Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Monster of the Week - Character Advancement

Advancement in Monster of the Week is done by gaining, or marking, experience as with Hero System and D&D but the manner in which that experience is gained is significantly different than with those two systems. In Monster of the Week you mark experience whenever you fail a roll which is a common but not universal experience gain mechanic in PbtA games. If you look at the character creation page you might also have another method some characters gain experience as many of the playbooks have a move where the character can gain experience when their personalities or backstory causes difficulty in the ongoing hunt.

This may sound a little bit like trying to deliberately lose at times in order to gain in power, but that's not how it works in practice. In the case of our gorgon exile, she is going to be regularly confused with the modern world as it is by the nature of the chosen playbook. This could range from dealing with modern manners to dealing with machines. In the campaign I ran, for instance, there was a point when The Exile and The Chosen were doing something and the need for a vehicle came up. The Chosen was a 12-year old kid and The Exile was from feudal Japan, neither knew how to drive. This was a point where the Exile's Confused move came into play because their backstory caused difficulty. This would have been the case with or without the Confused move, but because of the Confused move, it produced experience for the Exile. Likewise, there is no way to deliberately fail a roll.

At the end of every session of MotW you also ask four questions: "Did we learn more about the world?" "Did we learn more about one or more of the hunters?" "Did we save someone from death or worse?" "Did we conclude the current mystery?" If the answers to one or two of the questions are "Yes" the players all gain one Experience. If the answers to three or four of the questions are "Yes" then they gain two. This creates a semi-regular stream of experience into the players.

Once you mark five experience you can choose an improvement from a selected list and erase all the marked experience. After you have gained five improvements you can start choosing from a list of advanced improvements that provide other options including changing your playbook or starting a second character. Improvements cannot be taken more than once unless they are specifically listed more than once on the options. For example, most playbooks have the option to take a new move of their own playbook twice and the option to take a new move from another playbook also twice. The Mundane can recover spent Luck points multiple times.
Depending on how often you call for your players to roll when they attempt something, how lucky they are, whether they have taken moves that generate experience in other ways, and how efficiently the group gets through mysteries, you can expect characters to have between 1 and 3 improvements in each session. This starts to slow down as ratings get higher and failed rolls get less common. Because of how random this is, I am going to basically assume ten improvements rather than to judge on number of sessions.

Starting Stats


Improvement One - Take a Move From another Playbook - The Changeling: Lock Down

Improvement Two - Take an Exile move: Traditional Remedies

Improvement Three - Get +1 Sharp, Max +2

Improvement Four - Find a cache of objects left for you by your comrades in the past, the Keeper will decide what's in it, but it will be things they expected you would need in the future.

Improvement Five - Take a Move From another Playbook - The Wronged: Fervor

Improvement Six - Mark Two of the Basic moves as Advanced: Kick Some Ass, Act Under Pressure

Improvement Seven - Get +1 to any rating (Cool), max +3

Improvement Eight - Change this Hunter to a new type: The Snoop - Snoop Moves: Minor Celebrity, The Mojo Wire, Relaxed Producer; Lost Move: Confused; Crew: Camera, Editing, Producer

Improvement Nine - Get a haven, like the Expert has, with one option plus a film lab: Lore Library, Film Lab

Improvement Ten - Take a Move from another Playbook - The Monstrous: Immortal

Gorgon Archer - The Exile

Look: Woman with a warrior's body, hastily scavenged modern clothing, and serpents for hair.

Ratings: Charm -1, Cool +3, Sharp +2, Tough +2, Weird +0

Origin: I am from Macedonia in the year 531 BC my name is Euryale.

Nemesis: My nemesis is also in the modern world and aware that I followed. My nemesis is a shade named Sisyphus.

Arrival: I was transported to the modern day when my petrifying gaze backlashed and froze me as a statue. I was unearthed and revived later.


Warrior: If you are fighting with (and against) old-fashioned hand weapons and suffer harm, you suffer 1 less harm. Monster attacks almost always count as old-fashioned for this move.

Immortal Name: Your ancient exploits are legendary, so much that your name still scares monsters and minions. You may manipulate them with threats if they understand enough to have heard stories about you.

Lockdown: You have a method of bringing the enemy to a halt. This is related to your particular heritage (petrifying gaze). Roll +Weird: On a 10+ the target will be immobile for the remainder of the scene. On a 7-9 the target will be immobile for only as long as you focus your attention on them. On a miss, the Lockdown fails dramatically, possibly causing backlash to the Changeling or people surrounding the target. The target cannot be harmed while the lockdown is maintained. Keeper and Monster moves can still allow the target to escape, but should be used sparingly.

Traditional Remedies: You can treat injuries without any need for modern medical supplies (although you might need someone to hold the patient down). Dealing with a poison, infection, or disease you might need to track down some specific ingredients.

Fervor: When you manipulate someone, use +Tough instead of +Charm.

Advanced Basic Moves: Kick Some Ass, Act Under Pressure

Minor Celebrity: At the beginning of each mystery, roll +Weird. On a 10+ hold 2 and on a 7-9 hold 1. Spend your hold during the mystery to have someone you meet know of you in a positive light. You may end up getting asked for autographs or given "hot" leads too. (Especially if you roll a miss on this roll. - Thyrth)

The Mojo Wire: When you read all the current news feeds looking for the weird and crazy stuff, take +1 forward.

Relaxed Producer: You're employed, with a regular pay check and little or no oversight. As long as you send in a story every few days, no matter how bizarre, you're set. Every now and again they'll send you somewhere in particular, but when that happens it usually involves supernatural activity. Unless they need human interest, in which case it will be a kitten show or agricultural fair or something.
Immortal: You do not age or sicken, and whenever you suffer harm you suffer 1-harm less.


