[Apocalypse world] players having trouble knowing what to do.

edited April 2019 in Play Advice
So I have a big group has never played AW before, several are taking to it quite naturally. But a few seem to be stuck (noticably the Savvy, Angel, and Driver). When I ask what their character is doing or what they would have been up to they sort of freeze.

I have noticed this for a few sessions, I've tried to give them more information to help and have even asked more leading questions but the players still seem to be having trouble, when the camera turns to them the game sort of Freeze's

I've talked to two of them after our last game and they said they just have trouble making decisions without having a very clear objective.

I'm trying to figure out how I can do better in this area. I do not want to have situations where I am simply like,
MC:what do you do?

Player: uhhhhhh I'm not sure general docotr stuff...

MC: well one objective seems to be over at point A

Player: ok go to point A then.

I get a strong "well in d&d the objectives are very clear" vibe from the couple I'm having trouble with.

Have others had trouble with this? Any slick advice?


  • I've had some success asking for concrete "personal goals" for each character before the game starts, which they write on their character sheet. It's simplistic but it forces them to have their own objectives in mind. Then I ask them to review their personal goals every session or two, so that they can evolve with the events of the game.

  • Guidance is all over their character sheet. You could give them a ribbon for every part of it they use/address for the first time.

    Also remind them "A party is what you bring to it."
  • edited April 2019
    Create obvious threats for them to deal with. If they don't deal with them things go bad and it's obviously their fault.

    A disease is spreading.
    What little tech is left is breaking down (the water chip!).
    The usual trade route has been closed off by hostile people or a natural hazard.
  • edited April 2019
    It's funny you say that because a disease IS spreading...(it's been happening for three sessions and slowly getting worse). That's where I got the "I do what I can to keep them comfortable....uh yeah" I guess she's nervous about going ahead and purposing open ended solutions...
  • I should so say this is related to my way too huge of a group post so that's part of the problem, my quieter folks haven't had as much chance to get to know thier own characters
  • It seems to me that if that character is just kinda doing nothing or if they don't react to your looming threats (i.e. the spread of the disease), that's a Golden Opportunity for you to make a move. Then they can react to that move, and hopefully the moves will snowball into exciting action, as they are wont to do.
  • Oh, this is for the giant group? That would be really tough, with players who aren’t proactive.

    I would always always always try to tie them into the other players’ issues. Another PC needs something desperately? Have that fall into a passive PC’s lap (and maybe give them a reason, or just ask them, why they don’t want to give it away!).

    But also explain to them that they should pick an objective for themselves, that this style of play isn’t like D&D: ask them who they care about, who or what they are afraid of, and what they wish they could have.

    And THEN still make sure it points back at another PC. They love someone? Cool, that person just broke in and stole something from the hardholder. Now the NPC runs into the first PC’s home and begs them: “please! They’re coming after me. Hide me!” And so on.
  • @rhysmakesthings I would say that especially since this is there first non D&D one shot they have played and I don't want to make them feel I'm punishing them for not "playing right"

    Basically I want to endear the game to them and want to set them up for success as it were.

    So the Savvy head read the playbook focus and said it really helped. I'll ask the angel to read again and maybe that will help along with other's advice here.
  • edited April 2019

    Those Playbook Focus threads are fantastic!

    But it also doesn’t have to be that intellectual or high-brow.

    Your job is to keep their lives interesting and to point them at each other as hard as you can.

    Here’s a really easy one:

    Identify a danger or threat or powerful NPC - anything in your game that could be a threat or an opportunity, any moving piece.

    Chances are that some of your proactive players have given you some, right?

    Maybe there’s a rival warlord who will soon be arriving. Or some machine from the Golden Age is being dug up.

    Either way, turn to a player who’s not in on the action yet.

    Ask them:

    “What do you think of [this moving piece]? For you, is it a danger or a rare opportunity? Does it threaten your life or give you hope?”

    Keep asking more leading questions until you get something from them. (You may need to add detail or keep saying “yes” to their questions as you go through this.)

    They’re not sure, so they ask, “does this warlord have slaves who might be carrying diseases?” Why yes, of course they do, you say! And they’re cannibals, too (add a little to put your bloody fingerprints on it!). “Does this ancient dig have any interesting medical technology?” Why, yes! Sure does! And so on.

