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Messages - Orpheus

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roleplaying theory, hardcore / Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« on: September 26, 2010, 03:17:04 PM »
Sorry to bail on my own thread - Too many fronts in play RL and I haven't had much spare time to devote to the AW board.

With Lost, and w/ Battlestar Galactica, they were ostensibly character drama, but they ended up being mostly about 'What the fuck is really going on?' They kept delaying the revelations and moving the finish line to keep the shows going, and it was apparent that if they did explain what the fuck was going on, the show was over, so they weren't going to do that until the last episode.

But then after a while that further obfuscation to keep the show going accumulated to the point that I realized, "Even if/when they do 'explain everything', it's not going to make sense of it all and I'm going to find it unsatisfying."  I stopped watching Lost after about 4 episodes, and BG after 2. From what I've heard from my friends regarding the finale of BG and Lost, that was a good move on my part - I'm like, "That's what they finally came up with?"

So now some meta analysis on AW. The tagline for AW: "Something's wrong with the world, and I don't know what it is…" is potentially misleading, because the point of playing AW isn't really to find out what's wrong with the world.  It's not really even about fixing what's wrong with the world - It IS about characters, and fixing what's wrong with them, which I would say is, in general terms as they start the game, that they're largely isolated, selfish and detached from the world.  In play the characters are transformed in a really literary, Campbellian fashion and as each character overcomes those deficiencies, they either expand the frame of the 'world' and start over, or they leave play.

Personally, I think the 'world' of Apocalypse World serves mostly as a metaphor for the characters.

From The Anatomy of Story by John Truby, (which is, well, pretty much what you'd expect from the title) on page 78 he talks about the 'Story World' and 'connecting the world to the hero's overall development' in this bulletpointed passage.

* Beginning (slavery): If the land, people, and technology are out of balance, everyone is out for himself, each reduced to an animal clawing for scarce resources or a cog working for the greater good of a machine.  This is a world of slavery and, taken to its extreme, a dystopia, or a hell on earth.

* Endpoint (Freedom): If the land, people, and technology are in balance (as you define it), you have a community, where individuals can grow in their own way, supported by others. This is a world of freedom and, taken to the extreme, a utopia, or heaven on earth.

I don't know how useful this is to 'fixing' games like some of the ones described above - It sounds like that 'game w/ the bunker' had problems besides just the 'never-ending mystery'…  But I'd proffer this:

The dictate is: Play to find out.
It's not: Play to wonder about shit.

If people are playing AW to find out, "What the fuck is this Maelstrom thing?" or some other big mystery, then go with that. Don't do the Lost thing and obfuscate or cockblock 'em, let em make progress towards finding out, using the rules/system as a group as best you can.  Now, when they find out, and they should find out, that particular story is OVER. Depending on the group, that may be where play ends.  Or you might keep going, because now it's potentially about, "What do you do with that information?"  When TV shows do stuff like this, it's called changing the core premise, and they often loose viewers, because you have, in effect, a different show and it may or may not appeal to the original audience so much.  But you're not compelled by your ratings and your network exec to keep going, so 'play till you're done', whenever that occurs, and then stop.  Then start another game of whatever.

roleplaying theory, hardcore / Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« on: September 14, 2010, 06:59:10 PM »
Split from the thread about Agenda & GNS, as this is totally tangental to the main topic of discussion in that (and that thread's basically closed). So...

Also, I've been thinking about where the mythology of shows like Lost and Battlestar Galactica meet GNS. I've seen situations where a lot of the player drive is centered on "figuring things out", but not necessarily on a mystery level of investigation a la Call of Cthuhlu. It's weird. It's more of an expectation of being fed backstory revelations every few sessions or so, but I don't actually have a set up backstory. So it turns into a Czege Principle thing where the players who are interested in discovering this weird backstory are also making it up, which is unsatisfying.

In AW, this is a drive not really to see passionate characters in untenable situations, but to figure out the Apocalypse and the Psychic Maelstrom on a metalevel. Anyone else seen that?

I haven't seen this in AW, but I've definitely seen this drive in games.  I'm somewhat susceptible to it myself - I like that complex backstory and revelations, and am inclined towards putting that sort of thing into games I run where it's applicable.  (I hadn't thought about even trying that in AW, but I can see where it might occur to me, "Hrmm. Fleece is doing this, and Joe's Girl is doing this - It would totally make sense, and complicate things in an interesting way if it was revealed that Fleece was Joe's daughter…"  And I'm not sure if doing something like that works with MCing AW the way you're expected to in the text.

So that's one question.

