Welcome to Signal Lakes, a tiny city in Florida, just south of Miami. It's a decent town, some good people, some bad, most somewhere in between. Like anywhere else in southern Florida, it has lots of wetland: lakes, ponds, marshes, and everything else to boot. The economy's not too bad, no worse than any other suburb of a major city; the real problem with Signal Lakes is that it is a signal. . .to the paranormal. According to legend, the Bermuda Triangle is formed between Miami, Bermuda, and San Juan in Puerto Rico, but the actual western tip of The Triangle is somewhere in Signal Lakes. The local shamans claim that the lakes are a signal to lost spirits, guiding them on to their ultimate destination despite the paranormal interference in the Veil generated by the Bermuda Triangle. That may be a good thing, but the catch is where Signal Lakes attracts all the paranormal, not just disoriented ghosts. There are werewolves, vampires, and other things in Signal Lakes, with new monsters being drawn by the Signal of Signal Lakes all the time. Most of the residents don't realize that the paranormal exists, and even those that do can almost never tell who might be a part of it. Adolescence is hard anywhere, but in a place like Signal Lakes, where you might struggle with what it means to be human, as well as coming of age, not to mention worrying about things that go bump in the night? Well, if you survive, you'll be able to claim: "I Was A Teenage Creature".
I WAS A TEENAGE CREATURE is a narrative-focused urban fantasy role-playing game where it doesn't matter how strong your werewolf is, or how fast his vampire is, or how beautiful her fae is; what matters is how each of these characters feels, why they're doing something instead of how—what their motivation is, not how objectively capable they are of achieving it. In this game, you play a teenager or young adult, or even a damaged full adult, whose emotions swing up and down and back and forth, and all the more so when the paranormal shinola starts hitting the fan. You might be a badass Hunter who has been raised in the life and taught to compartmentalize their emotions, but how much good is that going to do when your parents, the ones who taught you all those things, are being sacrificed to a demon summoned by a spell-casting madman? In this game, you'll find out.
There are eight key emotions in I WAS A TEENAGE CREATURE, divided into four opposing pairs. There are also eight different creature types that a Player Character might be, one for each of the key emotions. These emotional pairs are: LOVE–RAGE, HAPPY–SAD, PASSION–FEAR, and PROUD–CHAGRIN. The creature types that go with them are Human, Werewolf, Fae, Vampire, (Sex)cubus, Ghost, Caster, and Kitsune. Each character also has a Trope, the role or niche they fill in the setting of a teen-angst urban fantasy story, like Spoiled Rich Girl, Geeky Computer Nerd, or even Reluctant Hero or Spastic Sidekick. A character's base emotional matrix is generated by a combination of their past, their interests, and their attitudes, as chosen by their Player to fit their Trope. Characters' emotional states then fluctuate with the flow of the story, each action they take potentially adjusting their emotions further. But so what? What does that have to do with the game mechanics, how it works?
The game uses a fairly simple d10 system, Players rolling a number of dice equal to the attribute their character is using, possibly adding a few more dice for Skills or other Traits. The roll is compared to a target number, with each die that beats the target number counting as a Success. The total number of Successes is compared to the Difficulty of the roll, and if they meet or exceed the Difficulty, the character has succeeded at that action. What determines the numbers in a roll, though, the target and the Difficulty? And how do the characters' emotions affect the process?
Well, that's what makes this game different.
Most RPGs have characters roll against difficulty and target numbers that are either static or determined by a strictly mechanical formula. That's all fine, but the problem is, flat mechanics don't have anything to do with the narrative of the group story, which is usually the only part of the game where the character's emotions and often even their motivations come into play. I WAS A TEENAGE CREATURE is different because the characters' emotional states directly affect how well they perform; their emotions determine the target numbers of their rolls.
A character's emotional ratings determine the target number the Player rolls against. The introduction told you that it didn't matter how strong a werewolf is, or how fast a vampire or beautiful a fae is; the important part is how they feel, the motivation behind whatever action they're attempting. Characters' emotions slide up and down a ten-point scale between the extremes of each emotional pairing; the target number for any roll motivated by either of those emotions is the pair's current rating. The catch is whether or not the roll is being motivated by a positive emotion or a negative one. Actions motivated by positive emotions are successful if they roll higher than the emotion's rating, while negative emotion actions are successful if they roll below the rating. Take a look at an example of an in-game narrative, with the mechanics of the scene portrayed on the meta-level, around the gaming table:
Tom Harrison was lurking.
