Author Topic: Equipment & Harm  (Read 3119 times)

mcdaldno

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Equipment & Harm
« on: August 31, 2010, 12:50:21 AM »
Equipment

Generally, equipment doesn't mean a damn. You are not your fucking magnum. Generally.

There are two exceptions:
Adults carry +1 when using the most effective equipment for the job.
Teens carry +1 when using the most fitting equipment for the moment.

But astute readers will be in an uproar, surely! NPCs don't roll dice, so what is that adult +1 good for? Here's how: that +1 is fluid. Let's unpack an example:

Sheriff Dawson has wised up to Jason's situation. So when he pursues Jason into that locker room, he tells his men to hang back. And he pulls out his other pistol. The one with the silver bullets, each one sporting a cross crudely carved into its tip. Sheriff Dawson carries +1.

Right, so Sheriff Dawson doesn't roll dice. But he's pursuing Jason with a silver-bullet-and-holy-crosses pistol. So, "Jason, what do you do?" If Jason tries to seize something by force, and Sheriff Dawson is going to bring that gun to bare in process, then Jason is acting at -1. If Jason gets shot and then tries to get away, he's at a -1 because there's silver coursing through his veins.

Sheriff Dawson's +1 can be applied against a roll Jason is making. It can also be applied toward harm that Dawson is doing. That +1 is fluid, and it applies in the instances where Sheriff Dawson's equipment is most effective for the job.

If this sounds familiar, this fluid currency thing, you've read Sorcerer. It's a game about Infernals, only they call them something different.

Alright, teenager example:

Anita ("Needy") is straddling Jennifer, on her four-poster bed. She's got a boxcutter in her right hand, and is struggling to plunge it into Jennifer's heart. Yes, a boxcutter. Needy isn't the tried-and-true murderer here; she grabbed the only thing she could - something crude, and frail, but dangerous nonetheless. Needy couldn't have picked a more fitting murder weapon - it is a mirror into her state. It's poignant, or near fucking close. She carries +1 for it.

If Needy is a PC, then she just applies that +1 to relevant rolls, and to harm done. If she's an NPC, then it works like it does for Sheriff Dawson at this point: that +1 is fluid.

I stole that example from Jennifer's Body, by the way.

Harm

When you do harm to someone, if you're using your bare fists or a glass bottle or you're kicking at their groin, it's 1-harm. If you shove them down a small flight of stairs, or throw a chair at them, or ram their truck off the road but it doesn't flip, it's 1-harm.

1-harm is the kind of stuff that people gossip about in the change room.

If you shoot them with a gun, or you have giant fucking claws, or you get a solid hit to the temple with an aluminum bat, it's 2-harm. If you set fire to their house and they barely escape, maybe having to body-check a smoldering door in the process, it's 2-harm.

2-harm is enough to require medical treatment. It'll get you a couple days off school, if you let people know about it. It'll have the cops at your door, if it's reported.

If it's worse than that, and it's gotta be pretty bad, it's 3-harm.

3-harm is enough to make front page news, and to scare the shit out of the community, and to make small-town nurses queasy. When someone leaves someone else for dead in a movie, that's  3-harm.

Now, remember that adults can add +1 harm if they're using the most effective equipment for the job, and teens can add +1 harm if they're using the most fitting equipment for the moment. This +1 isn't factored into those break-downs above.

Harm & Theme

Monsterhearts isn't a game about vampire hunters sporting holy-water grenades, or special ops teams with assault rifles. It's about fucked-up teenage monsters.

It's important to keep your gun fetish out of your Monsterhearts game. If you're slinging 3-harm around, you better have a good thematic justification for doing so.

Jeff Russell

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Re: Equipment & Harm
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2010, 03:39:33 AM »
Conceptually the 'fluid currency' sounds like it'd apply nicely here, and it's exciting, but I'd have to see it or hear about it in play before I'm positive there's not some issue lurking there. I'm just not sure if "+1 to that guy" has the same interaction with the fiction as "-1 to my guy", even when they're directly opposed. But like I said, it's probably awesome.

I *really* like your shifted definitions of harm. For one thing, the examples are so genre appropriate (horrible confession: I watched Buffy for the first time two nights ago. For shame, I know!), for another thing, that's such a subtle but powerful way to alter the kind of charged interactions people will have in your game with practically zero rules change. So, kudos on that, that's so cool.

mcdaldno

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Re: Equipment & Harm
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2010, 04:33:29 AM »
Conceptually the 'fluid currency' sounds like it'd apply nicely here, and it's exciting, but I'd have to see it or hear about it in play before I'm positive there's not some issue lurking there. I'm just not sure if "+1 to that guy" has the same interaction with the fiction as "-1 to my guy", even when they're directly opposed. But like I said, it's probably awesome.

