Hellcats and Hockeyskirts (Corone Design / Cubicle Seven, 2009)
St Erisian's, a private school for girls, most likely in the English home counties. It is worth pointing out at this point that I bought this after reading the blurb, not the front cover. I'm not after some pervy game about school girls, which is good because this isn't it. This is St Trinian's: the roleplaying game. This is game of bad girls running riot, blowing things up, summoning demons and causing trouble for everyone around them, not least each other. This is a game of saving the day in the most chaotic way possible.
I'm not going to say St Erisian's girls can't be "naughty" as well as troublesome - after all, Flash Harry in The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery is blatantly pimping out the sixth form. Yet despite all the garters and makeup, there remains an innocence about both the off-screen affairs and the rest of the trouble. And that's the way the Hellcats and Hockeysticks is written. It's not a game of the real world. If you are wondering about why I talk about St Erisian's and St Trinian's in the same sentence, it's because one is openly based on the other. It's just there's a few extra touches.
There is a nice touch about the game though. Andrew Peregrine actually thought about how a school like St Erisian's would get by. It's funded by the girl's "extracuricular" activities, while just enough teaching (and learning) goes on to stop the government being able to shut it down. It's just that the classes don't stick to the national curriculum. Maths includes gambling and stocket market tips, chemistry explores the more sellable and explodable compounds while Biology covers such areas as raising the dead. Why wouldn't
you want your child to go to this school?System
The system is mostly quite simple. You have some lessons you have learned. You roll d6s and try to get one to equal or match the difficulty. The stupidly difficult tasks (i.e. over difficulty 6) can be risked by sacrificing dice and Willpower.
Characters in H&H don't die. That's just not the Done Thing. Instead they are humiliated, ridiculed and their plans foiled. This is all handled by Willpower. St Erisian's girls have lots, but it gets used up all the time. The best way to regain it is to humiliate someone else. It drives player-driven plots more than anything else.
There are rules for magic and demon summoning, and for weird science. They aren't very long rules - the book is only 159 pages - but they are enough to imaginative juices going. I found the rules very much made these things difficult to achieve, which is great. It means players whose characters summon demons do it because it's fun
.Finally there are 'splats' in the form of cliques, which is really the type of mischief you prefer. The cliques give you a slight edge on certain skills and all have their own unique ability. The essential Fixer knows people who can get things for you, the Hockey Girl naturally is good at the violence seen on all good sports pitches and the Goths have a unique edge on getting through demon summonings and the wierder science.Heroes
It's not like parents of difficult children seek out St Erisian's, although actually I couldn't find anything about admissions policy in the book. It is commented that the 'exchange students' (see below) either run away or enjoy it. Certainly, the school has a large degree of freedom about it, with just enough order to keep it under control. So take your typical teenage girl, mix in a large dose of independence and a pinch of school pride and mature for three years. The PCs are those girls, aged 16-18. Back to St Trinian's, and you'll see that it's the age of the main schoolgirl leads.Villains
There are pretty much three kinds of threat: that caused by the girls ("plague, famine, demonic attack, strange explosions"); that caused by outside parties (civil servants, other schools and 'innocent' civilians); and other girls and gangs of girls. And that's just last week. If you're short on inspiration, there's a good list of films and other material but the book oozes ideas.The look
The publishers deliberately used female artists, but I'm still not convinced they did the book justice. The girl on the cover looks more sultry than mischievous. The inside artwork works a bit better at conveying the right image, but is mostly very clean line-art. I feel a closer homage to the original, messy St Trinian's cartoons would have worked better. On the other hand, there is beautiful 'flavour' in the form of actual mischief passed on by former schoolgirls.The good
If you are a fan of the innocent chaos of St Trinian's then this is the RPG for you. The book elegantly and efficiently sets out a system for just that. I've picked out most of the bits I like above, but I could also mention a great random plot generator (entirely suitable to the setting) and one of the best chase mechanics I've seen not to mention the sheer imagination of the curriculum.The Bad
The Exchange Student clique is awkward, putting all Japanese students as ninjas or samura - I think that needed a rethink.The Ugly
There is duplication among the cliques - there are there purely social cliques (Sweethearts, Prefects and Coquettes). It could be that the game lends itself heavily towards these types and so benefits from the variety, but considering the variety elsewhere it feels like it draws unnecessarily away from the other interesting cliques.
Andrew Peregrine also does his best to get into the mindset of teenage girls, in particular a sequence on social spats. I'll give him kudos for even attempting such a thing, but it feels from reading it quite awkward. In play, though, it might work fine. Luckily it's easily ignorable if it doesn't work - and it leads to a great statement about the difference between how teenage girls and teenage boys arrange their companions later in the book.Execution: 7