MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?

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MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« on: March 14, 2011, 09:48:22 AM »
I just MC'd my second session yesterday.  It remains fun.  I've identified some things I'm not doing well and need to -- most especially, I need to work on PC-NPC-PC triangles.

But the thing that's nagging at me is how to be fans of the PCs when they seem to be playing antagonists.  Has this been a problem for anyone else? 

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2011, 11:51:23 AM »
This is a fantastic question.

I don't have a definite answer for you, but I'm looking forward to others'.

I find it incredibly difficult to GM/MC any game where the protagonists seem more like antagonists. If I can't tell that they care about something, why bother?

(The anti-hero is a nice subversion of this, however: someone who we enjoy watching, who we root for even though they want and do bad things. Maybe there's some trick to making sure "bad" characters are on that side of the fence? Any writers out there with some advice? How do you make your audience care about a villain?)

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2011, 02:00:29 PM »
Thanks for the move, Vincent!
« Last Edit: March 14, 2011, 05:11:27 PM by Christopher Weeks »

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2011, 02:16:01 AM »
To answer the question: no, it's never been a problem for me to be a fan of a villain. In AW or anything else. I friggin' LOVE Darth Vader. And Boba Fett. And Spike. And The Terminator. And Moriarty.

I don't understand the problem.

(That's a lie. I know the problem. It's not that your PCs are villains. It's that they're boring.)

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2011, 06:56:26 AM »
Before Vader's redemption becomes a thing, you're watching Star Wars and you're in awe at the amazing bad-assery.  But you're totally not rooting for him to win.  Right?  Maybe I'm misunderstanding what being a fan is.

*

Chroma

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Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2011, 08:59:34 AM »
But the thing that's nagging at me is how to be fans of the PCs when they seem to be playing antagonists.  Has this been a problem for anyone else?

Could you explain how your players are being "antagonists"?  Have you talked directly to the players about your feelings about their characters or approaches?

In my AW game, I saw the direction one player was looking to take their gang in and I specifically said, "Could you tone down the rape." because it really wasn't a direction I could be a "fan" of if the character went that way.  That was purely a "meta" request and in-game/genre it would be completely "valid", but, as a player (as MC), it's not something I wanted to dig into.

The player was fine with it and went a different way and now I can still be a fan.
"If you get shot enough times, your body will actually build up immunity to bullets. The real trick lies in surviving the first dozen or so..."
-- Pope Nag, RPG.net - UNKNOWN ARMIES

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2011, 11:04:01 AM »
Could you explain how your players are being "antagonists"? Have you talked directly to the players about your feelings about their characters or approaches?

This just came up and I haven't talked to players.  I'm not even sure it's a thing I need to worry about.  I just wanted to toss it out and see what anyone else's experiences have been.

There are a variety of things characters have done that make then not entirely savory -- of course!  But, as a for-instance: when I was doing my first front-creation, I had a hard time categorizing one of my threat's type because she represents disrupting the hold's order by making things better.  The PC hardholder enforces a stifling, repressive regime and I find myself naturally empathizing with (a few) of the threats instead of the hardholder.  We stopped play on Sunday in the middle of a conflict between two PCs that might end peaceably or might escalate into a cataclysmic hold-destroying conflict.  I have an opinion on who ought* to win but I want to be disciplined in making AW seem real and stuff.

I'm not even sure if this makes sense the way I'm talking about it.

* "Ought" here means something like "would be more in keeping with sensible application of notions of human rights given the harsh world."

*

lumpley

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Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2011, 01:03:08 PM »
If it's not to the point of "hey, enough with the rape already," I wouldn't talk to the players about it at all. They're just doing what seems good, moment to moment.

Instead I'd ask the PCs questions like crazy. "So hardholder, it's pretty early in the morning one day. What do you have for breakfast? What do you hope for the future? What do you regret from yesterday?"

