• Monsterhearts: Queerness and the Supernatural Teen Romance Genre

    by  • April 14, 2012 • Reviews • 20 Comments

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or, I don’t know, you aren’t involved in the indie game community), you’ve heard about this shiny new game called Monsterhearts.  For the rock-dwellers, I’ll briefly say that Monsterhearts is an Apocalypse World1 hack for supernatural teen romance written by Joe Mcdaldno.  Think Buffy, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, or Twilight. (I prefer to think of Buffy, and never, ever, ever think of Twilight for any reason.  But that’s your call.)

    Fairly early in the Monsterhearts game text, in a section called Queer Content Joe says:

    This isn’t really a game about monsters. It’s a game about
    the confusion that arises when your body and your social
    world start changing without your permission.
    Your story will be more interesting and real if it includes
    queer content.
    . . .
    Use the game to explore and challenge your own ideas
    about gender, sexuality, relationships, what’s normal and
    what’s monstrous.

    Now, ever since I discovered Buffy, I have adored supernatural teen romance, as a genre (and I keep being disappointed by everything else I see in the genre, but that’s another matter), and I knew Apocalypse World was good, so I was already very excited about Monsterhearts.  But on my first read-through of my advanced PDF copy of the game, when I got to this section I was immediately completely sold on the game.

    Back in ancient times (on an internet timescale, that is), Vincent Baker wrote a blog post about “three insights” required in designing a game.  Vincent says:

    When you design a game, you’re taking three different positions, expressing three different insights, putting forth three different opinions. Saying three different things. First, you’re saying something about the subject matter or genre of your game: something you think about adventure fiction, or swords & sorcery, or transhumanist sf, or whatever.

    And that’s what this is.  Queer content is Joe McDaldno’s completely fucking brilliant insight into the supernatural teen romance genre. I didn’t really know it before I read that section of Monsterhearts, but good supernatural teen romance needs queer content.  It doesn’t always have it (even my very favorite show ever, Buffy doesn’t have all that much), but that’s a flaw.2

    There are a lot of different possible meanings for the term queer, so it is worthwhile to discuss exactly what it means here. The text from Monsterhearts quoted above makes it clear that Joe intends it as an inclusive over-arching term for all sexual identities which are not strictly heterosexual and monogamous, and all gender identites which are not cisgender. I am using sexual identity in perhaps a non-standard way, as an umbrella term which includes all identities which revolve around sexual and romantic attraction, such as sexual orientations (gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, pansexual, etc.), monogamous vs. polyamorous identities, asexual identities, etc.  I use gender identity in the established sense, to refer to identities such a male, female, or genderqueer.  Joe clearly intends to include transgender as well as genderqueer and other gender identities under the term “queer.” By adopting Joe’s terminology, I do not mean to imply that transgender people are something other than strictly male or female.  I am using Joe’s terminology for simplicity, even though I am not sure it is entirely accurate.

    Joe’s point about “your body changing … without your permission” when you are a teenager clearly points to gender identity issues, and the summary text at the end mentions both sexual and gender identity issues.  However, most of the examples are about sexual orientation or identity, and this is no accident.

    The main mechanism by which Monsterhearts encourages queer content (other than simply advising players to include it) is the turn someone on move.3  This  move gives PCs mechanical advantages when they successfully turn another character on.  The stated goal of this move is to get PCs to question their sexual identities, and my play experience suggests that it succeeds there.

    However, this mechanic does nothing to address queer gender identites, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my (albeit very short, so far) game content has addressed non-hetero sexual identity several times already, but has not (yet) addressed trans or queer gender identities.

    The question remains whether Monsterhearts provides a good environment to explore issues of (and stories about) gender and sexual identity.  My answer is an emphatic yes, and the game even encourages players to explore sexual identity even if they did not come to the table consciously intending to explore it.  However, while exploration of queer and trans gender identities fits perfectly into Monsterhearts from a thematic sense, and in my opinion leaving this content out is a big mistake, conscious effort is required to include it.

