Original ruleset, written + designed by Colin Cummings
Inspired by video games like The Yawhg, Unavowed, andThe Shrouded Isle, comes Black Heart, the second release in the Carly Rae Jepsen TTRPG trilogy following the successful Boy Problems.
Work with your fellow cultists, investigate a village and the dark secrets it hides, gain power as the veil between worlds weakens, and finally: summon an ancient god.
Over the course of a week you will discover all sorts of weird creatures and magic slipping through the weakening veil to threaten the town. By gaining power in your three core stats (Heart, Soul & Mind) you will face these challenges and grow, including gaining a mutation of great power that will change you forever.
Will you succeed in summoning the god? Many have failed before you, learn from their mistakes.
Kotaku AU: PSA: There's Another Carly Rae Jepsen RPG(by Alex Walker) - 8/7/2019 "First there was the sci-fi heist to break out all of Carly Rae Jepsen's unreleased songs, and now there's a cultist RPG. Where all your mutations are based off Carly Rae Jepsen lyrics.
It's called Black Heart, and it's a one-shot RPG from the maker of that Carly Rae Jepsen RPG called Boy Problems. It's the second one-shot tabletop RPG in a trilogy that's themed after the Canadian pop star, but instead of being about her music, it's ... much darker."
Bell of Lost Souls: There’s Not One But TWO Carly Rae Jepsen RPGs And They Are Weird And Wonderful (by J.R. Zambrano) - 17/7/2019 "This is an incredible premise, and more importantly, it shows what depths RPGs can explore. These are all created from Carly Rae Jepsen’s music, and each takes on a wildly different genre, theme, even play style. All of this highlights both the transcendant nature of CRJ’s musics, and the deeper truths they speak upon, while also showing us the beauty of RPGs. They’re about playing pretend and you can make them about anything. And people do.
That’s the same spirit of inventiveness and creativity that kicked off this game. And when you look around at all the big releases, for instance, Gen Con this year is chock full of licensed IP games from big publishers and sequels to smash hit games. These are safe choices that deliver an experience that, while enjoyable, is the same basic experience we have been having since 1974. We need games like the Jepsen Triptych to capture that weird, experimental feeling that drives humanity ever onward."
Updates: 11/6/19: v1.2: This version includes the 3 & 5 Day mechanic along with some other small fixes. This is a small adjustment to the numbers that allows you to run shorter games if you want! Also B&W version completed. 30/4/20: v1.3: Small updates and fixes, adjusted QR code, added Tome of Knowledge, a world building and session guide
It took our group a while, but we finally played our scenario. We definitely had a lot of fun. Like others have mentioned, it took a decent amount of prep beforehand. We created a whole Carly Rae Jepsen shrine, and I decided to make all of the NPCs pop musicians from the 80s and 90s.
I wrote about the whole thing on Medium, including a few of our scenarios If anyone is looking for how our group handled it.
Thank you for playing this and for your comments and write-up! I really loved reading all of your scenarios and such.
You are very right about the prep being a big thing and that the rules aren’t 100% there! I have version 2 all written up and ready to go (just got distracted by other projects) but I think I need to go and take one more look at them with your comments in mind. (Also version 2 is different enough that both v.1 and v.2 will be available for folks!)
This was my first ever original ruleset and I think that is quite apparent. 😅 But I’m also super glad you enjoyed the world and picked up on the passion I put into it as well! If you get a chance, “In Case of an Emergency” is a refinement on Black Heart’s rules as well (it was originally conceived as a Black Heart spinoff but the rules changed enough that it is something completely new, with Black Heart as kind of its foundation).
Anywho thank you again for playing and sharing all of your thoughts and ideas!
I'm planning on running an online game and recording it in a month or two but I am confused a bit by the Visit/Assist comparison. Let me know if this is the correct way as my brain processed it:
Assist- Any number of players can choose to go to the same location, take part in the challenges together by taking the highest rolled die, and then taking the modifier of whom's turn it is. On a success do they all get the bonus or just the player who's "turn" it is? Turns aren't really defined in the source material---- do you keep going on challenges until you fail? With Assist does this mean you get multiple attempts at a challenge or are the other visiting players "forfeiting" their attempts?
Visit - A player chooses to go to a location where one of the other cultists resides and THAT cultist can assist the current player (but still have their own scene at another location). So basically any time a cultist goes to another location that one of the other cultists "resides" at they will get the bonus die from that resident?
Great question! In the big update I'm working on for the game I actually cut these mechanics completely for these reasons. However your interpretation is correct for "Visit"! Each player gets an Easy, Medium and Hard challenge for their turn in the place they visit, their turn ends after these three challenges. The Assist mechanic is supposed to encourage players to stick together and help each other by making the dice rolls easier, so the "assisting" player gives the player who's challenge it is a bonus without losing out on their own challenges either.
I hope that clears it up for this version! The new version will maybe probably also be out before your online game as well, so keep an eye out for that.
I ran this for a small group last night, and we had a lot of fun! I agree with the other comments that GMs need to have fleshed arcs and points of conflict. I struggled with challenge levels and always having them go easy, medium, hard- it felt sometimes like I was really reaching for ideas of things which could feel unnatural- also a turn failing after an easy roll fail occasionally makes it hard to tell the story or move things forward. Otherwise we had a lot of fun. I made one big tweak because my players like to work together and it felt like having to share their turns challenges stifled them from doing different things in the same place, so if two people went to the same place I gave them option of having their own challenges or assisting on specific challenges. If the specific challenge they assisted on worked it counted towards both of their challenge of whatever level. I was worried about the intensity of one of the players having to die for the summoning, but the players had a lot of fun with it and it ended up having a witch player who the entire game had insisted that she was only considered a “witch” because she could read using real magic to get out of being the hanged man, which was hella fun.
