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Her Heart in a Porcelain Jar
An Overview of Evey Lockhart's Suburban Emo Sadventure
A while back my friend Spooky Rusty started sharing some of his drawings on Discord: suburban scenes done in ballpoint pen, the most eye-catching being a ranch-style house that I was sure I’d seen a million times in neighborhoods throughout my life. Those drawings ended up being part of this zine, a collaboration between Evey Lockhart and Spooky Jaguar Productions. Spooky sent me a physical copy of this zine so I could pick it up, hold it, feel it, read it, and give my thoughts on it.
Just a note, there may be spoilers ahead for this adventure if you are more likely to play it than run it. Keep an eye out for links to Evey’s work and a couple of other places, plus a location for your Troika game written to fit thematically with this zine.
Her Heart in a Porcelain Jar is a “suburban emo sadventure” that lives up to the premise. The most appealing part of this zine is how well it places me into the headspace of my own suburban emo sadventures circa 2005. After graduating high school I deferred going to college to take a semester off, but I had no plans. I lived at home. I quit my job. I hung out with friends over the summer but when fall came around everyone went back to school or work and I fell into a deep depression. Around this time the Scene subculture was in full swing and I never quite fit into it, with the swooping hair and wild styles. I liked some of the music, though, and was involved with a band that went nowhere fast. So a lot of this zine tugged at my heartstrings, encased in meat though it is (and not a porcelain jar).
The adventure itself is bare-bones, the premise held together by the locations and NPCs that accompany it. Joanna Decanter’s heart has been stolen (with Joanna disappearing shortly after) and the players are tasked with finding and rescuing her. Right away there is some discordance between the “system” and the “adventure,” in a good way, when it presents the players as “off-worlders” hired by Joanna’s mother Annette to solve this mystery. This Troika adventure ostensibly takes place in a sphere based on the suburban US, Earth, circa 2007, but there are no backgrounds so the players are any number of weirdos from the vast selection of Troika backgrounds out there.
From here the players have to do some detective work to find Joanna, and if they do, they discover she left of her own volition and is with her girlfriend. In a wonderful twist, her mother is the one who took her heart. I don’t think it’s made explicit in the adventure if Joanna knows this, but it’s likely the players can figure it out with some nicely-placed hints that are present in the text. This speaks to me because I understand the kind of control the mother tries to enact here. She has stolen her daughter’s heart, but lost her daughter in the process, and can only use lies and deceit to gain her back to some nefarious purpose (there actually is quite a nefarious purpose).
I like the locations, such as the Red Door, a venue where Scene kids go to watch shows. It reminds me of places like the Legion where shitty bands of all stripes would go put on shows. I like that the player can Test Luck in these locations to find Scene kids to interrogate about Joanna, unless they figure out the right time when they know Scene kids will be present. My favorite encounter is with the typical folks that populate the area this adventure takes place in. They’re “normal,” with cargo pants, sitcoms, and the capacity to harbor evil in their hearts (casual xenophobia specifically mentioned). I can imagine the Scene kids feeling separate from these “normies,” the way we did back then. I can imagine the players thinking they’re harmless until they get a negative reaction from someone who doesn’t want an “off-worlder” in their town.
Things like the aforementioned Red Door as well as the 24-hour diner were staples of scene life during this time (for us the diner was the Waffle House [Upside down in dirty cafe spoons, This is all we know]). The fact that Amy, Joanna’s girlfriend, rents a house and puts on shows in the basement is a great touch. Annette Decanter’s real self is also terrifying: a skilled magic user and abusive Elizabeth Bathory figure (complete with sneering henchman) who for hundreds of years has adopted children and consumed their hearts to keep her own youth. I should also mention that Amy is a budding magic-user as well, and her love for Joanna (as well as a spell that pulls teeth from people’s mouths) could be useful in defeating Annette.
I think Evey has created a tight adventure, but I do think it would take a skilled referee to pull off well, especially guiding the players through the mystery and bringing it to a conclusion. Joanna’s mother, Annette, is also quite powerful and it will likely take some ingenuity from the players to defeat her—if they choose to do so. Evey manages to capture the sad, scared, hopeful, and angry feelings of the late teens/early twenties, intergroup dynamics, and family conflict and distill it into a short adventure that oozes with characteristics of a very specific place in time.
