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I just got back last night from another fun but exhausting Archon weekend, so I’m going to post something I’ve already written today. As some of you know, we’ve been working on a new version of M-Force, our monster hunting game, for quite a while now. M-force takes place in the same world (which we call The Hex Ficton) as several other Hex products, including Hobomancer, Weird Times at Charles Fort High, and Colin Thomas Presents RASSLIN’. This is a brief introduction to the world that will appear as an appendix in the M-Force core rulebook.
The Hex Ficton
The word “ficton” was coined by science fiction writer Robert Heinlein in the novel Number of the Beast. The word simply means “a fictional world.” Heinlein gives Oz and Wonderland as examples, but some fictons, like the ones that house Moby-Dick or The Maltese Falcon, look just like our world. No matter what it looks like, though, a ficton is governed by natural laws that differ from our own. These laws generally owe more to drama than to physics.
M-Force exists in its own ficton, one inspired by popular fictions but still unique. This world, which we call “The Hex Ficton,” is the home of M-Force as well as several other Hex Games products, including Weird Times at Fort High, American Artifacts, and Hobomancer, just to name a few. If you’re familiar with these products, you easily can incorporate ideas from any of them into your M-Force game. If not, don’t worry. You don’t need to know anything about other Hex Ficton supplements to play M-Force.
At first glance, the world of M-Force looks much like our own world—most place names are the same, and history follows basically the same course. Upon closer examination, however, the world of M-Force is a deeply strange place. This is not an alternate timeline where one key divergence brought about a different history. It’s a world that has been strange from the beginning. Weirdness suffuses everything. In the world of M-Force, many of the things we look at as fiction are demonstrably provable facts. In addition to monsters, you can find magic, aliens, ancient conspiracies, super science, and lost civilizations. As writer Kurt Busiek once said about his Astro City, “It’s not a realistic world, but it’s a fascinating one.”
Ancient man accepted things like monsters and magic as a part of life, but as civilization evolved, the unusual elements of life were pushed farther and farther to the fringes of society and many people stopped believing in them. This skepticism was often encouraged by the ruling class, who typically saw the unpredictability of these phenomena as a potential threat to their power. For centuries, the truth about the paranormal was suppressed by those in power. Unusual creatures, abilities, and events were written off as mass hysteria, hoaxes, and urban legends, or given some other perfectly rational explanation.
All that changed in 1958, when Galaxikhan, a giant lizard-like creature from outer space, rampaged across the American West and nearly destroyed San Francisco. With the cat out of the bag, people like M-Force founder Dr. Henry Fields, who had long known about the threat monsters posed to humanity, used the attack as a platform to bring the existence of monsters and other unusual phenomena out into the open. After seeing a giant space lizard rampage through California live on TV, people found things like magic, werewolves, and ESP a lot more plausible.
In the 21st Century world of the Internet and 24-hour news networks, everyone knows that weirdness exists in the world, but most only know it intellectually, the way they might know that the Earth’s climate is changing in ways that threaten our existence. The average American citizen knows that Martians and monsters exist, but they think of them in the same way they think of celebrities or serial killers: “Sure, they’re out there, but what are the chances I’m going to run into one?” Society continues to run smoothly because people are in denial. They tell themselves they live in a nice, clean, rational world. As long as they don’t encounter anything unusual, they’re fine. Unfortunately for these people, the world keeps getting weirder and weirder all the time.
Weirdness in the Hex Ficton
It should be abundantly clear by now that there are a lot of strange things going on in the Hex Ficton. The main paranormal concern of M-Force is, obviously, monsters, and we’ll be giving you a lot of information about them in this and other M-Force products. This section provides information about some other types of weirdness that M-Forcers are likely to encounter.
The very nature of M-Force’s work often brings it into close contact with magic, and some magical practitioners are employed by the organization. However, M-Force’s origins are deeply rooted in science and most M-Forcers are more confident in superior firepower than arcane rituals. Although some of M-Force’s tactics (such as using iron against fairies) are based in magical principles and experienced M-Forcers often pick up a basic working knowledge of magical theory, most are not equipped to deal with serious magical threats. When heavy magical firepower is required, M-Force usually requests help from and acts as support for professional spellcasters.
While people with super-human abilities certainly exist in the Hex Ficton, most of them make the average person a little nervous. Parahumans (as they are commonly known) do occasionally don colorful outfits and fight crime, but more often they try to hide their powers to avoid being labeled freaks, use their abilities for personal gain, or both. Although M-Force has no specific policy regarding agents with paranormal abilities, they are a rarity. The average precognitive is more likely to use his power to play the stock market or beat the odds in Vegas than to fight monsters.
The Hex Ficton is home to a number of alien and non-human races. Some of them, like Martians and Venusians, are American citizens and intelligent non-humans who aren’t inherently evil are considered to have the same basic human rights as the rest of us. While the line between “intelligent non-human” and “intelligent monster” is fuzzy, M-Force’s generally progressive organizational culture requires that it allow any legal resident of the United States join the organization, including those who aren’t human. However, there are very few takers. For one thing, many M-Forcers, like most Americans, are suspicious of non-humans and don’t make them feel especially welcome. Additionally, some non-humans (like the Frog People) were treated as monsters by M-Forcers or other monster hunters in recent memory, so many non-humans aren’t exactly comfortable around monster hunters.
As anyone who has toured the Experimental Operations facility can attest, M-Force does not shy away from considering unorthodox scientific ideas. Unfortunately, very few inventions based on non-traditional science actually find their way into regular use. Most are unreliable, cost-prohibitive to produce, dangerous, or too complicated to use without extensive training.
While the setting makes it possible to play an M-Force game with PCs who are a powerful wizard, a Martian, a guy who can shoot lasers from his eyes, and a mad scientist, such a group really misses the point of the game. The focus of M-Force is on everyday heroes overcoming tremendous opposition, so we recommend avoiding PCs with amazing powers. If you want to play super-heroes, there are other games better suited for the task.
The Hex Ficton page at World Anvil has more information about the ficton.