Anomaly of the Week – an SCP-flavored MotW Campaign

When You’re Tired of Hot Vampires and Sexually-Frustrated Angels

I’m notoriously bad with campaigns, as you’ve probably heard. That said, I’m always returning to Monster of the Week to run my one-shots—my table group keeps requesting it, in fact.

I’ve decided it’s time to bite the bullet and run a campaign again.

That said, I don’t want to run another Buffy, or Supernatural. They may be Peak Source Material, but I’m a sucker for that unique shit.

I tossed it to my group—”is anyone, by chance, familiar with the SCP wiki?” One of my players lost his shit, so that settled it. I’ll be running a Monster of the Week game set in the SCP Foundation “universe.”

This isn’t about how to run a Monster of the Week game. There’s lots of resources on that! This (mini?) series will be solely about how to run Monster of the Week using the SCP wiki as source material—potentially with advice on how to adapt other, similar sources. I’m going over it in detail at first, with a TL;DR at the bottom if you just want the facts.

The First Session

If you’re not familiar with SCP, here’s a quick and dirty breakdown: it’s a collaborative supernatural horror anthology. Lots of people writing lots of short stories that are sometimes sort of connected. There’s a hall of fame of top-rated stories here, if you want to get your feet wet and your blood curdling.

Due to the collaborative part, it’s not accurate to say the Foundation has no canon, so much as the Foundation has hundreds of canons. That said, the common thread among all of them is that Weird Shit exists and there are regular people trying to research and catalog and restrain it all. You know, Secure, Contain, Protect. It’s really a shoe-in for the Monster of the Week style. A little X-Files meets Men in Black by way of pants-shitting terror.

Changing Playbooks

The first thing I had to change was the list of available playbooks. Since anything intrinsically “anomalous” would be subject to SCP protocol, only the strictly-mortal playbooks would be available. Those are:

  • The Crooked
  • The Expert
  • The Flake
  • The Mundane
  • The Professional
  • The Wronged

I also explained that “knowing” magic was not a thing for any of them—that if they had the right resources and shit they could attempt Use Magic that way, but nobody would be shooting lightning bolts from their asses. Wizard-magic, not Sorcerer-magic.

One of my players asked about playing something Weird and I repeated to him the line about how he’d end up secured-contained-protected. That said, I have not ruled out allowing any of the players to become Weird through the course of play.

In fact, I’m absolutely planning on this happening.

But don’t tell them.

I came down heavy on encouraging having either an Expert or a Professional in the party, given that they would all be playing a field team in the Foundation’s employ. An Expert gives them access to a lot of tangible resources (explained as the character having higher security clearance), a Professional gives them a leg-up in dealing with the Foundation’s bureaucracy (explained as the character having more clout and respect).

The Professional playbook is especially interesting (maybe critical?) because of how much work they put into detailing the “Agency.” The only restriction I put on our Professional was that he had to choose the “Live capture policy” red tape, and everything else was up to him.

Basically, our Professional decided what flavor the Foundation would take for the entire campaign. (He ended up going with weird gadgets, deep funding, and a secretive hierarchy.)

In the end, my table settled on having a Crooked, an Expert, a Flake, and a Professional. We have a fifth guy who shows up occasionally and I’m still working out if I’ll give him the same chargen process or hand him a different premade every time—he’d probably love it either way.

Changing Moves

Given that they are all working for the same agency, it didn’t feel right allowing only the Professional to interact with the Foundation via his moves. I created a custom move for the rest of the party:

When you deal with the Foundation, requesting resources, permission, or forgiveness, roll +Sharp. On a hit, your request is granted, but choose one. On a miss, your request is denied, and choose two.

  • Your request flags your personnel file, and you can expect a later enquiry
  • Your request is inconvenient, at best, and you take -1 forward when next you deal with the Foundation

Not nearly as good as the Professional’s version, right?

  1. The Professional’s “Deal with the Agency” is still relevant
  2. In the event that the Professional can’t field the request for them, a player is left with something that is guaranteed a narrative consequence
  3. If the team screws up and they all have to answer to the Foundation for it, only the Professional has a chance to get out scott-free…

That said, I wonder if it’s too shitty. A miss means you don’t get what you want and you’re double-boned? 🤔 I’ll probably revisit this before it ends up being used.

Anyway, I also wanted a move for one more thing the Foundation is known for—namely, obliterating memories MiB style.

When you administer A- or B-rank amnestic, follow procedure for correct administration and roll +Sharp. On a hit, the amnestic is administered with no further complications. On a miss, the Keeper may choose one or both of the following:

  • Subject is resistant to the amnestic—later follow-up may be required
  • Subject experiences side-effects of the amnestic—medical attention may be required

I haven’t put any restrictions yet on amnestics, how much they have or when they can get a hold of them. So far, they have used this move twice in play: once to circumvent a nosy security guard, and once to clean up after interrogating a witness. I’m waiting to see if they come up with something unusual or abusive. Strangely reactive for me, but 90% of that comes from a genuine interest in seeing what happens, lol.

I collected these two moves as well as screenshots of the amnestics guide into a handout, and printed a few copies for the table to reference. I also printed a very, very brief primer (complete with [REDACTED]s and ████!) for each player, since only one of them was a super-fan and everyone else would need a little bit of info on the setting.

My biggest challenges so far?

