Author Topic: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble  (Read 23050 times)

StormKnight

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #45 on: April 16, 2017, 06:06:28 AM »
OK, I mentioned a bit back that I thought there were a few conversation topics going on here. Finally getting around to addressing another. I think this all more "behind the scenes theory", and I'm not sure its very practical.


* You are definitely reading the MC moves too specifically. Remember that when you make a move, you're supposed to 'Use the Keeper moves, without names'. (Ugh. I don't love that phrasing. I prefer AW's "Make a move, but misdirect".) This means that you get the effect the move describes, but make it in a way which flows logically from the fiction. In other words, interpret it loosely. They're creative prompts, to be interpreted by you, and then narrated into being in a way which creates whatever your group considers to be exciting.

For example, can a monster "capture someone"? After all, that's a minion move, as you say.

Yes, it most definitely can. How?

1. The MC move separate them: "The monster grabs Lily and pulls her into the parallel dimension. Suddenly you can't see or hear her anymore."

2. The MC move put someone in trouble: "The monster lashes out with a tentacle and grabs Lily, throwing her into the pit."

3. The monster move seize someone or something: "The monster grabs Lily, wrapping its coils around her neck, and drags her away."

4. Make a custom move for the monster (which could include on the spot, so long as it makes sense, given the fiction): "This monster can strike out of the darkness, blinding a victim/This monster has claws which, once closed, are almost impossible to pry open/etc."

5. Make a custom move for the monster: "This monster also has the move 'capture someone'; it's something it does a lot."

Really, the moves shouldn't feel like restrictions. They should cover pretty much anything which seems logical. They're creative prompts, not constraints. Some people find the specific list unnecessary; others like the inspiration they provide. ("Oh, man. I can't think of anything for the minions to do now. Oh, but wait: it says they could capture someone. Hmmm. Who are they interested in? Oh, they'd probably love to get their hands on Lily. Ok, I'll narrate that!")

The monster moves are a *description* of how the monster typically acts; not limitations on its behaviour. If the write-up for this monster says that it has the moves "capture someone" and "lash out with a prehensile tongue", that doesn't mean that's ALL it can do, it means those are two behaviours it often engages in - things it might do by instinct when it can't think of anything (or if you can't think of anything else!).

Actually, the book LITERALLY describes the keeper moves as being restrictions on the Keeper's actions, and the phrasing in the book is very consistent for them being restrictions. It never says things like "ask a question such as". Everything is written as a limitation, a restriction.

If the rules are intended as restrictions, it is very clearly violating the spirit of the game to interpret the actions as you have described above; if they are meant as restrictions and a certain action is clearly and specifically on the list for minions but not for monsters, then obviously the monster shouldn't do it!

But, on the other hand, if the list is just meant as inspiration and not as restrictions, there's no point to "justifying" the action as you've done; it doesn't matter if it can be mapped to a move or not; the moves are just there to inspire you anyway.

I get the idea that most people don't actually treat the moves as restrictions at all, and just as inspiration, which I guess is the best way to play.

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"Play to find out what happens" means that you do not try to force a plot or specific outcome on the players. You come to the table with an open mind about outcomes, and "don't always decide what happens". (I am going to guess that the book tells you how to accomplish this, specifically - if not, look up Apocalypse World; it describes this very well, and gives you multiple options for doing it.) This means you shouldn't use this move simply to "make things happen the way you want it to".

"Be a fan of the hunters" means you're looking forward to their success. If having the monster "escape, no matter how well contained it is" cheapens their achievement or success, or makes them seem incompetent, or if it feels unfair... again, don't do it.
I still am really not sure what is meant by "do not try to force a plot". What puzzles me most is that MotW seems far LESS like a game you can "play to find out what happens" than the vast majority of other RPGs. The prep all seems to be about forcing the plot - just not in any useful ways.

I cannot imagine any situation in which a monster escaping no matter how well contained it is would NOT cheapen their achievement or success or seem unfair. The only reason I can see for writing it that way is to "allow" the Keeper to let a monster escape even if it makes no sense for it to happen; otherwise the 'move' would be "The monster escapes if there is any reasonable way for it to do so" or something like that.

Sigh...tried to get back to the game this evening and it was just a complete disaster. We quit literally in the middle of an action/attack...just were totally stuck for what to happen. So much time spent looking at the moves list and hemming and hawing about what stuff should mean. Generally trying to cut combat to be way shorter because its really lacking in excitement. I guess maybe its just time to give up on this. :(

StormKnight

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #46 on: April 16, 2017, 06:10:53 AM »
And finally, for the manipulation roll with the crazy, alien-hunting doctor, a good 7-9 result would be to have the doctor demand proof; "A Fed, eh? Where's your badge and gun?" Or better yet, "A secret division, eh? Let's call your supervisor right now. I can help you people, you know." This might snowball into another PC having to fake being an FBI director over the phone (certainly actingunder pressure) lest their teammate get hurt.
Incidentally, the characters actually ARE with a secret division of the FBI (one officially, one as a 'consultant'). :p

For the most part, again, that just seems to take it back in a circle.
"I try to convince him to trust me"
7-9..."OK, convince him to trust you"
Its just going back to where things started. A clever PC would quickly learn to always phrase things to allow an easy escalation; that would be silly and gamey, but I think it would be hard not to do it.

