EEEKK!!! Actual Monsters
I found EEEKK!!! Actual Monsters in a Facebook group for TTRPG Zines and was instantly intrigued. If you were a kid in the 90s, you probably spent a lot of time watching Nickelodeon. It was the big kid channel back then, and, in all honesty, it’s still relevant today. Of course, if you watched Nickelodeon as a kid you’ve seen Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, and it shouldn’t be any surprise that this 90s icon of children’s television is the inspiration for this lighthearted, goofy game.
If you’re feeling at all nostalgic for your childhood cartoons, this game is a must-read. Overall, EEEKK!!! Actual Monsters reads like a tongue-in-cheek love letter to the original show. The art obviously appreciates the original style and design of the characters, Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm, and the world-building and lore within the text of the book follows suit.
Now, I say tongue-in-cheek because the author adds a bit of wit and humor throughout the book. This makes the “dry” parts of a TTRPG entertaining, and he wastes no time introducing his particular brand of comedy. The first line reads, “Welcome to EEEKK!!! Actual Monsters – yes, you have to shout the first part of the title whenever you say it.” Quips like that maintain a lighthearted and ironic tone throughout.
What’s it about?
The game sticks to the original cartoon plot and setting pretty closely. It does expand upon the lore a bit, but that’s primarily to give your characters an appropriate in-game motivation. The original show followed three little monsters as they were given assignments to go scare people. This game builds on that premise by providing a reason why monsters need to do a little scaring from time to time.
They borrow from Monsters Inc. a little bit making fear a tangible and valuable commodity. That’s why you have to go out and scare people. In this case, monsters are anthropomorphic creatures born and sustained by human fear. Their physical forms, however, are also sustained through the consumption of trash.
This need for fear motivates monsters to go into the world and scare people. They then get “fear points”. It’s suggested that you use some kind of token to represent and distribute “fear points”. You can then spend your points to power up abilities your monster might have to scare other humans, or you can use them on resources; do a little in-game shopping. Unfortunately, tokens are not provided with the game, nor is there a rule system for shopping. You’re going to have to do a little home brewing there if you want to play that out.
The writer does a good job at fleshing out the groundwork, lore and world-building. Outside of the basic fundamentals of how monsters live and work, however, they leave the rest of the world open to our imaginations. This presents a lot of room for the “Scare Master” to build their own plot and environment. Realistically, that makes this booklet a foundation. It’s up to the “SM” to build the rest.
“Scare Master” was probably my favorite part of this book. It had me laughing for a solid minute.
What’s under the hood?
The game mechanics are pretty simple. They present a lightweight modifier system that centers around decisions made in the moment as opposed to stat building. It’s exceptionally light on crunch. It also uses dice as a central part of its modifier system. Instead of having a +1, you get another diced to roll. This is something that I greatly appreciate. Systems that utilize dice instead of straight modifiers end up being a little faster, edgier, and overall more fun.
When building a playable monster, you develop 4 attributes. These attributes are your basic stats for the game. They are ferocity, malleability, moxie, and smarts. It’s easy to understand how to use these attributes in gameplay. The document is easy to read, and the rules make sense. The best part is, the game mechanics encourage imaginative gameplay. They don’t spell everything out for you. You have to think through your problems and get creative.
The book gives the “Scare Master” rules for scaring humans as well as accomplishing tasks that might take a little extra work. Again, however, they leave a lot for interpretation and flexibility. The “Scare Master” is really going to have to fill in a few blanks, but it feels like that’s kind of the point. You’re supposed to have fun with this game and not get bogged down in dense, complex rules. I mean, it is a game based on a child’s TV show.
Should I buy it?
Hell yes, you should buy it! It’s only five bucks.
The real question is, who should buy it?
Obviously, people who lived through the 90s and are feeling a little nostalgic are the target audience. You shouldn’t pick up this game thinking it’s going to be a deep dive into your favorite childhood show, however. It’s a pretty lightweight game with only about nineteen pages of actual content. If you’re looking for something comprehensive and expansive, this probably isn’t your thing.
If you’re looking for something irreverent, silly, and easy, then yeah, this game is for you. I see a group of like-minded friends in their 30s feeling the warm and fuzzies for their childhood favorites enjoying this game. Play it over a few glasses of wine or beer because alcohol makes everything better, and because alcohol lets the laughs come a little easier. After all, Things are supposed to get silly. The book specifically tells you to act out your scares. That’s just fun!
I can also see a parent wanting to bring something from their childhood back to life for their kids getting a lot out of Actual Monsters. Kids are already good at being silly. And if mom or dad are acting goofy too, you’ll never stop the giggles. I would say ages 7 and up would be a good age for this game, but sit them down in front of the show first. Paramount plus has the entire series on streaming. Might be worth making a subscription.
Overall, I would say that this is a lightweight game that can be learned in about fifteen minutes. Playtime could run anywhere between thirty minutes to two hours; more than that and you might end up stretching this game’s playtime a little too far. That being said, we’re looking at a game that is essentially a basic rule system. If you’re creative and have a reliable sense of humor, you can certainly build from the foundation built here. Scare Masters that like to write and homebrew have plenty of room to flex their creative muscles while still having solid ground to stand on.
You can pick up this game at itch.io, which is a website that specializes in indie TTRPG games. Like I said, it’s only five bucks. If you’re feeling at all nostalgic, treat yourself to a little 90s gold.
Until next time, happy scaring!