[Monsterhearts] The Doppleganger, Final PDF Released



  • From one of the players, with names removed:
    Last night's session of #monsterhearts was groundbreakingly great!
    We had a guest star player (+Paul T.), who came in for a one shot and tried out the Doppleganger (named Adrianne) skin to much success.

    * Posing as Sophie, Adrianne convinced Gabe the Angel to finally make a move. Of course, Gabe ended up making a move on the real Sophie, who happens to be possessed by a demon! That's right, out resident Angel lost his virginity to a demon. Oh, that cannot be a good thing, right? Not at all.
    * Posing as Gabe, Adrianne tries to sew dissent between #dakotatheteenagewerewolf and Ophelia the Mortal and then convinced Dakota that Gabe was still in love/lust for Sophie, so Dakota told fake-Gabe to go "f**k the demon out of her" and ran back home to text her sorta hunky, sorta BF Joey so they could exchange "I love yous" for the first time, and do the deed, for the first time.
    * Since Adrianne had created a mini-rift between Dakota and Ophelia about Gabe, this prompted Ophelia to admit she was actually seeing Luke, Dakota's eldest brother (who is a Vampire, oh my!); rather than freak out on her, Dakota, always a pretty pragmatic person, said, "Oh, really? Well, that's cool... uh, use protection?!?"

    So so loved last night's game. K. is a masterful MC who allows us to have moments of sanity in the whirlwind of our PC's chaotic lives, but mixes in drama without going over the top.

    I should probably feel guilty for admitting this, but I actually got a little giddy for Dakota when she told Joey she loved him, when she actually opened up to someone. Not giddy like I did anything, but that kind of giddy when your favorite character of your favorite TV show finally achieves something or kisses the girl/guy. That kind of giddy. I had that. And it was good.

    We spent maybe an hour after the game just talking about the game, what makes it so fun for us, how it is different from other games/groups we play, fun stuff. Love this game, love this group.
    If you're on Google+, whisper me your G+ name and I'll include you in the conversation.

    More thoughts on the actual Skin coming later...
  • The Doppleganger was a powerful catalyst for a variety of crazy stuff in this game, and we had a good time. We're having a chat about it now, and I'm going to copy some of the feedback here. Here's the first thing I wrote:
    The Doppleganger really jumped out at me immediately because of the potential for "sexy, messy stories" -- it's just perfect for what Monsterhearts tries to do. Oh, the potential! It's a very exciting Skin. What are the challenges around getting it to work well?

    Here's the first one:

    Who's fooled by the Doppleganger?

    This is difficult because the Transform move tells us whether the Doppleganger manages to take on another person's form, but it doesn't tell us how other people react. Can they figure out that they aren't really talking to their friend Gabe?

    As a player, clearly there's no chance you're going to be fooled, so you know exactly what's going on: this is not Gabe. So that's off the table. What about your character? Does he or she know it's not Gabe? This gets trickier. If you like the way things are going, you willingly play along and it's all fun and exciting. But if playing along is not in your character's interests, or not ultimately compelling to you, then you have a difficult choice: "Does my character know that something's amiss?" How do you decide? You can't really judge by the player's impersonation (it's obviously not going to fool you, the player). Sometimes you can make a guess based on the fiction ("Gabe doesn't like anchovies, but he's eating a pizza and enjoying it"), but other times it's a very awkward position to be in, and feels totally arbitrary. (Am I right? How did it feel from your end, other players?)

    So, I think it's a bit problematic. Having some kind of mechanical support for which way things go would really help make this smoother and easier. This is why I really like Rich's suggestion here: it does exactly that. I was considering a very similar rule/move after our game. Here it is:

    Face Dancer
    When you're transformed and another player begins to suspect something's amiss, you can tell them your impersonation is convincing and ask them to play along. If they accept, they mark experience, and are convinced that you are who you appear to be until you transform or reveal your identity. If they refuse, they may do as they like, leaving open the option to suspect you immediately or decide something's wrong with your impersonation later.

    I think this makes the decision a lot easier for the other player: "Ok, I'll play along." Or, "No, let me see where this goes." And, in the second case, they won't feel guilty if, later in the scene, they say, "Wait! I think that's not Gabe!"
  • Is Face Dancer a freebie move? That is, you start with it, and you still get to pick a couple more moves? Or is it one that has to be selected as an additional move?
  • Good question! I'm not sure yet. What do you think?

    There are some other issues which may involve reworking how moves work (or how many are chosen), which I'll get to when I get back to this thread next!
  • Well, if the point of the move is to make the overall game better by solving a central issue with the Doppleganger, I think it should be a freebie move. After all, if the player doesn't take it, you're back to square one.
  • Even though it's a move, it's really sort of a clarification of how the transformation works, mechanically. Plus, it rewards the target, not the Doppleganger, so there's not a lot of incentive to buy it. It would only make sense as a purchased move if, for example, the Dopple got experience when the target refused to be convinced (which fits a common move theme of getting XP for failing).

    So unless you added that, it should be free, I'd think.
  • edited March 2013
    And if you did make it a purchased move, then, as Lisa points out, you still need the clarification of when the disguise breaks if you don't have Face Dancer.
  • I 'm definitely liking Face Dancer. I entirely agree with everything you guys are saying about the trouble of determining whether or not you can tell if things are amiss. My thought process when I wrote it originally is a little overbearing and overpowerful - I was thinking that, as it requires meticulous study to make it work, and if they DON'T take the "It doesn't hold up under scrutiny" complication on a 7-9, that means that you got the look right and you've studied them well enough that your actions wouldn't seem out of character. However, I'm definitely a much bigger fan of operating using that Face Dancer move instead.

    I would make it a free move, yes. Because a) if you don't take it it didn't fix anything, and b) the only real benefit to having it for the Doppleganger is that others would be more inclined to believe their facade. So basically exactly what Lisa and Rob said.

