I’m not sure how familiar people are, outside England, with straw art (corn here means grain, just to avoid confusion amongst Americans).
Corn dolls or corn dollies might be a little more familiar, these are woven, folded and knotted straw shapes (or literal dolls) with a hollow centre, made – traditionally – from the last sheaf to be harvested. The spirit of the field, the spirit of the corn, is supposed to have been made homeless by the harvest, and the corn doll provides a home for the spirit until sowing season returns. When it is time to sow again, the old corn dolly (which may have wintered hanging from a cottage beam) is ploughed under so the spirit can inhabit the new field.
Corn stalk sculpture with a bit more flare, thatch finials are demonstrations of the thatcher’s art. These complex figures are advertisements for the thatcher’s craft and traditionally were made from a combination of stalks, ash and hazel. In the modern era they’re woven into and through chicken-wire (which also tends to be used to shape and protect thatched roofs as a whole).
Not only was this artistry eye catching, but sometimes they were made into straw weathervanes, rotating on wooden or metal spindles to show the direction of the wind. One claim is that the shapes of animals also act as scarecrows, stopping birds – and other animals – pilfering the straw from the roof for their nests or searching for missed grains. I must say, in my experience, most birds that perch on these figures don’t give a damn, and jackdaws seem to take special delight in perching on the ears of straw rabbits or the noses of straw foxes.
It’s probably just more marketing on the part of canny thatchers, but it is also claimed that having a thatch finial is protection against witchcraft, much as having a horseshoe over the entrance (open at the top) to catch luck.
In a fantasy setting corn dollies could provide a bonus (advantage in 5e D&D terms) to the farmer’s when they plant and reap their crops. The loss of a corn dolly to theft, arson or for other nefarious reasons, could provide an excellent plot hook for a more medieval or low magic setting. A corn spirit – bound into the dolly – could also be a somewhat powerful magical ingredient and a hard thing to convince villagers to part with.
The thatch finials, if you believe the marketing of the thatchers, could provide protection against magic while you are under that roof. Whatever the system you could grant a +1 bonus (5%) to saving throws, evasion, resistance or whatever your game system of choice happens to use.
A little bit of colour and a little bit of magic up on the roof.
Magicians can come from many different traditions, but magic is extremely rare. Magicians are simply humans with the capacity to tap into the latent flow of magic.
Magicians must take the following Monster Powers:
Banes: Salt, religious symbols,
painted eyes, gargoyles, mirrors, corn dollies, horseshoes, white
heather, brass, candles, roosters, garlic, gemstones, cold iron,
mistletoe. (Magician’s Banes typically make their magic more
difficult, giving the target an extra die to roll to protect
is not suggested
that Spellcasting become a part of regular play, but a human becoming
a Monster in a quest for supernatural power is a powerful trope
Magicians generate Satiation by performing any
transgressive act, typically within the lore of whatever magickal
tradition they cleave to. Human or animal sacrifice are popular ones,
as are extended acts of debauchery or even taking the other path and
living an ascetic and ritualistic existence.
Magicians have to spend Satiation only when performing
acts of magic, though they can never store more than d12. If a
Monster Power that they replicate with magic requires the expenditure
of Satiation, they lose two levels.
Magicians aren’t limited by their Satiation as Monsters
are, save when it comes to using their Monster Powers and they cannot
starve from a lack of Satiation. The powers they replicate are
replicated at the Spellcasting level and last for a number of minutes
depending on their Spellcasting die type (15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1
hour, 2 hours).
Magicians cannot heal using Satiation as Monsters can.
Should they become a Monster, they lose their Spellcasting ability,
but retain their Dark Magic ability in their new form.
Casting a spell requires a roll of Spirit+Spellcasting
against a d8+d8 difficulty and three actions to make invocations and
to make gestures, or to draw runes or whatever else is appropriate
for their tradition.
Example: Valkyr is a magician from the nordic tradition. Having drawn Satiation from hunting and killing a bear and devouring its heart, Valkyr finds himself confronted by witch-hunters. He hurriedly locks the door and slams the couch up against it, rending his shirt, drawing blood and bellowing a prayer to Tyr and the spirit of the bear for power. The difficulty is rolled at a 5, Valkyr rolls his Spirit d10, Indomitable Will d4 and Spellcasting d4 for a total of 7. A successful cast. He sprouts claws and fangs with a value of d4, ready to help in combat.
