In most other games you pretty easily have some obvious motivation to interact with the system. Defend your community, get rich, get revenge, whatever. In monsterhearts, what motivation does either character have in this example (from the fae writeup)?
Ratpick gave a pretty good answer already that applies to the table at large. I'm just going to add to it by saying that every individual skin actually has its own specific motivation, which may (will!) conflict with those of the other players. Jackson Tegu, the guy who wrote the Monsterhearts: Second Skins supplement, describes every MH skin as being its own minigame in of itself, and that's the best way to describe it, I think.
If I am playing a Ghoul, then I am basically playing a game where my objective is to fulfill my hungers -- I am both mechanically and narratively compelled to do this, and likewise I am both mechanically and narratively rewarded for fulfilling them. So my job is to go around doing lovely and morally troublesome things in order to feel remotely human while the MC makes sure that I still end up feeling conflicted about it -- this is complicated by my having a background connection with another character at the table essentially saying that I really like them.
Meanwhile, someone else is playing the Fae. They are playing a game about getting people to promise them poo poo and/or punishing them for breaking those promises. And their primary means of gathering strings and making other do what they want relies on their good hot stat. They've even potentially got two moves that make them better at Turn Someone On. So their job is to flit around being sexy and fickle, gaining leverage on people and cashing it in to obtain promises. The MC is meant to create situations that lend themselves to this, and also make you feel guilty after you punish someone for breaking an arbitrary promise.
I could probably give you a decent rundown of what mechanics exist in the Fae and the Mortal skin that would motivate the kind of scene that happened with Ratpick's group, but it's Ratpick's writeup and they haven't covered the Mortal yet, so I'm not going to jump ahead and talk about how it works in any detail. Just suffice it to say that the Mortal's player is playing a game that is entirely about creating scenes like the one described above.
Gazetteer fucked around with this message at 22:40 on Aug 20, 2014
|# ¿ Aug 20, 2014 22:30|
|# ¿ Dec 1, 2021 18:25|
The sex was actually the part I found the least confusing. I meant more like why did the fae want that particular promise? Why did the mortal immediately leave without saying anything?
"But why do I want to go into the dungeon and fight goblins? It would be way more logical to just stay back in my village and farm rutabaga!"
"Because we have all sat down to play a game about raiding a dungeon tonight, Jim! Why do you do this every week?"
e: and just when I post I notice that Gazetteer said everything I should've said much better than I ever could. Also, don't worry about spoiling the Mortal's sex move, I think it's come up in this discussion a couple of times already.
Basically the Mortal has a True Love. Like, at the beginning of the game they pick another player, and their character has a weird obsession with that person. Their job is to insinuate themselves into the other character's life as much as possible and create a really messy, unhealthy relationship. Usually this is romantic. The Mortal gets a bonus to all rolls pertaining to obtaining their true love's affection. They've additionally got a couple moves that basically reward them for putting themselves into situations where other characters push them around or treat them poorly. So they are pretty much the skin where their whole mechanical and narrative drive is "get with this specific character, rationalise away all their flaws." Then if the Mortal manages to seal the deal so to speak, afterward their sex move causes their partner to turn into a literal monster and probably hurt them in some way (emotionally, physically, whatever). So the Mortal can forgive them or ignore their faults, pick up some rewards for doing that and continue the cycle. So, yeah -- scenes like the one Ratpick described are the kind of thing that most games with a Mortal playing in them contain.
(Of course then later on when the Mortal gets their own darkest self triggered, their player uses all that leverage and poo poo they obtained by acting like a doormat to go on something of a rampage. It's definitely the most complicated skin out of the ones that come with the base game, and it's one that is often difficult for new players to really gel with).
|# ¿ Aug 20, 2014 22:58|
I've never found Monsterhearts to be a particularly melancholy game to play. You're often dealing with potentially tricky subject matter, but most of the time everyone's having fun making intentionally bad life decisions, playing off each other's character flaws and working together to wring as much melodrama from every scene as is possible. I like roleplaying overwrought relationship and identity drama in a group with people who have likewise signed on for it, because it's fun to do that in a safe environment, and with this game we're not derailing anything because that's what the whole game is about at the end of the day. It's just genuinely fun and relaxing for me.
If that's not the case for you, well, whatever; it doesn't need to be. There are lots of different genres to play around in. There's no rule saying all people need to enjoy all types of fiction. Personally I think MH is worth reading just for the interesting mechanics even if it's not your speed to actually play, but I guess that's your call too at the end of the day.
|# ¿ Aug 21, 2014 02:03|
Regarding Monsterhearts, the Growing Up moves and the implied advancement scheme of pushing terrible teenagers towards healthy adulthood reads great on paper, but those moves are actually pretty terrible. I really want to remove the dice rolling from them because nothing undermines 'my vampire is slowly maturing into an emotionally available adult' like failing every single 'share pain' roll I attempt.
If you picked a Growing Up move that works on one of your bad stats, then you should expect you'll mess up some rolls. Share Your Pain is basically an evolution of Gaze Into the Abyss. Instead of taking your problems to the unfeeling cosmos or a magical book or whatever, the character tries talking with another human being (sort of) about them. The thing is, though, vampires suck at Gaze Into the Abyss. They're a hot/cold skin. They are good at emotionally manipulating people, not quasi-mystical introspection. The Growing Up moves they'd actually be reasonably good at are Make Someone Feel Beautiful and Call Someone on Their poo poo, since those are basically evolutions of Turn Someone On and Shut Someone Down, which the Vampire is all about.
That's why you're rolling for them. Because they're more mature/healthy versions of the basic moves.
You mean like "Jill smoulders sexily to turn Martin on, rolls a 6, has not technically done anything other than sit there"? Just off the top of my head:
There's a lot of weirdnesses to the game that I don't believe to be intentional. I wish all the best for Avery and their games, but I'm mechanically minded enough that I usually manage to trip over every unintended quirk in the rules. (Here's another one, at least half the moves can be triggered without any change in fictional positioning, so the MC will often have to make a move in response to none of the characters actively doing anything.)
- The attempt is actually pretty obvious, Anne sees, smirks in Jill's direction and takes a string on her
- Jill's phone rings -- it's her mother! Her mother tells her than her father's in the hospital, but hangs up in a hurry before she can offer any kind of better explanation
- Herald the Abyss -- Jill is hit by an abrupt vision or revelation or whatever of the MC's choosing. The MC uses this to feed her incomplete information that will put her into conflict with another PC.
Hard moves don't need to be proportionate responses to what the player was trying to do, and they don't actually need to be a narrative result of the roll they were trying to make. Basically when someone fucks up a roll, the hard move is the way that the MC ensures that something interesting still happens. So it's even more useful when the PCs are being kind of passive in a story sense. The MC just has to be able to think fast, and/or have a couple good all purpose hard moves thought out for the characters in advance. MCing Monsterhearts is on one hand relatively low effort, because you don't need to come up with detailed plans beforehand, or really stat out enemies very much, and every player has the mechanics for their moves sitting right there in front of them. On the other hand, you've got to be pretty flexible and good at coming up with things on the fly, or the game will grind to a halt or be boring for everyone.
Gazetteer fucked around with this message at 17:58 on Aug 22, 2014
|# ¿ Aug 22, 2014 17:56|
Unknowable is a really weird and powerful Move, as it basically makes lashing out physically involve no mechanical risk to the character, even on a 7-9. With this Move, whenever the Infernal lashes out physically, on a 10+ the target loses 1 String on the Infernal, and on a 7-9 the Infernal gets another option added to the "choose one" list: they lose 1 String on you.
This is one of my favourite moves in the whole game. So like, the Infernal is a Volatile/Dark skin. Meaning, they suck in social situations when they're not using their dark powers. What Unknowable lets them do is use their good volatile stat to mitigate that. Sure, I suck at Shutting Someone Down, but it doesn't matter -- I can punch the strings out of you. The idea that it lets you avoid taking a bad result on Lash Out Physically is kind of secondary, I think. The main effect is that it lets the Infernal brute force their way through social maneuvering.
I played an Infernal in a play by post game at one point, and I made extensive use of Unknowable. Best, cleanest example, I think, was where I failed a roll and the MC had this NPC take a string on me. So, the best way to eliminate that advantage was to just say gently caress it, and break her nose. This move encourages the Infernal to go around beating the poo poo out of people at the drop of a hat. It makes it so scenes involving them will unexpectedly escalate to blows at a moment's notice. It's great if you plan to play a combative, high volatile Infernal who is letting all this power they've been given go to their head. Not so much if you want to play more up on the... naive, lost kid in over their head angle. It's got a good mechanical effect and it incentivises behavior that makes the game more interesting and chaotic for everyone.
Infernal in general is just a fun skin to have around; they start off really powerful. Their bargains and moves are mostly pretty great, and you don't want to mess around with them while their dark power only has a string or two on them. Then suddenly, the rug gets pulled out from under their feet and hey have to desperately scramble to do what their dark power wants them to.
|# ¿ Aug 22, 2014 19:19|
To be clear, there are 36 possible results from a 2d6 roll. When you are rolling at +3, three of them will result in a 6 or less. You have a 92% chance to succeed at a roll like that every time you make it. Furthermore, when you do fail, two thirds of the time you end up with a 6 exactly, meaning that if you have a string on the person you're rolling against, you can spend it to salvage the roll. And as you are the Vampire, you're one of the skins that can easily get strings on other players. This is on top of what Neon's saying about taking advantage of a condition, not to mention moves that might offer an additional boost to your roll or let you carry one forward. That is a really impressive string of bad rolls if you were making more than one per session.
|# ¿ Aug 24, 2014 02:56|
Out of all the basic skins, I think the Mortal is the only one I'd caution a first time player against picking. The Chosen's the skin that gets a "use with caution" disclaimer, but it puts most of its extra work load on the MC, whereas the Mortal puts it on the player. In order to get the most out of this skin, you kind of need to have a good grasp on how the string economy functions, and its mechanics aren't really as straight forward as most of the other skins. You need to be able to understand the concept of longterm gain in exchange for short term losses. The Mortal only gets agency through giving up agency -- strings and experience in exchange for letting other people push them around. (There' are several reasons people frequently identify this as the scariest skin). A couple of times I've seen someone go in with the Mortal, not really understanding how the skin works, and end up kind of drifting around in the background ineffectually as a result.
|# ¿ Aug 26, 2014 01:10|
The Mortal reminds me of D&D's bard class, in that you've really got to be proactive in order to get the most out of it, pursuing and trading strings and all of that. Likewise, at a glance, the Mortal might look like a really basic Skin to use-- trying to play it as the straight man, a victim or even sidekick, instead of the monster it really is.
Yeah, I've seen that kind of misconception happen before. We actually do have a skin that fills that roll, now, though -- The Neighbor, from Second Skins. You get to blunder around relatively obliviously, creating love triangles and plot complications as you go.
|# ¿ Aug 26, 2014 03:17|
The Neighbor isn't Xander, really. Xander was a proactive comic relief character who knew all about the monsters and helped out a lot. The Neighbor is like an NPC suddenly grew agency and is now walking around causing problems for the other characters. It's also just a weird skin because unlike every other skin, it has no goal to pursue and therefore only really works if the player is willing to pursue character interaction entirely for its own sake.
|# ¿ Aug 26, 2014 13:37|
Other players can get kind of weird about their characters getting One of Them, especially if Streaming is involved. If people start actively avoiding getting that condition put on them, it can more or less ruin the fun fo r the Queen. There are a few skins that that kind of thing can happen to, but in my experience the Queen gets the worst of it because people tend to view them in an instantly antagonistic light. So you kind of have to watch out for that sort of thing and address it early on if you see it happening in a game you're running.