But for me, the bigger question is where this 'drive to figure stuff out' falls into the conception of RPG theory, and how it might be usefully applied in design.  (I have some stuff I'm working on that it's somewhat applicable to, but it's also just interesting stuff.)

roleplaying theory, hardcore / Tactical Combat vs. Violent Conflict
« on: September 14, 2010, 06:57:11 PM »
'Nother split from the Agenda & GNS thread, also from Chris' post.  Man, a lot of food for thought in that one. (If this'd be better off in another part of the forum than Hardcore Theory, someone please move it.)

To use an actual example of this in AW, my group is composed of people who are friends first and a gaming group second. And we don't really share the same creative agenda. We're a mix of Story Now and Step On Up, in terms of preference and it kills our AW sessions sometimes.

Playing AW with a Step On Up mentality just destroys it, really. There's not really much of a challenge to the game, in those terms. "Solving" situations really comes down to the dice. Tactics and plans are fine, but execution is iffy, so playing that way is unsatifying.

Interestingly, it's not unsatisfying for the Step On Up players. They enjoy AW just as much. But having a Step On Up style of play crash into a few fronts results in ... problems and they're mostly problems for the players that like Story Now style situations.

So yeah, I've got a friend who's similar.  Had a conversation with him last weekend about how he really wants 'tactical combat' in a game, and how if that's not something that happens at least once a session, he feels let down.  He's pretty stoked about playing AW, but I'm not sure how that's going to work out - I get the feeling he's projecting something onto the game that may not be there. Not to say there isn't potential for interesting 'tactical combat' in AW, but it's going to be a rather different thing than say, Shadowrun or D&D3-4, and I mean different in that it actually has a different objective, not in that it has the same objective as combat in those games but gets there in a different way.

roleplaying theory, hardcore / Asking Provocative Questions
« on: August 29, 2010, 02:04:47 PM »
[Not sure if this is the appropriate place in the forums for this, but whatever, if it belongs somewhere else, someone please move it.]

Just an observation from using the 'Ask questions' technique last night in the game I'm MCing.  (Not AW, incidentally. It's applicable to a wide array of games.) (Also, I don't know that this is going to be some huge revelation to anyone else, but it was definitely a 'eureka' moment for me.)

Asking questions like this inverts a kind of exchange that's common in games. 

Normal version goes something like this: Player asks GM a question. GM, having never considered the question before, makes something up on the fly; not letting on that he just pulled this 'fact' out of thin air, GM answers with conviction and authority.  In many games, a HUGE number of 'things' in play get generated this way.

Now, in in AW, when the MC asks provocative questions, it's the player who answers, usually coming up with something on the spot.  What this means is that the impetus of filling in the world becomes a group thing, rather than being channeled through a single individual.

Also interesting to me was that noone seemed to notice the 'flip', or that they were directly contributing to the creation of setting, story, situation, etc... Maybe because there's already a precedent for the GM to query players - it it's what you're asking that makes a difference in this case.

Apocalypse World / Re: Extended Mediography
« on: August 29, 2010, 01:36:13 PM »
@ Jere: 'The End' is a fantastic suggestion for mood-/theme-music/soundtrack for play. One of those things that's just f'ing obvious, but only once it's been pointed out.

Apocalypse World / Re: Changing prep
« on: July 30, 2010, 02:15:51 PM »
I doubt there's a cut and dried answer for you, Simon, like 'Use a new move 40% of the time." or whatever.

The game is limited by the moves you have available. (That's not a bad thing, it just is.) Until you feel comfortable using the whole array of moves at your disposal, you don't have as many options to rock the game with. Once you get a handle on the full array of moves, you may find that your game rocks just fine using a smaller selection - or that the game rocks that much harder with additional moves.

On the other hand, you don't want the game to suck while you practice your new moves.  And unfortunately, I can't think of a way to 'woodshed' MC skills.

My thought would be to limit the amount of new material you're trying to get a handle on and break it into more easily managed bits.  You might try restricting yourself to just one or two Threat Types to start, or maybe limit the number of moves for a Threat type, and add more as you get the hang of it.

Like rather than putting all five threat types into play, limit yourself to just Brutes and Afflictions, or whatever, until you get those down. 
Or you could just use, I dunno, the first three moves available to the Threat, like Warlords would have these to start:
• Outflank someone, corner someone, encircle someone.
• Attack someone suddenly, directly, and very hard.
• Attack someone cautiously, holding reserves.. 
..but they wouldn't initially have access to the 'offer to negotiate' or try to 'buy out someone's allies' moves.

