Author Topic: A game I love to prep for  (Read 3323 times)

Paul T.

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2016, 03:54:25 PM »
Great answers, Rafu! Thanks.

If you don't mind, I have further questions. If these are bugging you, feel free to ignore them. :)

I was curious about the differences in game roles:

* You've already discussed how the shift away from playbooks changes your players' interaction with the game. Does the design of moves make the game feel different, too? If so, how?

* Do you ever use "saves"? (It just occurred to me that "saves" are FV's version of "act under fire".)

* Aside from the fictional and stylistic requirements (which you've covered nicely), how does MCing it feel different from AW? Is your role somewhat different, in your experience?

* How much further input from the players do you draw on in play, after the first session?

Paul T.

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2016, 04:48:10 PM »
In this earlier conversation, Vincent says that FV is a more "rules-first" game than AW (my words, not his):

http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=7471.0

I'm curious if that's something you've seen in play, or not.

Rafu

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2016, 10:37:28 PM »
I actually enjoy the attention! Though maybe some of these questions and answer are carrying us pretty far from the subject of thread and my original intent for this thread... But whatever.

* You've already discussed how the shift away from playbooks changes your players' interaction with the game. Does the design of moves make the game feel different, too? If so, how?
Well, it's a different game, tops. I'm not sure it's that fruitful to make a detailed, point by point comparison with AW - or, at least, no more useful than such a comparison with any other RPG would be.
But speaking of moves, I think the array of [basic] moves in FV actually does play a very similar role to the one in AW, which is: they shape player's affordances (is that a word? I've heard it used as a game design word) according to a specific mindset and outlook of the designer's choice, which is thus adopted as all PCs's default outlook and world view. Thus available moves subtly shape characters.

* Do you ever use "saves"? (It just occurred to me that "saves" are FV's version of "act under fire".)
I'm using saves a lot. Like "Act under fire" in AW, I'm using them to cover all cases non covered by moves - but unlike "Act under fire" in AW, it's usually me who initiates saves, though often in reply to a PC's initiative. When MCing AW, it's never my job to initiate a player's move for them.

* Aside from the fictional and stylistic requirements (which you've covered nicely), how does MCing it feel different from AW? Is your role somewhat different, in your experience?
At a very bare-bones level, I think my role in the conversation is, in the strictest sense, the same in both games.
But stylistic and fictional stuff is quite a big deal: they do feel different, inasmuch as they each are a different game, make no mistakes.
I later want to get more detailed about my prep, which incidentally will show how exactly this aspect of play

* How much further input from the players do you draw on in play, after the first session?
I'm not sure I understand the question. We all have input, or that's what I like to think. Do you perhaps want to know whether I ask them any "Mountain Witch" questions? As a general principle, I don't - though there have been, and there might again be exceptions to this.

Paul T.

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #18 on: October 11, 2016, 04:02:58 AM »
Rafu,

Good answers. I'm enjoy these conversations, too; glad you are as well.

I believe (I could be misremembering!) that Vincent said somewhere he was dissatisfied with the moves in FV, and planned to upgrade/change them. Has that been done, or are you playing with the original versions?

When I was asking about the effects of the moves, I was hoping you'd have more specific observations. Of course having different moves shapes the game differnetly! I was curious if you had any specific thoughts on how this was happening, or how it shaped your game, specifically.

I would definitely like to hear more about your prep!

As for "player input", this is why I was thinking about it:

http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=7475

AW popularized a form of play where "provocative questions" did a lot of world-building for the group, allowing all kinds of input into the world, what it's like, and sometimes even its nature (via the psychic maelstrom).

However, here Vincent is very clear that this isn't this kind of game.

In terms of how you've been playing it, where on that spectrum would it fall? Certainly the first session sounds like it was a collaborative, free-wheeling kind of thing, with everyone throwing in ideas. Am I guessing right? And how did that change (if it did) after the first session?

Cheers!

Rafu

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2016, 08:29:17 AM »
Paul, about your two latest posts, which both happen to include links to other threads, I'm thinking maybe I could move these parts of the conversation to those other threads, if that makes any sense to you?

Paul T.

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2016, 04:07:02 PM »
That's fine by me!

To me, "how much of play is improvised based on player input" is very DIRECTLY a "game prep" question, but it's no problem to have the discussion in the other threads, too, if you want to address in a more general sense, as opposed to specific to your game.

Rafu

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2016, 11:56:27 PM »
That clarifies a lot, thanks!
It's going to take me some time to answer all your questions - mostly because I have precious little free time on my hands and I'm trying to save as much of it as possible to actually prep for the game - but I'll get to them eventually and keep posting the much longer posts I had originally envisioned as well.

Paul T.

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #22 on: October 12, 2016, 03:21:24 AM »
Cool! Looking forward to it.

