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Topics - Ariel

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Apocalypse World / PC-NPC-PC triangles.
« on: July 05, 2010, 04:57:37 AM »
I couldn't quite imagine how this worked in play until John did it right in front of me and I thought to myself 'Well, no shit. That's easy and awesome.' So I've been doing that in my new AW game (session two was this evening) with every NPC.

What Vx doesn't tell you is that this quickly becomes NPC-PC-NPC-NPC-PC-PC-NPC... networks. Which is to say, relationship webs and maps. Maps that are easy to manage, organic, compelling and self-propelling. I've draw relationship maps as prep for play but this PC-NPC-PC triangle stuff generates them organically and intuitively during play. The PC engage with them on their own terms and for their own reasons without having to carrot or stick them.

Moreover, it generates the best kind of conflict, once shunned by RPGs in general, inter-player dramatic conflict. Because the PCs are always split by NPCs they can engage with the other players as equal participants rather than a kind of hive mind versus the GM.

It's late and my having trouble articulating just what I mean but it seems that the other PCs are the real threats in AW. A PC, mechanically speaking, can take pretty much any NPC with relative ease. When the PCs are unified against an NPC, it's never an issue. If there isn't a coherent front against the MC and the NPCs (which is to say that the PCs are against each other) compelling drama and role-playing happens. This seems to be because the players have to confront each other, as players and characters, like two actors on a stage. The MC merely directs, writes and sees to the technical matters. The real challenge and fire is in the acting (not to dismiss stagecraft). That's what see go there to see.

Looking back at when I ran AW at GPNW, this vital component was missing, as it has been in most of my GMing / MCing career. I walked away from that slot feeling like I had failed at running it. I would say that three of the four players had a great time and were hooked on AW but I felt like it was a weak session. It's because I didn't have any PC-NPC-PC triangles.

I mean, it's right there in the book: Separate them.

Eschaton / New stats, stats renamed, more basic moves.
« on: June 27, 2010, 04:02:10 AM »
The stats look like this:

Cool becomes Cold
Sharp stays Sharp
Hot becomes Lust
Hard becomes Rage
Weird becomes Ruin
And you get a new one Mantle (was Status.)

Add these to the standard Basic moves, drop the open your brain.

Roll +mantle whenever you demand obedience according to your station.

On a 10+, they fall in line.

On a 7-9, they fall in line, but the MC chooses one:

You've lost face in the eyes of you peers
The loyalty of those below you is shaken
Those above you doubt your ability to govern
It breeds contempt
You don't have jurisdiction is this instance, so it'll cost you

On a miss, they don't owe you a blessed thing.

Roll +mantle Whenever you invoke an ancient contract. On a 10+ pick 3. On a 7-9 pick 2.

You know a secret clause or loophole
The cost is not dear or is easily fulfilled
The sanctions aren't severe
The penalties for a breach are not high
You know all that's expected of you

On a miss, you invoked the wrong deal, sucker.

To be clear: clauses are special circumstances that you can exploit to make the rest of the contract less of a burden, or future invocations easier or more beneficial. Basically, it lets you hold one 'yes, but...' or a slight renegotiation. Costs are the things you have to do or sacrifice to keep you end of the deal. Sanctions are things you cannot do or must have (the inverse of costs). Penalties are the shit that rains down when you weasel out on or breach your contract. I know it seems somewhat complicated but that's kinda the idea.  

Roll +cold whenever you take something by cunning, or effect clever plans to keep it. On a 10+ pick 3. On a 7-9 pick 2.

You take absolute hold of it
Your enemy is unawares or surprised
You're not implicated
The effects are long lasting or far reaching

Roll +lust whenever you seek to know someone's desires. On a 10+ hold 3. On a 7-9, hold 2. Spend 1 to ask 1.

Who do they love?
What are their public ambitions?
What are their private wants and needs?
Who do they resent or what do they despise?
Where are they at, or in what state would you find them?

Roll +ruin when you commit sorcery.

Roll +ruin when you consort with the umbra.


Questions, comments and concerns are always welcome. The more feedback the better this becomes.

Eschaton / New AW Playbooks!
« on: June 24, 2010, 04:50:53 AM »
Um, so Bulwark is kinda on hold until I get my shit together. By that I mean, Ima write four* new AW playbooks. And when the .pdf's are all hot and shit, I'll start working on other stuff. Baby steps. I mean, the way I'm thinking about Bulwark is to not even have playbooks and just make everything real modular. Because, honestly, that way I can tailor the 'playbooks' to the people sitting at my table. So, really all I need is three of them for Bulwark.

The thing is if I can write good playbooks for AW then I can probably hack shit for something else. I don't know.

Here's the list of titles at the moment:

The Ghost
The Big Juju (cough*faceless*cough)
The Lovers (two starting characters! omfg!)
The Doll

Ima do the thing Bret did x4 maybe tomorrow morning or something.

