I wrote this review of the indie RPG Monsterhearts last year for The Mental Attic, so it’s about time I reblogged it here! We’ve actually since moved this game to an adapted version of FAE (Fate Accelerated Edition), and I’m hoping to do a review/recap on how that’s been working for us at some point as well. Enjoy!
Monsterhearts is an indie Role Playing Game, published by Apocalypse World and created by Avery Mcdaldno (formerly Joe), about the “messy lives of teenage monsters,” in which characters take the roles of supernatural teens in the high school settings, along the lines of TV shows such as Buffy or the Vampire Diaries. If you’ve ever wanted to game in the young adult paranormal romance genre, there’s no better system for diving head-first into it than this one.
More than once I’ve been asked what advice I have for people who want to design games, and everytime my first piece of advice is make sure everything in the game supports the story/experience.
I have usually just said “story”, but not every game’s main thrust is the story–hence, story/experience. What does that mean? Even if your game is open world exploration or a MOBA fighting game (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) or an FPS, and not an adventure game (as is my wont), there’s still a specific experience you want players to have. A mood, a frame of mind, a social interaction, or whatever else. I would add that I believe most people unconsciously add their own story to games that don’t lay out a specific one (ask me sometime about the narrative I’ve decided to paint when my husband plays World of Tanks!), but even if they don’t add their own, there is still the experience.
That’s what it means in theory. In practice? It means don’t add anything to your game that doesn’t support the story you’re telling. Don’t do it because when you do, you waste your time (and money and resources) and you waste the player’s time on something that is superfluous, unimportant, and may even remove them from the gameplay experience. This is why you should never add a puzzle for the sake of a puzzle. Only add a puzzle if it reinforces a point about the characters, the world, or the plot. If it’s there just to kill time, then that is all you’ve done. Killed time. And with the modern game audience, that’s all it takes for them to move on to the next thing.
My favorite examples of these are, of course, from adventure games. In that community, it gets called “moon logic” a lot, or puzzles where your true goal is to “figure out what the designer was thinking.” At the peak of this in my book are three puzzles from King’s Quest V: cheese in the machine, pie at the yeti, and emeralds in honey.
Pictured (closest to furthest): TR Napper, me, Kary English, Steve Pantazis, Zach Chapman, Daniel J Davis
This past week I have been in LA at the Writers of the Future Workshop. I have heard from a dozen different luminaries in the fields of Scifi/Fantasy all about a wide range of topics. Each and every one of them provided deep and useful advice for furthering my career and the careers of my fellow winners. While I couldn’t possibly recap what I learned entirely, I can provide you with some highlights. Note that most of these statements are paraphrased from my notes, so they aren’t direct quotes. Enjoy!
Every idea for a science fiction or fantasy short story sounds stupid when you explain it to someone. Learn to embrace the stupid. The trick is how to make the stupid idea work.
Let us finally consider how naïve it is altogether to say: “Man ought to be such and such!” Reality shows us an enchanting wealth of types, the abundance of a lavish play and change of forms – and some wretched loafer of a moralist comments: “No! Man ought to be different.” He even knows what man should be like, this wretched bigot and prig: he paints himself on the wall and comments, “Ecce homo!” But even when the moralist addresses himself only to the single human being and says to him, “You ought to be such and such!” he does not cease to make himself ridiculous.”
I’ve been running role playing games for my friends for about 22 years or so at this point. I have created and run over a dozen campaigns and innumerable one-shot adventures. I’ve played RPGs with rank newbies and grizzled veterans and everybody in-between. I’ve lost count of the number of game-systems knocking around in my head (and, indeed, as any of my long-time players can attest, I sometimes get them all tangled up together.). What I lay out here are the strictures by which I try to run what I consider to be a good game. They may work for you or not; all I’m expressing is my experience. I might also add that I don’t always live up to these commandments myself, as much as I try. When they all work, though, something golden is bound to happen.
This book was fantastic. Rich and unique descriptions, complicated and unique characters, an intriguing and unique plot — noticing a pattern here?