Favorite bit of writing: a lyric quote attributed to an mp3 file, this made me feel a little bit old but that’s why I loved this adventure. Evey throws little shots of detail in it that made me smile.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the visual qualities of the zine, with art and layout done by Spooky Jaguar. I quite like the color, it’s mostly black and white with red on the front and back cover that makes it stand out. The front cover especially has a sick drawing of an anatomical heart tied up with string. Their NPC portraits bring the text to life; Joanna looks so innocent, the Scene kid is spot-on—and the layout is concise. My favorite bit of art is Spooky’s house that I mentioned at the top—it made me think of a midwestern emo album. Good shit.
I hadn’t read too much of Evey’s work before this, but I did go to her itch page and buy Evey Does Troika!, a player-facing zine for making Troika characters, which I would like to do an overview of soon. Another thing to check out is her newest joint, Marine Ice Cattle Drive, a sphere and adventure for Troika. It just dropped and the theme and art are intriguing—just go look at it. She’s also done some bigger Troika books, including The Ruinous Palace of the Metegorgos, which I have on the way as an add-on to The Big Squirm. I’ll put Evey’s links below so go check out her shit and buy her books. I think she has a distinct voice and style that shouldn’t be missed.
Spooky Jaguar is comprised of Spooky Rusty and Tony Jaguar. You may know Tony as the artist of my own logo, and most recently as the artist for the cover of Guild by Disaster Tourism. You may know Spooky from his blog posts. Together they’ve produced a few things, notably a Troika Zine called Third Sphere based on lyrics by the band Death Grips. I’m also in a writer’s group with Spooky called Spooky Rogue. I’m excited to see where this partnership goes, especially seeing his next major project, a Troika adventure tentatively titled The Care Center that’s been in the making for a while and is one of the most unique things I’ve read. I’ve also zeroed in on a new project of my own for Troika that I’m stoked about, and that has started to coalesce into something with real potential thanks to the feedback I’ve gotten from being part of Spooky Rogue. Also, the digital version of this zine is for sale on Spooky Jaguar’s Itch page.
Bonus: awesome stickers I got
As for the game content:
Location: Airport Road Storage
A 40x100’ metal frame building in the middle of an asphalt lot surrounded by a 10’ tall chain link fence. The building doesn’t sit on Airport Road but on an intersecting street two blocks away. Just past it is an abandoned skating rink and behind it down an embankment is a shitty hotel where drug deals go down. The building is a storage unit made of twenty 20x10’ units, ten on each side. There is a dumpster in one corner. The chain link fence has a double gate at the front of the lot secured with a padlock. If the players come by when the gate is closed they can test Luck to see if the padlock is open.
Half of the units are rented by a law firm. They only come by 9am-3pm on weekdays to get files. Half the time it’s a young guy (mien 1. polite but curt / 2. ignores you / 3. asks what music you like). Otherwise it’s an older woman (mien 1. tells you to mind your own fucking business / 2. says she’ll complain to the landlord about you / 3. says kids these days are fucking idiots with stupid hair).
Two units are rented by local legendary post-hardcore band PUMAHATEFUCK. They cut a hole in the wall between their two units, put black lights in it, and built a loft out of plywood and 2x4s that looks dangerous as fuck. The walls are painted with huge murals of nude tattooed women. The loft is tagged with spray paint. On any given night there is a 2-in-6 chance that their guitarist Joe is at the unit (mien 1. practicing and shredding the fuck out of his guitar / 2. smoking weed / 3. with his girlfriend and doesn’t want to talk). Joe is pretty famous and knows tons of people in the local Scene culture.
The guy who owns the unit is named Herman and is kind of a creep. He has two units on the back side of the building and is generally only around in the early mornings. He has a van he keeps parked in the corner near his units. If the players ask about units for rent he says he doesn’t have any but asks for their cell phone number and says he’ll call if there’s an opening (mien 1. acting very fucking suspicious / 2. walking the perimeter of the property checking the fence / 3. in the inside of his van with rags and carpet cleaner). One of Herman’s units has a Fusil inside. The other unit holds the keys to the van.
A new band called Blood Red Summer rents one of these units. They can’t decide if they want to be screamo or metalcore. The bassist insists deathcore is the next big thing. There is a box of demo discs beside an old couch on the left side of the unit. Other than the discs and couch there is a drum set, a shitty PA, and a trash can with empty fast food bags and beer cans. Every afternoon there is a 3-in-6 chance at least some of the members are at their unit practicing. Players can also test their Luck to see if Blood Red Summer is putting on an impromptu storage unit show that day. If there is a show, the players are guaranteed to find a crowd of scene kids (see Scene Kid in Her Heart in a Porcelain Jar). If the crowd is into it the drummer takes off his shirt and people will pack into the unit and close the door.