Gorehounds: Undead dogs, kept as pets by many Kin. Nature: Predator d6 Trio: Mind d4, Body d8, Spirit d6. Mask: Guard Dog d4, Fighting d6, Tracking d6, Alertness d6 Monster Powers: Drain (Pain) d4, Claws and Teeth d6. Banes: Sunlight d8.
Hafgryr: Descendants of Grendel and his mother. Monster Powers: Armour, Fearsome, Olympian. Banes: Sunlight, Compulsive hatred of humans.
Kikulaluit: Beings from a lost, underground civilisation with white hair and translucent green skin. Monster Powers: Armour, Heightened Sense (Sight), Camouflage. Banes: Agoraphobia, Sunlight. Constant Slippage: Translucent.
Magadon: A form of shapeshifting Indian troll who use their shapeshifting powers to defraud and con others. Monster Powers: Facedance, Armour, Telepathic Reading. Banes: Sunlight, Cooked or non-meat food.
Medusae: Human bodies with twisting snakes atop their head. Their gaze petrifies targets and this is how they feed. Monster Powers: Drain (Petrification), Armour, Dark Seduction. Banes: Their reflection.
Nakani: Native American wind spirits who subjugate and control humans. Monster Powers: Armour, Hypnosis, Speed. Banes: Stale or dead air. Constant Slippage: Always surrounded by whistling.
Ogre: Maneating, hulking brutes. Monster Powers: Armour, Olympian, Claws and Teeth (emphasis on the teeth). Banes: Hunger for child flesh.
Pengallen: A severed head, trailing entrails that can possess different bodies and which feasts on blood. Monster Powers: Parasite, Levitation, Drain (Blood). Banes: Sunlight.
Rakshasa: An Indian vampire with slitted pupils and poisonous claws. Monster Powers: Claws and Teeth, Venom, Drain (Blood). Banes: Sunlight.
Sidhe: Light elves who have adapted to urban living. Monster Powers: Heightened Sense, Teleportation, Armour. Banes: Cold-wrought iron.
Shockers: The ghosts of people who died from electrical shocks. Monster Powers: Insubstantial, Discharge, Drain (Life force – bioelectricity). Banes: Water.
Toxxix: Mutated, toxic-waste humans who have been altered by radiation or chemical waste. Monster Powers: Acid Vomit, Fearsome, Olympian. Banes: Fire, cannot eat non-rancid or non-polluted food.
Fucking Monsters is explicitly NOT one of those games that uses
Humanity as a gauge for anything, you can lift the system directly
out of Nightlife if you do, actually, want to use it. I’ll offer an
option for a different style of Humanity gauging system in a
companion pamphlet for AFM.
Actual Fucking Monsters is explicitly NOT one of those games that uses Humanity as a gauge for anything, you can lift the system directly out of Nightlife if you do, actually, want to use it. I’ll offer an option for a different style of Humanity gauging system in a companion pamphlet for AFM.
If you choose to include ‘Humanity’ in AFM, against all reason and every warning and insistence I give, then fair enough.
Humanity has no meaningful impact on the game, most of the time.
Humans can, themselves, be monsters of the non-supernatural kind and
find ways to excuse, rationalise or ignore the most horrific things
that they do. Nonetheless it has a die-rating, as with Health and
Satiation and if your Games Master chooses to be a bastard, they can
limit your social die rolls to a maximum of that die type.
than having a rating, or a Judeo-Christian morality structure, this
is about how your character manages to live with themselves. You set
a ‘red line’, something that you will not do, starting with the least
objectionable thing you might be able to think of.
you ever cross that line, you get a chance to rationalise your
actions to the Games Master and then roll your Mind die plus Nature
die against your Spirit plus current Humanity die. If you succeed,
you modify your red line to be looser, but keep your Humanity at the
same level. If you fail, you modify your red line to be looser, but
drop your Humanity one die-type.
