Monday, October 20, 2014

Monsterhearts: End of Season Two

The second "story" in games I run always tends to be shorter than the first. Partly, that's because much of the first story is taken up with establishing the characters and laying the groundwork for further stories, but some of it is because I'm still, even after a good solid decade of gaming in Cleveland with some solid folks, paranoid that I'll get a repeat of shit that happened in Atlanta and people will suddenly decide that no, they don't like my games (or me personally) and don't want to play anymore. One of the hardest moments in my life was when a player told me (months after I could have done anything about) that coming to the weekly Mage game was a chore and he hadn't had any fun for the last few weeks or months.

(That player turned out to have some deep-seated issues, and is now a Tea Party blogger and therefore is of suspect outlooks anyway, but still, it stung.)

I say that because this story in Monsterhearts lasted four sessions. The first one lasted eight. I rather suspect that the third season is going to have some scheduling hiccups, but it's also only a monthly game, so I'm hopeful that we'll muddle through without losing players. I hope that's what happens; I really like this game.

With all of that out of the way: Here's the finale of the second season of Monsterhearts: Perdido.

Last time, the characters found out their titles, Briar asked Rook to the dance, Cassi got stabbed (by Briar!), good times. This time, we pick up the morning of the Sadie Hawkins dance. It's been a few days, people have healed up from their least physically. Rook is angry with Cassi for abandoning the group after she found her One True Love with Austin, the looming specter of death remains a constant niggle, and Genesis increasingly wonders what she has in common with these people.

As school begins, Dora goes to her sanctum and gazes into the abyss, looking for a way to control the Winter-Heart. She fails, and just feels a sensation of looking up into a snowstorm at night - endless black and cold. In home room, Dora approaches Skylar and asks if he could steal the Winter-Heart from Rook (who carries it around in an insulated bag in his backpack. Skylar agrees.

Cassi, meanwhile, talks with Briar and Austin about plans for tonight; Rook is cold and distant from Cassi. She gazes into the abyss to see if Rook is OK. She fails, so I give her the choice: She can see what's coming, but she'll be powerless to change it. She agrees, and sees Rook at the dance, the whole place covered in ice. Rook forgives Cassi, but he is immediately impaled by a falling icicle.

Homeroom ends, and Skylar gives Rook a String to be able to steal the Heart. Skylar sneaks off and texts Dora, but has second thoughts about giving it up to her (particularly after Dora's texts, which talk about controlling the Heart). Skylar gazes into the abyss to learn if giving the Heart to Dora is wise, and sees Dora covered in ice, facing off against a sword-wielding Rook. Skylar decides this isn't a great idea, steals a teacher's keys and tries to head for the parking lot. Dora uses the watching hex to find Skylar, and pursues her. Skylar tries to run away, but fails, and drops the Heart. Dora picks it up, and heads back into school.

Dora finds Julia (one of her coven) and they go to the sanctum. Skylar watches, and texts Briar for help (but doesn't say with what). Dora attempts a binding hex on the Heart, which succeeds, but we unexpected side effects - the Heart melts over the fire.

Briar arrives and manipulates the nurse to get in to see Dora. Dora is there, but her eyes have gone completely white and she is cold to the touch. The nurse notices, but Briar covers ("Wow, those contacts look amazing!") and they head out into the hall. Dora is unconcerned - she's had weird effects from magic before. This will fade. Skylar isn't so sure.

Rook, meanwhile, realizes the Heart is missing and gazes into the abyss to find out what happened. He sees Dora as a wooden doll with a hollow in her chest, and Skylar putting the Heart into it. They wind up in Chemistry class next period, and Rook confronts her about the theft and her melting the Heart - Rook feels that he had it under control. Dora shuts him down (and he loses a String on her).

Next period, Cassi talks with Julia and manipulates an NPC into getting information out of her. She tells Cassi what happened with the Heart, and Cassi informs Austin and the others. Genesis skips class and goes to the pool to relax. She gazes into the abyss, but fails, and so I put her together with Rook (Rook was trying to leave school, but got rerouted by a security guard and wound up at the pool; Cassi follows him).

