As far as I can see, MCing is exactly the right approach to GMing most of those White Wolf games, as well as Ars Magica. You've got the PCs as uneasy allies against a host of nebulous threats, and the GM's job is to stage-manage the threats against the PCs in such a way as to always give them something to do, and never let them quite get on top of everything.
Thats what I had thought, but in the last games I played and ran, there was always a set story ready and waiting to be played. For example, one story was of the last grandchildren of a famous sniper coming back to the reading of his will, and being forced to deal with malevolent spirits - the story was that the grandfather had made a deal with an evil spirit, and it was coming to collect.
That was the story setup before the players even came to the table...
In this game, all we had coming to the table was the three characters, and that the first scene was "you wake up in a tub of ice-water". I had no idea of who or what was involved.
What you could do to make the MC moves work even better for you is to make yourself a new set of threat types, and a new set of moves linked to those.
I was thinking about that, and while the scarcity types work pretty well, the threats are maybe a bit iffy. The impulses are perfect though :) Just might rename the threat types. But honestly once I linked the NPC/Threat they actually became more clear in my mind - especially as to how they might act.
you're genuinely resolving conflicts in the fiction, rather than just resolving tasks, and leaving conflict resolution up to the GM. That's important to the "Play to find out what happens" agenda. If you're setting up the threats and also tacitly deciding when they're resolved, you're not playing to find out what happens, and you're giving yourself a much harder job.
Here i sorta disagree. I am explicitly NOT trying to resolve conflicts. At this point i didn't even know what the conflict are, I was just trying to describe the world, sow doubt amongst the players, make them paranoid basically. HOW i specifically did this was as so:
Scene, In the hospital, Amelia on bed, Sam at bedside. Just arrived from hotel where amelia woke up.
MC "What are you doing sam?"
Sam "Waiting for the police so we can file an assault charge"
MC - oh, police should be there... ok. "You wait about an hour, watching various injured people coming in. The room smells of alcohol, stale smoke from the clothes of the patients. Eventually a pair of police constables come wandering in. They look nervously around before they talk to a doctor. He points over toward you and they come introduce themselves..."
I go on for a while, we start chatting, The police are asking question about what happened, what amelia can remember. etc...
Sam "Hmm, I'm feeling suspicious, I'm watching how they behave," he rolls wits+empathy(+investigation) its his "sherlock holmes ability. 4 successes.
MC - hmm, so suspicion was justified, lets see what he sees...
Sam: Are they asking police-like questions? Taking notes?
MC: hmm, no. They seem to be almost leading amelia They are asking lots about wat she remembers from before.
Sam: ahh, so they are checking out if she remembers.
Amelia: I bet they are checking if I need to be dissappeared. When i'm talking I'm telling them I remember nothing"
So suddenly, there are police checking out that the victim remembers nothing. I now have constables Petersson and Williams who are, for some reason, checking if they need to "clean up" after the organ thief. I had no conflict in mind for the hospital, but the players pretty much set it up themselves. Like in Apoc World, if a bunch of people are in a room, and the player says "I am trying to read a charged situation" - that is now a charged situation.. as an MC i would be looking to see how I can make the NPCs act more tense and on edge.
Whenever my player is this MC'd nWoD game failed their rolls, then I made one of the moves - made them buy stuff (needing expensive tickets/gear to do something), announced badness (nightmares, phone call from the Doc saying there was another victim, etc), Separated them (loose sight of Dersu in the crowd at VanGough club)..
Basically, I was waiting to find out what the heck was going on as much as the players were.
A good discipline I used to get accustomed to resolving conflicts with the dice is to announce each and every time the consequences of a failed or successful roll before the dice hit the table. It's surprisingly hard to remember, but also very easy to do. Saying things like "The danger is..." or "If you win, you'll..." or "What's at stake is..." will help make sure you're resolving conflicts with the dice.
This is actually something I think I need to do more of. I wasn't explicitly saying to the players that, but they would be saying "i want to do X by doing ..." eg, We are driving to constable williams house, we are keeping an eye out to make sure no one is watching us. Sam's player already setup the stakes - high success they sneak there unobserved, low they spot that they are being watched, failure they dont notice they are observed sneaking.
I never ask them to roll anything unless there is something important at stake, but you are 100% right that I should make those stakes as I understand them even clearer :)
(although - I would not use the word conflict, but just set the stakes)
As I said earlier though - now how the heck to make sense of these various NPCs and questions and turn them into fronts... I'll probably give it a shot tonight - but its all percolating around my head at the moment.