We got to play Blood and Water last night. No, I had never heard of this game either! It’s an urban fantasy RPG developed by James Mullen and inspired by Being Human, currently in play testing phase. It’s certainly reminiscent of Monsterhearts, but has less PvP and is more concerned with the mundane day to day life. Plus, you get to create your own monster!
The game starts with a questionnaire that’s cleverly crafted to provide many story hooks for the GM. It’s an improv game, so that provides all the material the GM needs to hit the ground running. Novice players sometimes have a hard time thinking of character plots that they will find fun to play, so this questionnaire is a good way of nudging them into the right direction.
You can create any type of monster as long as you are able to pass relatively well in normal society (where the drama will be) and as long as your change into a monster was painful and traumatic. This isn’t all too strict. One of our players was a warlock, for instance. And a very strange looking character might just possess charms to pass for normal. You get to decide weaknesses and strengths for your characters in the most general terms. I think one character had the strength Harbinger of the Apocalypse.
I particularly liked the “What do I have that I don’t want, and what’s stopping me from getting rid of it?” and the “What do I want and what’s stopping me from getting it?” pair of questions. I’ll be re-using those in the future, even outside of B&W.
Charlotte the Changeling
We played the game with Elina and Nick at Elina’s place in Brussels. I was slightly embarrassed at showing up in Elina’s classy European District penthouse in my most threadbare clothes. It inspired me to make a chaotic fae law intern who, ever since ‘the change’, had the most terrible time at meeting high society’s expectations.
Charlotte had it all: a prestigious internship, a down payment on a beautiful penthouse, an engagement to one of the handsomest and richest bachelors in the city, and plans for two children and a glorious law career. Then the change happened at the very worst time: the night before her wedding. She left her husband to be at the altar, and things have been going steadily downhill ever since.
Her weaknesses were No Impulse Control, Can’t Tell a Lie and Attracts Chaos. Her strengths Glamour, Fairy Grace and Fairy Contract: promises to you are binding.
She was trying to get a good job but had trouble getting a job that wasn’t beneath her standards. She was trying to get rid of her engagement to mister perfect. Due to her fairy contract power, his engagement promise was unbreakable!
Our other three characters (also described here by Nick) tied into a coherent story quite easily: One was a Warlock drug-cooker with a broken/missing heart, the second a reluctant Angel who had his transformation on meth and who was destined to be the Harbinger of the Apocalypse, the third a half infernal who had tried to save her child with an infernal pact, but it died from other reasons anyway. Her new hope was now to adopt a child.
This left me unrelated to the big story, which isn’t a big deal. In fact, in nearly all of my Monsterhearts one-off’s I’ve failed to bring every PC together. There’s just too many places to go and to see, and everyone is chasing their own ambition. In Blood and Water this dynamic is actually nicely mitigated by the fact that you are all roommates. The action keeps going back to the house which then serves as a touch base where characters can get up to speed, argue, and get acquainted. What with the floorplan of the house you all make together, it almost becomes an additional character. Very cool!
My character tried in vain to get a good job and keep her expensive apartment from being repossessed while still sleeping with the fiance she was trying to dump. Eventually she did manage to dump him right after a passionate night of ‘crazy fae sex’. She said “It’s not you, it’s me, you’ve changed!” and he told her to just get her shit together and throw her scummy friends out of their apartment. She said “Well, they are my friends and if they are scum than so am I”.
The next day she got a call that she was denied for the job whose interview she aced. When she rushed in to that office to get feedback, the secretary told her it was “on account of associating with SCUM”. She was so mad (and had so little impulse control) that she punched the woman in the face and yelled “WHO’S SCUM NOW?!” (I was quite proud of having reached that level of irrationality).
There was a larger story of the coming apocalypse, demons and the meth army of god. But forget about all that, I got to punch a job interviewer in the face! Awesome wish fulfillment there. Playing a character with no impulse control is great, you can just do the first thing that pops into your mind.
The game has a neat mechanic where you pick which friend rolls the dice for your skill check. If the roll fails, your friend receives the trouble that ensues *and* you can decide that another friend should give it an additional try. Only after all your friends have rolled and failed can you roll for yourself. When your friends have had enough of you making trouble for them can they break off the friendship with you. It’s pretty neat! We actually let most of our failed rolls go, until things got really heated.
What a fun game! It’s right up my alley, I love the supernatural abilities mixed with the very mundane concerns. The focus on drama and interaction is really sweet, and I love that it’s more friendly than Monsterhearts. People are still fuckups, but they’re fuckups with friends instead of having love always come at a price.
I can’t wait to run it. Happily, Nick gave me his copy of the game so I can! I just finished another Urban Fantasy campaign so I’ll wait a bit, but I’m looking forward to it.