    That's a very cool thing though. Face Dancer is really neat (possible alternative: strings instead of xp? I'm just always looking for ways to drag Strings into things). Really looking forward to hearing the other issues you guys came up with. Thanks!
  • A thought I had re the doppleganger (which Lisa asked me to post) is that if one wanted to play up the confusing identity issues of the doppleganger, you could give them (probably let them buy) a move like this:

    The Switch: Once per session (or probably just based on a string spend, but needs to be sharply limited to avoid abuse/annoyance), you may use this move while disguised as another player character. When you do, both players must talk privately, at which point the other player is offered a choice. They can either accept your bargain or reject it. If they accept it, they play your character until this effect ends, and you play theirs, at which point they get experience. If they reject it, you continue playing your own characters. However, regardless of how they choose, which characters each of you are playing is concealed until one of you has to consult their character sheet (at which point this effect ends).

    The idea, of course, being that in a completely voluntary transaction (the doppleganger player must offer, and the other player must accept for the switch to happen), the line is blurred between the two characters -- even if the other player rejects the offer, the other players don't, for a while, know which way they chose, and so are more inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt.
  • edited March 2013
    Wow! That's really interesting. I'm going to be thinking about that one! It's a very clever and compelling idea.
  • In the meantime, here's one of the other issues/topics which came up during the playtest:

    To use the Doppleganger, we have to give some serious thought with regards to how to use Strings and Conditions. There are many possible answers, but it's not clear which ones are best and which ones are trouble.

    If I take your shape, can I use your Strings? (The default is presumably "no", but that doesn't make sense in certain situations.)
    If I take your shape, can I still use my Strings?
    If I take your shape, do my Conditions still apply?
    If I take your shape, do your Conditions apply to me?
    If I take your shape and I gain Conditions, do I still have them when I change back? Or do you? Or do they just disappear?

    These are not obvious questions, I think. We may be able to handle them by writing moves (maybe using another player's Strings when in their form is possible, but you have to take a move to be able to do so), or in some other ways, but an obvious and clear solution isn't entirely obvious, at least not to me.
  • @Paul_T : Using other people's Strings was an early idea I had when I was concocting Transform, but I ended up very specifically deciding the answer to be NO. You can take advantage of fictional situations and mess them up for other players, but they actually risked dice rolls to get those strings, just spending them out from under them isn't very fair, even considering how often this class crosses ownership boundaries. Now, that said, Strings are almost always fictionally justified - whether you turned them on, or otherwise gained some advantage over them, there's a reasoning behind the String, and THAT you can take advantage of. There's no mechanical benefit there, but it's enough to change the fictional scenario. As an example, I'll make something up with the characters from the game you played. If at some point prior Gabe had Turned On Dakota himself and gotten a String on her, and then you became fake-Gabe and jumped in there, you could take advantage of the fact that you've turned her on and you have some emotional leverage (prompting a different move snowball than if Gabe had never made the move), but you don't actually get to spend that String he got.
    Additionally, if you score Strings on someone while in another's form, they're the ones who reap the narrative benefit (and you while you're in the shape I suppose), but you're the one who earned the token, so it's your's.
    As for your own Strings, I say yes, you keep 'em in other forms! Strings are both an abstract game thing and a narrative piece. Just like how I'm saying you can use the narrative piece of the other person since you look like them, but you didn't actually earn the mechanical token, it's the reverse for yourself. You don't look like you - people aren't going to react like they would to your regular form, but you still have that mechanical benefit you can cash in.

    Essentially, I'm saying that the narrative effect sticks to the character's shape, while the mechanical Strings stick to the player who earns them. This is a bit of a disconnect with the blended fiction/crunch of the game, especially when a transformed Doppleganger uses his mechanical strings without the narrative that caused it, but I think it works - Strings are a generic currency, they aren't actually attached to the situations that created them. I can earn a String by turning you on and then later spend it to make my punch hit harder.

    As for Conditions when Transformed, I'm saying your Conditions apply to you, but their Conditions don't. Conditions aren't descriptors of the physical world to me, they're aspects of you character's psyche. Obviously it makes sense for some traits, like Distracted or Drained (obvious mental state ones) to follow you with the Transform. Even appearance-based ones though I think are matters of the mind. If you have the condition Ugly on you, that's not describing the physical or you would always have had it from the very beginning. No, someone made you FEEL ugly, and that feeling doesn't go away just because you change your shape. Now, shifting into someone beautiful and being told how hot you are a few times probably counts as the "appropriate action" to cross off the Condition, but that's something else. Even social conditions seem to follow from this. If I'm Shunned, it's again a facet of the mind - I FEEL shunned, and I Transform into the right people so I don't have to feel that way anymore. Finding the right person to yank off your Conditions is actually a great motivator to go out and start observing other characters.
    And as for their Conditions, it's the same thing. They might have the Ugly condition, but that's how they perceive themselves. You can give a beautiful character the Ugly condition if you body-shame them, and if you transform into them, you're not gonna inherit that emotional hurt. Maybe they're actually avoiding your target, and he has the Shunned condition, but you don't instantly feel shunned just by becoming them.
    Potentially though, Linked could have some interesting implications for swapping Conditions around or something, because then you ARE feeling what they're feeling.

    So that's how I've been thinking about these things. I didn't address them in the rules because nothing actually changed - your Strings and Conditions stay yours, their Strings and Conditions stay theirs. There's just some emotional discussion of why that would be the case. I'm willing to change my mind about some of this though if you've got convincing counter-reasons! Except the "using up their hard-earned Strings" thing. I'm really not fond of stealing their actual game assets.
    The benefits of this approach are:
    * Mechanically simple, nothing has changed.
    * Kinda makes sense if you really think it out.
    The cons are:
    * There are probably rare cases where it would make sense to take their Strings/Conditions.
    * Kinda doesn't make sense if you don't really think it out.

    @mneme : That's interesting! A curious but intriguing mechanical and narrative thing. I'm struggling to fit it into my conception of the Skin though. Primarily, the bit that wigs me out is the idea of a mutual shift. It doesn't quite click for me that they play you for a time. It's a really creative and interesting thing to do with it though, and I need to sit and think about that for a little bit. If you want to just generally elaborate a little more it might help, because I really want to be able to make use of that idea.
  • Great answers and thoughts again, Max. I think you're right on.

    The situations I'm thinking of particularly, though:

    * If the Doppleganger impersonates a PC, maybe they could give other people strings on them (a la Queen's "Bought Loyalty" move). Or spend some of their Strings in exchange for something else (e.g. the player marks experience). I agree that spending someone else's Strings is always problematic, though, but I still think there might be some room for interesting possibilities to explore.