The Queen's probably not a great match for every group. Luckily there are more than enough skins now between the limited edition and the second skins, without even dipping into the questionable waters of third party material -- that you can more or less exclude a few from consideration and still offer a big selection to your players.
|# ¿ Sep 5, 2014 16:33|
The Werewolf seemed like it was a bit all over the place for a while, until I realised that literally all of its moves make it more effective while in darkest self or work off of its darkest self. All of the ones about rewarding violent or dominant behavior are going to activate while they're running around and mauling people, especially if you're doing this at night (which you frequently will, because the darkest self ends at sunrise). It's funny that you mention using Scent of Blood in a situation where the Werewolf is helping someone who has been hurt. The move definitely works in situations like, coming in to protect someone who someone else has beaten up, or being able to dominate people who you've punched in the face, but it also has a lot of synergy with the werewolf's darkest self. You come out of your darkest self when you wound someone you really care about, and if you have scent of blood... you then get a bonus to any rolls against them to try and smooth things over. The Werewolf and the Mortal work really well together. (Or really terribly, depending on your perspective).
That's kind of a weird way to describe it. The Angel is a kid who has been kicked out of or run away from their strict and probably religious home. They are struggling with whether to fall back into what their upbringing taught them, or to try and deliberately deviate from it half out of spite. The default assumption is that it's literally heaven they fell from, but the struggle is more like... conformity versus defiance, rather than heaven versus hell.
the Angel (for straddling the lines between Heaven and Hell)
Gazetteer fucked around with this message at 20:01 on Sep 15, 2014
|# ¿ Sep 15, 2014 19:59|
I've heard a lot of people say that certain skins feel a little too personal for them to want to play (usually the Mortal). For me that would have to be the Hollow. Its Darkest Self is literally "have a really bad dysphoria episode" with a side of self harm.
Inhuman Gaze lets you roll with Dark when you shut someone down. Yeah, it's a simple stat-switch move, but a really thematic one: there's just something eerie and unnatural about your gaze, which is enough to make most people back the gently caress off.
Inhuman Gaze also has pretty great synergy with A Blank Canvas and Better Than Nothing. On a 7-9, Shutting Someone Down lets you force them to put a condition on you -- normally that's a drawback of getting a partial success. But if you have either of those two moves, you want people to put conditions on you, so being reliably able to do that is pretty helpful.
|# ¿ Sep 20, 2014 16:38|
The Ghoul is a psychotic ticking time bomb of rape and torture.
That's... probably the most boring way to play the Ghoul. It's also the most obvious -- just make them a remorseless monster who goes around tormenting or eating people. The thing is, though, the Ghoul is sort of a depression metaphor. It's not going to ring true for everyone's depression, mind you, but the Ghoul is someone who feels empty and emotionally dead, and is all morbid and pre-occupied with death 24/7. They spend all their time obsessing over the few things that can still make them feel anything at all anymore. The "literally a zombie" concept makes them veer toward violence and poo poo, but there's still more going on there than just roving psychopath, if you want to look for it. The potential for rapiness is just an unfortunate flaw in the wording and could definitely be a deal-breaker for some people. Like Ratpick said, it's something the group should talk about beforehand. And like basically everything in this game, it's super important to foster an atmosphere where players are comfortable saying "hold up, this is getting weird for me, I'm not comfortable with where things are going."
I think my favourite Ghoul ever out of what I've seen basically just acted a lot like an undead Daria Morgendorffer -- really sullen and deadpan all the time, rather than a cold blooded killer or whatever. Some people just like playing villains, but I feel like MH is at its most interesting when you don't have characters who are completely unsympathetic. Make them lovely people, but like... ideally it should be a relatable kind of lovely-person.
Gazetteer fucked around with this message at 17:51 on Sep 20, 2014
|# ¿ Sep 20, 2014 17:49|
What is it about people wanting to play angsty messes?
Like, last time you made a comment similar to this you got some more detailed answers, and those apparently didn't satisfy you, so I guess you're just going to need to take our word for it here.
|# ¿ Sep 20, 2014 20:33|
It's also there because the Ghoul is in large part a skin about death and morbidity, and is literally an undead creature. So what Short Rest for the Wicked does is bring that to the forefront. If a player picks that move, they are going to act way more recklessly and probably deliberately put themselves into a position to die, because people do not generally pick moves if they don't want to see them in play. And the MC is likewise expected to take someone selecting that move as an okay to have them get hit by a loving semi-truck as a hard move or whatever, for the same reason. I've seen players with this move kill themselves just to prove a point, or to force someone else to have to deal with their body (great if you have a Fear or Chaos hunger).
|# ¿ Sep 22, 2014 19:53|
I vote halfing.
|# ¿ Oct 9, 2014 14:11|
Which is about attraction, not necessarily physical. From my experience with MH so far, reading intimacy simply in terms of physical sexuality is only the crudest and least interesting lens to dwell on.
Turn Someone On is not about intimacy. Like, that's sort of the point -- you can loving hate the person, or theoretically be repulsed by them, but oh no now I'm "Turned On" what do I do about that? That's the interesting part -- how the individual feels about it and how they react, not the attraction itself. Trying to argue that somehow physical attraction creates less interesting circumstances is silly. It's also kind of largely out of your hands whether or not the attraction is physical, because what exactly you're finding so attractive is decided by the person making the roll.
Not coincidentally, neither of those games have love and sex as their main point.
AW is not really about sexuality, but trying to argue that MH is not kind of requires some serious pretzel logic that ignores both what the mechanics say and what the game is literally billing itself as. Sexuality, sex and how the characters relate to them are major themes. Emotional intimacy is something that the MC is literally meant to deny you or make come conditionally.
Gazetteer fucked around with this message at 19:36 on Oct 11, 2014
|# ¿ Oct 11, 2014 19:34|
So, uh... you're aware that Twilight is a series written by a conservative Mormon and is primarily about abstinence, right? Until you get married to your perfect soul-mate husband, then you can have fabulous sex all over the place and you will have inhumanly beautiful children because that is what womanhood is about? I mean, Monsterhearts literally started out as a Twilight parody, and the two skins that were part of that original joke are still heavily based on Twilight, but if you were to actually play this game as Twilight, it'd look really different from any MH game I've ever ran, played in or read/listened to a play account of.
It seemed to me that Monsterhearts was focused more on adolescent emotional turmoil and growing up than it was boning ghosts. Admittedly sex and emotional intimacy are major parts of that, but getting your dick out doesn't appear to be the game's point. Running Monsterhearts as Twilight is lazy and shallow.
And of course it's about adolescent turmoil and growing up. Why do you think that that is separate or mutually exclusive from sexual confusion and discovery? The game has a huge focus on those things. Literally the first move the game tells you about is Turn Someone On. SEX MOVE is written in bold letters right on every single character sheet. This is explicitly a game about boning ghosts. It is also a game about plotting petty social machinations to steal ghost's boyfriends, and about how ghosts feel really confused and alienated from the people around them. This is a supernatural romance game. Like, in the words of Avery McDaldno, written at the beginning of the book:
Like, sure, MH is pretty tongue and cheek and kind of darkly critical of the genre it is emulating, but it is still emulating a genre.
Monsterhearts Pages 4-5 posted:
You play because the characters are sexy and broken. You play because teen sexuality is awkward and magnetic, which means it makes for brilliant stories. You play because despite themselves, despite the world they live in, despite their fangs and their bartered souls and their boiling cauldrons, these aren’t just monsters. They’re burgeoning adults, trying to meet their needs. They’re who we used to be - who we still are sometimes. You play to get lost, and to remember.
You know, at least that discussion is like... an area with a degree of subjectivity involved? Like at this point we are arguing that no, man, this game is not literally about the things it deliberately states it is at the beginning of the book.
Ooh sweet, maybe when this argument is over in a few pages we can do the one about whether Monsterhearts is gothic or southern gothic again.
Gazetteer fucked around with this message at 17:03 on Oct 12, 2014
|# ¿ Oct 12, 2014 16:43|
Go for Golden Sky Stories, Ratpick. Give yourself a break from lovely people doing lovely things and tell us about the anime Care Bears RPG.
Just listened to the Horrortoberfest review of The Rage: Carrie 2. ...Is... Is that just somebody's game of Monsterhearts?
There is actually a third-party Carrie skin. It's called The Fury. But that's a Skins for the Skinless skin, which despite being a very popular third-party collection, kind of range from "wow this is a lot worse than it initially seemed" to "literally unplayable." Trying to explain what's wrong about Skins for the Skinless is kind of a writeup in of itself.
There's an official bonus skin in the works for Monsterhearts Second Skins called the Firestarter which is supposed to also do the "angry psychic kid" thing, but we have no idea how long it's going to be before we have access to it at this point.
|# ¿ Oct 17, 2014 15:12|
Not that you'd actually want to take any of the Beast's moves, as it is literally the single worst and most broken PbtA playbook I have ever seen for any game.
3) The moves are so tied into a "script" for the skin to play that they can't be poached. (Don't have the Beast's base move? Every single other Beast move depends on interactions with it.
|# ¿ Oct 17, 2014 16:41|
Okay, I can do that.
If you aren't disinclined to do it, I'd love to see a write up for the Skins for the Skinless to see just how bad they are and a lesson on how NOT to make skins for anyone interested in MH.
|# ¿ Oct 17, 2014 17:48|
So, in case you missed it, Ratpick has just finished a writeup of Monsterhearts, which is a very well put together game about being an angsty teenage monster who can’t get a date to the prom and poo poo. Monsterheart is probably the single most elegant use of the Powered by the Apocalypse engine I’ve seen so far -- it’s simple and deceptively streamlined, but all of its mechanics are really well thought out and come together to produce the desired effect. The official character skins in particular are very tightly designed -- they’re evocative, multi-faceted, and fun for everyone at the table.
I am not here to talk about those skins. Skins for the Skinless: A Collection of New Skins for Monsterhearts is probably the most popular collection of unofficial third party skins for Monsterhearts out there so far. They’re written by Topher Gerkey, a guy who has designed some cool stuff and -- despite being available for free -- they have professional looking layouts and editing comparable to the official skins. When you start asking around for third party Monsterhearts skins, Skins for the Skinless is the first thing people will tell you about. Lots of groups end up playing games with one or more of the skins he’s created here.
Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Topher’s MH skins look pretty decent at first glance, but when seen in actual play, they tend to fall apart really fast. There are three things that a good Monsterhearts skin needs: A monster or figure from popular culture that it is based on, a metaphor for some kind of social issue that teenagers face, and game mechanics to tie those two things together and make them fun to play. Topher is usually pretty decent at the first two, but he is… somewhat less so at the third. It’s kind of understandable, because Monsterhearts is a surprisingly complicated game to write third party content for, but I’ve just seen and heard of way too many people picking one of these skins up and then being disappointed because of them.
Also I figure some people might enjoy reading about what some… “less polished” Monsterhearts content actually looks like.
There are a bunch of different versions of this collection floating around the Internet, in various levels of completeness and with more or less skins in them. I’ll be using version 1.5, which is the most recent one I’m aware of. It currently has 10 skins in it, which I will be going through in order:
If you guys disagree with me and think these skins are fun, or you want to support some of his other game design work (he wrote Princess Drive, which is a cool Fate Accelerated game about princesses fighting monsters in giant stompy robots), Topher’s got a Patreon you can subscribe to if you like. It just seems fair to link it, considering that I’m going to be spending a lot of words being rather critical of some of his work here.
Next time: The Beast -- He tried to kiss me, so I turned into a cobra
I've been collecting some other fan skins, if you're interested. I don't know how many of these are well-known or popular, but I have:
I'll keep that in mind if people are interested once I finish SftS. Although The Selkie has been revised and is currently part of the Second Skins -- so it would ideally be covered as part of those when they're officially released someday.
Also, I'd love to see someone do Lady Blackbird, go knock yourself out.
|# ¿ Oct 18, 2014 11:04|
You're not wrong.
That never helps.