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2011, 02:14:06 PM »
Find out where the PCs humanity is and push on it as hard as you can. Use questions, use injections of new NPCs, use everything. Use love letters, too:

"Dear Bad-ass #1,
  You've been having those dreams again. Every time, you wake up shaking and filled with sadness and regret. Roll +sharp. On a 10+, one of the following is true. On a 7-9, two are true. On a miss, all are true:
 Someone around you looks more and more like the person in your dream - who is it?
 There are similar circumstances - what are they?
 You're very close to making the same mistake again - what are you going to do differently?"

Heck, make 'em find a big-eyed puppy.
 

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2011, 01:39:03 AM »
Sorry, I just realized when I said, "Your PCs are boring!" it might have seemed like an attack. Not my intent.

I just meant, when a character is interesting, I think it's easier to be a fan, regardless of their moral code. In my experience, it's when the characters become both vile and dull (one-note, shallow, cliche) that I start to have trouble staying a fan.

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2011, 05:44:48 PM »
This may be slightly off topic but it is a response to one of the questions that was posed in the course of the conversation.

As a writer, it really can be difficult to get your readers to care about villains. One technique that I have seen used quite often, when we (readers) are actually given any information about why it is that the villain is doing anything, is to give the villain a goal which is noble. Darth Vader, and the Sith as a whole, are a great example of this. They are attempting to bring peace and stability to the galaxy as a whole. Then once they have a noble goal, give then a really messed up way to go about doing it. The Sith want to bring order and peace to the galaxy, but they are doing it through the oppression of billions, the subjugation of dozens of species, and the murder of an entire class (the jedi).

This will bring people (readers and/or players) behind their cause, because it is a good one, but they will grind their teeth at the methods that are used. At a writer you can then turn the knife and justify the methods of baddie with a liberal sprinkling of "good guys" who force the hand of the baddie to the extremes that they (readers/players) are objecting to. 

These however, are tools that a writer has at their disposal, it can get much stickier when players are thrown into the mix. And this is really just an example of what John was saying. An interesting character is much easier to care about or be a fan of than a flat character.

Also, like it says in the book, give your characters hard choices. If you give your little totalitarian a choice that puts him in a position where either he has to go against his own policies or something potentially seriously bad could happen, he will have to make a hard choice. And at least then something interesting will happen, either way.

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2011, 05:58:09 PM »
Before Vader's redemption becomes a thing, you're watching Star Wars and you're in awe at the amazing bad-assery.  But you're totally not rooting for him to win.  Right?  Maybe I'm misunderstanding what being a fan is.
Ok, maybe I'm misunderstanding, too, but I don't think it's a mater of win-lose.

It's more like when you tune in to your favourite show each week and you're thinking "Oh, man, I wonder what trouble [protagonist] will get into this time!" or "Oh man, I wonder how [protagonist] will get out of that hurdle!" or whatever. You're tuning in because you're a fan, because you want to see what will happen, not because you want them to simply triumph unconditionally or fail miserably.

Ok, yeah, often you're watching something and you think "Jeez, [protagonist] is such a dickface, I hope he fucking dies." or something like that, but as a MC, I guess you should reserve that judgement, because it's not in your hands. You're still there to see what happens, not to moralize or play a judgemental god. I totally get how that can be hard to do. If the character is despicable, you just want him to get to a sticky end already.

(a flat or boring character is another thing)

By contrast, I think Poison'd has a much stronger self-destruction (or redemption) bent - I can be playing my pirate as an absolutely disgusting fuck and everyone at the table is like "man, your pirate is such a disgusting fuck", and I'm like "shit, I know, he's horrible!". And we can all just kinda hang back and observe how the character takes on a life of its own and (usually) march straight into hell. AW is looser than that (and it doesn't really have damnation/atonement mechanics of any kind), but it still happens.

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2011, 09:57:10 AM »
Meg:

Quote
Find out where the PCs humanity is and push on it as hard as you can. Use questions, use injections of new NPCs, use everything.

