Issues with my Apocalypse World group.

I found Apocalypse World a while back and I thought that it would be awesome to play. I talked with my normal group and we decided that it would start this summer. Since then I've spent a lot of time pouring over the book, making sure that I understand mechanics and that I am comfortable with running the game the way that is described in the MC section. The problem I am having, after two sessions, is that my group does not seem to be embracing the style and flavor of the game. We talked about creating characters with real motivations and goals, and I'm finding (two sessions in) that their characters don't really seem to have much thought put into them (none of them have given me anything in the way of a back story that I could use), for instance the Hocus still has yet to give us any idea of what their cult's principles are (which is making it very hard to draw them into anything). As a result they are acting like a D&D group in a post apocalyptic setting. I'm not sure how to draw them into the game, any ideas or advice that anyone could offer.
«1

Comments

  • edited June 2011
    Hi T-rex,
    I can help, but I need to know more about how you are MCing. Could you post an AP for your 1st session? I'm particularly interested in what questions you are asking the players.
  • Ok, never GM'd Apocalypse World but I've played it a bunch, so, grain of salt time, and your message was pretty brief so I'm really just guessing.

    That said, I'm going to pretend to be an expert.

    AW as I understand it should be robust to players acting like a D&D group. It should still be fun. So they kill some badguys, get some barter, buy some gear. That's your opportunity to make the badguy's friends mad, or destabilize the region now that the badguys are gone, to have the merchants they barter with become the npc in the pc-npc-pc triangles, and to activate the gear's downsides.

    You say "very difficult to draw them into anything" ... with AW, you shouldn't have to. You have your cult front or whatever. The pc's don't care. So you tick down the countdown clock on its threats. The threats happen. Cultists attack, convert your Hocus's followers, whatever.

    Are you making your beginning-of-session rolls? The hocus's followers & fortunes roll will often create gameplay for you - they're in want. How does that interact with the threats on the home front?

    Highlight weird or their worst stat. Then they'll want to open their brains and fail rolls to get the xp. And that's your opportunity to make moves.
  • edited June 2011
    Maybe your group should try Dungeon World. It's basically D&D using the Apocalypse World system. It might bridge the gap (if I'm correct in assuming they are more familiar with D&D than with story games), and it make it easier for them to pick up AW later.
  • I like to advise AW players that they should act like a protagonist to get the most out of it. If they just wait for things to happen to them, it's not much fun. But if they start trying to fix, or change, the world then it's great.
  • Ross' question seems like a good one. Like are you actually asking, in the moment, 'hey Hocus, what does your cult believe about [what's going on], anyways?' and the player is just... refusing to answer? I mean you don't want to put everyone on the spot all the time, but if he played a Hocus without having any idea about his cult... it's a strange playbook choice, to say the least.

    Having a specific example of a scene or situation that happened in the game, where you felt like they weren't engaging, would definitely be super helpful to go on.
  • Yeah as Ross and Daniel alluded to - If you have questions you need the answer to, ask them. Literally, just ask as Daniel quoted. Don't let the player brush it off and shrug, if they're struggling with an answer open it up to the table for suggestions. Let the player decide one they like and there you go. Do this with anything you feel you need to know to push the game forward.
  • Posted By: agonyif they're struggling with an answer open it up to the table for suggestions
    And the rest of the table includes you, so throw some suggestions out there and see if they stick.

    "how about if your cult are all about burying any signs of the golden age forever? no? then maybe they worship them instead, planet of the apes style?"
  • In response to Ross and the Emperor, I asked a ton of questions about all of the characters and I got answers. But the responses I got were really generic in a lot of ways, for example our Gunlugger's response to "How did you become a gunlugger/who taught you to shoot?" was something along the lines of "my father taught me to shoot, but he died when I was a little kid." And the Hocus's response to my questions about her cult (I tried a few different leading questions) came back almost universally with responses of "I'm not sure, I haven't really thought about it much." And as the Emperor said I thought it was a strange choice, especially as she has been trying to use her moves (specifically Augury) in ways that I thought were more consistent with what a Brainer would have done. An example of that is during a chase she used isolate or protect something from the psychic maelstrom to try and disrupt someone's concentration while they were driving.
  • See if she wants to switch to the Brainer. It's her first time playing AW, right? Maybe she thought she wanted something she didn't.
  • For a gunlugger who's going the way of the badass loner, you could just accept that and roll with it. Let them join a gang raiding and ravage nearby settlements, or just shoot anyone who annoys them. See what comes of it, because that stuff will give you plenty of ammo to build threats and fronts (e.g. Front: everyone who wants the gunlugger dead). Also, if they get a rep, have an evil warlord offer them a job, stuff like that.
  • Here's a quickie...

    for the Gunlugger, "my father taught me to shoot, but he died when I was a little kid."
    "how did he die?" "did Dremmer finally hunt him down?"

    for the Hocus, "I'm not sure, I haven't really thought about it much."
    "so you're pretty ambivalent toward your followers, even Dremmer?"


    take what the players give you. even if their ambivalence, and build on it, weave it into the other character's stories. The NPC's really come to life when they come up in different contexts.

    keep the AP coming!
  • I'm watching this thread closely because Im going to be MCing our groups first AW game soon. Unfortunately i may have some resistant players.
  • edited June 2011
    Thanks Ross, that is a really great idea. Especially as one of the few building blocks that our Hocus gave me was that she really was not one to see individuals. This kind of works along with the one of the negative aspects of her cult is that they sort of own her instead of the other way around. It could possibly work to draw her in, using her own people.

