RPGs love to model popular fiction. Dungeons & Dragons helped redefine fantasy after taking a cue from Lord of the Rings. Vampire: The Masquerade took the best of Anne Rice and The Lost Boys to change vampires into the sexy, leather clad beasts we know today. The popularity of the supernatural romance genre—with media like True Blood, The Vampire Diares and, yes, Twilight—inspired Avery Alder to create Monsterhearts in 2012. She recently took to Kickstarter for a second edition of the game that has quietly influenced a huge part of the indie games community. How influential? This edition funded in less than an hour.
In Monsterhearts, players take on the roles of teenage monsters. There are the expected ones, like ghosts, vampires and werewolves, but the mortal character choices can be just as vicious. The Queen, for example, has a clique to do bidding that’s as deadly as any claws or powers of domination. The players set up the social pecking order of their high school, the secrets of their town as they pertain to the supernatural, and who has Strings on each other.
Strings represent the social complications that arise in teenage relationships. Maybe that character wants something from your character. Maybe your character just wants that other character. Spending Strings makes those favors happen and gaining Strings move a lot of the intrigue between the characters. Each Skin (what the character classes or playbooks are called) also has a Darkest Self, which triggers to avoid things like death or as a result of certain moves. The darkness models those moments in supernatural thrillers where vampires freak out or werewolves howl at the moon, but even mortals succumb to these ultimate mood swings. When the Queen triggers her Darkest Self, for example, she either has to give up part of her power or take out her angst on someone innocent to prove that she is still in control.
Sex moves have been a part of “Powered By the Apocalypse” style games since the beginning. Some groups might downplay those elements, but Monsterhearts dives headlong into teenage sexuality. Characters in young adult romances hook up with each other all the time and Monsterhearts is no different with moves that influence the narrative after the deed is done and while in pursuit by turning characters on and shutting them down. This is the time in life when many people explore their sexuality and the game offers a refreshing look at how to tackle sexual material maturely the table. Avery even offers a discount on the game for queer teens looking to get into gaming as part of the Kickstarter.
The Kickstarter offers print and PDF copies of the book. Stretch goals include one page quick start guides from a variety of designers to help inspire groups to unique experiences setting up the tangled web of a Monsterhearts game. The Kickstarter ends of December 1st but you can start playing today as a backer with the playtest copy available for download.
What’s your favorite supernatural romance? Sweep us off our feet in the comments
Image credit Buried Without Ceremony