Monsters that lose all their Humanity become ‘Maniacs’ and their monstrous nature fully erupts. Their Mind drops to d4 and their Body is stepped up by a number of dice equal to what was lost (even going into die multiples). They become an NPC and go on a rampage.
Example: Croen is recently made and despite being a blood-drinking horror, he has set the red line that he will ‘Never kill’. The circumstances being what they are in AFM, he’s soon put in a position where if he doesn’t shoot this shotgun wielding loon, one of his friends will die. He pulls the trigger and the man dies. Croen tries to rationalise this as being ‘Self defence’ and to modify his red line to ‘I will never kill except in self defence’. He rolls his Mind d8 + Nature d6 for a total of 6. While his ‘Humanity’ rolls d12+d8 for a total of 11. He fails to fully rationalise this, but shifts his red line to the d10 level and has lost a bit of his Humanity.
You could also kitbash this system for a Sanity system, with gradual stages of madness.
Nightlife has a lot of powers that can be easily recreated from the Monster Powers in AFM. Some, however, aren’t as straightforward. You can also consider these a bit of a dry-run for some additional powers in a companion book for AFM.
If you have any questions or queries about Actual Fucking Monsters, or Power or Monster Profile (or enemy!) requests. Let me know in the comments or message me on social media.
Acid Vomit You can vomit a stream of acrid fluid, out to a distance equal to your Acid Vomit rating in metres, halved. It reduces one die type of insanity every two turns (keeping the original attack roll) until it has all reacted out. A single human-sized target can be engulfed by the power.
Astral Projection You can leave your body and float, psychic and invisible, through the world. You trail a long astral tether back to your own body and can engage with other psychic and astral entities while in this form. Your die type’s maximum possible roll provides the maximum number of hours you can be separate from your body and the maximum distance in kilometres (16/36/64/100/144).
Control Weather You can exert power to change the weather around you by spending a level of Satiation. The difficulty to do this is based on the intensity of the current weather and how strongly it fits the current season and environment. If, for example, you’re in England and it is raining (a light drizzle) in the Autumn, then the difficulty to change that weather will be an unchallenging d4/d4. If you’re in the Southern US and trying to avert or dissipate a tornado, the difficulty would be a more challenging d12/d12. You affect an area around you with a radius in kilometres equal to the highest possible roll on your Monster Power die type (4/6/8/10/12 km). Stopping the eye of a hurricane or a tornado will have an effect on a far broader surrounding area, of course.
weather control you can shift the weather by one degree of intensity,
and another degree for every two points you beat the difficulty by.
To create a new kind of weather you must first reduce the current
intensity to nothing, and then build the new intensity. The default
weather depends on where you are, but is ‘the usual’. In Britain, for
example, it would be ‘overcast’.
Rain Intensity Levels: Spotting, Drizzle, Rain, Heavy Rain, Hammering Down.
Sun Intensity Levels: Bright, Intense, Dazzling, Sweltering, Heat Wave.
Fog Intensity Levels: Faint,Wispy, Misty, Foggy, Can’t See your Hand in Front of Your Face.
Takash is hiding out in a small agricultural village near the border
of Syria. The farmers there are having a rough time due to a drought,
so he uncharacteristically sets out to help. The weather is a heat
wave (d12), and while climate change is playing a role, that’s not
that typical for the area (d8). Takash has Control Weather at d10 and
Occult d8 from his Mask. He dresses it up with a little ritual,
disconcerting the locals somewhat. The weather rolls a difficulty of
12, Takash rolls 15. For hitting 12 he can change the heat by one
degree to Sweltering, for hitting 14 (two points over), he can reduce
it to Dazzzling. At least the irrigation can be more effective and he
can always try again, it’ll be easier now.
Constant draught, lightning
behind your eyes, hair standing on end, clammy skin, glowing skin,
sky blue skin and white hair.
Danger Sense Add your Monster Power die level to your Initiative. You will almost always go first. If ambushed, roll your Monster Power die type in Danger Sense and if you score four or more you are not ambushed and get your turn as normal, on your Initiative turn.