There's a significant chance I'll be running a game of this in about a week and a half, so it's not entirely a theoretical question.

Cheers!

Rafu

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #23 on: October 12, 2016, 10:23:08 AM »
Trouble Snowballs, part 1: tracking the 1st session snowball uphill

Told you one important thing in my notebook is Trouble. Most of the time it's a note written on a left-hand page, marked with a little bubble with the word TROUBLE in it. Ex.:
Quote
TROUBLE: Magistrate Vettonius Arduino Komtec was actually at the party at the House of Blue Steps, disguised as a slave, to spend some time with a younger male lover.
For someone of his standing, that counts as a thoughtless decision.

How does this come to be?
After the first session (which, remember, was just one extended scene involving conflicts with multiple NPCs, plus a little follow-up scene involving wounded Vetin and one additional NPC) I sat down thinking and tried to rationalize everything which had just happened "on screen" as the consequences of unseen Trouble - that's what the booklet told me to do. Sort of tracking the snowball uphill. It wasn't hard, really.
First thing, there was Kamrissa, the enforcer, who was a gang member (a gang running a gambling racket: I'd stated that as public knowledge), had attacked a house of luxury during a party, wounding Vetin, and who'd also "stolen" a job - a murder - from Iago. It wouldn't make sense to me if Kamrissa's gang, the Pious Brotherhood aka Half-Bat, had thought of hiring Iago before deciding on using their own enforcers, nor did it make any sense to me that Vetin was a target (remember how these two details had come from players answering my setup questions - and were in fact at odd angles with what I had on my mind a minute before that, when I started setting the scene). I went for what was to me the most logical explanation: Kamrissa was carrying out two jobs at once! That's two pieces of Trouble, right here:
  • the bosses of the Pious Brotherhood (powerful people) ordering Kamrissa to make an example of the House of Blue Steps: to storm the establishment slaughtering guests and staff (an outright malicious decision); and
  • some other powerful person ordering the murder of somebody who just happened to be a guest of the House that night (malicious); first contacting Iago to do the job, but then changing their mind and hiring Kamrissa (thoughtless).
Hey, in retrospect, that's actually three pieces of Trouble. And two separate threads I had to explore, to follow uphill to their source.

A third such thread concerned Vettonius... This name had been made up on the spot by Vetin's player, when Demanding that Kamrissa ceased her attack. The roll was a mixed success and one of the conditions I dictated was "if you deceive them". Vetin's bluff consisted of literally saying: "Lord Vettonius would be very disappointed" - "That's just a name I made up", Enrico added out of character, "but I hope this sounds threatening enough". Since the bluff sort-of worked, I felt it was too good an opportunity to pass, and I made a mental note that "Vettonius" probably wasn't a name Vetin made up, but rather a name which was on her mind because she'd heard it somewhere - a name nearly unconsciously associated with power. That was entirely my idea, not required nor suggested in any way by the rules of the game, but I felt like I had to do something to add weight to what would otherwise have been quite a cheap throwaway use of part of a move. I acted on this thought by doing my job, that is, by introducing and playing NPCs - specifically, a guest of the house going by the name of Lady Luillia ("that's quite a common name", I added, "and doesn't necessarily have to be her real one") who visited Vetin in the servants' quarters, where she was resting and recovering from her wound, and graciously but excitedly asked her:
"I've heard from somebody who's heard from someone in the kitchen staff you've dropped the name of Lord Vettonius, just minutes ago. By any chance, is he here, at the House, tonight?"
(This also created an opportunity for treasure - as a bribe or reward from the lady. I'm glad this happened, because otherwise we'd totally have been missing out on an Examine Treasure moment at the end of our - relatively short - first session.)

[TO BE CONTINUED - next up: Even further uphill]
« Last Edit: October 12, 2016, 09:13:07 PM by Rafu »

Rafu

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #24 on: October 12, 2016, 10:11:13 PM »
Trouble Snowballs, part 2: snowballs come down from high mountaintops, don't they?

It usually pays to climb a step further. Why does the gambling-racket gang want to hurt a house of luxury so hard? The answer's obvious, and obvious is good:
Quote
TROUBLE: the Hosts in Black, who run the House of Blue Steps, have allowed or encouraged gambling at their parties, but have never payed the customary fees to the Temple of the Wheel of Fortune, nor the equivalent illicit fee to the Half-Bat Gang.
How thoughtless of them! Now, why do I care, exactly? I care because, if they've made troublesome decision in the past, they can definitely do it again. So far we've only tracked the snowball uphill - exploring the background of what's already happened - but now that we enjoy a clear view from the top we can get new snowballs started too.

