An extension rule book and story catalogue, Tome of Mysteries adds extra dimensions to Monster of the Week that enhance the game. In my opinion, the bonus playbooks, expanded Weird abilities, corrected Investigation checks and eclectic story collection make this book worthwhile.
Some of my favorite inclusions were the new list of Weird moves and a simplified investigate a mystery check. However, the Phenomena Mystery completely opens the door to new adventures. Let’s take a look at how these changes affect gameplay.
Weird characters are some of my favorite, and the expanded Weird Basic Moves gives me more options for creative gameplay. Sure, weird means basic magic use. But, what about the psychics, empaths and fortunetellers? Now, our weird characters can express themselves a bit with expanded moves:
- No Limits (psychic super strength)
- Past Lives
- Sensitive (psychically, not emo)
- Trust Your Gut
- Weird Science
As you can tell by the names, these moves generate all kinds of storytelling options.
With story expansion in mind, the Phenomena Mystery is introduced as different play style. Instead of the typical hunt/kill dynamic, these stories center around a natural disaster or magic disturbance. Therefore, Hunters are driven to solve a problem, rather than, uh, kill.
This means the investigate a mystery needs to be clarified a bit. Now, instead of a specific list of questions to choose from, Hunters can ask either “general” or “specific” questions. Of course, this depends on the roll, per usual.
Also, they flipped Sunset and Dusk on the countdown chart, which is how it actually works. Pretty funny, but totally understandable mistake.
4 New Character Playbooks
The Gumshoe is the first playbook introduced, which plays off the noir detective theme. More specifically, this type of agent is a Private I., a hardboiled investigator. Tough, ethical and often haunted by something (which could mean different things here). I could have fun wisecracking and giving my best Dick Tracey impression.
Next, we have The Hex, a witchy sorcerer with a unique method of casting magic. Using an object, she can cast spells more readily. However, she runs the risk of using this magic recklessly, which could have an impact on the story. I feel like there is so much room for creativity with this character. We could consider where her magic comes from, what sort of object she uses as a focus and how it all affects the story.
The Pararomantic is a familiar and fun trope (cough, cough, Bella Swan). The book offers other examples of the human-in-love-with-supernatural-being trope, but we could use Bella’s story as a solid template. No, that doesn’t mean the romance has to be a center of focus in the story. There are many things a character could pull from having a close relationship with the supernatural. The knowledge and experience that comes with such a relationship could be especially helpful in an investigation.
Finally, we are introduced to The Searcher. This trope is a character who was changed by an encounter with the otherworldly. The book uses Roy Neary of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, an alien investigator with a strong drive. I would argue Fox Mulder fits this playbook as well, depending on how you want to play the character. He could make a great partner for The Gumshoe.
Tome of Mysteries adds an awesome section of gaming and writing advice from some of their creators. Subjects include adding patrons (i.e governing body/organization), creating gothic stories, creating a spellbook, structuring an on-the-fly-game and more.
I always appreciate the input of story creators. Monster of the Week is such a story-heavy RPG, created by people who love the craft. It isn’t always obvious how the advice might come into play until you play a few games and run into problems. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I certainly appreciate it. At the end of the day, players will want to create their own mystery.
However, the second half of the book offers quite a few mysteries to get you started.
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Mystery adventure collection
With nearly 30 new mysteries to play, this is why the book is titled Tome of Mysteries.
Each new story is well-developed, different and uses a unique and engaging creature or phenomena. Ranging from sci fi time travel to creepy spider people, these adventures are fun and weird. The good kind of weird, that is. These stories include complex characters, bizarre settings and strange encounters. It’s probably what I love most about this RPG concept—it’s great for random, ridiculous people like me.
For example, Hollow Lake by Chris Stone-Bush is a classic MotW creature hunt. We’re introduced to Katsuko Tanigawa. Katsuko brought a secret with her from Japan, one she hid for over 70 years—she held a deal with a kappa. When the old Katsuko Tanigawa moved to the U.S., she asked for a suitengu shrine to be placed near the town’s central lake. Now that she’s gone, the offering to the kappa have halted.
This adventure has several cool elements to deal with. It’s set up as a classic “people are disappearing” hook, utilizes the watery setting in interactions with the kappa and has a dynamic villain.
The kappa itself is a strange little turtle goblin demon of Japanese folklore. The creature has long, black, stringy hair falling around a bowl-shaped skull. Inside this bull sits a small pool of magic water, water that can only be spilled if the creature bows—a customary Japanese action. The Hunters can defeat this monster through cunning or combat. However, if the combat route is chosen, players will have to deal with a grappling master who may drown them.
Good luck shooting something underwater.
Attack of the Rapid Moss
A fun example of the Phenomena Mystery, Attack of the Rapid Moss by Jacob Steele is exactly what it sounds like. Corrupted scientist Dr. Cornwall has released an intelligent “learning moss” upon a nearby city. In this situation, the Hunters must deal with a mad scientist as an antagonist, while the clock counts down with the spread of the moss.
This isn’t the kind of situation where our players “hunt” the moss. They need to come together and figure out how to stop the spread. The mystery plays out like sci fi drama, where Hunters will need to find the available clues.
Settings include the Hillside Forest and Cornwall’s lab. Obviously, the forest makes for a nice area for immense moss spread. Getting through that might be a challenge. Once inside the lab, our Hunters encounter the Moss Brain. This pulsing lump of plant matter has psychic abilities, so weirdos beware, and can generate “plant children” to protect it like minions.
Breaking the moss’s corruption over Dr. Cornwall is the only way to stop the spread of the moss. This is because only a poison he knows how to make will sever the psychic connection between the moss brain and the moss.
To Sum it Up
I would suggest buying this addition. The stories alone are worth the purchase, and the story crafting is next level. Hopefully, this review has scratched the surface enough to give you an idea of what you’re getting.
More and more, I see this game as storytelling tool. I love classic d20 RPGs, but the change in gameplay Monster of the Week offers scratches a different itch. I would suggest players who want to up their storytelling game give this a try.