So, as a reminder of the basic structure of a Monsterhearts skin, MH characters have four basic stats: Hot, Cold, Volatile and Dark, and mostly consist of a collection of mechanical effects called “moves” that trigger when the right conditions are met. Every skin can perform Basic Moves in addition to some Skin Moves specific to themself, and a special Sex Move (triggers when the character has sex with someone) and Darkest Self (the character becomes a real monster temporarily). It seems a little redundant to go into detail about this stuff when someone else has already done a writeup on them so recently, so you can read about these things starting here.
(these skins each come in two versions, one with male artwork, the other with female. They are rarely in the same style)
So, purely as a consequence of alphabetisation, the first skin in this collection is also the worst. At least, that’s how I’ve felt for some time now. It’s entirely possible that I’ll change my mind about it and give that dubious distinction to something else by the end of this writeup. But right now, I can’t actually think of another Monsterhearts skin I would describe as literally unplayable.
The Beast is a shapeshifter -- when you create one, you pick an “animal form” for them, choosing from a list of mammals, birds and reptiles. The one uniting feature they all have in common is that they’re all predators large enough to be a physical threat to humans if they really wanted to. Their Origins are things like “hexed” or “drank from a shapeshifter’s pawprint” -- my favourite is the “uplifted animal” option though, just in case you wanted to reenact that one Goosebumps book where the twist is that the kids are all secretly dogs. The idea is that you are emotionally and sexually repressed, and are keeping your inner “wild side” bottled up. Only when you slip up and it comes out, you literally turn into a cobra or whatever.
The Beast comes with Hot and Cold at +1, and Volatile and Dark at -1. High hot/cold skins tend to be dedicated social manipulators like the Queen or the Vampire, since they’re able to Turn On/Manipulate others as well as Shut Them Down really effectively. Immediately, this seems to be at odds with the concept that we’re being pitched -- if you’re so repressed, why would you have a high Hot stat? Hot is about being charismatic and sexy; it’s the offencive social stat, and if you have it as one of you good stats, the skin is basically telling you that these are the things you should be doing a lot of. It seems like the concept would make a lot more sense as a Cold/Dark skin, like the Witch -- but who knows, maybe once we’ve read the Moves things will start to make more sense? (spoiler: They don’t)
The Beast Starts with Caged Heat, and two more moves of the player’s choice:
Caged Heat introduces the Beast’s primary mechanic, and unfortunately this is where things basically fall apart right away. It’s going to take a little while to explain. Whenever you feel turned on -- whether as a result of someone rolling to Turn You On or from another source -- you gain the condition Feral, and as long as you have Feral, you roll Hot instead of Volatile in order to Lash Out Physically. Oh, and you also have to pick two options from the following list:
What’s going to actually happen here is that any scene in which you feel turned on is going to suddenly become a scene about you freaking out or otherwise turning into a cobra. This is going to get old really fast -- so people are just going to start avoiding rolling to turn you on pretty quickly if they don’t want the game constantly getting derailed. Which is bad, because once other players start going out of their way to not trigger your skin’s gimmick, you can’t actually play your skin very effectively. The Werewolf is another skin that’s built around dangerous and dramatic transformations -- this is relegated to the Werewolf’s darkest self for a reason: It’s not interesting or fun for anyone if it’s happening every other scene, and it very quickly loses its shock value if it does.
Lastly: This transformation is tied to a condition, which you are not given a clear way of losing again. You don’t come out of it unless you can get rid of Feral, either narratively somehow or by rolling to Hold Steady. And the skin doesn’t actually tell you what happens if someone else gives you the Feral condition by shutting you down or whatever -- presumably, it’s also going to trigger Caged Heat.
This is seriously the single worst move I have ever seen in any PbtA game -- it’s a game-destroying cyclone of poorly thought out mechanics, and unlike a lot of Topher's other skins, this one is actually entirely built around this one central move.
Caged Heat now triggers whenever you feel intense jealousy, anger or hate. It is literally just a move that makes Caged Heat even worse.
Caged Heat now triggers whenever you feel intense fear, shame or sorrow. So, if you want to turn into a cobra literally every time you have a negative emotion, feel free to pick this and Green-Eyed Monster. Also, this one has some pretty nasty synergy with Caged Heat: When you use a partially-successful Hold Steady roll to remove a condition… you gain the condition Terrified. So, Scaredy-Cat has the probably-unintended side effect of making it dramatically harder to get rid of Feral.
You can spend a string on someone to both Turn Them on and Shut them Down at the same time with a single roll -- you choose whether to use Hot or Cold. This is sort of an interesting concept -- you’re repressed and weird about your feelings and sexuality, so even when you’re trying to attract someone you also end up being a jerk. Except… Hot and Cold are both good stats for you. So there’s no reason why you’d necessarily want to waste a string doing both of these at once. This is also the first place Topher decides to do something weird that he’s overly fond of doing: dictating the result of a failed roll. Usually on a 6 or below, the MC makes a hard move tailored to the situation. When you gently caress up a Beaty and… roll, though, your target chooses one from this list:
Tooth and Claw
While you’re Feral and have lost your human form, you get +1 to Shut Someone Down and Lash Out Physically. That’s a pretty significant boost to what are already your two good stats -- pretty much just makes you scarier while you’re a cobra.
Fight or Flight
While you’re Feral and have lost your human intelligence, you can… take two options from the list if you roll 10 or higher on Lash Out Physically, and can also Run Away with Cold. This seems unnecessarily specific and is a little bit confusing to read.
Predator and Prey
While you’re Feral and have lost control of your violent and malicious impulses, you carry one forward against anyone who has at least one string on you. You also gain a string on anyone you deal harm to with Lash Out Physically. The first part of this move would work a lot better if you had a move that makes it easier for other people to take strings on you.
If you stare into someone’s eyes and Gaze Into the Abyss, on a 10+ you can add “You know their deepest fear or secret lust, and add 1 to your roll when using that information to shut them down or turn them on” to your list of options. Which would be cool, if Dark weren’t one of your bad stats, or you had access to anything that let you mitigate your lovely dark score.
If you have sex with someone, you immediately(!) become your Darkest Self and have to Lash Out Physically against your partner. After that, you may then choose to either keep Lashing Out at them or to Run Away. My first thought is that this more or less steps on the Mortal’s toes, because it makes their sex move potentially do nothing. My second thought is that it deliberately invokes the sort of situation that the Mortal’s sex move gives you an out for -- this is going to cause some uncomfortably violent sexual situations.
The play advice also indicates that this sex move does not trigger if you have sex “with another beast”, although there isn’t actually anything in the text of the sex move to indicate this. Apparently, this is deliberately in place so that if you take the Beast’s gang advancement (“Bloodline of Beasts”), you will be tempted to engage in possibly-incestuous sex with them. Because it’s the only kind of sex that does not make you turn into a cobra and try to bite your partner’s face off. Because that’s definitely the kind of element you want to introduce into your skin in the equivalent of a loving footnote.
This was always going to be interesting, since this skin pretty much goes into what would be a Darkest Self for any other skin every time they think someone in class looks pretty today. Basically, though, it makes it so you lose all emotions except for the ones that trigger Caged Heat, and you turn into an animal and start relentlessly hunting down and trying to kill anyone you have “strong feelings for” in particular. If there’s no one around who you give a poo poo about, you’ll settle for anything that moves. This would seem to conflict with the “you can choose to roll to Run Away” option in the Sex move, but whatever. You can’t actually come out of your Darkest Self unless you’ve killed someone. Basically it’s the Werewolf’s Darkest Self, only more extreme and specific.
So, an additional problem that nearly all of the Beast’s skin moves have is that they’re all prohibitively difficult for anyone to take as part of another skin’s “take a move from another skin” advancement -- almost everything listed after Caged Heat either only works if you already have Caged Heat or mentions Caged Heat by name. The sole exception to this is Cat’s Eye, which has a different problem in that it would be a much more useful move for a lot of other skins aside from this one. Although many of the official books’ Skin Moves are a lot more useful in combination with their skin’s other moves, typically they’re not completely useless without them.
As I mentioned above, the Beast’s gang is a “bloodline of beasts”, who by default I guess are assumed to be related to you. So, you get a gang of similarly-cursed people who turn into cobras all the time or something, and whether or not they’re all your cousin or whatever is up to you.
Fortunately, not all of these skins are as big a mess as the Beast is. The next one is weird, but not tragically, fundamentally broken.
Next time: The Calaca -- A spooky sexy skeleton who will help you with your problems
|# ¿ Oct 18, 2014 21:32|
So, this is another problem Skins For The Skinless has. Namely, the skins are blatantly specific references. In this case, the Beast is the main character of Cat People. Literally, the sex move is the entire plot of Cat People. There's a hot lady, she thinks she'll turn into a monster if she has sex, she has sex, she turns into a panther and won't turn back until she kills someone. It even has the weird incest-y bits of the 1982 remake. It's just an entire skin that's Cat People.
That... explains so many baffling things about this skin.
|# ¿ Oct 19, 2014 04:01|
Okay, having given this a bit of thought:
I was going to refresh my memory of Cat People before I scrolled down, because yeah, that's pretty blatant.
Part of the problem with making content for MH is that a lot of the moving parts are intangible, even compared to other PbtA games. You need to pay really careful attention to what behaviours you're incentivising, and I just feel it requires a good working grasp of both MH in particular and game design in general to be able to pull off. Most people doing third party skins also fail to recognise how important it is to give players a clear goal or ongoing objective inherent to the skin. Topher in particular often writes one into his descriptive text, but then fails to reinforce it at all in the mechanics.
It's also just harder to make a playbook that's fun in social PVP situations than it is to make one that can contribute to something closer to a traditional party.
This is often presented as one of the better skins in the collection. As with a lot of them, though, it might hold up to a casual inspection, but with any kind of close scrutiny you start to see the flaws. Usually this close scrutiny is carried out once a game has already started, by a player who picked it up because it seemed cool at the time.
The Calaca’s single biggest problem is that it’s boring to play. It doesn’t have any really terrible or session-ruining moves (apart from possibly its Darkest Self), and it’ll basically work okay. What it doesn’t quite do is provide the player with much in-game direction or special abilities to effect the game and other players -- its got a bunch of moves that basically just shuffle around the way you do basic moves, so players tend to feel lost and also somewhat weaker than other skins. So rather than, say, the Beast’s constant scene derailments ruining the game for the entire group, the Calaca instead promises several sessions of quiet frustration for one player in particular.
Drawing very loosely from Mexican folklore, the basic concept here is that you’re playing a joyful skeleton wearing a person-suit. This person-suit needs to be made out of actual skin, and you can take it off and put it back on again whenever you feel like. You are theoretically supposed to be some kind of spiritual guide and offer often-morbid life advice to people. Insofar as teenage metaphor goes here… you’re a perky goth? Like, a kid who is cheerful but also morbid? That’s about all I’ve got here, it’s not one of Topher’s stronger showings on the “reflecting actual teenage problems” front. It also completely fails to match the monster gimmick to any kind of pattern of self destructive behaviour, and self-destructive behaviour is an MH game's bread and butter. Origins are kind of all over the place, ranging from poo poo like “Bone Elemental” and “Summoned Ancestor”, to the… kind of worrisome “Corpse Bride”.
The Calaca’s good stats are Hot and Dark -- this tells us that they’re good at actively manipulating other people, but not so good defensively with their bad Cold and Volatile stats. High Dark usually means you’re expected to Gaze Into the Abyss a lot or have some other kind of magic trick to whip out when you need it. So, that at least feels like a pretty good fit, so far.
The Calaca starts with Skin and Bones and two more moves of the player’s choice:
Skin and Bones
This is your “is a skeleton” move. You can take off your skin any time you want, and go around as a skeleton. If anyone sees you like that, you both take a string on each other -- that seems like the start of an interesting move you could probably build a skin around. Unfortunately, nothing at all is done with that string exchange. While you’re a skeleton you’re immune to harm from things that logically wouldn’t hurt a skeleton. Like stabbing damage, drowning, that kind of thing.
