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Apocalypse World / Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« on: December 10, 2014, 01:36:28 PM »
So I have this conundrum in my game and, although I've mostly come to my own conclusions about it, I'd like to hear anyone's opinion on what the right ruling is here.

The issue is this: my PCs have found themselves trying to sway groups of people as often (more often?) than they try to manipulate individuals. The problem is, since the Hocus retired, no one has frenzy. I was on the fence about even letting them even trigger a move when they try to get a mob on their side (since manipulate is written for a single NPC) but I was at a loss for how to handle it in that case. Unlike, say, augury--it makes sense that you just don't have this capability if you don't have the move--I can't really stop the PCs from yelling at a group of people.

Now the solution would seem obvious: I should allow them to manipulate crowds because frenzy is a better move overall. It has easier trigger conditions ("truth" vs actual "leverage") and it offers up to 3 times more effectiveness with its holds. So there's the incentive to take the move and ditch the unpredictability of the basic moves. I've found that none of my players want to take frenzy since manipulating crowds seems to work just fine. Which should be okay, since they're settling for a lesser move. But...

Here's the twist: advanced manipulate offers the opportunity to gain allies (again, this move was written for individuals...). Add in the fact that allies are perhaps the single most powerful advanced move effect (IMO), and manipulate actually becomes (depending on how you look at it) better than frenzy. I don't like this.

My solution is to allow them to manipulate (and be strict about leverage) but not to allow allies even from advanced manipulates. It's pretty simple, but I feel like there's got to be a better way than to house-rule something. Should I be handling these situations differently in free-play or in terms of the moves they trigger?

Apocalypse World / The Blue: An Apocalypse World Actual Play
« on: September 11, 2014, 03:36:21 PM »
I'm pretty sure that some of my players are lurking in the forums (although they may not have accounts) so I'll keep this spoiler-free. Hopefully I'll keep this up, as my game meets weekly and I'm doing this from memory. If you like it, bug me about it--I'll be more likely to continue if people are vocal that they want more.

The Blue
A waterlogged apocalypse

Our apocalypse is Waterworld meets Wind Waker. Most of the world is ocean, but there are small islands dotting the landscape. The players start near The Rig, an old oil rig sitting not too far from the island of Iluminada (and its town of the same name).

Some quick introductions:

Gribs is a Ruin Runner. His gender is ambiguous because he wears a diving suit and mask all the time. He's a young one with a slight build; his voice is tinny, coming through the speaker of his mask. (n.b. I'll be using the male pronoun here since his player is male. We actually have no idea yet whether he's a dude or not) He's a mellow, laid-back kind of person, but we find out that there's an all-business side to him later in the game. He is a diver--he scours the ocean floor looking for sunken treasure--and he's currently on Grizzle's and Captain Giblet's crew.

Captain Giblet (pronounced with a hard G as in 'go') is a Driver. He's a little older, with salt-and-pepper hair and a lumberjack look (think Joel from The Last of Us). He does the right thing but counts it a burden--and, to be sure, in Apocalypse World, it is. He is a treasure hunter with a family heirloom treasure map. He's been searching for years for this treasure, but he keeps getting sidetracked by his conscience. He's got the transportation for Gribs and Grizzle, and they're sticking together for now. He has a huge boat--200 feet long or more--that is his base of operations. The big one houses a smaller speedboat and a 4x4 jeep for overland treks.

Grizzle is a Savvyhead. He's an old guy, probably around fifty. He's big, he never wears a shirt, and he's quite outgoing. He's seen a lot over the years, and he is currently working as mechanic for Captain Giblet and Gribs. He's got his own boat, a portable workshop.

Chain is a Faceless. He's young and quite fit, but he has a disturbing mask which sits flush with his face and has clamps around his chin and bare scalp that dig into the flesh. He ran afoul of some cult or other and this was his punishment--but he doesn't remember which cult it was. Whatever happened, it turned him into a man of few words who is quick to violence. His name ostensibly comes from the chains he wraps around his arms and torso. He knew Levi long ago, in another life, it seems.

Levi is a Missionary (from the quite good Rogue Trader: Apocalypse hack on these very forums). He is a Mormon, from their City on a Hill. The Mormons, it seems, were well prepared for the apocalypse, and have become the dominant religious force around. We haven't seen any other preachers around, but Levi commands a flock of 20 or so on a small fishing vessel. He is pious; he judges silently but forgives quickly. He is trying to bring the word of God to the people, to heal them of their sins. He wears simple farmer's clothing, has blond hair and open eyes.

Highlights, Hx, and the like, then...

GRIBS, THE CAPTAIN, AND GRIZZLE ARE all sitting having a drink at The Rig's bar. It's a greasy, rusty affair; it used to be the rig's employee mess hall. It smells like cooking booze since the kitchen has been converted into the distillery. Old molded plastic tables and benches are bolted to the floor.

McKinley, The Rig's owner, sidles over. Mulleted and half-toothless, he's as greasy as the bar. "Welcome back, boys. Looks like you got a good haul back there. So, let's talk about my cut."