    The Gunlugger should prove easy enough to pull into things though. He is obsessed with weapons and in the first session he got into an altercation with one of the holding's guards which ended with him killing the guard.

    The other character that has been proving a difficulty is the Battlebabe. The player is one of those that GM's and MC's loathe. A distracted gamer who does other things at the same time as she games. The issue with her is that she decided that she wanted to be a battlebabe, and doesn't really want to trade on her looks. This is not really an issue until we find out that she also doesn't want to use the badass shotgun that she has. And while I want to get her invested in the fiction, I don't want to seem like I am picking on her by having NPCs constantly forcing her hand.

    What it is seeming, as I think about things more, is that with the PCs not taking authorship of certain things (like their relationships with people in the holding) I may just have to take it into my own hands to a degree, if only to get them started, and see what happens from there.
  • Regarding the battlebabe, I found when I played one that it took a little while for me to work out what my motivations were. in fact, the description you have there could have described by first three sessions pretty well. So it might not be such a big deal, maybe.

    And yes, if the players aren't providing details about the world, just make them up yourself. They had their chance.
  • Some more Gunlugger stuff:
    "Hey, which gun was your father's? What makes it so special? Maybe Rolfball thinks it's special too, how much did he ask for it, and why haven't you sold it to him?"
    Or,
    "Your shotgun, what was the best kill that you performed with that shotgun, why and who was the target?"
    Or,
    "What's the name of your fixer, the one who supplies you all your sweet weapons? He has an awesome ornate gun, but he won't sell it to you. Why not, and you want to shoot him to get it?"
    Or,
    "Is there anyone you decided not to kill? Why not?"

    The Hocus:
    "Do you care if one of your followers leave? If no, then why have they stayed? If yes, then what's the name of an ex-follower that you really want back? Why do you want him/her back?"
    Or,
    "Was there a previous Hocus? What happened to him/her?"
    Or,
    "When you perform augury, what happens? Do your followers go into a trance or some bacchanal rite?"

    As for the Battlebabe, what does the player have the character do, if not use Hard or Hot? Does the Battlebabe get into any messes?

    In one of the games that I've been MCing, I've been throwing NPCs at my Battlebabe as pets or sex toys and asking if the character cares about any of them. So far, one was a a harmless fling, and she sent him away for his own protection. One has become obsessive. And one has been a rekindled long-term relationship.
  • edited June 2011
    My response: I don't give a shit who taught the Gunlugger to shoot. I want to know what he eats. You should ask. If he doesn't have an answer, give him one. Give him a choice between two rather sordid options. If he doesn't like them, ask him what he's gonna do about it.
    (also, see note below)

    Same with the Hocus.Where does her cult get its water? Do they have their own well? Do they buy it from that other cult, you know the really creepy one? What's she gonna do when the water runs out and her cult turns on her? She doesn't know what they believe? That's fine. It's not like she owns them, they just decided she was in charge. So give them some beliefs especially contradictory beliefs that are gonna get them in trouble real soon. She don't like it, ask her what she's gonna do about it.

    The Battlebabe, though, you've got a golden opportunity there. Give her everything she wants. She doesn't have to trade on her looks, she's the Battlebabe. She doesn't have to use the shotgun either, I mean who would fuck with the Battlebabe? Every second NPC comes up to her and asks her what she wants. They DO NOT stand around waiting for something! They ask questions, and whatever she says she wants, THEY GO DO IT. Just like that. Then you stick razor blades in all them apples, because these are stupid piece-of-shit wankers and OF COURSE they fuck everything up. Like you said birds were pretty, right? So fuckin' dumbass here climbs the radio tower, which always has birds on it, but he falls on an exposed wire and electrocutes himself and pulls it down and now the Hardholder's house is on fire! So.. is she gonna fix it, or what?

    (Note: In general, I avoid asking questions about a character's background unless they ask me questions and I need to know something to put the information I'm going to give them into context. So stuff like "Have you been here before? When?" or "How do you know this guy? Are you friends, do you buy shit from him or something?" Mostly I want to know how they live. Water, food, clothes, ammunition -- where does that come from? Where do you live? What do you do for fun? And how do you get electricity for that? Where does your fuel come from? Where do your building materials come from? If they tell you, great! Build on it. If they don't, give them an ugly choice, and put the pressure on them to do something, make the world better.)

