[Apocalypse World] Help me build triangles

edited April 2014 in Story Games
I'm running a game tomorrow, so there's a specific situation, but I'm hoping for some general insight on this subject, as I notice my mind keeps returning to the more typical action RPG "party faces obstacle, struggles to overcome it" modes.

The PCs are Azure the battlebabe; Zed the angel; Brace the brainer and Zed's nurse. There's also Dr. Hope the self-help psychologist hocus; and Lafferty the operator, but their players missed the first two sessions so we haven't seen them in action yet. They live in a semi-ruined Sisters of Mercy Hospital, run by Mother Superior and the Sisters of Mercy, his inner circle of enforcers, mostly his daughters. Azure did a brief stint as a Sister, but she doesn't work well with authority. There's a flu going around that has even odds of wearing off in a week, killing you, or turning you into violent fast zombie kind of thing. There's Ward H, a creepy, dangerous wing of the hospital that's mostly shut off from the rest.

Azure and III, one of the Sisters, got the flu, and Zed made some breakthroughs on slowing it down at least, but needed blood centrifuges and other more sophisticated medical equipment than he had handy. So, naturally, everyone went down to Ward H, and nearly started killing each other driven by some sort of psychic feedback. But they got a grip, found the stuff they wanted, and also took home a computer that seemed to be working without a power source, and was probably the source of the psychic feedback.

Now Brace wants to see what's in the computer, hoping for some sort of creepy medical experiment records pertaining to the flu. So they went across the city to buy a working monitor from Proust, the best woman to ask for hi-tech and electronica. This time it was the PCs and Roark, a young guard in Mother's employ, as III got sick of Brace's weird shit, and Roark wants to "hang" "out" with Azure. But Roark got his head exploded Children of Men style in a bandit ambush. Roark's sister Ruby, another one of the Sisters of Mercy, isn't going to be happy about that.

That's most of what we have, after two short sessions.

I want to tangle up the PCs, and I'm thinking Ruby is going to be pissed at Azure, and might want solace from Dr. Hope, and while III is seriously creeped out by Brace, she might want to back Azure against Ruby. But mostly, I keep going back to thinking in terms of straightforward acquire stuff, slow down flu, cure friends, fend off anyone who gives them shit. What triangles do you see here, and how to best look for them in general?


  • edited April 2014
    I don't know the drives or wants of your NPCs and therefore it's hard to make a solution that will fit like a glove. The actual way you want to do this is to sit inside each NPC's head, examine the playing field as they see it, consider their goals, and do whatever it seems they would do. But you have to be a little didactic sometimes when creating triangles. So starting from what you said above, here's an example that might take you ... somewhere.

    - Offstage, Ruby has gone talking shit about Azure to some of the other Sisters. This is semi-believable b/c Azure already blew being a sister herself. This might lessen Azure's support from the Sisters when she needs it.

    - Cut to Brace. The monitor Brace brought back from Proust's place has a weird input or power jack on it. Ruby walks in while Brace is trying to figure out how to connect it. She asks him to tell her something about her brother's death. They share a moment. She asks what he's working on. She says she has seen power cords and adapters like he describes in a closet somewhere - she'll dig one up. Maybe she drops hints that she has additional information about Ward H, or something else Brace would find interesting. Then somebody calls her away or she goes chasing after a passing Sister to spread more gossip before her conversation with Brace can finish.

    (Stick a scene with Zed and/or the other PCs in here.)

    - Cut to Azure. She learns of Ruby's campaign from some other Sister, maybe III. Apparently some of them are believing Ruby's crap.

    Now Brace wants to talk to Ruby some more, and Azure wants to kick her ass.

    Tighten the bond between Brace and Ruby. Tighten the bond between Azure and III.
  • The best advice on making triangles that I saw was - whenever a PC creates a NPC with a relationship to themselves, immediately turn to another PC (PC2) and ask a provocative question about the NPC's relationship to PC2 eg how did they fuck you over? What do you owe them? etc. That allows the players to create the triangles for you, based on how they see their PCs in the fiction.
  • That's awesome advice! In point of fact, I don't know who created these NPCs. I assume the MC did. But that could still work.
  • robb, that's very useful.

    Aslf, that's along the lines of what I'm seeing: Ruby hates Azure, III fears Brace, but they each might need and/or have things to offer to the rest of the PCs. But (at the moment) I'm not really worried about adding detail and specifics to those relationships, but digging for other triangles and avenues for stuff to happen. It seems one or two put too much pressure to resolve those in an interesting and satisfying manner, creating the temptation to tell a story about those specific issues, rather than playing to see what happen.

    I'm trying to see what else is here, or seed the world with more NPCs if there's not enough. Good thing is, the hocus will be joining us finally, and the operator likely as well, and those come with a cult and a crew worth of complications free of charge!
  • Just sit in the heads of the individual NPCs. Figure out what they'd want to do at that moment. Not every complication has to be a triangle. Maybe Ruby runs off to Ward H all by herself and the PCs have to rescue her - who knows? (Ruby knows.)

    And yes, I definitely agree you'll need more NPCs - especially with an Operator in the mix. They may have a crew but they have to do deals with *someone*.

  • Yeah, robb's advice is the #1 practical advice that I would give -- it's easiest to create triangles when you do so immediately, on the spot, as the NPCs are being introduced, because almost every NPC is only going to get introduced in the first place precisely because they are interacting with the PCs in some meaningful way. So if one PC goes to find Proust for something, immediately establish some history between Proust and a second PC. You don't have to worry about the relationships always being at odds (both PCs could have a positive relationship with the NPC), you just have to make sure they are specific enough to create divergence later on, as a natural result of what goes down.

    You also want to look at creating triangles in places the PCs are already invested -- NPCs that the PCs seem to like, or depend on, or particularly hate, are the best places to start.

    Based on what you've described, it seems like technology (medical and otherwise) is something a lot of the PCs are interested in; since nobody is playing a Savvyhead, the NPCs who have access to or knowledge about this technology seem like particularly good candidates for complicated, messy triangles. Proust is clearly one such NPC, but maybe Proust has some competition, and maybe different PCs have different relationships/histories with the various players.

    In any case, if you do have both a Hocus AND Operator about to join the game, that's going to be a prime opportunity to practice your triangle-making. My suggestion there is to encourage the players to choose existing NPCs (assuming you have some that you/the other PCs seem to find interesting) as both crew members and cultists -- and see if any PCs want to opt in on either as well. This by itself will suggest a lot of history between any newly-minted NPCs and those already-established, which you can then flesh out with lots of provocatively triangular questions.
  • I love the set-up you have going - very evocative - and I think the advice is great. Triangles are little tug-of-war games to create tensions that the PCs have to work through. My favorite AW games have pivoted on small conflicts that have had big consequences when the shit went down.

    This is more applicable to AW one-shots but I'd advise you seek to re-use your NPCs to keep the circle of "who matters" tight. Don't get ridiculous with it but if you're wondering who's actually supplying Dr. Hope with the meds, consider Proust or Roark or III who are already in the fiction. With lots of NPCs in the mix it can get unwieldy and confusing. "OK, so was Shenandoah or Pills or Moonwhite sleeping with Azure? And who ripped off Lafferty? Where are my notes??" The players will struggle to keep track, too.

    Also: Every NPC has crosshairs on them. Drive them like stolen cars. Love that advice.
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