Meg, you do this rather well in our own AW game Appalachia, Windmills, Treehouses.

None of our characters are inherently wicked, but grossly incompatible worldviews often put us at odds.  It becomes easy to identify with each PC, because they in turn embody a certain way of confronting the post-apocalypse:

Barbecue: Things need to be kept in working order and running for our own individual holding.  Some day we'll be able to eat better food again.  Little else matters.

Hooch: My gang needs to be of a good size with solid working components, and I'm the only one who can keep them in line.  Anything beyond unswerving loyalty to me means injury or death.

October: The Moulin Noir must provide a haven of civilization beyond the rough and tumble of Hooch and Barbecue's jurisdictions.  It may just provide the key to us all finding intimacy again.

Burroughs:  Human brains are just too interesting in their present form to let the Maelstrom devour them.  They must be studied and preserved.

So Meg's not just a fan of the characters whom we play, but the competing worldviews that they represent.  We've now got a bright young boy (Nash) who might be devoured by Hooch's gang, a simmering love affair between Hooch and Burroughs that might disrupt their mutual respect of each other, Barbecue attending a woman's study group to find out if she's sowing revolt against Burroughs, and October stoking anti-Hooch sentiment throughout the holding in order to keep his ambitions in check.

Neither are our character's worldviews illegitimate, nor are anybody else's.  This gray area makes for excellent play overall.

Gregor:

Quote
we can all just kinda hang back and observe how the character takes on a life of its own and (usually) march straight into hell.

Poison'd is a system mostly designed for one-shots or short campaigns, right?  It's much easier to be a fan of a total bastard over the short-term than over the long-term.

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2011, 08:27:24 PM »
Hmm... the term 'antagonist' can be very vague, for some.  If they're doing things that you personally are emotionally uncomfortable with in a role-playing game, then the above posters who said 'hey, talk to your players' has the right idea.  If they're doing things that you think are bad and wrong, then it's time to disclaim some decision-making!

Empathizing with the NPCs?  Look at 'em through crosshairs.  If the hardholder is creating a stifling, oppressive regime, then the holding is going to take on a dreary, desperate vibe.  Maybe the holding's gang starts making examples of people who stay out after curfew- they're being proactive, as it were, about the hardholder's plans here.  Gangs, as well as holdings, have this funny way of getting out of control... Is the hardholder making leadership checks to deal with the fallout of their policies?  Who's going to rise up when the hardholder eventually blows a leadership roll?  Whose ambition threatens the PCs?

Honestly, some of the characters in Apocalypse World are some morally murky folks, and when they make hard choices, bad things happen.  Find a way to make it interesting.  I'd warn you against trying to impose notions of 'human rights' into a post-apocalyptic scenario; rights are something protected by laws, and there's kind of a scarcity of those in Apocalypse World.  That might be interesting- what happens to hardholders who run oppressive regimes when there's no laws or notions of human rights to stop them?

Re: MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2011, 10:00:29 AM »
* "Ought" here means something like "would be more in keeping with sensible application of notions of human rights given the harsh world."

I've not had this problem, to answer your question directly.  My inclination is to talk out the characters "path" but I think that's not in AWs nature (aside from lines and veils).

Is the issue that you'd be disappointed if they succeed?

In putting my NPCs under the cross-hairs I give them opportunities to choose their lives or the life of an NPC all the time. We're pretty adept psychologically at managing blood opera and "appreciating" someone doing something awful, understanding that it is awful. I had a PC in a BW game circle up a little girl with a name and everything just so he could feed her to a zombie he'd raised.

My question would be are the players acting under stress or are they trying to play someone without morals (worse yet mitigating any empathy with the doomed NPCs by just abusing them).  If they are doing awful stuff because they feel the pressure of a harsh reality and are reacting to it, awesome.  The latter would annoy me and could be seen as breaking the spirit of AW (like the KoDT character that mad a illiterate character so he couldn't read the books).

-Don