Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Monsterhearts Homebrew: the Brownie

Avery Alder's Monsterhearts is one of my favourite roleplaying games of all time.

I love everything about it: the genre and tropes it revolves around, the heavy focus on inter-party drama and intense and messy character relationships, the idea of keeping a story "feral", the ways it took the principles of Apocalypse World and leapt boldly forward with them (Hx into Strings, the evolution of moves that affect agency over a character's emotions, etc).

Most of all I love how unapologetically it puts forward its insight: supernatural teen drama/romance is, and has always been, queer as hell.

I've read it cover to cover more times than I can count; I've played in campaigns from online to 8-hour convention contexts; I've GMed it a few glorious times and have plans for more; and I even had the privilege of reading and giving feedback on some very early drafts for the Second Edition.

Monsterhearts is a game that I love.

And so being a game designer and somewhat of a nerd, of course I set out to write a bunch of homebrew content for it. I've written a handful of custom Skins for the game, informed by my desire to see an integration between monster archetype / high-school drama archetype / pattern of teenage dysfunction.

Until now these Skins have all lurked on my hard-drive gathering dust, but now that I have a blog it seems a shame not to share them.

Apologies that they aren't properly formatted and laid-out: that's not one of my skill-sets.

If I can talk my friend John into it, I might try and pull something of the sort together for people who want consistency of appearance with the standard Skins.


The Brownie
Your friends and loved ones mean everything to you – you cannot imagine a warmer glow of satisfaction than knowing you’ve helped them nor a worse feeling than watching them suffer when you can do nothing to intervene. You chase that feeling of approval and thankfulness, delighting in service and praise and willing to shoulder burdens that are none of your business just to feel needed and useful and wanted. 

Hot -1, Cold -1, Volatile +1, Dark +1

Abdul, Alexis, Deacon, George, Leto, Ophelia, Paige, Sergius, Stuart.
A servant’s name, a forgettable name, a weak-sounding name, a peasant name.

ragged, casual, servile, polished, mismatched
needy eyes, watchful eyes, insecure eyes, protective eyes, demanding eyes

diminished house-spirit, born to serve, searching for purpose, oath-bound, indentured for a term

Your Backstory
You have one friend who is very dear to you. Declare one person to be one of your loved ones. Give them 2 Strings on you. Take one String on them. 
You were there for someone in a moment of emotional vulnerability. Ask them what secret they confessed to you, and you gain 1 String on them.

Brownie Moves
You get this one and choose two more:
[x] Family of Choice. You may have any number of loved ones. The first is chosen during your backstory. Every time you choose another loved one, give them 1 String on you. Whenever you subjugate yourself to the needs of your loved ones, carry 1 forward and gain the condition needy.
[ ] Love Hurts. Every time you forgive the ones you love for hurting you, and make excuses for them, gain a String on them.
[ ] Invisible Helper. When you defend someone you love without them ever knowing about it, mark experience.
[ ] Bond of Service. If you and another character have a total of 5 or more Strings on one another, gain 1 to all rolls against them.
[ ] Shoulder to Cry On. You crave to be useful, and feel that is all you’re good for. When others dump their emotional problems on you, roll with dark. On a 10 up, they lose all their conditions, and you choose one: mark experience, carry one forward, or gain a String on them. On a 7-9, they choose one:  they lose all their conditions or they gain a String on you.
[ ] Self-Sacrifice. When you leap into the way and take the blow instead of someone you love, roll with Volatile. On a 10 up, you take the harm instead of them, but reduce it by 1. On a 7-9, you take the harm instead of them. On a success, gain a String on the loved one who you saved or give them the Condition guilty.

[ ] Unloved and Unwanted. When you are needy and then gaze into the abyss, carry +1 forward to your roll. 

Sex Move
When you have sex with someone you cannot help but crave their approval. Add them as one of your loved ones (including giving them a String on you) and then trigger the Shoulder to Cry On move even if you have not taken it.

Darkest Self
You can’t bear the ingratitude of the people around you – you bleed and sweat and slave away to make their lives easier and they dismiss your efforts as invasive and unwanted? Make them realise how much they need you - destroy every good thing in their life until they need you back to fix it. You escape your Darkest Self when you go too far and harm one of your loved ones, or when you admit that they never asked for the level of devotion you gave them.

-Take another Brownie move
-Take another Brownie move
-Take a move from another Skin
-Take a move from another Skin
-You belong to an Obeisance of Household Spirits
-Add 1 to Hot (max 3)
-Add 1 to Cold (max 3)
-Add 1 to Volatile (max 3)
-Add 1 to Dark (max 3)

Playing the Brownie
Needy, taken for granted, overlooked, craving importance. The Brownie is about trying to take all of your loved ones’ problems onto yourself for the rush you get from approval and being needed and useful.
You are at your strongest when helping others: Family of Choice makes you much more effective when you are pursuing the interests of your loved ones, and if it involves giving away some Strings then Bond of Service can also turn that into a strength. Unloved and Unwanted allows you to take the needy Condition and make it work for you.
Love Hurts, and Shoulder to Cry On can all provide a source of Strings to fuel Bond of Service and allow you to push back against your loved ones if they are trying to shut you out or prying where they shouldn’t. Invisible Helper provides a handy source of experience, as can Shoulder to Cry On if things go well.
Self-Sacrifice is your move of last resort, endangering yourself to protect your loved ones and either gain Strings on them or give them a Condition that you can leverage into them needing a Shoulder to Cry On.

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