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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 161 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Apocalypse World] Paradise  (Read 2179 times)

Posts: 75

« on: December 14, 2009, 03:58:07 AM »

Session One:

Ran an IRC session with Barnum the junta Hardholder, Spider the drug-dealing Hocus, and Grace, a sweet little singing Skinner. Set near what was once a city, surrounded by all sides by a quite deadly mirage of paradise. Three of us had played the game before, and Grace's player was new to it.

It was fun for everyone involved, even if I flailed around a bit at start. Especially with the Hx. I was looking at the Skinner's sheet and was all like - wait, how does this work again? Two players of the players with AW experience essentially took care of it for me.

Barnum and Spider aced their starting wealth/fortune rolls, so things were set for a slow burn. Barnum went around checking his gigs, and Spider went partying.

Now, I spent nearly the entire character creation session in a semi-in-character voice, asking them questions whenever I had too much to write down (online AW games mean a lot more initial text management than regular ones, I think!), so I had some NPCs and general ideas already. For Barnum, sybarites and someone making fun of his uniform, for Spider, three armed crazies ("Hey, can some of my followers be armed guards?" "Yes, but they're going to have an independant existance and I'll write them on my sheet over here." Thank you, Tim Ralphs!) and Omie Wise, the drug cook, who took a role in helping sybarites spend their ill-gotten gains. For Grace, I had nada (she had connections with people Barnum owed tribute to, but those didn't show, so it wasn't anything) and it turned out that her play was the least exciting. I now see I missed a lot of opportunities for questions, too - "Who taught you how to sing like that, love?", or "These people here, they're pretty gruff. Anyone in particular you wouldn't want to be caught in a dark alley with?" I'm definitelly going to try and incorporate "Ask questions like crazy. Only start actual play when you have at least 2-3 NPCs/possible moves against them." into my character creation sessions now.

And this is why - when you have moves at the ready, it rolls smoooooth: Barnum finds out Norvell the manufactory foreman is gone with a week's wages. The workers are a cool about it, for now, but better check on him anyway, right? So Barnum takes two gang members and goes. Meets Grace along the way, they shoot some shit. Barnum gets a bucket of piss dumped on him from a nearby ruined building, evades it succesfully... Gets a rock in the face for his trouble, gets double pissed and orders his two guards up there, and botches the roll: so they climb up... And someone starts shooting at Barnum with his guard's gun from above. A inglorious escape follows.

I didn't even have a name for that threat, just some vague notion of general discontent about guys in uniform pushing simple folk around. Now, after a couple of missed sharp and hard rolls, I have a threat that I can ride for two-three sessions. Barnum's not sure it wasn't his own guards that shot at him, and I'm going to milk that as much as I can, making him see shadows everywhere... Part of why I had him highlight sharp in the first place.

And then there's Spider. Does acid, opens his mind, botches. I say - you've been doing this a lot before, so how does it feel to have fucked up this bad? So he tells me. And then I open up a scene where he's begging forgiveness from Ik and Winkle (two of his crazy toughs), and they're making fun of him in front of the whole partying crowd (including Norvell, who no longer has the wages on him). Spider does his best to assert his dominance by going aggro, but fails horribly (and even if he didn't, Ik's got armor on and Spider is weaponless, so that's that), so Ik grabs him by the nose and drives him around the room while making airplane* noises. Does a Frenzy roll, succeeds, forms an insta-mob. Tries to have it rip Ik to pieces... Botches the roll. Wakes up several hours later, with his clothes ripped off, well-licked and with a sore ass.

Nothing interesting happened to Grace, though. She got shot at by Puppy-eyes and scored a wound to her thigh and now is having Barnum's right hand man, Jesus, take her to see the medicine woman, so it's not like nothing happened to her... But at the end of the day, Barnum and Spider had plans to brood on ("Find out who shot at me!" "Get back at Ik!"), and Grace had nothing. Her player was new to the game, so that's something, but I should have focused more on her precisely for that reason, right?

