You are all students at the Sakura Girls’ Academy, a haunted boarding school in the Japanese countryside….
Thus began last night’s one-shot of Monster of the Week for my niece, her two best friends, and my sister. It was an all-girl game, all-fun, and I think I lost my hearing in the upper frequencies (worth it!)
We started with character creation. I had already made their PCs, but they got to pick their clothes (mostly a school uniform, but one of them had special outfits), names, hair and eye color, and general look. In selecting their characters, I left most of them unarmed. Because who has a 9 mm revolver in a boarding school?!? At best, I could have justified a target rifle or a bow and arrow or maybe a kendo sword. But instead, I gave the Professional a knife, the Expert a couple of lesser weapons (a wooden stake and a juju bag for doing magic), and let the Monstrous and Spellslinger use their innate weapons. The Professional and Spellslinger had armour, at least.
The characters they got to create were the boy NPCs from the Tomiko Boys School, across the lake– a school which sends their students to Sakura for the school dance next week! I handed them five cards from the Short Order Heroes deck and told them to make a boy character with whom they have a connection, using two or three of the cards to describe him. I also told them that at least one of the boys has to be someone’s brother, and one of them has to be a childhood friend.
They finished out the character creation with History from the back of the playbooks. By the time we finished all this, we were about ninety minutes in. Trust me, when you give three 13 year old Otakus a premise like “you’re girls at an anime-style boarding school,” be prepared for about 1 minute out of every 3 being spent talking about anime. Just roll with it.
So, our characters were:
Honoka, a Vampire (the Monstrous), with long black hair and red eyes. During character creation, we discovered that Honoka has a lot of boyfriends. Some of them end up dead. It’s not her fault! She drinks blood, things get out of hand…. Her current boyfriend is Hikkaru, an Unnerving and Nimble athlete from Tomiko School who talks very slowly and is just a little creepy. At one point, she had made a play for Isolde’s brother, which had brought the two girls to lose control over their powers and nearly kill each other (we decided this had happened during the pilot episode of the series). She has a crush on Akiko, who reciprocates but is afraid that acting on it will get her killed, so it stays nicely in the “yuri crush” stage.
Akiko, the Class President (the Expert), with black hair and green eyes. Akiko’s older brother Akio is a stormy, heartless emo boy who is friends with Hikaru. Akiko is very smart, very driven, and has access to the “extra classrooms.” She also has a little minion, Ori-chan, a first year student who idolizes her.
Akari, the Exorcist (the Professional), with silver eyes and blonde hair with red highlights. Her childhood friend Akira is a strong, connected boy– he knows everyone and everyone likes him. He has a crush on Akari. Akari is a member of the Kyoto Children’s Crusade, but only uses lethal force against really bad creatures. She is constantly butting heads with members of the Blue Light Consortium, a fanatical rival agency that believes in eradicating all supernaturals, including magical girls like Isolde.
Isolde, the Magical Girl (the Spell-Slinger), with blue eyes and silver hair. Isolde is an exchange student from France. She has mastery over ice magic, and has a whole transformation sequence in which her school uniform transmutes into a magical outfit (that even gives her armor). Isolde is very protective of her twin brother, Tristan, who is a spectacular and loyal boy. Isolde (played by my sister) is rather rude, arrogant, and always gets everyone’s names wrong (Honoka became Hannukah, Akari was Atari, etc.). Her brother, meanwhile, is polite, likeable, and speaks fluent Japanese. He is, after all, spectacular.
The story begins in a typical day after school at the Ghost Hunters’ Club, to which all the girls belong. They are sitting around gossiping about stuff and generally making fun of each other, and a disembodied voice pipes in with some juicy gossip about one of the boys talking to another girl. This, of course, is Andi-chan, their resident ghost (I mentioned the boarding school is haunted, right?) Things continue with a few clues being laid out– a trio of new transfer students, the upcoming school dance, etc.
The previous night, Akari was on patrol and saw a light through the mist on the lake. She saw the figure of a boy on the docks (both schools have small boats and rowing teams) who moved towards the light and then disappeared into it.