    * The situation which I think is more likely, though, is taking the form of an NPC who has Strings on people, and using those. That doesn't "rob" anyone of hard-earned benefits but gives an interesting incentive to impersonating particular people. Maybe. (Like I said, I'm just thinking about it, I'm not sure about any of this.)

    I also like the idea of impersonating people so as to get rid of Conditions. This could be written in to the Transform move (on a 10+, get rid of an appropriate Condition...) in some way.

    It's also an interesting potential mechanical bit to play with. "When you transform back into yourself, take a Condition based on how pathetic you feel compared to the person you just were."

    (Again, just brainstorming out loud, I don't think any of these ideas are all that great as is, I just think they're interesting to explore.)
  • I suppose if you're TRADING to get their strings it isn't so intrusive. There's move potential in that - the question is, is that more significant an element than one of the existing moves? Cuz if I add Face Dancer it'll already be a bit crowded, yet another might be too many.

    And NPCs is a great point. When I think about Transforming, I default to copying PCs, but that's obviously not all that's gonna happen. And I definitely have no problem with taking NPC strings. That's definitely something I could right in, and I'm majorly considering it. I have one niggling concern, but I'll get to that in a second.

    Impersonating as a direct means of removing a condition could be possible, but I'm not so sure about that. I kinda think it's better as sticking with the "appropriate action" thing.

    The taking a condition when you turn back though, THAT I'm feelin'. It really helps cement the "I'm doing this because I hate my own form" thing. The trouble with that is the same as tacking on the bit about NPC Strings, and that's that Transform has the potential to become an extremely complicated move if left to do what it wants. There's a lot that I could keep tacking on to flesh it out, but I risk making it a very complex move. So I need to watch out for that.

    Here's what I'm thinking from those. The condition thing, that I can put into Transform. I really like it.
    The Strings things, on the other hand, is a new move. I imagine it would have 2 clauses, looking something like this:
    "THE STRINGS MOVE: When you're transformed as an NPC, you have access to their Strings and can use them as if they were your own.
    When you're transformed as a PC, you can offer that player experience [or a string on you or something] to take one of their Strings."

    And this thinking about NPCs and Strings has upped my ideal goal for my own Doppleganger! I don't want to just pretend to be the Infernal to his Dark Power, I want to pretend to be the Dark Power to his Infernal! That'll be a fun session.

    And thanks for the brainstorming! It's cool stuff, and bringing up things I totally forgot to think about.
  • Right on again, Max. I agree with your thoughts on all this in full. (And I'll be back with more stuff later, when I have time.)
  • edited March 2013
    Okay, another thing I got to thinking about was the stats. These are tricky for a Doppleganger!

    It's the only Skin (as far as I know) which suggests the character might... just not be all that attractive. From that perspective, it would make sense to give the Doppleganger a low hot score. However, we really want the Doppleganger to take on people's forms and manipulate and seduce people... that's where a huge part of the fun is with this Skin. So that suggests hot should be one of the "good" stats.

    So it's a bit of a tricky situation. Switching your stats with another character's is a potential solution, but I'm not sure it's the best one (plus, it has to be chosen as a move, and you only choose one at the beginning).

    I'd be tempted to use some unorthodox stat block (e.g. Hot -1, Cold 0, Volatile 0, Dark 1), and a substitution move which says, "When you're in the form of someone else, switch your Dark with your Hot, Cold, or Volatile, as fits that person." (This also means lots of Dopplegangers will look like Hot -1, Cold 0, Volatile 0, Dark 2, which sounds about perfect to me.)

    Having a more "neutral" stat block is not in line with Monsterhearts, but does fit thematically with the idea of the Doppleganger being a tabula rasa, a non-entity, except when s/he takes someone else's form.

    Again, I'm not sure. Maybe it's fine as is. I'm just brainstorming! But I like the idea of having to transform in order to do certain things (maybe even spending some of your Strings?).
  • What about stat swap move? Dark for Turn On / Manip when transformed? Or a Move to mirror one stat of the victim?
  • The Doppleganger doesn't think they're attractive. They think they're nothing special.

    That doesn't mean it's true.

    This is classic Bella Swan type stuff. "Oh, I'm so plain and ugly, nobody could ever find me attractive. I just cant understand why all these super sexy guys want to talk to me and protect me and kiss me and stuff, cause I'm so plain."

    Hot could be +2 and they could still THINK they were plain and unattractive. Teens are notorious for not knowing how attractive they are. ESPECIALLY teens in monster stories.
  • Rob is totally right, The Doppleganger can be stunning and just completely not believe it.

    Here's the rub though: Is "Hot" (the stat) actually indicative of how attractive you are? Or is it how attractive, confident, sexy, and assertive you act? When I look at the stats, your Cold, your Volatile, your Dark, they're representative of how you're acting. Plus, when you Turn Someone On or Manipulating them, aren't you literally making use of and taking advantage of how Hot you are? If you don't think you're hot, would you be very good at all at taking advantage of your body even if it's more than you think? I mean, if I don't think I'm sexy, I'm not gonna go around using my sexuality to get what I want, and if I tried I wouldn't exactly know how to do it very well. On the other hand, a lot of Turning Someone On isn't an intentional motion by the character, so its possible that you still have a good Stat, you just can't do it intentionally.
    So, can I be totally sexy and still have a low Hot? Is Hot about how I act (like other stats) or is it about how I actually look?

    My own personal take is that, like Conditions, the things on your sheet are about your mind. You may be hot, but you're not Hot unless you feel it and can take advantage of it. Maybe you Turn Someone On or they're swayed by your Manipulation without your intention, but unless you know you know you're Hot, you have a hard time actually taking advantage of these things.
    By that logic, I'm not opposed to keeping the Hot as a -1. However, the idea of a non-standard set of stats could certainly be interesting, and I'm definitely not opposed to the presence of a stat swapping move. Well, sort of. I'm opposed a bit because, personally, I tend to find moves that swap basic move stats to be a bit of a design crutch and a touch boring, an because I'm running a bit low on slots for moves since I don't want an overwhelming list. A move that mirrors a stat is more interesting, and is already somewhat represented within Personality Bleed (which makes you a bit better based on how good they were). If I wanted a perfect mirror, I run into the issue of a character ending up with a pile of really high stats with very little work. Perhaps as an Improvement though if I can think of how to word it.

