[Monsterhearts] This Game Starts at 11

edited February 2013 in Actual Play
I feel like sharing all the messed up shit that's going on in our (sadly) monthly game of Monsterhearts. I'll write out the story first with notations of mechanics that resulted from/caused the fiction afterwards. First though, all the players chose their character portraits. Presenting:

image
Kindly just ignore the watermarks on the stock images. And yes, Catherine is a complete basket case.


This is our second session. The previous session ended on a cliffhanger for both January and Cage. Both of them were at a house party thrown by Danielle, one of Vivian's toadies, and both had gotten into sticky situations. Cage, who was coming down the stairs with Vivian after having sex, gets confronted by Lance and most of the hockey team. Things get tense. January, who'd been steered over to the football team by Marco, gets approached by Danielle and is told she has to make up for what she did to Vivian. Whatever it is, it's not going to be good. Catherine (the Ghost) arrives at the party. This is incredibly odd as no one usually notices her or invites her to anything.

Cage and Lance get into a shouting match, and Lance asks Cage if he wants to take it outside. Gladly, says Cage and leaves Vivian standing on the steps. Off they go into the yard where the hockey team forms a circle around them. Lance makes the first move, throwing a punch that Cage tries to duck under. He's not quick enough though, and catches Lance's fist in his face. (1) He staggers backwards into the arms of one of the hockey players, who grabs him in a bear-hug, holding his arms so Lance can lay into him even more. Cage head-butts the guy, smashing his face, and goes berserk. He sees red. He needs to cause as much chaos as he can. Right now. (2) Cage turns and starts wailing on anyone he can reach. The hockey team fights back, pulling him down with their numbers, and beats him into unconsciousness. (3)

Back inside, Danielle presents January with a red plastic Solo cup and orders her to drink it. What's in it, January asks. It doesn't matter, replies Danielle. Drink it, and part one of your punishment is done. She steps closer to January. Drink it. Now. January considers her options, including violence, but that'll just cause more problems. Better to just get this over with. Fine. She snakes one arm around Danielle's waist, pulling her closer, and grabs the cup with her other hand, intertwining fingers as she does so. She chugs whatever's in the cup, intentionally spilling some down her front, which she then brushes away with Danielle's fingers. What the hell are you doing, yells Danielle shoving January away. I don't swing that way you perverted freak. (4) Now on to part two. Danielle orders January upstairs. Second door on the left, she says. Make sure whoever's in there has a good time. We'll know if you don't. January hesitates. After this we're done right, she asks. For this offense, replies Danielle. Now go. Feeling she has no other choice, January starts dizzily starts up the steps.

Off in the corner, Catherine is approached by Marco, a defensive lineman for the football team. Are you having a good time, he asks. I guess so, replies Catherine shying away from him. He's completely drunk. You need to loosen up and have a good time, he says. Here. He pushes a plastic cup towards here and puts a hand on her shoulder. Catherine flips out at the male human contact and starts screaming, trying to get Marco off of her. Calm down you crazy freak, he says. (5) I'm just trying to have a good time. Jeeze. I'm sorry, Catherine mumbles. Just don't touch me. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Here, Marco says. You can make it up to me. He pushes the cup at her again, and Catherine gives in. She takes a sip, but Marco tips the cup so she swallows way more than she indented.

Outside, Cage is still out cold from the beating the hockey team gave him. They've propped him up into a sitting position, and are using his head as target practice for their empties. Bouncing beer cans off his head like a backboard.

Upstairs, January finds Billy waiting for her in one of the dimly lit bedrooms. He's chubby, with braces and a terminal case of acne. January wedges a chair under the door handle as there's no lock, snaps on the light, and stalks over to him. He looks nervous. January sees an opportunity, and acts on it. She sits down next to Billy, squeezing up against him. I know what you're expecting, she says, and I know what everyone says about me. (6) But it's not true. She touches his hand and leans over. How about we just tell everyone that something happened, and leave it at that? If you promise not to say anything, maybe I could... reward you later, January asks him. When no one's around, of course. Billy leans in and kisses January. No, he says. Were going to do it right now, or I'm going to go tell Danielle, he says. (7) January stands up and confronts him. I tried to be nice, she says glaring down at him. Did you hear what I did to Vivian, she asks. No, he replies. I put her in the fucking hospital, which is exactly what I'm going to do to your fat ass if you don't tell Danielle exactly what she wants to hear. Got it? Billy nods silently. (8) Good. Now just sit there for a few minutes, then roll your ass downstairs and find Danielle. Minutes pass in silence. Finally Billy creeps out the door and heads downstairs. January finds an upstairs bathroom to make herself look slightly "messy" before going downstairs herself.

Meanwhile downstairs things are getting out of hand. Catherine realizes what this party really is and why she and January got an invite. It's an excuse to haze and humiliate all the loser kids. She panics, suddenly unable to find her friend Mary. Something bad must have happened to her. Where is she? She starts screaming again, and Vivian and Danielle start herding her towards the door. It's time for you to leave, they say. Catherine's slowly backed out the door into the front yard, where Cage is finally starting to come to. January comes down the steps, pushing between Vivian and Danielle to get to Catherine. Come on, she says. Let's just go home. Catherine babbles something about wanting to make sure Mary's all right. Forget her, January snaps. Let's just go. Now. They start walking away, through the woods to January's motel room on the highway. Cage groans, red-flooded vision coming back into focus. He's still hungry, and there is what he needs standing on the steps in front of him. Vivian. He heads right for her, grabs her arm, whispers in her ear. I need you again, right now, he says. (9) Vivian recoils. You're hurting me Cage, she says. Let go of my arm. Cage starts screaming that he needs her at the top of his lungs, and looks like he's about to drag Vivian upstairs. Lance steps up behind him. Didn't you learn your lesson yet, he says. Cage turns, fist whistling through the air, and connects with Lance's jaw. There's a grinding pop, and Lance goes down. Hard. (10) Cage lays into Lance's face like a punching bag, while Vivian and Danielle start screaming for someone to call the police.