Eventually, Honoka gets a phone call from Hikaru. He can’t take her to the dance. And he doesn’t want to see her anymore. He’s going to hang up now. She repeats “WHY?” but he doesn’t really answer her. So she wants to investigate a scene, but I insist that she give me more than just a repetitive “WHY?” to trigger the move, and I insist that the only information she can get is something available from a phone conversation with Hikaru– she can’t ask “what kind of creature is it?” when all she has is her boyfriend breaking up with her. She does get a lead– it’s some girl named “Josei.” None of the girls know a Josei– she doesn’t go to their school, that’s for sure!
Akiko decides to comfort Honoka by giving her a hug. Her neck is so close… and Honoka fails her act under pressure roll and bites her, just a nibble!, on the neck. Whoops. Akiko runs around comically, screaming.
The next day, one of the male teachers isn’t at school, but the three new exchange students make a real splash among all the students. Ayame has silver eyes– a direct rival for Akari! Kiku has some kind of weapon, like she’s a gun mage or something. And Hana has attracted the attention and idol-worship of Ori-chan!
The hunters start investigating these two leads aggressively. This leads to them going to the boys’ school after sunset (Honoka is a vampire, after all), where they find three of the boys playing basketball. There are questions asked all around, and Honoka eventually follows Hikaru out after the game. She sees him meet up with a woman– not a student, a definite, mature, woman. She flies into a rage and attacks, biting the woman.
Only to be blown back when instead of blood, pure sunlight flows into her mouth! Indeed, this little vampire has just bitten the Summer Queen of the Faeries! Bad idea, kid!
The girls all engage the Faerie Queen in a fight– a fight which they cannot hope to win, lacking cold iron weapons, and after they realize they’re doing absolutely no damage to her, one of them pushes her into the lake, and Isolde freezes it over, trapping her under a layer of ice. She’ll melt through quickly, but it’s enough to give them time to escape. Meanwhile, Honoka has used her vampiric mental dominion to compel Hikaru to follow her. Once she has him in her dorm room, she commands him to protect himself and break up with the Faerie Queen.
Meanwhile, the hunters go to the library and learn everything they can about the Faerie Queen. Through a crappy dice roll, they learn she can only be harmed with “cold iron,” so they speed off to the Class President’s hidden armory. Akiko rolls poorly, but spends Luck to ensure they all have iron weapons– even teeth caps for Honoka.
They speed back to the boys’ school, but realize the Faerie Queen is gone home to prepare for her Hunt. Anyone who has been kidnapped by fairies in the last 7 years will attend the Hunt and, if they haven’t eaten or drunk anything from the Faerie Realm in all that time, they can be rescued.
At this point, we narrate out the ending, because it was about 9:00 and the girls had to go home. They were heading down the path of taking the fight to the Queen at her Court, so I allowed them to go through a faerie ring and attempt to fight her there. We ended with each girl stating why the Queen should let them and their boys go.
Isolde’s argument boiled down to “I’m amazing and you don’t want my brother anyway.” I wasn’t convinced, but moved on.
Akkiko convinced the Queen she would be uninteresting to them.
Akari gave the Faerie Queen the names and phone numbers of all the boys in the rival Blue Light Consortium’s roster. A sneaky move. I liked it. She could go and take one of the boys with her.
Honoka…. Ah, little Honoka! She made a compelling argument that Hikaru wasn’t the queen’s anymore, and so forth. But the queen was so much more interested in this little spirited vampire, so the question became more about why should she let Honoka go? And just when the vampire had made a compelling argument, the queen sends one of her best looking elven boys to drape himself against a chair near Honoka, lolling his head and exposing his neck.
She rolls to act under pressure to not bite… and fails. She drinks of the fey boy, condemning herself to become the Vampire of the Faerie Court! On the one hand– alas! She has lost her one-shot character! On the other hand: EPIC STORY ENDING for the vampire!
(Full article contains spoilers!) I bought the D&D Stranger Things Starter Set, and I was all kinds of excited to run it. I read through it a few times, thought “hmmm…” about some of the choices, but overall it reads like a fairly straightforward adventure.
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