Actual Play – Hashtag St. Willy (3/13/2015)

monsterheartsMC: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Jennifer B. Warner, Avi Warner, Erin Sara DiPeso, and Duane O’Brien
System: Monsterhearts

This was a long week.

I had some crazy work trying to organize support for Big Bad Con, as well as a home for Big Bad Con, plus all the prep for and running Skull and Shackles character creation, plus just a lot of work work.

So when Karen asked if I was ready to MC Monsterhearts on Thursday evening, I was like “umm…sure, that should be good.” We rounded up skins and player reference sheets on Friday morning, got some index cards, sharpies, pencils, the Story Games Name Book, and a couple d6. Good. To. Go. Er close enough.

Such awesome players

Because I was pretty low energy, and I think as well because I was sitting on a couch and lower than most of the players, they really took charge in forming this dark, confusing, impulsive little world. I contributed, even curated at times asking questions like what would bring the kids together, but they gave our Frankenstein creation life!

Small Minnesota town of St. Wallace

Named after St. Wallace, the patron saint of loose women, this sleepy little town beside a lake doesn’t seem much activity for most of the year. Come winter solstice however, people flock in droves to celebrate St. Willy’s Day. The same folks like the Death Guild that build a Thunderdome every year at Burning Man come to the frozen lake at St. Wallace to put up exhibits, eat the locals out of house and home, or sell their home grown wares.

To capitalize on the tourist activity as well as the general growth of the town an outside Dana Rogers has moved in, bought an abandoned church, tore down all but the facade and built up a buffet style restaurant called The Royal Fork. Dana does quite well for himself and brought more business to the town with him.

In a town that only has state run liquor stores, that hates the debacle St. Wallace’s day has become, and is general religiously conservative, progress like The Royal Fork, however is considered a threat. A group of parents, concerned for their children’s morality formed the People Unified for Religious Equality (P.U.R.E), which wants anything but. PURE parents are fighting both the expansion of the town, and the debauchery associated with St. Willy’s day, but they are fighting an uphill battle against not only the outsiders but also their children.

There is a small Unitarian Universalist church in the town and pastor Jonas leads youth group there. Many of the kids who feel like they have to practice some kind of organized religion go there because it is the least dogmatic option in town. It’s the minimum passing grade of churches from the PURE perspective. Jonas lives way out in the woods, about an hour away from town.

Our Teenage Monsters

Orville, the Ghost (Avi) is meek with pained eyes. He’s lived here since the time of St. Wallace but was driven out of town by his Cousin, who suspected him of having an affair with his cousin’s fiancee. Orville ran off in the woods and died of hypothermia. Every winter he comes back, the same meek boy, reminded of all his suffering. Every year he relives his death on St. Wallace’s Day. Orville stays in a cabin outside Jonas and Hanna Larsson’s house, at least when he exists. Jonas is the youth group pastor and has let Orville stay there without asking too many questions.

Sora, the Cuckoo (Erin Sara) is a foster kid taken in by Jeanette and Oscar. He’s got a job working at the Royal Fork and keeps a pretty positive outlook on life. He’s got tempting eyes, always suggesting some kind of potential mischief. As far as the others are concerned Sora has his shit together pretty well.

Thaddius, the Angel (Jen) fell from heaven because he defied his creator. He loved a woman who’s soul was in hell and to punish him for it the creator raised the woman up to heaven and then unmade her. She was not dead, she was gone. Thaddius defied his lord and was cast down to heaven to repent. Thadius is reborn over and over to fulfill his trial, and every time he fails. He refuses to bend his will, refuses to stay chaste, and so, again, and again, he is punished. Thadius was Orville’s cousin many generations ago, and stays in St. Wallace, bound to him and the town. This time around Thaddius was born as an IVF miracle for Pauline and Lulu, who had been trying to conceive for years. They are his little miracle!

Nixon Clay, the Hollow (Duane) was made from snow and a wish from a boy.  Bobby Neilson created him, gave him life, and then fell through the ice in the lake an drowned, leaving Nixon alone and unaware of what or who he was. Nixon has been taken in by pastor Jonas and joined the youth group. He lives with the Larssons and his rageful dreams are calmed somewhat by the presence of Orville, who feeds on his sadness.

Georgia, the Ghoul (Karen) had a eating disorder and two parents who loved her too much. They didn’t kill her, they just made her feel ostracized by passive aggressively picking her apart. One night Gerogia went to a part and, as she as many times, was ignored. She got drunk and choked to death on her own puke. When she woke in the morning she felt much better. For the last three months since then she’s had to fight to keep any weight on. She eats and she eats but she’s never sated and she keeps loosing weight. Her parents Pete and Ima think it’s wonderful, but now of course worry she’s taking pills, or has become bulimic. So they pester her about that now. Her parents are fervent members of P.U.R.E.


Sora has stolen clothing for Georgia. Just broke into her house and took her clothes, and a cross she work on a chain.

Orville doesn’t know it but Thaddius was his cousin that drove him to death because of his jealousy.

Georgia reminds Thaddius of what love is. He’s always been kind to her, even before she changed. Secretly he’s always loved her.

Nixon is picking up his social cues from Sora, who seems to have it together. Sora got him a job at the Royal Fork. He does lot of outdoor stuff like taking out the trash and carrying in deliveries. The cold doesn’t seem to bother him at all.

The Lord loves Sora more than Thadius, and a bitter rivalry has ensued!