    Once you’re there, ask them what they’re going to do about it.

    Add some detail to make it urgent. (There is medical technology there, but Dremmer has moved in is taking all of it for himself.) Now the game is on!

    With a group this size, keep keep keep pointing each one of those things back at another PC! Always.
  • edited April 2019
    Thanks Paul :)

    The only problem with this advice for my particular situation as they have been playing nice with each other so very well.

    Creating tension between PC's in this instance may be a challenge. I have ended up focusing on outside threats quite a bit. (This whole thing has become a somewhat literal biblical apocalypse with horseman and everything (at least in my mind))
  • My experience is that if the characters are all trying to “work together”, you’re going to have a really rough time. First of all, it means you’re basically going to have to do all the work to get the game rolling, all the time. Second, it means a lot of focus on NPCs, which is more work for you and less spotlight time for the players.


    And the rules of AW make it very difficult to work with large groups of PCs working together, too. Mechanically, logistically, and socially.

    It also means you’re not doing your job of making PC-NPC-PC triangles.

    PCs working mostly together works fine when there’s two or three (or maybe even four... maybe), but with a group this size I think that sounds incredibly difficult.

    For instance, each playbooks has tools suited to dealing with a particular type of threat. If they’re all united, no matter what threat you come up with, a few PCs will have the means to deal with that, and the others will be so outclassed they might as well go home.

    Could you just tell them something like:

    We’re making a cool, badass tv show together. Your characters are the main characters of the story.

    Remember [that show we’re all familiar with]?

    How do the most important characters treat each other?

    Can you imagine how boring the show would be if they all got along?

    Use the Hx questions to get at some of those tensions, ask them which ones they’re interested in, and create new ones by making it ALL - everything! - a zero-sum game. (“Great. You find he water supply! There’s enough here for three people to survive. And [beloved NPC] needs one portion for her little child. What do you do?”)
  • This is all very abstract, but...

    Use the golden opportunity they're handing you (by not doing anything much) to make some hard moves, and your move is to divide them. Socially.

    Angle your threats so that they come at a PC (preferably a more proactive one) directly from or through another. You have a contagion spreading? Have a few of them realize they're ill, reveal another one of them as the infection vehicle.

    Any NPCs who are already of whatsoever value to them, use them very bluntly as a wedge. Any threat from outside, 1. make an NPC absolutely key to dealing with it, 2. make that NPC extremely prejudiced: they will work with PC A on the condition that PC A takes action against PC B, etc.

    Have NPCs show very different facets to different PCs - do this on a whim, but be consistent. Dremmer is extremely helpful to Doc and goes out of her way for Shithead, but is an absolute asshole to Dune and then she's caught red-handed stealing from Spector's garage (preferably stealing the gun Spector was fine-tuning for Vonk the Sculptor, so your triangle is now hexagon-shaped). If Spector is nice and just sends her off with a stern warning and nary a scratch, she immediately attempts to call in the favor from Shithead and asks him to get her that gun - she fancies it. If Spector shoots Dremmer on the spot, Doc runs out of hands in the infirmary and, uh, perhaps Vega who was being treated gets worse and needs emergency surgery with equipment Doc doesn't currently have?
  • Wow thank you!

    Yes Paul that is indeed my situation for the most part. It isn't all bad, but I don't think they're getting the game is like them to get.

    You say abstract but Rafu these feel like really specific suggestions to me. I'm definitely digging it. There was some tension early on over the contagion between the hardholder and the angel hiding it. But she came clean at some point and the hardholder handled it cooly enough that she was ok with the outcome, but as you say a few hard moves and I can definitely ratchet up some tension. Especially with the hardholders underlings, the seeds are all there.

    Hey Paul you said more folks should talk about their campaign prep maybe I should post what I've got somewhere of anyone's interested.

    Either way thanks for the continuing advice.
  • Share the prep and questions/concerns? Absolutely!

    It's always fun and fruitful, in my experience. There have been lots of really fun "help me prep" threads on Story Games.

    e.g. http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/20480/a-little-prep-experiment/p1
  • It seems to me that if that character is just kinda doing nothing or if they don’t react to your looming threats (i.e. the spread of the disease), that’s a Golden Opportunity for you to make a move. Then they can react to that move, and hopefully the moves will snowball into exciting action, as they are wont to do.