It doesn't.
+1's make your success more likely. -1's make your success less likely.

Having equipment that's just poetically perfect makes you more awesome.
Fighting with adults who understand you and are prepared for you makes you more impotent.

So, those two things aren't exactly the same. But they're what the system can model elegantly, and the more I think about it, the more I like the implications inherent in it. Adults can only ever be good at holding you back, and they can only ever be good at that by being prepared. That maps to my adolescent experience perfectly.

I *really* like your shifted definitions of harm. For one thing, the examples are so genre appropriate (horrible confession: I watched Buffy for the first time two nights ago. For shame, I know!), for another thing, that's such a subtle but powerful way to alter the kind of charged interactions people will have in your game with practically zero rules change. So, kudos on that, that's so cool.

Thanks, Jeff!

From the beginning, I've known that gear would be much less important than in Apocalypse World. In the apocalypse, having a loaded gun and a consistent supply of gauze is hard to manage. In high school, it's pretty easy - you just take your parent's stuff, or get them to buy it for you, or you sleep with someone in senior year in sort-of exchange for what you need, or you jack it. Whatever.

But at the same time, when someone has a gun, I want the natural reaction to be, "Woah, woah, woah... let's all chill the fuck out! Lynn, what the fuck are you doing with a gun in your hand?"

So, changing the harm scale and the way we think about harm was a big thing, for me.

Daniel Wood

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Re: Equipment & Harm
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2010, 11:40:44 AM »

I'm not really a fan of the 'poetically perfect' weapon/equipment rules for teenagers. The adult example makes sense -- it's a concrete, defineable thing related to the Skin's mythic weaknesses -- but the boxcutter example just makes me scratch my head. It doesn't sound like any more apt a weapon than... anything the character might have picked up in the same situation. A kitchen knife, her brother's switchblade, a can of gasoline. If anything the situation seems poetically charged, not the equipment -- is there really any weapon that a PC in such a charged situation is going to choose that the table is not going to give this bonus to? This seems like it is going to be a huge headache in play, because the only appeal is to pure subjective aesthetics, without the game providing any kind of clues or advice.

Similarly, I'd rather see the adult +1 thing apply only to harm, but maybe that's just my conservatism speaking -- the -1-to-player-rolls feels kind of awkward, and worryingly close to 'the MC decides how hard the task is,' without necessarily adding a lot. But maybe in play it would be no problem.

Johnstone

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Re: Equipment & Harm
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2010, 05:50:08 PM »
Who decides what is "fitting" or not?

Is this +1 a reward for role-playing? Or reincorporation?

What happens when I say no, boxcutters are not fitting, Needy has never been described with them or with cardboard boxes or anything like that. Who says what then? Does the MC decide? Table consensus? Do you get to just say, Yes these are fitting for My Character?

John Harper

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Re: Equipment & Harm
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2010, 11:47:29 PM »
I really like these rules, Joe. They'd be a breeze to use in play.

Very cool!

Matt Wilson

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Re: Equipment & Harm
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2010, 09:00:19 PM »
Hey McDalanalda, I am just now catching up on your game ideas, and I like these here thoughts. Good match-up to the thematical thingamajigs.

"I don't care what Wilson says." -- some slanderous bastard on the internet

Bret

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Re: Equipment & Harm
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2010, 09:31:41 PM »
Good match-up to the thematical thingamajigs.
This is exactly the kind of feedback Joe needs to take Monsterhearts to the next level.
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mcdaldno

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Re: Equipment & Harm
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2010, 01:10:33 AM »
Daniel and Johnstone,

I went and sat with your criticism/feedback for a while, and tried to really imagine the complications that you imagine. It's helpful that others weighed in with a polar opposite opinion, too.

Here's what I'm thinking: If you think it's fitting that Needy show up with an improvised weapon she stole from her father, or I do, I find it very unlikely that someone else is going to block that or disagree. So, my first reaction is: be liberal, look to see how it fits. The rule is there less to set a bar, and more to encourage people to think in terms of thematic symbolism instead of badassness.

But then, in play, those rules could result in a big poetic-thematic circle jerk, an empty feedback loop.

So, maybe tightening up and substantiating the rules for teens is in order. Something like "Teens get +1 when their equipment is symbolic of their emotional state." That sounds uppity and pretentious, but maybe something along those lines.

This is exactly the kind of feedback Joe needs to take Monsterhearts to the next level.

Maybe I should say: Teens get +1 when their equipment takes it to a whole. 'notha. level.

Bret

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Re: Equipment & Harm
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2010, 09:07:52 PM »
How about "Teens get a +1 when they show up with weapons that are uppity and pretentious"?

I'm only sort of joking. We're going for melodrama here, right?
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