The Initiate is an interesting class that blends the arts of ancient warrior monks with the modern skills, knowledge, and abilities of monster hunters. You below to a particular ancient secret order that has two good traditions and one bad tradition, creating an interesting character who may be hunting monsters with fighting sticks, sword, and sniper rifle.
This character can be seen as a very Matrix type of build where the mystic and the hand-to-hand and martial arts blend with modern weapons, technologies, and a dash of the Weird to create a character who is going to be very useful in many mysteries investigating supernatural or monstrous happenings.
The introductory quote to the Initiate Class covers the background quite well:
Since the dawn of history, we have been the bulwark against Darkness. We know the Evils of the world, and we stand against them so that the mass of humanity need not fear. We are the Flame that cleanses the Shadows.The Initiate, Monster of the Week p.55
The initiate is going to be heavily defined by their weapon choices, their sect, and the starting Ratings they pick. There’s a lot to like about the heavy versatility that comes with this class despite the fact all Ratings have +2 Weird to start. But if you’re going to be hunting the weird and the monstrous, you need to know your opponent.
Let’s dive into what this class brings to the table.
What Is The Initiate Class In Monster of the Week RPG?
A blend of ancient traditions, fighting styles, and knowledge with modern weapons and investigation techniques, the Initiate is going to feel strangely familiar to D&D players who played the Monk or Paladin classes, while infusing them with a modern take.
Looking at the original Matrix movie is a decent example in that it blends martial arts, the weird, and of course, plenty of firearms. While this isn’t an apples to apples comparison, it gives an idea of what this class can be.
The Initiate who is in good standing with their Sect gets some useful information or help starting out a mystery. The Moves vary immensely to having an apprentice, to being a great utility player, to being a dangerous fighter, or a blend of all of these.
Your gear includes a combination of old fashioned armor, old fashioned weapons, and modern weapons. This can lead to Initiate characters looking, feeling, and fighting very differently from one campaign to the next.
You have help from your Ancient Sect dedicated to hunting monsters but, every Sect comes with its own baggage and that also means it might only be a matter of time until the Keeper has them ask for something you’re not willing to give or do…and that can lead to some very interesting problems in-game.
What Type of Initiate Will You Be?
You can play the experienced fighter good at handling all fighting situations, whether it’s magic, hand-to-hand, or with ancient or modern weapons. You might be able to tap into the powers to get some hints to help an investigation along, or you may be extremely specialized – focusing on one oath, one monster type, one purpose as you teach another the ways of the brothers and sisters of your sect.
The Ratings for the Initiate are incredibly interesting and very different from what you’re used to using among the breakdowns of other class options. The blend of Ratings options show how differently the builds can run from the badass looking to bust up monsters wherever they find them, to the build with few elite options but no obvious weaknesses (Jack of All Trades), to a variety of Weird builds that can be specialized one direction or another at the cost of something else.
The Initiate Ratings for MOTW Are
- +2 Weird, +1 Tough & Cool, 0 Sharp, -1 Charm
- +2 Weird, +1 Sharp & Cool, 0 Charm, -1 Tough
- +2 Weird, +1 Sharp & Charm, 0 Tough, -1 Cool
- +2 Weird & Tough, 0 Cool, -1 Sharp & Charm
- +2 Weird, +1 Tough, 0 Cool, Charm, & Sharp
This opens up many possibilities, and as a well known “Jack of All Trades” player who likes builds where I don’t have to specialize in one thing, that last one with no obvious weaknesses is something that just sings to me. Roll those d12 dice and let’s see what we can do!
What Makes MOTW Initiates Interesting or Different from Other Classes?
There is actually a lot going on with the Initiate Class in Monster of the Week TTRPG that makes them really stick out from other classes and even from each other from one campaign to another. Aside from the interesting Ratings that the Initiate gets to choose from, they have some awesome gear and background elements that a good Game Keeper will be able to bring into the game.
You come from an Ancient Sect, and that seems really important. An ancient secret order that fights monsters, so work with your Keeper to answer questions like:
- Where are they from?
- How ancient are they?
- Is this a religious sect? Offshoot of a cult? Secular?
- Why do they stay secret and how do they recruit?
- What secrets are they hiding (either about themselves or knowledge that could cause massive societal disruption)
Is the Sect strong and vibrant? Fading and slowly dying?
These are all questions that can heavily affect how your Sect interacts with you and as a result, how your Initiate interacts with the world and other players at the table.
Each sect has 2 good traditions and 1 bad tradition. This is a great mechanic which keeps up with the common gamemaster philosophy of help comes with a price, and it means nothing is ever 100% clean, black and white – but there is gray area with your mission and where you come from, both good and bad to deal with.
I like the fact the Sect is always a little more good than bad tradition-wise, but that the problem does remain there.