    Yes, this! If they aren’t used to being proactive, AW has plenty of things to offer them. Brutal moves! Hand them opportunities, separate them, take or give resources etc. Fronts & NPCs interacting with them.

    @rhysmakesthings I would say that especially since this is there first non D&D one shot they have played and I don’t want to make them feel I’m punishing them for not “playing right”

    Sure, the moves might come across as brutal punishment for the characters, but that doesn’t mean that the players are getting punished.

    In fact, being put on the spot when it’s unclear what to react to or in a sorta open-ended situation sounds like way more punishing for the players even though the characters are getting off the hook.

    The old joke about most people fearing public speaking more than they fear death.

    Be kind to the players by being brutal to their characters, by putting their characters in danger so they have something to do. They can’t read a sitch if they aren’t in any sitches!

  • The downside with that approach - as effective as it is! - is that it's the GM doing all the work, and further training the players to sit back and wait for the action.

    I think you should think carefully about whether what you're looking for is "how do I give my players things to do?" or "how do I get my players to be more active participants?"

    Those can be at odds sometimes.

    In my experience, when you throw a lot of stuff at the players, that totally works, but it also turns the game more and more into something that you're driving, and will have to keep driving.

    (To be clear... that may or may not be a bad thing. But it's an important thing to be aware of! Do you want to come to the table with nine - or however many - interesting, active things to throw at the players? You may or you may not. Sometimes that can be really fun. But, also, with that many players, it could be really exhausting.)
  • The downside with that approach - as effective as it is! - is that it’s the GM doing all the work

    OK, this wouldn’t be the first time I’m significantly wrong about a fundamental AW design principle (if I’m wrong here, it’d be the… I think fourth time? Ouch! I need to get 2e PDFs on DTRPG soon), but that seems to me like it’s part of the MC’s job description. When someone turns to you and looks to you to say something, the game tells you exactly what to do.

    It seems to me that the MC sometimes have do a lot of this “work”, to a greater extent than in an OSR-style game where sometimes I’m in the kitchen doing the dishes while they’re working on a puzzle and then they’ll shout questions “Sandra, Sandra, how long was the chain again?” and I’ll go “You’ve seen 12 feet but you have reason to believe it can extend much longer” and they’ll go back to puzzling or their IC drama or w/e. That’s just not gonna fly in AW.

    It’s a game where the MC’s degree for contributing really ebbs and flows with how much the players do to each other or to the world or to what extent they’re just sitting down and being reactive. Again, I might be wrong and it wouldn’t be the first time.

    and further training the players to sit back and wait for the action.

    Maybe it’s appropriate for them to be reactive while they’re getting used to the tropes, the moves, the rules, and the imagined space. From Kenny’s description this didn’t sound like seasoned story gamers.

    how do I get my players to be more active participants?

    Frankly, this is why some people don’t like playing story games. It feels like it’s asking a lot of them.

    In my experience, when you throw a lot of stuff at the players, that totally works, but it also turns the game more and more into something that you’re driving, and will have to keep driving.

    (To be clear… that may or may not be a bad thing. But it’s an important thing to be aware of! Do you want to come to the table with nine - or however many - interesting, active things to throw at the players? You may or you may not. Sometimes that can be really fun. But, also, with that many players, it could be really exhausting.)

    OK, yeah, you’re much more experienced with the game than I am and I have to defer to you here.

    But it seems to me that even though it might suck for the MC to be “driving” so much, they… kinda have to, compared to a super awkward room where no-one dares to do anything.

    It’s like the Q right now is “help we’re drowning” and it’s far better to have a Q of “ok how do we divide work responsibilities on our boat” than be drowning. In your experience, is there good practice for going from an MC driven game to a more player-driven one? Or am I completely out to sea here with my idea (and if I understood correctly, @rhysmakesthings was on the track)?

    The game tells you want to do. You make a move, ask what do you do?, if they keep on staring at you, make another move and ask, until they start doing things. Are you saying the game is wrong when prescribing this recipe? I still have 1e but the MC chapter seems set up to answer this very question.