    Also, completely separate from the above, it could be they just need more fancy doomahickeys to play with, so they can figure out who their characters are through actions, rather than thinking about their pasts.
  • Posted By: JohnstoneMy response: I don't give a shit who taught the Gunlugger to shoot. I want to know what he eats. You should ask. If he doesn't have an answer, give him one. Give him a choice between two rather sordid options. If he doesn't like them, ask him what he's gonna do about it.
    (also, see note below)

    Same with the Hocus.Where does her cult get its water? Do they have their own well? Do they buy it from that other cult, you know the really creepy one? What's she gonna do when the water runs out and her cult turns on her? She doesn't know what they believe? That's fine. It's not like she owns them, they just decided she was in charge. So give them some beliefs especially contradictory beliefs that are gonna get them in trouble real soon. She don't like it, ask her what she's gonna do about it.

    The Battlebabe, though, you've got a golden opportunity there. Give her everything she wants. She doesn't have to trade on her looks, she's the Battlebabe. She doesn't have to use the shotgun either, I mean who would fuck with the Battlebabe? Every second NPC comes up to her and asks her what she wants. They DO NOT stand around waiting for something! They ask questions, and whatever she says she wants, THEY GO DO IT. Just like that. Then you stick razor blades in all them apples, because these are stupid piece-of-shit wankers and OF COURSE they fuck everything up. Like you said birds were pretty, right? So fuckin' dumbass here climbs the radio tower, which always has birds on it, but he falls on an exposed wire and electrocutes himself and pulls it down and now the Hardholder's house is on fire! So.. is she gonna fix it, or what?

    (Note: In general, I avoid asking questions about a character's background unless they ask me questions and I need to know something to put the information I'm going to give them into context. So stuff like "Have you been here before? When?" or "How do you know this guy? Are you friends, do you buy shit from him or something?" Mostly I want to know how they live. Water, food, clothes, ammunition -- where does that come from? Where do you live? What do you do for fun? And how do you get electricity for that? Where does your fuel come from? Where do your building materials come from? If they tell you, great! Build on it. If they don't, give them an ugly choice, and put the pressure on them to do something, make the world better.)

    Also, completely separate from the above, it could be they just need more fancy doomahickeys to play with, so they can figure out who their characters are through actions, rather than thinking about their pasts.
    Every last word gold, or should I say barf, I salute you sir.
  • edited June 2011
    Solid Gold Johnstone,

    Totally, she is the the BATTLEBABE. The player gets to decide who that character is. You get to be a fan of that character and see what they do.
    I don't assume your Battlebabe is a killer, or your Gunlugger loves guns, or I know how any playbook "is" just cause I played or MC'd one before.

    Theres this other thing, I'm having a hard time putting it into words, but maybe y'all can help me here. I'm building off of John Harper's definition of Soft Moves and Hard Moves
    In the first session you spend lots of time asking establishing questions, you might say something like,

    "So Always, where do you live?" or
    "So Kray, you said you wear athletic gear? Where you scrounge that?
    I like to think of these as soft moves, you're setting something up but you are letting the PCs put the pieces together. Even something like,
    "So Grandma, how do you feel about the Bonerats?" is still really this same kind of soft move. The point is I haven't decided what the Bonerats are. It could be some gang, it could be some wierd thing that inhabits the malestrom, hell maybe Grandma's body guard is reffered to as The Bonerats.

    compare that to
    "So Always, how long have you been in the slave trade?" or
    "So Kray, who did you kill to get that jumpsuit?"
    "So Grandma, how long has it been since the Bonerats carried off Dremmer?"


    these are all hard moves. They establish things in the fiction that are irrevocable.

    My point here being, know when you're making hard moves and use them with care. You should use hard moves when someone hands you an opportunity like a missed roll, or when if follows logically from the fiction.
    If you open up 1st session making hard moves off the bat, you'll never find out what their Apocalypse World looks like.

    does that make sense? any thoughts?
  • I want to engrave Johnstone's post on a bronze plaque and hang it over the game table.
  • Hans, Ross, Johnstone... great answers! Very useful thread!
  • As Johnstone points out, backstory in AW is far less important than current story. If the player wants to know who taught his gunlugger to shoot, explore it! But it's far more important for the MC to know more immediate things. Where does the gunlugger get the ammunition for his big gun? What kind of house does the hocus live in? Who is the battlebabe's best friend?

    I'd also be inclined, with a group like that, to point out that the rules don't really allow the MC to take charge. They encourage a reactive style: the MC makes things happen in response to player moves. Which means that if the players don't make moves, nothing happens.
  • Cwilbur, I can see what it was that both of you meant. I suppose that backstory was a bit imprecise. I was looking less for information about their formative years, and rather for things that were more recent. I asked them questions about who they spent time with in the holding, where they got their food and water, things of that sort, but with the specific question both you and Johnstone addressed was me looking for a weak point in a character who was built trying not to have weak points. The Gunlugger in question had specifically said that he was a loner, and that he did not really have friends amongst the holders and while his purposeful isolation has allowed me to bring tension between him and those around him (keeping separate may make it easier to see when someone is coming to stab you in the back, but no one really trusts the person on the outskirts), I was trying to see where I could tie him to the holding in some way.
  • edited June 2011
    was me looking for a weak point in a character who was built trying not to have weak points. The Gunlugger in question had specifically said that he was a loner, and that he did not really have friends amongst the holders

    Sounds like you found your weak point.