    Those are some good thoughts you guys had. Gets at the core nature of some of the parts of Monsterhearts.
  • edited March 2013
    I think Hot -1 Cold -1 works just fine. The character is noticeably bland, neither attractive or cool but maybe a bit scary if you actually bother to notice them.

    If you're character is obsessed about being hotter or cooler, they get Walk Like You or Personality Bleed or both, so they can get hotness or coolness off of someone else, which fits the concept (and the emotional center) of the character perfectly. This gets more at the "I want to be like him or her" part of the character.

    If you're more interested in being directly manipulative with the transform thing, you take Crawl Inside Your Head or Your Evil Twin. This gets more at the "I hate them for what they have that I don't have" part of the character.

    The character is about being someone else to get what you want because you don't feel that you can get what you want by being yourself. The current stats reflect that just fine - Hot and Cold are the "get what you want" stats, Volatile and Dark are the "get frustrated cause you can't get what you want" stats. I think the current stat layout is a good fit.

    (As an aside, I like that the character fits the Single White Female movie type of character just fine. There's nothing that says that Transform is actually supernatural and not just someone using clothes and hair and such to pretend to be someone else. Sure your stats change, but as we said, your stats have as much to do with your confidence and feelings as they do with physical aptitude/appearance/etc.)
  • Yeah, it's some interesting stuff to think about.

    I came up with the version I did because I imagined being an unattractive Doppleganger who must collect personalities to transform into in order to accomplish certain means. The current moves do that in various ways, but they are all more complex (e.g. making up stat blocks for NPCs, or comparing stat blocks and making two adjustments, then remembering to erase them later, which means there's some chance of stats out of the regular range, etc).

    I'm not a fan of stat substitution moves in general (for the reasons Max mentions), but in this case it might be appropriate. You take the form of Cordelia because she's a real bitch and you switch your Dark with your Cold while you're in her form. You take the form of Luke because he's super hot, and so you switch your Dark with your Hot when you're in his form. And when you turn into Cassidy the Werewolf, that's when you feel Volatile.

    So you shift forms when you want to change out your personality. (The current moves do this as well, this was just another suggestion for how to do it. Again, I'm not sure if it's better or worse, I'm just brainstorming in public here.)
  • I definitely agree that each of the things is competently handled by the existing batch of moves - I feel pretty confident in them as a whole. I'm really just looking to see if anything else might be EVEN BETTER. Your assessment of the stats is spot on though, sticking with H-1/C-1/V+1/D+1 is the smart choice.

    And Paul, you're right that this is one of those cases where a stat-substitution move isn't a crutch, it's thematically appropriate. However, especially with Face Dancer in the pile, we've got a great complement of moves and I think one more be a bit crowded. But it's definitely one of those ones where, if I decide something needs replacing, a substitution move in that vein is a safe and easy move to go with.

    And he idea of a non-supernatural transformation by dressing like them is interesting, and terrifying for reasons I can't talk about at this point.

    Also, Rob, that's a great breakdown of the purpose behind the moves.
  • So, resurrecting this to talk about something that's been itching at me for about two months now.

    First off, you should all back it because the stuff is awesome, I haven't played any of them but I've seen them on the table and they're freakin' sweet.

    One in particular is of interest to the Doppleganger, and that's The Cuckoo. I became aware of the Cuckoo when I emailed Joe asking for the Skin template and he mentioned that Jackson had something very similar in the pipeline and I decided to email him about it. He shared the example move from the Kickstarter (reproduced here) with me:

    When you dress in someone else's clothes in an attempt to pass as them, roll with hot. On a 10 up, you're passing as them - face and body. You'd fool their mother and their favorite hookup. • On a 7-9, same as above, but choose one:

    someone suspects,

    the clothes are noticed missing,

    you receive some unwanted attention.

    While you're passing as someone, give social Conditions you receive to them instead. This won't let you avoid physical Conditions, though.
    As far as the situations go, this is eerily similar to what I came up with independently. Gotta say this struck some fear into my heart - Jackson's been playtesting and revising this baby a heck of a lot longer than I've been at The Doppleganger. I didn't want to just be obsoleted by The Cuckoo, so I looked for a way around how similar they appeared to be on the surface. I haven't had a look at the complete Cuckoo (I meant to at Fabulous Replacement, but forgot - I'll probably check it out next time I can get to Story Games Olympia) but my basic musings were generally confirmed by Jackson as making sense, so I'm feeling okay about them.

    See, what I gleaned from the move is 1) motivation behind the Cuckoo's desires and 2) the different nature of the transformation. When a Cuckoo transforms, they're taking on the appearance of someone else. It's a very physical thing, and they aren't actually changed, they're simply disguise masters. So why is a Cuckoo doing this? In my estimation, it's the desire to take advantage of what they have. You want to use their things and have access to their stuff and be with their friends. But it's always about using their actual tangible THINGS, it's about wanting what they have. It's petty and physical.
    The Doppleganger, on the other hand, doesn't become a person just to have their stuff. Sure, that helps, and I'm sure the Dopplegangers of the world sometimes transform just to take advantage, but at their core, the thing that makes a Doppleganger transform is self-loathing. The Doppleganger doesn't see greatness in others and want to hold it, it sees awfulness in itself and wants to escape it. And when it takes on a person, it doesn't just look like them, the Doppleganger IS that person, attitude included. The Doppleganger wants to be them, and that means taking on their personality.

    The Cuckoo is manipulative and covetous and envious and physical. The Doppleganger is desperate and clingy and hero-worshippy and emotional. Worldly vs. Cerebral.

    Another separation we found was that the Cuckoo actually solves their envy when they take people's stuff. The Doppleganger's problem is eternal - transformation is a patch, but they'll grow disallusioned with their hero and find a new one, they never actually feel better about themselves. Mechanically, the Cuckoo is a Hot skin while the Doppleganger is Dark, and I play with Stats a lot in the moves while Jackson plays with Conditions.