Comments

  • Whoops. That post was way too long, so here's the second half.

    January and Catherine hear the commotion behind them and turn around. Seeing another opportunity to get out from Danielle's thumb by intervening, January charges back towards Cage. Lance's face has a been reduced to something that resembles lasagna with teeth sprinkled in it. Get inside the house and lock the door, January yells to the girls. Now. January slaps Cage. Knock it the fuck off, she yells. Cage hesitates, fist in the air. (11) We have to go, says January. Right now. Where's Vivian, asks Cage looking up at her. I need her. Right now. Right fucking now. He's screaming again. No you don't, January screams back. Vivian ran off. You scared her off. You. Police sirens blare in the distance, getting closer. January grabs Cage's arm and tried to pull him. We need to go right now, she begs. Please? Let's go. The police told us to stay out of trouble remember, she says. Cage stands up, blinking. All right, he says. (12) January and Cage run back towards Catherine, and the three of them take off through the woods to avoid the cops.

    OK, game mechanics that explain what happened in the fiction above:

    1. Cage fails his lash out physically roll when attempting to harm Lance, resulting in him taking damage and ending up pinned by a hockey team member.

    2. Cage aces his lash out physically roll this time, doing damage to the guy holding him and getting to choose an extra option. He chooses to become his Darkest Self, and will now main, destroy, and kill anything that stands in the way between him and his two Hungers: Chaos, and having sex with Vivian.

    3. Cage fails his lash out physically roll again this time, and gets stomped into unconsciousness by the entire hockey team.

    4. January attempts to seduce Danielle in order to get a String on her but fails her turn someone on roll. Danielle puts January in a spot by calling attention to her apparent bi-sexuality to everyone at the party.

    5. Catherine attempts to shut someone down to get Marco to leave her alone, and get a weak hit. They both give each other a Condition, and Catherine gets the Condition crazy freak.

    6. January already has the Condition slut from a previous encounter with Lance. He's spread rumors about having sex with January in his car, hence everyone assuming she'll do anybody.

    7. January epically fails her turn someone on roll when attempting to get some leverage on Billy. The result is he presses her, trying to force her to give in to his demands.

    8. January nails her shut someone down roll, using the threat of physical violence to cow Billy into doing what she says. She chooses to have Billy lose a String on her, of which he has none, so she gains a String on him instead.

    9. Cage is still his Darkest Self, so he'll go straight for the closet source of his Hunger. That's Vivian now, as the two of them has sex earlier in the night. Cage will now destroy anything and everything that stands in the way of him getting to screw Vivian again. In this case, that's poor Lance.

    10. Cage gets a huge success on his lash out physically roll against Lance. He does harm to Lance, and chooses to do extra harm as his critical success option. Lance goes down, and Cage just keeps on beating him into a pulp, reveling in the chaos he's creating.

    11. January spends a String on Cage, forcing him to hold steady to continue beating Lance. Cage fails the roll, and finally stops. He's still in his Darkest Self and looking for Vivian though.

    12. January spends her final String on Cage, offering him a point of XP if they leave right now. Cage takes the XP, forgetting about Vivian for the moment.

    So, as you can see there was more messed up shit last session, as is bound to happen in a game of Monsterhearts. And I didn't even get to messiness that happens when January, Cage, and Catherine get back to the cramped little motel room January lives in. That's a whole new category of messed up.
  • (having not yet read the full report)

    Those pictures are perfect. Cage is such a stud. Catherine is such a basketcase. January is... are you aware that that's the same model/photo-set as the Hollow art?
  • edited February 2013
    @Mcdaldno I think I've unintentionally found like nearly every stock photo you used for the Monsterhearts Skin booklets while trolling the Dreamstime stock image site. Searching for "emo girl" only turns up so many results, and when I stumbled the image I'm using for January I said "Well duh. I have to use the official Hollow image." :)
    Cage is such a stud.
    Ya think? I am for all intents and purposes totally straight, but that image must've gotten a 10 up on it's turn someone on roll against me...

  • Ya think? I am for all intents and purposes totally straight, but that image must've gotten a 10 up on it's turn someone on roll against me...
    Yeah, lickable abs will do that.
  • The Hollow totally looks like a Selkie to me :)
  • edited February 2013
    I'm slashfic-ing your Cage and our game's Cage in my mind right now. Games need more man pictures like this! Dang!

    Also good job on the thorough write-up! It's crazy hard to sum up the interpersonal drama of this game in writing after the fact, and I salute your efforts.
  • edited February 2013
    January Whitechapel is an amazing name.

    cage is always the best name for the ghoul, huh? :)
  • I choose Cathrine for my Ghost girl too.
  • Yeah, those names are just right.

