Author Topic: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?  (Read 6388 times)

Chamomile

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I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« on: April 30, 2013, 06:00:05 PM »
Have you ever had a certain setup, a situation, a massive fictional powder keg you want to plant a party on, light the fuse, and see what happens?  Most GMs probably get that occasionally.  I have been sitting on one such idea for about two years now because I didn't know what system to run it with.  When I read Monsterhearts, it occurred to me that running this setup with it would be a lot of fun.  But I'm still uncertain as to whether Monsterhearts is the right system to run this with.

While Monsterhearts leads to almost exactly the creation of the kinds of characters I'd like to see in the game (specifically, characters who have lots of teenaged angst, whose monstrousness is more than just a bunch of superpowers and a funny hat, and who have interpersonal relationships that are complicated and often strained), it also revolves around games whose plots are both short and very heavily focused on high school pettiness.  The first one is unambiguously a problem, in that the setting I've created is a large city with five different supernatural factions trying to control it, and that takes a lot of time to set up and then resolve unless you are extremely optimistic about how fast a group of dysfunctional teenagers with horror powers can end a shadow war.

I'm not sure if the second one is a problem or not.  On the one hand, growing out of the kind of pettiness that dominates both high school and vampire politics is an extremely fitting theme for the setup I've got.  On the other hand, you'd think it'd be hard to care about what Tricia said about Dess when the same basic thing is happening in supernatural politics except that executions are on the table.  You'd think a major theme of the first arc of the game would be a loss of innocence, a sudden realization that high school means jack shit and the world is full of much more important (and terrifying) conflicts, with much higher stakes, and Monsterhearts doesn't seem equipped to handle that realization at all.  I haven't actually played the game yet, so I can't say for certain, but I am worried I may end up with a major theme of my setting running in the exact opposite direction of a major theme of the system.

The end result of this being 1) do you think Monsterhearts would work for a game in which characters are to some extent involved in supernatural politics as well as being in high school and 2) if so do you think maybe you'd like to play in it?  I don't know if it would be a live thing or a play-by-post thing if we did actually run a game, but I'll worry more about that once I've gotten a good idea whether or not I have a runnable campaign at all.  I still don't know what I'm going to do about season length.  Would delaying advancements a lot kill the pacing?

Alejandro

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2013, 08:04:44 PM »
My only complaint is that it sounds like the game has already been played.

Chamomile

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2013, 06:03:06 AM »
What do you mean?

Tore V

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2013, 02:06:41 PM »
I think what is alluded to is that you have everything mapped out, meaning you have basically already told the story. You'll be doing an old-school plot, and Monsterhearts isn't set up for that.

If I were you, I'd simply have a menace, add the players and see what story emerges from that. You've written the story outkine and the players will be playing vignettes from that.

writersmelody

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2013, 04:48:53 PM »
1) do you think Monsterhearts would work for a game in which characters are to some extent involved in supernatural politics as well as being in high school?

While some of the gang advancements suggest some sort of structure and hierarchy- I'm thinking Fae, Vampire, Werewolf, and Angel specifically- it would remove some of that sense of isolation and not belonging that comes with the territory if that comes into play at the start I think.

Tore V is right- Monsterhearts thrives on flexibility from everyone's part. The story won't be as interesting if things are shoehorned to fit a specific plot. I'd suggest maybe using a clash between a couple different factions as a Menace. Besides, how involved are teenagers going to be? Who's going to take them seriously? ;)
 
2) if so do you think maybe you'd like to play in it?

I just might at that.

Chamomile

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2013, 05:07:57 PM »
I think what is alluded to is that you have everything mapped out, meaning you have basically already told the story.