  • Remember that the purpose of your prep is to give you something interesting to say when the next session starts. Remember that your NPCs are just not that complicated. You’re not holding back for a big reveal. You’re not doling events out like you’re trying to make your Halloween candy last until New Years. All your threats have impulses they should act on and body parts leading them around, so for god sake, have them act!
    Yeah push them harder♥
    It seems like there is plenty of things to react to for those who take a reactive approach
  • Oh, you’re absolutely right about the MC’s responsibilities and the way the game is supposed to be played.

    However, given new and timid players, and such a huge table, it’s a potential problem I’d want to be aware of. This isn’t going to be a typical AW game!

    Like I said above, it really depends whether you think “giving them things to do” is more or less important than “teaching them to take initiative and be active participants”. I’m not saying one is right and one is wrong - just that you should be aware that this is what you can be reinforcing through a certain approach.

    What I’ve found consistently with this kind of game is that, if I respond to awkward silence by pushing threats, eventually that becomes the status quo and the players become even more passive. That means that I’m forever tethered to pushing ever more threats, and that’s now how the game is expected to work. I have to show up each session and throw cool threats at each of nine players every session... it’s going to be exhausting for me, and potentially frustrating for the players (if they feel like they’re always playing defense instead of getting to accomplish things).

    Story games definitely do demand more creative responsibility from the participants, and sometimes it’s too much for people.

    With a small (normal) group, you can take the time to explore each character’s situation and organically find the interesting conflicts. Doing that with nine players at the table, though, isn’t going to fly unless your sessions are 8 hrs log and everyone has the patience of a gelatinous ooze.

    One possible solution I’ve heard from Eero (but never really tried myself) is to allow some players to be, effectively, sidekicks for more active characters. That could be something to try. Tether a passive player to a more active one. (Like how I suggested to make the angel’s apprentice another PC, or something similar.) Some elements of the game’s design will get in your way, but that might be manageable.

    It’s for every MC to decide how they want to run things, but my guess is that with so many players, you’ll tear your hair out if you make it your responsibility to be providing each player with things to do all the time. Teaching them to take initiative might be harder at first, but lead to a better game and an easier time playing a session or two from now.

    Basically, you can fall into two patterns if you don’t make an effort to change it up:

    1. “Hey, character A! You’re in trouble, there’s danger. What do you do?”

    Player A reacts to threat. MC presents new threat.

    2. “Hey, character B! What do you want to accomplish?”

    Player B responds.

    “Ok, here’s a problem or threat in your way! How are you going to deal with it?”

    Play ensues.

    In my experience, players who are new and lost will get stuck in play pattern 1 SO EASILY.

    And that’s exhausting in the long run.

    But both are “according to the rules”. The ideal mix, for my tastes, is maybe 60% type 2 and 40% type 1. But for this game and this group I’d look real hard at getting it to 90% type 2 in any way I could.
  • edited April 2019
    After reading through a lot of this I have to admit I have been a bit timid as well, I don't like being a "gotcha" MC so I may have held off when I should have hit back a little harder as well. Though ruminating on it probably isnt getting me any closer...

    So I have definitely seen sidekick action happening, the battle babe has been a very proactive player and others have certainly tagged along.

    I also wonder if I am framing threats well enough, sometimes I worry I'm not presenting enough of the right information for players to to feel like they can make decisions. That being said I don't think there's a definite right way to go just a how do I go given the players I have.

    I'm letting my insecurities show a bit here, but I do understand a lot stems from the size of the table. We had a smaller group last Sunday and it felt waaaay more natural, basically we had a mix of the local drama and a "field trip."

    Still the Angel was having the most trouble. The other thing I'm going to try is giving her a series of questions to answer about her character (definitely some leading ones) and incorporate her answers in the next game. I think that may help me frame the current threats in a way that might seem more ... actionable?

    One final note about this player she works in the medical field herself and has mentioned a couple of times that she may be regretting picking an angel. I have definitely told her that she can switch play books at any time if she's not enjoying the one but she's so far has said she wants to stick with it. ::Shrug::
  • Have you tried writing love letters for the characters?

    It might be an interesting exercise. For the ones that are obvious, it will give the player a clear starting point. For the ones that you struggle and don’t know what to write... that tells you that the character really isn’t positioned to care about anything terribly defined, and then you can look further to clarify that.
  • edited April 2019
    I think love letters would have been a great idea, I've considered using them even now but the last few times I'm not sure who's coming until somewhat last minute, so it's turned out better to be flexible. (Also I have been very busy with not much time to sit and write them)

    Your idea sounds interesting in a reverse sort of way...
  • You could be a bit more transparent about fronts and clocks, more like in Blades in the Dark.
    “OK, you have Dremmer’s ultimatum, the bugs from the rag waste, water is getting short and there’s that bunker that Balls found last session, someone’s going to break into it now it’s been found.”