    Taking a String one someone on a shut someone down roll doesn't seem like they way things are supposed to work, though. I'd love to hear Joe's thoughts on that one.
  • I'm interested to learn more about your Pc's back stories. Especially Catherine's as to how she died and why she's such a basket case. Of course I think every Ghost is a unique basketcase in their own way. We're starting our season 2 here in a month or so and my Ghoul having committed suicide after the fallout of the season finale has discovered that the state of unlife isn't so easily weaseled out of. I'm always curious to hear peoples takes on the skins it makes great inspiration fodder.
  • @Mathalus Yes, Cage is pretty much always the best name for the Ghoul. Unless it's a female Ghoul, in which case Mara wins hands down.

    The characters didn't have last names until this session, when they were being questioned by the cops. I just opened my mouth and "Whitechapel" fell out. I have absolutely no idea frigging where that came from, but yeah, it sounds right.

    @Paul_T I think that's how the shut someone down move works on a 10 up. There seem to be three options: give them a Condition; they lose a String on you; if they had no Strings on you, take one on them. January got a 10 up, and Billy had no Strings on her, so I think she could get one on him. But maybe I'm wrong.

    Here's the second part where things get fairly steamy...

    Cage, January, and Catherine have walked through the woods to the seedy little motel by the highway where January stays. Catherine lives on the other side of town, and Cage lives in the orphanage. Both too far away to walk home. They’ll have to spend the night somewhere. Catherine can stay with me tonight, January says. But not you Cage. You can start walking home, or get a motel room. Are you paying for it, asks Cage. Fuck no, replies January. Then I’m staying with you, Cage says. Not asking her. Telling her. January doesn’t like that one bit. Absolutely not, she snaps. I’ve only got one bed. I don’t mind sharing a bed with you, Cage says, smiling. I’m going to vomit, January responds. Well, he is hurt, Catherine murmurs quietly. Can’t he just come in? (1) Fine. Whatever. Just for a shower to clean himself up, growls January sliding her key into the lock.

    Her motel room looks like it’s from the 70’s. Shag carpet. Brown wood wall paneling. A small desk and chair. A single bed. A tiny vanity at one end of the room, just outside of the bathroom. It’s messy, like it hasn’t been cleaned in months. You live here, snorts Cage as he walks in. And where do you live, retorts January. An orphanage, replies Cage. Then shut up, January says. The bathroom’s over there. Go clean yourself up. You’re bloody. Cage disappears into the bathroom. January flops onto the bed. Catherine sits on the floor and starts praying. After a little bit Cage comes out with just a towel wrapped around his waist. Catherine looks over at him, turns bright red, and quickly turns back. (2) January rolls over and looks at Cage. Why are you wearing my towel, she asks. It was the only one, Cage replies. You want me to take it off, he adds grinning. No, I want to you put your fucking clothes back on, January answers. She rolls off the bed, heads into the bathroom, and gathers up Cage’s dropped clothes.

    Cage is lying on the bed when January comes out again. She pauses, then throws the wadded up clothes at his head and jumps on him. Pinning his wrists down. Knees on either side of his hips. She leans down towards his face, and that’s when Cage sees her change. Just for a split second. Her eyes go completely black and her twists up into horns. (3) Exactly the way Vivian had told him she looked when January was in the car with Lance before. Somehow Cage flips January. He’s on top of her now. Pinning her down. In nothing but a towel. January squirms under him, trying to not think about how hot he is. Get off me, she breathes. What’s wrong, asks cage. I can tell you like this. (4) I like being on top, January responds. So we can just change position, Cage smirks. Not in front of Catherine, January complains. Catherine can just leave then, Cage replies. No, January says. Take me out on a real date and I promise… I promise you’ll have a good time after. Cage shrugs, lets January up, and starts collecting his clothes.

    Meanwhile Catherine is watching the whole thing, slowly rocking back and forth. This is just like what happened to her. January leading Cage on. Cage being too aggressive with January. Just like how things were with her before she killed herself. (5) She starts trembling. Cage and January are somehow to blame for her death. It’s their faults. She’s rocking so violently now she doesn’t even feel the blood running down her face. (6) That’s when Cage finally gets off of January, and they notice Catherine’s massive nosebleed. What’s wrong with you, asks January. Catherine doesn’t answer. January rolls off the bed and grabs a wad of toilet paper from the bathroom. She squats down in front of Catherine and gently reaches out to stop the other girl’s rocking. Everything’s going to be OK, January coos softly, wiping blood from Catherine’s face. Fingertips brush cheek. Trace lips. Catherine blushes and shakily reaches out to embrace January. (7)

    Cage has finished dressing by now. So I am sleeping up here with you, he asks January, pointing to the single bed. I can sleep on the floor, Catherine says quietly. Fuck that, says January. Cage can sleep on the floor by himself. You’re sleeping up here with me Catherine.

    And the game mechanics.

    1: Catherine spent a String on January to offer her XP if she allowed Cage inside her motel room.

    2: Cage got a weak hit on his turn someone on roll against Catherine, and she chose to give him a String.

    3: January got snake eyes on her turn someone on roll against Cage. As her origin is “once a demon”, the MC’s move was to reveal that information to Cage.

    4: Cage uses January’s two Conditions of slut and off her ass (really drunk) to get a weak hit on his turn someone on roll against her. After a lot of deliberation, she chose to promise him something she thinks he wants.

    5: A bit of background on Catherine. She committed suicide because of her sexually abusive father who was the town’s minister. Her parents died in a car crash, and Catherine killed herself shortly after. Though she doesn’t remember how she did it or where her body is.