It occurred to me that this might be what he was thinking, but I've been pretty explicit that this isn't what I'm doing, so I don't know why he would think that.  It seems to have been a common reaction, but I'm not sure why (and I don't mean that in a "you plebians can't understand my genius" kind of way, just genuinely uncertain what made it seem like that).  I don't have a whole plot.  I have five factions, a bunch of interesting (hopefully) personalities spread out between them, and an assortment of alliances of convenience, old grudges, and vengeance pacts that give all of them reason to be suspicious of and/or outright hate one another.  Then I rig two of them to go to war sometime during the first or maybe second session before the party is heavily involved.  With the setup I've got, that war should spiral outwards to consume the entire city.  Unless the party goes out of their way to stop it from doing so, but it's unlikely that the kind of parties Monsterhearts creates would put forth a ton of effort to do that.

When I was talking about season length, I didn't say I had like 25 adventures planned or whatever.  I said it was unlikely that the party could resolve a situation with this many moving parts in 5-7 sessions.  When I was introducing the concept, I explicitly said I wanted to light the fuse and then watch what happens.  When I talk about themes and etc., I'm talking about stuff the ~30 major NPCs seeded throughout the city are set up to exploit and provoke from players, and really I don't know how else you could carry a theme except on characters so I'm not sure if that even needs to be said, but whatever.  A lot of people seemed to have walked away thinking I have a whole plot thing, but what I've got is a setting, which is why the word "plot" never once appeared in my opening post (EDIT: No, wait, it did show up once, but not in the context of my having made one).

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Besides, how involved are teenagers going to be? Who's going to take them seriously?

If you know Jack can turn into a giant wolf monster and you really wish a few packs of vampires were more authentically dead than they currently are, you're going to want to point Jack at those vampires and pull the trigger on his darkest self if you can.  Sure, no one's going to care about the party's opinions on grand strategy or politics or whatever, but I'm going to guess that the party is going to want to make them care after the first time one of their buddies from home room gets eaten alive by a vengeful ghoul who doesn't want to risk a straight fight with another monster.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2013, 07:51:45 PM by Chamomile »

writersmelody

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2013, 07:27:10 PM »
Well, it really sounds interesting! I'd definitely be in.

Chamomile

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2013, 08:51:20 PM »
Okay, that's cool.  The thing with isolation and etc. is probably a solvable problem towards the beginning (really, the less involvement the players have with the supernatural world at large in the opening few sessions, the better, since it means they won't be in a position to defuse the war before it starts or in its initial stages before it's snowballed very much).  There's a couple of other niggling questions but those can probably be sorted out after I have a group of players to discuss it with.  The more I think about it, the more I see basically three possibilities for the late game:

1) The main characters zealously cling to the importance of high school despite the far higher stakes presented by their secret life.  This gives us delicious Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style "balance slaying/being a monster with school" problems.

2) The main characters slowly drift away from and finally abandon high school, embracing the similar but deadlier supernatural political scene instead.  In which case the main characters basically abandon their humanity and possibly all of humanity along with it.  Which is also delicious.

3) The main characters immediately jump ship to supernatural politics, eagerly abandoning their high school lives.  This seems like it might be a cool way for one of the characters to go, but would be lame for the whole group, I think.  Still, if the game I'm pitching is "monsters in high school" I doubt I'll be flooded with applicants who will be all "can I just not do the high school part at all?"

noclue

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2013, 03:07:27 AM »
While it sounds like an interesting setting, it doesn't scream Monsterhearts to me. With MH I'm more interested in why the Witch has the Vampire's hairbrush as a sympathetic token and what's going to happen to the Charlie, the Ghoul who just like to Sylvia the Fae.
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

Chamomile

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2013, 04:44:12 AM »
Just from having read it, it seems to me like there's basically two ways to play Monsterhearts: Bella and Buffy.

The Bella method involves the supernatural monsters getting into teen drama with one another, and the supernatural world at large may as well not exist.  The local Camarilla knock-offs might show up to make trouble now and then, but even so only to exacerbate existing drama with the main cast.  The main cast aren't expected to actually care if villains are just doing villain stuff in the next town over.