    Point is, no one survives by themselves in a wasteland. Where does he get his food, etc, if he's NOT friends with the holders? By definition, holders hold the things others need, yeah?

    Humans, we aren't so self sufficient...
  • This may be hitting too close to home for me, since I'm currently *not* running a game because of a similar reason - one of the players in my regular group brings her laptop and spends the entire gaming session checking out Facebook, playing a round of Bejeweled, websurfing a bit, and so on. A couple months back I said, "You know, it's kind of rude to bring another form of entertainment to a roleplaying game and spend most of the session distracted." And she looked at me and said, "We're not going to have this discussion." And I said, "Okay, we aren't." I haven't run a game since; in mid-August she's moving to Lebanon, so I'm just being all conflict-avoidant until then.

    But it sounds like your players aren't invested in the game at all. Your gunlugger doesn't seem to realize that the point of the game is relationships with other characters. Your fundamental problem seems to be not that they don't know what to do in AW, but that the things they need to do to make AW fun are not things they want to do. These are out of game problems - forcing them to do the things that make AW fun is not going to make anyone happy if it's not the kind of game they want to play. So it's probably time to sit them down and say, "Look, this game is about *social interactions* between the characters. If you don't want to interact with other characters to the point that you make invulnerable indestructible loners or you distract yourself with laptops and Facebook, we're probably better off playing Munchkin."
  • Ouch, I always ask folks to turn off their cell phones before games. If someone wants to be on the computer I would probs say something like, "this game really needs everyone to be fully engages. If you want to be on the computer, thats cool,, but maybe we should do something else."
  • Cwilbur,

    I can totally understand your annoyance at the distracted player, I have less of an issue with it because she is not screwing around. My entire group consists of college students and some of my players are taking classes over the summer (insane IMO because they condense 16 weeks of information into 4.) and they tend to be plunking away at papers. Like Chirstopher said, the Gunlugger is not really a problem. He does tend to build characters who are "lone wolves" but allows them to be drawn into things if it is interesting, and having the holder start denying access to resources is just the sort of thing to get him drawn in. I actually have gotten a decent amount of cool interaction out of him. Also he seems to have it stuck in his mind that since he has sweet guns, that any problem he runs into can be solved with a bullet. I plan to have those two things, at least, make his life difficult.

    But it looks like there is going to be a couple weeks of downtime due to travel plans everyone has coming up, so I will probably sit down with everyone at a time when I can get them together for a few minutes and reiterate some of the things which they seem not to understand. A podcast I listen to ( The Jank Cast) had an episode on what it means to be a GM and on of the casters brought up the point that they had to tell their AW group a couple of times in the first few sessions that the rules done really give the MC a way to make things happen if the characters don't take matters into their own hands and make moves. All I can do if they refuse to make moves is start stacking up timers and let them tick away until the characters will be forced to do something as the world goes up in flames.
  • Posted By: Johnstone... so they can figure out who their characters are through actions, rather than thinking about their pasts.
    Good advice! Meeting actions with hard reactions, and dire consequences, tend to mold characters.
  • Posted By: cwilburA couple months back I said, "You know, it's kind of rude to bring another form of entertainment to a roleplaying game and spend most of the session distracted." And she looked at me and said, "We're not going to have this discussion." And I said, "Okay, we aren't." I haven't run a game since; in mid-August she's moving to Lebanon, so I'm just being all conflict-avoidant until then.
    Seems to me she got a nice addiction there (web = alcohol). Wise of you to let her be. When she moves, you can play on with the ones interested. I would never invite such a player back in the group. Have kicked long time friends out of my groups for less that that.
  • Posted By: Tristansaurus-Rexthe rules done really give the MC a way to make things happen if the characters don't take matters into their own hands
    I'm pretty sure the rules explicitly say that anytime the players stop doing stuff and look at you, as though you were supposed to be saying something -- that's pretty much permission to make whatever move you want, the same way as if they had missed a roll. It's a conversation, and they just gave you a turn to speak.

    So, what you're saying is not strictly true; it sounds like a misunderstanding based on the fact that the MC doesn't roll dice. Just because somebody hasn't rolled dice doesn't mean nothing important can happen. It's true that a proactive group will not generally leave the MC many opportunities to do things other than when they miss rolls -- but a more laid-back or reactive group will present plenty of opportunities for the MC to contribute, whether through set-up moves or hard follow-up moves, in accordance with the principles, rules, fiction, etc.
  • Posted By: Ice Cream EmperorPosted By: Tristansaurus-Rexthe rules done really give the MC a way to make things happen if the characters don't take matters into their own hands
    I'm pretty sure the rules explicitly say that anytime the players stop doing stuff and look at you, as though you were supposed to be saying something -- that's pretty much permission to make whatever move you want, the same way as if they had missed a roll. It's a conversation, and they just gave you a turn to speak.