Additional eyes, sensory hairs, twitching motions and turns of the
head, frills that rise in the presence of danger, pounding heartbeat,
Demagogue By spending a point of Satiation and exerting your power over a crowd you can attempt to change or incite a particular mood in a crowd, depending on the intensity of their current mood. This works similarly to Control Weather, but the difficulty is virtually always a d8 (for the average mental resilience of a human being) plus the intensity of the existing emotion.
happy crowd at a rock concert, might be d8+d8 for difficulty. A
furious lynch mob chasing down a Monster that they think killed a
child might be d8+d12. The default mood is passive, and is d8+d8.
Fenwick is ensconced in a crowd at a football match. He needs to
feed and planned to use the cover of hooliganism and violence, but
the crowd is too happy for his liking. He rolls his Monster Power
level (d8) plus his Mind (d10) to try and sway the crowd. The crowd
scores 14, he scores 15 which is only enough to slightly sour their
mood, moving them from happy to amused.
Deep or sonorous voice,
exaggerated expressions, unnaturally large mouth, swollen head,
Direction Sense You have an infallible sense of where you are, no matter what. Not necessarily ‘where’ as in a map or grid reference, or what town or city, but ‘where’ in relation to north, south, east and west and in relation to places you are familiar with. You might know that you’re ‘about ten miles north of home’, for example, but not that you’re locked in the cellar of the Parson’s house in Chickenburg.
Metallic lines on your skin, slightly larger sense organs,
metallic pupils, bird-like twitching.
Drain (Life Force, Blood, Fear, Youth, Pain, Petrification, Heat) This replaces Life Drain with a more generic power that can be used to feed (but not regain Satiation unless the act is also your transgression) and to heal.
You must get a firm grip on your target or have direct eye contact for Petrification, then you can suck the appropriate type of energy or fluid from them. This must be a sizeable living thing such as a person, dog or cow. You roll your Trio, appropriate Skill and Drain dice and beat the target’s Body and appropriate second die. If you succeed you drain the appropriate energy and recover a level of Health.
life force does one level of damage to a target that is successfully
drained, and heals you by that amount. You will also not require any
food or drink for a day.
blood does the same as draining life force, but drained blood –
extracted by whatever means – can be stored. One health die level
is enough for one blood meal. You won’t need to eat or drink on a day
you have a blood meal.
fear causes the target to become irrationally and indefatigably brave
for 24 hours, which is something you might not want to do to a
hunter. It heals you one level and means you don’t have to eat or
drink for a day.
youth causes the target to age a number of years equal to your
Monster Power die roll in making the drain attempt. It regains you a
die level of health and you do not need to eat or drink for a day. If
the ageing process takes them past the age of seventy they take a die
level of damage for that and each five years over. If they’re already
over that age it’s one automatic level of damage and another one for
every five years or part-thereof.
pain causes the target to gain a level of Armoured, representing
their temporary immunity to further torture. They may engage in more
risk-taking and violent behaviour due to feeling invulnerable.
a target rolls Mind+Appropriate Skill for the attack (at -2 if
they’re aware of your power) and rolls damage at its die type as
though it were a weapon. Completely petrifying a person restores a
health die and precludes you from needing to eat or drink for a day.
heat works in exactly the same manner as Drain Life Force, but with
the side effect of coldness and loss of body heat.
Slippage (Youth Drain): Aged appearance, wrinkled and sunken, milky eyes, long fingers, broken yellow nails.
Slippage (Pain Drain): Pierced and twisted flesh, sharpened nails, serpent-like eyes, small horns.
Slippage (Heat): Pale flesh, vapour breath, blue skin, ice-blue eyes.
Empathic You can read the emotional state of another being, at least one that is capable of having or expressing emotion in a noticeable way. They must be within line of sight and in order to read them you make a Monster Power and Mind roll against the target’s resistance (Mind plus any appropriate training). Succeeding lets you read their overall emotion, while every two additional points of success gives you a bit more nuance or deeper reading into that emotional state.
example, while questioning someone you could attempt to read their
emotions in order to get a better angle on how to question them or
gauge their reactions. In this situation a simple success would let
you read that they were nervous (no, d’uh), while another degree of
success could allow a read of underlying reticence, holding something
back. Another degree of success on top of that could allow the
reading of the spike in emotions when a particular question upsets
Golden halo, glowing aura,
kaleidoscope eyes, deformed head.
