The Independents: Fear Fetchers

The security guard walked backwards down the hallway, chest heaving with panicked breath and flashlight darting from shadow to shadow. There was something in here. Whatever it was, it had definitely been following him. Flickering lights, unsettling skittering noises, warm breath on the back of his neck. He had to find it before it found him . . . he turned around sharply when he heard a small noise, as if something was clearing its throat. There, right there in the beam of his flashlight, was some furry . . .thing!Despite being apparently headless the thing shrieked, rushing towards him on the legs of a spider, waving tentacles in the air and brandishing the spikes all over its body. The guard let out a matching shriek of terror, turning to run and dropping the flashlight. As he ran, not looking back, one of the monster’s tentacles held up a stone, which began to glow brightly. Excellent! Enough fear to fulfill tonight’s contract and then some. A good haul for any Fear Fetcher!

Fear Fetchers is the ‘spooktacularly creepy’ roleplaying game from Geekish Gaming, released this past February. Within the game the players take up the mantle of residents of Spookington, a monster metropolis deep beneath the Earth’s crust. Most of the monsters pay their tribute to the local Overlords via 9 to 5 jobs that would be familiar (if a little unsettling) to humans, but Fear Fetchers aren’t satisfied with that. Instead, they accept contracts directly from the Overlords themselves, tasked with gathering Fear from humans on the surface and returning with this valuable resource. You have decided to join the ranks of the Fear Fetchers, and it’s time to get your Scare on.

Character creation is a simple process that involves a few easy steps. First, there are 6 statistics within the game: Power, Sight, Sneak, Speed, Terror, and Toughness. You start with a score of 1 in each. You then literally build your monster, choosing from a series of options: a Body, a Head, two pairs of Limbs (arms and legs combo optional), and one choice from a list of Miscellaneous options (two choices if you chose a Body with no Limbs). Each choice will either adjust your statistics in some way, sometimes lowering one to improve another, or grant some special ability or a bonus for specific situations. For instance, the creature featured in the first paragraph chose a Furry Body, to be Headless, a pair of Spider Legs and a Pair of Tentacles, and to be covered in Spikes. Its final statistics are Power 1, Sight 0, Sneak 4, Speed 1, Terror 3, and Toughness 1 as a result. It also has the Slash ability from its spikes, meaning that it can fight. That’s it! You record your final statistics, the effects of any bonuses, name your monster, and grab a Faulty Scarestone (yeah, it’s not great, but it’s free and you’re just starting out). Now you’re ready to go on your first Scare!

A Scare is essentially a job or mission that starts with the Fear Fetchers taking on a Contract from one of the Overlords. The Contract will provide some basic details on the targets, detail how much Fear the Fetchers must return to the Overlord to complete the Contract, and how many Dreadpennies and Feardimes the Fetchers will be paid for the job. It will also detail whether or not the Fetchers can keep any extra Fear gathered for themselves. Once the Scare begins, the monsters will have to begin trying to increase Dread, setting up the Final Scare to gather the Fear, and avoid being Spotted.

Whenever a monster needs to do something using a statistic, they roll a number of d6s equal to their score in that statistic (my example monster would roll 4d6 for Sneak and 3d6 for Terror, for instance). No matter how many dice you roll, you take the highest three dice and add them together, although you get to roll any 6s again and keep adding. The GM, referred to as the ‘Monster Master’ here, then compares your final result to the target score for the action. If your score equals or exceeds the target you’ve succeeded, otherwise you fail. If you roll nothing but 1s then you’ve got a Monstrosity, and things get much more difficult for your monster and their fellow Fetchers.

The Human targets of a Scare have Bravery, Dread, Spotting, and Power/Toughness as statistics. They all start off with a Dread of 0, though, so most of the Scare is about making that go up. A monster can make a Terror check against the target’s Bravery; success means Bravery goes down by 1, while Dread and Spotting go up by 1. Failure means that only Spotting changes, going up by one, and the Human gets a chance to try to spot the monster. If they do, the monster is either going to have to run for it or fight it out.

Since everything in the game can only be hit three times before being knocked out (and banished back to Spookington in a monster’s case), any given fight is going to be quick and messy. If a monster knocks out a Human they collect 1 Fear, but that’s hardly worth all the trouble. Ideally, the monsters build Dread for as long as they can before being spotted, and then declare that they are making their Final Scare against a target. Upon doing so and making a successful Terror check opposed by a rolled Bravery check, they collect Fear equal to the difference between their result and the target’s Bravery result, plus an amount equal to the target’s Dread. Provided that they’ve gathered the amount of Fear indicated in their Contract, the monsters can then return home, satisfied with a Scare well done.


 

I was fortunate enough to be able to ask some questions of Kevin Damen, the writer and general man-behind-the-curtain for Fear Fetchers, and one of the first things I asked him was what kind of stories Fear Fetchers could tell, and what sort of tips he might have for playing the game.

