Monsterhearts - anyone played with teenagers?

edited July 2013 in Play Advice
I'm running some improvisation workshops at a summer camp for young people, 12-15 or so. It looks like me and my partner will be also helping out with the general admin/kid-herding during downtime in the early evenings. I was thinking of running some gaming there, and wondered whether anyone had run Monsterhearts for a younger audience. The issues that I can see compounding are

* playing teenage issues to the bone as an adult is different to doing it as a teenager
* an adult running a game for young people that handles sex + other intensity could be tricky.

on the other hand, the genre and content is likely to appeal.

I'm planning to suggest a half-dozen games, rather than push one in particular, so I was just wondering what experiences the story-games board had of this kind of situation, or anything close.

Thanks!

Alex

Comments

  • Don't use Monsterhearts for summer camp hanging out with kids you don't even know that well, that's an insanely bad idea - even if you did tone it down, you'd pull out the engine that makes the game run. Just play Buffy instead, it's nice and lighthearted and simple.
  • Thanks Jason! Good to get it stated so baldly. Shame I don't have Buffy...
  • Maybe Monster of the Week?
  • You can get Buffy here for $20.

    Let's not even get into what the parents expect the content of your summer camp to be.
  • I'm with Jason.

    This does seem tailor-made for the Doctor Who roleplaying game. (Can we suggest games? That would be fun.)
  • MotW is a better choice, and there's no reason the monster-hunters couldn't be teens in the game.
  • I did run MH once with one teen girl and three adults, but the girl is an experienced player—she had even played MH previously. Plus her parents (who are prominent in the East Coast indie RPG community, and are friends of mine and trust me) were around and explicitly gave their permission for her to play. So it's not really comparable to what you're talking about.
  • edited July 2013
    If you're building off your improv workshops, I would focus on GMless stuff. In most improv games you're all equal contributors rather than having anyone in a GM role.
  • Actually, if they like NuWho, Dr. Who is a GREAT suggestion!
  • Good suggestions with Dr. Who and Monster of the Week (or Buffy with the name filed off). I don't recommend actually using Buffy and telling them it's Buffy; you don't want them to feel like they have to know the source material. I hate to be crotchety "In MY day…" guy, but it's worth pointing out that Buffy went off the air 10 years ago, so most teenagers don't remember it.
  • * an adult running a game for young people that handles sex + other intensity could be tricky.
    IIRC, you're a PhD in Psychology, right? So if anyone can make this work (and knowing you/seeing you play, as you've got an awesome friendly, attitude) it's probably you. But yeah... I'd say no, for all the reasons above. Too much of a minefield emotionally. It's like that thing from Strange Days where you jack into yourself and your brain melts (emotional teenagers with sexual frustration playing emotional teenagers with sexual frustration).

    I too back Dr Who, if they seem into that. Maybe something Anime-rooted, as that has super teen appeal these days... if only the PDF of the new OVA were out now. Maybe use FATE Accelerated Edition to play something Anime-ish?
  • Great suggestions, people!

    Monster of the Week is a great suggestion and it is a lot of fun. I have to find out how big Dr Who is over here (ha, did I mention I'm in Germany, so adding language factors into the mix? I'm so unrealistic sometimes).

    I'm loath to play games I'm totally unfamiliar with, so FATE/Buffy probably a no. That said, I am wondering whether Do: Pilgrims... might be a good fit, and I only just snagged that. Hmm, maybe I'll gloss it this week and see.

    Other thoughts, based on the pdfs I have about, include Psi Run or a Harper minigame like Blackbird, which have sci-fi content that could tend towards the teen-appeal. We'll see what people are game for. Or as EpRichard suggests, go GMless with Archipelago or Fiasco. Hmmm....

    Thanks for the help and kindness!
  • I think a game like TSoY/Solar System works really well with a teenage crowd, since it handles both tropes (or kid-like adventure) and adult themes equally well, and makes it easy to coordinate GM and player motivations (through Keys).
  • I agree with the others, Monsterhearts may not be a good idea for a young audience. You should try Monster of the Week instead.

    Also, MotW is included in the Bundle of Holding +4, so you can get it alonside other games for a good price.
  • As to the original question, yes, I've run an all-teen game of Monsterhearts. It was awesome. They were more cruel, nasty and bloodthirsty than any adult group I've played with.
    Mind you, all of them were very experienced with high-bleed games, and we don't really have that many qualms about sexual content here in Denmark. We did draw he curtains on the sex scenes, but that was more out of an "I don't need to know the details, my mind is better at filling in than your description could possibly be" thing than out of an aversion to sex.
  • While the idea of playing MH with actual teenagers sounds scary to me (just as much as the idea of playing Bliss Stage with them), it looks like Magicians uses comparable teen-drama as its core dramatic engine in a more subdued way.
    A game I've actually had a good time playing with that same age group is Fables of Camelot, which I like to think of as "Dogs in the Vineyard lite".
  • I've played Monsterhearts with teenagers occasionally. Never with a group of teenagers, but instead with the odd teen sprinkled amidst convention games.

