Actual Play – Alien coming to town (5/25/2012)

MC: Jackson Tegu
Players: Sean Nittner, Chris Bennett, Karen Twelves, Joe Mcdaldno
System: Monsterhearts

I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to really game at KublaCon. Kids in tow, there is virtually now way to set aside three or four hours to play without them constant interruption. So my brilliant plan was to “pre-game” the con by playing a game at Karen’s house (while the kids were sleeping) before the con. Yay.

Homeroom

Our game was set in the 80’s, somewhere in the Dust Bowl.

Zachariah Goldstein – My Jewish gypsy child who traveled with his family in RV caravans from place to place. He was a Serpentine, commanded his grandmother (Baba Goldstein) to rebuild he powerful connections they used to have. He wanted to be liked at school, wanted to settle down, but still wanted to appease his family’s wishes. The “lived” in the parking lot outside an old abandoned theater.

Enoch – Karen’s Hollow. A demon who inhabited a child named Enoch. The demon had no self-awareness (knowledge of being a demon, or how it got into this boy’s body). It just new it was here now, in a strange and foreign world.

Rufus – A Ghost whose mother walked into the kitchen one morning while he and his father were eating breakfast and shot them both dead. Joe played Rufus as a very proper young man. He liked order, and justice, and rules. After he died, and came back, his family relationship was strained but nobody talked about it. Mom moved out (I think they will site irreconcilable differences in the divorce settlement) and he and his father have been figuring out life (or unlife) without his mom for the last 6 months.

Sean – Chris played a Mortal that was in love with Zachariah. Most people didn’t like Sean, because they suspected or knew that he was gay. Sean liked cars though, he had an eight-seater Oldsmobile and got some street cred for that. It was also convenient that could drive everyone around.  The fact that he played a character with my name was not problematic at all.

Ridley Scott is coming to town

The game started with Zachariah hitting on a girl in homeroom, trying to look important by telling her that Ripley Scott, the director of Alien was coming to see it right here, in our town tonight at the drive in theater.

Zach’s flirtation prompted Sean to pass him a note, but it had to go through several people. Tony Story (real name Tony Wong), the only Chinese kid in school, got it, read it (Sean asking Zach out to go see the movies) and decided to keep it. Sean reacted quickly, walking over to Tony, swiping the note and dropping it on Zach’s desk. He immediately left class (Zach sat right next to the door) and nearly hyperventilated as soon as he got into the hallway. Awkward.

Zach was under some pressure. Suddenly everyone was staring at him. Unwanted attention. To keep his cool, Zach (haven’t still not read the note) handed it back to Tony, who promptly got detention for passing notes. Sheesh!

Lunchtime plans

Sean, Enoch and Rufus sat together during lunch, planning who would go to the movie tonight in Sean’s car. Sean was trying to hook up Rufus with a girl he liked but the plan kept involving her sitting in the front seat with Sean, which was pretty abhorrent to Rufus, who couldn’t figure out how that would end her up in the back seat with him.

Zach showed up, said that he and Abigail needed a ride, which of course upset Sean and we left lunch, all a little uncertain of how or who would be going to see Alien tonight.

Side note: Enoch seemed to sympathize quite a bit with the monster from Alien. “A creature that interjects itself in a human body to live and then rips the body apart when it comes out? Yeah, seems reasonable to me.” (My best paraphrase from memory). Classic.

How easily tendons tear

Enoch had been attempting to, as Hollows do, to find ways of appearing human. In this effort he had tried out sports, band, cheer, anything that looked like it was the thing to do. His most recent endeavor was wrestling. The coach had a favorite wrestler, Marcus, who was gigantic and brutal. Coach was also something of a sadist, and liked to watch Marcus trounce other kids. He did so by being sure he was watching other kids when Marcus had his bouts. It was supposed to be a quick match. Marcus should have easily had Enoch on the mat crying out uncle. And suddenly Enoch remember something about the human body, and how little pressure was needed to tear an arm out of it’s socket when the right leverage was applied.

Marcus was on the ground, choking back a scream while his eyes bulged in their sockets. Enoch had wrenched his arm behind his back, dislocated his shoulder and was just contemplating how little was necessary to rip the arm right out of the socket, when the rest of the wrestling team noticed what was going on tackled Enoch. They pulled him off but he still craved physical pain (specifically to be inflicted on himself).

Tough times with Tony Story

When Enoch walked outside, he saw Tony Story, who was just getting out of detention. We all knew that Tony owned a butterfly knife and Enoch was hoping to see the business end of it. So he started taunting Tony. Telling him secret truths that enraged him. Tony didn’t pull out the knife, he was a little too startled to do that, but he did proceed to beat the crap out of Enoch, who was begging for more.

Zach walked onto the scene and out of context looked pretty much like Tony was beating the hell out of Enoch. He played it cool “Hey Tony, what’s going — oh, what’s this?” (gesturing to Enoch) “You know dude, this is a bad idea. You just got out of detention, I think you should get the hell out of here.” Tony looked around, realized the trouble he could get in and bolted. Woot, resolving a violent situation without threats or violence.

Enoch, meanwhile, had gazed into the abyss to see who Zach really was. I described Zach’s true form, a forked tongue, slit eyes. But Enoch saw more, he saw a long single file line of many generations of Zach’s family, dating all the way back to the Jewish kings of old, and his grandmother hovering over all of them, controlling the family line. “You poor bastard” he said, and then threw up. Yay, a bond, or something like that.