    I'm confident that the division is strong enough in theory that we needn't be stepping on each others' toes. I'm not entirely sure if that sort of division is apparent inside of the mechanics of the Doppleganger right now though. Until the Kickstarter is fulfilled people won't have their hands on the Cuckoo for comparison, but does anyone here have any insight on how much you can see that separation in the two, that specific characterization I've given to the Doppleganger? I've been pretty anxious about this for a while, but now that the Kickstarter is launched and the Cuckoo's name is out there I can finally talk about it.

    Also, hey, @jackson_tegu have you had any additional thoughts on how/where this split between our skins could go?
  • Fascinating. I think you're right, and I like the highlighting of how the Cuckoo is Hot, while the Doppleganger is Dark. Whether or not I'd ever want a game with both in play, the differences are significant. Some of this material could go into the section on playing the Doppleganger, but I'm thinking that some kind of guide to comparisons of the various skins out there, their similarities and differences, the type of teenagers they're modeling, which ones work well together, which don't, and which might work well together so long as certain things are kept in mind, would be very useful.
  • Very interesting!

    Please keep posting in this thread, I'll be looking forward to hearing a more conclusive report/thoughts!
  • Well, I'm boned. =P

    I'm really excited to see @jackson_tegu's Second Skins, but a small part of me is like "Aww, man." I was trying to develop The Kitsune, who is a shape changer just like The Doppelganger and The Cuckoo, and now I'm wondering if there's enough design space to do so. It's interesting how you've noted the differences between The Cuckoo and The Doppelganger, @horn_head_o; one wants what their target has, while the other doesn't want to be their real selves. I'm wondering if there's another motivation to take someone's shape I can dig up. Hmm...
  • edited May 2013
    To make trouble. Especially for other people.
  • Awe, yeah!

    For one, I'm gonna be HELLA stoked to see the Doppelganger and the Cuckoo alongside one another in play - not for a scientific comparison, but just to watch the chaos they're gonna cause with their hangups and freak-outs and hijinks.

    It's the new "a party of all thieves." Come to think of it, just the other day playing World of Dungeons another player and I were both gnome wizards - he the not-so-bright (on paper) younger brother, I the terrifying stilt-walking older brother. MINOR DIFFERENCES ARE AWESOME!

    Point-of-order clarification, the Cuckoo totally magics themselves into having the body of the person who's clothes they're wearing - that's what's meant by "You'd fool their favorite hookup" (This is unpacked further in the Playing the Cuckoo section & the Under The Cuckoo's Skin section for the MC, too). So, that's not one of the ways the two are different, but whatever.

    (Max, they are super different. You really don't have to worry! Also, when are you next coming to the meetup? I'll bring something for you to look at. :)

    Hey @HyveMynd, the Kitsune sounds like it might be a trickstery-type, yeah? Maybe go with that. Or just start, pretending that The Doppelganger and The Cuckoo don't exist, and see where you get to. Maybe you'll get to a whole other place anyway.

    When there's a game of Monsterhearts with 3 shapechangers and a Mortal who's in love with one of them and then suddenly there's three of the person the Mortal's in love with... yes. That will be a fine day indeed!
  • When there's a game of Monsterhearts with 3 shapechangers and a Mortal who's in love with one of them and then suddenly there's three of the person the Mortal's in love with... yes. That will be a fine day indeed!

  • edited May 2013
    Or a minisupplement of extra moves for wacky games of identity crisis:

    (Vampire) TRUSTED FACE: When you hypnotize someone, you can make them think you're someone you're not. This ability follows all the normal rules for hypnosis, but while somebody is under your sway they won't question any inconsistencies or poor acting on your part.

    (Werewolf) SKINSHIFTER: Your human form is a bit more mutable than most of your kind. Whenever you escape your darkest self, you can change what (or who) you look like as a normal person.

    (Fae) GLAMOUR: When you weave a faerie illusion to disguise yourself as another person, roll +hot. On a 10+, the MC will tell you one thing that will break the illusion, on a 7-9, three. Common things include the touch of metal, hearing your real name spoken aloud, interacting with someone wearing their jacket inside out, fae magic is just full of complicated loopholes and it's basically impossible to keep track of them all.

    (Witch) SHADOW THIEF: If you have a string on someone, you can steal their shadow (pro tip: do it while they're not looking or they may ask awkward questions!) and then wear it over your own face like a mask, flawlessly impersonating the individual in question. They cast no shadow while this is going on, however, and you take -1 ongoing to all rolls until you release it: it kind of takes concentrated effort to keep the shadow from squirming away at an inopportune moment.

    (Infernal) THOUSAND MASKS (bargain, not move): You may grant your Dark Patron a string on you to look exactly like any other individual until the next sunrise or sunset, or to ask your Dark Patron "What would the person I'm impersonating do in this situation I'm in right now?".

    And so on.
  • *Applause!*
  • Yep, perhaps the Kitsune takes other peoples' forms to make mischief. Another angle (for other moves) is getting away with what they want, shifting blame and having a fall person they can drop into it when things get too hot. Like their 'teenage thing' is to cause trouble, deny responsibility and let others take the rap for their misdeeds.

    And the Mortal love-quadrangle fours-company-of-errors will be a thing of beauty.
  • jackson: Thanks! It definitely takes a load off my mind knowing that they're significantly different. And that's cool that the Cuckoo really shifts form - that's the mildest of all the differences I thought I saw anyway, there's definitely room for multiple form-changers. On that note, there's definitely room for even more, and there's totally places for The Kitsune as well. I'd go for the trickster-angle myself. I think there might also be some space in working with the idea of how Kitsunes have the ability to become non-existent people - Dopplegangers and Cuckoos (both gamewise and in their real-world/mythological counterparts) are about taking shapes of other people, while perhaps there's design space in being able to appear as whatever kind of person you want.
    That said, the shapeshifters+mortal group sounds so cool and I want to see that game.
    Oh, and I don't think I'm gonna be at this week's meetup, but I'm trying to make next week's.

    Ben, those are awesome. Shadow Thief is my favorite of 'em, though I have a thing for shadow trickery in general.

