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Author Topic: [Apocalypse World] The Springs  (Read 1892 times)
Motipha
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Posts: 19


« on: February 22, 2010, 01:47:27 PM »

I realise this is a little late in the game for playtest, but I finally got a group and a good set schedule to get a game of Apocalypse world going.  The plan is to play 5-6 sessions biweekly over the next few weeksshort while.  As such, we should be able to get some real play in before the start of april.

I'll go in to the session itself shortly, followed by my initial concerns and thoughts.  Hopefully some of the players will come on and talk about their experience as well, Before anything else, I felt I should give some forewarning: this group likes to go dark, and savage.  Levels of violence, degradation and the like are probably going to be on the "less than savory" side of things.  These protagonists really don't seem like "nice people" so far.

I'm going to be a little haphazard about highlighting actual rolls made: we rolled a lot, probably more than I would in the actual game itself as a way of introducing people to the system.  I'll probably just highlight the ones that a) I thought were noteworthy or interesting or b) I remember at all.  Also somewhat haphazard is the italicizing of straight up rules bits.  Maybe it makes it clearer, maybe a little murkier, but at least I tried, right?

That being said, on to the story so far.

Setting

The Springs is an old landfill, recently discovered.  Places like these were covered up with concrete caps long ago, long before the apocalypse came about.  But once they're found, they can be a source of relative wealth and good.  Stuffed to the gills with things from better times, little pieces of technology and the like that were garbage back then and priceless now, finding and keeping one is a big deal.  As for the name, well, when they first broke in, it was in one of the lower levels, where everything that might liquify had.  What came out makes you sick, real sick, with trembling and the shakes and all sorts of nasty little growths that crawl across the skin like their alive.  It doesn't kill quick, and it doesn't kill pretty.  There's an almost constant breeze, and most people set up shop upwind of the Springs, as teh smell that comes off it can be god-aweful and likely to make you sick itself.

The Springs themselves are backed in to a ravine.  Up above on the cliffs are towering piles of left over tech: speakers, amplifiers, screens, TV's.  Rising up like metal-and-glass teeth, the Stacks attract lightning any time it's even possible.  When they are hit, they light up,scream, shout, blowing out images and sounds that overwhelm but seem to make some kind of creepy sense, if you listen/look just right.  When the air is heavy and thick and the strikes are coming quick and fast, it's a terrible place to be.

News has gotten out about the springs, and people are starting to stream in to take advantage.  The feel we were looking for here is of an old-west boomtown, gold rush style:  People streaming in to try and get their chunk of the goods.

...huh.  I just realise that that picture differs significantly from what I had in my brain.  Interesting.  Some of the PC actions make more sense to me now.

Players/Protagonists

We had three players, who chose their characters based off of personal preference.  Here are the details:

Lexx: Shithead the Chopper, Fat Body, burnt eyes, S&M wear.  A vintage bike, huge and rugged.  Leader of a big gang of well-armed vicious and faithless bastards, Shithead seems to gather people around him more as a hobby than anything else.  He leads by being the hardest sumbitch of them all.  He's here following on his brother Dogheads coat-tails, like he's been doing since they were young.  Doghead runs his own biker gang, who may not be meaner or nastier, but definitely are tougher and smarter.  The way Shithead sees it, Doghead knows where the opportunites lie, so why not follow him and take them for himself?

Reek: Pallor the Brainer.  Nasty and wretched, Pallor is so cold and twisted it's hard to see him getting on with anybody.  He doesn't really remember much of why he's here, at the Springs, just that he was woken up by a guy called Princy, and has been working for him ever since.  Back in the day, there used to be 5 of them altogether, five "siblings" all with messed up brains, family.  Then came the man with no eyes.  After that, Pallor doesn't remember shit.  He's working for Princy now, doing what he's asked, as he's a guy who needs a queen bee (Reek's term, not mine).  Pallor wears a lot of black leather, incongruous for the arid south-western climate, a breather, and goggles that cover his ruined cataract-white eyes.

Aise: Jesus the Operator.  A guy who thinks himself hotter shit than he actually is, he's something of a weasels with dreams of grandeur.  While he's running some low level operations in town right now, it's not like he's running the place.  He runs some business for Princy too, but isn't beholden to him.  It looks like Jesus has got his eye on the place, making his mark here where the striking is rich.  He does some murder, some specialty scavenging (because here and now, who doesn't) some raiding, though for the last he's known to farm out to Shithead and his group.  His crew isn't really that fleshed out yet except for Shithead, and Tum Tum his bodyguard.  Tum Tum is another big one, but not the smartest brick out there.  His teeth are filed down, which causes him all sorts of problems as he ends up biting his own tongue over and over again.  It makes it hard for him to speak or be understood, but he's come to accept a lot of that.  Jesus does in fact have a nice hat (Aise was working from the character Badger in Firefly).