The description on the backcover of this book is wonderfully vague. It only barely hints at what’s inside and it’s great, because I went through this book free of bookcover spoilers or expectations and with no idea what was coming, which made it all the better when it happened. In fact, I’m even going to hide the last sentence of it under a cut, and pretty much everything behind the cut will be, well:
So, if you haven’t read this book and you like YA fantasy, read it. Karou is a fantastic, complex, flawed character and the people in her life are fleshed-out and real. Also, it made me really want to visit Prague again and see it with new eyes! It’s such a gorgeous, old world city. Likewise, this book is just beautiful to read and enjoy, and I am eagerly awaiting the upcoming release of the sequel, Days of Blood of Starlight.
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. Continue reading “Recently Read: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor”→
What’s Your Number? suffers from a stupid title, some awful trailers, and release timing that forced it to live in the shadow of a much worse movie that people keep saying is great. Here’s the twist, it’s actually a good movie with relatable characters, some adorable moments, better realism, and a plot that doesn’t require its character to become deplorable assholes or mind-numbing idiots in the process.
Now, it’s not changing the world of rom-coms or winning any awards. But it’s a lot better than the trailers and title imply. It has some good comedy, a decent plot progression and resolution, and Anna Faris is really great comedienne, which is one thing that even the reviews that pan this movie acknowledge. Chris Evans as her co-star is adorable and enjoyable as well. And while I think this movie stands up on its own, it’s impossible to not compare it to Bridesmaids for a few reasons: the aforementioned timing of its release, everyone else does, and they do legitimately have similar plotlines. So here’s my breakdown on why I think WYN is not only a good movie, but why it’s better than Bridesmaids by a long shot. Some spoilers may happen, but let’s be honest, you all know how this movie ends already. Continue reading “What’s Your Number Is a Pretty Good Movie”→
It’s been a sparse summer for posting, but a decent one for reading! So here’s a shot at a new series of posts on books I’ve recently read and my thoughts on them. I’ll try to stay away from spoilers, but it’s possible a few small ones may slip in, so be forewarned! Doing these is somewhat inspired by a blog I recently found called Young Adult Fiction and Whiskey Sours. Being a fan of both of those things, it was no surprise that I found the blog enjoyable, too! Check it out if you’re also a fan.
Summer of 2012 has been a YA fantasy-heavy summer for me. I blew threw the three novels in the Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins. The first book, of the same title, starts us of meeting Sophie Mercer, a sixteen-year-old witch being shipped off to boarding school for supernaturals (or Prodigium, as they call it) who have trouble staying under the radar. On an island off the coast of Georgia, snarky Sophie’s journey starts off feeling very been there, done that. Young magically-inclined kid goes off to magic school and hijinx ensue, hmm, I’ve heard this one before… but, thankfully, it gets better. Continue reading “Recently Read: The Hex Hall Series by Rachel Hawkins”→
I’ve blogged a lot about Kickstarter, from the Kickstarter we ran at Phoenix Online for Cognition, to my submission for a Kickstarter panel at PAX East, to the incredible ride that was the Double Fine Kickstarter, the one that changed everything. I’ve overall found Kickstarter to be a fantastic thing, a great way for independent, creative projects to get their start, to get support, to make things happen for people & groups who otherwise might not be able to pursue these projects.
As mentioned in my previous post, I’m going to have a very busy summer. Also, there are apparently 621 people following my blog — holy crap! I know some of you are friends of mine whom I know quite well, but I’m quite curious as to who else is following and reading my stuff.
I’d love to hear from anyone following the blog, so feel free to post a comment and say hi, let me know what you like about the blog, and what you would like to see more of!
UPDATE: I’ve been informed that WordPress is a little tricky about this, and folds all of your Facebook friends into your number of followers when you link the accounts. Still, that leaves about 140+ followers who came here of their own accord and hit follow, so I’d be happy to hear from you folks! (Or any of the Facebook friends as well…I’m nonetheless curious who’s actually coming by and reading.)
Thanks for reading! Enjoy this picture of a corgi!