I also had the town meeting be immediately followed by a cult meeting, where they could all talk and share info and plan the next day in character- which the players enjoyed.
the commenter below covered most manual confusions I had- I will add one thing which is that I assumed all the non hanged-man-contest roles during the summonings were + weird but I don’t think that’s explicitly laid out anywhere. Overall a lot of fun, definitely good for a one shot. The constantly changing stats are an interesting effect.
We ended up naming all the NPC’s variations of rhymes on Tom Hanks as a nod to I Really Love You- and taking some CRJ lyrics out of context and having a demon/ghost say them really makes them spooky.
Thank you for taking the time to post your feedback!
It's my first game with an original ruleset (Boy Problems was based on L&F) that got tested in a bit of a vacuum (I ran the playtests), so now that it is out to more folks I am starting to see which parts need to be cleaned up! I'm glad your group had fun though and your feedback (along with others!) is helping me put together a Black Heart 2.0 update that I'll be starting to work on after I release my next game. Thanks again for this!
The growing microgenre that is Carly Rae Jepsen ttrpgs (see also: LA Hallucination) continues to deliver both on lush designs and cool premises.
Black Heart is a decently crunchy one-shot game about being cultists in a small farming community preparing the way for their god (Carly Rae Jepsen)'s arrival. It tracks stats and time and is pretty structured, to the point where it has an almost boardgame-like or werewolf-like feel to it, while at the same time maintaining plenty of freedom to interact and roleplay.
It also has lovely, thematic illustrations and extremely immersive layout, and the design is deeply solid. The mechanics and gameflow are pretty clear, there's hidden snippets of Jepsen lyrics, and it's a really fun book to read.
I think my only major critique of Black Heart is that it's definitely not low-prep for the GM. If you're GMing this, you should sit down in advance and write out (or at least outline) a module. It *is* possible to seat-of-your-pants a game of Black Heart, but it's not heavily supported.
Fortunately, Black Heart's GMing advice is good, and will point you in the right direction for running it.
Overall, Black Heart is a great game for folks who like character drama, the occult, community-focused games, dark and atmospheric stories, and Carly Rae Jepsen. I would absolutely encourage folks to pick up a copy and check it out.
-Page 5, Weird, "your meeting will increase by 1" your weird will increase?
-Page 5 says you get a mutation at 5 Weird, page 6 says you get it at 6
-Page 7, Gold Veins, "you made of gold" you're
-Page 9, Assist and Visit feel pretty unclear. Assist uses 'visit' as part of its text, but Visit is a better version of Assist. Also, when you Visit, do you go to your own matching location, or someone else's?
-Page 9, "as you face a challenge to difficult" too
-I'm not at all sure from the explanation on page 9 how your Weird stat comes into play on challenges.
-Page 14, The Archon, "This person is responsible is to prepare the ritual and maintain" responsible for preparing the ritual and maintaining
-Page 14, The Emissary, "and watches too much weird" and watches out for too much weird
-Page 14, Emissary and Hanged Man, missing italics from their bottom sections
-Page 16, "failing challemges" challenges
-Page 17, Partial Success, "The God has taken a different for" form
It's really good, and fills in a lot of lore. The thing I was sort of hoping it would do would be to provide a list of locations in the village / events and event progressions that can happen at those locations, but I also recognize this would take up a bunch of pages.
-Page 8, 1st para, "that leads to them to leave a note" leaving a note
Ran this for the first time recently and the group had a great time! The Tome of Knowledge was a huge help - I was struggling to think of ideas, and it was released just in time. I'm happy with how it all came together in the end, but I would love to see a video playthrough or more ideas about how to map storylines onto the rule structure. Looking forward to Boy Problems next!
Thank you for the kind words! I have some plans on updating Black Heart soon, and might just add in an extra story into the tome! I also am working to create a whole new setting and updated ruleset using Black Heart as a base called In Case of an Emergency. It'll be out soon!
I think what im missing is maybe a quick cheatsheet of actions or phases! reading thru it right now, im feeling a bit overwhelmed at all the possible options. or there are details im not entirely sure about, does each player each day get to pick places to go to or is it an entire party action?
this looks so interesting and im extremely excited to try it out sometime soon!!! :)
I've been thinking of making something exactly like that! And to answer your question: Each player has the choice to visit a location on their turn, but they can choose to travel with another player (or players) instead and team up with them! It usually makes sense to split up at first, and then group up more as you investigate the storylines more. It's meant to simulate an episode of television in structure! Separate plot threads running concurrently that overlap and then meet each other towards the end.
it's super cool that this is getting more attention because of the number of people who have the bundle (which is itself super cool for different reasons too!) i was there before it was big and i got to see it blow up, as it deserves
Ran this a few months back and it's an absolute blast! I believe it includes a worldbuilding guide along with it now, but I ran it in a custom world with other pop stars encroaching on a town, and honestly had a blast! Make it your own, add creepy music and atmosphere, and it'll honestly be a blast! If you're a fan of Carly Rae Jepsen or Demons this is the game for you!
It’s a tabletop game so there isn’t really any game play to show, but if you’re looking for something to play with a group of friends you can run a game of this online via video chat or (soon hopefully) in person!