This isn't all that different from the way PCs get new moves as play progresses. The advancement is informal, so if you got to a point in play where you go, "The Warlord should totally make a show of force here!" then have 'em do so.  But by limiting your choices, you're not trying to take in the entire list of moves at once.

blood & guts / Re: the battlebabe
« on: July 22, 2010, 02:15:58 AM »
Regarding the 'Babe's sex move, Daniel Levine had this to say over at Storygames:

[It] means that s/he never has sex unless s/he wants to, for its own sake.

This is kinda what I was getting at, but more clearly stated.

Apocalypse World / Unexpected Reaction to AW
« on: July 19, 2010, 04:52:30 PM »
So I'm talking to someone about AW, and I say something about, "Now that I have the game, I really want to play this. But I bought it as much for the 'advice text'; Vx tends to be very clear and concise about procedures of play in his games."  I then go on to reference the following bit from AW:

"There are a million ways to GM games; Apocalypse World calls for one way in particular. This chapter is it. Follow these as rules. The whole rest of the game is built upon this."
       -Apocalypse World, p 108

Now, I like this approach; here's a game that actually does tell me how to run it, in simple and direct language, as opposed to some vague and generalized advice. ("Be fair, be knowledgeable, make it fun!" - Ok, great. HOW do I go about doing that?)

My friend's reaction however, was, "Wow! What an arrogant bastard that Baker guy must be! How can he possibly think there's just one best way to run that game and that's how he runs it?"

I didn't do a very good job of answering his questions - I felt like I'd have to start with  relating the entirety of the "System Matters" and "Story Now" essays just to continue the conversation...

blood & guts / Re: Do we have to have stats? Or basic moves?
« on: July 15, 2010, 12:31:01 AM »
Short answer? Stats are highlighted. Moves are not. It's important.

The modifier on stats gives you an incentive/decentive to take a certain tack when faced with a problem.  When you pick a specific stat line or improvement? That's you as a player saying, "I want to do this with this character." 

The 'mark XP when you roll a highlighted stat' also gives you an incentive/decentive to take a certain tack when faced with a problem.  The stat that someone highlights? That's someone else in the group saying, "I want to see you do this with this character."

Think about it. Long answer waits for later.

blood & guts / Re: the battlebabe
« on: July 12, 2010, 04:26:58 PM »
As far as options go, you can build a BB that can do 6-harm in one go  (Merciless+Custom Weaon: Big, High-powered Shotgun) from the start of the game.  You still have to 'play for positioning' to get the most out of it, and it's still probably more effective when used with Go Aggro (if you took Ice Cold) than a straight up Seize By Force, but that's a mighty big (boom)stick to back up your speaking softly, as you've got a decent chance of getting 7 or more, and "Suck it Up' is going to go down badly. 

Here's what I'm seeing: It's not that the Battlebabe is bad at combat - it's just that, as opposed to, say, the Gunlugger, her moves are not simple and direct.  Threaten violence and back it up if need be rather than go straight for the throat, for example.  Or play off yr Hot as well and offer em a choice: "Really good night? Or really bad night? Either way, it's gonna be memorable..." 

Yeah, it's gonna blow up in your face sometimes, but that's true of each and every move in each and every playbook.

the preapocalypse / Re: Folding Player Books
« on: July 12, 2010, 03:40:18 PM »
The argument for the playbooks is that they are a nice tactile prop when getting the game started: Dump the playbooks on the table and tell each of the players to pick one.  Everything they need to know to make characters and play is in the playbook, and the physicality of choosing one from the pile works to establish the conceit that they can't play 'redundant character types'  ("So Lem and I are gonna be Gunluggers, ok?"  "No, not ok." "Why not?" ...)

I expect most of my group will go to the John Harper sheets for keeping track of their characters once play starts though. 

As far as assembling them, #1 thing is to print on both sides of the paper. They're in a big o' PDF file of sequential pages and I couldn't auto collate the job on my printer, so this was a little tedious, but take the time to think about it and run a couple of draft copies to work out how to get everything to match up. 

I also scaled the pages to print at 90% so I'd have some gutters later.

Then cut 'em into 1/4 page cards and stack em up.  I used a paper guillotine, but you could use a straight edge and a knife or scissors, or whatever.  Sort/collate the cards, fold in the center so you have a booklet that's a rough 1/8 page size.  Staple the seam, then trim the edges for a neat booklet.  (If you scaled the page down, you'll end up trimming both the 'outside edge' opposite the binding, and the bottom edge.) 

