"The Amazing Screw-On Head" Playbook for Monster of the Week

Up until recently, I was convinced that I would be the only person to remember the brilliant pilot for Mike Mignola’s “The Amazing Screw-On Head”. Earlier this week, podcast host Jeff Stormer (who I’ve mentioned here once before) proved me wrong. In a tweet, he revealed that he shared my eternal frustration that the show never saw the full run that it deserved.

As Jeff is the host of the Party Of One Podcast (which I highly recommend), I replied jokingly that we should find a way to play The Amazing Screw-On Head as a two-player tabletop RPG.

Then, I left it alone for a few hours, content that I’d made a pleasant response and nothing would ever come of it. It was a silly idea that didn’t merit a second thought.

Or a third.

Or a fourth.

Inevitably, it was something like 7 o’clock at night, and I found myself trying to write an Amazing Screw-On Head standalone game. Nothing complex, maybe just in the vein of Cyberpunk Day Job or Teenagers With Attitude, so that I could crank it out and be done with it. Over three separate iterations, though, I realized that all I was really trying to do was re-write the excellent Monster of the Week, one of my favorite games.

So, I opted for the path of least resistance: make a new playbook for MotW.

So far, it seems to have gone over pretty well, which makes me happier than I’m fully able to convey here. You can download it from the link below, and try it in your own games!

A quick note about gameplay mechanics: You’ll notice that the playbook doesn’t include experience or advancement sections. This is for two reasons:

First, the goal was really to run this as a one-shot, or at most a series of monster-of-the-week episodes (see what I did there?) where the development is primarily narrative, rather than mechanical.

Second, this is to balance the mechanics of allowing one character to essentially erase their harm five times. The “advancement” in this case is the selecting of a new body, which is pretty unique to even the unofficial playbooks I’ve seen.

With regard to actually determining moves, much of what’s written is inspired by The Monstrous playbook, which is my favorite to play as. I wanted to make something that would feel like being a weird, wondrous, mechanical hero, and a lot of the Monstrous fit the bill. It’s also built for be played as the only Hunter, so it should (should) fit a handful of roles simultaneously. That said, I could see this running well alongside a Flake, or an Expert, or maybe even a Monstrous for a fun twist.

Let me know if you like it! I’ll likely be using the document as a template for future playbooks, and invite you to make copies and do the same. Unless there’s a better template out there that I was too lazy to look up. In that case, let me know about that too.