georgia, Todd Shearer is in Maryland—you get the idea. We use several different printers, but they’re usually in the Midwest unless they’re in Hong Kong, and the warehouse that takes delivery of the books is in Nevada. The wonders of modern communications make autographs a little tricky.
So, autographs aside, please send us your suggestions. Post comments here, to the Cult of ORE group, or send an email. Thanks!