The Buffy method involves using immediate physical threats as either a representation of, setup for, or even just exacerbation of existing drama (the Master, Spike, and Drusilla are all just jerks who eat people and don't have any specific ties to teen problems, whereas monsters of the week tend to be a monstrous personification of like nosy parents or something).  The protagonists are expected to know and care about the supernatural world, and in fact the total screen time given to fighting or planning to fight supernatural beasties dwarfs that of the teen drama they're emulating/exacerbating.  Sometimes the personal drama of the episode revolves around things that aren't actually common teen problems, like if you're prophesied to give your life to kill some dark lord or if your friends in the A/V club get murdered by a bunch of vampires.  Buffy wrings some really good scenes out of the emotional fallout of those two things exactly at the end of its first season, but for the life of me I can't figure out what they'd be a metaphor for.

I don't actually know if you can do the second one very well with a Monsterhearts game, though.  Even if you can't, I'm not sure if there's another system that would do it better.  What do you do when you have an interesting setting and no system to run it with?

Tore V

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2013, 10:02:09 AM »
What do you do when you have an interesting setting and no system to run it with?

Use Gurps or Primetime Adventures :-)

Chamomile

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2013, 07:35:14 PM »
I don't think GURPS is as universal as it likes to claim.  Its basic framework can hypothetically be adapted to any genre, but the actual adapting requires that you create mechanics for a lot of genre-specific things and that is suspiciously similar to just making a new game.

Primetime Adventures is an idea, though.  The mechanics are built around narrative structure rather than genre conventions, so if I go all-in on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel that'd work out.

I'm not really certain whether I'd want to run this with Monsterhearts or Primetime Adventures now, but I'm sure I could make it work with one or the other and it feels like I should figure it out based on group consensus rather than just picking one.  So now I need to get a group.  Does anyone have any suggestions as to where I could find a group interested in the setting?  Secondary question: Would anyone like to be a part of that group, and is your being part of the group conditional based on which system we use (i.e. you'd like to play it as a Monsterhearts game but not a Primetime Adventures game, or vive-versa)?
« Last Edit: May 05, 2013, 12:38:44 AM by Chamomile »

arscott

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2013, 10:33:38 PM »
So monsterhearts works best when it's a game about the interactions between PCs.  I think that's equally true of PrimeTime Adventures (though I haven't played it).

When a monsterhearts game I played in focused on the larger political struggles between adult monster groups, it really fell flat.  It can handle PCs (or a subset thereof) vs. an NPC menace pretty well, but as soon as those NPC menaces start interacting with each other in ways that the PCs need to be aware of, it takes you away from what makes monsterhearts good.

Urban Shadows (look for it in the hacks section of these forums) is much more about the politics of supernatural factions.  It's great, but doesn't really spend much time on the highschool drama aspect.  If you're inclined you could hack together elements of both.

The nice thing about PTA is that it supports a more diverse group of PCs.  It would be possible to have some of the PCs be highschoolers just discovering the supernatural world and others be high up movers and shakers within that world--without the problems that combining high power and low power characters would cause in a more traditional setting.

Chamomile

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2013, 08:25:08 AM »
So it feels kind of weird posting in this thread since the game is probably going to be Primetime Adventures and not Monsterhearts. But I don't really know where else to go and you guys have been really helpful so far.

I need a place to actually find players. A play-by-post roleplay forum, preferably one that can grok the modern supernatural style without being irritating and pretentious about it. I realize that's kind of subjective but the basic requirements of "interested in games which are not very rules-heavy or dungeon crawl-y" and the unrelated but equally important "not elitist jerks" will hopefully be something people around here are already familiar with. You all seem pretty chill to me.

noclue

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Re: I could run a Monsterhearts game maybe?
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2013, 02:33:40 AM »
I see my iphone corrected me into weirdness above. It should have read "the Ghoul who just LIED to Sylvia the Fae."
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER