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Topics - Hans Chung-Otterson

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brainstorming & development / My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
« on: June 15, 2011, 03:22:09 AM »
Ok, yes, I seriously think a MLP:FiM game could be done right by an AW hack. A pretty deep hack, but a hack nonetheless. For those going "wha?!"

Look, you have 6 playbooks:

-Twilight Sparkle
-Pinkie Pie
-Rainbow Dash
-Apple Jack

The GM in this game is Princess Celestia, since she controls pretty much everything in Equestria. But when the ponies enter the Everfree Forest...control leaves Princess Celestia's hands real quick. That's an aside, though!

There's not much advancement: cartoon characters don't change their inherent natures or abilities much. I still want to keep the experience system, though, because it works well, is fun, and goads players into action. One choice for an advancement is to switch characters next session (episode). I imagine a lot of character switching, with not every pony in every episode. Maybe some small advancements as well, like stat boosts or one new move.

Princess Celestia's prep is pretty different. Maybe organized like a front, but a whole new one every episode. This will probably be where the hardest design work is done.

I also think: less stats. Maybe three per character (+ Friendship/Hx), with five total stats, so each character is missing two core stats and thus some core Moves. My instinct is to simplify, and make the characters very distinct to reward switching characters and trying out new things.

Obviously, stats will be renamed, basic moves will be retooled/changed, and new playbooks written up.

This is simply a post of curiosity. I want to know what you all think about this (you'll probably have to know MLP:FiM to parse this post, but hopefully not the game. Ideally it'll be playable by young girls, and aimed at family play and pony geek play). I'm going to give it my best shot, anyway, until I decide AW isn't the right engine and do something else, or give up on it, or playtest the hell out of it and make it a real thing.

I've played both Dogs (one & a half abortive sessions) & AW.
I've GMed both Dogs & AW.

Now, I know they are both supposed to articulate certain ways of GMing--categorically different ways of GMing, from my understanding--and I'm having trouble parsing that.

When I GM Dogs, I don't plan a story. I'm a fan of the player's characters. I play to find out what happens. I reveal the town in play (I'm honest, even generous, with information).

If you know AW, you know I GM it the same way.

I'm sure that's not all the things I do in either game, but I can't seem to come up with meaningful differences.

I feel blind here. Can someone point it out to me, or ask me provocative questions such that I figure it out myself?

Apocalypse World / The seed of the text blooming (or not) in play
« on: November 16, 2010, 05:09:45 AM »
One of the players, last game, said, "Apocalypse World, like Vincent's other games, is really good at being about ONE THING or ONE POINT and hammering it into you over and over, but after a while it gets tired" (paraphrase).


It seems to me that everyone's AW games are really different. I don't think we're (my group) necessarily getting some of the stuff out of AW that the text implies, though. It's like, outside of the game, the players all know that, mechanically, EVERYTHING'S a threat, and so in-game, their characters act accordingly and go for broke against the threats. This is just my inference.

Plus I'm not good at making triangles or sympathetic NPCs. I mean, I've made some sympathetic NPCs, but they've gotten little traction in the larger situation of the game.

I like AW, and want to love it, but I feel like the promise of the text hasn't come to fruition in our game, and I'm not sure why. A blog post is brewing, and I'll link to it here when it's brewed.

Apocalypse World / A new kind of custom move
« on: November 15, 2010, 03:35:53 AM »
...for my game, at least. I suspect it'll also be a new idea for some of yours, which is why I'm sharing it.

For this session, we had 4 characters, 2 characters going together in one (geographic) direction, and 2 characters staying put at the home base. So I created 2 love letters/beginning of session moves, 1 for each pair. Here's how they work:

Dear Key & Dust: You’re off to the remains of old Sludge Pump. So, what happens on the way?  someone roll+sharp, and someone help or hinder.

on a 10+, you get there more or less fine, but choose 1.
on a 7-9, you get there okay: choose both.

    * Clarion wants to tag along: (helping/hindering character choose 1)
          o with Dust?
          o with Key?

