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Monsterhearts

June 16, 2012

Monsterhearts is an rpg about modern supernatural horror, teen angst, and people facing their worst selves.

It delivers on the Being Human, Buffy, True Blood, Vampire Diaries kind of story perfectly and basically does everything Vampire the Masquerade talked about but never really got down.

Social Drama

As your vampire/werewolf/ghost/other freaky character deals with all the usual drama of high school and supernatural pressures, most of what the game focuses on is the emotional and social confrontations. All the good shit talking, shade throwing, goodness that makes up the sorts of young adult social status games.

When you do specific actions, you end up rolling dice and the for each type of action (Turn Someone On, Shut Someone Down, Manipulate, etc.) you get to pick a few choices of events from a list – sometimes these are things that give you more control over the person, sometimes they let you change their situation (“I give him the condition Humiliated!”).

Of course being a supernatural game, there’s room for violence, but violence is very risky, even if you must, the power-gamer way to deal with it would be to – engage with your target socially, either befriending them for the eventual betrayal or a lot of shit talking shade to get some bonuses for when it eventually goes down.

Becoming a Better Person

Monsterhearts is pretty amazing because it’s one of the best treatments of both the dark side of people and the way in which folks mature.

Each character type has their “Darkest Self” – which isn’t just about their supernatural side taking over, but more importantly, about how they emotionally lash out and at whom.

Think about all the times you’ve shut out your friends, or said the most hurtful fucked up thing to someone you care about – each character type has some way that reflects that kind of behavior as their Darkest Self.

Certain things in play kick in the Darkest Self, and you stay in that mode until you do a specific thing or conditions are met that end it… which can lead to some extended time to burning a lot of bridges and creating a LOT of damage. As the game points out – every player character becomes a villain when their Darkest Self takes over.

But what’s interesting is that after a point in play, some new options become available to the characters – “Growing Up” Moves.

Growing Up Moves are basically parallels to the basic options every character has- except these are just more socially responsible and with less drama and trouble attached – they are literally matured and better ways of dealing with people.

Instead of “Shutting Someone Down” you can “Call Them On Their Shit” – mechanically it changes from humiliating and causing social harm to someone, instead, to breaking their bonds of power over other people- a perfect counter to bullies and manipulators.

And very true to life, while these things become things your characters earn, it doesn’t mean you can’t choose to fall back into the more immature options at any point- the process of growth isn’t a simple “level up” and it’s always fun to see when, where and how characters fall.

Representation

The art shows men, women, people of color, and nothing problematic! There’s a couple of pages on the fact that the game defaults to queer inclusive. The very first image inside the book is a lesbian kiss which is looks “real people” attractive and not male gaze “hot pron models” attractive.

Overall this game looks really awesome and I recommend it!

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