The Monster Hunters’ Club

My new setting for the Savage Worlds role-playing game is called The Monster Hunters’ Club. It is inspired by all the wonderful films from the 1980’s, and beyond, that feature groups of kids having adventures, fighting monsters, saving their town, growing up, and bonding together. Films like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), The Goonies (1985), The Explorers (1985), The Monster Squad (1987), Super 8 (2011), and It (2017). Small screen inspirations include Eerie, Indiana and Stranger Things.

Please check out our setting preview on DriveThruRPG. We were also featured on the Hardboiled GMShoe #rpgnet chat on Wednesday, October 4th. A transcript of that chat is available if you want to learn even more about the setting.

The Monster Hunters’ Club is set in the 1980’s and is based on the premise that real monsters begin appearing in the fictional town of Gulf Haven, Alabama. Kids, who often notice things before adults because they see places adults don’t always look or even go when they’re preoccupied with work and bills and taking care of a family, notice the strange events in town before anybody else. Life was different for kids in the 1980’s. There were no cell phones or helicopter parents. If you had a bicycle, a skateboard, or even a good pair of sneakers, you could go just about anywhere. If you got into trouble, you couldn’t just summon adults to help you at the touch of a few buttons. Parents gave kids the freedom to go pretty much anywhere, as long as they were home by curfew. So, in a lot of ways, kids had to learn to be more self-sufficient. They had to make decisions on their own about threats to their safety. If an alien invasion force landed in the park, they were mankind’s first line of defense.

As a kid growing up during that time, we knew that. We looked for monsters and aliens and ghosts. Those flickers in the corners of your eyes, those moments when you weren’t quite sure what you were seeing, those were much more real to us. We were open to things beyond the realm of what adults commonly accept as possible.

The Kickstarter for The Monster Hunters’ Club launches on October 17th, and will run for 30 days. Our publisher is Fabled Environments. Tommy Brownell is our editor. Our graphic designer is Karl Keesler, who produced these fantastic covers. We will have many more details as we get closer to launch.

I do want to take a few moments and answer some questions that were posed on Facebook by Norm Hensley:

Why the D20 on the cover? Savage Worlds fans may recognize it for the fear chart, but it may throw other gamers off, thinking it’s a D20 product.

We decided to go with a D20 on the cover for a couple of reasons. First, as you mention, the D20 is used in Savage Worlds almost exclusively for the fear chart. We expect that D20 to get quite a workout in this setting. Also, back in the 1980’s, although there were a number of role-playing games available, there was pretty much one game in town that everybody played. I grew up during that time and started playing that game at the tender age of 11 in 1981. If one polyhedral die shape screams out “1980’s!” it is the D20. We think the large “Savage Worlds Official Licensed Product” logo in the bottom left corner will be sufficient to let people know what system powers the game. We would be happy though, if the setting was able to bring in new Savages from other systems.

Will there be a Guts skill? How are you handling fear in the game? How about Sanity? More like Deadlands with fear ratings at a location or sanity from the Horror Companion?

I’ll try to tackle these in one answer. There will not be a Guts skill. Since all characters will begin with the Young hindrance as a setting rule, which limits the number of skill points that are available, we did not want to make players burn more of their precious skill points on an additional skill when the standard fear checks from Savage Worlds Deluxe handle it nicely. We will also be slightly altering the fear table. Since we are dealing with kids as protagonists, young kids of around 11 years old, you have to be a bit sensitive with how you handle things like insanity and death. We also want to stay consistent with our inspirational material to a degree. You don’t see many of the protagonist children die in most of these movies. You also don’t see them go insane. That is a fate for the non-player characters, not our heroes. Kids tend to respond to fear by developing phobias, by taking precautions, by screaming and running, or by lashing out in reflex to the cause of their fear, or even by passing out and going unconscious. Fear will be handled in that way, more like the traditional fear checks from Savage Worlds Deluxe, with a few twists. I know the heroes of East Texas University are a little older than our heroes, but I am glad that setting stuck to the traditional fear mechanics of Savage Worlds Deluxe instead of going in other directions. I do plan on having a mechanic to track a child’s innocence, with ways to lose and regain it. Simply put, playing and exercising your imagination keeps you young.

Several times you mention getting in trouble with the kids parents or being grounded. Are there specific mechanics for that in the game?

I think something like that would be difficult to reduce to a few die rolls using a simple mechanic. I think the GM should use her own judgement on when the police would show up, or when the kids are doing things that would attract the parents’ attention. In the plot point campaign and savage tales, there will obviously be times when it will be suggested that certain actions could result in these consequences. Kids will need to use subterfuge and stealth at times, because remember, the adults can’t see the monsters. They will be quick to blame “those darn kids” if they have reason to suspect they are up to trouble. And one of our archetypes, the Delinquent, will tend to be a magnet for those types of accusations. Like many modern settings, again I’m thinking of East Texas University as an example, because that setting is about the closest to what we’re doing as exists for Savage Worlds,  we will give the GM some guidelines and remind them and the players that actions have consequences. The police are patrolling. Parents expect their kids home. Moms & dads may need to use the hammer or the soldering gun or whatever, and if it’s missing they will likely blame the kids first. The adults can’t see or comprehend the monsters, but they can see what the kids are doing. They can see the aftermath of what the monsters do. And they will be looking for someone or something to blame. It would be really inconvenient to not be able to prevent some major monster activity because half of the heroes are grounded and can’t leave the house. That would also be a convenient time for the monsters to target the kids individually when they can’t get help.

Question about innocence: How quickly should the characters level up? If they begin getting penalties for each rank, they will be heavily penalized quickly with normal experience progression.

The plot point campaign starts at the end of the 5th grade school year. It takes place over that summer, the 6th grade school year, and the following summer, and ends with the kids ready to enter 7th grade, ready to make the transition to middle school/junior high. So, in a few ways, it is again like East Texas University, in that the academic calendar will have some influence on pacing. That first summer, the kids should be Novice rank characters.  They should move through Seasoned and Veteran rank by the end of 6th grade, and achieve Heroic rank and be readily capable during that final summer before 7th grade.

As I mentioned above, there will be edges and mechanics to reduce the impacts of losing Innocence, at least temporarily. Also, the penalty is no more than using a power above your rank in ETU. When characters advance, they get access to ways to mitigate those penalties, including but not limited to a better die on their skill roll, edges, etc.

Question about the powers available: Belief only starts with one power, but has a plethora to choose from, whereas Storytelling starts with three powers but only has seven to choose from? Why the big disparity? Also, I don’t see any new powers available in either list. The back page does not mention adding new powers either. Is that intentional, or will there be new powers in the book?

There will definitely be new powers in the book. The back cover only had so much space, and there was so much we wanted to include there, but there just wasn’t room for everything. We will round out the powers lists with some cool new things.

Photo Credit: Mike Dukes Art Design: Karl Keesler

The other thing is, in this setting, magic is subtle. Powers fueled by Belief are imbued in items, much like Eddie Kasprak’s inhaler in Stephen King’s It (1990). Eddie believes the inhaler contains battery acid, so it does, and it hurts Pennywise badly. Belief is a powerful weapon for children. The second arcane background, Gadgetry, is not magic per se, it’s more like pseudoscience that mimics magic. Like Data’s inventions in The Goonies often did things that were not possible or probable using real-life physics. I would also include Kevin’s traps from Home Alone in that category (Data would have called them “booty traps”), along with the spaceship from The Explorers or the wagon from Radio Flyer. Then, there is Psychokinesis. That arcane background is along the lines of Charlie from Firestarter, Carrie White from Carrie, or Eleven from Stranger Things. Their powers are superhuman, but they come at great personal risk and cost. Look for this arcane background to include a good deal of backlash to the character using the power. Finally, Storytelling is as close as the setting gets to bardic magic. Think of Gordie Lachance from Stand By Me. His story of Lardass Hogan in the pie eating contest gave the group the strength and courage to continue on their journey. Bill Denbrough in It seems to make “Silver” faster and larger than life through his stories. He also holds the group together with them. Cory Mackenson from Robert R. McCammon’s 1991 novel Boy’s Life also seems to make things more magical through telling the story as an adult, as does Willie Morris in My Dog Skip (2000) and Ralphie Parker as the narrator in A Christmas Story (1983).  The thing about these powers in this setting is, adults don’t believe in them either, and their non-belief actually makes using them more difficult. If you ever played the White Wolf Mage role-playing games, you’re familiar with both backlash and paradox. So these kids want to try to use magic subtly, when there are no witnesses. And there are mechanics to support that.

Thank you, Norm, for your questions. If anybody else has questions, I will do my best to answer them.


Darren is a life-long geek, an avid gamer (both tabletop role-playing and video games), and a writer and editor. He lives in South Carolina with his wife Barbara and his three rescued Siberian Huskies.

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