    As might be clear by now, I really enjoy Monsterhearts and my experience has been that the turn someone on move works extraordinarily well at supporting a goal I think is very important.  However, I wonder whether being the target of this move might be problematic for some women.  As gamers, we are often encouraged to think of our characters as our own, and Monsterhearts especially encourages strongly identifying with your character,4 and as women, we are often expected to mold our own sexuality, sexual responses, and sexual identity to fit the whims of society and of our partners.  In that context, perhaps being the target of a successful turn someone on attempt could feel somewhat nonconsensual.  My thoughts here are not all that well-formed (though I know for sure it’s not an issue for me personal), so I would love to hear what other women have to say in the comments section.

    1. Apocalypse World is the latest and greatest from rockstar indie game designer Vincent Baker.
    2. For the most part Buffy focuses on other sorts of themes, to do with power and responsibility and that sort of thing, and, paraphrased from the commentary on the first season DVDs (yes, I have listened to all the commentaries, more than once, why do you ask?), how high school is hell.  However, it could have used a lot more explicitly queer content! I do, of course, understand that expecting that on network television at the time Buffy was airing would have been completely unrealistic.
    3. Move is the term for all the mechanics-based actions players (including the MC–the GM-like role) take in Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts.
    4. What I have in mind here is where Joe mentions a character’s thoughts and emotions “bleeding into the player’s own experience.”


    I am a player of indie tabletop RPGs, boardgames, and videogames. I am a programmer and an ex-computational linguistics researcher. I am a pro-sex feminist, and in general an advocate for social justice. I am a mother of a young daughter. I am a generally creative person; I draw, knit, sew, and occasionally try to write. I have lived most my life in the US, but I now live in Germany. You can contact me via my Google profile.

    20 Responses to Monsterhearts: Queerness and the Supernatural Teen Romance Genre

    1. avatar
      April 14, 2012 at 17:32

      We’ve talked about this already but I’ll offer it up for the world…

      Never having seen the game and only going on what I’ve heard you say, I agree, there’s a disconnect between Joe’s stated interest in exploring gender and his mechanical support for it. This isn’t really a problem, just maybe a little disappointing.

      The problem I see relates to what you say in your last paragraph, and that’s the idea that the best way to encourage queer content in a game is to give them ability to make people hot for them. As you say, there’s a sense of non-consensuality around it, which plays into the “sexual predator” trope favored by homophobes and transphobes everywhere. But in a sense, that’s not Joe’s fault either, he’s just emulating the genre well. That’s one of the reasons I’ve never been so eager to embrace supernatural drama or romance as a metaphor for my own existence; it’s easy to relate to Mitchell’s isolation and loneliness in Being Human, but then he goes on a sex bender and kills a few girls, or destroys a whole bus full of people and I remember that he’s an actual monster, whereas my detractors just like to think that I’m one.

      That said, there is one supernatural trope that’s always resonated with me, and with quite a few other trans women as well: werewolves. The idea that your body is not your own, that it can change and do things without your permission, that there is this savage part of you that needs to be suppressed and even then isolates you from humanity…that’s a monstrosity that hits close to home. Not surprisingly, it’s an idea I’ve worked with creatively my whole life. Maybe I should write a trans themed game about werewolves.

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        Darla Magdalene Shockley
        April 16, 2012 at 21:33

        The idea that your body is not your own, that it can change and do things without your permission

        I am not sure whether he achieves it, but I am very sure that this is a thing that Joe really, really wants to be a main (or maybe even the main) theme of Monsterhearts. It’s in that part I quoted from the book (“change without your permission”), but that’s not the only place he says that, it’s really throughout the book. I do feel like there could be cleverer ways of making it happen in play, but at any rate, that’s what he wants.