Oh, and you can’t roll to Turn Someone on or Manipulate an NPC while you're like this. At all. Which is very troubling, because Hot is one of your good stats, remember! It’s also weird, because Manipulate an NPC can be something like threatening someone into doing what you want, something which you’d think would be easier when you’ve transformed into a skeleton. You can roll dark instead of cold to shut someone down, though. So, uh… that’s something.
Lastly, if your skin gets lost or destroyed while you’re a skeleton, before you can pass as human again you need to replace it, somehow. Which could be interesting, I guess, as long as there is a better option than “I kill the nearest person and skin him.”
Being cut off from both Hot moves while using this really makes it a bit of a daunting prospect for me, and it also means that putting your extra point into Hot rather than Dark is almost never going to be a good idea, which really cuts down on variety/replayability.
Casting the Bones
You can offer your wisdom to a friend and Gaze Into the Abyss -- when you roll a 10 or higher, you add some new options to the list:
You are cheerfully morbid, and that puts people off. You can roll Dark to Shut Someone Down instead of Cold. Which was already supposed to be your benefit for using Skin and Bones to turn into a skeleton. Yay redundancy.
You can take your body apart while you’re a skeleton, letting you like, send one of your hands spidering away from your body or something like that. The move indicates that you can use this to be “present and active in multiple simultaneous scenes”, but it also notes that only your skull can see, hear, or smell. If you could be aware of your body parts somehow, you could like… send your hand off to spy for you, but as is this is highly situational and not particularly useful to take, and has zero synergy with any of the other moves.
You have bony wings when you’re a skeleton, so you can roll dark instead of volatile when you Run Away while you’re not wearing your skin. There really shouldn’t be more than one “roll this stat instead of this stat!” move per skin. It gets samey and boring, and it creates a situation where a character never has to rely on their bad stats.
You’ve got a stash of spare bones. If you take your fourth harm, instead of dying you can drag yourself off to use it to patch yourself up. When you do that, you clear all your harm and mark experience. When you use Ossurary, you replace it with another Calaca move and have to spend an advance to get it back again.
Or, you could just take the Ghoul’s Short Rest for the Wicked if you’re worried about dying. This move probably does not need to exist -- it would make more sense if you could somehow use the stash to just heal harm on the fly rather than waiting until you take your fourth, and even then, are we expecting this skin to get into a lot of fights? It literally has nothing to help it out there apart from this.
When you take your skin off, you still get a human-looking face and hands, although they are “pale like bone-china.” It lets you use Turn Someone On and Manipulate an NPC while you’re in skeleton-form! But if any part of you aside from your hands and face are visible, you roll with Dark instead of Hot!
So for those keeping track here, if this skin takes Morte Alata and Sugar Skull, they can potentially use Dark to cover for at least one move from literally every other stat. It’s too bad they don’t have anything interesting to do with that ability. That aside, though, this move literally just feels like, well, feat tax. This is a thing you take in order to be able to use basic moves you’re supposed to be good at while you’re in the form almost all your skin moves are built around. Woo.
When you have sex with someone, you treat it as if you’d just rolled a 10 on Cast the Bones and take three options from the list instead of two, even if you didn’t take that move. Which isn’t awful, but it’s also not very interesting, to be honest.
You get fed up with showing people that death isn’t scary and respond by… giving advice and wisdom directly calculated to drive them to suicide. You get out of it when someone demonstrates to you that life is beautiful, or when you cause someone to commit suicide. Not attempt suicide, either -- they need to succeed.
This comes right out of loving left field. For one thing, the skin’s mechanics do not actually ever direct you toward showing people that death isn’t scary in the first place -- the only move related to giving advice at all is Roll the Bones, and that’s entirely optional. This is also REALLY dark in a way that even “just flat out try to kill someone” isn’t, and which does not seem to come naturally from the rest of the skin at all.
The Calaca’s gang is a “skeleton crew”, which… I have to admit is probably my favourite gang advance ever, just because I love that pun. I’m sorry. Thematically, it’s basically just a group of skeletons, presumably who have similar powers to yours.
Once again, most of these moves directly reference turning into a skeleton, so good luck taking any of them if you’re playing another skin. As has been noted in the thread already, this is a pattern that will continue with many of these skins.
Next Time: The Creature -- “I kiss her!” “Okay, roll 2d6 to see if she drowns to death.”
Gazetteer fucked around with this message at 23:31 on Oct 19, 2014
|# ¿ Oct 19, 2014 23:28|
I really, really wanted 'sexy spooky skeleton oracle' to be a good idea, but it didn't really seem to gel at all. Too bad.
Skins for the Skinless is mostly a collection of good ideas executed poorly.
|# ¿ Oct 20, 2014 05:04|
This is the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Like, let’s not dance around that -- that’s literally what we’re dealing with here. This is a skin about being a scaly aquatic water monster thing that CAME FROM THE SWAMP. Only… you’re also a hot teenager, because of course you are. And you’ve got a preachy environmental cause you won’t shut up about to anyone who’ll listen. That kind of works as a skin concept, too -- I’m pretty sure everyone remembers someone from highschool pushing an issue that they have more righteous fervor for than actual understanding of. It’s also an excuse to establish like… a big evil factory that has just moved to town, or something, which could be interesting.
Ultimately, though, the Creature exists somewhere between the Beast and the Calaca -- it’s got a firm concept… but not firm enough. And it’s got some moves that actually engage with that concept… but not enough of them, and when they do make the attempt, they wind up kind of clumsy. So, this is an improvement over both of them in a way, but we’ve still got a long way to go before I’d be comfortable handing this to a new player and saying “here, this is a good skin, give it a try!”
Some of the Origins are pretty cool. I like that both “last of your kind” and “first of your kind” are options -- “chemical exposure” feels particularly appropriate to me, though.
The Creature’s good stats are Cold and Volatile. Which is a bit weird for a skin that’s about pushing an agenda, all considered, because it means that they’re not very good at interacting with others in any kind of positive way. Cold is the defencive social stat, so they’re relatively hard to rattle. This does mean that the most effective way this skin has to actively enforce their agency is violence, however, which does work with the old timey movie monster angle.
The Creature starts with Missing Link and two other moves.
You can breathe underwater, swim really well, and see even when you’re at the bottom of a swamp or whatever. Basically, you have all the powers of Superfriends Aquaman aside from being able to talk to fish.
Additionally, you have an “environmentalist cause.” This move really doesn’t do enough to establish what the cause entails, but I gather it’s meant to be something like “stop the swamp from being filled in for the new shopping mall.” The whole idea is that you’re not just an environmentalist so much as you’re trying to defend your home. You get a +1 to any rolls you make to try and further your cause, but whenever you do that, you get the Fanatic condition.
This should have been two moves. And the “is an angry hippy kid” part should have been elaborated on a lot more, specifically noting that the cause directly impacts you as a local water monster. I’m also of the opinion that if you’re going to give a special condition out every time you engage with what should be your skin’s core mechanic, it should have some special effect or synergy with the rest of your moves. Fanatic doesn’t, and is more or less just treated as an easy penalty.
Came Up Tails
You can turn your legs into a mermaid-style tail. While you’re like that, you can’t Run Away on land, because moves that make it so you can’t use other moves are always fun. If you’re like this while in water, though, you always treat Run Away as if you’d rolled a 10. Anyone seeing you with a tail for the first time marks experience, but you also take a string on them. You can’t change your tail back into legs unless you dry it off completely.
A move that lets you avoid rolling is not generally a good idea -- hard moves and partial successes are there to make the game interesting, and Run Away’s 10+ result is not terribly interesting without the risk of something worse happening. All that penalty for using this on land accomplishes is making it so players are a lot less likely to even bother. People marking experience implies that being spotted while looking all fishy is something you and the other players want to happen, but the skin doesn’t really do anything with that outside of this move.
When you Lash Out Physically in service to your cause, you do can do an extra harm. This is basically the Angel’s Smiting move, but worse because it’s impossible to use without Missing Link. Also, you could probably take Smiting in order to stack the bonuses pretty easily, which is cause for some concern.
Oh my god, this move. If you kiss someone while you’re both underwater, they can breathe underwater like you can, as long as they stay near you. That’s kind of weak for a move without some core benefit to taking them underwater with you, but it’s not the worst thing ever, right?
Well, this move also makes it so that if you kiss anyone while you’re both on dry land, “their lungs fill with water.” The person who you are kissing then needs to literally save or die.They roll Hot -- on a 10 up, they take one harm. On a 7-9, they take two harm. On a miss, in a particularly bad example of one of these skins taking the choice of hard move away from the MC, they flatout drown. NPCs always drown. Yes, this is literally a move where if you kiss an NPC on dry land they just drop dead.
Many Monsterhearts moves are actually just an excuse to encourage people to make really dumb or dangerous decisions. But the thing is, the game does this by giving you a mechanical benefit for acting in those ways. This doesn’t do that. Why would anyone ever agree to kiss you on dry land, with the knowledge that their character might basically drown for no reason on a botched roll? Why would the Creature’s player ever try to kiss someone while on dry land unless they’re like… intentionally trying to kill them? Is being able to make out underwater with your date really a good enough tradeoff for this?
No. Of course it isn’t.
This is a soap boxing move. When you make an impassioned speech to try and get someone to join your cause, roll with Volatile. On a 10 up, they mark experience if they help you out. On a 7-9, you get a string on them. On a miss (*sigh*) they get a string on you.
So, this is actually an awesome idea for a move -- this actually engages meaningfully with the cause mechanic from Missing Link by encouraging you to be a preachy teenager with a cause, and it lets the Creature cover for their bad Hot stat with their good Volatile stat, in a way that’s a lot more interesting than “roll to Manipulate an NPC with volatile.” However, mentioning your cause by name is still bad MH design. I also feel like the 7-9 is a little bit weak, and as always I just kind of resent the presence of the “on a miss” clause in general. This would work a lot better if it were something like, they mark experience for doing what you ask on a 7-9, and give some additional benefit for the 10+ result.
Hot and Wet
When you’re “soaking wet and showing a lot of skin”, you can roll Cold to Turn someone on or Manipulate an NPC. The idea is that you have an additional reason for like… parading around in a swimsuit or to have scenes at the pool or the beach or whatever. This is situational enough that it’s not so bad, but being able to directly cover two of your bad stats at once is pretty powerful.
(It apparently means ‘covered in scales’.) You shed your human skin and become a horrible scaly swamp monster. You always take 1 less harm than normal while in this form, and you can deal “2 harm when you Lash Out Physically.” That’s a pretty weird way to word it, because how much harm Lash Out Physically does it kind of decided on a case by case basis, and is only assumed to be 1 most of the time. That’s also going to stack with Cold Fury to literally let you oneshot people if you roll 10+ and take the “damage is great” option. Anyone who sees you in this form for the first time needs to Hold Steady. Doesn’t say what you need to Hold Steady to be able to do, but whatever. In order to shed your skin and go back to looking human, you need to be immersed in water.
Why does this need to be a different move from Came Up Tails? Like, does this skin really need two transformation moves? Some of the descriptive text indicates that the effects of these two moves are supposed to stack with each other, but all I can think of with that is that you can only get rid of one of them while you’re dry, and the other while you’re wet. Which sounds more than a little annoying to me.
You’ve claimed a nearby body of water for yourself. If you’re alone and fully submerged in water in your territory, you can heal 1 harm and remove all conditions from yourself. Which seems like a bit much to me just for popping into this place, but okay. You get the Angry condition if anyone invades your territory, and you get +1 ongoing toward attempts to remove the intruders. That should probably be worded “you always carry 1 forward toward attempts to remove the intruders”, though, to be more consistent with Monsterhearts terminology.