Pick three ancient weapons: Bow (2-harm close/1-harm far), Spear (2-harm hand/close), Martial Arts (your unarmed attacks do 1-harm, includes bites from the hair)
Ancient Armor: Leather Jerkin, 1-armor
Haven: Film Lab, Lore Library


Jason, the producer. Kari, the camera-woman. Elise, the editor.


Mariah the Mundane was the first person to take me in and explain the modern world. She is an antiquities speaker and speaks ancient Greek.

Nathan the Spooky had a vision or prophecy about my exile. It showed my childhood avoiding other people.

Wolsen the Professional and I immediately liked and respected each other.

Further Notes

In practice, I've noticed that players rarely switch Playbooks so early. They usually are happy with the sort of story the character is living at the moment and haven't come to the idea of shifting to a different story. Both the players I ran for held off on switching Playbooks as long as they could. The Professional took a second character fairly early (because he'd been planning on bringing The Exile in from the beginning of the game and talked to me about it) but didn't switch playbooks until he'd exhausted almost all the other improvement options. The Chosen held off getting a second character until just before switching Playbooks. By comparison, in a lot of my theoretical builds for Monster of the Week and other Powered by the Apocalypse games, I end up having a planned playbook change comparatively early because it hits on a story arc I want to try out.

This is the main thing to realize about the philosophy of improvements with a character in a Powered by the Apocalypse game for the most part. Improvements are your way to direct the story path of your character. When you select an improvement, the GM is obligated to shift the story so that the development makes sense and comes true. Most of the time this is pretty easy. When you take an improvement that involves your character's personal skills or ratings, that doesn't need really any story direction. However, if you take an improvement such as the Exile's "find a cache" then the GM has to set up the cache for you to find and what is in it relatively quickly, usually within the next session. In my experience, when players take allies, they usually decide to take charge of an NPC I've already created to serve as their ally, which makes putting those in quite easy.

Some PbtA players don't like the idea of someone planning out their improvements ahead of time as they feel it goes against the idea of "play to find out what happens". My personal feeling is that you should have a plan in mind and be prepared to shift it based on what happens in story. In this case, I doubt very seriously that transitioning from The Exile to The Snoop would have been my original plan. I think that would have come up after some adventure in which the gorgon did something heroic on public television and ended up getting some minor celebrity out of it. In this case, I've decided that it's more like there's this film crew that has decided to follow her around and film what she does and gave her money so she'd let them. At this point her story starts to revolve around this show and the celebrity she gains from it. I imagine this involves a lot of fans showing up and wondering at "how does the make-up work on your snakes?"

When a player changes a playbook, the GM and the player go over the character's current moves and decides what makes sense and what doesn't. In this case, I decided that the Confused move likely should go away and that the character had more or less acclimated to modern life. Then you select moves as normal for a starting character of the playbook as well as take any other playbook options. In this case, it was three moves and the film crew that follows her around.

The Advanced Basic Moves option basically add a critical success component to the chosen moves. In addition to the partial success (7-9) and full success (10+), there is now an overwhelming success (12+). For Kick Some Ass (the move you use when you're fighting and there's risk of taking damage) you gain a new list of options above and beyond what the success list provides and for Act Under Pressure (the catchall move used to get past many dangers or accomplish many amazing feats) you are described as completing the task in a "godlike" manner.

Note that she took the "Take a Move from another Playbook" option three times despite it only generally appearing twice on any playbook. This is because she took it twice as an Exile and once as a Snoop. When she shifted playbooks, she gained a fresh advancement track.

Also note that she took Fervor which allows her to basically Clint Eastwood her way through social exchanges. This makes her -1 Charm much less of a problem and probably also contributed heavily to slowing down the rate at which she gained experience. However, the low Charm wouldn't be totally neutralized. The only basic move for Charm is Manipulate Other (everything from intimidation to seduction, but focused on getting an NPC to do something you want them to), when interviewing witnesses you would usually Investigate a Mystery (using your brain to pick out useful information from trash) but the gorgon's Sharp is also a +2 like her Tough. That said, the GM might produce custom moves that require Charm, which won't benefit from Fervor and there are some moves in some playbooks that require Charm. If she takes these in the future, her -1 Charm will be a problem.

You might notice that some of the Moves do not have mechanics attached. The only mechanics in Immortal Name, for instance, are those that set aside the normal restriction that players cannot use Manipulate Other on the Monster (even if that monster is ostensibly human such as an evil CEO). The Relaxed Producer has absolutely nothing related to mechanics but does establish that the character now receives a regular income and that the GM can use the film crew to give the character leads to follow up on (some of which will be wild goose chases).

Monster of the Week really shines is the wide ability to apply the same stats in different directions. If, for example, I have a Flake and an Initiate who both have similar Weird ratings, that Weird would represent an incredible ability to notice connections and patterns for the Flake while the Initiate would manifest the Weird via strange, supernatural martial arts or knowledge of secret spells. In some other game systems, the Initiate would be far more expensive to build than the Flake and may even be difficult to have as a starting character.

Another place where MotW does well, though it has less universal mechanics for this than other PbtA games, is in interaction between PCs. For instance, character can use Manipulate Other on another character but if they are successful, the other character is not obligated to do what the other character wants them to. However, a player that is the subject of a successful Manipulate Other roll receives incentives in the forms of bonus to rolls and experience for their character going along with it.

Finally, as stated in the other page. MotW and other PbtA games handle new players and characters exceptionally well. Experienced characters often have more options on what they can do, but will tend to have similar stats. As such, players can come and go due to busy schedules, and they will still be able to fully contribute when they come back to the game even if they are short a move or two.

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

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