If you hate doing crafty paper projects, yeah, you may not enjoy assembling the playbooks.  As far as the time the job takes, think of it as your prep for the first game and it'll seem more reasonable, particularly when you consider it's the only prep you need to do, and other people can help you do it.

If that's still too much, I've got some 'no cut' playbook layouts I can share. The original versions are much cleaner in the end though.

the preapocalypse / Re: the final PDFs
« on: July 12, 2010, 03:10:28 PM »
Cool. I'd made that line for authorial voice/implied setting rather than a typo. Glad it's unchanged.

blood & guts / Re: the battlebabe
« on: July 09, 2010, 02:29:13 PM »
@ Jeff : Yeah, I'm thinking along the same lines.  And I'm also not sure if this is something intentionally placed in the game, something that's there but not intentionally placed, or just something I'm projecting. 

I do have the feeling the game is going to get really good when players start letting the fiction influence the mechanics rather than the other way around.  It's still a cycle, but you're taking a different point to be the beginning/end.

As to the example characters from fiction, anyone have anything NOT from Firefly? Yeah, it's listed in the Mediography (alongside Princess Mononoke, et al) and I like Whedon's cartoon space western as much as the next person, but I'm not convinced that the inspirational connection between the playbooks and the characters on that show goes the way everyone seems to think it does.  Yeah, I can see how you could emulate the characters on the show using various playbooks, but I'm not sure those characters are conversely the sole or primary inspiration for the playbooks.

As an example, Jax on Sons Of Anarchy (which also makes the mediography) seems to be pretty much using the Battlebabe playbook, at least from what I've seen of the first season; Fairly badass, but uses Go Aggro or Seduce/Manipulate far more than Seize By Force.  But I don't really get the feeling that character inspired the playbook.

Thing is, I know the character type the Battlebabe represents pretty well, (and have played it a number of times in RPGs), but I'll be damned if I can point my finger at where it comes from, particularly within an apocalyptic frame of reference.

blood & guts / Re: the battlebabe
« on: July 08, 2010, 03:40:18 PM »
Six String Samurai is a fun film, but as Vincent's disavowed ever seeing it, it's not going to make the cut as far as influences.  By extension, I don't really feel like 6SS really maps very well to AW - the tone and themes are fairly different, IMO.

It does raise the question of what did inspire the Battlebabe.  I don't really see any characters from the works in the Immediate Media Influences that map all that closely. However, this may be more because of how characters and action are portrayed in film/TV; Nearly everyone is a good looking ass-kicker.  So the Battlebabe is kindof the archetypical protagonist in this sort of thing, although specific characters are often better represented using some other playbook.

Before the discussion of the Battlebabe's Special Move falls by the wayside, I'll posit this:  There isn't a specific mechanical impetus to engage in or abstain from sex for a Battlebabe or their partners.  As such, the character doesn't have a sex drive beyond whatever the player assigns to her, and whether they do it or don't do it is going to come from the fiction; basically the players have to decide when it happens solely because it makes sense to them and they want to do so.  (It's all happy-faces and clouds, no boxes involved…)

I can also see some situations where the Battlebabe's Special would contribute to generating triangles of conflict/interest with other PCs, alone, or in conjunction with NPCs.

I'm still not sure I get what Vincent's talking about with x-y-z axes though.

the preapocalypse / Re: Help me pitch sales?
« on: July 05, 2010, 03:46:05 PM »
I'm not sure the 'hollywood high concept elevator pitch' of 'it's like X with Y!' is the best way to approach this as you're selling to a prospective audience, not a prospective producer.

So that said, look at it like any other product:

1) What's the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) on AW? What makes AW different (and better!) than other RPGs, and specifically other RPGs with a post apocalyptic setting? What can you do with AW that you can't do with any other game? As a player, how's the AW experience unique and only available via AW?

2) Define the target market. In terms of their preferences, what elements does AW share with stuff they already like? This could be media (books, movies, TV shows etc..) other apocalyptic themed RPGs, an interest in indie games, or games authored by Vince Baker, whatever. Just map the connections.

Answer those two questions and you should have the elements to highlight to promote sales/interest when someone asks you about the game.

For me, I see: The game has an 'R Rating'.  It's by Vince Baker, author of Kill Puppies For Satan, Dogs in the Vineyard, In A Wicked Age, and Poison'd...   The playbooks definitely qualify as unique packaging, and totally remind me of the little pamphlets certain religious groups distributed at one time, specifically the Chic Tracts.  Mechanically, it reminds me a bit of 'Go' - it's simple to learn how to play, but actually playing reveals a complexity and depth that keeps things interesting.  ("The further you 'go', the deeper it gets.)

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