Sora has clothes he borrowed from Orville. A pea coat, shirt, and trousers, so Sora could attending things that Orville wasn’t feeling up to.

Orville sneaks into Nixon’s bedroom (he always leaves the window open) and feeds on the sadness of his dreams, calming his fitful sleep.

Nixon watched Georgia die, just like he watched Bobby die… and did nothing.

Thaddius knows Nixon hasn’t been around, knows his made up story is a like, knows he’s hiding who he really is.

Georgia reminds Thaddius of Heaven. Yeah.

Waiting for Youth Group to start

Sora was there first, early, waiting outside the church which was still locked as the pastor hadn’t shown up yet. Parked on the street was Georgia, who’s parents didn’t want to let her out of the car until Jonas showed up. They were worried she would catch a cold.

Thaddius showed up on time and some verbal sparring ensued. “Nice jacket, same one you always wear.” “It’s okay to wear the same clothes if they are yours.” You’re privileged. You’re a thief. Neh!

“Isn’t that your boyfriend Georgia?” Her mother asked. “Looks like he’s arguing with that other boy.” Her father added.

“What, who? Sora, pshhhh. No!” she scoffed. “Oh, Thaddius…No. He’s not my boyfriend.” She blushed.

The continued to pester, telling her what they think she should do and then as soon as she was considering it backing down and telling her the didn’t want to tell her how to live her life. Parents! Amiright?

Driving into town

In the back of the Church’s big passenger van Nixon was nodding off, and the screaming was about to start. Orville just new it. His eyes widened as he tried to take it in, but he was distracted by Jonas trying to make small talk with him, apparently oblivious to Nixon’s ensuing night terrors, and spending a lot of time futzing with the radio to get a station that would come in clear.  “So, Orville, what do you think youth group should do for St. Willy’s day this year?”

Orville entranced by Nixon’s sadness, looked into the abyss and said something.

“A nature hike into the forest [where Orville died so many years ago]? That sounds great!” [Orville failed that roll].  You think the others will be up for that too? Startled by his own answer, or Jonas’ response to his answer that he didn’t remember giving, he shook Nixon awake and put him on the spot. “What do you think Nixon?” Jonas followed suit and as the arrived in town the attention was no on the bleary eyed Nixon.

Feeling a bit traumatized himself,  Nixon didn’t have any answers either… but Jonus kept asking. “Listen guys, this has to be about what you want to do. How you want to give back to the community. It’s not about me.” He looked at Nixon in the rear view mirror and saw young Nixon’s soulless eyes smoldering.

“Leave me alone Jonus. Stop asking me what other people want. Why don’t you ask them?” Jonus was startled he pulled into the intersection without looking away from the rear view mirror…and straight into the path of an oncoming semi.


Everyone heard it. A lot happened. Here’ some of it.

Orville was thrown the from van and remembered his own death. He made Nixon and the truck driver remember it too, projecting blame on both of them.

Nixon looked to Thadius for advice, who just told him to remain calm. Calmness got him in a fight with the truck driver, who he injured badly, and locked up in the back of a police car, watching his father figure die in front of him.

Sora held on to Georgia. Held her close and whiserpered for her to stay with him. When she recognized that he was wearing her cross they started to make out.

Thaddius wanted to save Jonas. He looked into his heart and into the van. He determined that if he could get him to a hospital soon, he could save his life. He managed to pull open the passenger door and drag Jonas, bleeding from the van. When he looked for help from Georgia though she was smacking lips with Sora. He reached out to her, bathed in the blood of Jonas and asked for help.

For Georgia, after being heated up by making out with Sora, Thaddius was like a hot dude holding a big mac. She came to him…and feasted on Jonas! When her parents asked her “What have you done?” She cried crocodile tears, and with blood smeared all over her face, ran to them for solace.

Cut scene!

What rocked

As I said before, I really loved how much energy everyone else at the table had. We had so much collaboration and world building together. We actually spent so long doing it that we only had about an hour to play. But I had all kinds of questions I wanted answers to by the time we started. Yay.

Blanketing the world in darkness felt really human in this game. Parents antagonizing their children with concern, social status dividing people, and a tragic loss caused by a stupid accident. Dumb, stupid pain.

When rolls were missed, the hard move to make always felt really natural, the flowed great from the fiction. When Nixon failed to manipulate Jonus, the burning gaze worked, but worked too well and they got in an accident. When Thaddius tried to woo Georgia over to help Jonas and failed, she came to him but her hunger took over. I just loved it.

Everyone wanted to play again! That is like the best compliment an MC can ever get. I am so happy about that.

What could have improved

There was a time when Jen wanted to know how to save Jonas and was looking for an Angelic solution and I didn’t really have a move for it, so we just narrated what she knew. I realized now I totally should have had her Gaze into the Abyss. Of course heaven is the Abyss!

Questions I’m pondering now…

  •  What does Thaddius think of Georgia now? What will happen when they are together next?
  • Orville saw Gerogia kill Jonas. What will he do with that knowledge?
  • What happens when Sora abuses one of his outfits?
  • Does Nixon blame Thaddius for Jonas dying? If so, what will he do?
  • Will P.U.R.E. use this tragedy to cancel St. Wallace’s Day?
  • What was up with Jonas. He was such a nice guy but he lived way out in the boonies. Why? What about his wife Hanna, what will she do with Nixon and Orville now?

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