For any buried under a rock like me, Monsterhearts is Joe Mcdaldno game of sexy teenage monsters and all their collective angst. It’s built on the Apocalypse World engine, but it is well enough developed that I don’t think of it as a hack. Rather another creation using many of the same first principals that Vincent employed.
When I signed up for this game, I misread the title. Which is incredibly odd since I was in charge of the scheduling for the minicon, so I probably only looked at the game title about fifty times. But like so many things, first impressions matter most, and when I first read “Trend” High School, I got images of Treandstone from Bourne and though we were going to be in a school for the “would be abducted and trained against their will secret agents”. Interestingly, I wasn’t completely wrong. There were students at the school against their will, but the moment Carl said “Tiend” I realized I had misread and misunderstood. Replace agent with “Fey” and origination they are indentured to with “Hell” and I was set!
The premise, was however that every seven years seven fey were sent to hell to abide by some pact between the Fey and the Infernal. Hell of course, was high school, and we were the attendees.
Our characters were a distant vampire, a curious witch, a desperately trying to be human Hollow, and a love struck Infernal. One important NPC (beside the fey) was also created. Monsieur Voltaire was our french teacher that insisted students always speak (even when he was teaching Homeroom) in French. He was also the devil and the power that fueled my infernal.
We did Vampire Diaries/True Blood/Buffy-esk drama throughout the game. Our characters all longed for something, and, as fitting the game, someone else had to lose something for us to get it.
Thoughts on this game
There were some mechanical bits that I really like and I’m going to consider steeling for Apocalypse Glalatica.
- Conditions: A mechanical effect to cover all the wacky “conditions” that effect our the characters. We ended up with “In Trouble”, “Terrified” and “Fatigued” though I can imagine many more. For Galactica, I’d might use these to represent problems with the Fleet/Battlestar: Insubordinate, Paranoid, Afraid, Hungry, etc. Worth much musing.
- Joe replaced Hx with Strings. Strings are built in some of the same ways bonds/Hx are in that you start with some strings on each other based off descriptors at the start. My character (the infernal) was in love with the vampire, so I gave him two strings at start. Instructions for how to do this are in the playbooks and many of the moves create ore remove strings. Strings are then spent to affect the other person: aiding, hindering, or manipulating them. I like the idea of having strings on people for all kinds of reasons (healthy and un): because they care about you, because you are friends, because you have blackmail on them, because you seduced them, because of a lie, etc. It seems like there are a lot of moves in AW that allow you do affect people in different ways, Strings consolidates those in a pretty cool way. I’m down for it.
My character was, story/character development speaking, a total one trick pony. She was in love with the vampire the entire game and all she did was plot to make him love her too. It was lame. Really, really lame. First off, she never changed (that was bad). Second, she didn’t escalate or change tactics (which was worse). I’m not sure exactly why I did this except that I was myself stuck in a rut. I wasn’t thinking of any creative alternatives and so, just kept trying the same thing. In different contexts, of course, but it always led to me getting a string on Morgan’s character and then using it to offer him XP to have sex with me. The major problem with this is that Vampires sex move specifically benefits them if they turn down another’s advances. So… mechanically and in the fiction, his best option was to keep blocking. Now, in the real world, people keep trying the same thing over and over hoping one day it will work (how many of us play the lotto). But in a game if you do the same thing twice without changing, it’s already old. I was very disappointed with my performance in this game.
Despite the repetitive behavior in game, I felt like I added are really awesome element to the story before game. Monsieur Voltaire was awesome. Not only because he made my “dark power” someone that every could (and had to) interact with, but he also insisted everyone speak in French… which was a killer affectation for an NPC.
Karen’s Hollow had this awesome move at the very end. Her darkest self was exposed and she needed others to understand the isolation she felt. So she took my character and trapped her in a locker and laughed while I screamed in terror. It was pretty bad ass. I realize that I could have made the game much better if that moment of terror changed my character and instead of chasing after the vampire (again), I turned to her, addressed the horror she just inflected on me and said “hey, that was pretty awful. I’ve done some awful stuff too. Want to be friends?” In fact, I like that ending so much more Carl suggested I just say that’s how it was. A better story for sure.
Bad ass cool moments:
- Morgan’s vampire sucking a Fey dry and tasting Sunlight
- Karen’s hollow “hunting” with the vampire but accidentally killing the fey, and it’s blood tasting like ashes in the vampire’s mouth.
- Lisa’s witch casting “wither” on the hollow to stop her from tormenting the infernal and our horrible descriptiion of that hex.
- Really fun conversation in French with the Fey. “You have parents? Is that what most people have?”
I’m very impressed with this game and I want to play it A LOT more.