    Lisa, I'd be hugely down with seeing a document doing that sort of comparison of Skins. It would be a really neat thing to see.

    And don't worry Paul, I have no intention of stopping posting! Been in a bit of downtime from classes and stuff, but I'll definitely be back once I can play a bit more with it.

    Thanks folks!
  • Max, bring the doppelganger around next time. I want to playtest them.
  • FIRST OFF: For the games in this post, I prepared a new version of the playbook! It includes Face Dancer. It's also a Microsoft Word file because my InDesign trial ran out, but it's still pretty good looking.

    So, I somehow forgot to come back here. We totally played and Morgan there did indeed play The Doppleganger! It was very successful, with some interesting observations. For one, Paul, your Face Dancer move was instantly a hit with pretty much everyone who read it and they thought it definitely fixed some issues in an interesting way, so thank you very much.
    Other thoughts: Morgan chose My Evil Twin with intention to try abusing it - I mean, getting people blamed for stuff for XP? Sounds fairly easy when you can BE people, right? Turns out it's actually tougher than it sounds, but in a good way, worth investing energy into while not abusable.
    A couple memorable Doppleganger moments from the game included:
    * The Doppleganger using an imitation Facebook account of the Queen that had some of her clique on it to impersonate her even without transforming. (Also made me think that the Crawl Inside Your Head question would be well spent asking for Facebook or email passwords).
    * The Werewolf (played by me) bullying The Doppleganger in art class and events pushing me into Darkest Self, during which I started going at him in half-and-half wolf form in front of the class. In response, The Doppleganger transformed into me, also in half-wolf form. Crazy and awesome PvP wolf fight. I totally won, that move for getting Strings on people when you do harm was very very helpful, plus it turns out the Werewolf is better at hurting things, but it ended up being quite thematically appropriate - even when he transforms into an exact copy of them, he's still not as good as them.
    Important Note: We decided on an impromptu basis that yeah, The Doppleganger could totally become The Werewolf even if it wasn't previously established - the Werewolf's Backstory said he wasn't very subtle, so we just went with it, and the game was better for being liberal about it.

    But then! Time passed and the next time I showed up to SGO I played Monsterhearts again! In fact, I didn't just play, I ran my first ever game of Monsterhearts! And to my elation, one of us picked The Doppleganger! Thanks to Becka (took a guess, sorry if I got the spelling wrong :( ) for taking a chance. She picked Linked, which was interesting to see. In my nerves of doing my first MH game I kinda forgot about it for the first half of the game, but I definitely made a thing of it in the back half, and it made things really cool. Didn't trigger the mechanical side of it, but the narrative side was cool enough. Later on she also took Walk Like You, Talk Like You, which was pretty neat as well.
    Once again, we had multiple moments of ad hoc "can I turn into that person?" and just saying sure, yeah. Also once again, I wasn't expecting it to happen two games in a row, but we had The Doppleganger transform into a person right in front of them. An NPC this time, but still.
    Interesting though, I was looking at Jackson's Cuckoo skin and it had a crossed out move about turning into people in front of them labeled as "no fun," so even if it's a common thing and is cool in gameplay, maybe it's not worth making a move out of it.

    The big thing I got out of both games was that keeping a small limit on the number of people you can transform into isn't very interesting and I'm thinking I'll just remove it. I'm thinking just put it at "When you have a string on someone and transform into them...".
    And alternative idea was proposed to not have a move for transforming at all and instead making the core move about when you're pretending to be someone to other people, like when you try to deceive your subject's friends or whatever.
    I was made aware that I need to write more clearly about how Strings and Conditions operate when you transform. To sum it up right now, narrative situations follow your current appearance, but you're mechanically treated as having all of your Strings and Conditions as usual. I'll probably write up a bonus half-sheet to go with the skin describing my reasoning for that so it makes sense to players, since it requires a certain understanding of Strings and Conditions to make it work.

    Anyway, just wanted to come back with an update on how the games went! I'll be running a game of Monsterhearts again at Go Play NW, so hopefully someone will pick The Doppleganger again.
  • Very cool, Max!

    And I'm glad to hear the Face Dancer moves works as intended. In general, your experience with the Skin sounds similar to mine.

    The thing about being able to transform into anyone, anytime, may be an artifact of single-session/con play, I think. It might be more effective in a long-term game (which is, after all, how Monsterhearts is supposed to be played). I wouldn't be so sure about this one just yet, although I like the mechanical angle of focusing on the interactions with other characters when impersonating someone over focusing on the transformation itself. (Let "the disguise slips" be a consequence of MC moves and/or other move use... that sounds perhaps more interesting.)
  • (Also, thinking about it further, I still feel that my Dark-substitution move is an easier way to handle all those complicated increase/swap stats moves, and very much in-line with the concept of the character. But this may be a matter of taste!)
  • @Paul_T:
    Thanks! The one-shot effect could definitely be having an impact, which is a great point. I need to get something a little longer-term going. And I'm gonna draft up some interaction-based alternatives to Transform just to see how it goes, so hopefully having something to directly compare to will help un-muddy this question.
    And yeah, I personally still prefer this approach to the stat thing, so this might be taste. I'm still gonna try putting that on the table at some point though.

