[Apocalypse World] What Would You Dos?

edited June 2011 in Out-Of-Game
Over on The OOC for The Island, octoscott suggested some kind of MC workshop. Here's a thread where we can work through some situationals in Apocalypse World games and talk about how we would MC them, what we think the rules say about handling them, and generally our thoughts on different ways to fulfill the MC Principles.


  • Want to start us off with something? What's going on in the Island?
  • I started to write-up something, realized it was a big brain dump that should be a follow-up to my stalled out AP over on the official AW forums.

    Let me percolate on something more concise.
  • You got anything, Michael?
  • Not off the top of my head, but that doesn't mean I won't sometime very soon. I'll bookmark this thread and chime in when I need help or have thoughts.
  • Alright, so in my current campaign, County, the PCs have realized that they're sitting ducks. They have a superior force, a gang called the Blue Angles, who are circling about and will probably attack soon. The NPC hardholder, Bill son of Bill, has asked them to sneak out and travel to Amy's Mountain (thanks octoscott for that one) to try and negotiate some help or recruit some gangers to fight the Blue Angles.

    What now?
  • edited June 2011
    Do we know anything about Amy's Mountain, and who/what might be there? Have the PCs encountered any other NPC groups besides this gang and the people who are already engaged in its defense?

    The first thing I would do is think about Amy's Mountain. What sort of Threats are there? What kind of scarcity is going on there? Is it associated with any Fronts? If not I might consider starting with that. Once I'd done that (or if that already exists) I would use it as a framework to answer some questions:

    What is the history between AM and the Blue Angles, if any?
    Who at AM will be sympathetic to the PCs, right off the bat?
    Who will be antagonistic? For what reasons?
    Of these people, who has the power to help the PCs? Is that power obvious, or subtle?
    Can anyone there be bought? If so, with what?
    Who at AM is secretly working with the Blue Angles? Or not-so-secretly?

    I figure answering even a few of these questions would probably establish enough of a framework to move forward with play.
  • Amy's Mountain is a nuclear fueling plant that's still active for some bizarre reason. As for what the PCs know about it, they know jack crap so far. They do know Amy isn't interested in the Gas Tribe and so they figure she wouldn't like the Gas Tribe making a move on County and setting up a foothold.

    As for the other pieces, that's in my notes at home. But if Octoscott recalls, he might be able to help. Its a thing he originally created and shared with me, I haven't adapted much of anything on it yet.
  • Don't think how I set those up in my campaign translates directly to another unchanged (and it's been a long time since I looked) so I can't say how I see it.
    But I think Amy has a tendency to overreact to even small threats. She doesn't realize how secure she is and can be manipulated into action pretty easily, but the players have to be cautious not to become the threat themselves.

    The players need to convince her the Blue Angles are a threat to her, pure and simple.

    You might want a natural/landcape threat in the way, travel in an environmentally harsh apocalypse should never be a given. If they need to cross the frozen lake to get there, or through the mountains... shit might happen. Could be a custom move or have someone act under fire to lead them safely... or they need to negotiate with someone to show them the way, stuff like that.
  • Scott, could you post up the Amy's Mountain stuff you sent me way back?
  • edited June 2011
    The whole threat writeup? Not sure I have it handy but I will if I can find it.
  • If not, no worries. I have it at home.
  • Posted By: octoscottThe players need to convince her the Blue Angles are a threat to her, pure and simple.
    Well my first reaction to this is: if it's pure and simple, it needs more work, or the trip is in danger of being boring/fruitless. Unless there's a small number of people, or a particular good reason (cult brainwashing, hero-worship, etc.), treating an entire holding like a single person doesn't seem like the best move -- at least, not once the PCs actually go there.

    I think having to find a guide or something sounds cool, too. Hopefully it would be a guide with some sort of opinion about/investment in the conflict, or Amy's Mountain itself.
  • OK, MC-workshop, I'm having a situation over in sharkwatch north. I'm not sure if Daniel and I are having some kind of horrible, protracted misunderstanding or if everything is find and Always is just being strident. Seeems 50/50 to me. So there's that big picture thing and Daniel is the only one who can really address that, though how to deal with when you don't know what your player is thinking might also be an interesting how-to-MC topic.

