If there's one thing we've learned playing Kingdom Death: Monster is that the game is relentlessly brutal. A single attack can take a survivor from unhurt to dead if the dice and cards conspire against you. Even the phase after the battle can wipe out an entire settlement. If you commit yourself to following things exactly as drawn/rolled this game will run you over like a semi, then back up to finish the job. Unforgiving doesn't cover it.
As a group, we've committed to letting the chips (or more often, severed limbs) fall where they may. We've also tried very hard not to read ahead, experiencing things as the survivors would. That's why last night's session was so amazing. It didn't start that way though. The settlement event saw two of our characters re-enacting a hunt and one of them being killed in the process. Ouch. On the settlement enhancement side, we had been constantly struggling with whether to invest resources in new settlement assets or gear for survivors. We knew we were going to face the Butcher this year, but we still had the whole rest of the settlement phase to do prepare. It turns out there was very little we could craft, so we innovated and got bed to go with our hovel. We still had some endeavor left so we gave augury a shot. The dice came up "intimacy", which was thrilling and terrifying. The only other time we'd used intimacy resulted in both survivors dying at a time when we were low on survivors. That settlement was eventually wiped.
So we looked up the intimacy story event, and were pleased that both hovel and bed enhanced it. Neither removed the potential lethal aspects, but added some nice enhancements to the good results. So survivors Al and Peggy got bizzay and... Peggy and the child died and Al was traumatized. Lovely. Driven more by a surplus of endeavor we augured again and got... intimacy. Okay, this could still be a good thing since we were out of unnamed survivors. We held our breath and rolled ... a lantern! Twins! No, wait. With hovel it triggered a different event. Birth of a Savior! Saviors are the super-humans of the Kingdom Death world, not invincible but definitely enhanced. We chose the red variant, which has better attack skills. The whole group was giddy about getting such a great edition to our settlement.
We looked at wrapping up the settlement phase and getting to the Butcher, but we still had one more endeavor to spend. We decided to auger again, and rolled an 8... intimacy again?! Alright! Stef threw a die for the intimacy table and... another lantern! We had another savior born! This time we chose the luck/range savior (green? can't remember...) and planned to equip with bow. That extra luck for scoring crits would be handy.
Now the mood was decidedly less grim than a normal KD:M session. (Don't get me wrong, we love the grim. It is a nightmare horror game, after all.) Two saviors in one lantern year. But now it was time to face the Butcher. We decided to leave the saviors out of the fight, since we only get a few battles with them before they disappear forever. Tonight the regular survivors would face the nemesis monster.
Like I said, we've really been trying to keep the game suprising for ourselves by not reading ahead, so we had no idea really what the Butcher was about other than his little background blurb in the showdown section of the book. When the first AI card we drew was a mood, a scream that he does every turn that does brain damage to all survivors, the color drained from Dave's face. His current character had zero insanity, and would therefore be in mortal danger from this scream. Everyone else had a fair bit of insanity to shield our brains from the mind-rending horrors of KD. The turn the mood card came out he filled his only damage box for brain. Next turn he would have to roll on the table.
Just in case anyone missed this, "roll on the table" is typically a bad thing in KD:M. There is almost always a "you're dead" on that table.
But as luck would have it, it was Dave's turn to be the monster controller, and he could give his character a point of insanity by having the Butcher target him for an attack, That would give him yet another turn to try and do something to avoid rolling on that table. We continued to pummel the Butcher, doing some damage but not nearly enough to avoid that table for Dave.
The moment of truth finally came... the maddening screams of the Butcher pushed Dave's character to roll on the brain trauma table. The result....? Impossible! How can this be? (I think that's the actual name of the entry.) Dave gained 7 points of insanity (brain armor in this nightmare world) and +2 luck for the rest of the encounter! We proceeded to wear the foe down until he finally exploded and left broken lanterns scattered around. We didn't get any of the good drops from him, but we survived without anyone being maimed. We decided to proceed with the settlement phase next session.
Executive summary for Lantern Year 5:
2 Saviors added to settlement
The Butcher defeated
This is as close to good times as it gets for KD survivors. For the players, definitely good times.