But it doesn't sound like most people actually use the rules anyway.


StormKnight

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #47 on: April 16, 2017, 01:26:40 PM »
So what do people actually feel that they GET out of MotW? What does it do for you over just freeform roleplaying? What is awesome about it? What am I missing here?

KidDublin

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #48 on: April 16, 2017, 03:23:36 PM »
StormKnight, regardless of how many diehards like me tell you otherwise, if a game isn't fun for you, then it's not fun for you, and it's fine to admit that and move on. If you're still interested, though, we can keep trying to address some of your issues.

Actually, the book LITERALLY describes the keeper moves as being restrictions on the Keeper's actions, and the phrasing in the book is very consistent for them being restrictions. It never says things like "ask a question such as". Everything is written as a limitation, a restriction.


Can you provide the exact quote from the book where it says this? I can't see a passage where the Keeper moves are presented in this fashion. Here's what I found which best describes the general principles behind Keeper moves.

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“For the hunters, their moves cover specific cases. Hunter moves say that when a hunter does this, it is resolved like so. Your Keeper moves are more general, giving you broad but definite options.”

So broad, but definite, which doesn't quite equal "restrictions." Also, you say that the book never tells the Keeper to "ask a question, such as." That's not accurate. The below is from the Keeper moves section, describing what a Keeper can do when they're not sure what move to make.

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“Mostly it will be obvious what should happen next, and picking your move is easy. Other times it’s not so obvious, and you might need to think a little about what you will do. That’s fine, take a moment if you need to. Or you can just ask the hunters what they do—that’s a good default move when you can’t think of anything right now.

If you can’t decide, you can always fall back on your Keeper principles or your agenda, and describe something consistent with them.”

Those two passages are key ones to keep in mind while running MotW. You should also keep in mind that the minion and monster moves are meant to be used in addition to the Keeper's basic moves, and those are written broadly enough that it's difficult (for me, at least) to think of a story beat that doesn't fit one of the basic moves.

Paul T's advice is absolutely in keeping with the spirit of the game. The question you seem to be hung up on is "Are the Keeper moves rules that I have to follow, or advice for good roleplaying?" The answer is: both. In PbtA, the rules are often indistinguishable from advice. What a move like "separate them" is really saying is that it's often a neat story beat to have the PCs separated.

When it comes to the "forcing a plot" issue, I'm not sure what else to say to convince you that MotW isn't asking for a plot. You say MotW seems like a game that wants you to pre-plan a rigid series of events, but at no point does the book ask you to do that. Can you go over the section on mystery planning again, and provide the specific examples from the text that are leading you to the conclusion that MotW isn't about "playing to find out what happens"?

Paul T.

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #49 on: April 16, 2017, 07:49:42 PM »
Interesting!

Yeah, I have to say again that I haven't read or played MotW, but your interpretation of it (whether it's your understanding or a bad text, I can't say) sounds... rather odd. I don't really see how this game could work by an overly strict reading of the "moves" - for instance, "separate them" or "offer an opportunity" are such abstract moves in the first place that I don't see how they could feel restrictive.

Have you ever had the chance to read or listen to or watch a "replay" or "actual play" of the game? The PbtA texts I'm most familiar with - Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts - both do this really well, showing you how to use the moves in play. If you have the patience for it, watching a good group play can be really eye-opening, too.

I cannot imagine any situation in which a monster escaping no matter how well contained it is would NOT cheapen their achievement or success or seem unfair. The only reason I can see for writing it that way is to "allow" the Keeper to let a monster escape even if it makes no sense for it to happen; otherwise the 'move' would be "The monster escapes if there is any reasonable way for it to do so" or something like that.

Oh, sure! I think the wording of the move is a bit sloppy (as you point out, if there's simply no way to confine the monster at all, that's no fun, nor believable - I agree with your rephrasing of the move), but I think it points to a cool and fun kind of event or scene which we might see in this kind of story.

Here are some examples of where I would use it:

* The monster is captured or contained by people who are not the Hunters. The police, the military, the local asylum, etc.

However, it escapes, despite everything they tried! This escalates the tension and lets the players know they can't rely on the authorities. It shows them as incompetent (or, at least, not up to the challenge of this monster), and makes it clear that the Hunters will have to do it themselves.

* The monster is captured or contained by the Hunters, but they face a difficult choice and they make a decision which gives it an opportunity to escape.

For example, a Hunter captures the monster, but he is distracted by his love interest, and decides to break his promise to the rest of the team to stay on guard, and, instead, goes out on a date/gets busy with his lover. While he's away, the monster escapes!

* The monster is captured, but the Hunters' knowledge of its abilities is incomplete, so they've made an error in containing it.

It escapes, taking advantage of this error. This is interesting, because it reveals more information to the Hunters - "Oh, we didn't know it could fit through a hole that small/turn into fog/teleport/trade bodies with a guard! We'll deal with it differently from now on."

