I'm planning on running a game of Monsterhearts in the near future, but currently only have a copy of the first edition. Is it worth me 'upgrading' to the newer edition? What are the differences between the two?


1 Answer 1


Monsterhearts came out in the early days of Apocalypse World, while people were still feeling the system out. It had been about five years when Monsterhearts 2 dropped, at about the same time as Apocalypse World 2 dropped, and for about the same reasons - a game which had been tested with a smaller playgroup had been released to the world at large and gone through a longer and less formal period of testing.

I don't believe any significant new YA supernatural stuff came out into the popular consciousness, not to the extent that Fury Road did for Apocalypse World, but at the same time there was arguably a larger canon of teenage monsters in love to explore in the first place.

So let's annotate this list of major changes, regrouped for clarity, but here's your basic takeaway:

To a great extent, Monsterhearts 2 is a revised version of Monsterhearts, that addresses common problems people had when playing Monsterhearts.

The Agenda is now player-facing.

The Agenda is a common feature of most Apocalypse World derivatives, being the basic principles the MC operates by. Or I suppose, more properly stated, the basic principles anyone with a large amount of power to shape the world operates by.

In Monsterhearts, to a large extent, your world is other people, and every player has a great amount of power to shape it. Not MC large but quite significant. So it's important for everyone to, for instance, be truthful to each other about their intentions (even as their characters lie through their teeth) and keep a loose hold on the story so anyone can pull it the way that makes sense to them.

Basic moves, including Turn Someone On and Shut Someone Down, have been redesigned to lead more compellingly back into the fiction.

Manipulate an NPC has been removed.

Pulling Strings is now an elegant & straightforward move, rather than two bulky lists that applied in different situations.

The String economy now runs better, basically. Turn/Shut are your basic moves to get and shed Strings. Turn often results in a reaction now, as opposed to when you just got a String on a clean hit. Shut often results in getting a Condition back. Overall those moves get more interesting.

Manipulate an NPC gets folded into Pulling Strings, which is overall much shorter and punchier. So it doesn't stand out as an important basic thing you can do, but as an ancillary function of Strings. Strings are also a much shorter and easier-to-understand list of options, rather than twice as many for both players and NPCs.

Conditions are now exclusively social in nature, and any reference to things like "drained" is gone. Advice on how to handle conditions is more thorough.

Monsters can be quite differently physically resilient compared to one another, but awkward teens are equally awkward. Conditions are social so imposing them is always some kind of disadvantage.

The MC's Principles and Reactions have been refined and reconfigured.

Villains have been streamlined considerably and the advice/mentality around incorporating them has shifted.

MC advice has been added about convention play and how to channel enthusiasm between sessions.

These are all related to Monsterhearts as it kept being played and separated from Apocalypse World. A lot of the MC principles were just cribbed from Apocalypse World to start with, which included the idea of maintaining notable threats external to the players. But that hasn't turned out to be as important to playing good games of Monsterhearts.

Rules and advice on asexuality have been added.

A four-page guest-authored section on race and racism has been added to the text, thanks to Ciel Sainte-Marie, Jeeyon Shim, and James Mendez Hodes.

Sections on texting and violence have been added as well.

So yeah, here's the thing about the apocalypse: nobody's been in it. (If you have, we hope you're enjoying the memes, and thank you for not spoiling the surprise.) But pretty much everyone's been a teenager in high school. So while you can definitely explore uncomfortable situations in Apocalypse World and get unexpectedly personal, it's a lot easier to stumble into personally-applicable pain points a lot faster when you're just trying to play a teenager.

The more advice you can get in front of people about how to handle these uncomfortable topics, the better.

Small Towns have been added to the game, featuring a diverse group of writers including anna anthropy, Kieron Gillen, and Ciel Sainte-Marie.

Small Towns are prebuilt scenarios, similar to Dungeon Starters from Dungeon World, that help running one-shots or introducing the game without needing to sit down and hash out your own complexities.

And, you know, to mine for your own inspiration.

The Hollow has been added to the core book, while The Chosen has been nudged out (though is still available on the website, along with The Serpentine).

Right, this one can be summed up as "Buffy out, Frankenstein in", but explaining it is a guess on my part.

So, like, monster movies, the ones that stay with you, work on multiple levels. Level 1 is the story as she's presented, about humans confronting a monster. Level 2 is the story below the story, where the monster represents some aspect of the human condition and the humans are confronting that.

YA fiction works the same way, except it's teens.

So, you might see what I'm getting at: for all that the idea of Buffy easily has a place in any given story about teenage monsters in love, Buffy doesn't really have much to say about the teenage condition. Buffy stays on level 1 - and knocks it out of the park, but even so.

Frankenstein, on the other hand, is easily recognizable as the poorly socialized kid who is, only now, in high school, realizing they need to assemble a meaningful social interaction toolbox, trying to pick up cues from all the people around them who are trying to weaponize the contents of theirs. Yikes.

(Also it's Frankenstein. I'm pretty sure it's some kind of law that if you have a game about playing monsters you have to let somebody be Frankenstein.)


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