Honestly, the skin would be a whole lot more solid if this move were somehow mashed together with the activism part of Missing Link. This feels way too complex to be an optional move, and the whole core concept is that you’re cause is kind of related to the fact that you’re a river monster or whatever. As is, it also means that if your cause is about preserving your territory, it becomes really easy to argue that you get a +2 on rolls to further your cause.
After you have sex with someone, you treat protecting them as part of your cause. This goes on until you have sex with someone else. Which is kind of like the Werewolf’s sex move, but notably it doesn’t go away if the other person sleeps around a bit. Also, if you have sex with someone underwater, they can breath underwater until you have sex with someone else. Which really just makes Frog Kiss even more worthless.
You realise that you can’t actually change anything, so you decide to stop trying. You grab the person you care about the most and retreat to a safe place. It explicitly mentions your Territory if you have that move. So, uh, once again, why Is Territorial not something you need to take? You defend your safe place from anyone who tries to intrude, and “ignore everything else.” You come out of your darkest self when someone shows you that you’ve made a difference after all.
So I kind of like this concept a lot. This is literally the old timey movie monster who kidnaps the female lead and then takes her back to the swamp cave and the hero has to rescue her somethingsomething twas beauty that killed the beast. Except, this move is going to be really boring if like… the person you grab is an NPC no one else cares about. It kind of depends on the other PCs coming after you to save the person. I really wish it had a second exit condition, too.
The Creature’s gang is “some Extremist Environmentalists” that you’ve joined, which actually sounds kind of fun. I’m really glad Topher didn’t just go with “a Clan of Creatures” or something boring like that.
Once again, way too many of these moves require Missing Link to function, and more than one of them dictates what the result of a miss will be. In general this is probably the best skin I’ve covered from this collection so far. Not a high bar, admittedly.
Next Time: The Fury -- Adding more special conditions always makes things interesting, right?
|# ¿ Oct 24, 2014 04:52|
The fact that the tail follows Splash rules amuses me to no end. That classic horror trope, Splash. They couldn't have had it follow like traditional Selkie rules for some reason, even though that's way better romantic horror iconography. Is there already a selkie skin?
Yeah. It was originally a bonus skin like the Hollow and the Angel, but it got a revision and is currently an official part of the Second Skins.
|# ¿ Oct 24, 2014 16:05|
Did someone say "Bad Monsterhearts Skins?"
That link you just sent out has copies of the Second skins in addition to the random free/third party skins I assume you're drawing attention to.
|# ¿ Oct 24, 2014 22:15|
Okay, so, I was actually going to post this up this weekend anyway. Sorry I've been slow here -- personal stuff has made it kind of hard to focus on this sort of thing. When I work my way down to it, I could skip over the Proxy since we already have a writeup about it, or I could do it anyway and try to go into more mechanical detail. I guess you all can tell me what you'd rather see.
(No, really, that’s the artwork for the male version of the Fury. No comment.)
So, Carrie sure was a film/novel!
This is another one of those skins that I’ve been told isn’t that bad in the past, but I kind of have to disagree. It gives out way too many conditions that it fails to ever do anything with, there’s a lot of unclear language here that could really benefit from some good, thorough editing, and worst of all its core mechanic is kind of fundamentally broken, in that there is absolutely no reason why anyone would ever want to betray this character. And the whole skin assumes that this character will be being constantly betrayed by everyone around them.
Like I said, this is a Carrie skin. You’re a victim of chronic bullying and the idea is that people are supposed to trick you and hurt you until you lose it because oh no you’re also secretly a psychic and they’re all exploding now. Our metaphor here is pretty clear. That quiet kid who everyone picks on for years until, uh… they snap and come to school and murder everyone.
Okay, so I know that this is based off of Carrie, which was written like 15 years before Columbine, but ignoring the Carrie reference, this is basically a school shooting skin. Like, literally, that’s the only direction this metaphor points, and I don’t think I’d be comfortable with this skin at my table regardless of its mechanical drawbacks, because I don’t think it’s being handled with a particular degree of tact here. One of your origins is even “abused child.” Which, to be fair, I’m pretty sure is supposed to be a Matilda reference, but still in this context it’s kind of on the nose. Other options include “experimental psychotherapy” and “government program.”
The Fury’s good stats are Dark and Volatile, which is actually perfect -- that is the combination you pick when you want a skin to be loving socially useless. Without an easy way to manipulate others or defend yourself socially due to your lovely Hot and Cold stats, you’re forced to fall back on magical bullshit and violence in order to express your agency. Of course the skin kind of messes that up pretty well, as you’ll see.
You start out with Futile Hope and two other skin moves.
If someone is kind or accepting toward you, you both take a string on each other. You also get the Hopeful condition -- if you’re already Betrayed, replace Betrayed with Hopeful. If you are hurt or betrayed by someone you trust while you’re Hopeful, lose Hopeful and take the Betrayed condition -- you lose all strings on the person who betrayed you, and roll Dark. On a 10+ you always trigger your Darkest Self. On a 7-9, choose one:
This is a move where rolling a 10 is literally worse for you than rolling a 7-9, which is not the sort of weird mechanic you want to introduce into your Monsterhearts skin without a lot of consideration -- on a 7-9, you have the options of taking a relatively minor consequence like “they take a string on you” rather than going all Carrie on everyone.
My biggest issue here is that this move does not do incentives right at all. The other player gets a string for making you Hopeful, but they really don’t get enough out of Betraying you to make it worth their while. This is a mechanic we’re clearly supposed to engage with, so why are the other players mechanically punished for doing so? You lose all the strings you had on them, and maybe they might get another string out of the deal. But by betraying you, they’re actually giving you a pretty significant mechanical advantage for like… almost all of your other moves, and you might also just go into Darkest Self mode and kill them.
There isn’t even a move like the Fae’s Lure to give an additional benefit for betraying you, and Fae promises honestly don’t have penalties this steep for breaking them to begin with.
You add 1 to your Dark roll when you Gaze Into the Abyss. If you get a 10+, you can choose all three options from the list -- you also mark experience if you’re Betrayed. If you roll a 7-9, you don’t get any benefit unless you’re Betrayed. At which point you get to take an option from the 10+ list instead of the 7-9 list.
Weird wording there. It specifically says to add 1 to your Dark roll, so maybe this doesn’t trigger if you have a move that means you’re rolling with something else? The premise itself is another “a standard move but take more options” deal, which I’m not a huge fan of. It’s not like… awful, but it feels a bit boring to me. It’s usually more interesting to add new options than it is to just let you choose more of the existing ones.
And yes, literally every move after Futile Hope is named after a film.
Roll Volatile to wreck poo poo up with your mind. Fire, electricity, telekinesis -- whatever. You can basically use this in place of Lash Out Physically to deal damage to someone. On a 10+, you do 2 harm and give the target an “appropriate condition” -- Burned for Fire, Electrocuted for electricity, Concussed for being smashed on the head by a table, that sort of thing. On a 7-9, you do 1 harm, give them a condition as per above, and pick one from the following list:
There’s really no reason this has to be a separate move from Lash Out Physically. Lash Out Physically is purposefully vague -- it covers any attempt at hurting someone else. So by default, you would assume that when the Fury Lashes Out Physically, they could be doing it by throwing a bookshelf at someone with their mind. This move’s existence, though, implies that the Fury can’t simply Lash Out Physically with their powers. Once again, we also have the thing where we’re given specific numbers for Harm, which is not really how the official content handles things at all. The Betrayed bonus… honestly feels a little tacked on. Like, it’s pretty clear that the intent here was to make it so every move benefits from you being in a constant state of betrayal and anguish, but it’s just not being done in a very clever way.
Basically this would be a much better idea if it were something that added more to Lash Out Physically rather than trying to supplant it.
… Except then, this next move actually requires you to Lash Out Physically with telekinesis. When you Lash Out Physically with your powers, the target needs to Hold Steady before they can Run Away. If you are Betrayed at the time, you also deal 1 extra harm.
The biggest thing I see here is that this does not actually require the move to succeed for this to happen. It just says “when you Lash Out Physically using telekinesis instead of physical attacks.” So, even if you gently caress up the roll, the person can’t run away. Is this an intentional effect or is it just sloppy wording? Hard to tell. If it’s the former, it should definitely be clarified.
Whatever the intent, though, RAW, this gives you a weaker version of one of Lash Out Physically’s 10+ options whenever you make a roll, regardless of the result. Okay, that’s kind of interesting. Too bad that it has like… the opposite of synergy with Firestarter. It feels like Topher wanted to have both, but also didn’t want to make the Fury’s Lash Out Physically rolls too overpowered, so he split them up into two moves. This doesn’t work though, because all it does it create two skin moves which are mutually exclusive in their usage and can’t build off one another at all -- it would be better to have nerfed Firestarter to produce a much smaller effect so that you could safely stack it with Poltergeist instead of needing to quarndon it off in its own superfluous damage move.
You can roll Volatile instead of Hot to turn someone on if you do it with “empathetic projection to gently caress with their head.” On a 10 up, they give you a string and also must follow a “short term command of your choice.” It then says “on a 7-9, also give yourself the condition Creepy”, but that’s a really ambiguous statement. Also in addition to what? Turn Someone On’s standard 7-9 list? The additional action listed above? This skin really has editing issues way beyond what the three I’ve already talked about had. If you are Betrayed, they get the condition “Enthralled.”
So, using Volatile to force someone to be attracted to you and then getting to tell them what to do is a seriously loaded mechanic to just dump in here uncritically. I don’t know if I’m super comfortable with it, to be honest -- I mean, there’s a lot of stuff in this game that is going to be disastrous with the... “the wrong group”, but this move in particular is toeing the line in a skin about taking violent revenge against bullies, so, uh...
For those of you who are counting, we have so far encountered ~5~ special skin conditions in as many moves, counting Firestarter’s “appropriate conditions.” That’s more than any two standard skins combined already, and most of them aren’t there to do anything interesting.
You can roll Dark to invade someone’s thoughts. On a 10+, you get a string on them and they have to truthfully answer one question. On a 7-9 you still take a string on them, and choose one from this list:
So this is a move you could potentially use to find out if people have been talking poo poo about you behind your back. It would be great if that were more of the focus -- this skin really needs more to help you get Betrayed in the first place. It does have that 6- condition, which I still hate, but it’s not that bad, all considered. Once again we have Creepy though, which doesn’t do a whole lot to justify a place in two separate moves.
You can use Dark instead of Hot and Cold to Manipulate an NPC and Shut Someone Down. If you are Betrayed, you get a +1 to the rolls and the target gains the Headache condition (that’s 6 now!).
So this in combination with Push means you never need to roll with either of your bad stats other than to Hold Stead, which is not a great idea, design-wise -- it gives the Fury an unfair advantage and severely reduces the number of complication-producing hard moves that they’ll generate. Which is boring for the whole table. Headache might not be terrible as a one off consequence, but at this point I really just want to see anything but another condition.
When you have sex with someone, you both gain 2 strings on each other, and you become Hopeful. For as long as you’re hopeful, your partner gains a +1 to any attempts to manipulate, hurt or betray you.
… which is a great reason to never try to hurt or betray you, because they’d pretty much just be shooting themselves in the foot and robbing themselves of an easily manipulated psychic. I feel like this sex move is just presenting a broken narrative, short of you using the strings to bribe them to make you Betrayed.
You go postal and murder the gently caress out of everything that moves, because nobody loves you and anyone who says they did is only trying to lie to you, and you’re going to make all those fuckers pay.
In order to leave your Darkest Self, you need to be confronted by someone who has never done anything wrong to you, or someone needs to show you an act of kindness that seems genuine. So once again: Why would any other player ever want to betray the Fury, again?
This time the moves are mostly usable by other skins -- they could even get the Betrayed bonus if they managed to get that condition put on them from some other source. So, that’s an improvement!
