Saturday, January 27, 2018

Thoughts on Monsterhearts

So one of my players wanted me to run a 1-shot of monsterhearts, so we rustled up a good old player I knew liked monsterhearts, the obligatory no-show, and a late-arriving mystery guest to solidify the roster to three players.

Monsterhearts is a game about teen sex drama horror. Like Buffy but with more gratuitous gore and sex. Or maybe less. Depends on what season we're talking about.

Anya didn't deserve this
Best girl btw
The Unseen- Invisible. Gains powers from blackmail and spying on people. Ignored in favor of her older hotter overall er-er sister.
The Beast- Turns into a savage manslaying animal when turned on. Repression central. Possibly learned of her curse when she killed her boyfriend last year, but admits nothing.
The Queen(male)- Top dog of a biker gang supernaturally linked with group dynamic enhancing powers and druidry powers.Just wants a hot date.
The Creep- Lone survivor of disaster that killed 4 students, among them the Quarterback. Took death hard.
Unseen's Big Sis-Top cheerleader, good grades, popular, all in superior specimen.
The Gang- Queen's gang members, the sycophant occult expert, the cool gearhead girl, and the violent thug.

The Quick Summary

The Queen hits on Unseen's sister in class, catches sass from lil sis. Catches lil sis undressing (there's nothing to see on account of invisible) and gets a panty thrown on his head. The Beast sees Queen grappling with the air wearing panties, cries scandal, Queen's biker gang lackeys run interference by crying 'Beast is a slut, remember the hallway incident.' Bad blood all around. Which is good.

Beast confronted during lunch by Queen and Gang, demanding Beast retract her 'Queen is Panty Thief' comments. They get what they want, sorta, but Unseen lashes out at Queen and drops him out of a chair for damage. More bad blood! Creepy survivor of dead quarterback approaches Beast and asks if she doesn't wish Quarterback was still around, reluctant agreement is said outloud and creep vanishes.

Afterschool- Queen takes Big Sis to the place Prom will be held tomorrow, breaking into the building. Big Sis is using Queen as surrogate for her lost Quarterback BF, and they fuck in a isolated room. Big Sis is now part of the Queen's gang, cuz that's how Queen do. Unbeknownst to either of them, the Unseen snuck along on the back of a gang members' motorcycle and is watching the whole sorry affair unseen, collecting blackmail material. Unbeknowst to any of them, The Beast rolled poorly with an introspective 'how can I solve the Queen and his gang calling me a slut' problem and ended up with 'Turn into a wolf and KILL THEM' as the answer, becoming her Darkest Self. So mid coitus, The Beast bursts through the window and starts mauling people, mainly Queen but Big Sis gets bit too. Queen realizes The Unseen is there, and unsuccessfully tries to use the invisible girl as a meatshield. They all barely escape The Beast with their lives. The Queen and, once again, tagalong Unseen visit hospital(for rabies shots), their ritual circle(an unknown party has defaced it, Big Sis insists they try magic anyway as a condition for her continued affection), then the graveyard (Using said defaced ritual circle failed to ID The Beast as the true culprit and the grave of The Quarterback was found dug up).

Meanwhile, The Beast has gone off and killed a minor NPC old boyfriend, the unfortunately nicknamed 'Herp' due to herpes rumors. She recovers from being an unsightly beast and walks home clad in Herps old clothes. The Creep meets her, congratulates her on a job well done, and gives her a bike to get home with, then vanishes into the woods. Yeah, he's probably behind at least some of this.

The next day- The Queen, battered and bruised, tries to confront The Unseen with his idea that she's a witch that sicc'd The Beast on Big Sis and him. He is eventually proven wrong, but Unseen has a whole helluva lotta Strings on him and ends up biting part of his nose off and blackmailing his entire gang into cowed submission, as well as telling them she had nothing to do with it. The Unseen revels in her newfound power over the delinquent gang and is unimpressed by the Queen's attempt to seduce his way out his blackmailed state.

Finally, Prom Night. The Queen sulks in a corner and has Big Sis tend his wounds. The Unseen shows up as an invisible naked voyeur once more. The Beast shows up in a nice blue dress to complement the 'Under The Sea' theme of prom.

Then Creep, possessed by the resurrected soul of Quarterback and blessed with ectoplasmic gains, shows up. Queen is through with this shit and bails, Unseen hits the fire alarm to drive everyone else out from the presumed impending scene of carnage, and The Beast semi-transforms, at least mentally, and can't help but harm her sort-of returned boyfriend. The Beast isn't thinking rationally, Quarterback possessed-Creep isn't thinking rationally, and the Unseen gets a bowl of punch thrown over her for trying to get some explanation for this shit, and pesters The Beast with deductive (or possibly inductive) reasonings for what the hell is going on that are spot on, but useless in the face of the reunited lovers.

In the end, The Beast controls herself enough to resist showing her emotions via violence and truly becoming THE BEAST, though she still claws some holes in the Creep-Quarterback while they slow dance under the sprinklers and cheesy music. The Quarterback's ghost dissipates and she prevents the now clawed Creep from bleeding out as the authorities arrive.

Not too shabby a story for a hastily thrown together one-shot. I had kinda hoped at least one player (the Queen was pretty unpopular and lived only by the mercy of The Beast in the maiming scene and the nose-biting Unseen confrontation scene) and I was sure the Creeperback channeler dude would end up either killed by a vengeful Queen or a bloodcrazed Beast but alas, the players eked out a happyish ending out of the whole sorry affair.
the highlights make it an OC work of art, totally
Sue me if you want, Monsterhearts designer, but this is great advice for fueling improv sessions and informing emergent gameplay

I believe this is a 'powered by the apocalypse' style game. Anyway I ran it after reading the rules one and a half times and it was easy. The players do all the rolling, and bad things happens on failed rolls. This is great because failure advances the action, and players are encouraged to do things because they don't have to wait around for excessive GM feedback. Not that I mind going over every inch of a stone chest looking for traps, but sometimes abstraction is good.  There's also a lot of 'pick one or two of X effects' based on rolls so rolling is more than a binary pass fail. The players continue to be engaged with a roll by picking different outcomes to tailor the mode of success, so rolls have weight- they're not something you need to spam 50 of against a tribe of kobolds.

What I really liked was making failures be more than 'nothing happens.' Heck, they aren't even necessarily 'you didn't do thing you wanted to do.' Its just enables the GM to do something called a 'Hard Move' which is pretty much your standard array of making life hard for the players by foreshadowing conflict, starting conflict, escalating conflict, etc.

Anyway, Monsterhearts was a fun romp, but since it's a game with sexual content, you better establish boundaries early on to make sure everyone's on the same page.
People who signed up for this...
...don't want none o' this.
Anyway, I prepped for this session by reading the rules, watching these two videos
and came up with a 'guy with survivors guilt uses the energy of monster murder to catapult his friend's soul back from the netherworld so dead friend can get the prom night he never had' and then just went off of player input and mechanical suggestions from the dice. You can run dungeons like that too!
Light touch, no heavy handed plot! Let the dice decide and let players run things! Slap a random character creator and perhaps increase lethality a touch, and the spirit of OSR could be channelled through Monsterhearts!

Or maybe I'm conflating 'enjoyable game sessions' with 'the spirit of OSR' and I should give up on relating the two. Whatever. Monsterhearts is fun with the right group, inspiration comes from many sources, and I wanted to share my experience, and if nothing else maybe you'll get some fresh tunes on your youtube recommended playlist.

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