    6: Catherine used her Unresolved Trauma move here, getting a weak hit. She chose to gain the Condition delusional and suffer a harm to give both Cage and January the Condition blamed.

    7: January gets a weak hit on her turn someone on roll against Catherine. She thinks for a long time about how to react, as she was turned on by someone she now feels is somehow to blame for her death. She finally chooses to give January a String.
  • Too much text again. Damn.

    So there wasn’t a lot of rolling in this part of the session, but a lot happened. It also clarified a few things for the players, and brought up at least one question.

    First, Cage turning on Catherine as he came out of the shower was the player realizing how useful Strings are. They’d seen Catherine and January use them for the past session and a half, and I think it finally sunk in that Cage was at a mechanical disadvantage to not have Strings on other characters. Catherine’s player struggled for a while about how to handle January turning her on. The player eventually realized that handing over a String represented exactly what they were going for; confusion, and the inability to sort out her feelings. Everyone pretty much knew that already as we’d gone over what Strings meant, but it was a nice reminder all the same.

    January seriously thought about just giving herself to Cage when he pinned her against the bed. Copying the Ghoul’s Sex Move would mean both she and Cage would mark XP each time they slept with each other from then on. However, Cage would have to hold steady to curb his impulses (because of the Ghoul’s Hunger move) while January would be able to control herself (lacking the Ghoul’s Hunger move). This appealed to me a lot, as it’ll probably cause a lot of drama, but I feel it’s something that needs to be built up to. That can’t happen right in the second session.

    The question that came up was with the Ghoul’s Disaffected move. Cage had his Hot stat highlighted, and rolled a 7 when he attempted to turn someone on against Catherine when he was coming out of the shower. The MC asked if he wanted to fail the roll (his Hot is -1) but mark XP from the highlighted Hot stat, or get a weak hit and no XP by using Cold. The player chose Cold. After the game I was wondering if that was correct. There doesn’t seem to be a “may” clause in the Ghoul's Disaffected move text. It looks, to me as if the Ghoul will always use Cold to turn someone on if they choose the Disaffected move. Is that how other people have been doing it? If so, does that mean highlighting the Ghoul’s Hot stat mean they can only manipulate an NPC to mark XP?
  • It looks, to me as if the Ghoul will always use Cold to turn someone on if they choose the Disaffected move. Is that how other people have been doing it? If so, does that mean highlighting the Ghoul’s Hot stat mean they can only manipulate an NPC to mark XP?
    This has come up some in AW threads on barf forth apocalyptica. The wording of the move is definitely such that it shouldn't be optional. Some play it as if it is, anyway. There are optional moves, like that operator one where you can roll Hx instead of a stat, which you'll only choose to do if your Hx is higher.

    There are a number of different ways to handle this (and the highlight situation it gives rise to), and I don't know which is more common:
    – Always roll the new stat, and just tell everyone "Hey, you really think my Hot stat is the most interesting? You know that I pretty much never roll it, right?" Hopefully they choose another stat.
    – Always roll the new stat, but treat the highlights as targeting the moves rather than the stats. That is, instead of highlighting hot, you highlight "Turning someone on, manipulating an NPC and using skin and custom moves that go for Hot".
    – Apply "To do it, do it" to the move name even though it usually doesn't – tell the Ghoul player that he has to act Disaffected, and if he's not he rolls Hot. For this to work, the name of the move should be such that it meshes with the character concept. If it does, then if the player doesn't think about it they will roll Cold, but they can always go out of their way to try to not act Disaffected, an roll Hot (for XP, otherwise I don't know why you'd do it). Beware – at least in AW, this radically changes the nature of some moves, like unnatural lust transfixion (rolling weird instead of hot) and merciless (dealing +1 harm). If you can will those away by not being weird or showing mercy, they are not the constraints they are now (which is fine if that's what you want).
    – I guess it's possible to just play it like it's optional, no caveats.

    Shot answer: you decide, but my reading of RAW is that it's not optional and you shouldn't be getting Hot highlighted as much since it's obviously not as interesting.
  • Great writeup, and very cool use of the various moves. A much more interesting and nuanced story than the first session, in my opinion.

    You're absolutely right about "shut someone down" (I originally thought that was a 7-9 result, not a 10+, but I misread!).

    And JonatanK just said everything to be said about the stat substitution moves. In any case, be aware that they dramatically affect experience, either speeding it up or slowing it down for that character (depending on which stat is highlighted).

    Has anyone rolled dark in this game yet? I have a feeling that a lot of people don't use the "gaze into the abyss" move very much, and I'm curious about ways to get it more involved in the game.
  • Did Cage act disaffected when trying to turn on Catherine, or did he act Hot?
  • When I was playing my Ghoul I assumed that you could choose to use Hot to Turn Somone On It's just generally sub-optimal to do so. Since Cold is one of your strong stats and you have a substitution move to take advantage of that fact. Of course, as an MC I'd make a call that you'd have to work it into the narrative of how you were Turning Someone On without using your cold detachment and alure to do so. Which still should be easy enough. Though, we never really had a problem getting XP in our game. Towards the end of our season we were deliberately fighting gaining XP to avoid the Season Ender and prolong the angsty magic.
  • This has come up some in AW threads on barf forth apocalyptica. The wording of the move is definitely such that it shouldn't be optional.
    @JonatanK Yeah. That's how I read the move as well, not as a "may" but as a "must". However, I didn't want to be "that guy" and interrupt the MC to tell him that he'd made a mistake. Maybe I'll mention it when we chat about how the session went later this week.