The first session stuff was good. I got some vague ideas for fronts straight off the bat, and then the players start mentioning and worrying about things, so I made those come true, too.

*Had a fridge logic moment after the game: Fuck, airplane noises? Have they even seen one before? Well, I guess they have - boom, a future flying threat for Barnum's Hardhold, who has "reprisals. No, real fucking reprisals" on. Fun fun!


Posts: 75

« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2009, 04:37:38 AM »

Session Two:

Grace's player couldn't make it, so after some deliberation, we went ahead without him. I had some things planned for Grace, and wasn't too happy about not getting to play those out, but it was a great session anyway. Also got in a new player - Marshall the operator with a bigass handgun (bodyguarding, compound defence, enforcement, maintaining honour), who the player described as "basically Clint Eastwood."


Barnum's men bust into Spider's drug den to get some of the officials who were spending time there, in order to bring them to questioning in regards to the Barnum assassination conspiracy. Winkle shows remarkable loyalty and wants to fight the intruders off with a handgun, but Spider orders him down. Eventually, Spider frenzies the mob into an orgy of violence for getting back at Ik, who insulted him last session. Ik was all "Boss! Fuck! No! I fucking love airplanes, boss! It was a joke! I fucking brought you candy, boss! Candy!" And then Bubbles and the rest of Barnum's men basically splatter Ik into slurry with smg fire. The bag of mints Ik pulled out tears apart and they fly all over the room. One lands on Spider's now bloody shirt. And he picks it off and eats it like it's nothing. Then Spider, showing how totally unphased he is, starts telling Winkle that he's now in charge of security. Winkle just looks at him, tears in her eyes... Puts his gun to the head, and BLAM! One dead Winkle.

One thing I love to do (and when it's done to me as a player) is, whenever a player does someone genuinely horrid - ripping someone to pieces because they made fun of you at a party? Really? - is to give some extra humanity to their victims, and/or having NPCs react in a way that, well, props up a mirror in front of the player, saying: Look! Look at what you did! It may not affect characters much, but it does leave an impression on the player.

Another thing. Marshall, the new player, did the moonlighting roll for compound defence and enforcement and busted it... So I had a large octo-mermaid swim to the farms/fisheries near the holding's river and sing the local populace into drowning themselves. Marshall kept making HORRIBLE rolls (you know that thing in the MC book about operators swallowing their share of water? We had that go down, literally!), but eventually managed to fight the beast and its drowned-farmers-turned-minions off... But lost Brown, an excitable rookie in his squad, in the process. Finally got some friendly fire to his back and went unconscious. Watching Marshall's struggle in play felt like watching some sort of horror movie... Way exciting. At times, I was like "Damnit, Vincent, looking through crosshairs? I'm going to kill this guy before he even learns what every move is!", but he managed to get through with only 4-harm on him, so that's okay-ish, I guess. Maintain Honour is in it's in-between state, now, and I'm going to milk it quite a bit in the sessions to come. Guilt will be fun to play with!

Barnum didn't go on any emotional rollercoasters, but he did meet Spider and they struck a deal of sorts (Spider's basically making a holding under Barnum's protection for his next improvement). As they are finalizing the deal, they hear an airplane pass overhead, and then there's "You know what that means. Dancer's here." Dancer's basically one of the local big bads, and has an axe to grind with nearly every PC in play, so there'll definitelly be more fun next session.

Now, questions: I'll have a crazy amount of Wealth/Fortunes/Moonlighting rolls in this game, it seems. And they're all be more-or-less centered on Barnum's hardhold. I think I may eventually have problems keeping things separate - say Barnum aces his Wealth roll, meaning no want, but his police force botches Moonlighting, meaning trouble does happen to Barnum's hold. This actually kind of happened in this game, and I've dealt with it by making the threat the Moonlighting bust brought in be semi-peripheral... I'm not sure if it'll always make sense to do that, though. Not sure how big an issue this really is.

