Elevator Pitch: Wet Hot American Monsters

Category: Cussin' In Tongues
Created on Thursday, 25 May 2017 Written by Steve

Months of nothing and then two Elevator Pitches in two weeks. It's almost like I realized I'm going to have to demo this game at DieCon in less than a month. The next pitch (and third game I'm running at DieCon) is Guardians of Aetheria. Since it's going to require writing a lot of new material instead of just converting to the latest version of the Cinemechanix playtest rules (which you can download by joining the playtest group) it will take a little longer to finish, so I'll probably do a regular blog post next week. Feel free to offer suggestions about things you'd like me to ramble about. 

Despite being nearly 8 years old and only 7 pages, Josh Burnett's Funkadelic Frankenstein on the Mean Streets of Monstertown is still one of our most popular QAGS supplements, and I've always kind of wanted to do something with that world. For some reason, watching the Wet Hot American Summer Netflix series gave me the perfect (and by perfect, I mean too dumb to pass up) idea: Monster Summer Camp! "Wet Hot American Monsters" was my original title, but for the first version I decided tying it to one movie and series might be a little too constricting so I called it "Summer Camp Monster Mash." When I wrote the blurbs for GenCon, I went back to the original title because it's a lot more attention-grabbing, and eventually changed he name of the Elevator Pitch as well. The new version includes a couple of new monster templates and 3 new sample PCs (because if the game fills up at either con I'll need 8 characters). You can download the PDF from my website

Here's an excerpt: 

Premise

Wet Hot American Monsters is a summer camp coming of age movie about teenage monsters. Players take on the roles of the vampires, werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night as they set out for Camp Windigo to explore nature and their own raging hormones with very little competent adult supervision. It’s sort of The Munsters meets Meatballs.

The Ficton

Since Wet Hot American Monsters takes place entirely at Camp Windigo, the history and status of monsters in the outside world aren’t really important. Whether monsters live openly in human society or remain hidden and only socialize amongst themselves, everyone at Camp Windigo is in the know. If the characters encounter people from outside of camp (like the snobs across the lake at Camp Mayflower), those people are probably going to be freaked out. Whether it’s because monsters exist or because monsters are talking to them is mostly academic. The default time period is “modern day”, but the game can be set earlier if players prefer. Most of the best-known summer camp movies take place in the 1980s.

 

For the examples here, we’re going to set the game in the current year and use the world history from Funkadelic Frankenstein on the Mean Streets of Monstertown where monsters made themselves known during the Civil War but still haven’t been fully accepted into human society. Most live in (overwhelmingly poor) neighborhoods and communities made up largely or exclusively of monsters. The most famous “Monstertown” is the one in New York City, which during the 1970s was briefly ground zero for the “Monstersploitation” movie genre. Since the turn of the century, a growing number of monsters, and sometimes entire communities, have given up on the idea of integration with human society and gone off the grid or established remote compounds far away from human society.

Ficton Rules

  • Characters in Wet Hot American Monsters are Hollywood monsters, not monsters from myth, legend, and folklore. Proper vampires wear tuxedos, werewolves are humanoid wolves, and golems are scarred giants with bolts in their necks.

  • “Creep” is a common racial slur used against monsters. “Monster” is generally considered to be the proper term, but some monster rights activist consider it an offensive human label and prefer “Supernatural American.”   

  • Summer camp is less cliquish than high school and all monsters are sort of outsiders (especially if monsters aren’t part of human society), but the campers are still teenagers. Many characters fall into traditional high school archetypes (nerd, jock, class clown, etc.) and the usual rivalries and resentments sometimes surface. Interspecies biases and animosity can also lead to conflict.

  • Although the camp counselors are technically authority figures, there’s not much distinction between them and the campers. Most are around the same age as the campers and have similar attitudes, maturity levels, and goals. There are a few actual adults at camp, but they’re mostly clueless about or just don’t much care what goes on behind their backs.

  • Beneath the outdoor adventure, the arts and crafts, the talent show, and whatever else goes on at camp, everyone there basically has one goal: romance. Nearly every character should have an unrequited love, be pursuing a relationship with another camper, be going through a breakup with another camper, be part of a love triangle, or just want to get laid. The players should decide before the game begins whether the teen romance should be more of the Wonder Years or American Pie variety.

  • Different monster species can and do interbreed. When different monster species breed, the resulting children typically follow cartoon rules: female children are the same species as the mother, male children are the same species as the father. Offspring with the Monster Type of the opposite-gendered parent occur, but are rare. Children that exhibit monstrous traits of both parents are even rarer. Monster/Human crossbreeds are less predictable and can be monsters, humans, a combination of both, or Graveyard Children.  

  • A lot can happen at camp despite the short time span.

  • There are seemingly thousands of camp songs, chants, mottos, and traditions, along with all sorts of community and spirit-building activities seemingly designed by people who have never met an actual teenager. Some people grumble about these, some half-heartedly go along with them, and a terrifying few genuinely seem to enjoy them.

  • Most camps have a story about a ghost or axe murderer. Camp Windigo has the tale of Wayne C. Showalter, a middle manager who lives deep in the woods. According to legend, he kidnaps lost campers and forces them to do data entry and cold call sales.

  • The mess hall food is terrible. Sometimes it moves (or doesn’t move like it’s supposed to, depending on the dish). Snacks from the outside world (especially of the homemade variety) are like cigarettes in prison.

  • Nature is out to get you. Rainstorms, wild animal attacks, and other natural disasters or dangers always show up at the absolute worst time.

  • The more human-looking monster species tend to be more popular and well-liked than lagoon creatures, blobs, and similarly inhuman monsters.

  • First year campers are subject to various forms of hazing at the hands of returning campers, counselors, or both.

  • There’s always a bad boy all the girls want. He’s usually a vampire.

  • There’s always one completely normal kid who ended up at Camp Windigo by accident.   

  • The kids at Camp Mayflower across the lake are rich jerks. They look down at the campers from Camp Windigo, Maybe because they’re monsters, but maybe just because they’re commoners. Despite their many advantages, the Mayflower campers will always lose to the Windigo campers in any rivalry or competition.  

  • Cell phones, tablets, laptops, and other electronic devices are collected when campers arrive and kept under lock and key in the camp director’s office. There is a small computer lab that campers can use during their free time during the day, but the building is locked an hour after the evening meal. Counselors are allowed to carry phones on hikes and other outings in case of emergency, but reception is terrible in most parts of the camp.   

Influences

Movies & Television

  • The Addams Family (especially Addams Family Values)

  • Adult Wednesday Addams (web series)

  • Drak Pack

  • Hotel Transylvania

  • Friday the 13th movies

  • Meatballs series

  • The Munsters

  • Wet Hot American Summer

  • What We Do in the Shadows

Books & Comics

  • Little Gloomy by Landry Walker and Eric Jones

  • Scare Tactics by Len Kaminski

  • Although they have a different tone, Supernatural romance novels (the Sookie Stackhouse books, Twilight, etc.) and the movies or TV shows inspired by them may be a good source for ideas.

Games

  • Funkadelic Frankenstein on the Mean Streets of Monstertown by Johshua LH Burnett (published by Hex Games, QAGS system).

Music 

  • “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett

 

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Elevator Pitch: Wet Hot American Monsters.
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