Saturday, February 24, 2018

Playing Nice in Monsterhearts

There are a few things I know about my game playing preferences, but one is that I don't have a lot of energy for negativity and meanness.

Description: JD from Scrubs "[thinking] at that very moment, I fear I had divulged too much."
This is something that can be challenged by Monsterhearts. For the uninitiated, Monsterhearts is a Powered by the Apocalypse game about teenage monsters. It's riddled with sex and darkness, and almost everyone I know loves it.

I enjoy the game, despite some of my quibbles, but I often hit a roadblock when a strain of negative energy slides in. I have absolutely been a contributor or creator of this, and it's actually something I really dislike about myself. The first time I played Monsterhearts I found it kind of exhilarating, and I pushed myself too far - I ended up using an X-card on myself. I have played some nasty characters in the game, and I'm honestly not proud of it.

I have even made two Monsterhearts Skins - the Medusa and the Rusalka - and the Rusalka is definitely toxic. But it's said as much, clearly, and not about meanness. The Medusa is really about concepts of purity, honestly, so not very much so. Still, when I played the Rusalka, they were a passionate and intense person who just wanted to love people - not hurt them, not on purpose. And that was a play choice, obviously.

Sometimes people are okay with playing dark characters, mean characters, what have you - but I don't. Hell, I feel guilty if I even play a snarky one. I do it, but I feel gross afterwards a lot of the time. I don't like playing villains, and almost all of my characters drift towards niceness these days. I think it's because I've been hurt a lot, and because the world is so brutal, but I move away from catty, sarcastic jerks these days.

Example: I really didn't like Jessica Jones much. Description: Jessica Jones looking pissed with the text #bitch the fuck you just said to me.
It has gotten to the point that sometimes reading other people's actual-plays of Monsterhearts because there's so much abuse. Like, there's actual abuse sometimes, but there's also various types of trauma, there's cheating, and just a meanness, in so many people's play. I know not all Monsterhearts is like this, but I just have the bad luck of seeing some of the bad stuff.

And no, most of the time I won't bring this up during the game, or possibly even after. I don't like ruining people's fun and I have been shut down before about how "that's how teenagers are" so I dodge.
Description: Cardi B saying "I'm being nice to you. Have I stabbed you? No."

What this means is that I don't enjoy engaging with Monsterhearts much of the time, which sucks, because it was a formative game for me. All of this is going to the point that: Playing nice in Monsterhearts makes it a better game for me.

Right now, I'm playing a wonderful game of Monsterhearts 2 with Kit la Touche, Dillon Conlan (my partner), and Eric Duncan set in the fictional Alder Creek, which we've subtitled Our Sweet Boys. We're all playing men or masc centered characters, and we're all like... weirdly polite. The characters are Tucker Ulrey (Werewolf), Silas Schowalter (Ghoul), and Nix (Hollow).

Their backgrounds are a little wonky, but we've discovered in play that aside from Silas generally being cranky - he's dead, after all - we all tend towards like, just decency and politeness. Nix is kind of pre-programmed that way but models a lot of his behaviors off of Tucker, who is just a sweet darn puppy. Tucker is respectful and polite, though a little hesitant and gullible at times.

Description: a pug with a bandanna sitting awkwardly, with the word "heck" in small, lowercase black text.
It's funny because in spite of this, we still have drama. There's drama from the NPCs, who are not always nice, but are nicer because we are nice. There's still challenge and spoopy stuff happening, but we've found that the theme of the game - as Kit said - is less "what's going to happen next?" and more "what are we going to do about it?"

It's still a game with teeth, but we're not (always) the ones biting.

I think that it's renewed some of my interest in Monsterhearts, and while I could write For Ever about my thoughts on the subject, the biggest thing I've come away with is that I think we're technically playing the game wrong.

A lot about Monsterhearts in the text comes down to how there will be hurt and there will be trauma and yet, I feel like we're weirdly building an environment where when that does happen, we're playing characters that might be able to work through it. Yeah, I figure there's gonna be violence and etc., but we might end up growing up and being better because of it - not more damaged. We're like... good-ish, or something? With good intentions? And wanting to be nice sometimes?

Description: Sam Winchester from Supernatural hugging someone and saying "Too precious for this world."
Basically, I like the idea of having to encounter bad things in a situation where I'm not also a problematic bundle of jerk. Monsterhearts, in my experience, can bring out bad stuff in me. This specific session feels different, and I had a weird thought while discussing it with the other players and Kit.

Kit and I have recently spent a fair amount of time playing my shapershifter game Turn, and the first non-D&D game Dillon has played was Turn. The vibe in Turn is so massively different that I know it's definitely realigned my preference for play. I go quieter, I feel more happy when I'm playing someone who doesn't just want to hurt people, and I feel happier when I have at least one other player I feel love with. I think it says something interesting that the only one of us to approach snarkiness really is Eric, who hasn't played Turn.

I just wonder sometimes how much playing one game can change our perspective. I know that, at the start of my time playing, Monsterhearts changed mine. I'm wondering now - has Turn changed it, too?

No matter what it might be, I'm glad. The sessions we've had so far in Alder Creek have had a sweetness, a more caring environment, and I'm more invested in a Monsterhearts game than I've ever been.

Description: Jensen Ackles giving two thumbs up.

P.S. - I've found I enjoy Monsterhearts far more when I play with Script Change over the X-card. Changes the tone, I guess. It's nice!

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