Ninjacat (GM): "Okay, Tom, you're just walking through the park st sunset, watching families and remembering what it was like thirty years ago, when you were a kid and your parents would make your older sister take you to the park. She would sigh heavily, roll her eyes, and pop her bubble gum in greatly-annoyed early-teenage fashion, but your family loved each other. Those memories help you keep the sadness of your missing soul at bay; watching loving families in the park is a way for you to remember how to be happy.
He was a vampire, had been one for twenty years, so it came naturally to him, even if he was comparatively young, for a vampire. Still, he had managed to outsmart his Master and sire, Old Man Saunders, getting him and the rest of Nest Saunders slain by Hunters, making Tom himself into a rogue vampire. He moved into Signal Lakes, knowing Old Man Saunders had a human agent there who created false identities for the aged members of the nest, so that they could operate in the modern world. Tom told Vinnie he didn't have to worry about Old Man Saunders anymore, and Vinnie hacked a few government databases, resetting Tom's year of birth to make him twenty-one. As the nest gopher, Tom had always had access to Saunders' bank accounts, and he used the centenarian vampire's funds to build a life for himself.
Tom was greatly surprised when he discovered his older sister Vicki had also moved to Signal Lakes, the middle-aged mother of a teenaged son, Jason.
"You're quite surprised when your vampiric eyesight catches the sight of a familiar face through the trees, over by the parking lot. . .it's your older sister, Vicki, who's now in her mid-forties and apparently talking to her teenaged son."
Drew (Tom): "Oh, crap! —She can't see me, right?"
Ninjacat (GM): "No, you're too far away and looking from between tree trunks; her human vision couldn't spot you even if you yelled her name. She might recognize your voice if you did that, though."
Drew (Tom): "Hah, yeah, no yelling. I do want to get closer, though, close enough to hear what they're saying, without them seeing me. That would be a REFLEX roll, right, and add my STALKING Skill?"
Ninjacat (GM): "Absolutely, but I think you're having some emotional reactions here. Given your paranoia about Vicki potentially catching sight of you, I'd say your FEAR is going to increase by one point."
Drew (Tom): "Yeah, that's fair. But I was just remembering my family and thinking about familial love to counter my vampire sadness, and now I find out my big sis is actually here, and that I'm an uncle! Shouldn't my LOVE increase, too, even if I'm hiding from them?"
Ninjacat (GM): "Sure. Go ahead and adjust those, then make your REFLEX roll. Don't forget to decide which emotion is motivating your stealth, here!"
Drew adjusts Tom's LOVE and FEAR, reducing Tom's LOVE–RAGE from 6 to 5 and increasing his PASSION–FEAR from 6 to 7.
Drew (Tom): "Dangit, that still leaves me neutral on LOVE–RAGE, but now I'm actually scared, nervous. Okay, Tom's really worried about being spotted by his older sister, since she thinks he died twenty years ago —not that she's actually wrong about that, heh— but he's not letting that worry drive him away. His FEAR of being spotted is motivating his stealth here, making him extra careful about it. He really wants to see his big sis again, and hear her voice, see and hear his nephew, but the last thing he wants is to upset Vicki or make her think she's seen a ghost."
Ninjacat (GM): "Excellent. From what you can see, it looks like Vicki and her son are having an argument; she looks like she's worried for or about him, and he's got that teen angst dismissal going on as you start sneaking closer, through the trees. Make your roll, and I'm gonna go ahead and give you an Angst Point for embracing your character's emotions."
The GM tosses Drew a token representing Tom's new Angst Point, increasing his number of Angst Points from 3 to 4.
Drew (Tom): "Awesome! Okay, here goes something..."
Drew rolls 5d10, the total of Tom's REFLEX Attribute plus his STALKING Skill, getting results of 10, 4, 1, 8, 4.
Drew (Tom): "Geeze, what a roll! A 1 is two Successes on a FEAR roll, but a 10 removes a Success, so that's just 1 Success. Plus two Successes for the two 4s makes a total of 3 Successes. Is that enough, or do I accidentally get their attention?"
Ninjacat (GM): "Well, it's more than enough to avoid your sister's notice, since she's paying attention to her pouty son and not minding other park patrons, especially when they're hidden in the trees. Jason, on the other hand, is trying to tune his mother out, rolling his eyes and turning away from her, etc. Jensen, why don't you make an INSIGHT roll. . .what are Jason's emotions at?"