        However, my impression is that he views being trans* as very similar to just being a teenager and being confused at the crazy hormones and the weird shit your body is doing. I don’t know whether that’s accurate. (Also, this is extrapolation on my part, not something he says explicitly, I don’t think.)

        • avatar
          April 16, 2012 at 23:04

          No, unfortunately being trans* isn’t exactly like being a teenager.

          It’s hard to say what a cis teen normally feels about their body, because I was never one. And from what I can tell, feelings of weirdness are more pronounced with cis girls than with cis boys a lot of times. But it’s hard for me to imagine it compares with the horror of becoming something you know you’re not supposed to be.

          Then there’s this whole other thing…the social and cultural aspect of it. Everyone – all of your friends and classmates and whatnot – are going through this at the same time, and that’s a huge thing…not being alone in this is a big deal, and being lumped into the correct group is a huge advantage both in terms of support and safety. As a trans* person, you find yourself forcibly isolated from the peer group with which you emotionally and cognitively associate, while simultaneously being rounded up into this other group that is frankly, kind of alien and sometimes terrifying. And unless you’re very very good at playing their games, they will notice that you don’t belong with them and exact some sort of punishment. I guess the short version of that would be to say, yeah being a teenager sucks for everyone, but at least y’all got each other, and even if you do feel like a square peg in a round hole, mostly you’re not being pounded on by a hammer to make you fit.

          And, of course, at some point the weirdness must go away for cis people. I can only assume this is true, but from what I can tell, it must, at least for the most part. For trans people, that isn’t true…you continue to live with it until such a time as you’re able to transition to an extent that you’re comfortable*, and that can be very very difficult (even impossible in many instances). I’m personally still years and tens of thousands of dollars away from that point.

          Okay, apologies for being all serious, it’s just hard to really convey how nuanced and intricate trans* identities are with any kind of brevity. It’s not surprising to me that games have difficulty getting close to it, particularly games by cis authors.

          * Or you just stop trying. 42% of all trans* people attempt suicide before they turn 18.

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          • avatar
            April 18, 2012 at 23:06

            “Okay, apologies for being all serious, it’s just hard to really convey how nuanced and intricate trans* identities are with any kind of brevity. It’s not surprising to me that games have difficulty getting close to it, particularly games by cis authors.”

            I totally agree. Writing that whole Queer Content section was really scary and difficult, but especially the parts that addressed trans* themes. I enlisted the support of a queer, trans, gamer friend of mine in co-authoring that section, and even then it felt scary!

            In the end, I felt like I could respond to that fear in two different ways: I could accept that fear and vulnerability (because I felt like it was a positive thing to use my voice to create dialogue around trans identities), or I could retreat from that fear (and omit the content in order to not infringe upon the stories of others). I think both options are fraught with peril. When is it appropriate to pick the former, and when the latter?

            “Never having seen the game and only going on what I’ve heard you say, I agree, there’s a disconnect between Joe’s stated interest in exploring gender and his mechanical support for it.”

            Renee, would you like a copy of the game to peruse? I’d be curious to hear whether your opinion remained as such after reading the game, and perhaps playing it. Lots of the reflections on gender in the game are *actually* reflections on puberty, like the werewolf example that you mentioned upthread. Yeah, I’d be curious to hear your response upon checking out the actual game. My email address is mcdaldno, at gmail.

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          • avatar
            April 19, 2012 at 00:32

            Hey Joe, that’s a very cool offer…thank you.

            Quoting you…
            “When is it appropriate to pick the former, and when the latter?”

            This is such a fundamental question to so much social justice and activism, and I’m not sure there’s a great answer. You’re basically asking “how do I be a good ally?”…and that’s a question that’s caused more hard feelings and broken friendships than I care to recount. We’re all still trying to figure it out and not everyone sees it the same way. I’ll say this, and these are just my personal feelings, I think it’s cool we get to have this conversation, and that I’ve had an opportunity to talk about my feelings and experiences like this, none of which would have happened if you hadn’t written Monsterhearts (and Darla hadn’t chosen to talk about it).

