Monsterhearts 2

We played a four session campaign of Monsterhearts 2 in February-March 2024. We’ve played Monsterhearts quite a bit, but never with this specific group.

Monsterhearts 2 cover close-up. It depicts three monstrous, insecure teenagers under a blood red moon in black, white, and red.
Monsterhearts 2

How we did it

I had picked four players, which I feel works best for the game. It gives some room for characters to find their way, without having to give up screentime. We’ve all played similar games together, if not this one – the closest experience we have had is Thirsty Sword Lesbians.

Players picked reasonably straightforward skins: vampire, infernal, ghoul, and fae. Ghoul and fae have the risk that they can become very self-centered. I asked upfront for everyone to consider keeping their moves and schemes within the table (between player characters, not NPCs), when at all possible.

Things that worked

I usually struggle with characters with patrons. They’re difficult to include in the game. I decided in advance to make sure that the infernal’s player feels like their otherworldly patron is present. Being a sex demon type of thing, this was straightforward enough, as it was usually clear when the demon would come in play. I did, however, struggle with the demon using all of its strings, which it slowly gathered on everyone. In retrospect, I should’ve thought about the patron’s motivation more, and what it would want to do with strings it gathers.

Using NPCs comes with the usual potential issues: you don’t want them to hog the attention. What I did was basically keep them in reserve, only nudging at them when the players needed something else to interact with, or as a reaction to a failed roll. This worked out well. In the end, one NPC got a fair amount of attention towards the end of the game, but their position as a supporting actor was never in doubt.

Pacing. Monsterhearts needs space to breathe, if you’re intent on making the game intense and intimate. I often let the players linger in scenes, and sometimes, when I was already cutting to the next thing, a player called out that they still wanted a moment. That worked well. Towards the end of the game I started cutting more slowly, asking if it was alright for everyone to move onto the next thing.

Gaze Into The Abyss. Gazing into the abyss has rarely been used in my games. For some reason now it really connected with everyone. I found it a great tool for me as the GM – I could insert story hooks also when I wasn’t getting a reaction to play with due to a missed roll.

We started the game by going through everyone’s special Moves, and discussed how they could be brought into the play. I instructed everyone to try and use each of their tricks once; if they did, that should give us enough scenes with interesting content.

Things we struggled with

Some of the moves. The Fae’s promises mechanic requires a lot of attention to organically come into play. While we discussed them in each game, they were just hard to arrive at. I feel like each player should go out of their way to promise something to the fae for the promises to work.

The Ghoul’s hungers need a lot from scene framing. Ideally, the GM would be up to speed with the hungers in play, and set things up so there’d be temptation to partake. I did not do that, and that left the ghoul in a difficult place.

Pacing. It feels like the game is meant to cut quite a bit, with frequent scene changes. The book talks about the rapid fire pacing of Vampire Diaries as a model. This is at odds with the play requiring room to breathe. As a consequence, the players are missing out on opportunities to play with all of their tools (moves & mechanics). Although I’m happy with how the pacing worked, taking plenty of time to develop scenes and mood, I’m left with an impression that we weren’t doing it right.

Using strings. A lot of time, players amassed strings without using them. I should have a longer discussion on strings and what to do with them before any future games.

Where to go from here

Typically, my MH games burn out fast and furious. Characters end up in non-playable states, and relationships are strained to points of no return. This time, despite featuring axes to the head, and sex between all player characters, we managed to keep things fun and evolving all the way to the end.

The players are to thank for this. They did at least two proper realignments.

At the end of the third game, during our wishes round (out of Stars & Wishes, something I do at the end of all games), a player said that she’d like another player’s vampire character to find a way to not be all out hostile towards her ghoul character. Things had escalated to an axe to the head (jealousy & cheating were to blame). The vampire player thought about this, and came back with a short scene to amend things. It really worked without making either player’s experience any less true.

Then, at the very end of the game, after everyone had just made out with everyone and things were generally just very amicable, the Infernal’s player just looked for a way to stir things to pushing and calling names (dropping conditions), without getting too involved herself (abusing NPCs to do it). It was great, and pushed things to a fitting end note, with relationships again in doubt. We got a final scene of a callback to an earlier episode, with a heretofore unmet (but suspected) vampire screaming and spitting up blood outside an abandoned washroom (central location for the game) window.

We agreed that we could return to these characters in a second season. If we do, we’ll time skip to the next school semester, and start asking questions about the state of things at the end of the first season. What became of the new vampires, Jake & Susie? Did Eve become a herald of Incubus on Earth, leading a church? Did they all hold on to the promise they made to Lucien (the Fae) to never fight again?


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