Jensen (Jason): "Heh. My defaults are 6, 5. 3, 6, but I'm guessing arguing with my mom adjusts that, right?"
Ninjacat (GM): "Yep, that's why I was asking. She's all worried about you, afraid you're still beating yourself up about your girlfriend's death and suppressing it, trying to get you to open up to her and share, all that jazz. You didn't want to tell her that you think maybe your birth mother wasn't so crazy after all when she called you the son of a demon, right?"
Jensen (Jason): (laughing) "Hell, No! That's why I'm ignoring her!"
Ninjacat (GM): "Okay, increase your LOVE–RAGE, your PASSION–FEAR, and your HAPPY–SAD by 1 each, That gets you an Angst Point, unless you want to spend one you already have, to resist letting your mom bug you?"
Jensen (Jason): "Hmm, I'm an incubus, so I don't like having FEAR reduce my PASSION, but I think I'm gonna want the Angst Points later; I'll take it, then make my INSIGHT roll. My LOVE–RAGE and my PASSION–FEAR are both equally off center, but I'm feeling more negative emotions than positive at the moment, so I roll using my RAGE, right?"
Ninjacat (GM): "Absolutely, that makes total sense. You've had your world rocked by learning the paranormal is real and that you're part of it, that your bio-mom wasn't crazy, and you're angry about it. In fact, a tiny part of you is even angry at your adopted parents, because even though they've always loved and supported you, helped you overcome your bio-mom's abuse. . .it turns out she was right, even if what she did to you because of it was wrong. You can't help being angry that all the work they did to 'heal' you has actually led you away from learning who you really are. Make your angry roll, see if you notice the pale stalker guy in the trees; he is a hottie..."
Jensen (Jason): "HAH! I'm gonna hit on my uncle; that sounds like a bad country-western song. Then again, we're not related by blood..."
Jensen receives an Angst Point and rolls 3d10, Jason's INSIGHT Attribute, hoping the dice come up less than 7. He gets results of 7, 1, 3, for a total of 3 Successes; tying Tom's stealth roll.
Ninjacat (GM): "Alright, your rolls are even. Ties go to the defending party, so in this case, Tom's action of sneaking failed to beat Jason's defense of noticing. Tom, you get close enough to hear your sister telling her son: 'Jason, honey, it was not your fault! Being with you did not kill Sheila...' Jason turns away from his mother as he rolls his eyes, turning to face the trees, and you. You can see on his face that he doesn't believe her at all, that he does think sleeping with Sheila killed her, but as you're watching his expression, you realize he's spotted you looking at him...."
Jason Alecsen turned his back on his mother, using the toss of his head as he rolled his eyes to cover how his teeth were clenching with anger. It was his fault Sheila was dead; being with him had indeed killed her, whether his adoptive parents realized that truth or not. He knew that they cared and were only trying to help him, but that didn't change the fact that he was an incubus, half-sex demon, and that his birth mother had known it. Jason let his eyes roam across the park as he tuned his mom out. He would coach the Little League game for the charity that his parents funded, it looked good on his Track & Field scholarship applications, but he didn't need to listen to his mom get bent out of shape about something she wasn't even right about in the process.
Jason's eyes narrowed when he spotted someone lurking in the trees nearby, watching him and his mom. The guy was a hottie; Jason preferred women, but he was an incubus—he wasn't exactly picky. His demonic senses also told him the guy was feeling fairly intensely, but it wasn't lust. . .and it wasn't bloodlust, either, even though Jason could tell the guy was as unholy as Jason himself was; he must be a vampire. Jason could tell the dark-haired stranger was attracted to him, though—but not sexually. It felt like. . .it felt like the guy was devoted to Jason, without any sexual attraction whatsoever.
That was the weirdest thing Jason had encountered yet, since discovering he was an incubus. He had to go find out what this was all about.
You can come find out what it's all about, too, at the Chicago ENWorld GameDays hosted by Games Plus in Mt. Prospect, and at Gen Con. Join Tom, Jason, and a bunch of other pre-gen example characters from I WAS A TEENAGE CREATURE to see how it all works! Experience the rush of getting into your character's emotions when they're not just an emotional wreck of a teenager, but a paranormal one, too! This will be s chance to play I WAS A TEENAGE CREATURE before it's released; the game is currently in playtest, and it will be coming to KickStarter to crowd-fund appropriate art and professional printing next year.
Next Playtest: Chicago GameDay 43
3-9pm Feb 27th at Games Plus in Mt. Prospect.