Author Topic: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play  (Read 8739 times)

Hans Chung-Otterson

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The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« on: November 16, 2010, 10:09:45 AM »
One of the players, last game, said, "Apocalypse World, like Vincent's other games, is really good at being about ONE THING or ONE POINT and hammering it into you over and over, but after a while it gets tired" (paraphrase).

Thoughts?

It seems to me that everyone's AW games are really different. I don't think we're (my group) necessarily getting some of the stuff out of AW that the text implies, though. It's like, outside of the game, the players all know that, mechanically, EVERYTHING'S a threat, and so in-game, their characters act accordingly and go for broke against the threats. This is just my inference.

Plus I'm not good at making triangles or sympathetic NPCs. I mean, I've made some sympathetic NPCs, but they've gotten little traction in the larger situation of the game.

I like AW, and want to love it, but I feel like the promise of the text hasn't come to fruition in our game, and I'm not sure why. A blog post is brewing, and I'll link to it here when it's brewed.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2010, 10:32:50 AM by Hans Chung-Otterson »

Chris

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2010, 02:51:53 PM »
I've noticed in your other thread you said that you couldn't set up PC-NPC-PC triangles because the PCs all banded together, I'm guessing as a result of what you posted here, that they know that all NPCs are a threat.

Well, they're not playing their characters with integrity. I mean, that's just how it sounds from here. Trust me, I could put an NPC between two PCs that there was no way they could resolve it between themselves and still play their characters.

If the "meta" aspect of the rules and the fiction is part of the character's thoughts and decision making loop, that's a player problem.

If you're putting real problems between characters and the players are simple banding together just because the character knows that the other character is a PC, there's not much you can do besides talk to the players.

I've learned that you're only as good at making sympathetic characters and triangles as your players are invested.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Matthew SB

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2010, 06:39:25 PM »
I've been thinking about this a lot lately too.  I'm playing ApocWorld with a mixed trio of new players and grognards(?), but there's definitely a tendency in the group to "party up" into a unified front to smack down any and all threats.  Which isn't how I'd prefer play to go, but I'm working with it.

Regarding triangles, my take is that PC-NPC-PC triangles are about different flavored relationships between two PCs and an NPC.  The relationships don't have to be particularly problematic, or threatening, just varied to keep the PC's points of view regarding the NPC nuanced and sometimes complicated.

For example, NPC Owl is a young woman in Hocus Jackal's cult, who just took on as Angel Doc's apprentice and is sleeping with Gunlugger Max.  These are relationships everyone is happy about, but now each of these PCs relates to Owl in a slightly different way and for different reasons.  It's a pretty mild kind of triangle, but developed organically in play.  I'll bet you've got loads of these in your game too.  Nobody fights it, and now if trouble arises with Owl, their different relationships will color their reactions.  Not that that would prevent the PCs from cliquing up and steamrolling the trouble, if that's what the players elect to do.  But at least that's being done in a more textured relationship landscape.

That's the kind of triangle I've had the best luck with, anyway.  More aggressive triangles have tended to be galvanizing with my group, resulting in more of a simple knee-jerk response that unifies the PCs against a common "threat", which is OK too I guess.  But I think in any game that's been going on for a session or two there are going to be lots of those mild and organic triangles sprouting up, which can be cultivated into more complicated relationships.  Do you have these nascent triangles in your game?

John Mc

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2010, 06:45:39 PM »
Chris brings up a good point, I want to add my voice to his.  Essential quote:

Quote
SAY THIS FIRST AND OFTEN

To the players: your job is to play your characters as though they were real people, in whatever circumstances they find themselves - cool, competent, dangerous people, but real.


Sure, everything's a threat, but that shouldn't really matter.  Lets see if I can get at this:

If a person has a kid, that kid is a threat.  The kid could fall down a well.  The kid could catch the fever.  The kid could start stealing things.  However, it doesn't matter.  IT'S YOUR KID.  You take care of the kid and love the kid and do everything you can for them.  If you don't what's the point of living?

Kids are an easy extreme example, but don't think for a second that it isn't true everywhere and always.  If you've got a hard-holder, their citizens are threats, but caring for their citizens is still their job.  You can't have a hard-hold without them.  The same is true for chopper gangs, hocus cults, etc.  Or if you're none of those, if you're just a human being and they're a human being.  Maybe they do a kindness for you, and then you've got a relationship.  They're a threat then, but that doesn't mean you get to cut them loose at the drop of a hat.  If you don't care for others, what kind of person are you?

So a real person cares about others.  They're not just threats.

Simple example:
My skinner rescues a helpless woman about to be raped.  Next session that woman shows up to the skinner's pad with problems.  These problems become the skinner's, because she's invested.  The would-be-victim is now a threat, because she makes problems for the skinner.

Then you take things to the next level and make triangles...

Example continues:
The hard-holder has a business associate.  He's useful and reliable and the holder likes him.  The thing is that he's the problem for this would-be-victim.  Now the skinner and the hard-holder both have a stake in the situation, but they want different outcomes.

Boom!  PC-NPC-PC triangle.  Two PCs are involved in this businessman's life, but want different things.  In my story, the businessman got murdered.  It made all kinds of trouble for the hard-holder.  Makes him think twice about the other PCs as his allies, now doesn't it?  Maybe they're the real threats.

That's not an awesome example, but it's an easy one.



Back to your original question: is Apocalypse World limited in scope and quickly exhausted?  (Perhaps like his other games.)

I've only played DitV and AW.  Based on my experience, I think that your friend brings up a fair point about DitV.  When I played DitV my reaction was strong, but I didn't find myself getting a lot of mileage out of it.  I loved DitV, but I've only played it a few times.  I didn't play it enough for it to get "tired", but I can easily imagine that happening.  It doesn't take long to feel like you'd "done Dogs".