Rook and Cassi talk, and Cassi calls Rook on his secretive would-be martyrdom. She leaves, and Genesis surfaces, and effectively says the same thing; Rook might think he had it under control, but he wasn't sharing what he knew, if anything, and that made everyone uncomfortable and edgy.

Briar, meanwhile, gazes into the abyss to ask what to do about Dora. She fails, and sees Dora slipping into magic and becoming the enemy (which, for Briar, is a big deal). Cassi, leaving the pool, looks at her reflection in the window and gazes into the abyss to see what Rook knows, and sees him at the dance, dressed in a tuxedo made of ice, eyes mirrored.

Programming class, just before lunch, sees Austin talking with Cassi. She expresses concern, because Rook won't talk to her. Austin gets up and talks to Rook, saying that he knows that Cassi tends to be, well, focused, and that if you were her favorite you might not be when she changes again. Rook acknowledges this, and turns Austin on, not in a sexual way, but just to say that he's a good guy (and takes a String on him).

Skylar, meanwhile, wonders if there's anything about this Winter-Heart thing that he can find online, and recruits Cassi and Austin to help him go to the books (which he picked up from Briar using mimicry). The roll fails, though, and Ms. Blaise, the Programming teacher, sees them not working and gives Austin and Skylar detention.

Everyone goes to lunch. Genesis and Skylar decide to go to the dance together. Dora sits with her Mexican friends, rather than the other characters. Rook talks with her again, and she repeats that she has this under control. Rook says that that's what he used to say, and it didn't seem to be the case - maybe she really doesn't know what she's doing? Lunch ends, and as the students filter out, I spent a String on Dora to trigger her Darkest Self.

After school, Genesis, Rook, and Cassi go to see the Proprietor at the thrift shop. He sells Genesis a dress, but isn't able to tell them much about the Heart - they've gone off the rails since Dora melted it. But then again, the story always goes off the rails; that's how this works. They ask if anyone's ever come through this before, and he says one of their teachers, with a "name like fire," has. Genesis figures it out - Ms. Blaise.

Skylar and Austin are in detention with her. Cassi texts them, and Skylar asks her. Turns out Ms. Blaise, when she was a student here, had an encounter with the Heart that left a boat burning and her and her friends swimming to shore...except the one who'd found the Heart. He went down with the ship. Not especially heartened by this, the characters went to prep, and eventually arrived at the dance.

Cassi works the punch table, trying to keep busy. Rook dances with Briar, and Briar tries to convince him that maybe there will be a tomorrow, maybe this story doesn't have to end badly. Rook just shakes his head.

Austin dances with Briar ("Titanium"), and they laugh together and talk about the absurdity of all this. Cassi, at the punch bowl, and notices this happening. Cassi finally gets out from behind said table, and dances with a Spanish version of "Let It Go" starts out. Dora and her friends have arrived.

She walks up to Skylar and attempts to use the illusions hex, but fails, and it starts to snow indoors. Genesis, realizing something is wrong, tries to hug Dora. She lashes out physically to push her away, and fails; Miguel grabs Genesis and pulls her back, inflicting Harm. Dora, continuing on with her Darkest Self, fires off a wither hex at Cassi, but Briar takes the blow and collapses. Cassi gazes into the abyss to try and see how to stop Dora, but sees an icy plain, and Dora alone on it, in command of the winter.

Rook confronts Dora, and demands that she return the Winter-Heart. Dora responds with a wither hex, and Rook shuts her down. They each put a Condition on each other (Dora gets surrendered, Rook gets guilty), but the hex freezes the ceiling, and the ice shards fall, impaling Rook. Skylar attempts to take the blow (again using mimicry) but fails. Rook collapses, dying.

Cassi runs to Rook, trying to do something to save him. Rook gives her the silver key around his neck, and smiles at her. Dora collapses, weeping, free of her Darkest Self. Austin runs to Briar and wakes her with a kiss. Cassi sees this, but is too overwhelmed to process it.

Flash forward to Rook's service. Everyone recounts Rook and his confidence, his passion, and his quirks. Genesis tries to speak, but can't, and as she walks away it starts to rain. The characters drift off to face the remainder of their junior year...

...and from behind a headstone steps a man who looks like Rook, but with mirrored eyes. He looks down at his hands as though seeing how they fit, and smiles.