Good Traditions (Pick 2)
- Ancient Lore
- Magical Lore
- Fighting Arts
- Chapters Everywhere
- Secular Power
- Flexible Tactics
- Open Hierarchy
- Integrated in Society
- Nifty Gadgets
- Magical Items
Bad Traditions (Pick 1)
- Dubious Motives
- Paranoid and Secretive
- Closed Hierarchy
- Strict Laws
- Mystical Oaths
- Total Obedience
- Tyrannical Leaders
- Obsolete Gear
The History Options between classes often have overlap, but that actually is very much NOT the case with the Initiate Class, which is something else that makes them stand out. Many of the History options for Initiate involves the ancient sect. Is another Hunter at the table a lay member? Did you fight together when an onslaught of monsters seemed unstoppable? Friends who met you but learned about the secret sect later (how did that happen and how did they feel about discovering your secret), or were they an ex-member of the Sect who left and/or were thrown out?
There are many options here that further build out the world while also offering other players at the table the ability to add some interesting layers to their own background or story.
There are also specific Moves a player can choose to take which will also making their Initiate player stand out further, if that’s the direction you want to go with your build.
What Do Initiate Moves Bring To The Table?
Initiates don’t have quite as many available moves as some other classes, but they have plenty available to them to make things interesting. When looking at Initiate Moves in Monster of the Week, it’s important to have some idea of the type of build you want to create in order to put together Moves that make sense.
As an Initiate you must take the Standard Initiate Move and then you choose 3 more from the list of the other 8 available.
- Standard Initiate Move – This is the one move that ALL initiates must take. When you are in good standing with your Sect, at the beginning of each Mystery you roll a +Charm. On a 10+ your Sect gives you useful information or actual help in the field. On a 7-9 you get a mission associated with the current mystery, and if you do it you will get some additional info or help. If you miss, they ask you to do something bad. If you fail a mission or refuse an order, you’ll be in trouble with the sect until you atone, meaning no more chances at bonuses at the beginnings of new mysteries.
- Ancient Fighting Arts – When using an old-fashioned hand weapon, you inflict +1 Harm and get +1 whenever you roll to protect someone. This is an excellent move if you want to go the ancient fighting style/monk build for your Initiate.
- Mystic – Every time you successfully use magic, take +1 Forward. Very good way to build up some Forwards for when you will need them most.
- Fortunes – This is one of those moves that is extremely powerful if you roll a hit – but there’s a chance it won’t work out. But if it does, it is powerful. Your Sect has certain ancient prophecies or divination abilities to predict the future. Once per Mystery you may use them. If you look at what the future holds you need to roll +Weird. On a 10+ hold 3, and on a 7-9 hold one. On a miss, you get bad information and the Keeper decides how that affects you. Spend your hold to:
- Have a useful object ready.
- Be somewhere you are needed, just in time.
- Take +1 forward, or give +1 Forward to another hunter.
- Retroactively warn someone about an attack, so that it doesn’t happen.
- Sacred Oath – You may bind yourself to a single goal, forsaking something during your quest (refusing to speak, eat, vow of peace so no attack action, etc). Talk to your Keeper to get their approval since matching the abstention to the challenge is important. When you keep your oath and work towards your goal, mark experience at the end of every session and get +1 on any rolls that directly help achieving the goal. If you break the oath, take -1 ongoing until you have atoned.
- Mentor – You have a mentor in the Sect: name them. When you contact your mentor for info, make a +Sharp roll. On a 10+, you get an answer to your question with no problems. On a 7-9 you choose: they’re either busy and can’t help, or they answer the question but you owe them a favor. On a miss, your question causes trouble (LOVE this, btw).
- Apprentice – You have an apprentice: name them. Your job is to teach them the Sect’s ways. They count as an ally: subordinate (motivation: to follow your instructions to the letter).
- Helping Hand – When you successfully help out another hunter, they get +2 instead of the usual +1, which your fellow hunters will 100% appreciate.
- That Old Black Magic – When you use magic, you can ask a question from the investigate a mystery move as your effect, which can be an incredibly useful move.
Who Should Play The Initiate Class in Monster of the Week?
Anyone who loves movies/games about Ancient Sects and secret societies that exist to fight the terrors will love the Initiate Class, and for those pure D&D players looking for RPG alternatives to DnD who haven’t played anything else, if you’ve played Monk or liked Paladin but wished for a little less “Lawful Good Golden Child” alignment then you are likely to really enjoy the Initiate Class.
This is an interesting class that can dip their toes into several places, and having +2 Weird is never a bad thing in this system since Weird comes up so often dealing with everything from investigating the monsters or supernatural beings you are tracking down to casting spells.
There’s a lot to love about what this class brings to the table and even for players who haven’t played Monks or Paladins, if the moves and the background of this class sound like a lot of fun, go for it! The Keeper will help work with you to figure out your Sect, the good/bad of it, and to bring fun and interesting aspects of this shadowy background organization into a part of whatever mystery your group is going to be dealing with next.
MOTW The Initiate Class: Final Thoughts
I really like The Initiate class, and during out next MOTW campaign that is probably the class I’m going to go with trying out next. There’s a lot of potential story fodder here, which obviously speaks to me, and the class itself has a really cool blend of ancient and modern. They use both types of weapons, they can use magic while your Sect can also have top of the line hackers, there’s just a lot here to work with that makes this class extremely interesting to play in whatever iteration you choose to use.
If you are playing Monster of the Week for the first time and the Initiate Class speaks to you – go for it! This is a great class that can do a lot and will play a pivotal role in any group of hunters.
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.