Another thing that looks like there might be issues there is how Wants/Obligations tie into the Fronts. I read the wants people chose basically as hints of what people want to see in the game, so created Fronts for most of them. But there's kind of this mismatch between what Wealth/Fortunes rolls do and what the Fronts would do if I left them to flow "naturally." If failed rolls give me opportunity, then I think I'll just skip the ominous warnings and minor conflicts and push a Front's clock hard. But what do I do when they do something that warrants a Wealth/Fortunes roll (in my game, I just said: do something in fiction that warrants the roll. Meaning, for example, that a holding should be ordered to try and extend farmable areas, raid nearby pushovers, or produce something in the manufactory to be able to roll Wealth), they win it, but my Fronts tell me to kill them in the face? Or, conversly... Say they've eliminated one of the Fronts that was the main reason for one of their Wants - say, how does one owe protection money when the 'protector' is bleeding and dead? Do they stop having that want now? Or do I magic up some new Front for that Want to work if it comes up?

Not sure if any of these questions have THE answer, but I'd like some guidance on how to approach them, at least.


Posts: 2

« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2009, 12:55:06 PM »

Just thought I'd throw a little of my perspective on events in here (I'm Spider).

Now, technically Spider's goal at the end of session one was "Kill Ik" not "Get back at Ik." You called it correctly when you said that Spider is a guy trying to pretend he's harder than he really is. I figured he's not taking shit from ANYBODY.

I'm not really sure that the first session felt "slow burn" at all, but that's OK. Barnum and I were thrust into interesting stuff right away and we both decided to push it hard. The shit that went down with Spider definitely happened because I wanted to push and react to everything that happened, and when you do that in Apocalypse World, bad stuff seems to happen.

Now, session two was an awesome experience. When Ik started begging for his life, I actually felt guilty (ME, not Spider) that I was going to kill this guy for no reason. I was half way to thinking up a reason to spare him when I clued in that Spider's all about looking tough and can't let this guy off the hook just because he's crying a bit. However, I think that, combined with Winkle's suicide was a pretty profound moment in Spider's life, even if he is showing a tough exterior for the moment. I'm looking forward to his next failed glimpse into the Psychic Maelstrom, and I anticipate that it'll leave him sobbing like a little kid again.

I'm also sort of intrigued as to how the level of adversity pans out in this game. I sort of made Spider up as a source of conflict with Barnum, almost a front in his own right, now with the addition of Marshal there's the potential for some INTENSE conflict between the characters. Pile that on top of the harshness of the world, I don't see these characters having a hope at a good life. Maybe Spider and Barnum will be able to work together now with this arrangement they have? I doubt it.

Still, all that tension makes the game damn interesting.

My final comment is just that I LOVE Frenzy as a move. It's like Spider's nuclear option. The power to get things done is ENORMOUS, but the potential for fallout is just as enormous.

Posts: 75

« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2009, 01:36:31 AM »

Well, it might have not looked like a slown burn from the player's perspective, but it was from the MC's. If you had failed the starting wealth/fortunes rolls, I would have had to start off with a "BOOM! Everything is going to pieces!". Instead, I started with fairly small things (a bucket of piss, two people making fun of Spider) and escallated appropriatelly, as the book instructs me to do. The cool thing is: when the characters escalate and go "I do this! I do that!" and fail, the situation gets way worse... But when they roll and do succeed, it usually doesn't resolve the situation altogether, but rather leaves it at roughly the same badness level. Like... Barnum runs away from a fight succesfully, but the bucket of piss has turned into a pair of guns with him in the crosshairs, now. To really resolve a situation, you have to take great risks yourself (Barnum could've gone up and confronted his assailant, for instance), but if you do that, you also have to go on a winning roll spree. Which is cool, because when it happens, you know that you've just taken a really big chance and gotten away scott-free. Slow burn doesn't mean no action at all - just less of an explosion and more a piling up of fuel for a pyre. Which I've got in spades, now.

