Author Topic: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP  (Read 7162 times)

Paul T.

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Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« on: December 24, 2017, 06:41:52 PM »
I started running a short-term (a handful of sessions) campaign of AW last week, and wasn't sure how creative, active, or involved my players would be, since they're hardened D&D heads and I haven't really played with them a whole lot.

To do a little prep and to make sure we had something to go on right off the bat, regardless of how passive or active the players might be, I put together this "campaign starter".

Feel free to read, comment, or use for your own games!

It could also work for a one-shot, if you make a strong effort to move through all the steps quickly, with little elaboration.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/8r6auj3hyxhfmr3/AW%20Crow%27s%20Flats%20Campaign%20Starter.pdf?dl=0

I'm fooling around with a variety of alternate rules, which you'll find some notes and shorthand for at the end of the document. Feel free to ignore those.

(I'll answer questions about them, if anyone's curious, of course.)

Paul T.

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2017, 06:43:24 PM »
I stole a few ideas and details (as well as a couple of names) from Vincent's "Hatchet City and Blind-Blue" scenario, which I find fascinating and inspiring.

So far I've played one session, with great success. A few highlights which came out of the setup:

One of the players chose to be Blind-blue, as a Hocus: our Blind-blue turned out to be grotesque and misshapen but *also* magnetic and desirable, so his player quickly explained that Blind-blue was the head of a sort of fertility cult. He believes that the maelstrom has been affecting people's ability to bear children. Since he's unspoiled by the maelstrom himself, he can transmit fertility by physical contact (probably sex, in most cases).

Blind-blue's fertility cult travels around and offers its women as "breeders", providing the desperate people of Apocalypse World with a chance to have healthy children.

Dustwich is the oldest person around, an aged crone who remembers the Golden Age, and the head of the Bargers. However, the players decided that she was also the one who was unexpectedly pregnant! Naturally, there was no question who had done this: it was Blind-blue.

I loved this development, since Dustwich's story now parallels the tale of Sarah from the Old Testament (who had a child at the age of 100 or something close to that).

A couple of problems came up, but they were easily fixed at the table:

* The player of the Angel chose to "inflitrate" someone's inner circles for the Love Letter, and decided that person would be Blind-blue - another PC.

Since we had already established that they were allies and friends, the choices on the list didn't fit well at all.

If you play this, tell the person choosing that love letter explicitly to "point" it at someone they'd like to take down.

The choice to use their Special should only be allowed with the other PC's permission, of course. That's also important to note.

* Start-of-session moves can feel a little redundant, given the strong starting situation for each character. I told them that, since the first session was short (spent most of the time going through setup and making characters), we'd roll those at the start of the second session and onwards.

A tasty tidbit:

One of the players asked, "Given how terrible people's circumstances are in the post-apocalypse, what do they do to distract themselves from their everyday circumstances, and how fucked up everything is?"

Another answered, without hesitation, that they get high on drugs derived from mudfish. Its rectal glands produce a potent toxin, you see. Remove them from the fish while it's still alive (tricky business, that) and squirt that into your eyes, and you get a crazy high.

So, that was a pretty spicy contribution! Turned the mood at the table up a notch.

Munin

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2017, 04:21:56 PM »
I'd be interested to hear more from this mini-campaign. Let us know how the follow-up sessions go.

Paul T.

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2017, 10:44:15 PM »
Thanks, Munin.

I'm quite curious myself.

I'm also using a bunch of experimental rules, like different die types in place of the standard 2d6+/- roll, visceral harm, and a couple of others minor changes (like Ebok's altered Seize by Force move).

Currently, I'm looking at the outcomes of the first session, creating threats, and thinking about how the setup contributes to the coming game.

The situation so far is quite interesting, but I find myself wishing I knew more about the PCs. I expect to start the second session with lots of provocative questions.

Does anyone have a favourite trick, scene type, or formula for learning more about the PCs in a more play-active fashion?

I've occasionally used flashback scenes to good effect, and thought about doing that with Hx. However, our particular Hx choices didn't inspire any terribly interesting backstory information, except for one:

We know that Leon, the Savvyhead, got trapped in the maelstrom somehow, while attempting augury in his workspace, and that Seriph (the Angel) pulled him out (it's been implied that he injected Leon either with some sedatives or some stimulants, we didn't specify which).

I may try to frame a flashback to that scene early in the second session to establish their relationship a little more.

Munin

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2017, 02:59:00 PM »
Does anyone have a favourite trick, scene type, or formula for learning more about the PCs in a more play-active fashion?
I'm always a little careful with flashback scenes - if your players are anything like mine, they seem drawn to doing things in flashbacks that break causality. In the game where the Psychic Maelstrom had something to do with time being broken that was great, but in most cases it just causes headaches.

But if you want to learn more about the PCs' histories with each other, I find that the PC-NPC-PC triangles are a good place to start, because chances are good that someone else was present when that thing that happened in the past went down, and how they interact with that person/those people now informs their past. It also lets you barf some apocalyptica into the history, which is always worth doing.

Paul T.