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        • avatar
          April 19, 2012 at 01:39

          Darla (or anyone else who wants to chime in), now that I’ve seen the game, I think maybe the mechanical support for stuff like terrible puberty and variant gender identities comes in through the Darkest Self mechanic. How does that manifest in your actual play of the game, and does it come up often?

          I agree that the text for the game is very compelling and after just reading bits and pieces, I’m extremely interested in giving it a spin.

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    2. avatar
      April 15, 2012 at 10:13

      This game sound really clever. As for it being somewhat non-consensual, I would hope the turn-on mechanism is voluntary and can be ignored by player characters. After all, people can choose to ignore their attractions in real life, even if it has emotional consequences. It might help too if the character can continue to explore their sexuality, even after they’ve been guided in one particular direction.

      As for dealing with gender identities, I agree with Renee that the horror tropes analogous to gender identity can be extremely insensitive. I guess there’s also Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, but of course Mr. Hyde was also a psycho killer like werebeasts. Done properly, they could tell a good story about personal identities. Even better is the old story about some nefarious conspiracy that brainwashes people, who then begin to recover their true identity (think of half the episodes of Twilight Zone or Outer Limits). Of course the conspirators don’t want people to remember who they really are, and will do anything to stop it!

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      • avatar
        April 15, 2012 at 23:07

        I did actually write a little werewolf game a few years back…it was only a few pages long. The gist of it was that the player characters were, in fact, werewolves, but they weren’t in control of their characters during their “wolf” periods…that was the GM’s job, and he was encouraged to be brutal. The idea was to shock the players with the abject horror of who they were and what they were capable of, and then let them spend the rest of the time trying to compensate for that and/or shrug off the yoke of lycanthropy. At the time I was still pre-transition and it wasn’t consciously meant to be about trans experiences, but it’s hard to say I wasn’t influenced by my own body-horror.

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    3. avatar
      April 15, 2012 at 15:14

      This is fascinating. I’ve been thinking similar things.

      I wonder whether the Turn Someone On move stops halfway. The rules say that, when your character gets turned on, “What you are in complete control of…is your reaction to what they do”. Thus, you definitely get turned on, but you can still decide your character is straight or they refrain from sexual activity.

      In other words, you get complete agency. But surely the point, as a teenager, is that you don’t always have complete control. You find, for example, you’re not straight or that you’ve kissed someone you didn’t think you wanted to kiss (and enjoyed it). I wonder if that agency gets in the way.

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      • avatar
        April 15, 2012 at 23:25

        I don’t think so. It reminds me a little of Confessionals from InSpectres, a shared character-building opportunity…a sort of “oh, you didn’t know your character is bisexual? Well then how do you explain how ridiculously hot he is for me?” Like you say, we’re often not in control of our impulses…but we can exert control over what we do with them. God knows I didn’t act on a lot of impulses I had as a teenager (or even well into adulthood), but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there, and I think this mechanic would work well in that regard…it puts the stuff on the table and says, “okay, what do you do with it?” I’m still a little hung up on the predatory aspect of it, but again, that’s in line with the genre and at any rate, I haven’t even seen the game yet…it is an interesting idea though.

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      • avatar
        Darla Magdalene Shockley
        April 16, 2012 at 21:52

        Graham: Yeah, the turn someone on move definitely works like you are saying. I should have made that clear in the post.

        Anyway, in my experience though, women (especially young women) are under a lot of pressure to perform sexuality in very particular ways, and that even extends to placing constraints on how you feel, not just what you do. It’s not really enough that you willingly give a great blowjob, a really sexy woman gives a great blowjob and is super turned on by doing it. And at least in certain circles, young women are also under a lot of pressure to be turned on by other women–a boy who is sort of maybe a little attracted to dudes is way, way less likely to end up as a bisexual man than a girl is to end up as a bisexual woman.