The Fury gets a gang advance called a Psychic Gestlat, which is like a gang of other angry psychics and this skin having a gang advance completely undermines the whole concept behind it even more than the basic mechanics do. It should probably just have had no gang advance, like the Mortal.
Next Time: The Gargoyle -- “Oh, sorry, did you forget to take the Move that lets you walk around and actually do anything? Guess you’re just kind of standing there for this scene.”
Gazetteer fucked around with this message at 16:43 on Nov 13, 2014
|# ¿ Nov 9, 2014 02:53|
I’ll just leave this here for you to listen to while you read. Because, I think we all know what the primary inspiration here is.
The Gargoyle a living statue or other inanimate object that walks and stuff for half the day, then turns back into stone or whatever for the other half. They guard the building they’re a part of from anyone who would try to harm it. The metaphor here is that they’re someone who takes “school spirit” a little too seriously. I get what he’s going for easily enough, but it doesn’t feel super evocative to me, I guess -- that aspect is just not played up strongly enough in the skin itself.
Origins include “animated statue”, “curse victim”, and my favourite, “cornerstone sacrifice.” They’re actually pretty good and provide some neat backstory hints -- that’s more or less what origins are supposed to do.
The Gargoyle’s good stats are Cold and Volatile -- that’s a pretty dangerous combination. Similarly to the Dark/Volatile “social idiot” combination, with these stats you’re normally limited to negative interactions in order to influence others. Unlike Dark/Volatile, however, Cold/Volatile can apply and remove conditions with Shut Someone Down and Hold Steady, making them more dangerous in social situations, with a strong Volatile stat for the more direct approach. This is the same combination that The Ghoul has, for reference. It means that the Gargoyle should theoretically be pretty good defensively, but when they want to go on the attack it’s going to be with their fists rather than their words.
The core mechanic for this skin is pretty poorly thought out, in that it’s just plain unfun unless you take a specific optional skin move as well. Some of the other moves also suffer from the “this is a cool thing that this monster should do” syndrome, without really contributing to the core theme as well as they could. It’s hardly the worst thing in this book (that’s still The Beast), but it’s a pretty weak entry overall.
You start with School Spirit and two other skins moves.
For half the day you’re Dormant, which means you turn into a statue and can’t do anything. The rest of the time, you look like a regular person. It doesn’t need to be a literal statue -- just has to be a vaguely humanoid piece of artwork. You decide whether you’re Dormant from from sunset to sunrise or from sunrise until sunset. When you’re not Dormant and you Lash Out Physically in order to defend your school building or grounds, you treat 6- rolls as 7-9s and 7-9s as 10+s.
So, this move loving blows. Why? Because it means one of the players at the table by default cannot do anything for half the day. So that means that either you get to sit around doing nothing while everyone else is like, sneaking around in the graveyard and making out with vampires, or the MC takes pity on you and skips over night time scenes as much as possible. Which not only makes the restriction kind of pointless, but also seriously damages the mood that MH MCs are encouraged to set (if you decided that you’re dormant during the day, that’s probably going to be even more annoying because it means you can’t participate in any of the school room drama bullshit that is half the point of the game). There is a very good reason why The Vampire doesn’t have a move stating that they can’t move around in sunlight, and it’s not just because Twilight did it -- it’s because it’s not really fun for anyone involved when half the time one of the characters can’t do anything.
I’m also still not a huge fan of just flat out not being able to fail a certain kind of roll that consistently. It’s possible to achieve that with other skins, but usually only if you’ve invested a lot of time and experience into it. Flatout removing your ability to get hard moves just isn’t interesting.
You can turn into your human form during your Dormant period if there’s another person on the school premises. You can also do this if there isn’t anyone else on the school premises, but you take 1 harm as a result. If you leave the school grounds, you automatically know if someone else goes onto the school grounds or threatens the school in any way.
I’ve used the term “feat tax” for some of the SftK moves in the past. I’m going to use it again here -- basically this is a move that only exists to make School Spirit not suck. It should either have been part of School Spirit, or you should start out with both School Spirit and Babewyn.
You can transform from your human form into Animate form. While Animate, you are basically your Dormant form but you can move around and do stuff. While you’re Animate, you take one less harm from everything (can go as low as zero) and you always get to carry 1 forward to Lash Out Physically. Remember that this stacks with School Spirit’s “you cannot fail Lash Out Physically rolls to defend the school” bonus.
A gargoyle skin really needs a move like this, I think, because without it you’re kind of just a kid who is weirdly obsessed with their highschool and turns into a fully inanimate statue sometimes. This lets you turn into a big stone monster (or an animated mascot costume, if you want to relive Five Nights At Freddy’s in Monsterhearts) and go beat up some people. It makes you very dangerous in physical confrontations while you’re trying to defend your school, and I wish that it had some kind of drawback to counter that, mostly.
People associated with your school (students, employees, etc.) count as part of your school for the purposes of School Spirit.
This is interesting and I like it in concept, but in practise this is going to mean most of the cast if your school is a literal school, which kind of turns School Spirit’s bonus into “never fail to Lash Out Physically if you can tie it back into defending someone.” The problem there is more or less that School Spirit’s bonus is still not interesting, so any move that works off of it is going to suffer for the association.
Oh good, another superfluous damage dealing move. You can vomit (Topher’s words, not mine) a stream of freezing water or fire from your mouth. When you do this, roll Volatile. On a 10 up, you do 1 harm to your target and they must Hold Steady. On a 7-9, choose one from the following list:
Once again, dictating the outcome of a hard move, not going to waste time explaining why I hate that again. This has kind of similar problems to the Fury’s Firestarter, though -- you don’t really need a second damage dealing move for a high Volatile skin, and you definitely don’t need one that kind of just does the same basic things that Lash Out Physically already does. Especially since things like Grotesque and School Spirit specifically give bonuses to Lash Out Physically that would therefore not apply here. In that sense, this is just an inferior choice when you could just Lash Out instead.
You can create an “egg” out of a single object found in your school. You can only have one of them at a time. If you die, you are reborn from the egg at the beginning of your next active period (at sunrise or sunset, depending on what you picked for School Spirit), with a new Dormant/Animate form, based on what you used to make the egg. Mark experience when you’re reborn.
Or you could take the Ghoul’s Short Rest for the Wicked as a “Take a move from another skin” advance, since that’s already an option. The Heir from Skins for the Skinless has a special death/reincarnation mechanic, but as a result it explicitly says in the text that you cannot take Short Rest for the Wicked. This is both less interesting than what the Heir does and less useful than Short Rest. But, uh, you get to mark experience, I guess.
You get some of your dormant form’s durability in your human form. When you take damage, Hold Steady. On a 7-9, you take 1 less damage. On a 10+, you take no damage and mark experience. Presumably this is in addition to the ordinary effects of Hold Steady.
This isn’t a terrible move. It’s a bit weird that you only get to mark experience on a 10+ -- I’m pretty sure that was just added because taking more than 1 harm at a time is relatively rare. It’d be more interesting to give an actual drawback to the 7-9, I think. Like, part of your true nature is revealed in the process of defending yourself. When the dumb jock punches you, your face briefly takes on the texture and appearance of stone. That kind of thing is usually more interesting than “on 7-9 you win, on 10+ you win more”, and more in the spirit of fail forward game design.
Attacking a rival school or a person associated with a rival school counts as defending your school for the purposes of School Spirit.
This move should probably establish “you have a rival school” before just dumping this mechanic onto you -- I mean, if your MC refuses to include one after you take this move, they’re a lovely MC, but it’s still more in the spirit of the system to explicitly spell it out, maybe give some fun options about the nature of the rivalry. This isn’t really a bad move in concept (just in execution, a little), but it does hinge on School Spirit, which is still a bad move. I also wish he’d find a way to tie moves back into defending your school other than just making School Spirit’s bonus more expansive or your character tougher. I don't know -- maybe something that rewards other players for provoking you by harming the school.
Sheela na Gig
Did you think we were going to get through this whole skin without a “roll x instead of y” move? I actually did for a bit there.
You can roll Cold instead of Hot for both Turn Someone On and Manipulate an NPC… but only if, and I quote “your genitals are exposed.”
So this move is based on a kind of Irish stone carving of women flashing their genitalia -- there's no other reason for this, because there’s no real gameplay related reason why you’d want this skin to walk around naked or whatever aside from this move. It is incentivising behaviour that doesn’t make sense with the rest of the skin.
The Ghoul already has a perfectly good “roll Cold instead of Hot to look sexy” move too, we really did not need an additional one that can trigger off sending people dick pics.
When you have sex with someone, they count as part of your school for the purposes of School Spirit. Which means nothing if they’re one of your classmates and you have Kirkgrim already. You also cannot Lash Out Physically at them at all. This lasts until you have sex with someone else or they do something to hurt your school. So, technically, if they do something that hurts themself, that means you don’t have to protect them anymore, since they count as part of the school. Likewise, if you have Kirkgrim, they can’t do anything to hurt any of your classmates by default. So… this is super easy to get out of.
Oh, and it specifically says that you cannot have sex while you’re in your Dormant or Animate forms. Thank Christ.
Kirkgrim makes this sex move feel redundant, and parts of it don’t seem like they’re super well thought out.
You basically start going after anyone who might be a potential threat to your school, physical or otherwise. “The basketball team that beats yours in the playoffs, the school board member who wants to cut funding, the teacher who molests her students -- they’re all enemies, and they all have to be punished.”
UM, you can probably punish that last one without going into your darkest self. Because, uh, one of these things is not like the others!
This works pretty well as a Darkest Self, honestly, weird examples aside.
The Gargoyle’s gang advance is… “a stone flock.” Okay. That’s both weirdly phrased and slightly generic.
I’ve noticed that Topher is really into themed naming for skin moves -- it’s a pretty big detriment here. At least with the Fury, the film references still tell you loosely what the move does. Here, unless you’re really up on your different types of gargoyle, it’s not so easy to keep track of them.
Oh, and, yeah -- a number of these moves specifically do nothing if you don’t already have School Spirit, so once again they’re pretty worthless for other skins.
Next Time: The Minotaur -- You're a bully, but you're also a bull, get it?
|# ¿ Nov 15, 2014 03:36|
I've always liked Gargoyle, but yea we always fold in the 'you can wake up early if someone's at school or just take a little damage to do it' into the core move.
That's honestly a pretty good point. I hadn't thought of it that way.
|# ¿ Nov 15, 2014 10:19|
Quick Skins for the Skinless update:
I remembered that my compiled PDF is slightly out of date, and the two newest Skins for the Skinless are not included in it. I still plan on still doing those, though, so the new order is going to look like this -- I've bolded the new ones:
|# ¿ Nov 17, 2014 12:45|
Gazateer, what's your take on the Giant skin? It's not For-The-Skinless, and it embodies a teen archetype/monster. My qualms are the "roll 2d8 instead of 2d6 whenever your size would apply, 8s cause problems" and the "hide your heart" move (which makes you unharmable and unable to be manipulated by strings).
The giant's loving weird.
Forget the probability. It's a beautifully simple little basic mechanic, leave it the gently caress alone! Who really wants to drag out a different kind of die in a game where one of the principle features is that you only need 2d6? The things the move is supposed to do can be done by writing them into a Skin move. It seems calculated to let one player call his character out as the most special teen monster.
That's almost literally the idea, though, I think? I mean, not "most special", but rather... strongest. The Giant is supposed to be tougher and stronger than everyone around them. The whole concept kind of hinges on that. So they can push everyone around and beat people up really easily, they can scare and intimidate people, they can do all kinds of poo poo like that, and they have moves to like... swallow people and make themselves immune to harm and all kinds of over the top stuff. The tradeoff is supposed to be that being that strong kind of sucks, I guess? Like, you hurt people and break poo poo you don't want to break or something like that. I've never seen this skin in actual gameplay, but it feels more than a little awkward, and potentially just unfun for other people.