    Maybe they’ll just end up bickering, but at least they’ll know their options.

    Also, too, some character types make good sidekicks: a high Weird character doing stuff while a high Hard character rides shotgun, or vice versa. That’s totally functional in my experience.
  • Use index cards instead of love letters and pull ideas from them based on who shows up, maybe. (I mean, you could also write the letters and just use the ones for the PCs whose players show up.)

    One thing to throw at an Angel: Someone's been stealing your medical supplies. Then, make that someone part of one of those PC/NPC/PC polygons as described above.

    Someone sells the Angel what turns out to be a bad batch of medical supplies.

    Have someone grab the Angel (or try to) or show up with much weaponry and say "Fix me [or some NPC this NPC cares about or works for] [or give me these drugs or supplies] or die [or this NPC or PC you care about dies or I blow up the whole place or whatever]."

    Mind, I have no idea if this will hit too close to home for the player, but that's a different issue than churning out bangs.
  • For what it's worth, @Paul_T , yeah, I do often fall into a rut of just presenting a PC with immediate danger, they maneuver back into a state of relative security, repeat. I don't know whether that trains people into lazy play or whatever, but sure it turns out exhausting for me soon enough, and when I can't break the cycle I experience GM/MC burnout. I know all too well I shouldn't be the one doing all the introducing content part for a game to be any fun to me.

    Therefore, my aim when introducing content is usually not to introduce an immediate problem having one correct solution (or even a few) - sure, I do end up doing that too, usually when hard pressed for better ideas, and sometimes come to regret that as a mistake.

    My aim is to introduce conflicts/situations they just can't ignore, that I have no idea myself how I would go about solving. I'm confident they'll find ways, of course they will, and I try and keep doing that until we get to something they disagree - badly - about. Then it's when they start introducing content to the game and I can sit back and react for a while. Problems that are deeply personal and quite big but not, like, world-threatening huge tend to work better, especially when most or all of the information is upfront. "There's too many ways to approach this and they all have huge cons" is the best I can hope for.

    That's why I love PC-NPC-PC triangles, by the way: indirect enmity between PCs is my strongest ally.

    NPC A & NPC B are all-out at war with each other. Both turn to PC C, their best friend, for help. Good. If A wins, PC D's ambitions are also thwarted, but if B wins PC E is outright fucked. Even better now.
    PC F is in love w/NPC G, who really wants to murder PC H, though, and I know H will take no shit? Yes, please.

    Fortunately, in AW you prep "threats" which are, most of the time, people, lending itself very naturally to this. Just remember to tie up the PCs to those threats in the most tangled ways you can.
  • I agree with all that, Rafu, except that I haven't found - particularly with passive players - that introducing threats "without one correct solutions" was enough of a fix. It was, ultimately, more about the dynamic between me and the players - who's got the initiative here?

    With nine players, I'd be REALLY careful about avoiding that, and trying to focus everything on PCs acting at and around and against each other. Treat it more like a game of In a Wicked Age... than AW, in other words: frame scenes to create opportunities for them to do things to each other, and destabilizing whatever is happening, as opposed to thinking in terms of personal threats.

    I'd want each character's actions to immediately snowball into problems or opportunities for other PCs, as my primary goal.
  • edited April 2019
    Lots of great advice up there. Here's what worked for me when I ran a bunch of AW newbies:

    Keep it cinematic. Indicate that you're making a movie, repeatedly if necessary, through the style of your framing and descriptions. Describe the flying camera shot, sailing over the camp, zooming in on one of the characters as she - what's she doing? Describe a montage of shots depicting the devastated land, the establishing dialog of a couple mundane NPCs, followed by a hard cut to one of the PCs - what's his response to this? Hell, give it a soundtrack if you want to. Sometimes I would stand up and literally act out camera pans, I even described the episode's title overlay. This is a movie.