        And the thing is, this conditioning works. Women change how they feel and what turns them on because their partners or society tells them that’s how they should be. (I’m sure men do too, but in a very different way.)

        But don’t get me wrong. My own experience with the turn someone on move is that it is awesome and works out really well. I have only MC’d though, and I was curious to hear if anyone else had a different experience of it.

    4. avatar
      April 16, 2012 at 04:34

      I think MonsterHearts looks like a fantastic game and I’m dying to get a chance to run it. I doubt my group would be up for it though, since I’m basically the only one who thinks that character relationships (romantic or otherwise) make for great fun in RPGs and are great story-drivers. And MW is all about relationships. Messy teenage relationships, too. Maybe I can bring them around to it eventually.

      Now I’ve never been the target of any kind of sexual aggression (thankfully) so perhaps I’m missing something, but I don’t really see the “predatory” or “nonconsensual” potential of the ‘Turn Someone On’ Move that people seem to be having an issue with. The description of the Move explicitly states that “Regardless of the results of the roll, however, each player still gets to decide how their character reacts. Being turned on by someone doesn’t imply or demand a reaction.” The character being turned on still has complete control over their impulses, and doesn’t lose any of their free will. A character who is successfully Turned On by someone their player assumed they wouldn’t be attracted to doesn’t suddenly change their sexual orientation. Nor are they forced to become romantically involved with the character who turned them on. That *is* an option, but it’s the character’s (and player’s) choice if and how they act on that attraction. You have to look at the whole mechanic.

      “When you turn someone one on, roll with hot. On a 10 up, take a String against them. On a 7-9, they choose one: give themselves to you, promise you something they think you want, give you a String against them.”

      Strings represent the emotional hold you have over someone. You can spend them for several different effects, including improving rolls to Manipulate that character, adding extra harm when harming that character, or if they’re a PC, offering them XP to do what you want. They simply quantify the idea that the character feels something for you, and you can use that to your advantage. People are more likely to help out, do something for, or give information to someone that they are attracted to. Even if they don’t want to be attracted to that person. You inhibitions are just a little bit lower than they normally would be. And the fact that the character has to *spend* a String to get those effects (meaning it’s used up) can represent the target kind of coming to their senses, strengthening their resolve, realizing they’re being used, or just kind of falling out of attraction with the character who turned them on.

      I suppose that things could get “predatory” if the player has their character does something overtly aggressive when using Turn Someone On. But you don’t have to do that. Your character doesn’t even have to do anything active to Turn Someone On. The rules state that this is the one Move that can be triggered without a specific action being taken. You, the player, can act like an author and simply describe how your character looks; pouty lips, sweat rolling off their skin, taught muscles, whatever. So it can be a very passive attraction. But, as has been said here, you don’t really have much control over what turns you on; it’s how and if you act on those impulses that you can control.

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      • avatar
        Claudia Cangini
        April 16, 2012 at 19:47

        HyveMynd gave a very thoughtful and complete explanation of how this rule works.

        I’m playing in a MonsterHearts campaign right now and must say we are enjoying this move very much. We are a mixed group (2 men, 3 women) and the game is ripe with sexual tension among the characters (which I think is perfectly suited to the genre fiction). Some of us have been playing together since years (there is even a couple among us) while others are newer acquaintances.

        My impression of this move is that it leaves a partial freedom of choice to the recipient of the move. Let’s make an actual play example: in a scene my Chosen Ariel is talking with the Mortal Sarah. Ariel is worried for Sarah and giving her advice. I successfully Turn on Sarah with the light coming in from the window and lighting the hair around Ariel’s face. Sarah could say that she thinks Ariel is so cool and older and wise or that she’s moved by how much she cares for her or that she’d like to make out with her right now, or anything else Sarah’s player comes up with.