The escape, in some way, reveals something important, or gives weight to a decision made by the players.

I certainly would NEVER use this move in a situation where the players, to the best of their knowledge, and yours, have done everything to contain it, and it doesn't seem reasonable for it to escape. Why would you? That's no fun for anybody.

The short version is:

This move is telling you that it would be "cool" to have this scene happen in the game - the terrifying monster bursts forth from confinement!

You can work that in, if it seems like a good idea.

How do you know if it's a good idea? It should, first of all, follow your own aesthetic judgement (you think it would be cool, in other words), and, second, follow your Agenda and Principles. If it seems like it would be cool/fun to see, and it keeps things interesting, still maintains the frame that you're a fan of the characters, saying what honesty demands, and so on, then you use it! If not, you don't.

Basically, where you rewrote the move to say "...if it's reasonable to do so".... that should apply to EVERY RULE in the game, every single move you make (both you and the players). Add it, mentally, to every single move in the game! That's how it's supposed to be used.

If you can imagine seeing that in a movie and it would make you think, "Oh, that's cheap," then don't do it.

StormKnight

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #50 on: April 18, 2017, 09:14:59 PM »
StormKnight, regardless of how many diehards like me tell you otherwise, if a game isn't fun for you, then it's not fun for you, and it's fine to admit that and move on. If you're still interested, though, we can keep trying to address some of your issues.

So, a confession here is that while, in theory, I really like RPGs, I don't think most RPGs are very good. Part of my annoyance is that most provide helpful mechanics for combat but very little past that, failing to provide any real mechanical support for many of the things that could happen in the game. (MotW seems to have this failing as well).

Another, quite large part of my annoyance is that most RPGs are unreasonably complex, with too many pages of rules, tables of modifiers, more stats than are needed, etc. This is a problem for me, and it is frequently even MORE of a problem for people I game with. (I find the list of modifiers for, say, Savage Worlds, annoying, my players find it utterly ridiculous).

So when I started to try Monster of the Week and I have someone who normally HATES making characters being enthused about how easy it is to make a character, and being excited about how simple the rules are and how there's not a ton of stuff to remember or look up, I really, really want the game to work out. Which is why I'm finding it totally infuriating that I just can't seem to run this.

Actually, the book LITERALLY describes the keeper moves as being restrictions on the Keeper's actions, and the phrasing in the book is very consistent for them being restrictions. It never says things like "ask a question such as". Everything is written as a limitation, a restriction.


Can you provide the exact quote from the book where it says this? I can't see a passage where the Keeper moves are presented in this fashion. Here's what I found which best describes the general principles behind Keeper moves. [/quote]

Page 166:
"To help you make your decisions about what happens next whenever the outcome is uncertain, the rules restrict you to certain options. These parts of the conversation are called "moves".




Quote
So broad, but definite, which doesn't quite equal "restrictions." Also, you say that the book never tells the Keeper to "ask a question, such as." That's not accurate. The below is from the Keeper moves section, describing what a Keeper can do when they're not sure what move to make.
I'm referring to several moves that result in asking specific questions, such as Investigate a Mystery and Read a Bad Situation. They specify exact questions.

In similar fashion, most of the player moves gives very definite results on what happens. A 7-9 result on Kick Some Ass means you take damage, and that's it. The opponent can't disarm you or do something else. Just do damage back.


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Paul T's advice is absolutely in keeping with the spirit of the game. The question you seem to be hung up on is "Are the Keeper moves rules that I have to follow, or advice for good roleplaying?" The answer is: both. In PbtA, the rules are often indistinguishable from advice. What a move like "separate them" is really saying is that it's often a neat story beat to have the PCs separated.
Note that this isn't really an issue except in the theoretical sense; it is now mostly obvious that most people just treat it all as guidelines. However, it then gets confusing when people talk about, for example, "creating a custom keeper move" - why would you ever need to "create" a move if the moves are all just guidelines?

For the most part it seems like the thing to do is just ignore all the keeper "motivations" and "moves". They don't actually DO anything or add anything to the game. They are just there for inspiration, and if I don't find them at all inspiring (indeed, I often find them annoying instead), that's no use.

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When it comes to the "forcing a plot" issue, I'm not sure what else to say to convince you that MotW isn't asking for a plot. You say MotW seems like a game that wants you to pre-plan a rigid series of events, but at no point does the book ask you to do that. Can you go over the section on mystery planning again, and provide the specific examples from the text that are leading you to the conclusion that MotW isn't about "playing to find out what happens"?
I don't think I've ever said it wants you to pre-plan a "rigid series of events". It does ask  you to plan a great deal. All of the 'motivations' are about defining what a location or person is going to do with the plot. A 'crossroads' is a place to meet someone, so you are pre-defining that the PCs will meet someone there. What it doesn't seem to want you to do is decide who they will meet or how they will meet them, so its like it wants you to define the plot without actually defining anything useful to know about the plot.