    * Dust’s cult begins begging for: (helping/hindering character, choose 1)
          o A religious vision, a touch of the howling psychic maelstrom.
          o A release of their stress, an emotional high, an experience.

On a miss, both, and it looks like a nasty sandstorm has kicked up: getting to the river will be harder than you thought.

The trick is that the person who rolled the stat chooses the * choice, and the person who helped/hindered gets to choose the o sub-choice. It worked well, and the players thought it was cool. Here's the other one, for posterity:

Dear Pitt & Pollux: What’s going on at the Braindome? Someone roll+hot, and someone help or hinder.

On a 10+, choose 1.
On a 7-9, choose both.

    * Snap has: (helping/hinder character, choose 1)
          o Taken a liking to Pollux, and regularly lets Pollux into the shop (when Pitt’s not there).
          o Begun to fear and distrust Pollux, and won’t willfully let Pollux into the shop or stay there while Pollux is there.

    * The majority of the Braindome population have been demanding: (helping/hindering character, choose 1)
          o That Pitt do something with her tools & workshop about how fucking hungry & thirsty they all are.
          o That CJ get rid of Pollux.

On a miss, choose both, plus, things just don’t feel right today: the next time you consciously act against someone, it’s acting under fire.

Apocalypse World / Apocalypse Malaise
« on: November 08, 2010, 08:30:52 PM »
So last time we were supposed to play, I just didn't prep. Just didn't. And so we didn't play (we play every two weeks normally, so it's been a while). We're supposed to play tomorrow, and damn it if I don't want to prep.

It's not like it's hard or anything, I mean, it's pretty easy and pretty fun and doesn't usually take more than an hour, but it just sounds like fucking work to me, you know? Like a slag. I don't know what's up. For some reason with AW, as MC* I feel like this pressure to perform and bring the fun, and I think it's kind of sucking away my enthusiasm.

Anyone else feel this way, with AW specifically?

*Keep in mind this is the first game I've GMed or played for such an extended time (6 sessions so far)

Apocalypse World / AP: Getting a new character without "getting" it.
« on: September 15, 2010, 04:53:27 AM »
Sludge Pump & Its Environs:

I'm the MC.

last session, we ended with the main town all sick with the wasting worm (eat more than your share or take 1 harm & advance the clock, and you don't want to advance the clock).

The PCs: Dust, a hocus, CJ, a gunlugger, and Key, an angel.

The PCs have heard about this weird brain-machine, and through the maelstrom have figured out that this brain machine can cure what ails their people (and themselves).

They spend this session seeking out the brain-machine, and find it. They figure out that it can grant them one wish, but they have to give it one more weird brain (the Hocus's brain is ripe for it!), and instead of doing that the Hocus does Augury, hits it (Oh, how I wanted him to miss!), and projects the maelstrom into the last remaining brain-tank, and wishes for what he wishes: more goods (food, and clothing, and med supplies--barter, basically) than he can handle. The dome that the brain-machine was in fills with these supplies, and they're richer than they can imagine. If they can hold it.


We decide (the other players proposed it, but it was a fantastic idea and I ran with it), that next session we'll cut to a year or more ahead, and see what the deal is with this new hold (everyone in the old, starting town died of the worm. Dust, the hocus, didn't wish for a cure!). The Angel and the Hocus will stay, but the Gunlugger player wants to play a new character. We're all cool with this, as we feel (I think? I do, at least) that the game needs something new, or some new energy, or whatever.

Thing is, the Gunlugger's player doesn't have enough advances to get a new character (and yes, he's going to be playing both), but we give it to him anyway, because we're all happy with the idea. The Gunlugger was two advances away from The Ungiven Future.

So is this cool? Should I give the other players two free advances? Another player is potentially coming in: should they get two free advances as well?

Nothing about the Gunlugger player playing a new character seems like a bad idea, but it's against the rules, and I'm just wondering: Is there anything wrong here?

Apocalypse World / MCs: what do you want to do better?
« on: September 01, 2010, 02:05:05 AM »
In between every session, I usually look back at something I did not-so-well as the MC and think, "how can I do this better?"