    But more immediately, the situation between Always and Crayola. I'm modeling Crayola after a jumble of cops that I know. Serious, professional, authoritarian, but human. And I can't even imagine one of these cops not following their policy because someone reasons with them. But hey, I'm not The Hocus, and not even a PC. So I can still go along with that -- AW characters are all hot. But Always is manipulating the cop and rolls a seven. I'm supposed to come up with something the cop wants promised and then come up with concrete assurance of the promise that Always can give. I've got nothing.

    Now, as a snails-pace PBP game, I can totally just mull it over for 24 hours or whatever if I need to. Yeah, it sucks for the less patient of you (a group in which I fit), but that's how these games run. And maybe I'll come up with something. What if I was at a table with you guys?
  • Can you post the important bits of the actual conversation here (or link them)? What did Always actually say to the cop? And, why isn't the cop just caving in to Always' requests?
  • Sure Mike. I think this is all that matters, though it's not just dialog.

    The cop isn't just caving because he's got a job to do that he cares about, has clear instructions, and acts as authority here. That was the initial motive. Added to that now is that he's caused some of his buddies to draw near and can't give in to some foreign punk. So Always is partly right about him being on a power trip, but not entirely, or even mostly. Were you asking because you wanted my notions of his internal state or because you think NPCs should just cave to PCs in general -- my recollection of your game doesn't seem like that's what you'd think.



    Then he turns to you, Always. "Do I know you? ... The kid was named Cricket. His mother was one of the vessels up in the cove -- she was a killer, they say, y'know, twenty years ago. One of us. Back in the day. Name's Banana. Cricket used to bring her catch to town each morning. Today though, someone shot him instead and Banana's missing. You know them?"


    "Shot him? When?" I'm not in this guy's face, but I am definitely the one asking questions here, because this guy is just some cop whose job it is and I am somebody who needs to know and so he can damn well answer first. It is probably really obvious that this suddenly got important to me.

    (Always just got really intense all of a sudden, he's projecting authority -- from where, who knows, but he seems to think he's suddenly in charge of this situation. I will manipulate if necessary to get this guy to answer my questions first. Leverage: I'm obviously involved, and I obviously know something. I'm a lead. Ignore the dice if you think the cop would just answer right away.)

    #DiceRoller( 2d6+2 )4, 3, +2


    "So you know Cricket and Banana? Maybe we can share information. He was found just north of town, between here and their home, shot dead, maybe an hour ago. How well do you know them? When did you last speak with Banana?" He's watching you closely for tell-tales.


    I narrow my eyes a little bit -- I'm watching him too, after all -- but now that the initial surge of... whateveritwas... has gone, I'm feeling a bit more calm I guess. "I saw him this morning. I've never talked to Banana, but she's dead." For some reason I need to take a deep breath after that, and look past this guy instead of right at his face. Just for a moment, then I look sidelong at Gabe, and then back at this guy. "A shark killed her. I was trying to help him get her body out of the water, but... it didn't work out." Yeah, because I fucked it up, it didn't work out. And then I let him wander off by himself, because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself. Nice fucking job, Always.

    "I was worried he might do something stupid, but he seemed... okay?" Anxiety creeping up into my face at this point. I did the wrong thing, it's pretty obvious now.


    "Where were you when you saw Cricket, then? Where was Banana? Why do you suppose the lady would get attacked by a shark on the same day that her son gets shot. Kind of a coincidence."


    "On the beach, like I said..." At least, I'm pretty sure I said it, but if I didn't, well -- put two and two together. Shark attacks don't happen inland last time I checked. Is he being clever? Does he think he is? I look at him for a moment -- what's this guy's deal? "And what do you mean, kind of? It doesn't sound like a coincidence to me at all."

    (I want to Read a Person on this guy, now that Always has calmed down enough to get slightly further out of his own head.)

    #DiceRoller( 2d6+1 )1, 4, +1


    "Son, you're kind of a smart-ass. You give everyone this much trouble?" He draws his weapon but only fires a quick burst into the air. It's so quick, so smooth, that you're probably startled. Other officers are on the way. "Now, living like we do on this little mass o' land, you might realize that there's beach to the south, the north, the east and the west. The beach isn't any fucking answer at all. The beach? No shit, you were pulling a body out of the water on the beach..."