Other elements include things like pre-defining how the players will defeat the monster (its weakness), pre-defining the "destiny" of the chosen. the whole "something bad is going to happen" result on the chosen's premonitions (what in the world does that even mean? What bad will happen? What if something bad doesn't really present itself? What if the character consistently makes good rolls that would avert something bad happening?)

Mostly I just have no idea how the system would "fight" you if you pre-determined a "plot", which is something people keep saying. Maybe we're just talking about totally different things. For example, this is basically what I "planned" for the first few sessions of one of the last non-MotW games I ran; a time-traveling action/adventure game using Savage Worlds:

1) PC is in a remote cave when massive apocalypse occurs. Part of backstory and set-up.
2) Nearest city has one building that is surrounded with wrecked military vehicles and has a flag with 'SOS Survivor" or something like that hanging out of the window. Inside is a wounded but stable soldier (with name, personality, stats).
3) Soldier has been picking up radio transmissions urging that if anyone is alive they should go to the Amelion Institute, with locations.
4) Amelion institute is run by an AI with limited abilities, and has a time travel device. Automated defense are in place that it cannot turn off.

So the assumed plot is that:
1) PC will go to nearest city.
2) PC will meet up with survivor.
3) They will go to investigate transmissions.
4) They will get into the institute.
5) They will use the time travel device.

Now, if that was my "plot" (again, just for the first bit) and I was running this in MotW, how would the system fight me on any of that?

StormKnight

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #51 on: April 18, 2017, 09:25:10 PM »
Interesting!

Have you ever had the chance to read or listen to or watch a "replay" or "actual play" of the game? The PbtA texts I'm most familiar with - Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts - both do this really well, showing you how to use the moves in play. If you have the patience for it, watching a good group play can be really eye-opening, too.

I think watching a replay of people playing an RPG has to be one of the most boring activities possible. :)

However, I was so determined to figure this out that I did try a few youTube videos of people playing MotW to figure this out; they seemed to be stumbling and having problems with the same things we are. I also tried reading PbFs on RPGG, but I find those really, really hard to follow.

Anyone got any recommendations for something good to watch/read that really gives solid examples of people playing the game well?

Munin

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #52 on: April 18, 2017, 10:01:55 PM »
Watch the Roll20 series with Adam Koebel (co-author of Dungeon World) and his group playing 2nd Edition Apocalypse World. I can't seem to find the direct link to the first session (originally intended as a one-shot), but here's where they pick up and start the actual campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6982qd_IUeA

StormKnight

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #53 on: April 18, 2017, 10:15:39 PM »
Watch the Roll20 series with Adam Koebel (co-author of Dungeon World) and his group playing 2nd Edition Apocalypse World. I can't seem to find the direct link to the first session (originally intended as a one-shot), but here's where they pick up and start the actual campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6982qd_IUeA

Sorry, I have absolutely no interest in Apocalypse World.

KidDublin

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #54 on: April 18, 2017, 10:26:00 PM »
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Page 166:
"To help you make your decisions about what happens next whenever the outcome is uncertain, the rules restrict you to certain options. These parts of the conversation are called "moves".

Fair enough--the book does literally say that. I don't see the keeper moves as "restrictive," so much as a guide for focusing on the sorts of things that *should* happen in monster hunting game.

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I'm referring to several moves that result in asking specific questions, such as Investigate a Mystery and Read a Bad Situation. They specify exact questions.

They do, but, again, I think the other players in this thread have all done an excellent job demonstrating how those exact questions can be interpreted and applied in wildly different ways, depending on the in-game situation. Then again, if you want to go ahead and just let your players ask whatever they want, do that and see how it works! I'd be willing to bet that they still ask variations on those same questions. Just make sure you have them back up those questions with the appropriate fictional posturing--testing blood samples, collecting bone fragments, and so on.

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In similar fashion, most of the player moves gives very definite results on what happens. A 7-9 result on Kick Some Ass means you take damage, and that's it. The opponent can't disarm you or do something else. Just do damage back.

The harm move lets you have a hunter "drop something" when they get hurt--even if it's a 0-harm "hurt". (In fact, the harm move lets you drop all kinds of nasty consequences!) That drop could be because they stumble and let go of their dagger, or because the werewolf wrenched the weapon out of their hand while attacking. Also, you're allowed to have a monster just try and disarm a hunter on its own! Describe how that zombie looks like it's trying to grab Zoe's baseball bat, and give them a chance to act under pressure. If they botch it, you're well within your rights to take away some of the hunters' stuff by having that zed grab the slugger.

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A 'crossroads' is a place to meet someone, so you are pre-defining that the PCs will meet someone there.

Not exactly. You're making a place where the PCs could meet someone, and maybe you're populating that place with some bystanders they're likely to meet if they go there. But, you're not saying that they must go there to find or kill the monster. Playing to find out what happens means--in part, for MotW--having stuff ready, using it when it makes fictional sense, and ignoring it otherwise.

