12 October, 2012

Book Layouts - 2 : Monsterhearts

For the next book layout, I'll examine one of the most recent games in my library...

160 pages
Page 1 – Preamble
Page 2 – Credits
Page 3 – Contents
Pages 4 to 6 – Introduction, designer’s notes and requirements for play
Page 7 – Chapter one splash page
Pages 8 to 15 – Character creation
Page 16 – Chapter two splash page
Pages 17 to 19 – Basics of play (Framing Scenes, Roleplaying, Rolling Dice)
Pages 20 to 24 – Basic moves (“skills” anyone can use)
Page 25 to 44 – Development of characters
Page 45 – Chapter three splash page
Pages 46 to 47 – General list of character types
Pages 48 to 99 – Specific character type details
Page 100 – Chapter four splash page
Pages 101 to 127 – Guide notes for the GM
Page 128 – Chapter five splash page
Pages 129 to 137 – How to set up the story
Page 138 – Chapter six splash page
Pages 139 to 144 – Developing the threats in the character’s lives
Page 145 – Chapter seven splash page
Pages 146 to 149 – Ways to modify the game
Pages 150 to 155 – Long example of play
Page 156 – Media inspirations
Page 157 – Final example
Pages 158 to 160 – Index

Total page count – 160
Table of Contents – Yes
Index – Yes
Steps to create a character – Eight pages of basic rules (with ), then a separate section for character types.
The way skills work – One page generally, but each “move” works differently and each character type gains access to different moves, so in total each player needs the five basic pages of moves and another four (or so) pages.
The way combat works – Two pages in the section of character development (pages 30-11).
World setting – Nothing. This is developed by the players or drawn from a popular culture reference. Maybe 20 or so pages describing how to develop a world for the stories to take place in
What do the characters do? – Many aspects of the game revolve around the character’s lives. There is nothing really directing the characters toward a specific agenda, this is developed through the evolving story rather than the written rules.  
What do the players do? – Four pages (the introductory description about the game and the three pages of the basics of play), and the tight linking of game mechanisms with the story throughout the moves and the character descriptions.
What does the GM do? – Forty-two pages describing how to generally run the game, and another four describing ways to adapt the game.

Monsterhearts is one of the new generation of “story games”, it’s still a tool kit for telling stories, but unlike traditional RPGs, it tells a specific type of story and hones it’s rules toward telling that type of story.  It doesn’t try to simulate realistic combat (the combat rules are only a single page), because the stories it tells are more about adolescent angst and feeling like an outsider.

A high proportion of the rules in Monsterhearts directly push characters toward conflict with one another (or with the other characters portrayed by the GM), these conflicts may be resolved by discussion, accepting sacrifices or engaging in “moves” that might be available to a character.

Creating characters in this game is a straightforward process; it gives a few key methods for characters to manipulate their stories, and a few specific ways that characters have their stories interlinked with the stories of other characters involved.

With so many rules focused on a specific type of story revolving around adolescent intrigue, Monsterhearts seems very focused. I don’t know whether it can be diverted to tell other stories, but in the “story game” genre this doesn’t seem to matter. As long as it tells the stories it was designed to, and as long as it tells these stories well, then it’s successful.  
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