1. After the first session I was mainly focused on creating Fronts, & saying interesting things.
2. After the second session I realized there were no PC-NPC-PC triangles, the PCs were a whole united front, and so I wanted to do triangles better.
3. I don't think there was anything after the third session; I felt pretty good about my contributions after this one.
4. After the fourth session (tonight) I realized I need to keep falling back on my moves*, and I need to ask more questions.


*I didn't look at the moves list until the very end of the game, and I felt that what I said & my contribution in general suffered. I think this was a result of (1) not looking at the moves list when it was my turn to speak, and (2) not taking time when it was my turn to speak and feeling a little overwhelmed at trying to introduce my Fronts in between what the players wanted to do--from here on out, if the players are really active and want to do things, I think I should simply let them (try to) do them, and not worry about my fronts so much. Falling back on the moves will, I hope, continue to be a natural way to introduce Fronts & complications from what the players are doing, as it was in session 3.

Apocalypse World / Player Priorities in Apocalypse World
« on: August 18, 2010, 03:53:41 AM »
Are they there?

In an interview on GeekNights, Luke Crane said, "I feel stupid playing a roleplaying game in 2010 if I do not have a place to insert or choose a priority as a player--meaning something that I am interested in as a person that I want my character to do." (i.e., Beliefs in Burning Wheel)

this, coupled with one of my fellow players in the AW game that I'm MCing saying that (paraphrase) "maybe it's worthwhile for us to insert some sort of player priority into the game,"* has got me thinking about player priorities in AW.

My theory is that it's a mix between the character type that you choose and an emergent property of the game. Choosing the Gunlugger is effectively saying, "I as a player want to be the baddest ass." Choosing the Angel is saying, "I want people to need me." etc.

And then you play the game, and the logical consequences of the moves you make and the moves the MC makes are for you to discover what your priorities as a player are, and then to gun for them.

This feels like an unfinished thought, and I think I'm missing something. Pretty much this is the same thing as, say, D&D 4th, right? I choose a Wizard because I want to control the battlefield and dabble in arcana. Then I play and figure out what it is I as a player want out of the game beyond that. Except the structure of 4E doesn't support me nearly as much as AW's structure in this regard (is this true? why is this?)

What do you think?

*btw, to this I said, "I think figuring out what you want is sort of the point of AW. Let's leave things as they are."

Apocalypse World / Gangs & Battles
« on: August 18, 2010, 01:28:18 AM »
So we had our 3rd session tonight, and it was the best yet, but at the end we kinda muddled through some battle confusion.

We were using the optional moves for the first time, and from this gang-on-gang warfare a couple questions sprang:

1. In a Battle (with the optional countdown in play), can a gangleader use his gang as a weapon for one move and with the next move use his very favorite gun or whatever?

2. In a Battle (with the optional countdown in play), can you keep using the basic moves in addition to the Battle moves? I very much suspect the answer to this is yes, but I'm a little unsure.

3. How would you resolve this without going to the Battle moves: two gangs face off (seize by force roll), each does 1-harm to the other; people are injured, some serious. The fight ain't over, is it? I didn't know what to do in play, so I switched over to the optional battle moves and said they were at 9:00 and had two moves left. This worked great, but I'm wondering if there's something else I could have done. Hrm, I suppose I could've just used an MC move, like, "There's a momentary pause in the gunfire, and Lars levels a sawed-off at you and narrows his eyes. What do you do?" Makes sense.

Also: It's hard to stat up gangs on the fly and have the players feel the numbers are fair!

Apocalypse World / Opening your brain and missing
« on: August 04, 2010, 01:33:03 AM »
So tonight our gunlugger opened his brain during a battle, and missed the roll. As MC I kind of came up with this stuff where he saw and heard static that caused him to drop his gun and go all stunned, and then violent, bloody images flashed through his head (a bullet ripping through flesh, blood spatters, etc.). When he came to, there was a part of his brain that always contained these violent images, except when he was being violent.