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Mostly I just have no idea how the system would "fight" you if you pre-determined a "plot", which is something people keep saying. Maybe we're just talking about totally different things. For example, this is basically what I "planned" for the first few sessions of one of the last non-MotW games I ran; a time-traveling action/adventure game using Savage Worlds:

1) PC is in a remote cave when massive apocalypse occurs. Part of backstory and set-up.
2) Nearest city has one building that is surrounded with wrecked military vehicles and has a flag with 'SOS Survivor" or something like that hanging out of the window. Inside is a wounded but stable soldier (with name, personality, stats).
3) Soldier has been picking up radio transmissions urging that if anyone is alive they should go to the Amelion Institute, with locations.
4) Amelion institute is run by an AI with limited abilities, and has a time travel device. Automated defense are in place that it cannot turn off.

So the assumed plot is that:
1) PC will go to nearest city.
2) PC will meet up with survivor.
3) They will go to investigate transmissions.
4) They will get into the institute.
5) They will use the time travel device.

Now, if that was my "plot" (again, just for the first bit) and I was running this in MotW, how would the system fight me on any of that?

In Monster of the Week, a good investigate a mystery might let a hunter discover the transmissions/Amelion Institute without ever going to the city or talking to the soldier. And that would be completely fine! MotW has a move that--if the hunter gives appropriate fictional justification--forces the Keeper to make with some juicy info. If you only dole out info when you planned to, you're fighting the game and your hunters will be salty.

In vanilla Apocalypse World (which this example gels with better, I think) you've got an even harder time of it. Your PCs might just walk off into the desert, in the opposite direction of the town, completely ignoring your plot. You're playing to find out what happens, so you're obliged to follow them. You're not obliged to punish them for ignoring those plot hooks, and you absolutely shouldn't try to guide them back to that lone city.


Paul T.

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #55 on: April 18, 2017, 10:39:26 PM »
Now, if that was my "plot" (again, just for the first bit) and I was running this in MotW, how would the system fight me on any of that?

Your first list isn't a "plot", it's just some details on a prepared situation. The second list is (your "assumed plot").

If the players are happy to go along with your assumed plot (or do by coincidence), nothing is going to happen. As with any kind of talk of pre-plotting or railroading, the meaningful interactions happen when the players do NOT go along with the assumed plot.

The design of MotW doesn't seem to be tremendously strong-handed in terms of fighting GM Force (a term for when the GM takes too much authority over the game's direction into her hands), but it will fight you in subtle ways. If you're trying to hide information, the "reading" moves can give it to the players. If you're trying to kill off someone, they can Protect them; if you're trying to protect someone, they can Kick Ass (and likely kill them). Most of the moves give guarantees of certain outcomes; in a group which understands the rules and uses them functionally, it's very hard for a GM to contrive a way to take away those guarantees without having the players call shenanigans. The specific Hunter moves put that even more into perspective. The Use Magic guarantees a variety of results, as well.

More importantly, though, the Agenda and Principles, the basic philosophy of play (e.g. "tell them what honesty demands") are written so as to create a certain style of game. All of this only applies if the group (you and your players) buy into that philosophy in the first place.

If you are thinking that it's possible to subvert that Agenda and Principles without breaking any of the dice rules... it's true. The game isn't designed to be "foolproof" for someone who doesn't want to play that way in the first place. There may be other, better games for you which are more procedural, and enforce their procedures more strictly.

The reason that Apocalypse World game (videos) is a good one to check out is because the people playing do a really good job of using the system and the moves, as well as follow the Principles, and it would be a good example to emulate. (It is, however, indeed, one of the most boring things in the world! It's not for everyone. But if you have the patience for it, you will likely find it rewarding.)


StormKnight

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #56 on: April 20, 2017, 04:56:20 AM »
=== THIS POST IS DISCUSSING USEFUL STUFF THAT I DON'T GET ===


Quote
In similar fashion, most of the player moves gives very definite results on what happens. A 7-9 result on Kick Some Ass means you take damage, and that's it. The opponent can't disarm you or do something else. Just do damage back.

The harm move lets you have a hunter "drop something" when they get hurt--even if it's a 0-harm "hurt". (In fact, the harm move lets you drop all kinds of nasty consequences!) That drop could be because they stumble and let go of their dagger, or because the werewolf wrenched the weapon out of their hand while attacking. Also, you're allowed to have a monster just try and disarm a hunter on its own! Describe how that zombie looks like it's trying to grab Zoe's baseball bat, and give them a chance to act under pressure. If they botch it, you're well within your rights to take away some of the hunters' stuff by having that zed grab the slugger.
Good point that you can have the harm effect drop something. And you can have a monster initiate it. But I think both have a very different feel from using it as a result of an attack.

Mostly this comes from having read the description for Dungeon World combat, in which, AFAIK, a failed or partial success attack could result in a great number of things happening; the MC is basically supposed to pick an appropriate move for the foe to do as a result. But in MotW it is fixed to just doing damage.

The big difference is when you might prefer to NOT deal damage; by the rules you would still deal damage even if you then had the monster try to disarm them, or push past them to get inside somewhere, or whatnot. You wouldn't JUST have the monster do that.