    @Paul_T These two APs were actually all one session, as we played for about three hours. There was one more part after everyone woke up in January's motel room (no one had sex that night, by the way), but it was getting late and the events weren't all that dramatic.

    I think we've used gaze into the abyss only once in two sessions so far. The very first move of the game was January zoning out to her giant headphones before class started (she hears voices in the drudge metal) to discover how Lance had figured out what she really was. I too would like to have more abyss gazing going on.

    I think everyone, including the MC, is a little sure of how extensive the powers of gaze into the abyss should be though. It seems that you could ask the abyss about anything. What's Cage thinking right now? Is Billy going to tell Danielle that he and January had sex? Where's Catherine's body? Those all seem like viable questions, but they also feel a bit like cheating to me.

    Part of the fun of the game is not knowing what's going to happen, and gazing into the abyss seems like it would take that away somewhat. Though a good MC would have the abyss provide answers that make the player go "Ah shit. That's going to be messy."

    @noclue Cage was totally Cold when he turned on Catherine. He didn't even do anything. Just walked out of the bathroom wearing only a towel with water beading off his, how did @Hans_c-o put it? Oh yeah. "Lickable abs". That's enough to turn anyone on. ;)
  • edited February 2013
    I think everyone, including the MC, is a little sure of how extensive the powers of gaze into the abyss should be though. It seems that you could ask the abyss about anything. What's Cage thinking right now? Is Billy going to tell Danielle that he and January had sex? Where's Catherine's body? Those all seem like viable questions, but they also feel a bit like cheating to me.
    Ask those things. It's up to the MC how much even "lucid and detailed" will reveal to you. It's not like a lucid, detailed vision is going to give you every detail about a topic, probably.

    Note that there is no "read a person" or "read a sitch" in Monsterhearts (Skin moves excepted). Instead, you can go introspect in the shadows.

    There's a common scene in the genre (it's in Twilight, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Buffy, and others). I like to call it the Google Montage. It shows a trembling teen sitting down at their computer and typing "vampires" into the search bar. And then it does weird angle shots of the screen, with increasingly grotesque images appearing. And then you cut to their worried face and widening eyes. And then back to the screen, where they've loaded up an eye-gougingly designed website that very clearly says "VAMPIRE FACTS" in purple text over a black background.

    The Google Montage is a gaze into the abyss.

    (January's drudge metal is an awesome one, too!)
  • My favourite part of those montages is, well, we're talking about vampires or werewolves. There might be, I don't know, 12 people in the world who don't know what a vampire is, and yet every time the kid doing the research is shocked, shocked, to learn about them.

    Unless they live in a world with no vampire media, but that seems unlikely. No Dracula, no The Lost Boys, no Van Helsing... actually, that last one might not be so bad.
  • There's a common scene in the genre (it's in Twilight, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Buffy, and others). I like to call it the Google Montage. It shows a trembling teen sitting down at their computer and typing "vampires" into the search bar. And then it does weird angle shots of the screen, with increasingly grotesque images appearing. And then you cut to their worried face and widening eyes. And then back to the screen, where they've loaded up an eye-gougingly designed website that very clearly says "VAMPIRE FACTS" in purple text over a black background.

    The Google Montage is a gaze into the abyss.
    Or like in Jennifer's Body when Needy scours the school's library for every book she can find on demons, and we have the scene of flipping pages and those awesome Wayne Barlowe Hell-scape paintings. Gotcha.

    Thanks for the clarification, @Mcdaldno. So, if I'm understanding this correctly, it seems like you can figure out pretty much anything with gaze into the abyss. The restriction/cost appears to be time and effort. In Twilight and Jennifer's Body (and even Gingersnaps, if I'm remembering correctly) the "Google Montage" takes up a whole scene just by itself. It might be a short scene, but the character can't really do anything else while they're discovering the info they want (however they do it).

    It also sounds like the character has to actively do something; sit down in front of a PC, go to the library, talk to some crazy person who knows about the occult, etc. "Doing something" can be read very loosely here, but (and correct me if I'm wrong, please) it shouldn't be as simple as say, putting your hand against your head and "thinking" for a second or two. Unless you (possibly unknowingly) do something overtly supernatural, like glowing, unleashing a soul-chilling howl, or have spirits manifest around you while you "think".

    So, it seems like the totally open ended power of gaze into the abyss is offset by either time, effort, or suspicion. All of them fictional costs.
  • Yeah. Also, though, doing coke in a bathtub is gazing into the abyss. Listening to The Smiths while your mascara runs down your face and drips onto your diary is gazing into the abyss.

    I think that mayyyyybe gazing into the abyss requires you to intentionally invite the worst possible thought into your head.
  • I've been thinking of "gazing into the abyss" as a sort of ritual. It could easily vary from person to person, but it's something that a person very specifically and intentionally does by themselves, blocking out the outside world. (Which is not to say it couldn't be in public, like January putting on her headphones and losing herself in the music - no need for a coke-binge in the bathtub every single time.)

    (Gazing into the abyss is one of the things that got drastically cut down in the final version of Monsterhearts, which is one of the next things on my list of things to discuss over in the "Writing Monsterhearts" thread, incidentally.)

