Welcome to Signal Lakes
“A tiny city immediately south of Miami, Signal Lakes has an economy no worse than any other suburb of a major city and is full of people: some good, some bad, most somewhere in between. It has lots of wetlands, like anywhere else in southern Florida, with marshes and ponds as well as its namesake lakes. The problem with Signal Lakes is that its lakes are a signal. ..a signal to the paranormal.”
Allegedly that Bermuda Triangle they talk about has its western point within the city of Signal Lakes. Nevermind if you take a close look at the map you’ll see why maybe things are a bit more than normal here. Maybe your vampiric soul is weary and you thought you’d settle here. Maybe your pack is a tight-knit family of werewolves that have always lived here. You could be a ghost haunting the local high school. I heard a Demon visited once and sired a beautiful succubus with a local. Of course then there’s my Fae character who was given up to mortal parents who dwelled within Signal Lakes.
No matter what your origin, you’ll find yourself saying…
I WAS A TEENAGE CREATURE
I was thrilled to finally get a one-shot of I WAS A TEENAGE CREATURE or IWATC for short! I learned of it and its successful kickstarter (too late to join unfortunately) during Virtual Horror Con as the creator Josh “Ninjacat” Brining happened to play a Monster Hearts 2 game with Vanessa and I. The premise was familiar – teenage monsters going to highschool – and ran in the vein of recent games I’d been interested to try like Monster Hearts 2 or the serial Monster of the Week. But what captured my immediate attention was the focus on the emotional component of the game, a focus upon narrative storytelling by both the GM and the players. Your emotional state drove your actions, and also helped establish your power.
“In IWATC, it doesn’t matter how strong the werewolf is, or how fast the vampire is, or how beautiful the fae is…what matters is how each of these characters feels, WHY they’re doing something, not just how capable they are of doing it. When the monster of the week invades Signal Lakes High School grasping the Hunter guy’s mom by the throat, of course he attacks it…but why? Out of LOVE for his mother, or RAGE at the monster for threatening her? FEAR he’s about to lose her? Or maybe he’s PROUD to have learned the family business well and proves it by saving her all by himself! The Player tells their character’s Story in this game, choosing why they do the things they do and how they try to do them.”
The why is key.
Of course the art is also rad, see above and throughout the article. I saw the inspiration from Buffy, Angel, Supernatural, Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf, etc. as that had drawn me to Monster of the Week as well. That game was focused upon the powers and abilities with some leading narrative elements, while Monster Hearts 2 has a heavy focus on the hormonal interactions of its characters interests and sexual desires. IWATC considered a broader range of emotions (8 in fact!) with varying supernatural characters, a strong suggested story premise, and a focus on achieving those shows we love using that emotional impact to the story.
Not only have I gotten a taste of the game, but I’ve seen some of the preview document released to Kickstarter backers! Josh delves into TTRPG elements important to new players like what is roleplaying, urban fantasy, how to create and run a narrative focused campaign, as well as the typical GMing guidance of set up, adjudicating tough calls, and weaving character plots together.
Before I get into the amazing character creation options and process, I’ll note there are wise comments and notes about considering the players at your table and what they’re comfortable with. Some of the elements could be potential triggers for real issues and concerns. The Succubus creature type in particular calls attention to the sexual themes that could enter the game and ensures – as you make characters as a group – that the table is ready to explore what you intend.
Options like being a Minority in your area or a Foreign individual let you explore that aspect for your character’s story, but it’s not a requirement to take options to determine who you are; they’re a way instead of showing what themes you wish to focus upon with your emotional tale ahead. Race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, country of origin, cultural divides, and more all have considerate advice from Josh as players may or may not choose to make such a struggle for acceptance in their character’s story. A section on “What Are the Players Looking For?” is also explicitly included for GM guidance!
To make a character you start with your Trope and Role. This is very similar to a concept or core idea with a bit more focus on those combination of character archetypes we often see in our favorite shows like Driven Hero or Cocky Athlete. Of course, a player may derive something less stereotypical and that’s good. The key is to craft something that at quick face value tells the GM and other players the general story premise of the character.
Next you start to plan how to spend your 40 Character Points. Many you’ll use when choosing your Creature Type and buying up abilities as some types cost more at base than others, but all have optional abilities (and drawbacks!) you can add. I chose Fae, but there’s also Casters, (Eros)cubus (Succubus or Incubus!), Ghosts, Humans, Kitsune, Hunters, Vampires, Werewolves, and Psychics! And those are just the core types as you might find teases of others in the kickstarter updates as there are already more being planned! Werewolf has a large initial cost of 10 Character Points while Fae only cost me 4. The optional abilities I wanted? Well that’s different…
Before we get all Supernatural though, you plan your more mundane aspects. There are 4 core sub-attributes of Might, Reflex, Insight, and Codex. You’re expected to spend 10 of your points here with clear backstory needs discussed if you start with a 1 or 4 in anything. The sub-attributes might increase based on your Creature type or options chosen, but normal starting is a couple 2’s and a couple 3’s.
From there you choose the Capabilities and Feeling Factors that fit your character. Everything from bookworm to hacker to hottie to tough as well abused, athlete, guilt, and trusting are listed. Again, some have small warnings of potentially real world issues and the need to discuss such with your fellow players. Also, they don’t have their mechanical benefits listed either! Choose what seems appropriate for your character and why, jotting down costs in character points. You may have to adjust some later as your Creature type is crafted, but at least you have a core idea of your character. You’ve the option to spend some points on skills as well, representing additional dice to roll for each point provided your character is doing something related to that skill or could somehow apply that knowledge. Here is another aspect of the game in that if you are able to describe how your character is using that knowledge or talent, then the GM can allow you to roll those extra dice!