Which way to you actually play? Do you treat failed/partial Kick Some Ass results as open opportunities to do something unpleasant, or do you always deal damage?

On a related topic, from what I can understand, if a PC, say, shoots at a monster that does not itself have a ranged attack from a short ways away, I guess I should just have it deal damage and not make a roll at all? I think that's what the rules describe, but its a bit odd either way. If I just have it do damage, it eliminates the possibility of the shot going wrong or the monster notably retaliating at all.

But if I have the PC roll, the monster will usually deal damage, and that often doesn't fit if the monster is out of its reach.

Actually, in many situations it seems odd to the monster deal damage back all the time anyway. If, for example, several people attack a foe at once, it starts to get narratively really odd when its hitting back at all of them at the same time (assuming its not something with super speed or lots of arms). Or, if the PC is shooting at it and it has a limited ranged attack (like, maybe it throws spines) but at the moment its is kind of distracted by the hero shoving a sword through its face, it seems strange to have it ALWAYS do damage back.

Thoughts, how is this handled?

Mike Sands

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #57 on: April 20, 2017, 05:26:14 AM »
=== THIS POST IS DISCUSSING USEFUL STUFF THAT I DON'T GET ===
(Lots of stuff about inflicting harm)

Thoughts, how is this handled?

I think you are skipping over the inflict harm move for the Keeper being "Inflict harm, as established."

If you go through your problematic results, thinking about what danger has been established in the game fiction makes the answers come out easily.

For the case where
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the monster try to disarm them, or push past them to get inside somewhere
then kick some ass is not triggered, as that's specifically when the monster is trying to fight back. To resolve this you could allow the hunter to inflict harm as established (i.e. via their weapon), and then use Keeper moves to disarm or have the monster get by.

For the suckering case,
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a PC, say, shoots at a monster that does not itself have a ranged attack from a short ways away, I guess I should just have it deal damage and not make a roll at all
. That's right - if you just shoot a target that can't shoot back, it's not kick some ass either. It might also be act under pressure if the target is trying to dodge, or any other move that applies.

For ganging up:
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several people attack a foe at once, it starts to get narratively really odd when its hitting back at all of them at the same time (assuming its not something with super speed or lots of arms)
. If the monster has established it has limited attacks, then some hunters cannot be harmed - good for them, bad for the monster. (Note that I'd usually have a dog-pile like this be a single kick some ass roll, with the other hunters helping out or even protecting someone, which simplifies things a bit).

StormKnight

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #58 on: April 20, 2017, 05:38:34 AM »
=== THIS IS JUST TALKING THEORY AND STUFF AND ISN'T VERY PRACTICAL ===



They do, but, again, I think the other players in this thread have all done an excellent job demonstrating how those exact questions can be interpreted and applied in wildly different ways, depending on the in-game situation. Then again, if you want to go ahead and just let your players ask whatever they want, do that and see how it works! I'd be willing to bet that they still ask variations on those same questions. Just make sure you have them back up those questions with the appropriate fictional posturing--testing blood samples, collecting bone fragments, and so on.
I think we've pretty well established that nobody here actually strictly follows the rules. :)
(The very first person I got advice from stressed very strongly that I really should follow the rules very close and strictly and not be tempted to apply things loosely - that's clearly not the popular advice!)

But once again your comment kind of confuses me - you say that I "just let your players ask whatever they want and see how it works" - but aren't you advocating that that's exactly how its supposed to work?

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A 'crossroads' is a place to meet someone, so you are pre-defining that the PCs will meet someone there.

Not exactly. You're making a place where the PCs could meet someone, and maybe you're populating that place with some bystanders they're likely to meet if they go there. But, you're not saying that they must go there to find or kill the monster. Playing to find out what happens means--in part, for MotW--having stuff ready, using it when it makes fictional sense, and ignoring it otherwise.
But, its not like the PCs couldn't meet someone somewhere else, right? A motivation defines what is most likely to happen there, which to me is exactly what the prep for a normal RPG is doing - except that in a normal RPG, you'd spend time on figuring out the useful details, which increases the odds that things will be consistent, won't be skipped over or bogged down, etc.
Whether or not the PCs "MUST" go there is highly situation. There won't be many places that PCs MUST go..but if, for example, there's a swarm of alien bugs and they need to destroy the hive, it is very, very, very likely that they will go to the location of the hive to resolve the situation. That's pretty much a "must", and its going to be in MotW as well as in anything else, right?

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In Monster of the Week, a good investigate a mystery might let a hunter discover the transmissions/Amelion Institute without ever going to the city or talking to the soldier. And that would be completely fine! MotW has a move that--if the hunter gives appropriate fictional justification--forces the Keeper to make with some juicy info. If you only dole out info when you planned to, you're fighting the game and your hunters will be salty.
Wait, that's not fighting me - I WANT the PC to go there! That's the point! The NPC has noticed this transmission because this is info that I really want the PC to have, so I'm thinking in advance about how the PC will get that information. If the PC gets to it another way, that's great.