Like, the Second Skins proper has the Wyrm, which has a move that can literally deal as much damage as they want (Scales), but it's limited to once per session and is designed to have some heavy social fallout -- this is basically a skin where someone was like "but what if you were like that ALL THE TIME?" and then they made that skin.
The Giant was designed pretty much for and from one-shot play using the alternate basic moves Ross also designed (which I believe are also available through the Second Skins kickstarter)
Thank you, that explains a lot here. Like why there is literally a move to own an unusually large pet with no actual mechanical effects. Although that move is actually my favourite part of the skin, because it means you can have a giant adorable dog or something in a bunch of scenes.
|# ¿ Nov 26, 2014 05:56|
The Harpy is, as far as I understand things, the most recent Skins for the Skinless skin that has been made. And that actually shows, because… this skin has a problem that I never thought I’d be identifying in relation to a SftK skin -- it is too good at what it is supposed to do.
So, you’re a harpy. You know, gross terrible bird monster from Greek Myth. Sort of. You defile things and claw peoples’ metaphorical and literal entrails out and poo poo like that. Or maybe you’re not actually a bird monster -- because first and foremost, you are an offputtingly effective bully. This is a skin about harassing people into self loathing and self harm. And it all feels way more reprehensible than things like The Vampire or the Ghoul. I mean, you’re eating people there, but that’s because you’re an undead monster -- eating people is what you do. It’s tropey enough with them that you can just kind of let it slide within the genre. The Harpy, though? The behaviour this skin encourages just feels… distressingly real. Like, this is not a metaphor or an exaggeration -- the moves I’m going to detail here literally just describe the way actual bullies destroy actual lives.
And the reason it crosses the line for me, is because it is mechanically really, really good at doing these things. The moves are actually mostly cleverly conceived and work together to fulfill the skin’s role in a way that the earlier SftK skins could only sort of fumble vainly at. To the point that it actually feels a little bit overpowered, and could definitely use some interesting drawbacks and humanising elements. Especially the latter. Like, I would let someone play a loving Beast in a game of mine before I would let someone bring a Harpy to the table, because at this point this is all way too on the nose to be any fun.
The Harpy’s origins are… not all that exciting. “used to be popular” and “former nerd with an Extreme Makeover” are both mundane origins for people who I guess don’t even want the thin veneer of deniability things like “storm spirit incarnate” and “implement of divine vengeance” provide. Also a lot of these origins are weirdly wordy.
The Harpy’s good stats are Cold and Volatile. As I’ve said before, this is the combination skins like the Ghoul have, and indicates that you are good at loving people up physically, and at holding your own socially. It indicates that you’re a much more blunt instrument than skins that combine cold with Hot or even with Dark, and that you’re pretty dangerous in general. As you will see, the Harpy’s moves take that and make it go entirely too far with it.
You start with any two of the following:
When you Lash Out Physically, you turn into a bird monster. You do 1 additional harm, and you can fly and shred things with your talons do other bird monster stuff until you calm down.
This isn’t a bad move, really. It makes you physically tougher, sure, but what I find interesting is that it isn’t optional -- if you take this move, lashing out physically will always activate it. So you hit harder, but you can’t actually attack someone without revealing yourself as the monster that you are, something you can avoid when you’re only like… emotionally destroying people. So, this is honestly a pretty good move. Build on it a little, and you could actually hang a whole skin off of that mechanic. But here, it’s just one move among many.
The skin advice notes that Alkonos is the only “overtly supernatural” move that the Harpy has, so you can theoretically play this skin as just being a tremendously lovely person if you want. I kind of disagree that none of these other moves are supernatural in nature, though, because of the next one.
When you run away, you don’t need to roll -- you automatically succeed unless you’re running from someone who can fly.
This seems really hard to justify unless you also can fly, so I’m not sure if I buy the idea that it’s not inherently supernatural, but I don’t know, maybe you’re just like… an expert at parkour as well or something. Also, this is a terrible move; it’s literally a move that let’s you avoid using another move, and Run Away honestly has some of the most interesting drawbacks of any of the basic moves. And like… Volatile is one of the Harpy’s good stats, so I’m not sure why you’d include a move specifically to avoid rolling Volatile.
When you succeed at shutting someone down, you get to choose one additional effect from the following list:
My main issue with this one is that it could use some clearer language in places. As I noted above, it’s not clear who gets to decide who the target loses that extra string on -- you, them, the MC? The move gets a somewhat different dynamic depending on which way you interpret it. Also, does “they make their next roll at -1” mean that they make their next roll as if they had -1 in the relevant stat, or does it mean that they subtract 1 from their next roll? I’m assuming the former, but it’s still slightly confusing.
Basically, though, this move seriously beefs up Shut Someone Down, turning it from a primarily defencive move into one that has some real offencive teeth to it. Some of those penalties are really nasty -- think about that last one applied to a Queen. Sure, Cold is one of the Queen’s good stats, but it could be a major inconvenience over the short term. It's... mechanically pretty solid, because it directly ties into the skin’s core concept as a vicious bully. This is a move that lets you destroy your victim’s self worth and ostracise them from their peers.
If you Turn Someone On when they already have a condition you’ve placed on them, roll with Cold instead of Hot. On a 10+, you can offer them a point of experience to do what you want without spending a string.
Wow, that’s, uh… incredibly dark. Honestly pretty clever and evocative, but this is literally a move to put other players into emotionally abusive, sexually charged situations. It’s probably the best usage of “roll with X instead of Y” that we’ve seen in Skins for the Skinless so far, and to be honest it’s more interesting than the way that mechanic is used in a lot of canon skins. Just… it might go a little bit too far for some peoples’ comfort. Which is kind of a running theme with this skin.
It’s also going to be very, very easy to also use that condition against the target when making these Turn On rolls, so you can pretty much assume that this move has an implicit +1 bonus on top of rolling with cold in most situations.
When you Shut Someone Down in front of others, you add 1 to the roll. If you get a 10+, you can also destroy an “intangible possession” of theirs. This can be a friendship, their feelings of self worth, their reputation... and this lasts until they successfully Shut You Down, Lash Out Physically against you, or “otherwise assert their dominance.”
So, bearing in mind that this has a lot of synergy with Defiler… this is basically a move that damages another character significantly, and forces them to pursue further confrontations with you in order to get over it. Which might be complicated if, say, they also have that “your next roll is at -1” thing in effect from Defiler. And once again, we have the issue of this move being… well, somehow more mean spirited feeling than even things like the Ghoul’s “you have to literally eat people” move. And we’re also getting to the point where this skin is verging on overpowered; I’d really like to see more tangible drawbacks here.
The name of this move is, for the record, a Yu-Gi-Oh! reference. So, you can decide how you feel about that on your own, I guess.
Anyway, when you roll to Manipulate an NPC, treat 7-9s as if they were 10+s. On a 10+, the target will do what you want without being given a bribe, a threat or other explicit motive.
I guess the deal with this one is that it’s supposed to be leaning on your reputation as a scary rear end in a top hat in order to get your way without your having to explicitly threaten people -- it’s understood that if they don’t, you might get nasty. I’ve got an issue with it, though:
I’s another one of these straight “reduce the risk of a basic move” deals, although much less extreme than Boread Chase. And it’s not so bad here, since it requires you to roll Hot, one of your bad stats, in order to activate it; so it turns low-Hot Manipulate rolls into even more of a gamble than they usually are, with a bigger payoff to encourage you to try. So while I’m still not a huge fan of the fundamental mechanic, this is by far the best way Topher has implemented it so far.
When you gain a string on someone, you carry 1 forward to your next Shut Them Down or Lash Out Physically roll against them.
So… this move basically plays off of Defiler and/or Elegant Egotist, which are ways that the Harpy can employ in order to gain strings without having to roll Hot. Either way, it encourages you to target the same person with Shut Down rolls over the course of multiple scenes, because Shutting Someone Down can be used to both put conditions on someone (which you can use to gain strings on them with Elegant Egotist) and to gain strings on them directly with Defiler, and oh look by gaining those strings, I’m now even better at shutting them down. This is a move that rewards you for singling out a specific NPC or PC and making their life a living hell.
So… mechanically clever, but holy poo poo, guys.
When you Lash Out Physically against someone, you place a condition on them. On a 10+, you also smash or steal an item belonging to them.
So, this is another way to get conditions on people for the purposes of Elegant Egotist, and yet another way to make someone feel like poo poo. At this point I think the biggest mechanical problem is still that not enough of these moves have interesting drawbacks on the Harpy’s part. Rather than piling on an additional benefit like “you get to steal or destroy their phone”, this should expose a weakness that others can exploit in return for that condition.
When you Gaze Into the Abyss about a specific person, on a 7-9 you carry 1 forward toward your next Shut Someone Down roll against them. On a 10+, you gain a string on them.
This has synergy with basically anything involving Shut Someone Down or strings. Which, uh… is almost everything. Similar issues to Rose Whip -- mechanic I’m not fond of mitigated by encouraging you to roll with a bad stat. I feel like the skin really does not need two of these.
After having sex with someone, you either have to compliment them, or you have to insult them. If you give them a compliment, you gain the Going Soft condition, lose all your strings on them, and you mark experience. If you insult them, you treat it as if you had just Shut Someone Down and rolled a 10. Which possibly activates moves like Defiler.
So this is simultaneously this skin’s one loving redeeming feature and another way to be an utterly terrible piece of human garbage. Or bird person garbage. Whatever.
Oh boy. Here’s where it all goes a little bit too far-er than it already had been. So, you know how most of those moves above more or less work in combination with each other in order to encourage you to single out a specific person and make their life utterly terrible? Well, the Darkest Self provides a very explicit end goal for that:
You are never going to be happy, so no one else deserves to be. In that spirit, you pick a “vulnerable target”... and you don’t stop attacking them. Emotionally, physically, whatever. You just keep on giving them poo poo until you literally drive someone to self harm. And yes, that is the only way to escape your darkest self -- loving drive someone to start cutting themselves or attempt suicide or whatever. Which, incidentally, is relatively easy to do to an NPC, because in combination with most of this skin’s moves being very good at destroying someone’s self worth and happiness, Rose Whip means that if you can score a 10+ on a Manipulate roll, telling someone to “go kill yourself” will pretty much just work. And with how many ways you have to pour on conditions and take strings, it’s pretty easy to beef up your Hot rolls until that happens, if you’re really determined.
If you pick a PC, then you’ll likely run into the problem that, well, most players not being comfortable with depicting self harm, even in a hammy teen monster drama. There’s also the very real chance that both you and the other player involved will not actually have a lot of fun with this kind of dynamic once it’s in play, because, well, Jesus Christ this is terrible.
Your gang advance is Vicious Flock. At the very least, all of these moves are easy for other skins to pick up. So they too can be even shittier people than they already normally are.
Next Time: The Minotaur -- another bully skin, but a less horrifying one. Thank god.
Gazetteer fucked around with this message at 02:41 on Dec 2, 2014
|# ¿ Dec 2, 2014 00:19|
Actually, so is Elegant Egotist. If I recall the original show correctly, it was the card that cloned the single Harpy into three of them.
You're right. And Thunder Talons appears to be a Magic the Gathering card. So... some of these moves are named after things from mythology and folklore, but others are just game references.
|# ¿ Dec 3, 2014 01:57|
To talk about the OTHER passive aggressive monster recently...I actually like the Harpy. Like yea, it's on the nose, but that's a good thing for a concept like that. I think the pathos is there, the sex move shows they literally are unable to complement anyone, even the ones close to them, unless they're willing to weaken themselves pretty strongly, and their bonus to attack stuff shows them being monsters is actually way more on the surface than most any others, I kinda see what they're going for there. They're monsters, and it pisses them off. They're not sexy vampires, they have too much humanity left to avoid being consumed by a hunger or something, they're just beings with a full awareness that they're horrible creatures that no one really has any positive things associated with. Like, their name is literally an insult at this point. They're good at hurting people because they literally can't stop hurting people, and instead of being depressed they got angry.
