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 actually 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 the city, 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".
So, what is I Was A Teenage Creature?
It's an urban fantasy role-playing game with a narrative focus, based on movies and TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teen Wolf, even Charmed or that preposterous sparkly vampire franchise. What keeps the viewers coming back to those sorts of shows every episode, is it the monster of the week? No, it's the angst and drama of the young adult protagonists' lives. This game lets you play a character who could star on a show like that, struggling with the challenges of facing the paranormal as well as growing up and questioning what it means to be human.
In this game, you'll find out.
This game is about teenage creatures, or young adult or otherwise emotionally unstable characters; it's about the paranormal challenges they face and the complications those struggles create in their lives and relationships. When the paranormal shinola starts hitting the fan and these characters are faced with difficult or even impossible choices, how do they react? What happens when tensions rise to the point that someone loses control?
I Was A Teenage Creature is all about the story of the Players' characters, the dramatic situations they end up in and the choices they make in response to those situations. 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 these characters feel, WHY they're doing something, as opposed to how objectively capable they are of doing it. This game isn't too worried about the fiddly details of how this or that paranormal ability on a character's sheet works; it's about characters who struggle with who they are and what to do when they don't have any good options, who keep going despite the odds and pull off the awesome to save the day. The focus is on the characters' struggles, their tensions, and their victories. . .the details of the narrative, not of the game itself. Keep that in mind as you play, and you'll discover thrills just as awesome as the ones you enjoy on screen during your favorite young-adult urban fantasy shows or in your favorite books of the genre — you know, in stories.
So, you're playing a Teenage Creature, dealing with all the angst and trauma of struggling with what it means to be human, survive high school, and keep Evil Things from killing the people you care about. How do you go about doing that? How do you decide which parts of your werewolf's personality are "normal", and which parts are a savage animal? How do you decide which parts of the basic human condition a fae understands just fine, and which ones fly right over their head?
Forunately, there's an easy answer to all of these questions, thanks to the "teen fiction" sub-genre of urban fantasy:
You guessed it. . .the Trope.
The teenage or young adult story has evolved into its own Hollywood genre at this point, filled with tropes bordering on outright clichés, like the jerky jock, the snobby rich and/or popular girl, the geeky nerd, the charismatic President of the ______ Club, the fat kid, the cheerleader, the loner, the stoner. . .the list could go on practically forever. Clichés are based on commonly held beliefs, which makes such tropes immediately comprehensible and thus, easy to play.
If you sit down to play a one-shot RPG at a convention or something, and you're handed a character sheet that says "ditzy cheerleader" or "brainiac computer nerd", you already have a good idea of how to play the character and what makes them tick. If half of your character is an easy-to-play trope, that means you can put thought into the second half, their paranormal side and how it affects the rest of the character. How much worse does the Jerk Jock get when he becomes a werewolf– —or even better, what if the Geeky Computer Nerd the football team always picks on becomes a rage-filled werewolf? What happens when he has to keep his lycanthropy a secret, because his sister is dating the Hot New Guy. . .who happens to have been raised by a family of Hunters who specialize in Hunting Werewolves?
Figuring out how the paranormal affects your character's Trope is half the fun — after all, it's the angst and drama in the life of a Teenage Creature that keeps the viewers watching episode after episode. These emotional highs and lows will keep you playing the game session after session, too.
As mentioned above, this is a narrative-focused game, so the game mechanics are fairly simple. All characters have four attributes of , , , and , which determine how many dice the Player rolls when their character attempts a risky action.
The Player simply rolls a number of d10s equal to their character's attribute, plus a few more if the character has an applicable Skill, against a target difficulty set by the GM. The Player checks each die rolled to see if it came up as a Success, and if enough Successes are generated to meet or exceed the roll's Difficulty, then the roll succeeded and the character accomplishes their intended action.
That's all simple and well and good, but what target number is the Player rolling against to generate a Success? Are they trying to roll high, or low?
Well, that's where things get a little different.
A character's motivation is the point of the story — the audience at home (or the gaming group around the table) is watching to see how the characters deal with their circumstances; they're usually not concerned with precisely how powerful the strong character is or the exact degree of the warrior character's combat skill. It's enough for them to know that this character is the smart one and that character is the compassionate one (which makes a character's Trope even more relevant.) The audience knows which things the characters are good at; they're watching to see what the characters DO with their abilities. The question isn't how capable the werewolf is of tearing something apart, or how well the caster can cast a spell; we know they can do those things. The question is why are they doing what they're doing? And the answer, naturally, is their Emotions.
Let's say the monster of the week has the Hunter character's mom by the throat — what does he do? Well, he attacks the monster to try to save his mom, of course. The audience knows what special weapon or combat technique the Hunter character uses, so they're not questioning what he'll do, using his best attack to save his mother is only reasonable. What the character's actor or Player has to tell the viewing audience is what motivation is driving the attack. Is the Hunter striking out of Love for his mother, or out of Rage at the creature attacking her? He could be attacking due to Fear of losing her, or even because he's Proud to demonstrate he's learned her lessons well, by saving her!
Charcters' Emotions drive their every action, so their emotions are the target numbers of their rolls.
Characters in I Was A Teenage Creature have eight Emotions rated from 1‒10, in four opposed pairs. Low numbers equate to positive Emotions, while higher ratings equal negative emotions. When Players roll, they are attempting to beat the current rating of whichever Emotion is motivating their action, thus they want to roll high for positive Emotions and low for negative ones. Of course, as the story unfolds, the characters' emotional states will be changed, with their ratings rising and falling depending on the circumstances the characters wind up in. Just when the team wins the game or romance starts to fully blossom is when things usually go sideways, so the characters suddenly have to scramble to react, while their Emotions are still adjusting!
It is these sorts of twists that keep the viewing audience of such shows watching, and they'll keep the Players around the gaming table invested in the ongoing story of all the characters, waiting to see what happens next. Sudden reversals of fortune and plot reveals keep the characters guessing, and the emotional upheavals of broken hearts, threats to life and limb, and stressing over the build-up of a variety of angst keeps the characters' responses unpredictable. So, when the paranormal shinola hits the fan...
..What will your Teenage Creature do?