Actual Play:

We opened actual play with Jesus:  Some guy had hired him to find a mint-condition 8 ball, and that was all well-and-done.  He and Tum tum were relaxing at a shack of a bar owned by Princy.  Suddenly Jesus is being confronted by a street tough called Shan, a nobody with a grievance: Jesus had killed Shan's brother, and he was looking for some sort of recompense.  After a terse exchange, Shan whips out a jacknife and buries it up to the handle in jesus's shoulder (acting under fire, miss, deal harm).  As he lies there squirming on the ground Shan claims the 8-ball for himself as payment (this was another roll, I can't remember what it was but ended up with another miss, to which I took stuff).

Right about this time Shithead and his buddies are pulling up outside the bar, and they come strolling in just as Shan is walking out and he tries to shoulder his way through the crowd.  This doesn't go down so well, what with Shithead having something to prove, and things start to get a little ugly (Shithead goes aggro, hit).  Now Shan might be willing to muscle a little snot like Jesus, but he's not about to mess with the likes of Shithead and his gang, so he backs down, even after Shithead takes the 8-ball from him.  Shan leaves, muttering under his breath and none-too-happy, and Shithead and his bunch fill up some of the space.

Jesus is back up at the bar at this point (MC asks: Hey Jesus, what's the bar like?).  Everything is made from old salvaged stuff from the Springs, and it smells like waste and decompositions: wet, organic, hot.  The bar itself is a series of old doors and the like, hammered on to pedestals with big metal railway spikes. It holds solid, but it ain't pretty and it ain't well looked after.  A girl called Mice is tending bar, tall thin and pale with black hair hanging like a sheet, and she's helping Jesus get his arm looked after.  Jesus at this point goes up to Shithead and is tries to get the 8-ball back from him, I can't remember what he was trying to offer or do.

Shithead doesn't give a damn about that though.  he's here to buy the guys a round, keeping them happy so they don't start screwing with him.  He offers up the 8-ball to Mice as payment for a round.  Problem is, that there's a collector item, and only means much of anything to Jesus and the guy who hired him to get it.  Mice'll take it, but it'll only really buy drinks for half the gang.  Shithead gives it to them, which leads to a "Pack Alpha" roll to make them take it and be happy with it.  Shithead decided to dole out drinks to those least loyal, specifically Millions, Fuse and Winkle.  Millions used to have some cash, but gambled it all away, Fuse loves blowing shit up, I can't remember what was up with Winkle (I threw out names, the Lexx gave them detail).  The hope was by showing them some love he could put some cement on the slow leak that his gang has, but didn't work out so well.  His second in command Do comes over, pissed as hell and demanding he get what's his by right ("Don't I stand firm for you, boss?  And you're sucking up to these dickheads instead?"), with his buddy Rice backing him up.  Shithead was happy to oblige and give Do what he deserves, bouncing his head on the bar and putting a mean hurt on him (Seize by force, partial hit, took definite hold and impress, dismay and frighten).  Before things get too bad the bar bouncer Tao intervenes.  He and a bunch of his buddies up on the balcony floor just lean over the edge with shotguns, and tell Shithead to cool it.  Shithead calms down,having done enough to make it clear what happens when you cross him.

Eventually the boys all get settled in, down to their usual drinking and fighting and the like, giving Jesus a chance to clean some shit up.  He tries to convince Mice to give him back the 8-ball.  Aise tried to use his reputation skill to make Mice (who he decided was important) more amenable, but missed the roll.  As such, Mice know him, but knows him as a jumped up little snot trying to make a name of himself.  Luckily she has a little bit of a soft spot for the guy.  Just not so much that she's willing to take the trouble from Princy if she were to give up the 8-ball.  Giving that up as a lost cause for now, Jesus turns his eye on another task he has at hand: a raid on an encampment along the Springs.  With that in mind, he turns and starts some negotiations to get Shithead and his gang to go do some damage.

At this point we did a flashback to earlier that day.  Pallor doesn't have a room, more of a penitent's cell, space made for him by Princy.  This morning Princy stalks up to Pallor and tell's him to "Go see if the bitch is pregnant."  The bitch is Lala, a girl who can't be more than 12 or 13 that Princy's been making use of.  Pallor walks in to town, and finds her out with her brothers Partridge and Parcher.  Coming up to them he tries to get in close so that he can get a brainscan in.  At this point we put some detail on the violation glove: whereas everything else Pallor wears is black leather, this is brown and up to his elbow.  It's wrapped in old barbed wire that digs through the leather, constantly scratching and tearing up the skin .  It's fingerless, and when Pallor touches something when wearing it he leaves bloody little marks.  He manages to defuse the situation enough by being such a weirdo scumbag to all three of them that neither of the brothers realise that he's really only interested in their sister, and gets a chance to peek inside her brain kind of on the sly (brain scan, partial hit).

We had a little bit of a rules breakdown here which I'll go in to later, but in the end Pallor asked about Lala's hidden pains.  Lala is terrified that her brothers are going to get hurt, and she loves them and doesn't want them to get hurt but Princy hurts people and they don't know what he does to her, but soon she's going to start showing and then they'll know and if they know they'll get angry and try to take out Princy and Princy'll hurt them too.  His job done, Pallor heads back to tell Princy the joyous news.

We had decided earlier that Pallor was in the bar the whole time this thing with Shithead and Jesus was going on, but first sitting up on the balcony and then walking towards the bar.  But Reek hadn't gotten a chance to do much of anything, hence the cutscene to get more going for his character.  From that point on in the bar, he was present but not really involved, kind of just overhearing the conversation between the other two protagonists, sort of there on Princy's behalf.

The negotiations between those two went on for a while, with percentages being tossed back and forth, trying to get it sorted out.  Both try to read each other, trying to figure out how to get the upper hand, both get a partial hit.  Jesus asks "What would it take to get you to help me become boss of this town" to which Shithead replies "money."  I can't remember what it is that Shithead asked in response.  At one point, Shithead's woman Daff walks in to the bar, this lanky redhead with a callous heart.  She cheats on Shithead a lot, that pisses him off sometimes but he still keeps her around.  She starts demanding some attention from him, which he just tells her to shut up about, which in turn pisses her off.  There's more dicerolling in here that I don't really remember that well, though at one point he tries to use her as a bargaining chip: He tells her to go down on Jesus, promising her something pretty if she will (manipulate, partial hit, will do in return for a promise).  Jesus tries a read on Mice to see what he would need to do in order to get a round for Shithead's gang, partial hit, asks "what do you wish I'd do."  Considering at that very moment Daff has her hand down his pants and is working on getting better access, what Mice really wants is him to make Daff keeps her fucking hands to herself.  Jesus, seeing an opportunity, slaps Daff in the face and tells her to fuck off.

Well, make that: TRIES to slap Daff and make her go away.  Turns out Jesus bit off a little more than he could chew, and I cut the scene with Daff about to lay a hell of a beatdown on him.  You don't get to be Shithead's woman by being the retiring sort.

We moved forward from there to the actual raid itself.  Turns out the group being raided was a bunch, out along the Springs a way.  They had dug tunnels in which they were living, not a good combination for personal health but good for keeping yourself safe.  Instead of seeing the violence itself, we come in on the mop-up: Shithead's leaning back on his bike, calling out orders.  Jesus is there with Tum tum (who has his own ride, an old motorcycle-with-sidecar that's a heavily modded piece of crap that can barely make 30 mph), and tells Shithead to keep one guy alive.  The guy is called Wisher and had been the head of this little group.  He's heartbroken and torn up from watching his family get killed and brutalized.  Aise uses the Reputation move again, making Wisher important, and with a full hit get's to say that he's heard that Jesus runs things around here (confirm that for me, Aise?) after which Jesus let's him go, sending him running off to let other settlers know that if they want access to the Springs, they do it through Princy, they pay their dues there and get permission (I'm heavily paraphrasing).

Meanwhile, we find that Pallor is walking up to the razed encampment:  As far as I can tell he was curious, and whereas everyone else rode over he just walked.  Hence the reason why he turns up way after everybody else.  As he's coming down the side of a hill, he notices someone watching the scene, and circles around to get behind him.  It's a guy called Pellet, whose known to run with Dogheads gang and looks a lot like Steve Buscemi.  Trying to get in close enough to do a brain scan. Pellet hears him and manages to run off without getting probed.  Pallor turns back around and continues in to the encampment, where Shithead is surprised to see him: all he really knows about this guy is that he's Princy's enforcer, and that this job was being done for Princy, but what the hell is Pallor doing out here?  But when Pallor tells him that he saw Pellet, he roars at his gang to mount up and head out (Pack alpha, full hit).  They chase after Pellet, but before they catch up to him they see he's heading up to the Stacks where Doghead and his gang are making their own camp right now.  Shithead opts to cut off the chase and head back home.

At the same time, Jesus and Tum Tum load up their bike with stuff, all the while having a conversation that reminds me of Wallace Shawn and Andre the Giant in the Princess Bride with Jesus commending Tum Tum for not having bitten his tongue for once and being understandable because of it, and Tum Tum just going "Yes, boss.  No, Boss."  They take off back home,to store the stuff in the storefront under Jesus's lodgings (they have a deal with the guy who owns it, a guy called Hugo who is this really old bent-over guy, a little off but the only guy who can always understand Tum Tum.  He's the one who makes the strings of teeth on copper wire and hangs them all over the place, no one really knows why).  On the way back, they see a cougar, one of those weird messed up ones you only see after the Apocalypse where the hair comes together in spikes all over it's body and it's eyes just sort of bore in to you.

All of this meant that Pallor, having just arrived, was heading back in, on foot, again.  But as he was walking away, he heard a noise that had been masked before: the sounds of a child crying.  After looking around a bit, he found a hidden trap door, and opening it came across a couple kids, one a little older than the other.  In an utterly emotionless voice, he told them to come up.  As most kids do when faced with something like this, they didn't take it at face value.  he backed away from the door so he was out of sight, and waited.  Eventually the older kid peeked out his head, and just watched him from over the lip.  Eventually, Pallor just points out the direction of the town, tells the kids to head that way, and starts walking himself.

At this point people were pretty much done for the night, so we just did a final scene to frame things going forward.  Pallor walks in through the front gate as the last of the sunset light is going out.  To the right he sees the bar, and by that the compound were Shithead is staying these days.  It's owned by Partridge/Parcher/Lala's family, and Partridge is someone that Shithead is looking to recruit to the gang, so they get to stay there.  In front of him is Hugo's stall, with Jesus' apartment above.  There's the sounds of some laughter and voices talking, as Jesus has Mice over and is entertaining (leaving that in the mist for now).  After standing there for a second, emotionlessly taking it in, he turns and heads over to Princy's dark compound, back to his cold, empty, sterile room.

That's it for the play-by-play.  Theory, questions, concerns to follow when I get another moment.  Sorry for how long this is.  Vincent, I'll get this to you via email as well.
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My real name is Timo.
lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2010, 06:50:45 AM »

So far so good! I'm looking forward to your analysis and questions.

-Vincent
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Motipha
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Posts: 19


« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2010, 10:00:05 AM »

Hookay,  on to the analysis bits.  What is posted above is as close as I could get for a stream-of-play exposition while still being readable (and I hope at least a little entertaining).  To whit: most of the elements of the story entered play where they first appear in that narrative.

elements of fiction that I had floating in my head before play:
A hold situated over a pre-Apocalypse dump that makes itself as a marketplace for rediscovered junk
The Stacks, pretty much as Described.
Teeth as an overarching aesthetic (including the image of strings of teeth hung up from corners of buildings).

I might have pushed the teeth thing harder.  We as a group haven't really discussed or embraced the explicit "play to theme" idea.  Come to think of it, most of my fellow players are strongly married to playing as Actors rather than Author or any other stance, so that sort of play is harder to maintain.

Player input:
Everything coming from character background, or character interests, and pretty much everything else.  The big one was the boom-town idea that I mentioned before.  Having recently read The Travels Of Jamie McPheeters, I really should have realised how differen a gold rush settlement is.  Any town that exists isn't neccessarily where most people live or make their living, but rather becomes a hub for entertainment, trade among people come to make their fortune, etc.  My initial idea was you only had access to the Springs via the town, so when Aise was outlining what his raiding was about, it wasn't making a lot of sense to me.  Making that leap helped a lot for when I make fronts, as well as understanding why characters are doing things.

Thoughts:

1) We didn't start with all our players.  I've been wanting to play this game for a long, long time and rather than face yet ANOTHER last minute delay, I opted to push forward.  I've discussed this with the players who would be joining us later, and they have agreed they are going to be constrained by what's already been established.  I took Hardholder and Savvyhead of the list, one because the new guy just can't be the guy in charge and the other because Vincent has already said he's making big changes to the Savvyhead. 

What I intend to do is advance the time a suitable period of time, so that we don't play the introduction of the new characters, but rather say "these guys have arrived and have been here a couple months.  What's changed?"  Doing this should allow them a chance to define fiction elements and relationships in line with how AW envisions things, but again will have to be constrained by what has gone before.  I'm going to have to work hard to keep things open ended until I find out what these new guys are all about.  I already know one guy is going to be a Hocus.

We will of course redo Hx when they arrive.  It seems like something that can be reset at any point without much problem.

2) I really wish we had had a fight, but I realised last minute that I really needed a brush up on the fight section of things.  Being prepared is awesome.  Also, I should have been pushing them to map and illustrate (which I wasn't) and trying to get the "names without meaning" motif going.  I felt that if I had emphasized that one point to the group, it would have come off sounding like a rule ("If a character is brought forward whose name is significant and identifying, you're playing the game wrong.").  That's my own disfunction at work, I tend to come off as if I'm declaring rules even when I'm not.

3)  Name everyone, make everyone human is tricky.  I took this as a hard rule, that anyone I or someone else introduced to the game had to have a name and a brief description.  My problem is I tend to play in teeming faceless crowds: you're unlikely to be in a bar by yourself, your more likely to be in there with 50 other people.  I guess I'm going to have to learn that the crowd is faceless, but individuals are not.  In that way I can make people human, but groups don't have to be clearly and explicitly described.  That being said, I think Shithead's gang is going to be tricky:  I get the feeling Lexx is going to be interested in pursuing how to keep his gang together, and that feels to me like a lot of the members are going to be individualised a lot of the time.

All of this being said, I think this principle is awesome.  By taking a second to make NPC more alive, I as MC immediately become far more invested in them.  It helps me to make the world far more alive.

4)  To do it, do it was causing me some fluxx.  My problem is not so much getting the players to describe how they are doing a move, but more in interpreting what of their fictional actions are moves, and what moves they are.  I feel like I was calling for way too many rolls during the session, which seems to be supported by the fact that all the protagonists had marked 4 or 5 improvement by the end of the session.  Or is improvement supposed to be that fast?

Maybe this ties in to my next point, about how the moves really aren't jargony but about language interpretation.  Seizing by force as jargon has a very hard interpretation:  as English language, it can mean a whole bunch of different things.  But if "to do it is to do it" then does that mean every time I see someone "seizing something by force" I should have them roll their +hard?

5)  In discussion afterwards it came up that some of the players feel unduly constrained by the moves.  The players are going to want to do everything under the sun.  To them, it feels limiting to know ahead of time exactly what the possible outcomes are going to be of their actions.  It sometimes felt like the result of what they wanted to do was not on the list, and as such they couldn't really do it. 

I personally think this boils down to a trust issue and seeing the flexibility in the language.  A clear example of this was when Pallor used a brain scan to try and find out if Lala was pregnant.  Being the MC and knowing that's what he was trying to do, I'm going to try and impart something related to that information to him, dependent on his success in the role and what question he asks.  He chose to ask about it as a pain, so I'm going to make it something that pains her.  Had he chosen to ask about forgiveness or lowest moment, then that information would have been about that instead.  It's a neat mechanic:  It allows the PC to get information, but to do so in a way that is a) true to game theme and b) introduces more than just the specific thing they asked for.

Or to reinterprete: game mechanics don't actually limit what characters do, it just takes a players desired action and makes it match the game.  If I ever say "you can't do that because there's no move for that" somethings getting messed up. "You can't do that because it's not part of the setting/established fiction" is different.

6)  That being said, I'm still not happy with that first "Pack Alpha" roll.  In retrospect it feels like Lexx was trying to use the rules to force the gang to be stable and happy, which is very counter to the game.  Maybe if that had been a "go aggro" it would make more sense.  Or acting under fire.  But since he wasn't trying to get them to DO something, just to accept something, it just felt forced.  Maybe no roll at all?  But he was trying to do something, so...  hrm.

That's what I've got right now.  More as the sessions continue.  Any questions I can answer?
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My real name is Timo.
DWeird
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2010, 03:34:14 AM »

Man, alarm bells went off in my head when you said that people would be joining one by one. It's by no means a bad thing, but I've kind of gotten burned while trying to manage a similar thing...

Two things to be wary of:

One, make damned sure that every character knows about another character. I made a mistake where I just slotted in people with whatever concept they did have, hoping to drive them together through play. Which kind of works and kind of doesn't - in AW, it's not too rare for NPCs to get killed off like nothing, so if you depend on those to see what common areas of interest or conflict the player characters have... Risky business!

So take some time during the Hx phase and be sure to ask what the answers to those questions *really mean*. Why do you distrust that person most? Why do you find that guy attractive? What has that gal done to earn your trust like she did? The players might be rearing to dive in straight into actual play, but believe you me, you need this if you're going to manage a group of your size.

Two, the more players, the faster they will gain advancements and power up. The more players there are, the more introductory/fluff scenes you will have. Since advancement is tied in to moves made and not hardships defeated, you may very well have a situation where some of the characters will be on their third-fourth advancement after you've done nothing but your first introductory scenes.

This can mean that the players will outgrow your Fronts before you even have a chance to introduce them. Which... can be iffy sometimes. I'd suggest you keep to a "This is still the First Session" mindset until most of your players are in the game, and only then commit to any specific Fronts.

Otherwise, sounds like a cool game! Keep it up!
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Motipha
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« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2010, 09:07:02 AM »

Hi Dweird,

Thanks for the response.  I was concerned about the dribbling characters, but I'm hoping that by advancing the timeframe we can set it so they already have direct interpersonal relationships, rather than having to rely on NPC's/story to drive them together.  Jesus and Shithead are already pretty well interrelated, but Pallor is very much an outsider.  Then again, his role seems to be AS the known menacing outsider, so I'm curious as to how that will work out.

As for the advancement, I can see how more players would mean faster improvement, but we only had 3  PC's in this one and most people are almost to their first advancement.  How's it going to be when we add the 4th, then the 5th?  Only time will tell.

Thinking back on the situation, I'm a little uncomfortable with how Aise was using the Reputation move.  In effect, he was using it to "make someone important" in the same way that in DitV you can just declare you have a relationship with someone, and what that relationship is.  For a session 0 that seems fine, since that helps to define the world in a proactive way.  But going forward, once there are fronts and some real structure to the world, I could see that causing problems: Having to retroactively take an established NPC and now MAKE them important where they haven't shown themselves to be important before might tax the SIS.

Then again, it might make for some really interesting plot twists.  It still doesn't make much sense in terms of "reputation" though.  Don't know, this one kind of hurts my brain a bit.  I guess we'll just see how it plays out.

I need to be a little more yin in my MC'ing as well.  A lot of the detail, a LOT of the detail and world was coming from me.  I need to ask more questions, and then only spice up the responses. hrm, again.
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lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2010, 09:57:15 AM »

By using the reputation move, Aise's just saying that Jesus considers the NPC to be important. As MC, you aren't obliged to treat the NPC any differently from how you were already going to. You don't have to somehow make the NPC actually BE important.

A little attention and I think you'll be okay with bringing people in. You've seen Blind Blue and Hatchet City, right? Consider making setup moves for the new characters like the ones in that.

Otherwise, this all sounds like right-on first session stuff to me. Your questions and concerns about how you played things, pay attention to them, adjust as seems right, and see how the second session goes.

-Vincent
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Motipha
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« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2010, 11:25:13 AM »

By using the reputation move, Aise's just saying that Jesus considers the NPC to be important. As MC, you aren't obliged to treat the NPC any differently from how you were already going to. You don't have to somehow make the NPC actually BE important

oh.  Oh? oh!

...*with malicious intent* oh.  Well isn't that  a fine little thing.
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My real name is Timo.
Motipha
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« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2010, 10:43:09 AM »

Here's the story write-up for session two.  Comments/mechanics stuff to follow.


Character intro

New Player: VanCleef

Hocus Dust's creation: Charismatic, fucking wacknut.  Followers: Dedicated (+barter, want -Desertion +hunger), hardworking no-nonsense (+barter), disdain fashion/luxury/convention (want +disease), disdain law/peace/reason/society (surplus +violence)

VanCleef imagined his church as a (de?)evolution of fundamental christianity: the apocalypse is happened, the end of the world is happening right now, and we are all just maggots feeding on the putrefying flesh.  Hopefully VanCleef will put more detail on that, as I don't have my notes at hand.  Regardless, the congregants are referred to as Maggots, with Dust himself called the Maggot King.

We talked a little about what happened in the three months since Dust's arrival.  We really should have spent more time on this, but I'll talk about that more in the analysis bit.

I had players draw: map of town, map of Jesus/hugo's building, map of Princy's compound.  I drew a map of town/stacks/the Springs.

Beginning of session roles: operator and hocus.

Operator: partial: Doing murders, profit 3-barter, pusuing luxury Catastrophe (in a bad spot)

Hocus: partial success, 3 barter plus disease.

Jesus's room has been ransacked and his bed is covered in shit.  It's probably a guy called Enough-to-eat, a buddy of Tao's, works for Princy.

Maggot Sven, Dust's right hand man, is sick with Junker's High. This has the congregation up in arms about how a man of the true faith, such as Sven, could become sick.  Dust gives a speech saying that sickness is the punishment of the lord wrought upon the innocent because of the failure of sinners.  He convinces Harridan, a newer convert who is somewhat of a den mother, to beat the lack of faith from Chin and Look (the two orphans we saw at the end of last session) (S/M partial, promises medical treatement for the kids afterward). The scene ends with a room full of silent and dour congregants, watching a woman beat her children with a strip of dirty linoleum.

Shithead walks by on his way back home from an opium den and hears the screams from Dusts "church." He looks in a window and catches the last of the scene.  The meeting breaks up, with Dust heading to the angel Prim to take care of the two children.  As they leave, Harridan is last to go, Shithead confronts her, calls her out for beating her kids, the scene ends with him smearing the blood from her hands on to her face causing her to flee in guilt.

Jesus heads over to Princy's bar, looking for Enough-To-Eat.  While there Mice  (who is ticked at him) lets him know that Princy has a job for him, giving him a little folded map, just an x-marks-the-spot.  Jesus goes looking for Shithead, figuring he'd need some muscle.

Dust walks over to the angel's place.  One of his congregants Foster find him on the way and tells him he hasn't heard from Kettle for a while.  Kettle is a scavenger with an encampment out a ways on the spring, was on the edge of joining the faith.  Dust chooses to go find out what's up with kettle after taking care of the kids. The Angel agrees to care for the kids, but Dust decides Sven needs to give his fate up to the Lord.  After that, Dust and Foster head out to find out what's up with Kettle.

Jesus and Shithead meet up in front of Partridge's place where Jesus tells Shithead he has a job for him.  Partridge let's them know the X marks Kettle's dig site, and they go off to rally troops.  Meanwhile, Pallor is watching this exchange as he's been watching Lala (as per Princy's request).  Shithead goes in to the bar, turns to a gangmember called Clarion and tells him that Dust was talking shit about the World chicken.  This is the sort of thing Lexx does to break my mind and turn me in to a ranting maniac.  Needless to say, Clarion instantly became the one true prophet of the World Chicken, complete with chicken-bone encrusted leather gloves, the better for smacking the faith in to people with.  Everyone involved leaves en masse, just as Millions (who works for Princy now) comes down to find Pallor and tell him Princy has a job for him.

We rejoin Dust as he's reaching Kettle's encampment with Foster and Zod (another long-time follower).  They find Imam, Kettles wife, and the rest of the Dig group.  Imam hints that they found something that should make it possible to finally make good for a while, get away from the Springs and it's pollution.  It turns out that kettle is not around, and Imam offers the hocus and his followers some hospitality until Kettle get's back, though she's concerned that he hasn't returned/be seen for a while.  As they take their rest, they can hear the drones of engines approaching.

The scene cuts to Pallor in the process of interrogating Kettle.  Kettle is strapped to a metal operating table, obviously the worse for wear after some more prosaic questioning.  Princy wants to know what he found, and where did he hide it.  the interrogation culminates with Pallor doing a deep brain scan with a partial success.  Kettle is deeply sorry that he got his wife and children messed up in this, that he thought that anything good could come of the whole mess, and that he didn't bring the thing with him and instead hid it in the stacks.  Pallor get's a pretty good image of where it's hidden, behind a broken panasonic flatpanel on a stack up near the edge of the ravine.  He tells Princy that Kettle gave it to Doghead for safe-keeping.

Shithead and jesus come over the hill and see Dusts pickup is down below.  Dust opens his mind to the Maelstrom to try and understand what the hell is going on here.  What he gets from it is that this whole thing is just one big cover-up, to hide the fact that Kettle's missing.

There's some talking, as Clarion gets off his bike and heads over towards Dust, to teach him the word of the World Chicken.  Shithead orders his guys to form a circle, to let the two fight.  Clarion punches Dust in the jaw, which he takes, dropping to the ground and then laughing heartily. 

All of this civility comes to an abrupt end when the miners open fire on the gang (brought to that by Clarion punching Dust).  This starts the confrontation clock (which I should have done earlier).  It ends up with the miners all dead or dying, and just Dust and his two still alive on that side.  On the other, Tum tum has taken a shot to the gut, but otherwise the bikers and Jesus are relatively unscathed.  Shithead calls order back in, telling his boys to set up a fight between Dust and Clarion while Tum tum lies dying in the sun.

We cut back to Pallor, as Princy goes to demand the goods from Doghead.  Doghead denies having received anything from pallor, but tells the brainer "his brothers said hi" before riding off.  Princy, furious and suspicious, throws Pallor to the ground and is about to beat the crap out of him.  Pallors says "I quit" and sets of his pain grenade, walking off.

Back at the camp, things get decidedly weird.  Clarion, ready to beat Dust in to the ground, starts talking of the primacy and need of the Chicken.  Dust tells him to prove his faith, that it is through devotion that faith exists, and says that if he really believed he would prove the pain unto himself.  Clarion buys in to it (manipulate, partial) and starts hitting himself as proof, tearing himself with the chicken shards on his gloves, but only if Dust will do so as well.  They go back and forth, all three "rounds" of setup, preaching at each other and doing themselves damage.  from 7-9, as his move, Clarion thanks Dust for giving him this chance to prove the truth of the Chicken, now it's time for one of us to die.  Dust, scoffing at him, shows him the true meaning of faith: he turns to Zod, holds out his hand, and commands Zod to blow it off.  (acting under fire, hit) He stands utterly still, holds his hand high, as Zod reduces it to so much meat.  Clarion, in awe of this, Falls to his knees, won over, seeing in Dust the true voice of the one Chicken, the true god.

Needless to say, everyone else not involved?  A little weirded out by this.

After that, we cut back to pallor on the edge of the ravine, the edge of the stacks. He reaches in to the stack to retrieve the device (acting under fire, miss.  hey, it takes balls to reach in to a giant lightning rod that works as a doorway in to the maelstrom, even on a clear day).  The thing looks like a pistol grip connected to some weird, semi-circular thing.  He has no idea what it is, just that it feels weirdly right and it looks nothing like the rest of the garbage that usually comes up from the springs.  As he's walking away, The stack pulls down a streak of lightning that forces him in to the Maelstrom (hit).