    Ah see that - that - is the type of thing that I figured thomas was talking about with dialog techniques. That is both obvious once its pointed out and intuitive, but until it was just stated out in the open, I hadnt ever conciously thought about it.

    say more stuff like that please
  • Emperor, I realize that when they stare at me blankly it is an opportunity to start making setup moves and eventually hard moves as well. The problem I am having is not that they cannot engage when things get rolling, they are more than capable of reacting to things which are happening around them. What I am seeing though, began with the first session. They came to the table without having put thought into what kinds of characters they wanted to play or what they might do with them. So when I remind them that the second half is essentially me following them around for a day, they looked at me blankly. I've talked with them about the fact that I am not coming to the table with a preplanned campaign. However, as soon as the curtains opened and the spotlight switched on they got stage-fright. I ended up spending a good portion of the session listening to "I don't know" "How should I know?" and "Isn't that something the GM comes up with?"

    It seems to me like I am having to railroad in order to have anything at all happen. A perfect example of this comes from the Hocus in the group. As I said before, there is (as of yet) no real description or delineation of the cult's beliefs. So I injected a situation, one of her followers (a pro scrouger called Grome) comes stumbling into the Mongolian BBQ that the cult lives in, having the shit thoroughly kicked out of him. He relays that Tum Tum, the only child among the followers, was forcefully taken from him by holders who said that the cult was going to get the kid killed (giving insight that the cult has been doing crazy/stupid things).

    The Hocus shrugged and asked what he expected her to do. It took Grome pulling her bodily from the cult's abode to get her to even attempt to look for the kid. Though as soon as she agreed to try and find Tum Tum, the player looked at me and asked how the hell she was supposed to find the kid. I'm not sure if this is a problem of players not knowing how to/feeling comfortable with coming up with things on the fly. Or it there is something that I am missing which would allow me to make things fun for them, while not breaking the spirit of the game?
  • It sounds like you need to playa different game. Try something that, you know, doesn't have a system-mandated "PCs decide what they want to do" element. They don't want to play that way.

    Alternatively, play with different people.
  • Tristan, man, I gotta agree with Shreyas. It really sounds like they don't wanna play the same game you wanna play.
  • Sometimes, players just need a little love and some engaging questions to get this kinda thing goin. When I first introduced this type of play to my group they fluctuated between taking over the game (awesome!) and kinda lounging around not knowing what to do (kinda slow).

    If your players aren't sure what to do, try to give them a little bit of both styles of running the game (a little trad a little indie for lack of better terms). Create some specific scenes and threats and "talk" during the MC part of the conversation that are a little more guided. Sometimes players need conflict to discover who their characters are, there's nothing wrong with a little action at the beginning of the game (direct action, like a challenge, or a fight). When you engage your players, make sure its something their character is interested in (look at their relationships, their style, the playbook they chose). Maybe re-establish those first session questions to be more pointed like people recommended above. I think it's how you ask the question that makes it work. Guided, specific questions help give good boundaries for creativity to blossom. Johnstone's questions are excellent, and the difference between soft moves and hard moves are good guides too.

    The example you gave with the child asking for help... maybe the player just didn't think her character would want to save a child? That's intense, why would she feel that way? Maybe it felt too forced? Not doing something is a move too, when she doesn't go after the child you can always respond with consequences, maybe the player would enjoy that? You could just ask her OOC, hey, is this not something you're interested in? If not, why? An email in between sessions might get a clearer picture for you as to what she would like to do in the game, what sorts of trouble she sees her character getting in to. Do you have scenes where the PC's all sit around having breakfast? Or a hardhold meeting? Kinda intro scenes to get the In Character rollin? Those are great low pressure ways for players to get in character and for you to see what interests them and go from there. Play around with a couple different approaches and see what you get. I wouldn't give up yet!
  • Start a countdown clock, at midnight, the child shows up crying with a satchel strapped to her. The satchel has a long antenna.
  • Posted By: Tristansaurus-RexMy entire group consists of college students and some of my players are taking classes over the summer (insane IMO because they condense 16 weeks of information into 4.) and they tend to be plunking away at papers.
    While they're playing the game? Seeing that would make my head explode. And it's just a bad idea. Many studies have shown how ineffective multitasking is - they're probably fucking up their papers at the same time as they're fucking up the game.

    I want to change my answer: find different players.

    From Sorcerer: "I think of role-playing as playing in a band ... you get together and make cool-sounding noises ... if someone is not up to the level of the other members, or can't handle their end of things, they stop getting invited. Eventually the band might be pretty good."

