No Thank You, Evil! is the latest kickstarter project by Monte Cook Games, their fourth to be precise. They’ve had successes in the past with Numenera, The Strange, and the Numenera box set, but decided this time to go with something different – a RPG aimed at kids. I had the chance to sit down and talk with Shanna Germain – one of the creators behind it.
No Thank You, Evil! was inspired by hearing the stories of various parents modifying Numenera and The Strange to play it with their kids. While the rules system utilizes many of the core bits from the Cypher system that Numenera and The Strange use it has been further streamlined some but the area where they found the biggest adjustment needed apparently was the setting:
“The mechanics are pretty streamlined, there’s a lot of storytelling elements, and the players roll all the dice and so kids really enjoy that aspect of really being able to get involved. But the settings for both of those games are pretty adult and there’s a lot of death and dying and there’s like some darkness to it and so we’re really revamping the settings.”
Storia is the setting in No Thank You, Evil! and it is much more of a fairy tale feel to it, as one might expect. That doesn’t mean that the setting is incapable of darker moments – in fact one of the four entrances to Storia, Under the Bed, deals more with some horror elements – but that it’s focus is that of a tale of adventure and make believe. Storia is the world as a kid might see it – a world where those tales can all co-exist in different parts with great imagination taking over.
One of the most difficult parts No Thank You, Evil! had to deal with was the wide range of development that happens in kids. When designing a game for adults you can make some base assumptions on maturity and reading abilities, but when dealing with a game for kids the development to that skill level is still happening. What a 5 year old can process is less than an 8 or 11 year old can, and so the game needed the ability to scale with that.
How they managed to do that was by streamlining the main rule set with a focus on narrative, and making character creation scalable. In the Cypher system characters at their base can be expressed in a sentence form like “I am a [Adjective] [Noun] who [Verbs]” which looks in practice like “I am a Rugged Glaive who Hunts With Great Skill” to give an example from Numenera. With No Thank You, Evil! what they did was focus on creating more types (the nouns, essentially classes) and making it so that the descriptor (the adjective) and focus (verb) are less essential to making the character.
By doing this, and keeping the rules the same in general, they can use a staggered character creation complexity. The simplest level goes down to just “I am a [Noun]”, so perhaps like “I am a Princess” and that provides the class and the abilities from there. The intermediate level adds in the Adjective so you have “I am a [Adjective] [Noun]” like “I am a Smart Princess” which tends to broaden characters some. In other Cypher system games the descriptor tends to affect skills and stat pools – not giving you so much more raw power as giving more options. The last level is the full sentence, adding in the Focus so you end up with “I am a Smart Princess who uses Ice Magic” and tends to add something that makes a flair for the character mechanically and give some abilities related to that.
The choice to do the staggered system in such a simple and clean way allows all three levels to play at the same table without any large discrepancies in abilities. It also allows it to be easily adjusted upwards as people get the hang of the game and can handle more – so perhaps after a few sessions, the 5 year old can handle that second tier having learned the first.
One new addition to the system in No Thank You, Evil! is the Awesome stat. Created to help keep people in the action, your Awesome pool is used entirely on helping each other. You spend points from your Awesome pool to help another character succeed on an action by lowering the difficulty. According to Shanna it’s been a big hit with everyone so far, with it exciting people to find out what their Awesome pool is on a character. We talked about it a bit early on as it definitely stood out in the mechanics they’ve shown off as a difference and this is what she had to say on that:
“We came up with the Awesome Stat because one of the things that you know we love about roleplaying games is that it’s co-operative, you get to help each other and so the Awesome stat can only be used to help other players. So it allows players to take a turn sort of when it’s not their turn and it also allows you to have this pool of Awesome that you can choose to spend and we found it’s kind of cool that players ran out of Awesome more than any other pool that they had because they liked to spend it, they like to help somebody out. So it’s been really fun to watch and everybody wants to know, as soon as you give them their character sheet ‘what’s the awesome pool for it?’ and then they get really excited about it, so it’s sort of subversive teaching how to help each other and be co-operative.”
No Thank You, Evil! is also a piece heavy game for an RPG, coming in a full box set with various pieces and rewritable character sheets. Due to the focus on kids, these aren’t your normal Dungeon and Dragon’s miniatures that are meant to be untouched most of the time, but sturdy tools meant to survive contact with kids roleplaying a character. There is also more space on the sheets to draw your character, your weapons, and your companion, and they can be easily erased in use.
No Thank You, Evil! is on its final days of Kickstarter right now, having raised over twice its original goal and well on its way to its ninety thousand dollar stretch goal of a storybook.
You can view the whole interview below!