Investing In: MCing Monsterhearts Live for VHC!

A couple weeks ago I got my chance to run not only my first Monster Hearts 2 game but also my first live, streamed game as part of Virtual Horror Con. If you joined us as it was broadcast on Darker Days Radio, thank you! It’s not up on Gehenna Gaming’s (sponsor of VHC) youtube channel yet, but you can view the VOD on Darker Days Radio here.

The Set Up

Now since this was my first time running a game of MH2 let alone live, I wanted to be sure we set things up for the best one shot possible, let alone get the most game time possible out of our event. To do this I reached out to our players to ensure they had the rules, could fill out the GG consent form, and we could set up our Session 0. In this case we were gathering the night before the event and con start!

I used a specific agenda for our session 0. Many of these items are typical for your first Monster Hearts 2 game like the town and character building. Of course, we wanted to give all the players time to really define those characters, feel invested in the town, and the story we were building together. Session 0 is the way to do it!

that agenda:

  • Introductions
  • Explain our base premise and my role
  • Review Veils/Yellow and Lines/Red items from the consent form
  • Review Safety Tools
  • Note skins chosen
  • Build up our town and convention
  • Build up characters identities, moves, and strings
  • Build some NPCs

We decided on a ghoul, a werewolf, a fae, an internal (servant of a dark power), and a ghost would be our characters. We dove into the town, creating Pepperville, Ohio where they grow a curiously capable mild pepper on numerous farms but also have a larger number of conventions. There’s a convention center on the edge of town and it just so happens there was a B-movie convention the night of our one-shot. The school’s so cheap they set up the homecoming dance as part of the social. Pretty lame so you weren’t going to see many adults, save for the few chaperones and administrative members of the con. Oh and the Ghost died here last year. Oh and the ghoul was supposed to die here last night. Seems someone’s poisoning teenagers every year at whatever convention is being held!

It was really exciting to see the details of our golden-retriever-like werewolf, our seemingly ignored but always there ghost, our granted-the-power fae by the lord of all faerie, our game your way to fame and popularity infernal, and the sweet gal turned ghoul build up their history together through the background story and string options presented. I found it useful to take some quick public notes for the players to help remember details we’d discussed, but I took some private notes as well to help add color to the characters’ lives and push the story during our game. This included a few notes about the Fae King who granted our fae their power as well as the Dark Power of our Infernal and what they were truly doing and after with the use of their game, bringing people into their contact. A few NPCs rounded out the character details and background including an ex-girlfriend, Chad who loved to hula-hoop, and both a popular and an unpopular teacher.

And We’re Live

We began with a hello and a special thank you to my producer and player Brian Liberge for handling OBS for me. Yeah, I ran the game live but I didn’t manage the twitch production of it. Baby steps people. I don’t want to run and fall down, though I know everyone would help pick me back up. I actually ran through the same agenda as our Session 0 though only highlighting what we’d done over the 2+ hours the night before. Introductions allowed me to introduce the cast including Elliot Angelina as our Fae, Ashley Rosano as our Internal, Meghan Murphy as our Ghost, and Victoria Vela as our Werewolf. Last but not least was my Gehenna Valley MC and producer extraordinaire Brian as our Ghoul! With an acknowledgement of the value of Session 0, lines/veils, and safety tools I had each player highlight their character and then we discussed Pepperville’s curious existence in Ohio with a brief touch on the NPCs. I wanted to keep our out of character explanation of the game and our set up to under half an hour, and we did!

That got us two and a half hours – with a small ten minute break – to tell our story! In starting I had the character who was already volunteering and present begin with what they were doing. Monsterhearts values improv and encourages you to ask the character what they are doing, how they react. Address the Character! It was important to me to get all the characters in scene and interacting, even with a few NPCs so I had them colliding in the hall, using failed rolls to have them overheard things, and letting annoyed or excited NPCs add drama. We had some established character dynamics based on the background review (and Strings set up that represent influence or power over another) but we quickly saw some flirtatious interest arise. It was especially charming to see the ghoul who’d just died the day before now be able to acknowledge the ghost had been dead this whole time! A very amusing conversation by Brian and Meghan! Meanwhile the flirting between our Fae and Werewolf were escalating, though the Infernal didn’t mind partaking. Flirting is bound to happen in Monsterhearts and our players went for it!

I won’t spoil the story but suffice to say the ghoul and ghost were driving some interesting plot forward considering they wanted to know why the deaths were happening. As different characters grouped up, investigated, or spoke with NPCs I looked for good moments to jump to another group. You don’t want too much time to pass in case actions could impact other characters, let alone you want players feeling they had their chance. But moreso I wanted to drive a sense of anxiety and earnest need with the players to help their characters feel it too! We kept it moving and certainly at the half point break we took, the conflict was rising! I won’t spoil that one either!

Another point I had made was to help prompt for moves and rolls to utilize the mechanics of the system. It helps add to drama as one of the game’s principles is to say what the rules demand, i.e. react and do based on how you roll. Failed rolls would also give me MC reactions to do things, create complications, add harm… I had a few ideas in mind to help introduce complications with teachers or even new NPCs like an antagonist or two! When in combat it’s easy to cause a bit of harm or simply make the situation seem more bleak. I really enjoyed having the Abyss pushed back on the Infernal character. Characters can gaze into the abyss to learn information, but stare too long and it looks back at you! In this case the Dark Power provided a Heads Up Display (HUD) for the Infernal and was encouraging them to get out of a bad situation, despite that they should help the other PCs! It was a tremendous amount of fun to see how the players would play off one another, characters would respond to actions taken, and simply see how the story would evolve. I’ll continue to highly suggest you invest in MonsterHearts and certainly running your own game!

Many thanks again to my players, viewers, friends, and family for supporting me in this first venture as well as Gehenna Gaming for giving me this opportunity!

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!

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!

Sources

Banner – Monster Hearts 2 – VHC2021 Actual Play screenshot, Gehenna Gaming, Darker Days Radio VOD

  1. My DA Cover, Creative Commons attribution, crescentshadows19
  2. Angry pepper, Creative Commons attribution, Apathy4ever
  3. Abstract Heart, Creative Commons attribution, fins-pl

Rob Pontious

Rob Pontious works in web commerce by day and is a writer for KnowDirectionPodcast.com's #InvestingIn, a player for Roll for Combat's #ThreeRingAdventure podcast, and also a player for GehennaGaming's #GehennaValley MonsterHearts2 twitch stream. He's a lover of TTRPGs for over three decades, a gamer, and a GAYMER. You can find him on social media as @silentinfinity.