Hello, friends! This week for our Kickstarter preview will be looking at monster design, as well as a very basic overview of combat within Terrors and Tommyguns. This one is going to be pretty art-heavy which, if you’re as big a fan of the art so far as we are, should be a welcome reprieve from my normal walls of text. Enjoy!
While we wanted to keep and expand upon the cosmic horror genre, Terrors and Tommyguns is a completely new Mythos of our own creation. It also gave us more freedom with our world design and monster design. Mixing the prohibition-era New York style city of New Babylon, our game world is one part Maltese Falcon, one part Dunwich Horror, and one part John Wick. Monsters and Terrors live in New Babylon, either disguised as humans or lurking in the dark shadows of the city. We also wanted to move away from the “sea monster and tentacles” monster design that’s so prevalent in the Cosmic Horror genre. While there’s still plenty of gibbering grotesquerie to be found, according to our Lead Artist James Cornell, “I wanted the monsters to be intimidating and unique as opposed to just ‘monstrous’. What makes cosmic horror frightening isn’t so much that the monsters are ‘evil’, it’s that they are completely unknowable, and I want our monsters to reflect that.” The Terrors you face will require more than bullets and brute strength: you’ll need to utilize all the tools at your disposal, mundane and otherwise, to come out the other end alive and with your sanity (somewhat) intact.
Keeping the theme of directors in the Noir film feel, combat will begin with the Director telling the group, “Places, Everyone! “. At the beginning of combat, players will roll initiative. Initiative is a roll to determine your place within a particular combat phase. It’s rolled only once, at the beginning of combat. Players will make a straight Vim or Wits roll, adding any Assets to their role as appropriate. From there it gets a little more complicated. But only a little.
We’ve broken actions, and specifically Talents, into three separate categories: Support, Combat, and Environmental. Every attribute has Talents utilizing each action type. Each round, players will jot down which action type they wish to take based on the lay of the combat. The Director will do the same. The Director will then ask everyone to show/tell which action type they’ve declared. The intent behind this is to minimize table talk and metagaming, and let players do what they feel their character would do. If other tables prefer to make this part of combat more of a “team game”, that is, like everything in TTRPGs, dependent on the will of the group. From there, the Director will use the Initiative of the players, and their chosen action types, to determine the flow of combat. Support Actions always go first (with its own “mini initiative of characters and monsters using Support actions), followed by Combat Actions, followed by Environmental Actions. After that, the Director will call Places, Everyone! and the next round will begin.
Support actions are, unsurprisingly, actions that support either you or one of your allies. These can also include debuffs to enemy combatants. Support Actions resolving before combat actions allows for characters who might not be as combat ready as some of their Tommygun wielding friends to still contribute meaningfully to combat.
Some examples of Support Action talents:
I Believe In You! (Moxie, Support, 1 LP): Not everyone is a great performer, but it’s all about confidence. And no one inspires more confidence than you. Until the start of your next turn, any ally can use your Moxie check to attempt to convince someone of something, true or not.
Analyze Weakness (Wits, Support, 1 LP per use): Usable two times as one action. Learn the strongest and weakest defense rolls for your target. Choose an ally. They gain 3 Assets to their next roll against one of those Attributes.
Combat Actions should be pretty self-explanatory. Whether you’re using a specialized talent, or just swinging for the fences with your trusty Louisville Slugger baseball bat, combat is when you try to make the other thing dead, or when it tries to make you dead. Combat Actions include basic attacks as well as most Talents meant to injure, maim, destroy the mind/soul of, or otherwise harm a foe.
Some examples of Combat Action talents:
Manassa Mauling (Vigor, Combat, Unarmed Only, 4 EP): Let it all hang out and leave everything in the ring/on the street. Make an attack, dealing Damage + 1E on a hit. If you hit, attack again. This time, on a hit deal Damage + 2E. Keep going until you miss, adding 1E to Damage every time until you miss or the target is incapacitated. If you miss on the first shot? Tough luck, Buster.
Magic Bullet (Vim, Combat, 3 EP, Magical): Guns don’t do that. Neither do bullets. But yours do. Redirecting Eldritch power through your gun, you fire a shot to deadly effect. The effect this bullet has is up to you, but it is certainly not natural: maybe the bullet makes your target explode in flame. Maybe it makes snakes appear and bite them a bunch. Maybe their skin rots to the bone on contact. Either way, upon hitting someone with Magic Bullet, add an additional 3M.
Finally we come to Environmental Actions. Environmental actions include moving from one distance increment to another, reloading when you need to reload, and utilizing the combat environment to your advantage (For example, kicking over a table to try and get some cover from incoming fire). We’ve also tried to sweeten the deal a little, understanding that having to spend an entire round just reloading your weapon or moving from one place to another is not particularly interesting, so whenever you use an environmental action, you receive 4 Assets to your next defense roll. This turns non-Talent Environmental Actions into a sort of “Full Defense”; A Character crouched under an overturned table, reloading their bolt-action as bullets and Chaos Magic whizz over their head come to mind.
Some examples of Environmental Action talents:
Safe Cracking and Cuff Breaking (Vim, Environmental, 1 EP): You’re particularly good at getting where you’re supposed to be. Upon using this Skill, you automatically succeed at any check involving opening doors/safes or escaping bonds that have a Rollover under 20. If the Rollover is over 20, take 3 Additional Assets to the roll.
Tear the Place Apart (Enviromental, 1 LP): Declare an object to your Director. Make an Observation roll with 3 additional Assets. If the object you have declared is in a radius in feet less than or equal to your roll, you know where it is and how to locate it. This does not allow you to disarm or locate any traps or obstacles that may be required to access the item.
Environmental Talents may not seem as “sexy” as the others, but they’ve already been used in playtesting to save the day when the party, having been ambushed, was on the losing side of a gun battle. A more astute Character used Tear the Place Apart to find the damning evidence they needed to close a case within their suspect’s hideout. He got the evidence, they hightailed it out, and closed the case with most of their limbs intact.
The above anecdote highlights a feature of both our combat and our monster design: the latter means that the former is not going to be absolutely to the death. The Terrors within New Babylon are powerful, deadly, and frightening: even if you walk away from an encounter with one, it’s likely your perception of reality was shattered (necessitating a Reality Check) and, if you’re unlucky, the addition of a few Scars. Forgetting about the supernatural Terrors that lurk in the city, there are plenty of dangerous, fully regular humans with automatic weapons that will get you just as dead as the hand-mouths of the Terror pictured above. Combat in Terrors and Tommyguns is meant to be quick, cinematic, and deadly. In Sagas of Midgard, character death was a central feature of the game, allowing for characters to go out on their shield and die gloriously. In Terrors and Tommyguns, survival and solving whatever mystery you’ve been tasked to solve are the goals; mortal danger is merely the nuisance you must learn to overcome. Using your Skills, Talents, and the other tools at your disposal, you’ll have plenty of cards in your hand but, as the old song says, you need to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, and know when to walk away.
Thanks for reading this high-level look into combat and monster design within Terrors and Tommyguns. If you have any questions, please join the conversation on our Discord, or hit us up on Twitter and Facebook. Just two weeks left to the Kickstarter! Hope to see you there.