"Cut? What cut?" says Gribs.

"Well, you dive in my turf, drink at my bar, moor at my rig. A man's allowed to charge for his services, yeah? So, I can take my cut or you can throw down the flat and pay me."

(At this point, we decided that barter in our apocalypse was just stacks of flat shit. CDs, credit cards, IDs, whatever. Plastic doesn't rust or degrade in the ocean.)

Well, they don't really want to give up part of their potentially huge haul, so they offer to simply do a job for McKinley instead. McKinley isn't gonna let them get away that easy, so he...ahem...insists that the goods should stay with him. He'll set his man to open the fuckin thing for them while they're away. Now Gribs isn't about to part with the big black box in his bag either, so he opts to stay. That suits McKinley just fine. Cue several hours of awkward conversation in his office while Asleep tries to crowbar the box open. Grizzle and the Captain head out with a sack to deliver to Saul on Iluminada.

LEVI ON HIS BOAT is returning from a successful mission to a neighboring island. He passes the Heiress, a huge fucking freighter-turned-prison ship. Then from out of nowhere, splash!, Chain plops into the water next to him and clambers into his boat. Now these guys knew each other a long time ago, but all Chain sees is an old friend in strange clothes. His ticket out. The Heiress stops, all the guards lining up over the railing, towering over the small boat Levi has.

Over the PA: "There's a dangerous criminal aboard. Please remain calm and stop your ship. We are coming to assist." That's Arnetta, the owner of the Heiress. People pay her to lock their criminals up, but somehow Chain escaped. Someone obviously paid a whole stack of flat to keep him locked up, though.

Chain and Levi meet up on the bridge. "Collateral!" Chain says. But that was a long time ago, and Collateral is Levi now. A couple of rafts with guards splash down and motor over to the boat. The first one hooks on and the 4 guys move through the crowd of followers. Suddenly, one of them recognizes Levi.

"Look! They're talking! He's gotta be that other fucker what killed those people! Arrest 'em both!"

Shit, thinks Levi. Throttle! They make a beeline away from the bigger ship and manage to shake the second dinghy. But now the 4 guys are about to head up the stairs to the bridge. Chain waits at one door and axes the first guy in the neck, dropping him in the doorway. The other guy at the bottom of the stairs seriously rethinks his tactics. Levi isn't as prone to violence, though. What does he do when shit gets bad? He prays, waiting for the accepting hand of God to guide him. But the acceptance isn't there. He feels judged, abandoned. And the other two guards burst in the other door and grab him before he can do anything.

GRIZZLE AND THE CAPTAIN MOOR UP at one of Iluminada's many docks. Only the rich can afford to live on the mainland, and even then they have to keep their shops and houses well-lit. Something lurks in the woods beyond the wooden gates that only comes out in the dark. Most of the people simply live out in the shallows, in houses on stilts. But Saul is pretty rich--he owns a shop for fine antiques--so he lives in town.

Grizzle can't leave well enough alone. He's gotta know what's in the sack. He touches it but accidentally opens his mind up and someone--something--notices him. Grizzle opens his brain by going to his earliest memory, sitting on a life raft with his parents. The sack is there, right next to him, and a mysterious man is in the raft too. It's Nickolas, the guy who lives way up on the mountain, out of town, above the treeline, right by the mouth of the fucking volcano. Oh fuck.

They'd better get rid of this quick. So they hop in their 4x4 and drive on up to Saul's shop. It, like every shop, is flanked by a pair of hollowed-out palm trees with cool designs carved into them, jack-o-lantern style. At night, these get lit up and the lantern totems keep the streets and shops lit. Inside, Saul greets them like old friends. They've been here before--Saul buys the best of their hauls for a lot of money. He's a bald man with expressive eyebrows and welcoming eyes.

They unload the sack with little fuss and get to talking. They drink some beers and catch up through sundown (bad fucking idea, right?). Saul pauses, lights the lanterns in the trees, and comes back to continue chatting. And behind him is a bulky silhouette. Saul stumbles out of his chair and heads to the back of the shop, looking for his guns....and the stranger steps inside, revealing a scar right across his nose. It's Nickolas. He smells like fish.

CHAIN ISN'T ABOUT TO let his ticket outta here get dragged off. He rushes one of the two guards and slices him across the gut, getting him pretty good, then shoves him into the other. Levi's safe, for now. But then they hear the last guard's voice at the top of the stairs, pointing his gun at both, a couple of hinges loose now that their plans have deteriorated.

"What the fuck are you guys doing?" he screams, an edge of histeria creeping in. "You know the protocol! If we can't arrest 'em, we kill 'em!"

Levi just stares him down and speaks to the guards. "Now, there's no need for bloodshed here. Just go away and we won't harm you. We can all settle this peacefully." As if to punctuate his words, his followers start bandaging up the wounded guy. The guard sees the force of faith in his eyes and nods. They drag the dead and wounded to the raft and take off. Chain and Levi are safe, for now.