I'm told it's actually a very unpleasant and not-terribly-fun skin to play, in practice.
|# ¿ Dec 3, 2014 03:27|
Maybe that's the point, though? 'You're a bad person and you should feel bad' and whatnot.
You're free to play the "well maybe it's supposed to be terrible" game if you want, but I'm not terribly interested in that idea, personally.
|# ¿ Dec 3, 2014 03:55|
Would anyone be interested in me looking at some third-party playbooks for Apocalypse World? There's a whole bevy of them out there, some pretty good and some really dumb, and I think it'd be interesting to go through some of them and see which is which and where the failures are. I'd do about ten or so because there's so many of them, but that number can change depending on interest.
If I'm allowed to ramble about skins for the skinless for thousands of words I don't think anyone's going to complain about you doing that.
|# ¿ Dec 12, 2014 17:00|
|# ¿ Dec 1, 2021 18:25|
SPEAKING OF WHICH
Okay, so, Skins for the Skinless technically does have two “bully” skins. Whereas the Harpy is like… horrible sadistic monster who will drive you to suicide, the Minotaur is a big, brutish thug, who everyone treats like a big, brutish thug, and it kind of bothers them. They’re also a scary angry bull monster, though, who will lumber after anyone who is named as a target. I don’t know if the maze metaphor works SUPER well, but I guess I can kind of see what it’s aiming at this time, and the result isn’t anything completely reprehensible, so that’s an improvement.
This is, however, kind of truer to form with the rest of the SftK skins, though, in that it’s a collection of mechanics that don’t always mesh well together, or that work as a concept but not in actuality. It’s definitely a lot better than some of the earlier skins, but it’s got a lot of the same problems Topher seems to have struggled with all along. Just… you know, less-so. There’s actually a core mechanic at play here -- similar to the ghost, it’s about giving people conditions to give you bonuses against them. It’s not as fictionally evocative as the ghost, though, and I just find myself wishing that the skin were framed around something more like what’s explored a little in Red Flag (I talk about that when I describe that move below).
Origins are more or less an even split between relatively mundane and magical. “Bestial demigod” is kind of referencing the actual minotaur from Greek myth. “Cursed by a witch” would be pretty interesting if there actually someone playing The Witch in the group, I think. Then there’s “testosterone poisoning” and “abused animal growth hormones” if you want to play this character off as being less supernatural or whatever. “Experimental hybrid” is, uh… getting into some slightly uncomfortable territory. I guess technically that’s also true to the original Greek myth, but really now.
The Minotaur’s good stats are Hot and Volatile -- those are basically “steamroller” stats, they let you fight really well and be sexy/charismatic, but the lovely Cold and Dark stats means that you’re not so great at keeping their poo poo together or introspection and magical poo poo. I kind of feel like a high hot stat undermines the character concept a little bit here, though. It gives you a lot of room to not be a big scary person who has to lean on violence and intimidation. It might make more sense to go with Cold/Volatile (physically/emotionally tough) or Volatile/Dark (social idiot stats), and just throw in something that makes it easier for you to do what you want through hurting or scaring people. With a skins starting stats, the ones that you’re lovely at are just as important as the ones you’re good at -- they dictate the basic moves that the player is more likely to avoid.
You start with Labyrinth and two other moves.
You take a string on someone whenever you do harm to them. You always carry 1 forward to Shut Someone Down, Lash Out Physically or Gaze Into the Abyss when your target has the “In The Maze” condition. You get a -1 to use any of those moves against someone who has the “Golden Thread” condition.
So, this move is doing two things. Firstly, it’s letting you generate strings really easily by punching people in the face. Which would be great for a skin that doesn’t have a high hot stat -- similar to how the Infernal’s Unknowable move lets you make people lose strings on you without needing to lean on the Infernal’s bad Cold stat, this lets you take strings on people without Turning Someone On. Unfortunately, the Minotaur does have a good hot stat, and is already good at getting strings on people as a result. So, this feels a bit superfluous.
The other thing it does is set up this mechanic where you are incentivised to antagonise players with the In the Maze condition, and disincentivised from antagonising players who have Golden Thread. With Gaze Into the Abyss, I assume that it means using Gaze Into the Abyss to find something out about someone else, because Gaze is notably one of the two basic moves that doesn’t require a target, ordinarily. This isn’t a terrible mechanic in and of itself, and I think that you could probably base a pretty decent skin around it. Worst I can say about it is that it's not really that exciting, but honestly I'll take what I can get at this point.
Mostly, though, even aside from “gaining strings for punching people” being unnecessary for a high Hot skin, pairing these two effects together it a little weird. The end result is a move that lets you avoid rolling with one of your good stats but encourages you to roll with two of your bad ones.
When you successfully Turn Someone on, you and the target take a string on each other. The target also gets the “Golden Thread” condition.
So… the first move improves your capacity to avoid rolling Hot, while this one tries to encourage you to roll Hot. That’s not terribly coherent design. This is also just a bad move even without that, because an extra string for Turning Someone On is not worth them also taking a string on you, and then you getting a -1 to half of your basic moves against them until they remove the condition. Which they have no reason to ever want to do.
When you Shut Someone Down by intimidating or harassing them, roll with Volatile instead of Cold. You also take an ongoing -1 to Hold Steady. If you fail the roll, take the “Enraged” condition instead of the “Terrified” condition.
So, I assume that when it says “when you fail”, what it actually means is “when you roll a 7-9” -- conditional successes make you Terrified, not failures. The obvious effect of this move is to let you lean on your big Volatile score instead of having to rely on your lovely Cold while you’re Shutting Someone Down, while at the same time loving up your ability to control yourself in stressful situations or remove conditions as a tradeoff.
The thing there is that we already have another mechanic in Labyrinth that beefs up your Shut Down rolls, so what we’re realistically looking at here is the ability to Shut Someone Down and Lash Out Physically at +3 when someone has the “In The Maze” condition. So… suddenly our Volatile/Hot skin is also functionally a Volatile/Cold skin. Hold Steady is literally the least used move in the game, in my anecdotal experience, and that’s not a huge drawback for improving to the move that lets you put conditions on other players. I mean, unless, of course, this skins happens to have another move that for some reason relies on your ability to Hold Steady. But what are the chances of that happening? (yeah, keep reading)
In a China Shop
When you Lash Out Physically, on a 7-9 your target has to pick a physical object they own and that is on hand. It gets broken or made unusable for an undetermined period of time. On a 10+, the same thing happens but you get to pick.
For a move with such a good name, this is pretty boring. Like, as with a similar move that the Harpy has, I just feel like in of itself “I stomp his cellphone” is something that you really don't need a move in order to do. With more time to reflect on it, I actually feel like it’s a little bit detrimental to make it one -- moves have that sort of “the exception proves the rule” thing going on with them, which is good if you understand how to use it, but kind of disastrous if you don’t take it into consideration. If this move is telling you that it gives you permission to break someone else’s stuff, well, clearly that tells you that without this move, that is normally something you can’t just do on the fly. It doesn’t engage with any of the other moves very well, it doesn’t offer any kind of mechanical benefit…
This just works out better as a concept than it does in execution here.
Mess With the Bull
Oh good. Another “you turn into a big scary monster” move. Maybe fifth time’s the charm?
When you violently confront someone(!) who is In the Maze, roll Volatile. On a 7-9, you turn into a big bull man and it’s so scary and poo poo you guys. On a 10+, that happens and you become your darkest self. While you’re in your beast form, you do 1 extra harm everytime you Lash Out Physically, and you take 1 less harm whenever anything deals harm to you. In order to turn back into a troubled sexy teen, you need to Hold Steady. You know. Hold Steady. That move that requires you to use one of your bad stats. Which you might have a permanent -1 to because you decided to pick up Bully. THAT Hold Steady.
Okay, so aside from the exit condition being annoying… here we just have another case of a move which, if you take it, means that you automatically turn into a giant monster thing just by carrying out random tasks. A second, optional Darkest Self, if you will. And this one is way worse than the Harpy’s (which I was actually a bit charitable to), because “violently confronting people” who are In The Maze is what this skin is supposed to do. Like, it’s right there in the move that you automatically come with at character gen -- this is your jam. But now this move is telling you that “oh right, if you do that you’ll turn into a scary bull monster until you can make this difficult and frustrating Cold roll.” So, either we get the Minotaur turning into a monster every other scene, or the player chooses not to do the thing that is ostensibly their job in order to not be obnoxious.
I’m also still super dubious about the concept of a move that gets worse on a 10+. A 10+ is supposed to be a success -- that’s not where you add conditions. A 7-9 is the conditional success, and things like “but you become your darkest self” belong there. It’s just a weird and unsatisfactory design choice.
So, when someone spends a string on you in order to get you to do what they want, instead of just marking experience like normal, you choose two from the following list:
This one could actually be a really good move, to the point that my reaction to it was “why isn’t the skin about this?” Basically, this is a move that gives you extra rewards when people spend strings on you to get you to do their dirty work for them. This is playing up on the idea that you’re everyone’s flunky and people just use you as disposable muscle for hire.
In order for this to really work, though, you’d need something else to give other players more of an incentive to spend strings on you in the first place. Like, I don’t know -- “when someone spends a string to offer you an experience point and you accept, they also mark experience.” Something like that. And maybe a move that makes it easier for people to take strings on you in the first place. As is, this is a move to reward you for other people choosing to do something you have no direct influence over. Which is disappointing.
When you Gaze Into the Abyss about someone you’re pissed off at, roll Volatile Instead of Dark. On a 7-9, you add “Place the condition In the Maze” on them to the list of options. On a 10+, you add that as well as “do 1 extra harm the next time you Lash Out Physically at them” to the list of options.
Yeah, another one of these moves. Combining this with Bully, you can use your Volatile stat for way too many moves at this point. This is at least going to work off of Labyrinth’s In the Maze bonus, but even there, its primary benefit is to put In the Maze onto someone in the first place, so… that’s not as helpful as one might think. This skin really did not need another way to tack extra damage onto its Lash Out rolls, either, honestly.
When someone else gives out the condition In the Maze, you lose a string on them.
This is actually an interesting idea, and I more or less approve. Basically this is you taking acceptable losses (a string here and there), in order to encourage other players to hand out your special condition for you. If anything, the main problem with this is kind of clunky implementation of the In the Maze/Golden Thread mechanic throughout the rest of the skin.
When you have sex with someone, they take a string on you and the Golden Thread condition. They may also ask you to spare one person -- if they do, that person also gets the Golden Thread condition.
This is pretty much a net good for your partner but a net bad for you. So the message there is that intimacy is kind of a weakness for you, I guess. Nothing terrible or broken in this sex move, though.
You go crazy because you know that you’re just a violent, scary violent animal and you’re convinced that everyone else knows that too -- they’re all just using you. You track down everyone who is In the Maze and… actually, the text here doesn’t specify, which is troubling. All it says is “show them how bestial you can be”, so I assume you beat them up and poo poo like that? If no one’s in the Maze, you pick a random person to “face your fury.”
You leave your darkest self when no one’s left In the Maze. … except, we were just told that if no one’s In the Maze you attack someone at random anyway? Kind of a contradiction there. You can also leave your darkest self if someone with Golden Thread confronts you. Which seems a lot more likely to come up.
The Minotaur’s gang advancement gives them a Herd of Cronies. Get it? Because cattle!
All of these moves can technically be used by other characters, although they do heavily rely on In the Maze.
Next Time: The Mummy -- If there’s one thing Monsterhearts is missing, it’s frustrating D&D mechanics
|# ¿ Dec 12, 2014 18:52|