At this level, it's just a matter of playing my own characters (the NPCs): the Hosts have made their troublesome decision, the Pious Brotherhood have made their move, and the PCs thwarted it, but now it's the Host's turn again - what would they do? I consider:
Quote
TROUBLE: the Hosts in Black want to retaliate against the Half-Bat, and start looking for killers to hire.
That was already a pretty good setup to session #2, but you know how there's lots of other stuff in my notes besides Trouble? (more about this is to follow) I had decided, of all things, that the Hosts in Black were husband and wife. What about putting them at odds? It thus occurred me to make this piece of Trouble even better:
Quote
TROUBLE: the Hostess in Black wants to retaliate against the Half-Bat, and starts looking for killers to hire. But she doesn't tell her husband - the Host in Black - who's scared out of his mind instead.
But we know whom she's going to ask, right? That's apparently what kitchen staff is for - letting her know who'd thwarted the enforcer's attack and killed the necromancer. So, what about...
Quote
TROUBLE: the Hostess in Black wants to retaliate against the Half-Bat, and sends for Iago to do the job. But she doesn't tell her husband - the Host in Black - who's scared out of his mind instead.

See what I've done here? By tracking existing Trouble to its source, I've discovered opportunities to make new Trouble. That's actually just one big snowball, rolling over and over, connecting what has happened already to what might happen later. This process definitely plays a key role in my prep.

[TO BE CONTINUED - Next up: Who's a powerful person?]

Rafu

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #25 on: October 13, 2016, 09:24:42 AM »
Trouble Snowballs, part 3: small links in a chain of trouble

By tracking back the initial situation and other 1st session events to the powerful people who'd made troublesome decisions, and having them make malicious or thoughtless decisions again, by the time we sat down to play the 2nd session I had a lot waiting to happen: the Hostess in Black trying to get Iago to fight a gang-war for her, an annoyed Magistrate Vettonius mobilizing his forces to find Vetin - to ask her how did she know he was at the party (she didn't), some priestess somewhere still having a rival unmurdered to take care of, and of course the Pious Brotherhood making their next move...

But that didn't account for everything. There were actions wanting for consequences. For example, when the PCs - after Iago and Kamrissa exchanging volleys of crossbow bolts to no avail - Demanded that Kamrissa ceased her attack and retreated, it wasn't enough to deceive her (Vetin's "Lord Vettonius would be displeased" trick), but they owed her for it too: specifically, it was Dix, the reluctant necromancer, who shouldered this (I don't even remember who had rolled and who was helping with the move - that was a collective effort). There was an exchange like:
Quote
Dix: Leave us alone and I'll pay you back, somehow.
Kamrissa: You?! How?
Dix: We'll find a way. I always pay my debts.
Kamrissa: I'll know how to find you, kid.

What counts as Trouble, exactly?
Quote
To create trouble, have a powerful person make a thoughtless or malicious decision and follow through on it, to bad effect on people less powerful.
Alright, then the real question is: who counts as a "powerful person"?
So far in this thread, I've more-or-less followed the Job Framework in Hand to Mouth in the City of Nephthys, with its powerful persons of the 1st rank and the 2nd rank: a governor of the city, the priests of a powerful cult, gang bosses and lords of the underworld, the owners of a well-established house of luxury, people related in various ways to one of the city's princely families... That was great, a source of inspiration, and provided me with hints to a whole other part of my duties: adding vivid and concrete detail.
However, while thinking about how Trouble and its consequences snowball, and how PCs are caught in the snowball, it occurred me that this is a chain with a lot of links - that sometimes people not generally in a position of power get to make decisions which "steer" the snowball. I arrived to the following working definition:
  • Powerful person: a powerful person is, for the purpose of game prep, anybody who's - even temporarily - in a position such that, if they make a thoughtless or malicious decision and follow through on it, it will adversely affect people currently less powerful.
Once we're on this train of thought, we can start following other threads: threads which have to do with Kamrissa's poor decisions and with Tinius the necromancer. By following these threads uphill I'm sure I can find an answer to one of the most pressing questions: what will Kamrissa, The Hand that Taketh, the ruthless enforcer of the Pious Brotherhood, ask of peaceful Dix? The answer ended up driving our 2nd session and colliding with other snowballs to make a storm.

[TO BE CONTINUED]
« Last Edit: October 13, 2016, 09:29:22 AM by Rafu »

Paul T.

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #26 on: October 13, 2016, 09:29:19 PM »
(Enjoying the read, thanks! A very helpful glimpse into your process.)

lumpley

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #27 on: October 14, 2016, 01:10:40 AM »
Right on, Rafu! Thanks for writing this up.

-Vincent

Rafu

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #28 on: October 16, 2016, 10:20:29 AM »
* How much further input from the players do you draw on in play, after the first session?
The first session - or, rather, the setup to the first scene - wasn't different from the others in that I accepted more input from other players, but in that I demanded input from them without much context to build upon.