    Psychologically this gives your newbies some space to step outside of their character's heads - a place they seem to be having trouble - and instead just picturing cool movie shit. What would this cool character be doing? Allowing them to objectify their PCs this way releases a lot of performance anxiety while retaining all the creative inspiration.

    Thing is, you don't have to stay there. One by one (at their own speed), your players will begin to transition from third person to first person as the stakes grow higher and things become more personal.
  • @AsIf cool stuff! Insisting on the "movie" angle can help unleash players' creative drives, I agree.

    @Paul_T you are absolutely right, of course. That's my default AW mode, even. If just by framing PCs together they do things to each other and react to those things, it means they've seized the initiative and more power to them - I call that a successful game. I thought the problem here was about "passive" players - who just don't do that, so that by framing PCs together nothing really happens - and we were discussing how they can be "pushed" into doing just that. I can't promise that works, though! XD
  • @Rafu,

    That’s it, yeah. Basically, if the end goal is to have proactive players pushing their own agendas, we have to consider techniques other than “I throw danger at you; you react” at some point.

    In my experience, passive players get accustomed to the whole “here’s a danger! What do you do?” approach and start to expect it, making them even more passive...

    It’s a bit of a juggling act.


    That’s great!

    Reminds of another Todd (Furler), who consciously used the “we’re making a movie here” analogy even further, to talk about how you might have limited budget, limited screen time, limited shooting schedules, or limited movie duration. (“As the director, I can’t afford to do another scene about the water stalls - the audience has already seen that. We need a different scene now!”)

    He got a lot of mileage out of that!
  • you might have limited budget, limited screen time, limited shooting schedules, or limited movie duration.
    Ah, that's another game. You were in the "ScenePlay" playtest :-) But I digress.
  • @AsIf,

    Very cool advice.

    The rest of the discussion is great as well. :)
  • Reminds of another Todd (Furler), who consciously used the “we’re making a movie here” analogy even further, to talk about how you might have limited budget, limited screen time, limited shooting schedules, or limited movie duration. (“As the director, I can’t afford to do another scene about the water stalls - the audience has already seen that. We need a different scene now!”)

    He got a lot of mileage out of that!

    For my own tastes that style is kinda frustrating. I love watching Adam’s (@skinnyghost) games on YouTube but his heavy use of camera metaphors and cutting metaphors is like… “Here’s a ticket to the holo deck, you can experience any world you want! For example, here is dinosaur skeleton world!” “OK, cool, oh wow a dino. Let’s pretend that we are actors and that there’s an audience and a camera crew here to film us! Now look me fighting this dino in a cool way!”

    Now, a lot of useful techniques can be framed in those terms.

    • Pacing / cutting
    • Showing glimses of information the characters can’t see but that would excite the players and/or the audience [Adam runs his games for an audience beyond just the players]
    • Scene direction

    And, that is great. The second most common big mistake I’ve seen new GMs do, and this is so underdiscussed online, has been that they don’t know how to let time pass. Time stalls as the players sit in that cage or walk in that forest or w/e in almost real time. Cutting, and “budget”-based scene elisions, solves that.

    I tried to work out a vocabulary for doing this without the camera talk](http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/21035/glossary-of-key-phrases-while-dm-ing/p1). “OK, [character name]. Where are you, and who are you with?” as opposed to “Cut! Next scene! Character name, set the scene, who are you with”.

    I have found a player type that really hates cutting though, even without the camera/movie talk. They want to stay with their character 100% of the time. So I’ve found that when playing with them, the best way to pace is to fast-forward time. Not “one hour later, a snake arrives!” but “ok, you stand there for one hour. A snake arrives!”. Making sure time transitions are anchored to their character.

    I’ve scaled back on the cutting/pacing a lot, though. Letting them be in charge of pacing. This makes my prep last longer ♥

    It’s a tightrope, we’ve had some sessions lately where they’re like “ok, we can go in any of these 8 directions in this maze. we could go here. we could go here. etc etc × 8. so as you see, we can go in any of these 8 directions in this maze. we could go here. we could go here. etc etc × 8. × 1000”.

    There’s a lot of talk about what they could do or might do and I want to hear what they actually do.

    Luckily time is a resource they can’t really afford to spend. Random encounters, lamp oil, and food are all concerns. I’m gonna put out hourglasses and such. They’re free to discuss but that discussion comes at a price.