Flight Through wings or some other manner of power you can take flight – but cannot hover, at least not for long. Your Flight die determines the maximum height and speed at which you can fly. 16/36/64/100/144 kilometres per hour or metres in height. You can carry one extra person with you, so long as your Flight die is higher than a d4.
Bat wings, angel wings, small feathers in your wake, your feet never
quite touch the ground, constant draught.
Heart Attack You can reach out towards someone and cause their heart to stop working, to spasm and fit, crippling them and doing damage to them. You must be within ten metres of the target and be able to gesture with your arm to enact the power. You roll your Power Die + Mind against their Body, if you succeed they are reduced to one action per turn for the duration and take a single die level of damage to their health. You can maintain this effect over several turns, continuing to cause damage and keeping the target relatively paralysed. So long as you continue to succeed you gain an accumulating +1 bonus to the roll each turn.
Heightened Sense One of your senses is heightened to an abnormal degree. You can add your Monster Power die to rolls relating to that sense (sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste). This can also allow you to perform remarkable feats relating to that sense, reading microfiche with the naked eye, feeling the thread count on a cotton sheet, hearing a conversation a block away, smelling the particular constituents of someone’s scent or tasting hints to the provenance of particular foods.
Distorted or enlarged sensory organs relating to the sense involved,
or additional or strange sensory organs like antennae, cilia or
Necrocommunication You can communicate with the dead. This requires the expenditure of a point of Satiation, and the presence of all or part of the deceased (a fistful of ashes is sufficient, provided it is mostly from the deceased rather than wood or something else used to burn them). Those who have died a violent or unjust death are easier to summon, while those who have died a peaceful death are harder. The relative violence and unjust nature of the death sets the intensity of the difficulty (d4-d12) while the amount of time they have been dead for determines the other dice of difficulty. D4 for days, d6 for weeks, d8 for months, d10 for years and d12 for any longer than that. Only the spirits of humans or Monsters can be raised in this way, and not if their soul or spirit has been otherwise claimed.
Reanimator You can raise the fleshy corpse of a person or animal, provided it still has sufficient muscle mass to move, even if it is old or mummified. This Zombie has d4 in everything and d4 in the Armoured Monster Power. It can perform even complex tasks, so long as its master is close by (25 metres) or so. Raising a corpse requires that you spend a level of Satiation, maintaining it in undeath also costs a level of Satiation every 4/6/8/10/12 days, depending on your die in the power. Unsupervised zombies revert to an animalistic and feral state and seek to devour living flesh. If they can kill – and feast – they can maintain their undeath for another 4 days.
Grey pallor, milky eyes, green mist surrounding you, glowing green
gaze, twitchy motions, cold flesh.
was a much underrated game, by Stellar Games (also known for
It Came from the Late Late Show) with great art by my long
time partner-in-crime Brad McDevitt (whose art was all over AFM
and who also sells stock art through us at Drivethrurpg.
tried to approach the guys from Stellar Games on several
occasions to seek licensing for this ‘lost’ game, but they have
always asked for too much, or more commonly, been unresponsive to
attempts to license or or produce a new edition (as I did with
I figured it might be fun to provide some bare-bones rules conversions for running Nightlife using the Actual Fucking Monsters system nonetheless, it doing so would also help me explore what additional rules and ideas might go into AFM’s companion book.
So here it is, just a silly fan-blog.
The Kin in
Nightlife were pretty loose anyway, rather open collections of
thematic powers and weaknesses. So there’s plenty of scope to use
AFM’s completely open system to recreate the Kin breeds found there.
Monsters in AFM, you can’t outright kill Kin easily. When they die
they – usually – resurrect the following night. This is detailed
in the Nightlife books, but a Monster in AFM’s rules can only
resurrect a number of times equal to their die type in Body (1-5
times) before dying the ‘true death’. Dying from Bane damage, or
being dismembered or bodily destroyed will also do it.