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2017, 04:12:08 PM »
That's a fair point. I've always had success with flashback scenes, myself - I tend to frame them very conservatively, leave the timeframe somewhat unspecified, and make it clear what the purpose of the scene is. However, I've never really played with these people before, so it's entirely possible that this will be the time it "doesn't work".

I still like the idea of doing it, however. If I do it right, I'll get a lot of material for the game in short order. I want to find out:

* What the Savvyhead is working on in his workspace. (To push the game along for him - we'll say the project is nearly completed as we go "back to the present".)
* Why that project is dangerous. (For a future threat.)
* What the Angel's relationship is like with the Savvyhead.
* Who else is implicated.

That last point is where your excellent advice to get an NPC involved is going to come in handy.

Your final paragraph about using a PC-NPC-PC triangle for this purpose is along the right lines, I think, but I'm not sure exactly what you're describing. Can you explain a little more, or illustrate with an example?

Paul T.

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2017, 04:24:25 PM »
A sidenote about my prep/daydreaming:

My current approach is to start to think about themes which are developing in play, based on the players' input, and then find ways to explore or highlight them.

For instance, fertility/pregnancy, children, slavery, and memories of the past seem to be important here.

I'll be looking at ways to draw these out further. For instance, Tip, the wannabe-warlord, has just "acquired" (he is a slaver who doesn't believe in personal freedoms) a heavily pregnant "wife", and is looking forward to the birth. She's present at the rather tense situation/standoff at the site of the crashed satellite, so lots of complications are possible. Blind-blue may be quite intrigued to see he's not the only fertile one around, as well.

If it seems interesting to make Tip more monstrous, I may have him declare at some point how he plans to see "his child" born (although he had nothing to do with its conception!), and then kill it if it doesn't look like him. Or kill it if it's a girl. Something like that, to see how the players react - I get the sense they're all interested in exploring these themes in play.

Munin

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2017, 08:08:08 PM »
Your final paragraph about using a PC-NPC-PC triangle for this purpose is along the right lines, I think, but I'm not sure exactly what you're describing. Can you explain a little more, or illustrate with an example?
Sure, how about the following:

Our PCs are Diamond (the Chopper) and Bish (the Angel). We know from the Hx round that Bish once stood up to Diamond, gang and all. The questions asked about it at the time have established that Bish was doing some do-gooder shit, and kept Diamond and her gang from killing a group of sick travelers who'd showed up at the hold's gates last summer. We also know that the standoff did not end in violence between Bish and Diamond, (as neither opted for a beatdown), but that's it.

So we throw an NPC into this mix, let's call him Dog-Head. Dog-Head is (now) one of Diamond's more dependable lieutenants, but back then he was just another fucking savage in the pack. So we start a scene with both Diamond and Bish, only Dog-Head's there as an extra. We describe him as sullen and testy and looking obvious daggers at Bish. Maybe he doesn't say anything, maybe he does, that's up to them if they decide to engage with him (Diamond if she says, "what's your problem, asshole?" or Bish if he says, "something I can help you with, Dog-Head?" or whatever). Let the tension simmer and see what they do with it.

But even if they don't (or maybe even if they do), once they part ways, Dog-Head finds a way to corner Bish afterwards, and he's clearly pissed. He says something like, "I don't know what the fuck you have over Diamond, but I haven't forgotten your little episode with those fucking plague-riddled scavs you let in last summer."  <--Here's your chance to ask more about how that situation went down, what did Bish do to convince Diamond to back off? Then maybe put your bloody fingerprints on it: "Jalopy would still be alive if you hadn't brought that shit home to roost." Maybe announce some future badness (both for Bish and for Diamond)? "Diamond might be too weak to put you down, but sooner or later I'm gonna get me some payback. Believe it. In fact, give me one good reason why I shouldn't gut you right here, right now?"

How Bish deals with Dog-Head here (what he says, what he does, how they interact) is going to inform that situation, and is ultimately going to inform the historical situation between Bish and Diamond as well. Similarly, how Diamond deals with Dog-Head threatening Bish is going to add further detail - like who is more important to Diamond, Bish or Dog-Head?

And because the original situation chosen during Hx didn't result in a fight, that probably meant that Diamond had to impose her will on her gang, which might have left some simmering resentments - it certainly has for Dog-Head! - which is in turn going to inform the situation between Diamond and her gang.

Best of all, it encourages the players to talk about the situation, both in and out of character. Everything they say is going to flesh out and reinforce their history.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2017, 04:13:36 AM by Munin »

Paul T.

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2017, 09:57:44 PM »
Excellent example, thanks. Very clear! (Except for the switch from Domino to Diamond, which threw me for a second, but no biggie.)

In this particular game, we didn't get much crustal-clear Hx like the example you gave, with the exception of the Savvyhead being in debt to the Angel. However, I can use this same logic to extend many of the other Hx options chosen, until we flesh them out a little more and hit paydirt. I like it!

My current musings:

Is it possible that the satellite fell because of something the PCs did (or were involved in)? If so, what might it be?