Maelstrom:  The Stacks are like an easy gate to the maelstrom, making it easier to see what's there.  But like a gate, it can go both ways.  It can be made in to something that allows you to put things in to the maelstrom.  Pallor really wants to talk to Princy, He wants all the kids to see things the way he does,

As he's just coming back to the normal world, something pulls him back in, and a voice says in his ear "Hello Pallor, good to see you.  I'm so happy you came back to me.  I want you to see, I need you to see."

end Session.
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My real name is Timo.
Motipha
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Posts: 19


« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2010, 01:26:28 PM »

Ok, so here's more thoughts and critique:

The game is moving really positively.  My main concerns are a) I still feel like I'm driving story a lot of the time and b) I'm having trouble keeping some of the protagonists connected.  Both of these stem fromgaming background: This is the first time any of us have done a campaign of a Forge-style game.  As such, we still fall to the role of "DM as entertainer" with the PC's being less proactive.  This ends up with awkward gaps in the play when everyone at the table seems to be waiting for someone to do something, which I then jump in to with an aggressive drive towards my fronts.  Learning to be more reactive as a MC is turning out to be harder than I expected.

As for keeping the protagonists connected, well, that's really a problem that stems from not doing enough in background development.  Reek created a character who had almost no social connections with the community: basically, it boiled down to him working for Princy.  But with him breaking direct ties with Princy, it's hard to see ways to reintegrate him: his only extant community relationship is now antagonistic, and he doesn't have a friendly relationship with anybody else, so it's hard for me to think of really gripping PC-NPC-PC triangles for him.

The other protagonist I'm a little worried about is Dust, but that's because of him entering the game later.  The lack of a more complete session 0 play is absolutely key.  Short version is: I had to graft Dust in to the fiction, and to me at least the seams were really apparent.  The MC plays his part by working social levers, putting tension on the ties that the PC's have to the people and places around them.  Session 0 provides the opportunity for the players to define those relationships so that when the MC starts pulling on them it feels natural.  While it remains possible for me to bring in new relationships and use those, done too frequently that starts to feel more and more like some form of railroading: I as MC create background for the player character that makes him have to deal with the situation I present him with.

Other than that, MC'ing this thing is going really smoothly.  I barely look at the MC sheet, relying simply on logical in-fiction events to tell me how to turn the screws next.  Occasionally, when I'm at a loss as to how to do a soft move rather than a hard one I'll consult the sheet for inspiration, but that's about it.  Not having to worry about dice makes it a ton easier, and everyone seems to be fine with how far I'm taking things without objecting that I'm just beating up on them because I can.  I'm becoming more adept at identifying what is an action that warrants a role and what is not, which makes "To do it, do it" much easier.

We've had to revisit some of the rules a couple times.  the difference between "Going Aggro" and "Seduce or Manipulate" has not been immediately apparent.  In the end I have simplified it to: if you're trying to get someone to do something by offering them something they want (implied or not), it's seducing or manipulating.  If you're threatening them with something they don't want (implied or not), it's going aggro.  We had a couple points in the game were Dust was doing something that VanCleef felt was manipulative, and I felt was threatening.  I came to realise what was going on was he was speaking to congregants using their shared system of belief as the carrot, which I wasn't seeing as a proper enticement (oh those lovely atheist blinkers).

In retrospect

The other concern that has come up came from Lexx about characters with followers: I'm hoping Lexx will clarify but here's my interpretation.  For protagonists like the hocus, operator, hardholder and the chopper the specific rules for those characters occasionally look like you use NPC's as objects or tools.  A gang has stats like a weapon, and figure in directly to the characters abilities, but at the same time they aren't just something to be used.  This makes things seem paradoxical:  To be a chopper is to have a gang that does what you want, but if you try to get them to do what you want you risk having them turn on you. 

This concern seems most pressing for the chopper, the hardholder and the hocus.  It's less jarring for the hocus the move frenzy just says "a mob" not "your followers," but for the hardholder and the chopper this is a tough dichotomy: these people follow you, but mechanically it looks like if you try to get them to follow you there is a real risk of them just turning on you.  It needs to be emphasized that no NPC in AW, no matter how they enter fiction, is just a thing to be used.  They always have their own drives and desires.  Pack Alpha, Frenzy, Fortune, Leadership, are all moves that show how those protagonists interact with certain subgroups of people, but make no claim about the agency of people within that subgroup.

There's got to be a better way of wording that.  hrm.  Regardless, I think a lot of this might not have happened if I hadn't introduced the gang mechanics as "gangs can be used as weapons.  When you do so, they have the stats listed."  Hindsight, 20-20, sort of thing.

Finally, AW has this very unique thing going: the rules ARE the settings. That said the material that was in the character playbooks was not enough for us:  we didn't make the intuitive leap that "These are the moves you have not because you're arbitrarily limited by the ruleset but because thematically these are the moves you make."  I think I would recommend to groups that they sit down and talk out the themes of AW (dog-eat dog, living in the relics of a different time, shadowed by the psychic Maelstrom, everyone has their own reasons) before people even select character playbooks.  If you don't and people don't see what's implied theres a good chance that something like this will feel very, VERY restrictive.

We have our next session tommorrow, so more to come.  All said and told, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, so lets see where it goes next.
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My real name is Timo.
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