    This, I really like:

    I think that mayyyyybe gazing into the abyss requires you to intentionally invite the worst possible thought into your head.
    I wonder where this line of reasoning might lead us?

    I could even see making that the fictional trigger for the move in some way.
  • I've been thinking of "gazing into the abyss" as a sort of ritual. It could easily vary from person to person, but it's something that a person very specifically and intentionally does by themselves, blocking out the outside world.
    This. This is a much better way of what I was trying to say with my "characters need to actively do something" line.

    As I said, I think people hadn't been using gaze into the abyss in our game because we assumed you could just pause mid-sentence, go "ding!", instantly get visions telling you what you wanted to know, and then carry on with your conversation as if nothing had happened. Defining it as a ritual or an activity really gives it some context. Thanks, guys.
  • But that doesn't really make any sense - not only do visions take time like everything else, but like it's awkward enough if I'm thinking of something else while someone's talking, and not having like supernatural abyssal visions.

    Sure, have a vision mid-sentence, but you know, to do it, you have to do it. You can't engage and mechanic and skip over it in the fiction.
  • edited February 2013
    To quote the book:
    When someone says that they're gazing into the abyss, the most important question to ask is, "Cool, but what does that mean? What do you actually do?" The answer might be different with each character, and each application of the move, but an understanding of what's actually going on in the scene is vital.

    Gazing into the abyss could involve entering a trance, or getting high and slipping into a dark consciousness. It could involve blacking out, or communing with demonic voices out in the woods. The details are always going to be character-specific. The MC should always be listening for a PC to do something brooding and introspective, so that they can spring forth with the question, "So, does that mean you're gazing into the abyss?"
  • edited February 2013
    To quote the book, "Gazing Into The Abyss":
    When someone says that they're gazing into the abyss, the most important question to ask is, "Cool, but what does that mean? What do you actually do?" The answer might be different with each character, and each application of the move, but an understanding of what's actually going on in the scene is vital.

    Gazing into the abyss could involve entering a trance, or getting high and slipping into a dark consciousness. It could involve blacking out, or communing with demonic voices out in the woods. The details are always going to be character-specific. The MC should always be listening for a PC to do something brooding and introspective, so that they can spring forth with the question, "So, does that mean you're gazing into the abyss?"
  • edited February 2013
    Yeah, the text supports this interpretation pretty strongly, I'd say. (Not surprisingly, that's where I got the idea from: precisely what Joe wrote.)

    What about this new line of reasoning, all this business with inviting terrible thoughts into your heart? I liked where that was going. Can we make something out of it?
  • This has gotten a bit off topic, but just to be clear, I was never arguing against the interpretation presented by @Mcdaldno in the book. I was merely misunderstanding it.

    Part of my misunderstanding was that all the other basic moves have real world examples for players to draw from. Even their names are things you can actually do in reality; turning someone on, manipulating someone, shutting someone down, holding steady, lashing out physically, and runing away are all easy to grok, since everyone pretty much knows what they have to do to make those thing happen.

    Gaze into the abyss? Yeah, not so much. I honestly wish @Mcdaldno's "Google Montage" example was in the Monsterhearts book, because reading that is what made me go "Duh! Now I totally get it."

    And I understand the whole "to do it, you have to do it" concept of AW-based games. But as gazing into the abyss is a very personal thing that will change based on who's doing it, and can even change based on the current situation, saying "you have to do it to do" is kind of meaningless. The thing you have to "do" in order to "do it" is so variable that (for me, at least) it was like looking at a blank sheet of paper. No idea where to start, what to do, or what was "legal" to ask, so we just kind of stayed away from it. Reading the "Google Montage" example made me go "Right. Now I have some idea of what I need to do in order to do it." Now I have a baseline which (pardon me for saying so) I think was confusing the original text.

    All right. With that out of the way, Im curious. Why would gazing into the abyss mean inviting the worst possible thoughts into your head? Couldn't it be inviting every possibly thought into your head? You just get flooded with images, and hopefully you can sort them all out into a coherent pattern. Mechanically, that's what the roll is for. 10 up, you get a coherent picture. 7-9, you get a confusing swirling mess, but can force it into something meaningful (drained condition). 6 or less, you get gibberish.

    Though... that may just be exactly what gaze into the abyss already does.
  • Yes and no.

    You're right that the abyss is all about receiving information. But it can and should ask questions, too (although this is less explicit in the final text than in the playtest text).

    More importantly, on a miss you don't just get gibberish. On a miss, the MC is supposed to make a hard move.

    This is where there is a little less guidance, perhaps. Can the abyss inflict harm? Can the abyss take a String on the character? It can certainly reveal uncomfortable truths and that sort of thing. But how much impact does it have on the character's actual life? Here we're on our own, sailing fairly uncharted waters. Exciting waters for some, frightening and unclear to others.
  • Sorry, I should have been clearer. I was never confused about the MC making a hard move on a missed gaze into the abyss roll. That part's crystal clear, as unless a move says otherwise, the MC makes a hard move on a 6 or less. The "you get gibberish" was simply meant to mean that the player got no useful information from the visions they had.

    As you said though @Paul_T, what the hard move is and what effect it has fictionally and mechanically is totally open. I'm not sure there can even be any hard and fast rules here, as gazing into the abyss is different for everyone. Examples would be helpful though. Maybe you do suffer harm from snorting too much coke in the bathroom. Maybe someone does get a String on you because they followed your digital trail and know you've been visiting occult sites.