I mean, I've had it happen a few times where after a session PCs will ask "Wow, how did you know we were going to come up with that to deal with that situation?" and invariably I had no idea they were going to that; I'd planned like three different ways to handle the situation, and the PCs came up with a completely different one. That's cool. Good planning isn't meant to limit, its meant to keep you from being stumped in the middle of a game!

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In vanilla Apocalypse World (which this example gels with better, I think) you've got an even harder time of it. Your PCs might just walk off into the desert, in the opposite direction of the town, completely ignoring your plot. You're playing to find out what happens, so you're obliged to follow them. You're not obliged to punish them for ignoring those plot hooks, and you absolutely shouldn't try to guide them back to that lone city.
Well, players can do ridiculous, suicidal or absurd things in any game system, but I think its reasonable to assume that you'll be playing with people interested in doing reasonable things with their characters, and invested in pursuing the genre. But yeah, in D&D you could set up a city and dungeons and whatnot and have the player decide to go be merchants in a far off land. In Call of Cthulhu your characters could decide to immediately flee the country at the first hint of something supernatural. You Star Wars pilot could decide to vent all the air on the spaceship just because. In any of those cases, its a good time to stop and check your expectations. :)

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The design of MotW doesn't seem to be tremendously strong-handed in terms of fighting GM Force (a term for when the GM takes too much authority over the game's direction into her hands), but it will fight you in subtle ways. If you're trying to hide information, the "reading" moves can give it to the players. If you're trying to kill off someone, they can Protect them; if you're trying to protect someone, they can Kick Ass (and likely kill them). Most of the moves give guarantees of certain outcomes; in a group which understands the rules and uses them functionally, it's very hard for a GM to contrive a way to take away those guarantees without having the players call shenanigans. The specific Hunter moves put that even more into perspective. The Use Magic guarantees a variety of results, as well.
There's nothing unique about players being able to interfere with things though. Getting information is based around being able to logically do so; most RPGs would have you able to use skills to get info logically available. Setting up to kill a protected person is probably easier in MotW than in, say, D&D 4e where a determined party can set up some really effective - and very mechanically defined defenses. An NPC you want to keep alive in MotW can probably take way more damage than PCs can dish out before they can escape and there's not going to be any huge damage swings, while in Savage Worlds damage rolls can explode out to any value, so a stray thrown knife could get insanely lucky and kill an elder god!

Now, I'd classify most of those as bad planning.

Good planning is not "the PCs can ONLY get info this way". Good planning is "Hmm, the PCs are going to need info to move forward. How are they likely to get it? Are there people they are likely to need so I should give thought to where they will find them? Of these possibilities, which one will lead to the best game?"

For example, a while ago I was running a improved investigation bit and made a lot of bad calls, to where we redid it. For example:
* I decided that a certain NPC had used an alias. This was a huge red herring; it didn't lead anywhere fun, it just made things much harder and duller for the PCs. It might have been a smart thing to do, but it was much better for the NPC to not do that. And it could be easily be justified; the NPC was arrogant as hell.

* I decided that a 'control' panel was controlled by mystic energy. While this was technically fine, its not something the PLAYERS can intuitive mess around with. Within the fiction, it was a mix of tech and magic. Giving it actual controls gave the PCs something easily recognizable to spot and mess with.

Another game hit a big stall because neither I nor the player could come up with what evidence that would be useful to the players a criminal might have left behind - because we were improving and hadn't planned that part in advance.

KidDublin

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Re: New to Monster of the Week and PbtA in general; having a lot of trouble
« Reply #59 on: April 20, 2017, 03:41:52 PM »
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Which way to you actually play? Do you treat failed/partial Kick Some Ass results as open opportunities to do something unpleasant, or do you always deal damage?

On a partial, the rules are clear that the hunter and whatever they're attacking trade harm. As part of that harm, I can make a harm move choice that disarms the hunter, and fictionally, I can narrate that disarmament as "the hunter drops their weapon because of the pain" or "the monster grabs the hunter's weapon." I don't see that latter choice as being any different that disarming a hunter as the result of an attack.

On a miss, I absolutely use that as an opportunity to do something unpleasant. Sometimes that "unpleasant" is direct harm, sometimes it's indirect--say, I have the monster throw the hunter into a big rusty pile of bear traps. I'm separating the hunter from his buddies (and from fighting me), and I'm absolutely applying harm as established.

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I think we've pretty well established that nobody here actually strictly follows the rules. :)

I disagree! We've established that the rules are written and applied broadly, by design. When we tell you that the investigate a mystery questions can apply to many different kinds of clue, that's not a deviation from the rules--those questions are meant to work that way.

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But once again your comment kind of confuses me - you say that I "just let your players ask whatever they want and see how it works" - but aren't you advocating that that's exactly how its supposed to work?

I made that suggestion for two reasons. 1) Because it's your game, and if one component isn't working for you you can ignore it. In this case, I think if you ignored the question list it wouldn't "break" the game, as long as you demand fictional details for whatever question the hunters try to answer. HOWEVER... 2) I also think that if you ignore the move's list your hunters will still ask variations on the kinds of questions supplied there. They may not literally say "What kind of monster is it?", but that will be the point behind some of their questions anyway.

