Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble

I remember playing a demo of Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble a few years ago, when it wasn’t in its final form yet. It was clear that this was a game worth watching for, but only now that I’ve been gifted a copy am I starting to play it for real.

DHSGiT has been described as a game that’s difficult to describe. It adopts the style of a vintage board game, but mechanically, it’s more of an RPG. Just not the usual sort of RPG for a computer game: there’s no combat, or at least no physical combat. There are Monkey Island-style insult duels, though, as well as a few other kinds of abstracted confrontation: you sometimes have the option to tell lies or expose secrets or flirt by means of other special mini-game mechanics, aided by your character stats in various ways. I’ll go into details in a future post. For now, let me note just a couple of things.

First, these mini-games are no more or less abstract than typical dice-based RPG combat. Your stats represent attributes relevant to stories about a teenage girls in the 1920s: popularity, rebellion, glamour, savvy. The stats are applied simply as numbers, but in ways that make stats more or less relevant to certain kinds of conflict, as appropriate. For example, in a taunting-match, your popularity rating is used like hit points, which stands to reason: the more popular you are, the more abuse your reputation can stand.

Second, the stats chosen seem more narrative than simulationist, aspects of character rather than physical attributes, chosen for their importance to the story rather than for their practicality in themselves. They remind me a lot of the special-purpose narrativist stats found in alternative pen-and-paper RPGs, or the “storytelling games” that they’ve developed into. One of my favorite examples: in Paul Czege’s My Life with Master, the player character stats are Love, Weariness, and Self-Loathing. The more freeform storytelling games take this a step further by letting players make up their own attributes, but you pretty much need a human adjudicator for that sort of thing. The point is, the RPG has branched out from its wargaming origins, but the CRPG has largely been content to stick close to D&D-ville, regardless of setting or genre. DHSGiT is a glimpse of what else is possible. It really shows just how conventional Recettear is, despite its pretensions.

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