[Monster Hearts] After Graduation - Set up ideas and tips?

edited June 2012 in Play Advice
O.K. So I'll be running MH in a month or two when I go 'home' to visit my partner in Canada. After pitching the game, folks a pretty excited, but the consensus is for more of a True Blood or Being Human feel, rather than the more high-school focused Twilight.

I get what Joe is saying on p.127 about needing a the PCs being in the midst of a major transition and ramp up the alienation for the game to work at its best, but I need help for an equivalent replacement to the 'high school seating chart'. Has anyone run a 20 something game? How did you approach this part of the first session and 'situation setting'? How do you establish a social milieu other than the homeroom?

It seems logical that after following them around, the party, the fight and the disappearance would work just as well with a postgrad game, except that responsibilities are a little more complex - Shared housing, part-time jobs, college, fringe society and so forth, but is there any other 'sure fire' situation that may answer a stake other than just throwing named characters together and seeing what their chemistry is like?

I really like visual aids in my 'World games that highlight the 'drive' of each particular iteration; a map of scarcity and want for AW, a web of monster instincts and danger for DW, but I feel stumped for MH.... How do I populate the social milieu when its not a classroom and what sorts of provocative questions should I be working toward? SO their relationships with NPCs aren't highschoolers, they are... What? Is there something obvious I'm missing? What kind of visual aids could I use?

Thanks for your help everyone :)


  • The way I see it, you just need a social setting of some sort with several people as initial setup. A work environment (think cubicle hell), softball team, football team... Even among adults, say in an office landscape, you can see the same cutthroat rivalry and backstabbing you'd see in highschool. You'd just see people more used to hiding it.

    As for the stakes, I can easily see things evolving naturally during play. Borrow a page from Primetime Adventures and ask your players to set a scene now and again. Trust your players. It's what I, personally, have a hard time doing, but when I do, wonderful stories emerge.
  • edited June 2012
    I'd totally do a minimum wage service job. Instead of a seating chart, make out the weekly schedule. Different shifts combine different characters, with others optionally showing up in their time off (as employees are want to do when their job is also a social group, doubly so if it's a restaurant or bar or other type of hangout place). I had a friend that worked in a Chucky-Cheese-style amusement venue and the stories she told me about the social web and after-hour/back-room shenanigans exceed anything I could dream up for a game. Consider also miniature golf, Christmas town, or local library (not dead end but man can those librarians be harsh).
  • First thing that popped into my head was the transition from Buffy to Angel: from small-town high school and home, transition to big-city nightclubs and apartments.
  • Thanks Marshall! That is exactly what I was after, a weekly schedule for a hospitality / retail service job. Though man, the library? Soooo tempting. That will work nicely. Thanks everyone!
  • Tell us how it goes.
  • Just a random thought from me, would having all of them work for the police work? Could make for interesting problems...
  • edited June 2012
    I'd think that they'd have grown up by the time they were on the force. Better yet, make them "corn cops" at a local corn maze. They usually hire teens/recent grads to patrol the corn mazes during the fall (nights/weekends) to make sure everyone is out at the end of the night, guide out families that need a changing station/bathroom, and keep things generally PG. (It's sort of like working a haunted house but more wholesome)
  • A low pay, hangout-oriented workplace is perfect.

    You can put one of the players/characters in charge of making the schedule. Have them be the assistant manager or something. So the other characters have someone to be mad at when they don't like their shift. And someone to butter up when they want more/less/better shift slots. And someone to accuse other people of sleeping with when the other people get more/less/better shifts.

    And you should try to do something to emulate the tension between wanting to work and make money and wanting to not work and be out having fun. I think you get that tension best if the job has a tips element, because weekends are often the busiest time with the most income, but also the time when you want to be elsewhere and having fun instead of working.

    So, yes, I agree that it should be set in a place that is tips-oriented and hangout-oriented employment (a coffee shop comes to mind as the most obvious way to have both). But you should structure it so that the ideal way to spend a Saturday night is definitely NOT hanging out at the job, but going out elsewhere, like the awesome club with the big cover charge and pricey drinks that they can only afford to go to if they work lots of shifts, preferably on Saturday nights. So you have a nice catch-22.
  • Oh, and being post high school age, many of them will be taking college courses, in addition to working and trying to have a social life. Which gives them another layer of responsibility they should probably be focusing time but don't really want to because OH MY GOD HE IS SO CUTE! DID YOU SEE THAT DIMPLE? I LOVE THAT DIMPLE AND WANNA MAKE BABIES WITH IT!
  • Yup Rob, EXACTLY. Without cash you can't pay rent and you gotta indulge the horrific option of moving back in with the folks. The whole set up from True Blood in the first book/episode is perfect come to think of it. You need a hub, a shitty job and a social scene that combines monsters and regular folks in a heady stew. I'm gonna make my own Merlott's Bar and Grill.
  • edited June 2012
    Rob's suggestions also opens up options for juicy schedule (Roster?)-related custom moves.