"WHAT DO WE DO?" asks Captain Giblet. Grizzle looks around and figures getting outta dodge is best. You don't have to tell the Captain twice.

He points. "What's that over there?" Nickolas turns, and he runs past to grab his 4x4. Grizzle tries to follow him, but he can't let Saul die in the back of the shop, so they finally peel out of there with Nickolas in close pursuit. Problem is, with the gates closed, there aren't many places to go. So they retreat to the Captain's ship. Nickolas waits on the dock, a foreboding shadow. He knows where they're going.

At this point Saul is freaking out. His shop is unattended which means looters, Nickolas, or even worse could just get in no problem. All the guys want is for Saul to vouch for them to McKinley, though.

"Fine, I'll do it, but only if you help me get that sack back. That crazy bastard Nickolas has it now, for sure. No way I'm going out to his house myself!" They want to know what's so important in the sack, but he won't tell. After some hard pressing, he agrees to let them look AFTER they help him retrieve it. So off to The Rig they go.

GRIBS IS SITTING, WAITING for the box to be opened, when McKinley makes him an offer. "Hey, you're a pretty good jumper, yeah? I've got myself a secret place full of good shit, but my guys aren't good enough to get to it. I waited until your friends were gone cuz I figure you don't want to share your take with them. How about it? You be my jumper, and you get the whole take for a normal crew all to yourself."

(At this point, we decided that dives would be called "jumps" for some reason.)

But Gribs isn't biting. He instead tries to weasel any information about the jump out of McKinley, but he's tight-lipped. Somehow, though, he persuades McKinley to allow the whole crew to do the jump, like a trial run.

"Fine...your loss. You could have gotten the whole cut."

Something breaks, finally, and the box opens. It's a pristine typewriter. Like, this is high-quality antique shit. Now, McKinley's eyes light up. Gribs knows he's not gonna let it out of his sight. Gribs slowly packs the box back into his bag while Asleep sidles over to the door and pulls out his shotgun and lounges, real casual-like.

Then there's some real fancy business maneuvering. The typewriter is staying here, protected in the wall safe, says McKinley. I don't trust it out on the waves in a boat. No way, says Gribs. It's coming with us. Then we're all going out there, says McKinley. Fine, says Gribs.

Grizzle and the Cap burst in with Saul. It's a fuckin party. They make Saul vouch for them, but he starts to wilt under McKinleys stare. They try to smooth shit over, but McKinley finally realizes what's up: Saul would never leave his shop for nothing unless he had to get the fuck out real quick.

"It's that Nickolas fucker, the crazy sumbitch that lives up the mountain! YOU FUCK! YOU LED HIM RIGHT TO US!" Now he gets deadly serious. "Now this is what's going to happen." He picks up a radio. "Sheilah?"


"Code 22. I give the word, and you light that boat up, alright?"


"You're going to leave that box here for my trouble, since sure as shit a couple of my guys are gonna die tonight and I gotta pay new ones. You do that and leave now, and we aren't gonna have a problem. But you try anything funny and your boat goes up."

Gribs thinks he can get the drop on McKinley. "You say the word," he says, "and I blow your head off." Out comes the shotgun. McKinley looks real scared for a bit, then drops the act, casually flicks the shotgun aside, and says "DO IT!"

"Nooooo!" Captain Giblet screams. "What's that over there?" Asleep turns. He rushes out, pushing Asleep aside. They all get down to the docks at the base of The Rig, but it's too late: by the time they get there, his Speedboat is fucked. Shielah siphoned gas from the tank into the cabin and set it on fire, the fumes pulling more gas out of the tank. It's burnt to shit. Good news is they got the typewriter and the big ship still works. They get right the fuck outta there.

to be continued . . .

Hx at this point was as expected, except for:

Chain: "I give Levi -1 Hx. He got all soft. What happened to him? Praying?"

Levi: "I give Chain -1 Hx. I grew up. He didn't." (Cue the "OH NO HE DIDN'T! OH SHEEEIT" from the table).

So I guess I'm far enough into the development of this hack that I feel okay posting what I have here for all your insight and comments. I find I'm most creative when I have a board to bounce my ideas off of (pun intended).

GLORIOUS DAWN is a space opera hack of Apocalypse World. It's basically a love letter to Dan Simmons's Hyperion Cantos in particular, and a host of other works besides, including Asimov's Foundation trilogy and Alistair Reynolds's Revelation Space universe. It also draws to a lesser degree from Neuromancer, Ringworld, Ender's Game, the Uplift series, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and (as before) more besides.

I'll also give a quick nod to John Ryan's Rogue Trader: Apocalypse hack for being inspirational, as well.

Here's my back-cover pitch for the game, in true lumpley fashion:

Glorious Dawn:
A game about the human race in the far future. A game about dealing with the dark, mysterious, and--above all--unimaginably vast universe and the unknowable motives it has for humanity. A game about a group of people trying to change events that are far greater in size than any of them can imagine. A game about travelling the galaxy. A game about scope.

More info and specifics in the next post!

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