    Looking at the "Library Montage" in Jennifer's Body, you could say that Needy actually failed her gaze into the abyss roll, and the MC's hard move was to separate them. I mean Chip gets all freaked out when she tells him her finding and starts pulling away from her.
  • So, when you gaze into the abyss, it also gazes into you, right?
  • @HyveMynd

    Missing a Gaze in the Abyss role could also give you exactly what you are looking for, but the abyss lept to the worst possible conclusion (or you did)
  • Indeed, a failed roll doesn't have to mean the thing you were trying to do failed. Especially if it's just so cool for it to have succeeded... It just means bad stuff happens too.
  • So, when you gaze into the abyss, it also gazes into you, right?
    I would assume so, and I don't really see any reason why the Abyss couldn't gain strings on PCs. It would mean asking lots of questions (or making snap decisions) about what the Abyss was, kind of like the psychic maelstrom in Apocalypse World.

    @Praion and @w00hoo, sure. I'm all about having a 6 or less being a "success" just with a shit ton of fallout or backlash. It's part of why I love the AW system so much. ;)
  • We added a fourth player to the game in the third session last night. Introducing:

    image
    Again, please ignore the watermark on the stock image. You'll also notice it's required for guys to be constantly shirtless in Monsterhearts.


    The player liked the idea of a surfer dude, provided that didn't conflict with anything we had already established in previous sessions. He was cool with not being near a coast, as he could play a transfer student who was bummed at not living near the beach anymore. We hadn't actually established [i]where[/i] the town was yet, and everyone else was cool with making it a beach town. As the MC said:
    Are you kidding? We're totally going to be in an ocean town! Beach parties are Monsterhearts gold. No city lights around, so if you step away from the fire it's totally dark. Swimming in the ocean at night is dangerous. Everyone is scantily clad. Gold I tell you!
    And so it was. The setting suddenly became, yet always had been, a beach town. Probably somewhere along the California coast. We went over the Werewolf's backstory, and discovered that it was a great Skin to add once the game had already started. Zachary was unsubtle and obvious, giving a String to each of the other PCs. He'd also spent weeks watching Catherine from a distance and gained two Strings on her. When asked [i]why[/i] he was watching Catherine the player replied he was drawn to the irresistible scent of "damaged goods". He then went on to say "She's just like a hurt little kitten, licking her wounds" and said that some of the attraction was sympathy. As a Werewolf with a heightened sense of smell (the player took the Werewolf move Heightened Senses) when asked what Catherine smelled like, he replied "angel dust and baby powder". Whoa. WTF?

    From there we started the session.
    It's Monday. Everyone's back in school with a few exceptions: Billy is absent (as he's dead now) and there are a couple of flowers on his desk, Lance is out thanks to Cage nearly caving his skull in at the party on Saturday night, and Mary (Catherine's friend who disappeared at the party) is also absent, though no one knows why. It's science class, and people have been paired up as lab partners, with Bunsen burners and beakers of chemicals (including some acid) bubbling away on their desks. Zach, Catherine, and Angie (the Vietnamese foreign exchange student) have been put in a group of three, and Cage and January have been paired up. Vivian and Danielle are paired up as well. Catherine's quiet and preoccupied, still shaken from the events of Saturday night, and isn't engaging in much of a conversation with Zach. Seeing Angie has the experiment well in hand, he starts to head over to Cage and January.

    Meanwhile, Cage looks terrible. You look pale, January says. What's wrong with you? I'm hungry, replies Cage. Why don't you go get me a soda? I'm not getting you a soda, says January. Come on, Cage entreats. You can come with me. I'll go out first, and then you can follow after me. Yeah, no thanks, January replies. How about we just do our experiment. I can't work now. I'm too hungry, complains Cage. Zachary shows up before Cage can do anything however. Sup, Zach says to January. I saw you at the party on Saturday, storming off. I was wondering if I could get your number. Maybe hang out or something. January looks at Cage for a second, then writes her phone number in a corner of her notebook and tears it off. Here you go, she says, smiling. She wraps her arms around Zach's waist and slides the note into the back pocket of his board shorts. She doesn't take her hand out. I heard you and Cage have a date, says Zach. How about I take you out instead? (1) I think that sounds pretty good, January replies, smiling. Oh, hey Cage. Sup. Zach nods. I guess I’ll see you later, then. He turns to go back to his desk.

    Hold on a sec, Cage says. What are you doing? I’m supposed to take January on a date. I guess you still can, says Zach. You have to wait for me to finish first, Cage says. Hey, yells January, insulted. Sorry, I’m not one for sloppy seconds, explains Zach. Hey! I’m right here, yells January again, pissed. Cage turns to her. And what are you doing, going on a date with him first, he asks. You had a girlfriend, January answers. Exactly. Had. I had a girlfriend, Cage says. Well it’s not my fault you tried to rape her, snaps January. (2) Sorry about that sloppy seconds comment, Zach says to January. I was just trying to say that his date would probably amount to McDolands compared to what I have in mind. And what would that be, challenges Cage. McDolands, admits Zach. I think we need to decide that I’m taking her out first and you can go after me, says Cage. Oh are you, asks January. I think we should let her decide, Zach says. No, she’s going on a date with me tonight, Cage states. Oh sorry, didn’t realize you two were a couple, says Zach. Well, we’re not but who are you to barge in, Cage asks. I just thought January looked interesting and wanted to ask her out, Zach explains. Actually, you know what, Cage sneers. You can take this slut if you want her. She’s all yours.