    When you ask someone to Switch Shifts, cover for you, or to change the Roster on your behalf; if they do it, they can choose to take a String on you.

    (edited for clarity)
  • edited June 2012
    Also, maybe Tips could be a thing. One regular shift worth of tips is 1-Tips, 2-Tips in a prime shift. Some shifts give 0-Tips. The table (or assistant manager) can decide which are the good and bad slots when you set up the game but before allocating initial shifts.

    What would you use them for- ideas? Bribery, obviously, maybe a bit like Strings. Paying the cover charge, flashing a bit of cash, buying new shoes or buying drinks for the hottie who was totes checking you out (Spend 1-Tips for +1 Forward to Turn Someone On).

    Depends how bookkeepy you want to get, you could deduct monthly upkeep. But that's not very feral. I do feel you would need some way to drain tips, presenting not-boring choices between necessities and wants. My preference would be to just use hard moves- your slum landlord is leering at you in your doorway, saying you gotta pay for breakages from the party, that'll be 4-Tips by Sunday or you're out, bond forfeited. But you promised to take Sam to that hot new restaurant tomorrow night... and the landlord may be amenable to... persuasion. How would Sam ever find out?

    (edited for new thoughts)
  • When you work a double,
    When you pocket cash or product,
    When you train your replacement,

    Loveletter - When you're called in to corporate,
    -When you take worker's comp,
    -When you're off on a family vacation,
    -When you're stuck doing inventory with the temps,
  • I clicked on the thread to express my skepticism, but the arrested-development (lower case) slacker-universe of Clerks is pretty perfect for this, so kudos for keeping me from falling on my face saying I was skeptical. Wait, I did that anyway.
  • I'm not a fan of having people record tips, as Cneph suggests. I do, however, love the custom move about covering someone's shift. Rad.

    I think that working at a corporate coffee shop is an excellent idea. You have 2-4 people working on any given shift, meaning the MC can set up interesting scenarios and put people together in interesting combinations. There's the sleazy guy who hits on his female co-workers whenever they work alone together. There's the shithead who doesn't do any work, and the Mortal who's constantly picking up his slack. Etc.
  • edited June 2012
    When you flirt with a customer while working a shift, roll with hot. On a hit, you make an impression, take a String on them (or get +1Tips this shift). On a 7-9 you also make someone jealous, they get to give you a Condition.

    Or forget the Tips thing, although the move then isn't real distinct from turn someone on. But I like it.
  • edited June 2012
    When you pocket cash or product, roll with cold. On a 10 up, you do it, no problem. On a 7-9, you do it, but choose one: the missing cash or product will be noticed by the end of the shift; the most senior person there sees you acting suspiciously and gets a String on you; you have to create a big distraction to cover the theft.
  • edited June 2012
    When you work a double, roll with volatile. On a 10 up you take it in your stride and they know they owe you; take a String on the person who asked you to pull the double. On a 7-9 it's a long shift and they owe you; take the String but you gain the Condition exhausted. On a miss, you've shown you're a pushover; give them a String on you and gain a Condition (like sucker, pushover or broke perhaps).
  • edited June 2012
    And seeing as I've written the other stats, a joke(ish) one for dark. Thanks Marshall, btw...

    When you train your replacement, roll with dark. On a hit, they act at a Disadvantage on their next shift. On a 7-9, people remember that you trained them.
  • Thanks all for such wonderful ideas! I'm liking the coffeeshop concept Cneph, and the moves? Sp good. Woo! I'm pumped to play!
  • edited June 2012
    Thanks! I'm pretty pumped to play Groundhearts too after that. Maybe I'll just watch Clerks.
  • edited June 2012
    The less elegant, 'can be nice' works-on-PC-and-NPC version of train your replacement:

    When you train your replacement, roll with dark. On a 10 up, either they take +1 Forward and people notice that you trained them; or you can give them a Condition (dangerously incompetent, perhaps). On a 7-9, either they take +1 Forward; or you give them a Condition and people recall that you trained them.

    Maybe the 10+ 'notice' option should include taking a String, and the 7-9 'recall' involve giving a String?
  • Now I can't stop thinking about a Monsterhearts version of Empire Records

    Tagline: They're feasting on innocents, but not selling out!

    Or where a group of Monsterhearts college students on summer vacs as live actors at the London Dungeon - scariest horror show ever!