...which was lame, and didn't really have an impact on play or on how we saw the character. I had stumbled through the first description, but I followed it up a couple minutes later with, "No, the images are there, but they cause you to take -1 ongoing when acting violent in this current conflict (taking over a rival gang), and they're gone when you're not acting violent." I wanted to give the "maelstrom in the brain" mechanical teeth, because I was afraid it would never come up again in a significant way. Turns out that the conflict was pretty much over, and it didn't come up again at all during the session (which was done in another 30 min. or so). could I have made this better? What are good things to do when people fail their "open your brain" rolls?

In general I'm having a very difficult time with the psychic maelstrom stuff. It's very flat and not at all weird & wrong, like I want it to be. It's hard for me to be extemporaneous on this subject in a cool way. There was one point tonight where someone opened their brain, had a 10+ hit, and I took a few solid minutes to spit something out. Then I realized that I hadn't even told them something new and interesting about the situation, and I did a do-over, but even the info about the sitch that they learned didn't come into play or become consequential. Bah! Why am I bashing my head over this? It seems so easy in the book. I may make a couple other posts about other things I'm having difficulty with as MC.

Apocalypse World / Number of Fronts in Play
« on: July 27, 2010, 10:50:10 AM »
I'm doing my 2nd-session prep, and the book doesn't say anything on how many Fronts is good to prep. I'm not too worried about it--I'm going with two, with a total of 7-8 threats, and I don't imagine the players will tear all that down in one session.

This brings up the question, though: How many Fronts are usually assaulting the players/being assaulted in any given session of your games? Is one Front too few? Three too many?

blood & guts / Moves harness the power of random tables
« on: July 20, 2010, 12:47:55 AM »
So I'm probably not the only one who's thought this, but I haven't seen discussion about it, so here it is. Some months back Ken Hite made a post on his blog about setting creation. Within it, he discusses how powerful random tables are:

Quote from: Ken Hite
how do you get [players] to pick up the setting and wield it like a battleaxe? (or a warhammer.) Gary Gygax gave us the answer. And then he immediately hid it from us. The answer is the Random Encounter Table, or Wandering Monster Table, or Random Dungeon Generator, and all those other wondrous time-killers in the back of the DMG. By stocking those tables, paying some attention to the probabilities, and adding modifiers here and there, you create an immediate, accessible method for GMs to understand your setting in the most visceral way possible: by co-creating it with you. They only have to read the setting bits they've generated, and they have a story and an adventure. This is an almost insanely powerful technology for setting design and presentation, and we've unaccountably left it back in its rudimentary Bronze Age form, like the Antikythera Mechanism.

Why? Because I (and I think virtually every other designer of my generation) fixated instead on Gary's other answer, the exact wrong answer to the problem: Greyhawk. (Or Glorantha.) Don't co-create, hyper-create! Don't leave randomness around in your wilderness hexes -- define the heck out of every hex to start with! Put in weather patterns, and historical chronologies, and elf pantheons!

I see AW's moves (the ones with lists, I mean) as a powerful harnessing of random table technology. Ken Hite talks about the power of random tables toward setting creation, and of course setting creation is happening all the time in AW, but really the random-tables-within-moves in AW are all about using that power toward situation creation, which I suppose is just another evolution of In A Wicked Age's oracles.

So, yep, that's it. Just some food for thought that hopefully helps people ponder AW in a fruitful way.

Apocalypse World / Basic barter question
« on: July 13, 2010, 11:22:29 PM »
Okay Vincent, so you say "Players are going to want and expect barter to be a game mechanic, but it's not".

Now bear with me for a moment. I would certainly expect that, if I have 2-barter, but, say, hire the protective companionship of a battlebabe for a week (1-barter by the book), I "spend" 1-barter, whatever that looks like in the fiction, and now only have 1-barter left. That seems really obvious, but you never say that that's how it works, so I'm not sure. Additionally, my interpretation of how barter works also seems mechanical, and you say barter isn't a mechanic. I've thought about this much too much.

Do I have it right?

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