The thing with Fear Fetchers is that a Scare runs the risk of becoming boring if a GM decides to keep to the same type of Scare over and over again. Essentially, the game revolves around the recurring Overlord Contract, but that does not mean no variety should be included. What we’ve seen over time is that Fear Fetchers is most enjoyable when a GM switches up the details. A unique location can most definitely spice things up. Don’t just go around sneaking into people’s houses. Get in their cars, hide in the yard, spoil the Halloween celebrations at your local amusement park. In much the same vein, changing the type of Human you Scare (a teen is perhaps more easily scared than a decorated war veteran) or adding a complication to the Scare the monsters are not aware of (like an alarm system or having another Monster burst into the scene) can also be used to endorse creative play. Basically, your Scares will often ‘feel’ the same, though your GM has all the power and freedom to add details that will keep the game diverse over time. In a way, the options are endless (which does put a lot of responsibility on the GM), but at it’s core Fear Fetchers is meant to tell an amicable, humorous story that is at times exciting and enticing through the use of moments of suspense.

I found it interesting that despite being a game about scaring people, with The Boogeyman himself being one of the Overlords in question, the game never gets too dark. Nobody ever dies during a Scare, and the fetching of Fear is malevolent but not malicious. That made me curious as to what kind of players and game groups it might be appropriate for.

I’d say Fear Fetchers is appropriate for any group (as long as they’re thematically interested). However, I would recommend it to either a parent (or professional that works with kids in a playful environment) wanting to introduce children to roleplaying or storytelling as such or to gaming groups looking for something quick as a filler game whenever regular campaigns can’t be played. After all, that was why it was created in the first place.

Speaking of which, what exactly got Kevin thinking about making a game of professional monsters who harvest Fear as a resource?

To be entirely honest, the origin of the idea for Fear Fetchers is something I’m not entirely sure of. I remember that sometime last year I was sitting down with a couple of friends I regularly game with. We felt like playing, but couldn’t continue the D&D 5e campaign we had started because some of our fellow gamers were on a holiday. Desperate for some roleplaying we decided to sit down and think of a system we could use. I think  after an hour or so we had the bare framework that eventually became Fear Fetchers over the course of that evening.

Of course I needed time to refine the game but that happened during the year that followed. By the time I finished getting clear and consistent rules down I decided to share and publish the game. I basically rolled into the whole game development scene by sheer accident!
Kevin wrote Fear Fetchers on his own, with a small team of playtesters and readers helping him put it through its paces. What with him having sort of stumbled into making the game in the first place, I asked what sort of challenges came up along the way.
Mostly I feel the editing process and the clarification of rules were parts of the design that felt a lot more difficult to handle than I had first suspected. If there is anything I’d recommend for anyone even thinking about creating their game it is to find someone who is willing to read through every version of your game. You definitely need the extra pair of eyes. I know I did.
Being so quick to set up and rather easy to learn, Fear Fetchers can obviously be a good one-shot game, but there’s potential for multiple sessions. The reason why Fear Fetchers might consider taking Contracts that pay less but allow them to keep excess Fear is that Fear can be used to improve your monster, adding extra heads, limbs, and miscellaneous options. Your Dreadpennies and Frightdimes can be used to purchase all sorts of items to make your Scares go smoother. Given that there’s quite a bit of room for mechanical growth, I asked Kevin about how long a Fear Fetchers campaign might go on.

Well, in some ways Fear Fetchers works best as a one-shot game. There is going to be a point at which monsters will become so great at scaring that there will be no challenge anymore in doing so. It takes a while to get there, but it is certainly possible. During our playtest we concluded our ‘campaign’ by collaboratively creating a Monster Sheet for the overlord the monsters served. We then had one final Scare in which the monsters sought to prove that they were scarier than the overlord. In short, the game itself does try and provide for long term gaming but a gaming group should at all times be transparent about how much they feel challenged. If ever the challenge is gone, it’s probably best to have one final Scare to tie loose ends and to start over.

The game is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0 license; if you’ve been hanging around the Mad Adventurers Society for any length of time, you may have noticed that we too use a CC license, and thus be familiar with it. In short, the license lets others take material from Fear Fetchers and use it in their own creations, so long as credit is given to Kevin and Geekish Gaming.

Fear Fetchers was released under a CC license because of the ideology our gaming group shares. We enjoy trying new things and luckily today’s technology makes it easier to release, share and find TTRPG’s. I figured that if our gaming group can create a game then others should feel free to use what is there already, build on it and then share their games with the large community we tabletop gamers belong to.

Now that Fear Fetchers has been unleashed on an unsuspecting populace, I asked Kevin what we might expect next from Geekish Gaming.

At the moment the gaming group and I are working hard on a more extensive game with a time traveling theme. I’d love to give you a name but I’m afraid we haven’t actually decided on a final name just yet. We expect the first version of the playtest rules to go up near the end of April so it shouldn’t be too long before we know.

Fear Fetchers is now available at DriveThru RPG, where its PDF version is for free and the softcover book is sold for $4.99. Looking for a quick-to-learn, quick-to-play game of creepy fun and bizarre monsters? Then give Fear Fetchers a try!

Final words from Kevin?

I just want to say that I love the way the tabletop RPG community bands together. In some ways I look at it as the world’s biggest think tank, but at times I feel like it is also an extended social circle. I’m glad to be a part of it. If anyone reads this and wants to get in touch be sure to tweet or mail us at @geekishgaming or geekishgamingonline@gmail.com. Keep trying new things and never stop rolling the dice!

Originally posted 3/31/16 on the Mad Adventurers Society!

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