    I think it's an interesting concept, I am curious to see how this will differ from The Cuckoo!
    Thanks! In my own reading of the Cuckoo, they're noticeably different feeling, but I'm definitely excited to see them on the table some time.
    - being able to transform should require something like a sympathetic token and/or an expenditure of a String in my opinion. It's a powerful ability and shouldn't come without a cost, plus watching them maneuver to get such a token provides great opportunities for interesting RP. That, or spending a String showing that you're using what you know about them to aid you in this process.
    An interesting idea, but I'm not so sure about a full cost, precisely. In the past I considered sympathetic tokens, but I'm not sure that having a token of them means at all the same thing as knowing them - and in fact strays much much closer to the Cuckoo. Spending a string is an okay idea, but I'm not entirely sure that spending a string and then having to roll anyway is so great. Instead what I've got in mind is that you need to have a string on them, but you don't need to spend it to be able to roll. Transforming sounds powerful, but since once you're them you still need to do all the rolls and everything to complete your mischief it isn't quite as tough as you might think. The risk/cost comes from the inherent risk that comes whenever you roll I guess. And for that fun RPing opportunity, instead of where you spend a string, it's the case of trying to GET that string.
    - I am not sure how this would work with Conditions. The other character's Conditions should apply to The Doppelganger if they've taken that character's form (The Doppelganger after all wasn't the one labeled a slut or humiliated by Shut Someone Down) except for perhaps drained and terrified. In general, I am curious to know about Strings, Conditions, etc. And also what happens if/when they get caught!
    This is a thing I actually have thought a lot about. See, the Cuckoo makes a split with Conditions, dividing them into social conditions (like slut or humiliated) and physical conditions about your state of being (like drained or terrified). When you transform as a Cuckoo, you adopt their social conditions, but not the physical ones, as you suggest.
    I don't quite agree, and I think this is where my particular understanding of Conditions come into play. In my understanding, with the exception of drained, Conditions are a list of things that you care about. When the Queen gets labeled by the school bully as a slut, that's significant because the Queen cares about that label - people can take advantage of it because it's a point of emotional weakness for her. The physical truth of the matter doesn't matter; she could sex up the whole damn football team and if she's shameless about it and doesn't care about being called a slut, taking advantage of it gives no benefit, and is not a condition. Even strictly physical matters follow this "care about" trend. If I've got the condition covered in pig's blood, I'm not easy to take advantage of because of the blood, but because I care that the blood is there. If I'm entirely nonchalant and don't give a fuck about this blood all over me, you can't really leverage that over me to take advantage of me, and thus it isn't a condition. Conditions are things we care about. Drained is an exception because it is explicitly about a physical truth of the situation, you can get there through taking Harm, it's more than just a feeling. It's also the only exception I can think of.
    With that in mind, if The Doppleganger, who idolizes the Queen, transforms into her, it doesn't automatically matter to her that others think she's a slut. You idolize her, that part included! Her emotional vulnerabilities don't suddenly become yours just because you look like her now. As such, even those social conditions don't affect you when you transform, unlike the Cuckoo. (I think it's also fitting, as the cuckoo is taking their shape out of envy, and thus doesn't have that inherent idolization that overwrites people's flaws in your eyes - even if you want their stuff, you'll still care about being called a slut).
    Also, Linked can make it so that when you become them, you DO feel the shame over some of it, so you can totally still tell that story.

    Strings are a different matter, but some of the same basic reasoning follows. Here's the law to the approach I'm using: narrative situations follow your shape, mechanical situations are tied to the players. An important thing to this approach is the fact that strings are not tied to the situation they arise from. Once they're created, they become purely mechanical tokens until they're reintroduced to the fiction through a different action. If you help me out and I owe you a favor now and you take a String on me, you can call in that favor without spending the String, or you could spend the String and still have that favor waiting. Because they're separate, that means that it's not bizarre mechanically to be able to spend Strings from other forms.
    Let's talk first about spending Strings on others from different forms. Strings are emotional leverage on someone. That's what I've typically described them as. If I have leverage over someone, I know their issues, I know how to take advantage of them. Regardless of what shape I'm in, I still have that knowledge. If I know I can control you with threats of physical violence, that knowledge is a narrative situation that doesn't change with my shape, so I could still use that as my action to spend a String. However, if you owe me a favor and I take another form, the narrative situation follows my shape still, so I can't cash in my original form's favors, so that's not a reasonable way to spend a String. The third path to this is if I'm in another form, why can't I spend THEIR Strings? If I know you owe them a favor, and I'm in their shape, that's a narrative situation I can take advantage of since it follows my shape. I could even use that as an excuse to spend my own Strings, and then they wouldn't be able to cash in that favor again later. However, because Strings aren't tied to situations, I couldn't actually reach over and use any of their Strings.
    So what about having Strings spent on ME? Again, narrative follows shape, mechanics follow players. If I'm The Queen, and someone tries to cash in a favor the Queen owes them, they can't spend a String on me - it's not ME who they've got any sort of emotional leverage on. They can try to cash the favor in still, they just can't give it any mechanical weight. If the person has any emotional leverage on my original form though, well, I'm still vulnerable to that person, regardless of what form I'm in, so they can spend Strings they have on me. For this same reason, if they push on me and get new Strings on me, I'm the one who they have emotional control over.

    Essentially, both of these things rely on an interpretation of Conditions as "Things about me I feel ashamed of or vulnerable for" and Strings as "Emotional leverage", not as physical or social truths and actual favors. This is my reasoning for treating Conditions and Strings this way, and I definitely plan on explaining it in an additional page page packed in with the Skin.
    (cont. next post)
  • (cont. from prev. post)
    - One thing that could be interesting is adding a Move that lets you add 1 to any roll against a person you share a String against in common with your current form. For example, The Vampire and The Doppelganger both have a String against The Mortal. The Doppelganger takes The Vampire's form and is able to add 1 to their roll against The Mortal. Does that make sense? Since they both share emotional leverage, The Doppelganger could use what they know as well as the fact that they're currently in the form of someone else who has some sort of pull/hold on them. Just a thought.
    I like this! Especially if I remove another move for some reason, this is a great contender for an additional move - I just feel a little concerned about bloating the Skin up with too many moves. Definitely a great contender though.
    - Would be neat to see a Move allowing for some sort of benefit if another character is in collusion with you.
    Face Dancer is already sort of this, but on a player scale rather than a character scale. An interesting idea, but I'm not quite as compelled as by that other Strings move, and if I'm limited on space I'd pick the other one. Still, a good idea, and a neat mental exercise, though I'm not quite sure how I would model it.
    - Something I might do is give other players a chance to roll with Dark to see if they can see through the disguise. If their roll fails, maybe you can carry one forward while in your current form against them or something?
    This one, though, I'm not so sure about. Especially given the fact that unless you're 7-9 with the 'imperfect' choice, the disguise is pretty much perfect, I like that the only real way to figure it out is through your actions and what you do. Also, I'm not a big fan of forcing OTHER people to roll really since failure on rolls inherently causes Hard Moves, which is pretty nasty.
    The mention of The Doppelganger using the fake Facebook account and the suggestion that they could be in their own form and pretend to be someone they're not ("You the new intern?" "Totally.") gives me ideas for some interesting Moves to play a different kind of Doppelganger. :) Overall, a pretty nifty concept that could make a good addition to a game.
    Thanks! And that could be a pretty awesome Skin idea in it too...