    January screams and swings at Cage. He steps back. She misses. She’s off balance, and goes crashing into the boiling chemicals on the desk. (3) They splash everywhere, getting on Cage and Zach, and soaking into January’s armbands. Cage rips off his shirt. The teacher, Mrs. Bellinger comes over screaming. All three of you outside in the hall. Now. January, take off those armbands before you get burned worse. Who is responsible for this. Zachary was away from his desk, explains Cage. Is this true, asks Mrs. Bellinger. Is it a crime to talk to other students, asks Zach. My experiment was finished, he complains. What was I supposed to do, just sit there, twiddling my thumbs he asks. Yes, the teacher snaps. This is not a dating service, Mr. Flinch. You’re heading down to the principal’s office. And who is responsible for this. It was an accident, January explains. Who is responsible, Mrs. Bellinger needles. Fine, January yells. It was me. Then you’re going to the principal’s office too. Mrs Bellinger rounds on Cage. And I’ve heard too much about you, young man. You’re joining them. I need a chemical shower, yells Zach. I’m burned. How would you like it if I filed a lawsuit against you, he threatens. I’m going to the principal. Zach takes off.

    He bursts into the office area screaming, followed by January, Cage, and Mrs. Bellinger. The principal. Mr. Sheckman, comes out, and Zach falls to the floor. Still screaming. He’s taken into the nurse’s office, while Cage and January are directed to wait on the bench outside Mr. Sheckman’s office. Mrs. Bellinger head back upstairs. Let’s just get out of here, says Cage. Now, asks January. Yeah, right now. I still owe you a date, he replies. Let’s just go. January thinks for a few seconds. Convince me, she says. He doesn’t say anything, but just grabs her and kisses her.
  • Meanwhile back upstairs, the rest of the class is taking advantage of the teacher’s absence to ignore their assignments and gossip. Vivian marches over to Catherine’s desk. What the hell are you looking at freak, Vivian demands. Catherine just drops her head and looks at the floor. Danielle comes over behind Vivian. Answer me, Vivian yells. In response Catherine grabs a beaker of chemicals and throws it in the girl’s general direction. Vivian screams and starts flailing in pain. Angie stands slack mouthed. Danielle gapes in disbelief as Catherine disappears into thin air. (4) Invisible, Catherine grabs the lit Bunsen burner and sets Danielle’s hair alight, injuring herself in the process. (5) Vivian and Danielle are both screaming now, the class is going absolutely nuts, and the fire alarms and sprinklers go off. Catherine panics and just runs in a random direction. Right through a wall (6), out into the hallway, and down towards the front of the school.

    Downstairs, a still shirtless Cage grabs and kisses January just as the sprinklers and fire alarms go off. January stands there stiffly for a second, then starts kissing him back. (7) Let’s just go, says Cage, pulling her out into the hallway. They head towards the athletic fields outside. Only a few steps out of the offices though and Cage stops. He can hear the sound of people running and screaming upstairs. (8) January pulls on his arm. Come on. Let’s go, she says. No, replies Cage. This is the perfect time for me to finish some business. Revenge. You can come with me if you want, he asks. I’m going after Randy. One of the field hockey guys who rolled you at the party on Saturday, asks January. Yeah, he replies. I already finished Lance. Fine, yells January. Whatever. I’ll go find Zachary instead. (9) Cage runs upstairs and January heads out on the athletic fields.

    Zachary, who had dozed off in the nurse’s office, is woken by the fire alarms and sprinklers. He pulls a blanket over his head and tries to block out the sprinklers. He’s unsuccessful, and reluctantly gets up. He steps out of the door just in time to see January and Cage in the hallway together before they split up. Both wet. Obviously they’d just finished fooling around. (9) Zach walks past the guidance councilor’s office and sees Mr. Hoffman just standing there. Why are you just standing there, Zach asks. There’s a fire or something. You should just go, Mr. Hoffman says emotionlessly. Whatever, Zach says and heads out into the hallway. He starts sniffing around, heading towards the back of the school. Trying to catch the baby powder scent of Catherine, to see where she is.

    The mechanics that triggered the fiction, as usual.
    1. January gets a weak hit on her turn someone on roll against Zachary. Zach chooses to promise her something he thinks she wants; in this case, taking her out on a date.

    2. January gets a strong hit on her shut someone down roll against Cage. She chooses for Cage to lose a String on her, but because he has none she gains a String on him instead.

    3. January rolls to lash out physically at Cage and misses, hence the chemical accident. January takes 1 Harm.

    4. Catherine rolls to lash out physically at Vivian and gets a weak hit. She chooses to become her Darkest Self.

    5. Catherine rolls to lash out physically at Danielle and gets another weak hit. She chooses to suffer 1 harm.

    6. Catherine has the Ghost move Dissipate.

    7. Cage gets a weak hit on his turn someone on roll against January. She chooses to give him a String against her, fictionally represented by kissing him back.

    8. Cage’s Hunger is Chaos and he’s still starving. He sees a perfect opportunity to feed with all the panic going on upstairs.

    9. January misses her shut someone down roll against Cage. The MC says that Zach sees them together and jumps to the wrong conclusion about them.

    There's a whole nother half of the session to write up. It involves a stolen fire engine.
Sign In or Register to comment.