This hobby is inherently strange. We spend hours playing let’s pretend, crafting stories, painting tiny dolls and sitting around a table hanging out with friends. Yet that weirdness is also what makes these experiences memorable. Everyone has a story about how a story took a wrong turn or how a background character suddenly found itself central to the story because the players loved how odd they were. The Weird, from Monte Cook Games, is a book full of inspiration for unusual elements like this to manifest themselves in your games. The company sent me home from GameHole Con with a copy of this book in my suitcase. Does it live up to the title? Let’s play to find out.
Designers Monte Cook, Bruce R. Cordell, Sean K. Reynolds, Dominique Dickey, Shanna Germain and Teri Litorco put together this book full of thousands of writing prompts. The prompts are set up on charts divided by two methods. The first is genre. Fantasy, sci-fi, horror, modern, mythology and post-apocalyptic genres are broadly covered. The second is by intensity. Interesting entries offer a little bit of unusual flavor. Surprising entries hold some sort of mystery to be explained. Gonzo entries feel far out and unexpected. Whimsical entries are surreal and dreamlike. The lists are defined by genre and often cover multiple levels per entry. The Sisterhood of the Wicked Witches might be an interesting detail in a fantasy game but could easily be surprising in a superhero game or even surreal in a science-fiction game.
The first section of the book collects several charts that span a few pages. Want a weird arch enemy for the players to face? The chart offers everything from an intelligent ,magic sword to their little sister. Open a treasure chest and you could find a violin made by a long dead master or a small jat full of gold teeth. The tavern where you meet the mysterious stranger could feature a haunted table played cards by itself or a trio of witches taking a goblin on a pub crawl. The second section of the book focuses on more directly useful bits to fantasy such as weird player character tags and dungeon sections. The dungeon section works wonderfully for game masters who want those empty rooms filled with something besides monsters. Why is that dungeon floor covered in orange shag carpet anyway?
And that’s really it. There’s some excellent art from the killer artists that work with the company and some discussion about how weirdness makes games stand out in people’s minds. The book is system agnostic which makes it useful for GMs of any game. I found myself just flipping through it and reading entries until one or two caught in my brain and started to grow into an adventure. I used a few of the fantasy entries to give some room in my last dungeon crawl some unique flavor. It’s a great book to spark ideas or to give something you might expect a twist that can dig into a deeper story, such as goblins who paint themselves blue and white. It’s also very fun to snag a couple of ideas and put them together. How is the random text message “Tell my wife I love her” connected to the giant stone head with a Victorian house inside?
The Weird offers thousands of ideas to players and game masters who want to make some interesting choices in their next game.