    Whew, I think that's the best I've expressed my feelings about Strings/Conditions yet, so I hope it makes sense!
  • No problem! It's really helpful finally having those thoughts all down on paper (or txt file, as it were), so thanks for asking! And thank you :)

    I have content! So I wrote a new blog post, and mostly it's literally copy-and-pasting discussion from this thread just so any non-SG'ers can read the recent developments. Honestly, there's no reason you need to read it but I'll LINK IT ANYWAY.

    Aside from including Version 3 and the recent discussion, the one new thing in that post is some Alternate or Experimental Moves for the Skin! I'll C&P them all over here.

    "As-is, the Skin is playable, well thought out, and fun in games, so as far as I'm concerned, it's hit the point that everything now is experimental.
    Transform: You can transform into any character you have a String on. When you transform, roll with Dark. On a 10 up, you take their form perfectly. On a 7-9, choose one:
    * Your impersonation won't hold up under scrutiny.
    * The process is agonizing, take 1 Harm. OR * The process is slow and agonizing.
    * The disguise won't last long.
    This is alternate because: It's an experimental version of Transform, but is the most likely alternate move to make it into the playbook. The alternative choice there takes the one option with a mechanical penalty (and thus is less likely to be selected) and makes it into something purely narrative but still keeps the "penalty" feeling. I'm kinda leaning toward it.
    Transformed: You can transform into any character you have a String on. When you act in a way that's out of character for the person you're impersonating, roll with Dark. On a 10 up, you get away with it. On a 7-9, you raise suspicion that something's wrong and need to adjust your performance or your cover is blown.
    This is alternate because: It's very experimental, and I'm way less sure about the mechanical execution, so there's some of my own fault there, not in the approach. It has the benefit of being about the social interaction itself, which is cool. I'm on the fence, but it's definitely an interesting alternative to consider.
    Mutual Enemy: When both you and the character you're impersonating have a String on someone, you take +1 to all rolls against this character.
    This is alternate because: It's a cool idea, and honestly this would be a great inclusion if I end up cutting any of the moves I already have. I just consider each of my existing moves to be slightly stronger than it, and I don't want to have too many moves on the Skin (I already have like 8 with Face Dancer).
    Conspirators: While transformed, when another character knows who your really are, they may mark experience if they agree to not expose you. If they do, take a String on them.
    This is alternate because: It's a pretty hard-to-gauge trigger, and the mechanism has huge overlap with Face Dancer. It's the character-side mirror to Face Dancer, and frankly, I think just Face Dancer is enough. However, if you don't want to have that meta-gamey "work with me here and it'll be worth your while" conversation and have the interaction be in character, you could go with this one.
    Personality Bleed: When you return to your own form, ask what the highest stat was for the character you were impersonating (ask the MC if it was an NPC). Until you next Transform, whenever you would roll with that stat, roll with Dark instead.
    This is alternate because: I'm hesitant about what is more or less an unconditional stat substitution. It puts a very high emphasis on Dark, and makes you use Dark even when the fiction says you should be being Hot or whatever. It's not because of the way you do it or anything, it isn't really tied to the fiction as much anymore. However, it is definitely a hell of a lot simpler than the current Personality Bleed, and that's a huge benefit since the current Personality Bleed is more inelegant than I'd like.

    How's it looking? This stuff kinda representing the ideas you folks've been tossin' around?
  • Good stuff, Max. Some quick comments, just brainstorming:

    I like the more fiction-oriented aspect of the new Transform. However, it could also be kind of meaningless anytime the character has plenty of time to transform. I'll provide another alternative, just for fun:

    * The transformation has an unintended side effect

    Harm would, of course, be an option here.

    I'm thinking of things like: "Hey, Luke! Good to see you... hey, wait: why are you limping?"

    Something which gives us another conversational topic, in other words: you look just like the person you're impersonating, but you've got some new thing to explain away, as well. This element will arouse suspicion only later, when the *real* person shows up (without this characteristic). "Oh, is your foot better now?" "Huh?"

    Mutual Enemy is interesting, but I'm not sure what the point is. (It's not easy to track, and all it does is give a mechanical bonus.) I guess the idea is that you will want to impersonate people who have Strings on your "target", but that's not something your character knows - it's purely meta. What about gaining a temporary String on the character instead, which lasts until you transform again? That's like a +1forward, although a little more flexible.

    Conspirators is an interesting idea, but I still like Face Dancer better. Conspirators has the advantages you describe, but it doesn't solve the problem that Face Dancer was designed for in the first place: how do reconcile the different knowledge of the player (who knows for a fact that the character is not really who they seem) and the character (who doesn't). That player is constantly wondering, "Is it fair play for me to just say, 'Hey, you're not really Cordelia, are you?'" The Face Dancer move gives them permission to do so, and a carrot not to. Conspirators still leaves that difficult decision without any support.

    On the other hand, I could see using both moves in tandem.

    As for Personality Bleed, I still like it for its simplicity. Your new version is even simpler and easier than mine, but perhaps over-powered: a transformed Doppleganger now potentially has uber-stats, whereas in mine it would be likely that in the transformed state, the Doppleganger would no longer be as connected to the abyss (as they might not be able to use their Dark stat very easily anymore, if it was swapped for a "lousy" stat). I like the thematic implications of that: when I'm myself, I have high Dark but low Hot. When I turn into the popular girl, I am Hot... but I am no longer Dark until I switch back.

    The simplicity is nice, though. One alternative I can see would be just giving the Doppleganger a lower stat block to begin with, kind of like the Driver in Apocalypse World: you have an advantage when you're transformed but you're less than them when you're yourself.

    On all the other points, I agree with your comments (both good and bad).
  • Well, finally pulled all my stuff together having played it one more time and made it into a proper, professional-looking PDF, right off the Monsterhearts Skin Template. I'm declaring it that this is the final version, barring any ridiculous returns. Has anyone else ever played it?


    (if you're at ECCC and want to play it, my Games on Demand times are 10am on Saturday and Sunday)
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