    Or the Monsterhearts crew work as camp counsellors at a summer camp for 'troubled teens'. You think the kids are a handful, just wait until you find out what's lurking in the woods!
  • Coincidentally, we did a coffee shop thing as a one shot once - http://www.storygamesseattle.com/messages/boards/thread/20123042/0#66006112

    Coffee shop in close-knit neighborhood + office party seemed to work okay, but not as well as high school. If I wanted to age up Monsterhearts again I might try a college dorm (map of the dorm instead of seating chart) or a neighborhood about to have a block party (map of a street with a culdesac at the end being the seating chart...)
  • College dorms is an excellent idea, because then you're establishing NPCs in an environment where sex and sexual hang-ups are immediately present. Zach used to date Carla, but now Jake does. Obviously you have Zach and Jake sharing a dorm room. Instant pathos.
  • I was watching Disney Channel today, and it gave me another idea. A cruise ship! You have lots of people caught together, you have intrigue among the crew, strange ports, different cultures, passengers staying a few weeks (cruise romance is a classic) and then being replaced by a new crop...
    It's pretty much ideal. After all, there's a limit to how many highschool students you can kill before someone becomes really suspicious.
  • How about a small town addiction support group that meets in a church basement, where PCs struggling to control their monstrous hungers can hobnob with mortals doing the same? Think True Blood if it were written by Chuck Palaniuk. I've wanted to play this out since a can of Monster Rehab at the gas station caught my eye and put the idea in my head. If ever there was a setting for making monsters seem human and humans seem monstrous, this is it.

  • Personally I'd go for a Gap or American Apparel or something, over the more traditional coffee shop/bar. Summer camp is also a great idea, especially since it has room for teenagers as well as brink-of-20s types.
  • Retirement community. Adults with fewer responsibilities (career over, kids grown), wrestling with mortality, dealing with changes to their bodies.
  • Yeah, I keep thinking small town church with strong American Gothic overtones but I wonder if the game doesn't rely on the constantly evolving social situation of youth?
  • How about a small town addiction support group that meets in a church basement, where PCs struggling to control their monstrous hungers can hobnob with mortals doing the same? Think True Blood if it were written by Chuck Palaniuk. I've wanted to play this out since a can of Monster Rehab at the gas station caught my eye and put the idea in my head. If ever there was a setting for making monsters seem human and humans seem monstrous, this is it.
    Check out The World on Blood, by Jonathan Nasaw, which is about vampires doing exactly that.
  • Cool thread! I'm tempted to start a Monsterhearts game where the PCs are all involved in a theatre production.

    Some could be actors, some could be stage managing, some could be doing something else... but you could have fun juxtaposing the events "on stage" with the regular lives. Can the Werewolf keep from turning into their Darkest Self in the middle of opening night?
  • Directly after Graduation a Vacation should be a good idea. Getting away from all the high school bullshit but before you have a real idea how life will turn out. All of them meeting in some hotel or a resort town. The old cliques losing meaning and new ones forming just for this few days before adult life finally begins. Maybe some of them aren't celebrating but are locals coming home after their first year of "real life" maybe some are bored and wait for tourist season all year. Some might never have left working there or haunting the hotel.
    They all can do different or shared activities, hang out in the only cool at the place. Where you put your towel down at the beach can be important too and work as a seating chart. Otherwise shared rooms (ot tents), seating during breakfast work too.
    Movie Night: Dirty Dancing, Grand Hotel, The Shining, Eurotrip, Hostel
  • You could go the True Blood route: various types of monsters are just starting to "come out of the coffin" an acknowledge their own existence, but they are being met with fear and hostility. Play out the confusion and isolation your characters feel as they decide whether or not to be true to themselves.
  • For a work place environment people from the same building can work. Some at different jobs or companies, some at the same. They take the same train to and from work every morning and evening. Being new there that is reason enough to reach out. Maybe spend their time together in the pauses, eat at the same places and get invited to the same office parties. Be part of the machine or try and rebel. Offices can be like high schools anyway.
  • For workplace environment, what Biest says sounds good. I'd focus on them all being from the same company and consider having that company going through layoffs, bankruptcy, an acquisition or similar situations that would bring out the feelings of internal uneasiness we all love Monsterhearts for.
  • Another approach could be to give work the role of something totally unexciting that just takes up time and have all scenes play between working hours. It can get into the story by retelling but we never see the characters at their workplace but in between when they try to fill those short exhausted hours with meaning. Have sex, be their darkest self, stuff like that. ;)
    Thes same company approach is more universal i admit.
  • A Bikergang and the formation they drive in could work as the seating order. Lost Boys would be an inspiration of course but the theme of supernatural nomads has been done in other places too. It sure gives the story a feral feel.
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