One heart is an anatomical feature, available for, among other things, the draining of blood, the rough dissection, and the raw consumption by a depraved other person; by contrast, the symbolic repository of hopes, dreams, desires, and self. Concerning both, I direct your attention to the path-in-play of Naomi, arguably the hero of her own story, a perfectly viable and understandable fictional human being … who happens to be unfortunate enough to have been placed, not in a feel-good teen drama, but in our game of Monsterhearts.
Naomi interacted with all the player-characters. She connected emotionally with the ghost Alastor during morning assembly. She humiliated my ghoul Dagny the next morning, arguably isolating herself from Alastor’s general protection of students who capture his interest … which sets her up for Piotr, in the grip of his Darkest Self. Do not go walking in the woods with the hypnotic vampire who draws pictures of you. After that, she … or rather, something of her anyway, continues to be the object of obsessions and Hungers, ultimately – perhaps sacrificially – springboarding the rediscovered if fleeting humanity of both Dagny and Alastor.
Our characters are kind of protagonists. The tropes people call it the Moral Event Horizon, over which Monsterhearts characters pretty much hover and may well disappear beyond. I don’t consider that failed play, but rather context for the tragedy that they might not have, and for the heightened poignance or triumphs or whatever that it generates for other characters, who are quite reasonably considered the protagonists to a third party – perhaps you, viewing this.
Paul Czege worked hard with this concept, prompted (I think) by Sean Demory’s le mon mouri and (I flatter myself) by my Spione. Both of these games stand firmly at the Moral Event Horizon for the characters who occupy most of the players’ attention, with considerable scope for enriching and understanding what appear to be secondary characters, even victims. Paul’s game in design Acts of Evil took this principle as its primary design focus, and although it never met his satisfaction, it’s no small thing and deserves attention – another thing on my list for this site.
This session is both profoundly not nice and profounding uplifting. It’s also where we found ourselves as a play-group, and I urge you to watch the faces, to see us listening, and to understand how we understand what is happening. I would very much like an observer’s thoughts on the moment when Dagny and Alastor try their best to be people, and how Alastor’s player narrated the response, and how we all processed it.