    The first to arrive at conversation distance has his SMG out and ready. "What the fuck, Crayola?!?"


    Well, that certainly wasn't what I was expecting -- I don't get this guy at all. But if he's shooting guns in the air then I guess he's not really as interested in this conversation as I thought. "Oh." I frown at the obvious misunderstanding, take a deep breath, and try to ignore his attitude. And the guns -- but I have a lot of practice ignoring guns. In any case this seems like a good time to be calm. "I meant the [Direction] beach." You know, the nearby, sandy one where people actually live, and where the kid was found dead?

    But no, I'm calm. I look over to the guy with the SMG and back to Crayola, like maybe I'm kind of curious what the fuck, too.


    "Hey Ebon, this guy's closest thing to a lead we've found. Says he was helping Cricket pull a dead Banana out of the water this morning. Either he's being dim or being a fuck-head. I think we need to take him back to the barracks for questioning. We have any others?"

    Ebon's looks around the market, "Naw, looks like we're about done and nothing else has popped up."

    Two other Police Officers have arrived the immediate vicinity.


    (Since Crayola pulled out his gun, Always seems much calmer, more withdrawn but also more intense. Focused.)

    Barracks? Questioning? That really doesn't sound like a good idea. "If you want to ask me questions, you can do it here, right?" It's not really a question, so much as half a statement and half a request.


    "Nope, sorry, policy is to hold you during questioning and for a while afterward so that if we have more questions, you're easy to find." Crayola's gesturing off toward the trucks. "This way, please." You get the idea that he doesn't think he's being an asshole, even if you disagree. "So anyway, how do you know Cricket and Banana?"


    I'm not moving, though I'm not making a particular point of it. I continue to speak as though we are just having a regular conversation. "I don't, really, or not that well. This morning was the first time I saw them -- or him, really, since she was already... you know, dead."

    By now it's probably obvious that I'm not moving, so I'll add. "My name's Always, and I live south down the beach, in the village. I'm very easy to find. I take care of people there -- I can't leave them alone all day."


    Sounds like a manipulation. You want them to let you go and you're promising to be easy to find. Yeah?

    They aren't forcing you just yet, satisfied to question you here, at least for the time. "You said he seemed OK, but you said it like you didn't really believe it. Tell us what happened. Also, you said that you couldn't retrieve Banana's body from the water. Why's that? Too wet?"


    Yeah, I really don't get this guy. "The shark came back," I say, calm but still not exactly thrilled about all these guys with machine guns loitering around like this is any of their business.

    "And, well, his mom just died, of course he wasn't really OK. Not just that, but... I mean, that would have been his whole life, taking care of her." I look at him intently -- does he get it? Does he understand what it's like? "She probably caught all their food, or scavenged up stuff he sold." I run my hand through my hair -- just talking about it is making me feel it all over again.

    "But I thought he was OK enough that he wouldn't do anything stupid. I was going to go find him later..."


    Always, it seems like they've run out of questions for now. "OK, then, let's go to the barracks and we'll see if we can't discharge you as soon as possible." Crayola (who was the more responsible cop in the earlier scene with Merry and Gabe) is holding out a hand, gesturing you back toward the vehicles.


    I look at his hand with a confused expression -- which is the best I can manage to avoid just looking disgusted. All I can come up with here is that this guy is on a power trip, and I'm not really interested in some Georgetown ganger power tripping me into an enclosed building full of dudes with guns.

    "You don't have any more questions, and you know where to find me if I do. I don't know what 'discharge' means but, like I said, I'll be at the beach." And then I give him this sort of open, frank look -- so maybe he'll understand that I am not "dim" or being a "fuck-head", but that I also have no intention of going anywhere with him. I am not in his gang, I am not under his authority, I am a guy he just had a helpful, open-handed conversation with about a mutual concern.


    Always, Crayola's like "Why are you doing this? We can bind you and drag you the whole way if that's what it takes, but what the fuck, man?" One of the guys standing with Ebon gives a short cackle.


    I keep looking at Crayola, right in his eyes, and simply turn the question back to him. I speak to him, not the other cops. "Why would I do this? Why would you do that? Bind and gag someone you just met, who answers your questions, who tells you his name and where he lives? We come here to sell at your markets; we feed your families, and you are going to do this?" I sound bewildered, if anything, and the subtext is clear, running below my words: something is wrong with you, if this is the sort of thing you do.

    (I am manipulating him. Leverage: You shouldn't piss off the people who feed you and are nice to you and answer your questions, because then... they won't do that anymore. Also, you are clearly becoming a worse person by doing so, if that matters.)

    #DiceRoller( 2d6+2 )4, 1, +2
  • edited June 2011
    Posted By: Christopher WeeksWere you asking because you wanted my notions of his internal state or because you think NPCs should just cave to PCs in general -- my recollection of your game doesn't seem like that's what you'd think.
    Internal state. I don't think NPCs just do anything just because of PCs. That's what moves are for. I like to play them based on my agenda. And, it's certainly not interesting, nor realistic if the NPCs just cave all the time.

    Lemme read through this and get back with you.
  • Chris, the thing that's breaking my brain here is that on one hand, you've made Crayola into this regular cop figure. On the other, his partner Bamboo and the other cop Clove are pretty much sick bastards and as a whole, you've described the Georgie cops as a gang. So, its a weird juxtaposition. I'm not saying it isn't possible, but maybe Daniel is expecting Crayloa to act more ganger like the others and that isn't what you have in mind?
  • Here's my question: does the PC have to give concrete assurance or can it come from somewhere else?

    So, maybe Crayola is like, "Alright, dude. You can go, but you better be easily found."

    He lets Always go. Then, he turns to his cackling subordinates.

    "Keep an eye on him. Follow him."

    Bam! Concrete assurance.

    Always doesn't have to go with them, but they've got concrete assurance he isn't going to disappear.

  • Posted By: orklordyou've described the Georgie cops as a gang.
    I haven't read all the threads, but based on my understanding the "gang" description was more mechanical, no? Like, a hardholder has a gang - that doesn't mean they all wear red bandannas and get jumped in or whatever.

    It's just a "gang" of cops. And, they seem to be well-disciplined, based on the conversation and what little I've read (considering they have "policies" and whatnot).
  • Yeah, maybe that counts as assurance.

    And Rich, I'm glad to hear that I'm presenting these people that way. I think Apocalypse World is a land full of juxtaposition. But I guess it could be messing up expectations.
  • edited June 2011
    There's no misunderstanding, except that on some level I (the player) think the existence of someone with the actual psychology of a contemporary police officer in Apocalypse World is really, really bizarre. Not bizarre-impossible, but bizarre enough that in-fiction this guy must be considered pretty weird by his friends. Cops in real life act that way because they have lived their entire lives with this enormous structure of social support and media portrayal and concept of law-abiding and uniforms and authority that has proven time and time again that it is real and that as a result, most people will just do whatever they tell them just because they told them to. Society gives them authority, not their guns, and that authority is internalized. They also have a career dependent on bureaucracy and lots of other people who are also invested in that bureaucracy. You can't reason with most beat cops because their entire livelihood and training is in part based on not being reasoned with, but instead acting as though they were not actually the agent responsible for their own actions, and are simply following some unavoidable script that you have no access to.

    Always doesn't believe in that, basically, and to be honest if you're telling me that this is a real thing in Georgetown that extends beyond this one guy, and all the cops actually have like, policy manuals and act like police officers too... then we have at least some dissonance on the player level. (But that's fine, it's a gang/cult or something.) Mostly it's just that Always doesn't get it -- this guy is in a gang, as far as he's concerned, and while they might be on his gang's territory they're all equals here and they have a relationship that is less straightforward than this guy seems to think. So he's treating him like an equal and like an individual, because that seems like the best way to get him to realize that he shouldn't do what he is doing (according to Always.) And yes he's also being strident -- he's a Charismatic Hocus, after all, and he thinks he can help this guy be a better person.

    As for the concrete reassurance: the leverage is 'if you do this, I will stop cooperating with you/being your friend/trading at your market' -- in other words, if you do this I will actually start treating you the way many people treat cops, and I will also damage your society by withdrawing trade. So assurances that a) there's something worth cooperating for or b) that Always actually can stop some of the beach people from trading here or c) that Always actually IS this guy's friend so far -- any of those could work depending on which leverage you think the guy is most likely to understand/acknowledge. I threw out a bunch of possible Leverages because it seemed easier than negotiating back and forth to see which single leverage would be effective.
  • edited June 2011
    As far as NPCs giving way to PCs, not at all, but -- in my experience, part of the reason you start all NPCs out with a single, simple motivation (wants sex, wants everyone to obey her, likes shiny things, likes violence, etc.) is so that there is a lot of flexibility in terms of how they'll behave if the PCs do start messing with them. I think if you notice that you are always running up against that 'There is no way the NPC would do that' feeling, then it's worth considering if over multiple cases whether this is just because your players aren't trying very hard to come up with sensible leverage/arguments or if it is instead because you are over-defining the NPC to the point that they are starting off just as complex as a PC, with multiple points of resistance, etc.

    Also I would really encourage you to ask questions about what I'm thinking, as a player, if Always' actions are confusing you. Especially in these scenes where I am narrating in the first person, there is a LOT of extra information and player-opinion that simply cannot make it into the scene. Also because I can't just describe how Always is feeling, a lot of his attitude gets put into the little bits of first-person narration, which can make it easy to confuse that attitude with my own as a player. (In fact I am probably going to go back to third-person narration with little bits of first-person-voice instead, for that reason.) And similarly, just because I put forward a move I think I'm doing, doesn't mean I am -- I would rather go back and forth with some table talk to determine a more appropriate move than have you kind of fudging in the background, or just going along because of time pressure, or whatever.
  • Posted By: Daniel WoodAnd similarly, just because I put forward a move I think I'm doing, doesn't mean I am -- I would rather go back and forth with some table talk to determine a more appropriate move than have you kind of fudging in the background, or just going along because of time pressure, or whatever.

    And, sometimes what the player says is leverage, simply isn't. If your NPC doesn't think Always' help is worth anything, then that's not really leverage is it? Then, there's no manipulation going on there. He's still "just asking" and the cop can be like, "Uh, no." Or, "Uh, alright. But, stick close to the beach." Or, whatever.
  • Yeah, good comments Daniel, thanks! Two very different characters having a hard time finding common ground is fine as long as you and I aren't radically miscommunicating.
  • edited June 2011
    Posted By: Michael PfaffIf your NPC doesn't think Always' help is worth anything, then that's not really leverage is it?
    Actually I think a better question is: could it be leverage, if it were true? Remember that there is a roll there, to help decide how convincing the PC is. If the NPC suspects it might, then a roll is a perfect solution: on a 10+, Always is convincing enough that he decides it is. On a 7-9, he needs concrete assurances of usefulness, and on a miss he decides it's worthless. This is much clearer if you imagine Always claiming he knows something about the crime, but won't tell unless the guy does what he wants. That's obviously leverage, even if it's a lie, and the die roll will determine how well that lie works out.

    So it's true that it may be that the NPC just doesn't think it's even possible that this guy might be a useful ally -- in which case some tabletalk is the best way to go, and maybe I come up with a more concrete offer/leverage, or we do something else. But remember also that the MC is a fan of the PCs. If one of the PC's defining traits is their ability to be mystically-convincing (Charismatic: use +weird for +hot when manipulating), you want to give them opportunities to try that out, even if it leads to ruin.
  • Daniel, I agree in general with what you're saying, but when I MC leverage needs to be a real present thing before we get into the manipulation roll. Manipulation isn't "convincing" someone to do something. It's using leverage to manipulate someone's behavior (with sex being the leverage if you're seducing of course).

    As the book says:

    Absent leverage, they're just talking, and you should have your NPCs agree or accede, decline or refuse, according to their own self-interests.

    It's about making Apocalypse World real seem real and saying what honesty demands.

    If Chris' NPC honestly doesn't buy what you're trying to sell him, if it's not leverage to him (Who gives a fuck if you think you're my friend? You're not!), then there's no manipulation roll and we're just talking.

    If Chris' NPC is interested, if you do have leverage over him, then yeah, make your roll and see if it works.

    It's like if you tried to seduce someone who clearly wasn't interested in sex. The "roll" doesn't determine whether you seduce them or not because they weren't interested sex with you in the first place. Sex has to be leverage first, then we roll to see if you pull off the seduction.
  • Yes, you're right.
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