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One Change for the Wyrm

Jackson Tegu recently updated his seven Second Skins to align with Monsterhearts 2 rules and priorities. Here he reflects on one of those changes.

Stories made with Monsterhearts are strange, shifting things. To support that malleability, moves need to be adaptable, focused, and clear. The Wyrm’s move Jealous Coils is none of these, but even more damning is that the move leads to uninteresting fiction. So let us walk the road from Jealous Coils to Covetous.

From MH1:

Wow, there is really a lot going on there. Like, too much! The trigger is very vague: “gets close to” means emotionally, but at what point do you actually roll? When she puts her arm around them? When one invites the other to walk home together?

I began rewriting the move, but something made me pause. There was something deeper about the move that felt… off. I figured it out: the subject of the move was not the person you treasure, but the “other guy,” the one you’re “protecting” your treasured person from. MH1’s Jealous Coils didn’t care about the treasured character’s actions, even though the Wyrm’s player has shown interest in the treasured character by deciding the Wyrm treasures them. Besides, even though the Wyrm sometimes thinks of people as objects, that doesn’t mean the game should make that outlook easy– the opposite is more interesting! So let’s see the treasured person as a subject, and give them agency. Besides, a snapshot of the Wyrm arguing with some rando for the third time this session is going to be super boring, but a snapshot of the treasured person yelling at the Wyrm to mind their own business and back the hell off for the third time this session? That feels like we’re building toward something. So the trigger for MH2’s Covetous became “when someone you treasure shows affection for someone else.”

All the getting and losing of Strings in MH1’s Jealous Coils was feeling reasonless and gimmicky. (Sure, Monsterhearts players had been making sense of it and making it work, but the String transfer aspect didn’t have an internal sense to it.) I knew that I wanted this magical-transferal-of-power vibe, but it never really came together for me in play, often because rando #2, like rando #1 before them, didn’t have any Strings on the person the Wyrm treasures. There wasn’t anything to transfer. So scrap all those damn Strings. Let’s get raw.

I wanted something that didn’t feel like it dictated a scene, but handed the player opportunities to start scenes or interrupt a scene’s trajectory and take it in a new direction. And instead of the Wyrm trying to intimidate rando #2, I wanted a slap in rando’s face. So I write the Wyrm a cheque for the amount of “1 Forward” and know they’ll spend it well.

I want to point out that even though I’m excited for the treasured person to yell at the Wyrm for being too socially invasive and for the Wyrm to get jealous and slap rando #2, those situations aren’t the only possibilities as outcomes of MH2’s Covetous. And though I’m sad to say goodbye to Jealous Coil’s “you say something you’ll regret” 7-9 option, the versatility of Covetous more than makes up for it. Maybe the treasured person will seek protection from another Main Character instead of confronting the Wyrm about their boundary-crossing. Maybe the Wyrm will use their 1 Forward to seduce rando #2 instead of fighting them.

One of the strengths of Covetous is that it points toward interesting situations and dynamics well beyond its mechanical outcome. I’m pleased.

 

The Monsterhearts Second Skins are available right here.

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One Change for the Sasquatch

Jackson Tegu recently updated his seven Second Skins to align with Monsterhearts 2 rules and priorities. Here he reflects on one of those changes.

The Sasquatch has this move I really like called Icebreaker. The move’s conceit is that the Sasquatch’s awkwardness is so acute that people nearby get awkward and accidentally blurt their secrets while trying to make conversation.

In MH1, Icebreaker had a fussy trigger (which was: when someone speaks to break a silence or to start a new conversation) which was a cool experiment in pushing in-story interactions into the social space of the game table, but I began to feel that those pauses (when triggered due to player interaction, as opposed to descriptions of character interaction) interrupted the flow of conversation. It was more a disruption than a way to connect us to the fictional world.

MH2 is about simplicity, so I went as simple as I could when rewriting the trigger. The move’s about asking questions, so what if the move would trigger when you asked one of the listed questions? I hoped the rest of the move could be made to support that.

The MH1 version of Icebreaker was a roll move, which is to say that your success with the move was not guaranteed – it depended on the roll of the dice. The emphasis in MH2 has shifted away from roll moves so I took the dice away from Icebreaker to see what happened.

A roll move needs two success levels: a complete success at 10 up, and a partial success at 7-9. Icebreaker’s complete success result (which was: ask two questions from the included list) already caused trouble because the conversation of the game would be shaped by the first question and would move on, but then you’ve still got this second question which the player is entitled to, unasked. The partial success (which was: choose one question and during this conversation you both blurt out truthful answers to it) was much better, but still too complicated.

What if the character that Icebreaker targeted… just had to answer the question? Imagine me, grinning my head off for connecting “when you ask someone a question listed below,” with “they blurt a truthful answer.” Simplistic? Yes, and perfect. And in case they want to use it more than once in a scene, I remixed that MH1 partial success result: “If you want to ask another question in the same scene, first answer that earlier question yourself.”

Icebreaker’s a great move, and now I like it more than ever.

 

The Monsterhearts Second Skins are available right here.