    Or maybe just ditch the Hocus and be a power trio.
  • edited June 2011
    I not sure Tristan is getting all the right advice here. AW isn't a "player's come up with their own motivations and agendas and that's what drives the game forward" game...Fronts are what drives the game forward. Fronts are key. Motivations? That's missing the entire point, I think. This is APOCALYPSE World, not Badasses hanging out at the biker bar world. The PCs motivations are simple...food, shelter, survival. Fronts are things the GM invents for the purpose of threatening food, shelter, and survival.

    You don't need proactive players. You need 1) establish where food shelter and survival comes from for each character. 2) create fronts that take those things away. 3) wait for the players to do something about it...or die of exposure and starvation.

    Johnstone's questions above aren't about deep inner meaning. They're about identifying the name of the person that the Gunlugger gets his food from, and what the Gunlugger has to do to earn his keep. If the player doesn't want to participate in helping you flesh that out...fine...you flesh it out, tell him how it is. Frame a scene where Doghead is telling him to go fuck up some people for him or else he'll cut off his meat ration, then sit back and see how the character reacts. No matter what he does...that's the story...maybe he goes and fucks up those people, so now you have the reactions of their friends to throw back at him. Maybe he tells Doghead to fuck off, so now he's starving...and here come some guy tied into one of your fronts who just happens to have some food to share. Or maybe he goes after Doghead to get the food for himself...awesome...especially since that probably threatens a whole lot of people's status quo. Doesn't matter. Point is, its "do something or starve to death". If he does nothing, you Hard Move his ass with some harm and move on to the next player.

    Reactive players are gold in AW. You don't need to figure out how to "hook" the player or pique the character's interest. Hooks are easy...food, water, breathable air, the means to acquire and keep the same. Dealing with people who want to share what you have, dealing with fuckers who want to take it from you. Easy peasey stuff.

    AW mechanically works like this.
    1) GM establishes some threat that is going to fuck the character up
    2) GM gives player a chance to announce how they are going to respond to that threat (i.e. make a move).
    3) If the player shrugs and does nothing, GM proceeds to fuck the character up.

    Rinse, repeat, continue.

    Notice, there's no point in that cycle that says "GM waits for players to do something". AW is not some hippie indie game. There's absolutely no "system mandated PCs decide what they want to do" stuff. AW is about as old school traditional as you can get. Who gives a fuck what your PCs want. Metaphorically speaking your job is to point a gun at their head and see what they do about it.

    The questions you ask your players have nothing...NOTHING...to do with what the players want. Fuck that shit right in the ear. The questions serve only to draw forth details. "Who do you get your water from" is only important in so far as it puts a name and a character sketch to an NPC so you can now view them through cross hairs better. They aren't flags or any of other collaborative stuff that goes on in other game. Use the question to populate your world with characters...give THOSE characters an agenda...tie them into your fronts...figure out how your NPCs are going to act and react to stuff. Then just make sure that all of that threatens to steamroller right over the PCs...and see what they do about it.

    So here's what I'm saying, this:
    We talked about creating characters with real motivations and goals
    is wrong.
    That's YOU playing the game wrong. There's nothing in any of the play books that says "now create real motivations and goals" You go around, you ask the Hx questions to establish some past history between the character. You ask a few leading questions to populate the game world with NPCs you can reincorporate later...then YOU go create Fronts and YOU start the fuckery and YOU ask the players how they are reacting to your fuckery...and then you play from there.

    Seriously. AW is not some touchy feely hippie indie game. Its old school. If your players are sitting around waiting for you to do something...that's because they're SUPPOSED to be sitting around waiting for you to do something...now go do it. You don't need to draw them into anything. Simply threaten to take away what they already have.
  • Yeah, the issue can be that some MCs feel all bad when they start to close doors on reactive players.

    Vlad's advice is good, especially for early sessions. As the game goes on, motivations will naturally develop or they won't. AW IS actually a hippie dippy game about deeper meaning, but no one can force that. No one, MC included, can make that happen. Think of post-apoc fiction. Characters have simple motivations. Food, water, ammo, shelter, etc All of them. The complexities come from a dozen characters whose simple motivations overlap.

    Meaning is emergent.
  • Posted By: Tristansaurus-RexThe Hocus shrugged and asked what he expected her to do. It took Grome pulling her bodily from the cult's abode to get her to even attempt to look for the kid. Though as soon as she agreed to try and find Tum Tum, the player looked at me and asked how the hell she was supposed to find the kid.
    I should also mention that sounds to me like it might be against the rules, depending on what you're doing.

    p.143:
    "When you list something within the player character's control, always list it with an 'if' - 'if Bish goes out to the ruins' not 'Bish goes out to the ruins.' Prep circumstances, pressures, developing NPC actions, not (and I'm not fucking around here) NOT future scenes you intend to the lead the PC's to."