Kin Monster Powers
Armoured, Claws & Teeth, Control Weather, Danger Sense, Direction
Sense, Drain, Dreams and Nightmares, Extra Sensory Perception,
Heightened Sense, Navigate Probability, Sense of Time, Speed,
Those who are Made. Transgression: Cannibalism/Blood Drinking Monster Powers: Animal Magnetism, Beast Form (Bat), Hypnosis, Insubstantial, Beast Form (Rat), Beast Form (Wolf), Drain (Blood). Possible Banes: Sunlight, Running Water, Garlic, Wood, Fire, Holy Relics.
Those who are Born, or Those who are Made. Transgression: Sadism or Cannibalism. Monster Powers: Animal Magnetism, Beast Form (Hybrid), Beast Form (Wolf), Drain (Pain), Fearsome, Heightened Sense. Possible Banes: Fire, Silver.
The Neverborn. Transgression: Cause Fear. Monster Powers: Armoured, Camouflage, Drain (Fear), Empathic, Facedance, Fearsome, Frigidity, Insubstantial (In Ghosts, using this power makes them corporeal), Levitation, Telekinetic, Teleportation. Possible Banes: Cold-Wrought Iron, Fire, Holy Relics.
Those who are Born or Neverborn. Transgression: Corruption and temptation. Monster Powers: Body Manipulation, Drain (Life Force), Facedance, Fire Breath, Flight, Inhabit, Levitation, Telepathic Projection, Telepathic Reading, Teleportation. Possible Banes: Flint (stone), Holy Relics, Natural Fire.
Those who are Made. Transgression: Necrophagy, Necrophilia. Monster Powers: Drain (Youth), Necrocommunication, Reanimator. Possible Banes: Sunlight, Silver, Fire.
Manitou (Inuit – even I thought that was a bit much)
Those who are Born. Transgression: Pranks and tricks. Monster Powers: Animal Magnetism, Bedlam, Camouflage, Harm Transference, Heart Attack, Levitation. Possible Banes: Fire, Holy Relics.
The Neverborn. Transgression: Sadism. Monster Powers: Body Manipulation, Demagogue, Drain (Life), Hypnosis, Telepathic Projection, Telepathic Reading. Bane: Sunlight, Fire, Antipathy.
I figure I might do a companion booklet for AFM, with some rules variations, clarifications and ideas. Ideas for longer, ongoing campaigns, ideas for playing as hunters, rather than monsters, some new Monster Powers people have suggested and so on.
If there’s something you’d like to see covered, leave a comment here on or social media and I’ll see what I can do for you here, before I fully put it together for the companion.
Here’s a few things that have come up from readers and players already…
Apparently this wasn’t clear enough, but Slippage (the physical/material manifestation of your powers and Monster nature) kicks in involuntarily when your Satiation drops below a certain level. Place the slippage from each power in order (typically from least to most obvious manifestation) matching to each die type of satiation from the bottom up.
EG: d4 – Cloud of Sulpherous Mist. d6 – Fanged maw. d8 – Red skin
Most of the time it’s anticipated that your Mask describes your human ‘cover story’, or what you do or did before you became or Monster, or besides being a Monster. Some Monsters might feel that they no longer need a cover identity or can do without one, or were never really human in the first place.
In those instances a standard Mask might not be appropriate. Masks don’t have to be these human identities or tasks, you can use them in these instances, like a secondary nature, or to describe what kind of Monster you are in some more explicit terms.
Example: Mr Thinner is a manifestation echo of The Slender Man. He has never been human and in addition to his Stalker Nature, he decides to take Sinister as his Mask, with the skills Intimidation, Stealth and Persuasive under it.
New Power – Dormancy
You can subside into a state of hibernation or dormancy and rest, maintaining your Satiation for longer but rendering you – to all intents and purposes – comatose until the end of your dormancy. Depending on the power level you can awake (and roll for Satiation loss) every 5/6/8/10/12 days, or part thereof decided by you when you hibernate. While dormant you are insensible (until and unless harmed) and cannot defend yourself. Your metabolic activity, body heat and so on are also virtually imperceptible during this time.
Slippage: Slabs of body fat, coated in webbing, mucous ooze, chitinous fragments.