Then you read through your Creature type, getting a number of free abilities, maybe a drawback or two. For my Fae I got to choose some natural affinity for charm or trickery, where I chose diplomacy. You choose an affinity for some natural element (light in my case) and perhaps a type of Fae you are or are descended from. Whatever that affinity you’ve a base talent with it; I could sense light sources and see in the dark! One of the pregens is Holly the Fae and she’s a Banshee representing Death!
Next you choose optional abilities. Of course for every 2 points of abilities you choose, you must select a point of drawback, which gives you a slight refund. It adds depth to the character as they are tempered by the Creature type’s various weaknesses or common behaviors like say obligations to the Seelie or Unseelie Courts? Maybe both! (Yeah, I do enjoy complex situations for characters). Every Creature type has at least 10 or so optional abilities and how you describe them is up to you! The story is yours for crafting. In fact, you finish ability choices by crafting up your own Special move with a few suggestions given for ideas for each Creature type. You get to make it your own with all the roleplaying implications and imagined spectacle you desire. My Fae ultimately had two affinities: plants and light. For his special I created “Foxfire Fun Guy” based on the phosphorescent fungus of the same name. Prepare to be dazzled and dazed or at least enjoy the killer warehouse paint rave he’s at.
Emotions & A Narrative Focus
Now remember how I said your Emotions really figure into this game? Well there’s four emotional ranges: love to rage, happy to sad, passion to fear, and proud to shame. Did I mention that each Creatures type has an affinity to a specific emotion? No? Well they do! Your starting Emotional State (or base state at the start of a session) is based on not only your Creature Type but also the Feeling Factors you chose at the beginning of the game! The GM works with you on the options based on those choices, and is also encouraged some slight allowance of variation should you have good reason for it. Again, the story is yours for crafting. As an example, Cheerful made you Happy while Insecure might make you Sad or feel Shame.
The main mechanic of the game is when something might have a risk of failure or be a challenge, your character must declare what emotion is fueling their action. Perhaps they are furious that a creature injured their friend and they pln to slug the villain? Well then they are fueled by RAGE! They’d roll a number of ten-sided dice (d10s) based on their MIGHT for the strength action and perhaps a die or two if they’re trained in a skill like fisticuffs, wrestling, or karate. The target number on that d10 is less than their current rage score. Thus if on the LOVE to RAGE range they have a 8 (i.e. very high RAGE) they’d get a success at a 7 or below. If instead they were trying to cheer someone up immediately thereafter, they’d have to roll LOVE above the score on the range and thus would need to get a 9 or 10 because they’re still so angry! You get LOVE (rating of 1) or full of RAGE (rating of 10) and it’s technically impossible to pass a roll of the opposite emotion. Sometimes, you just get overcome or are blissfully unaware…
Of course, there’s some other mechanics like Angst points (I mean come on, angsty teenagers here) and Emotional Quirks that helps define special emotional drives of your character, but you’ll have to check out the game to learn more!
With my character in hand – and a rather nifty character sheet to play with – I settled in for an amazing evening of gaming with Josh as a GM and a couple others, both playing werewolves. One had more experience than the other, who was new not only to the game but tabletop roleplaying in general. Let me tell you, she was amazing! It was great to see her want to explore what her character was like and what she could do based on what she’d crafted. The character creation system really helps put the picture of your character in mind and empathize with what they are going through. She exemplified this as our characters met for coffee to talk about the latest gruesome killings around the lakes!
Well it turned out the killings were supernatural in origin, but I won’t give away the plot details. It’s possible you might find yourself in this plot one day, especially if you play IWATC during Gen Con Online’s one shots! I sure plan to! I will say I enjoyed exploring the Lakes with my fellow players and seeing how our Capabilities and Feeling Factors figured into how we approached Non Player Characters (NPCs) to talk with or even ultimately fight. Considering what emotion was driving your actions was important and made for story-shaping descriptions. Alas Travis was rather Trusting and eager to be friendly with those he met, whereas the two werewolves – what with their excellent hearing – were rather bemused, but thankfully backed up my social character!
The game lends itself so well to roleplaying under the guidance of the character creation and the excellent setting provided by the core game. Of course you might decide to be college aged characters, live in another town, or blend various ideas like a school for supernatural creatures much like the show Legacies. At core the Emotional quotient drove our actions and even let us explore the story while we used our various skills and abilities. I sure loved being able to run through bushes and brambles unimpeded or sense how someone was using a Glamour, bending the light…
It was an amazingly fun evening, and I’m so thankful to have gotten to play a game of I WAS A TEENAGE CREATURE. I must admit I love my Foxfire Fun Guy Travis and sure hope to play him again! Josh “Ninjacat” Brining has already crafted a number of one shot stories and numerous pre-generated characters in the preview game and additional materials, that while they aren’t generally available for sale yet the game’s backers are already eagerly digging through the preview. You can learn more by checking out the IWATC site, the kickstarter page (follow for updates), and this gameplay example! And again, watch for those Gen Con Online events to be posted up for exciting games like IWATC!
I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!
About Investing In
I wasn’t quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!
Banner – I WAS A TEENAGE CREATURE cover, Jeanette Kegel