Love and kisses,

Eschaton / Stat renaming
« on: June 22, 2010, 02:19:44 AM »
Given the Bulwark as context, if the Brainer wasn't called a Brainer but a Heart Eater then +weird wasn't called +weird but ... ?

Apocalypse World / Be the fuckery you want to see in the world.
« on: June 20, 2010, 02:58:43 AM »
That would be my advice to players of AW.

That's what came to me walking back to my lodgings after Harper's game.

Be the fuckery.

brainstorming & development / Of Dark Pacts and Death Spirals.
« on: June 17, 2010, 05:35:04 AM »
Me and Jeff were talking about these ideas we had for a kind of Death Spiral for both WH40K and Bulwark.

The last bits from the WH40K thread:

Orly: I don't see the "madness meter" as a player Move, or even so much as a parallel Harm meter but as a micro-Front. So that the custom moves, countdown clock and description are all compressed into one thing. While the player is getting a few extra moves, it should be constantly providing opportunities for the MC to make hard moves and advance the fiction.

What I like about it is that each PC becomes a Front in their own right. Both to themselves and to the other PCs. Mechanically it's all out in the open but it's more hidden in the fiction. I think it could create the right kind of tension with the group.

Then Jeff said: That would also be an excellent way to run a "dark pact", I think. Make a custom move for the threat (the demon the character strikes a deal with) that provides advantages to the player in exchange for advancing the front, and allow the front to tick forward descriptively as well (like the character does something wicked and evil).

I wanna talk about this mirco-Front dark pact thing more, but I'm pretty exhausted at the moment.

Questions, comments and concerns are invited!

Ima grok it some more first.

Eschaton / New Stat: Status
« on: June 15, 2010, 07:49:47 AM »

Roll +status whenever you demand service or respect according to your station or standing.

   On a 10+, they totally fall in line.

   On a 7-9, they fall in line, but you or the MC choose one:
  • You've lost face in the eyes of you peers
  • The loyalty of those below you is shaken
  • Those above you doubt your ability to govern
  • It breeds contempt
  • You don't have jurisdiction is this instance, so it'll cost you

   On a miss, they don't owe you shit.

Roll +status whenever you enter into a contract, pledge or covenant. One's word and name are all one is. As such, these are metaphysically binding. Breaking them begets fuckery.

   On a 10+, there are loopholes or clauses in your favour

   On a 7-9, it's binding

   On a miss, there are loopholes or clauses that are definitely not in your favour

Also, based on your status score, you'll have a small number of mostly loyal attendants, serfs, slaves, concubines, handmaidens, wards &c. Somewhere between 0-10. Not quite a gang in the Chopper sense but a number of useful NPCs the PCs will be responsible for.

The ideal came to be when reading some commentary on Genji's Tale, wherein when a courtier was doing something sneaky or private and thus going it 'alone' he'd have at least two or three attendants with him. TWO OR THREE. My list of names is going to be huge.

This might be a strata thing and not a stat in it's own right but I feel that if the PCs want a group bigger than 10 or so, they can pick up the Chopper, Hocus or Hardholder kits.

Eschaton / Shit son, I'm working on stuff.
« on: June 15, 2010, 07:30:37 AM »
Yep. Basically, Bulwark is taking all those half-baked axioms in dungeon-punk games like D&D, L5R and other stuff besides seriously. It's not going for some kinda Harn-esque realism but I'll say it again: for every instance of EPIC replace with GRITTY MAGICAL (SUR)REALISM. I have some ideas for the setting, it's ontology and social structure but they're less important. That's like the details of the apocalypse in AW it's more or less important. Shit's built to drift. Monster, magic, castes and clergy; these things have social and political ramifications. By way of example: if you can heal people pretty well with magic (especial disease and such) you'd have a population explosion. Also, slavery was pretty much they way of things for a long time. I don't mean that particular racialized brand of American slavery that came into being sometime in the 1700s but something more ancient and feudal. As a medieval studies prof once put it to me: everyone lived in varying degrees of un-freedom.  That's not in D&D. Moreover, where is the sympathetic magic and the kinds of metaphysics and ontologies that don't assume a germ theory of contagion or vital humors and demons aren't the best way to understand how the body works.

It's the kind of setting and hack that asks what if you had a bunch of attendants, a healing potion, a sword, few charms, and there were demons and worse trying tear apart your little bit of terra firma? What if they was just enough good health and food but not enough space and too many people? What about those people at the edges of the map about to fall off into the darkest abyss? What would you do and how much blood and fire and black powder would it take for you to quit?

On the outside it's all demons and monsters and bleakness and on the inside it's all crowds and slavery and hopelessness. You're not really sure where one starts and the other ends.

That's kinda how I see Bulwark.

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