  1. Worthwhile props that enhance the atmosphere while also serving information
  2. Surprising the One Guy who knows fuckin’ everything SCP already…

TL;DR:

  1. Restrict the playbooks to Crooked, Expert, Flake, Mundane, Professional, and Wronged (nobody should have intrinsic magic)
  2. Encourage having an Expert or a Professional in the party (both doesn’t hurt)
  3. If there is a Professional, require that they take the “Live capture policy” red tape tag, and pay attention to the other tags they choose since they will determine what “flavor” of Foundation you will be running.
  4. New custom move (entire party): When you administer A- or B-rank amnestic, follow procedure for correct administration and roll +Sharp. On a hit, the amnestic is administered with no further complications. On a miss, the Keeper may choose one or both of the following: Subject is resistant to the amnestic—later follow-up may be required; Subject experiences side-effects of the amnestic—medical attention may be required
  5. New custom move (non-Professionals): When you deal with the Foundation, requesting resources, permission, or forgiveness, roll +Sharp. On a hit, your request is granted, but choose one. On a miss, your request is denied, and choose two: Your request flags your personnel file, and you can expect a later enquiry; Your request is inconvenient, at best, and you take -1 forward when next you deal with the Foundation
to be continued…

The Challenge of Doing the Thing

I’ve gone seen a lot of Professional Creative Content Designers speak at conventions, private lectures, etc. Invariably someone gets up to the mic during the Q&A and says “You Do the Thing. I want to Do the Thing. I almost Did the Thing? How can I Do the Thing but actually finish it?” and the answer varies depending on who’s talking – but it’s a pretty vague question. It’s also a question I’ve been asked too, and in the context of a brief Q&A it’s really hard to give a decent soundbyte answer because the real answer is longer and more complicated than just “Show up and do the work.”

But show up and do the work. Believe in yourself, put forth the effort, yadda yadda yadda. That’s really the last step.

Look, what I’m saying is, Doing the Thing is hard. Really hard. Not impossible, though. What do I mean by Doing the Thing? I mean any creative endeavor: writing a novel; releasing a new podcast with your bff; designing and producing your own tabletop RPG; coding your own video game, and so on and so forth. Whatever it is you want to do, but are struggling with doing.

Here are some things that people don’t like to talk about when they talk about Doing the Thing:

1) Neurodivergent? Well your lousy brain is going to fight you every step of the way. You’re a badass, though, and you can handle it. You might need help – a therapist, meds, daily meditation, binaural noise, organizational apps, whatever it is. You gotta sort all that out yourself, though, I can’t tell you what will help get your shitbird brain in line. I took up daily meditation and use an old school wall calendar hung up in a place where I see it literally every day. Once you find your groove, you’ll kick so much ass. I know it.

2)Doing the Thing is going to cost some money. How much depends on what the Thing is, and how deeply you’re willing to invest in quality. BXP chose to pay for web hosting and to hire our graphic designer friend to make our logo and banner, as an immediate example. Lots of things can be done for free, but you often get what you pay for. If you need the partnership of any other creative, PAY THEM WHAT THEY ARE WORTH. It’s unethical to take advantage of other creatives when you’re Doing the Thing. Don’t do it. Don’t fucking do it. You might need help with this, too, and that’s okay. I’m the last person to ask for financial advice – so really this is just a note to be aware that nothing is truly free. Sure, I’d love it if we could all just make art without a cost but until we destroy capitalism that just ain’t the reality we live in.

3)Doing the Thing takes time. A lot of it. Years, maybe. You might have to stop and come back. You might have to go slowly because you’re fighting your asshole brain. There is no correct amount of time in which you must Do the Thing. (Note, though: if you’re working for someone else, meet your goddamn deadlines. Then there is a correct amount of time.)

3.5) Though there’s no correct amount of time… you do gotta, you know, do it. Do it when you hate it. Do it when you hate yourself. Do it when you feel like you can’t. Doesn’t have to be a lot, but do it. Even if you’re working two jobs or one really shitty one, and are always emotionally, mentally, or physically exhausted. Scrounge up what little energy you have to make a tiny bit of headway. Dig that hole with a teaspoon. When I feel this way, I do a lot of internal screaming. Sometimes external screaming. I remember that the writing I do is impermanent and can always be redone, so first drafts are allowed to be awful.

4) You’re going to need help. I keep saying this but it remains true. No person is an island. Help comes in many forms – maybe it’s a friend who supports you when you feel like you can’t accomplish anything; connections to help you find an agent or a publisher; someone to help with layout or editing; a person to hold you accountable; someone to help you finance your work, etc. You get it. Needing someone else isn’t a failing – it’s necessary for getting things done. You can’t do everything yourself. Anyone who says they can is either very exceptional, or lying to you.

Finding people to help can also be hard – but those people are out there. You’re not alone and you can Do the Thing.

Promise.

– Monica

Game Scheduling: How Do?

Literally the only thing I miss about high school is how easy it was to get together for games. Now that I’m in my 30s, its impossible to get any number of grown-ups in the same room at the same time once a week (sometimes we can’t manage twice a week).

Luckily, there’s Doodle (https://doodle.com, iOS, Google Play).

Doodle is a scheduling service you can use from your browser or your intelligent device of choice. It allows you to set a time frame and location, and you can invite users even if they don’t have an account. Every participant selects the time slot/s that work best for them (with an optional “I can go if you really NEED me” option), and now you have everybody’s availability at your fingertips!

My real-life table games involves five other adults from four other households, so Doodle has been invaluable. I make a poll for every new month and we pick our best game days from there.

How do you guys get around the perils of adulthood and schedule for your games?