    If she wants to hang out in her temple or whatever that's her prerogative - let her and escalate. Tum Tum's body is found the next morning. Tum Tum's mom blames the Hocus and tries to poison her. The followers leave in droves. Eventually she'll see the other players do enough reading and brain-opening that she starts to figure out how to turn things around in her favor?
  • Ralph's got fronts nailed down. The thing I really like about fronts is that when I throw stuff at the players and they don't bite, instead of just throwing that idea away, I get to advance it a little ways (down the threat countdown), and then reintroduce it later.

    However, I dispute this:
    Posted By: ValamirAW is about as old school traditional as you can get.
    I wouldn't go that far. Even though you can find the basic die mechanic on page 100 of the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook, it's not exactly old school, with perhaps the most important difference being exactly those questions the MC is supposed to ask.

    The core conceit of old school games is that the players (through their characters) explore an unfamiliar environment that is prepared by the referee/DM/GM. Who your character is or was before play doesn't really matter, because it has no connection to what you are exploring--only the stuff that happens to him/her during play (in the GM's environment) matters. In AW, the characters exist in an environment that is already (at least somewhat) familiar to them. It's easy to play a character in an unfamiliar environment: somebody else tells you what your character sees and then you explore. But how do you play a character in an environment they are familiar with? You've got three options:

    1. You can become familiar with it during play. This is what inevitably happens--you explore some unfamiliar place and then it becomes familiar.

    2. The GM can explain it to you, or you can read the setting book or whatever. Still not particularly ideal, especially if the GM can't explain it properly or doesn't read or remember the same parts of the setting bible as the players.

    3. Or the third option, which is that the players can make it up. "Your character lives where, exactly? And what's it like there?" If this is ever suggested as an option in any old school game, or any game written in the 20th century even, I haven't seen it, and if this is a technique that was used in the early days of rpgs, I haven't heard of it (maybe there's something similar in Ars Magica, although that collective covenant creation stuff is pre-play). But this is what the questions in AW are for. These characters live in a world that is familiar to them because they live in it. They're not venturing into some unknown territory. So the players need a hand in sketching that environment out. Like Ralph says, it's not about motivations and goals and what players bring to the table necessarily (although it can be), but it IS about how those characters live. And then the MC threatens that life. Yes, the questions and answers stuff means the players take some of the weight off the MC, but it also means that since they're making that stuff up themselves, they're more than likely to be invested in it, so when you start to take it away, they'll want to fight for it.
  • Posted By: Tristansaurus-RexAlso he seems to have it stuck in his mind that since he has sweet guns, that any problem he runs into can be solved with a bullet. I plan to have those two things, at least, make his life difficult.
    And on a side note, when you've got super-violent PCs, try writing out a list of all the skills the holding needs to function, and all the required resource management jobs. Whenever a PC kills somebody, cross one of them off, then imagine how the holding deals without someone being good at that. Maybe later the Gunlugger needs a new pair of boots and goes looking around. "You need shoes? Yeah, we used to have a guy here who could make shoes. But you shot him."
    "Yeah, we used to have a guy who knew a safe route to that holding up in the hills, but you shot him."
    "Yeah, we used to have somebody who could probably treat those wounds, but you shot her."
    etc.
  • Posted By: Johnstone"You need shoes? Yeah, we used to have a guy here who could make shoes. But you shot him."
    "Yeah, we used to have a guy who knew a safe route to that holding up in the hills, but you shot him."
    "Yeah, we used to have somebody who could probably treat those wounds, but you shot her."
    Awesome.
    Actually, you don't even need to make a list and cross off, right? Any time he needs something that'll just happen to be somebody he already shot.
  • If it doesn't make you feel at all guilty, for sure! Especially if the player misses a roll. But if you need to shift the decision-making, a list is the way to go. Also, you can start planning the ramifications earlier.
  • edited June 2011
    Posted By: JohnstoneHowever, I dispute this:

    Posted By: ValamirAW is about as old school traditional as you can get.
    I wouldn't go that far.

    I concede that "old school" is such a vast umbrella covering so many things that debating how old school AW actually is or isn't is unproductive...and essentially not material to the post. Ida been better off not even mentioning it...but I wuz onna roll.
  • Yeah, I think everybody getting what you were laying down, but some of the game is that hippy stuff/ It can and does reach that point.

    • what was your character’s lowest moment?
    • for what does your character crave forgiveness, and of whom?
    • what are your character’s secret pains?
    • in what ways are your character’s mind and soul vulnerable?

    Other places too.
  • Interesting. I don't see that as hippy stuff at all. I see that as sizeing up where the cracks are in the character's armor so I can send an NPC in to poke that place and make the player declare a Move or eat harm.