Often, when I run MotW, my hunters will roll investigate and ask something as their character--"Say, where do these big heating vents lead to?" They've not asked a question straight from the list, but we both know that the choice from investigate a mystery would be something like "Where did it go?" or "What is being concealed here." As keeper, I answer as though they'd made an explicit choice from the list.

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But, its not like the PCs couldn't meet someone somewhere else, right? A motivation defines what is most likely to happen there, which to me is exactly what the prep for a normal RPG is doing - except that in a normal RPG, you'd spend time on figuring out the useful details, which increases the odds that things will be consistent, won't be skipped over or bogged down, etc.

I agree! Of course the PCs could meet someone somewhere else! But, the motivation serves as a reminder for you that--in this case--this specific location has fictional underpinnings that make it particularly good at providing opportunities for meet-ups.

I'm not sure what useful details you'd supply in a "normal RPG" that you wouldn't in MotW--can you elaborate?

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Whether or not the PCs "MUST" go there is highly situation. There won't be many places that PCs MUST go..but if, for example, there's a swarm of alien bugs and they need to destroy the hive, it is very, very, very likely that they will go to the location of the hive to resolve the situation. That's pretty much a "must", and its going to be in MotW as well as in anything else, right?

They might go to the hive. They might not. I'm playing to find out what happens, and I'm not making any assumptions about what the hunters need to do. I've written the hive up in case they go there (and, yeah, my writing it up certainly means I think they're likely to visit), but I'm not doing any extra legwork outside my agenda/moves/principles to get them there.

Maybe the Professional calls in an orbital strike, nuking the hive from the comfort of his home. Maybe they ignore the hive and the entire world is overrun by giant larvae (at which point we port all the hunters over to Apocalypse World and keep going). Who knows? Certainly not the keeper.

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Wait, that's not fighting me - I WANT the PC to go there! That's the point! The NPC has noticed this transmission because this is info that I really want the PC to have, so I'm thinking in advance about how the PC will get that information. If the PC gets to it another way, that's great.

I agree! My point was that if you followed your "plot" strictly and forced the hunters to go to the city before discovering the signal, the rules would fight you, because the rules demand answers even when you hadn't planned on giving them. Since you wouldn't ever run a session like that, you're in agreement with PbtA/MotW principles here.

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Good planning isn't meant to limit, its meant to keep you from being stumped in the middle of a game!

Yep. That's the sort of planning MotW asks for.

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Well, players can do ridiculous, suicidal or absurd things in any game system, but I think its reasonable to assume that you'll be playing with people interested in doing reasonable things with their characters, and invested in pursuing the genre. But yeah, in D&D you could set up a city and dungeons and whatnot and have the player decide to go be merchants in a far off land. In Call of Cthulhu your characters could decide to immediately flee the country at the first hint of something supernatural. You Star Wars pilot could decide to vent all the air on the spaceship just because. In any of those cases, its a good time to stop and check your expectations. :)

I agree, to a point. MotW has a specific "buy-in" the players need to agree on--you will be monster hunters, the main action of most sessions will be investigating and killing monsters, and monsters are particularly tough creatures with special weaknesses you need to exploit. Just FYI, other PbtA games aren't as stringent with their buy-in. In Apocalypse World, if your players want to up and leave the big, multi-faction war that's been brewing for ten sessions, and drive off to the next state over, they're entitled to do so.

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There's nothing unique about players being able to interfere with things though. Getting information is based around being able to logically do so; most RPGs would have you able to use skills to get info logically available. Setting up to kill a protected person is probably easier in MotW than in, say, D&D 4e where a determined party can set up some really effective - and very mechanically defined defenses. An NPC you want to keep alive in MotW can probably take way more damage than PCs can dish out before they can escape and there's not going to be any huge damage swings, while in Savage Worlds damage rolls can explode out to any value, so a stray thrown knife could get insanely lucky and kill an elder god!

Yes, many other games let players find information if it's logical to do so, and available. MotW lets players find information when the keeper has only a dim sense of its availability. If a hunter hits on investigate and supplies the right fictional explanation, I'm obliged to give them an answer, even if I didn't consider that the vampire left some bloody rags at the scene of its last attack.

I might have no sense of the availability of that clue before the hunter starts investigating, but their fictional positioning and the rules compel me to make those rags (or something like them) appear. My prep informs the sorts of things the hunters can investigate and roll for but, likewise, the results of their moves inform what information is and isn't available. The rules forbid me from saying "you find nothing" when a hunter hits on investigate.

Your second point about "protecting" NPCs and "keeping them alive" is a little unclear--could you explain a bit more about the comparison you're drawing between MotW and "most RPGs"? To me it seems you're saying it's easier, in MotW, to apply the rules for bystander, minion, and monster creation to create an NPC that the hunters cannot eventually kill (or otherwise remove from the action).

That may well be true! However it's not an issue, because your principles say that "nothing is safe." Even if you can protect an NPC using the rules, you shouldn't, because your agenda is to "play to find out what happens" and to make sure that nothing is safe.