    I want to get a chess clock that also has a very easily accessed “pause” mode, that would be perfect for our game. Clarifying how a mechanic works is good use of our time and the clock could be in pause then. I guess I’m looking for more of a stop watch than a chess clock. I’ll go get a sports one. If they still exist.

  • Great observations, Sandra.

    I occasionally really enjoy “camera” or TV metaphors, but I also try to “fill in” gaps in time for players, so they can maintain an inner sense of a continuous narrative (their own “internal” movie doesn’t need to jump ahead, leaving them with minor amnesia, and that’s distracting for some players).

    I agree that for THIS game, really tight framing is going to be key - and being unafraid to jump ahead to get to that action is the most important part of that.
  • It's too easy for the players to get out of a dangerous (hostage, whatever) situation without changing much : hostage taken - action scene - hostage freed. Be careful not to create sadistic choices.
    The triangular relations where a perfect solution is impossible are much more fruitful. It's easy to do : just identify a character formerly known as X as revealed to be Y. It just takes time.
  • Very curious to hear how this is going!

    In another thread, someone seems to have had the same experience I have with this kind of conundrum, which reminded me of this thread:
    8th session of our death mystery themed homebrew PbtA game called Catacombatan. A few lessons learned:
    1. PbtA games really really starts to shine over multiple sessions!
    2. Actively coming up with hooks and options to do for PCs every session (influence: 13th Ages) initially sounded as an interesting idea but its a heavy burden for me as an MC and established a bad attitude where players mostly react to my prep and do less proactive stuff!
  • edited April 2019
    We had a session yesterday and things went really well I think.

    For one we had only 4 players, and the Angel and the Savvy Head really had the time and space to consistently have the spotlight.

    The Savvy Head as I've said before feels much more comfortable after reading the playbook focus and the Angel well we had a few moment of confusion in there but we were able to figure it out.

    I had the right circumstances to implement advice from here. I brought things home for the angel when I made an important NPC get infected because she couldn't stand the ruthlessness of the quarantine.

    (Her name is Wires and she's sort of the heart of the game. We did the cross NPC list thing that you posted Paul and she came back the most connected of all).

    Add to that a string of botched rolls I got to ask the Angel, "Do you save yourself or Wires" which was a pretty cool moment. She said Wires of course. At which point she took all of the sickness onto herself (did I mention she is literal biblical Angel with wings and everything as well as a doctor?)

    I think it helped me to simply say in the moment what I was thinking. I was like "I'm giving you problems here with no clear solutions but you can say you want to try basically anything and then we can ask each other questions until it becomes clear how you want to act. " It may remove some of my mystique as a MC (ha! Yeah right) but that's just how I roll. I think it helped.
  • Good work !
  • Wonderful!

    I’m glad someone is getting some use out of my “NPC Starter”; I’m quite proud of it as a simple but efficient technique.

    Do you have notes on which NPCs we’re chosen and which connections were made to each?
  • Nice job Kenny, there's a certain feeling you get when you're in the zone as MC and it's really fun! There's something special about being able to put the character in a jam, but then still be a fan and eagerly wait to see what they're going to do about it.
  • edited April 2019
    Ooo let me find my notes and get back to you. I'll have to work backwards a bit to see what got used.

    Off the top of my head I would say maybe just say pick two or more because some people weren't* interested in picking very many.
  • I’m not sure how different that is from my directions, but I will mention that it really depends on the number of players (as well as the number of NPCs).

    I would aim for 2-3 connections for each NPC, but if one or two get 4, and another NPC only gets one, that’s ok too. Generally you’re right that people would probably tend to go overboard if given free rein. ;)
  • edited April 2019
    Whoops, that previous message was garbled, I apologize. What I was saying was that I think that the instructions should say more than one. But as you say it worked out pretty well.

    Some connections floated to the forefront while others were somewhat forgotten. This may have something to do with the large number of people in the game though. It bares repeated testing but I think the players really liked the NPC connections, they called it collaborative world building.

    In that thread I wonder if things could be added as well as NPCs. Just. Stray thought.
  • edited May 2019
    Oh, most definitely, on both counts.

    Other things could be added, but I was trying to find the *absolute minimum* for a quick game of AW with that technique, and decided that the NPCs were the most important element.

    But you can see how I’ve gone about setting up another game here, for a more detailed/rich example:


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