    For me those questions are about the MC collecting ammo to be fired at a later date.
  • Posted By: Tristansaurus-RexIt seems to me like I am having to railroad in order to have anything at all happen. A perfect example of this comes from the Hocus in the group. As I said before, there is (as of yet) no real description or delineation of the cult's beliefs. So I injected a situation, one of her followers (a pro scrouger called Grome) comes stumbling into the Mongolian BBQ that the cult lives in, having the shit thoroughly kicked out of him. He relays that Tum Tum, the only child among the followers, was forcefully taken from him by holders who said that the cult was going to get the kid killed (giving insight that the cult has been doing crazy/stupid things).

    The Hocus shrugged and asked what he expected her to do. It took Grome pulling her bodily from the cult's abode to get her to even attempt to look for the kid. Though as soon as she agreed to try and find Tum Tum, the player looked at me and asked how the hell she was supposed to find the kid. I'm not sure if this is a problem of players not knowing how to/feeling comfortable with coming up with things on the fly. Or it there is something that I am missing which would allow me to make things fun for them, while not breaking the spirit of the game?
    Part of the problem may be your mindset. Don't set up expectations for what you expect the players to do. Present them with situations: Grome comes in in a froth because Tum Tum has been kidnapped. There's your situation. What the players do with it is completely up to them. If the hocus doesn't care? Well, you don't control the hocus, you only control Grome, and the person he looks to as a leader has just shrugged and basically admitted she doesn't care about the kid.

    The option you took is to try to railroad her into going after the kid. Instead, what would have happened if you'd let her lack of interest stand? Grome realizes that she's not leader material, and starts pulling people away from her cult. Or Grome has a revelation: the Leader does not think children are important, which means that the end of the world is at hand.

    But fundamentally, if the players don't want to engage or participate, there's really nothing you can do to make them.
  • @Charlton...TOTALLY.

    Having Grome interpret the Hocus's disregard for the life of the child as being inspired revelation would be brilliant. A session or two later (depending on how full the event queue was at the time) I'd totally start to work that into fabric of the cult / hold.

    "As you're walking through the hold you come across one of your followers preaching to a group of parents, encouraging them to abandon their children for they have no value. What do you do?" If nothing, escalate.

    "You come across an old man digging a shallow pit behind the hard hold. Arranged at the side of the pit are the bodies of children who've died of hunger and exposure after being abandoned by their parents. What do you do?" If nothing, escalate.

    "You hear an angry mob coming towards your quarters. Above the shouting you can hear cries of "Baby Killer!" and "Burn Her!". What do you do? if nothing escalate.

    "You've been bludgeoned, stripped, and come to in the process of being tied to a stake. The smell of gasoline burns in your nose. What do you do?" If nothing...time for a new character.
  • Posted By: jdfristromPosted By: Johnstone"You need shoes? Yeah, we used to have a guy here who could make shoes. But you shot him."
    "Yeah, we used to have a guy who knew a safe route to that holding up in the hills, but you shot him."
    "Yeah, we used to have somebody who could probably treat those wounds, but you shot her."
    Awesome.
    Actually, you don't even need to make a list and cross off, right? Any time he needs something that'll just happen to be somebody he already shot.

    I think it's actually pretty crucial to make a list and cross things off it and then only respond with that line when the PCs choose that particular thing at a later date. This is not a game where you manipulate the fiction to challenge the characters, this is a game where you are faithful to the fiction and the fiction inevitably ends up challenging the characters, because it is the fucking post-apocalypse. If the PC automatically shoots whoever they needed the most, no matter who they shoot or what it turns out they need later, that's not the result of a consistent fictional world, that's meta-narrative control, and it also looks a lot more like 'I am punishing you for shooting that guy' and a lot less like 'yep that guy you shot was a person who did stuff.'

    I think Ralph pretty much nailed it in terms of the expectations on what MCs and PCs do, but for me the warning flag was not that the Hocus didn't want to save the kid -- it was that once the Hocus' player decided that, okay, she was going to save the kid... she had no idea how to do it, and looked at the MC expecting him to provide an answer. That's not about reactive players, that's about not understanding or not being willing to engage with the fiction or the system. It's pretty difficult to imagine that this player cannot think of a single method by which they might track this kid down, given how straightforward the situation was.

    Then again this might just relate to the fact that they didn't want to save the kid in the first place, which reaction others have commented on at length. It's not surprising that a railroaded player will expect the MC to continue to lay the tracks for them -- if it was so important for YOU that her character go find this kid, then presumably YOU should have an idea how that was going to happen.
  • edited June 2011
    @Valamir: Ralph, you are preaching the good shit here. Great stuff!

    I will share one tiny word of caution to the new MCs out there: It's your job to play the Threats of the world, to look for where the PCs are vulnerable, etc. as Ralph, Johnstone and others have said. But also to look at your NPCs through crosshairs and to be fans of the PCs! Don't lose sight of that.

    I've seen a couple MCs go overboard with the "hit them where they're weak" instruction and turn the game into a series of horrible punishments.

    Ralph isn't advocating that! I just wanted to say it for the record. "Sometimes, give them exactly what they hoped for." Yes, even when they fuck it up and do the wrong thing. Sometimes even then.
Sign In or Register to comment.