    Some want to dive right into the sex. Others are super anxious about the idea of going there, and might not be good at self-advocating those boundaries (because, like, teenagers are usually still grasping at the edges of that idea).

    If you play with teenagers at the table, my suggestions are: pay close attention to the boundaries they aren't voicing, pay close attention to the boundaries they are voicing, defer to them with questions about what high school is really like, accept their answers and build upon them, give everyone equal spotlight time, be a little gentler with your handling of these younger players, have other adults present.

    With the "have other adults present" sentiment - having worked with youth before, an important rule is to make sure that your actions are transparent and observable. When you're talking about sex with teenagers, this advice is important in terms of both ethics and liability.

    And if you don't feel comfortable playing Monsterhearts with teenagers, don't.
  • Thanks all extra suggestions. I probably won't offer Monsterhearts this time around - I think I'll stick with Psi Run / Monster of the Week - but thank you Joe and others for suggestions on considerations on teenage players, as this may come up at a later date.
  • Actually Psi-Run is really good because of the way that the players choose the level of content. Great choice!
  • I've played with teens. Its dosen't have to be weird talking about sex with teens. Just talk about the veil and y'know...don't be a creep.
  • In fact Ross MC'd Monsterhearts for my (older)teen, as kind of her first storygame ever.
    She had an amazing time and loved it so much she refused to play anything else the rest of the time we were at Fabricated Realities.

    Joe's advice seems really solid, unsurprisingly.
  • I think doing it at Fabricated Realities is REALLY different than doing it at camp, due to differing parental expectations.
  • Sure, sure, it is a different context. Also my daughter was a smidge older than the camp's range.

    I just thought to chime in with my own related anecdote: Providing opinions from the parent and teenager sides about Monsterhearts for teens in general.
  • I think doing it at Fabricated Realities is REALLY different than doing it at camp, due to differing parental expectations.
    Oh yeah, I forgot to weigh in about the summer camp: I wouldn't run it at a summer camp for teens aged 12-15. I might consider it at a camp for 15-18 year-olds, provided it was related to the camp's mandate and the promotional materials were really clear about included content.

  • The games is focused on the life of teenagers,so why would you not want to play it with teenagers?
  • edited July 2015
    Because you are not one. People can have a hard time separating the diegetic and the non-diegetic - especially parents of teenagers, especially when sex is the topic.

    And because Bleed (and Transference) are real phenomena.

    I'm not saying I wouldn't play a game with teenagers; but I think of this particular game in this particular setting as an exercise for advanced facilitators.

  • I've played Gamma Patrol (a Pocket Danger Patrol playset) twice with slightly older teens (17-18) in an English as a foreign language situation. Rules are short and simple (and free), and the color text is easy enough to translate into simple English on the spot. Students really enjoyed it both times. They pushed the pulp tone in to campy territory, and had a great time with the material. They often added lot's of extra danger dice to enhance the drama/story. I was actually surprised by that. The pocket version of GP/DP can be played GM-less, but if the students/campers don't know the genre tropes well, it might need a GM (or not) to move things alone and keep track of the game.
  • Story-games are great for EFL situations. They give the students a wonderful opportunity to practice their second language skills in a creative setting. The students were surprisingly creative with both the narrative and their language use. I would highly recommend it for any language class of intermediate or advanced students.
  • But I wouldn't play a game with students (even adult students) like Monster Hearts, or any game where potentially heavy, serious, or personal psycho-social issues are a regularly occurring or expected part of the characters or the setting.
  • Since I can't seem to edit my own posts, these are the corrections I would make:
    They often added lot's of extra danger dice to enhance the campiness of the drama/story. I was actually surprised by that. The pocket version of GP/DP can be played GM-less, but if the students/campers don't know the genre tropes well, or especially if their language skills are weak, it might need a GM (or not) to move things along and keep track of the game, and model genre specific language.
    They give the students a wonderful opportunity to practice their second language skills in a meaningfully creative setting. And meaningful language use is the best way to learn language.
    But I wouldn't play any game with students (even adult students) where potentially heavy, serious, or deeply personal psycho-social issues are a regularly occurring or expected part of the characters or the setting.
    I wouldn't single Monster Hearts out here. There's a number of story-games where tragic things happen, people die, go insane, or suffer in other ways; that I wouldn't play with students. When the players have expectations about where the game will take them, and there are safe-guards in place, etc. these can be interesting games; but they're not really appropriate for language class (and perhaps not appropriate for summer camp either).
  • By the way, some people (here in Germany) gave feedback that playing "Buffy" with Monster of the Week system didn't work out very well due to system/playbooks.
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