Frenzy is a cool move, we agree on that! One thing I really love about how Vincent does the laundry-list approach to some of the moves is how they serve two purposes: One, it shows the player what options he can pick, obviously, and Two, it shows the MC what the player did not choose, and therefore the bits and pieces he can use to make a mess of things. Like... If a Hocus doesn't choose "go back quietly to their lives" as move, people *don't* go quietly back to their lives, which can mean a lot of awesome stuff!

The truth part of the Frenzy move, though... Now, if I get this right, Frenzy is mostly intended to be used in conjunction with open your brain rolls - you find out some dangerous truth, and then make it travel as far as possible. Now, in the two cases that Frenzy was used, the truth bits were "You fucking love me!" and "Ik is going to die.", which were as much a statement of intent as truth-saying. In the coming sessions, I'm going to ask if Spider wants to open his brain for near every step he takes, so he can build up an arsenal of truths, so to speak. But it didn't seem to make sense to insist on psychic maelstorm rolls while Spider was in the middle of his attempts to Frenzy, so I didn't push it.


Posts: 2

« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2009, 04:02:38 PM »

That all makes sense to me. I picture Spider as a mad prophet type, so I certainly INTEND to open his mind and vision quest as often as possible, but so far I've usually been too busy just trying to keep my head above water to sit down and trip out.

That's sort of where I was coming from with "Ik is going to die" as "truth". It was a truth because Spider pronounced it as prophecy. Admittedly it wouldn't have been truth if he failed the roll, but I think it makes sense that if Spider speaks lies to the crowd, it turns on him. Now "You all fucking love me!" was intended as "truth" in that it was me expressing the character of Spider's followers, not me trying to FORCE them to love me. More like Spider psychically grabbed a hold of their existing infatuations with him to raise them to his defense. He was REMINDING them that they love him.

Anyway, I'm looking forwards to more playing with the Psychic Maelstrom next time we get to play. I picked a Hocus since we don't see much of the psychic side of things in Ben's game and I wanted to explore that side of play. You can DEFINITELY count on Spider opening his mind more, and even trying to manipulate other people into opening THEIR minds.
Posts: 3453

« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2009, 11:50:51 AM »

This is great! Thanks, you two.

Your questions:

One thing you can do is have the hardholder roll wealth first, and have it help or interfere with the operator's moonlighting roll. Like this: "If the hardholder aces the wealth roll, the operator gets +1 to the moonlighting roll, but if the hardholder blows the wealth roll, the operator gets -2 to the moonlighting roll." Or vice versa, with the operator rolling first and modifying the hardholder's wealth roll - both make sense and say different interesting things about who's relying on whom, so choose which way suits you. Same with the hocus then, too - does the hocus' fortunes roll modify the hardholder's wealth, or vice versa, or the operator's moonlighting, or vice versa? You can set these up to cascade into one another, in whichever precise way makes sense for your particular arrangement of characters.

Technically, what you're doing when you create rules like these is just adding custom moves to the home front. I'm writing a whole chapter about this for the real book.

For misalignment between roll results and the action of your fronts:

1. Follow the players' rolls closely, and have the action of your fronts adapt. Those rolls are your players' contract with you, they have to be able to trust them.

2. A wealth roll shows how things have been going right up until the session starts. Once the session's underway, the wealth roll has had its effect and no longer prevails - just have your front attack during the session proper. Free and clear.

3. Remember the "while your holding is secure and your rule is undisputed" clause. If last session a front invaded, and the session ended mid-fight, the hardholder doesn't get to roll wealth at all. If there wasn't in-character downtime, the operator doesn't get to roll moonlighting.

Given that you're set with those 3 things, just make Apocalypse World seem real and make the characters' lives not boring and you're doing it right.

For the converse, "how does one owe protection money when the 'protector' is bleeding and dead?" I'd recommend changing the holding's want - just swapping one for another, I'm sure there's one that makes sense - over either introducing a new 'protection' threat (what a coincidence!) or letting the hardholder erase it.

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