Baba Goldstein’s Trailer

As Zach was picking out clothe to wear to the movie tonight (Zach was very fashion sensitive, he always wanted to look classy, which generally involved wearing huge flared collars, bell bottom jeans and wearing his hair slicked back with gel). His uncle came over from cutting wood for the stove, gave him horrible fashion advice, and told him to see his Baba.

Zach hated seeing his baba. Not because he didn’t love her. She was baba, of course he loved her. But she had these eyes that felt like they could suck you into them. And she always wanted him to do things for the family. Not normal things like taking out the trash or washing dishes, Goldstein things, like taking letters to people that were 8 hours away by car!

“But Baba, they have people to do that now.”

“No” she cut him off “I can’t trust the postal service again, not after how they wronged our family. You must deliver these packages.”

“But how will I get there, I don’t have a car. I don’t have money.”

“You’ll find a way.”

And it donned on Zach, this was another one of those tasks, one with terrible gravity to it, that he didn’t want to do, but if he did, would have the power of his family behind him. “I’ll get someone to take me. I’ll tell them they owe me. They’ll believe me.”

Baba grinned “Good boy.”

“Oh, Baba, how does this vest look?” (It was gold lamé)

“You look very handsome Zachariah.” And he did.

Creepy Creeper

Meanwhile Rufus’ would-be date was at home changing after school. And Rufus, incorporeal and invisible was watching her. Watching her every move. She got a call from Sean “Hey, we’re all going out to see Alien tonight, want to come?” As she agreed and got of the phone, her father startled her (and Rufus) “Who was that?” She explained that it was just a friend that wanted to take her to the movie. And no it wasn’t a boy. Rufus was doing all he could to not be startled himself and suddenly become visible. He did though, he held on…and watched her do everything as she prepared for the movie, specifically putting on her lipstick.

Is this a date?

When Sean picked Zach up to take him to the movie Zach climbed in the front seat and immediately made Sean a proposition. “Hey, after the movie, lets go on a road trip for a couple days. We’ll go south for a while and blow off school.”

For Sean, this was like a dream come true. The proposal itself was a little weird but it would mean two days in a row in the car with Zach, and no bucket seats to get in their way. Sean leapt on Zach (who felt high with power) and started making out with him. The got serious, shoving their hands into each other’s jeans and exploring each other’s bodies. We didn’t go into much detail but decided that counted as sex and triggered sex moves.

For Zach, that meant Sean was now part of the family, and got the condition “Failing Dynasty.”

For Sean, that meant that Zach entered his Darkest Self, which forced him to reject either his human or his serpentine heritage. Sean freaked out, threw the letters out the window, then leapt out of the car to recover them, then kicked the car in anger.

Sean stared into the abyss to try and understand what was happening. He got a cloudy vision and saw his penis turn into a snake and then bite him on the leg. Freaked out by this he ran over Zach (twice actually) and sped off.

Uhh… where’s our ride

When Sean never showed up, people started making calls. Rufus and Enoch decided to get their own ride (and picking up Rufus’ date along the way). Due to the serious guilt Rufus’ father had over his mother killing him, he was pretty easy to pressure into letting Rufus take the care, in which he picked up Enoch and his date and the drove off to the movie… passing by the bleeding and broken body of Zach along the way.

Hey Ridley Scott, sign this

Because Jackson is just that cool a dude, he of course had Ridley Scott actually at the drive in theater signing autographs. Sean cornered the director, unzipped his pants and asked him to sign his snake. We all agreed, Ridley would be just the kind of cool dude to shrug and just sign away. “Cobra Attack”

Thoughts on the game

There was some confusion about the vision of Sean’s “snake” in that Chris didn’t realize Jackson was telling him what he saw as a result of the “troubling and confusion visions”. I’m not sure what Sean would have done if Chris had realized that. It strikes me he might not have run Zach over.

I had a hard time with “Darkest self” because I didn’t know how to abandon either heritage. What I should have done was to see Sean as part of the family (via the sex move) and reject my human connections (as none were around) and tell him “forget about the movie, lets you and I drive off.” I think that would have made for a fun Thelma and Louise ending.

There was a point early on where I was clearly trying to jump too much into the collaborative storytelling mode that is appropriate in a game like fiasco, but not so much in Monsterhearts. I was trying to figure out how my character “kept his cool” (from rolling well on a Cold roll) and described the way he got the attention off of him was by letting the teacher call roll and calling “here”, so that she would move on to someone else and the attention would shift off him. Jackson was very polite and firm in describing that creating opportunities to people to “all be happy” wasn’t in the spirit of Monsterhearts, and didn’t follow the principles that one persons’ happiness came at the cost of another’s. I changed my description to giving the note back to Tony, who then got detention.

I want to figure out a way to check in with a group and/or GM/MC to find out what is the appropriate level of contribution I should be making as a player. I don’t want to be the loudmouth that takes over games or hogs spotlights. I do want to be involved in the creative process. Balancing those is something I’ve got to work on.

I really adore that Jackson implements little bits of our lives into games. I was talking during character creation about a presentation at my work where the presenter was very eloquent but the technical expert who had to answer all of our questions had a very pronounced stutter, and how that effected the meeting. Jackson immediately pulled that into the game and gave our homeroom teacher a fierce stutter. He did that a couple times, bringing little tidbits of our real life stories into the game. Very well done sir.