        But it is also true and undeniable that it is someone else deciding what turns you on and I can imagine it can be done in an unpleasant way. Saying “he slaps you in the face, it’s Turn Someon On” could be totally appropriate or totally not in two different games.

        Personally, there are many games I love in which a part of the control over my character is taken out of my hands and given to my fellow players (A Taste for Murder, Montsegur 1244 or the jeep game Doubt are the first coming to mind). I usually appreciate incorporating their input in my vision of the character and find it enriches it.
        Of course I don’t think playing these games with ANYONE would be a good idea. A shared sensitivity is needed, some common ground, common aestethic and mutual respect of each other.
        But when these things are there, accepting the other players input for your character can be an awesome experience and add a great depth to the game. Another player input can be just the thing that leads you to see things in a new light, dare something new and maybe push you a little out of your comfort zone in a good way.

        Finally I’d like to suggest to HyveMynd to find someone to play Monsterhearts with on Google+ Hangouts. This is how we are playing (we all live in cities very far apart all over Italy) and it works great :)

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        • avatar
          Darla Magdalene Shockley
          April 16, 2012 at 22:05

          I guess it’s not against the rules for players like it is for the MC, but I don’t think you’re exactly supposed to say “and it’s Turn Someone On.” But either way, if what you narrated totally doesn’t make sense for the move, then you’re not making the move, period. So I don’t really think that’s a problem, honestly.

          I also really like the idea of collaborative character control, creation, modification, etc. However, there’s some extra context here, in which character ownership, and identifying with your character, is intended to be unusually strong. I think that context may make a difference.

          I second the playing on Google+ Hangouts idea–we do too! It works very well.

          • avatar
            May 19, 2012 at 09:30

            OK I am a Serbian living in Belgrade, Serbia so I do not have a lot of people around me playing tabletop RPGs and I would like to play, but I am a complete RPG newbie so do you have any advice on how to look for RPG groups that would tolerate a complete newbie learning as he plays on Google+?

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            May 25, 2012 at 18:25

            Hi Dmol! Just read your comment and here’s an idea: a group of italians is gathering in a “hangouts players” circle. I go by my name on G+, if you add me, I’ll gladly share the circle with you.

            Up to now we alwasy gamed in italian but many of us would have no problem gaming in english with foreign players, so why not look for a starting campaign there? The threads about this kind of things usually have the #GcG+ hashtags. So you can look up those or start one yourself.

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      • avatar
        Darla Magdalene Shockley
        April 16, 2012 at 22:00

        I suppose I wasn’t clear enough, because it seems as though several people are confused. Anyway, yes, absolutely, if you succeed at turn someone on it means they’re turned on, not that they must take any specific action.

        I used words like “sexuality” and “sexual identity” because I am thinking of things that happen in your mind, not things that you do. (In retrospect, “sexual response” was confusing–I meant it in the sense of “getting turned on” or “getting turned off,” not an action that happens to be sexual like “humping someone,” or whatever.)

        Anyway, I think my response to Graham above is also relevant here.

        • avatar
          April 19, 2012 at 08:20

          “a boy who is sort of maybe a little attracted to dudes is way, way less likely to end up as a bisexual man than a girl is to end up as a bisexual woman”

          I certainly don’t doubt that statement in the least. I’m not a researcher or a psychologist, nor have I done any studies on the matter, but I pretty sure that while in some circles young women are indeed pressured to be attracted to other women, for young men it’s probably the exact opposite; they’re pressured to *not* be attracted to other guys. Perhaps this is why there’s a higher chance for girls to become bisexual women than for boys to become bisexual men. There’s a huge stigma for males about this sort of thing. Girls who’ve experimented with non-hetero relationships are allowed to “just have gone through a phase” where guys aren’t really allowed the luxury of experimentation. Among cis-gendered guys, admitting to that sort of thing automatically labels you as a homosexual and means you’re not masculine. Sometimes it can get so bad that simply complimenting another male on some aspect of their appearance can be seen as being “gay”.