The most obvious thing to jump out at me: the Savvyhead's mucking about with time and space in his workspace (and now we're back to that juicy Hx incident again). Could that have caused the fall of the satellite somehow?

Munin

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2017, 04:14:47 AM »
Excellent example, thanks. Very clear! (Except for the switch from Domino to Diamond, which threw me for a second, but no biggie.)
What switch? (he says, having edited his post...)   ;D

Paul T.

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2017, 06:37:57 PM »
Dear reader,

If you're reading this, you just rolled a 7-9 on "open your brain".

Ebok

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2017, 11:19:57 PM »
I often use a combination of open your brain answers and love letters to handle "flashback" scenarios. Love letters can come in with built-in questions and bullets to charge the answers, so I tend to prefer this. Other times I just look at the player and ask just after a backloaded prompt (like Munin's example).

Paul T.

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2017, 04:14:57 PM »
I like the idea of a "backloaded prompt"; it seems like a solid technique.

I also find flashback scenes can really enrich my games, though, and can be more engaging for the players. Some careful framing and cutting has always made it work for me!

I wonder if you two have any thoughts on the scenario or ideas for how I might prep for session two? I'd love to borrow your brains for that purpose.

Paul T.

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2018, 06:40:59 PM »
I played a (very short) second session of this game, which we treated as a "first session, part two" - the "have a fight" part, perhaps. We will save the "start of session" moves for next time, and that kind of thing; it was very much a "in media res" start, right where we left off.

Overall, the game was fun, but it also felt like a lot of work for me as the MC (I really wish I knew more about the characters and what they're into, and the players aren't always good at giving me material to work with), but they seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.

We got a lot done in under two hours, which I think was not something they're used to (but liked). They're hardcore D&D players and have never played a game like this, before, so lots of stuff is new to them. They love the playbooks and how evocative the rules are.

They keep saying they like the system a lot and comparing it to stuff they don't enjoy in D&D, which is interesting! (The usual DM says he gets annoyed sitting there while players look up their spells in their books and try to figure out what to do, for example, and that doesn't happen in this game.)

So, the game was enjoyable in retrospect, but felt a little bit difficult in the moment for me. I think we didn't establish enough connections from the PCs to all the stuff we brainstormed, so we're doing it on the fly. Apocalypse World doesn't help a ton on that front; I'm really missing having Desires or Keys or Beliefs or some other kind of orienting mechanism to work with. In a regular game, a "slow start" gives you time to establish a deeper sense of what life is like and what the characters care about, but here we're trying to move very quickly into the action, and it's proving a little challenging for me. I have to pull in GMing tricks and techniques from other games, and it's interesting to see what works well in AW and what doesn't.

If you use this setup, really emphasize the importance of creating the characters as apart of the NPCs and relationship web you've all invested in during the brainstorm/creation phase.

I got to use my idea of a flashback scene, after all, and it worked quite well. The Angel used his "healing touch" on a dying NPC, and missed the roll. No one has yet opened their brain to the maelstrom, so I asked him what it's usually like for him. He answered that he experiences reveries, or relives memories of the past, and sometimes gets stuck in them. Well, perfect: I told him he was having a nightmarish trip into his memories of his relationship with the Savvyhead, and we played out their Hx moment. I told the Savvyhead's player to play his character as he liked - either true to the "memories", or in some nightmarish, twisted fashion, and he enjoyed that. I got to introduce a scary ghost-figure who will be fun to bring back.

Afterwards, they said: "Cool! That felt like a TV show or a movie!"

So that was good.


Munin

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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2018, 04:50:34 PM »
So, the game was enjoyable in retrospect, but felt a little bit difficult in the moment for me. I think we didn't establish enough connections from the PCs to all the stuff we brainstormed, so we're doing it on the fly.
There's another way to do it?

I kid, but only slightly. Especially with new players, they'll never have a "fully fleshed out" character idea, and they'll never have scads of connections to NPCs from the jump. But that stuff's not hard to build up, and the easiest way to do it is to simply ask one (or more) of the players a simple (and provocative!) question or two about every NPC you introduce. One important caveat here is to make the assumption going in that the PC knows the NPC and there's some history there. All you need to do is ask the player some stuff about that history on the fly and build off their answers.

So if you introduce Dremmer the Arms Dealer, say something like, "So if anybody needs guns or bullets in this gods-forsaken hole, they go to Dremmer. In addition to her top-notch inventory, she is known for her crazy eyes and bad attitude, and now she's pounding on your door. What happened between the two of you last time you met? And what does she want now?" This approach is likely to produce instant action or character development or both.

Also, connections to stuff you brainstormed don't actually need to be pre-existing; they can be developed in-play, and in many cases that's actually better because it is active on the part of the players (i.e. they have chosen to engage with it). This is where the important MC skill of observing your players comes in - with what or whom do they choose to interact (e.g. which people and situations do they choose to read)? When their moves present them with choices, which choices do they make and what does that say about how they view the world?

Don't overthink it, and don't feel like you need to tie absolutely everything together from the beginning to "motivate" the PCs. Just present them with engaging NPCs and situations they can't ignore and watch which direction they jump.