I completely disagree about Apocalypse World though.  I don't feel like it will get tired easily.  I feel like there are vast vistas to explore here.  I think we'll finish my current campaign and then immediately start another one.  We'll set it in a very different situation, with very different characters, and it'll be awesome.  After two campaigns we'll probably take a break for some other genre, but we'll be back to AW.  No doubt about it.


Now, I do think you're right that the NPCs are fundamental to making AW engaging.  If those haven't been clicking for you, I strongly suggest you reread the MC book and put some effort into pushing the PC-NPC-PC triangles, threats as something other than enemies, and getting your players invested in more things than survival.  I've had to work really hard at these things.  It hasn't been my natural inclination, but all the tools are there at your disposal.

Of course the game isn't just the MC's creation.  You also need to talk to your players.  I know I've had to.  I was sitting around planning a few weeks back when I realized that one of the characters didn't have anything in particular they cared about.  They were like characters I've seen in most of my other games.  No family, no job, no friends other than PCs, no real desires other than survival.  I took the player aside and was like "what does your character care about?  what do they want to accomplish?  Powerful, dangerous, awesome people don't just hang around waiting for life to happen.  Lets find something for you."  It worked, they got it, we brainstormed, and now the character is much more engaged and interesting.  You can do the same.

Chris

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2010, 03:08:38 PM »
but there's definitely a tendency in the group to "party up" into a unified front to smack down any and all threats.  Which isn't how I'd prefer play to go, but I'm working with it.

See, I haven't seen this. At all. What happens for me is that I set up a triangle, where an NPC is a help to one PC, but a problem for another. Now the PCs are "friends" or at least allies, but in my games the PC invariably kills the NPC and then that sparks a fight between the two PCs that ends in one of their deaths.

The "problems" Hans is seeing? I'm having the opposite. I average one PC death every other session.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

John Harper

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2010, 08:41:59 PM »
Every other session a PC dies? That's... shocking. It's really hard to kill a PC. You might have to try 3 or 4 times, say, if they're taking debilities instead of dying. That's an awful of lot of deadly situations for 1.5 sessions.

nemomeme

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2010, 02:19:01 AM »
I've played or run in five different AW games now and they've all been different enough to continue to hold my interest; I haven't seen that "ONE THING/POINT" that your player has, Hans.

My two comments for now are:

1) Make sure you internalize the AW definition of "Threat".  Threats are varied and some  of them should be difficult to tackle head on.  The PCs are powerhouses if they work together; when the Threat is obvious, hostile, and can be confronted by violence w/o moral or emotional implications, then the PCs are going to mow through it and continually remove those pieces of the world you've created, leaving a barren story landscape in their wake and increasing the potential for a game that may feel less satisfying than you're hoping for.

2) PC-NPC-PC triangles are pretty important.  There are some good AW AP threads that might give you some ideas on how you can get better and building those.  I can give you some of my thoughts on how I try to achieve this if you want to get together and talk about it FTF some time.

Chris

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2010, 02:11:09 PM »
Every other session a PC dies? That's... shocking. It's really hard to kill a PC. You might have to try 3 or 4 times, say, if they're taking debilities instead of dying. That's an awful of lot of deadly situations for 1.5 sessions.

Yeah. Not so much any more, but for a while. If a PC is doing the killing, sometimes it's hard to work out a debility. As in, "I sit over his body and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot until there's nothing left. I put a guard on the body and if it comes back a week later, I have them shoot it again." At that point.....  :) I know thats dickish behavior, but sometimes, terrible things happen between PCs in my current game. And grudges are held.

Also, not everyone always takes a debility. Sometimes, they just want to play another playbook.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

John Harper

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2010, 07:44:32 PM »
Yeah, I get the not taking a debility thing. Sometimes you just want to move on to someone new.

When I'm MC, and someone gets taken to 12:00, I say, "Yep, they're dead. Dead dead dead." I think it stretches the "play your character like a real person," clause if a player insists that they stand over a dead body and shoot it over and over with their shotgun.

But maybe that's just me.

Gregor Vuga

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2010, 08:13:43 PM »
I'm in this PbP game Chris is running right now. Were at 1.5 sessions, more or less (hard to say in an online environment), and at least one PC is badly wounded and another is at 11:00 right now (all due to PvP). It's crazy.

Michael Pfaff

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2010, 08:22:46 PM »
Also, not everyone always takes a debility. Sometimes, they just want to play another playbook.

Right. Playing a Chopper (aptly named Satan) in one of Chris' real life games, I decided in his moment of harm to 12 that it made sense for him to die. So no debility. He died.

Michael Pfaff

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2010, 08:24:02 PM »
I'm in this PbP game Chris is running right now. Were at 1.5 sessions, more or less (hard to say in an online environment), and at least one PC is badly wounded and another is at 11:00 right now (all due to PvP). It's crazy.

I'd say for some of us it's session 1... :)

It's that damn tyrant Marco. We're going to have to band together and dethrone him. "He's got WMDs I tell yah!"

Judd

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2010, 08:29:04 PM »
As in, "I sit over his body and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot until there's nothing left. I put a guard on the body and if it comes back a week later, I have them shoot it again." At that point.....  :) I know thats dickish behavior, but sometimes, terrible things happen between PCs in my current game. And grudges are held.

What the fuck happened in your game?

Chris

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2010, 08:36:44 PM »
Dude, I hear the fabled "horror story" of Poisoned (I typoed and wrote P'sioned. That needs to be a game), the one where there's a head and some neck rape.

I wish my games were that tame......
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Chris

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Re: The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2010, 08:41:18 PM »
I think it stretches the "play your character like a real person," clause if a player insists that they stand over a dead body and shoot it over and over with their shotgun.

Oh it does. It really, really does.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"