          Note that I’m not speaking from any personal experience here, just my overall impressions.

          Back to Monsterhearts though. While the idea of going through puberty including all the crazy jacked up hormones and irrational feelings that go along with it may not be an accurate representation of what it feels to be trans-gendered, it’s probably the closest real world experience cis-gendered players (of which I am one) will ever have. And I’ve found that, at least for me personally, it’s easier for me to play a character when they and I have some experiences in common. Last year, my group ran a hardboiled game, ala James Ellroy. It was just the GM and two PCs, of which I was one. I chose to play as a closeted homosexual actor, since that is one of the common archetypes for that genre. I found it to be incredibly difficult, as I am not sexually attracted to men. I couldn’t put myself into the headspace of my character, and felt as if I didn’t play him “right”.

          Contrast that with my Vampire character. In the same group of players and with the same GM as the hardboiled game mentioned above, I made a vampire character who turned out to be bi-sexual to everyone’s surprise, including even myself. I had made a “super charisma” vampires and decided that he was going to be exclusively heterosexual before the game. Yet due to certain events in the story, I found myself using my powers to “seduce” a male mortal for information, and then decided to feed from him. Just as I would have with a female mortal. I was pretty surprised when it happened since feeing was essentially the same thing as sex to my character, and the rest of the table gave me some strange looks. Jokes were made (good natured ones but still) and no one believed my protestations of “No, I honestly *didn’t* expect that to happen.” It brought to light a lot of gender role issues. Especially since the player who made the most jokes had his character feed by beating up thugs. Why was it acceptable for a male vampire to violently assault and then feed from a human male, yet be unacceptable for my character to be tender and seduce one?

          Anyway, If I ever get my group to play Monsterhearts (I still have hope), I am stoked that the Turn Someone On Move has no gender restrictions. It’s a shame that MC characters can’t make Moves though, because I know exactly what will happen; my players will only attempt to Turn On MC characters of the “correct” (read opposite) gender. They’ll most likely use Manipulate on NPCs of the “wrong” (read same) gender. Maybe after they see how powerful Strings are they’ll start to come around…

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            April 19, 2012 at 22:40

            “While the idea of going through puberty including all the crazy jacked up hormones and irrational feelings that go along with it may not be an accurate representation of what it feels to be trans-gendered, it’s probably the closest real world experience cis-gendered players (of which I am one) will ever have.”

            That’s probably true. If there were a truly analogous experience, we wouldn’t have as much trouble empathizing as we do. But shared metaphors *can* be a starting place, as long as we remember that the two things aren’t alike, on an order of several magnitudes.

            “Why was it acceptable for a male vampire to violently assault and then feed from a human male, yet be unacceptable for my character to be tender and seduce one?”

            That’s a million dollar question right there.

            “It’s a shame that MC characters can’t make Moves though…”

            Well, between Hard Moves and the custom moves attached to menaces, I’m sure you could make this happen. Not that I’d want to overdo it, but the “take a string” Hard Move seems ripe for this.

            I do hope you get a chance to play it though. I’m quite eager to do so myself, but may have to do some hoop-jumping to make it happen.

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          • avatar
            May 14, 2012 at 17:33

            Part of the “to do it, do it” rule is that when you narrate an action that falls under the auspices of a move, you are making the move. So it’s possible to turn someone on without purposefully setting out to do so. Usually in a situation where I was drawing a move up out of narration, I’d allow a little narrative packpedal. “It sounds like Jimmy might be turning on Hank.” can be followed with, “Umm, yeah, I think he is!” or “Errr, no, I was really going for more of a manipulate here.” I think my favorite part of Apocalypse World are all the oops, I-take-it-back examples of play.

            You can get into some interesting RP around how PCs present themselves and the reactions they get, but it could get squicky. If I thought it might be an issue, I’d make sure stuff around unwanted sexual or romantic attention was part of the lines and veils discussion.

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