At all times during play we get input from each other, but usually we don't explicitly stop and ask for it, nor do we step outside the boundaries of our respective "jobs" to provide it. We've been playing together for a while and there are well established creative dynamics in place which naturally "port" from game to game, but don't ham-fistedly supersede the rules of the game. Some of these dynamics were forged by playing games which by design train for and require shared creativity, such as W. Person's Okult or, in different ways, AW. Others were probably born of playing rawer games where we had to step in and fill some gaps, such as Sorcerer, and a lot of playtests of unfinished designs of mine.

The beginning of the first session in FV was definitely a cold start, but it's the kind of beginning in medias res that some other games inspired by swords and sorcery try to do as well, including the suggestion of beginning with a Perilous Phase in Swords Without Master (which I've stopped doing, and now my convention one-shots are better for it) or even Dungeon World (which I haven't played) to the extent it's also informed by s'n's. Apparently, all such games struggle with beginnings a bit, including leaving it entirely to the GM in Trollbabe (I always fumble it) or how getting to a good first scene in S. Carryer's On Mighty Thews requires strong GM fiat and ignoring half of the collaborative prep you've done so far. FV wasn't worse than any of those, really.

Setting up the first scene was, on my part, cool. I just opened my mind-eye and started describing, and having rolled on the chart gave me an alibi for using my GM fiat, so I didn't feel guilty about exercising it. This was actually easier than in AW, where the equivalent of rolling on the chart is to have daydreamed about apocalyptica for a few days plus thinking about the intersection of the PCs basic needs and capabilities, based on their playbooks - and you have to exercise MC fiat anyway, with no alibi. But maybe I could only skip the days of daydreaming part because I'm always daydream about swords and sorcery stuff - that's part of who I am. And in AW the other players have been thinking about their own characters quite a bit already, by picking a playbook and compiling it, so that if you start asking questions right on they have a basis for answering.
Whereas FV was a cold start for the character players, maybe because the chargen part doesn't ask you to think about your character as concretely as in AW, but leaves all vivid and concrete details to be revealed - or indeed established - in play. Thus, when I started asking provocative questions from the provided list, it went like this:
Quote
ME: One of you is in a place distant from the others, in a position from which you can see what’s happening. Who?

LAVINIA as IAGO: Definitely me, 'cause I'm a stealthy fellow - I've got the Stealth skill! So I think I am... [definite, concrete details based on the location I'd described]

ME: Great! Now, one of you has only ended up in this mess, opposing a Half-Bat enforcer, to fulfill a promise to someone. Who? [That I felt the need to paraphrase this to fit it in maybe shows I hadn't chosen the best question for that scene.]

THEM: ...

ME: Anybody?

BARBARA as DIX: Maybe that's me? I think I'm the kind of person who holds to his promises. But I'm not sure what I've promised whom...

SOMEBODY: Didn't we say we're here on some kind of temporary job? Does that count?

BARBARA as DIX: Yeah, Dix is definitely working as a kitchen servant tonight. Does that count as a promise?

SOMEBODY: Probably not.

ALESSIO as NICTUS: I'm on security duty or something.

SOMEBODY: Do you have any weapons? Armor?

ALESSIO as NICTUS: I don't need any.

ENRICO as VETIN: I'm a page here! I announce guests by name when they arrive to the party.

ME: Cool! So you aren't wearing your armor, are you?

ENRICO as VETIN: Of course I am! It's ornate armor.

ME: Alright. So -er- Dix, what have you promised whom?

BARBARA as DIX: Er...

ME: Oh, well, while you think about it... One of you is wounded and bleeding. Who?

THEM: What? Seriously?

ME: Seriously. It's a question from my list, right here.

ALESSIO as NICTUS: Don't look at me.

ENRICO as VETIN: Wooo! That would be me!

ME: Great! So... uhm... as soon as the woman entered the backyard, she shot her complicated hand-crossbow and hit you. What kind of wound do you have? Is it serious? Go ahead and mark it as a bad experience.

ENRICO as VETIN: Cool. I have a crossbow quarrel sticking from my arm and I'm dripping blood. I'll mark "My blood flowed freely".

ME: So, what about that promise?

LAVINIA as IAGO: What about it's me? I'm thinking maybe I've stalked this bastard to this backyard because she's stolen a well-paid job - a murder for hire, I mean - from under my nose.

SOMEBODY: So you're a killer for hire, too?

LAVINIA as IAGO: Definitely. That's why I picked "Sword-binding" and "Stealth" as my skills.

ME: Actually, that sounds like the answer to another question from the list, "One of you is taking this more personally than the rest", but that's cool. Let's do it over and say I've asked you that question instead. Now I think we know more than enough and we're good to go. [I summarize the immediate situation then ask]: what do you do?
Not as smooth as it could have been, you see.

Paul T.

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Re: A game I love to prep for
« Reply #29 on: October 16, 2016, 06:51:28 PM »
Great summary!

If you were to do it again, would you do it differently? And, if so, how?