Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...

  • 10 Replies
Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...
« on: July 07, 2010, 11:06:56 AM »
What do you think the MC moves look like?

What do you think the types of front are?

You mentioned that fronts aren't going to be quite the conscious antagonists that AW has; will there be both malevolent and exploratory fronts? Or are you turning down the malevolence to a low hum?

Re: Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2010, 12:52:03 PM »
Sure, here are some preliminary ideas.


Fundamentals: Instead of an Underlying Scarcity, fronts in Firmament are based on the Big Sky Mind, drawn from this Forge post from 2002. Basically, humans react to the crazy weirdness of floating through space in a number of different ways and each front is based on a certain type of reaction.

Indecision -- so many possibilities of what to do, how do you decide?
Smallness -- feel so insignificant in the face of the stars
Rapture -- total awe of the vast glory of the stars, starstruck
Shock -- complete inability to deal with or comprehend the stars
Terror -- uncontrollable dread, fight or flight
Rejection -- seeks out other "better" explanations for what you experience
Replacement -- comes up with a conspiracy theory or other explanation
Fantasy -- believes it all to be a dream or illusion, refuses to accept consequences
Rage -- channels feelings into anger at a certain person or thing
Zealotry -- takes up a specific cause to keep your mind off things
Apathy -- feigns indifference
Hubris -- god-complex, believes oneself to be special, egotism
Rooting -- limits oneself to acting within a certain sphere, focusing tightly, controlling
Normality -- pretends that nothing's changed, going on with life as usual
Suicide -- decides that death is the only possible response
Gluttony -- drinks deep of experience, insatiably wants more

This list will probably be refined in play and made more useful.  Basically, when creating a Front you either have it be something that ancient humans or contemporary NPCs do/did that came out of this reaction or attempt to press PCs with a reaction mind.  Doesn't mean the PCs will react that way -- in fact, they probably won't -- but it gives you some direction as MC.

Mysteries: Threats are replaced by Mysteries, which can be locations, situations, NPCs, etc.  There are definitely different types, hmm.

- Turmoil: NPCs creating drama from within the community
- the Lost: NPCs creating drama from outside the community
- A Great Project: someone has a plan and is seeing help to enact it
- Corruption: the darkness is coming (through its agents), and soon
- Birth: a baby is born in the stars or will be born soon
- Xeno: You encounter something that may or may not be alive, a crystal growth, an eerie glow, a humming noise

Remnants and Ruins
- An Unfinished Project: Something stopped the ancients from completing this
- A Partially Destroyed Project: The remains of an ancient wonder
- A Pandora: An ancient trap or situation better off left alone
- A Dormant Thing of Power: Something that needs to be awakened
- A Corrupted Wonder: Ruins given over to the Darkness
- A Tool: You have no idea what it does

- A Dead End Trail: An ancient road that suddenly stops
- A Signpost: "DO NOT ENTER" is a good one, but there are others
- Glory Road: Supposedly a stop on the way to an ancient capitol, Paradise, or Earth
- A Broken Chain: Several pieces of a now unlinked road
- A Darkened Road: a path offered to and accepted by The Darkness
- An Unmarked Trail: You may have a map, but this is the wilderness
- A Great Leap: A sign that points to another galaxy, WTF?!

Stars and Starlight
- Transformation: a star is about to face a big change, like going nova
- Memories: ancient forbearer have left impressions within a star
- Spelunking: you find signs that there may be ruins or even people inside a star
- Fading Away: an entire beacon chain is failing, why?
- The Lighthouse: you can sense a beacon (small and near? huge and far?) but don't know how to get there

Those are just some ideas.  They're a little too focused on the character types right now, but I think others will develop during play.

I need to come up with specific moves for these mysteries too (like the threat moves), but for now you can probably extrapolate.

Mysteries have Countdowns, Agendas / Dark Futures, Custom Moves, Stakes, and a Cast (though this includes things, not just characters) as normal.  At least for now.

Remember too that the real drama is between PCs and between PCs-NPCs.  The mysteries are cool, but they're merely a platform for the characters to do their thing.  Uncovering them is not the purpose of play, just the structure of it.  And as in AW, the MC should be wondering about mysteries, not having clear answers to them.

Re: Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2010, 01:06:15 PM »
Some other stuff.  I'm not sure about Agendas yet, so I'm skipping those.


- Barf forth astronomica
- Address yourself to the characters
- Make your move, but misdirect
- Look through the Darkness' eyes (what needs to be extinguished?)
- Make human contact precious and scarce
- Ask questions
- Respond with despair mixed with glimmers of hope
- Root for the PCs

MC Moves (pretty much the same list, except I'm unsure about Harm, so far)

- SEPARATE THEM (use early and often)
- Put someone in a spot
- Announce off-screen badness
- Announce future badness
- Take away their stuff
- Make them buy
- Activate their stuff's downside
- Tell them the consequences and ask
- Offer an opportunity, with or without a cost
- Turn their move back on them
- Develop a mystery (aka make a threat move)

Re: Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2010, 01:16:05 PM »
On malevolence...

Fronts in Firmament are definitely not out to get you, except in the sense that the Darkness is out to get you and everything is potentially (and eventually?) a tool of the Darkness, plus the MC is looking at everything through the Darkness' eyes.  So in that sense, yes, malevolence.

However, mysteries are things you wonder about, so they are not -- at least by default -- always aggressive and targeted at the PCs interests.  You have to kinda of follow what's happening with them and how PCs and NPCs interact with them to see how they're going to play out.

Like, if the PCs stumble upon an ancient library, with stacks of stone tablets whose inscriptions have been burned away by focused light (an Astronomer move), the MC can wonder "I wonder why these tablets were destroyed" rather than knowing that already.  But, over time, you could discover that these tablets contained an epic poem written from the point of view of the Darkness or directions down a long road that supposedly leads back to Earth.  The product of wondering is not always malevolent, but certainly can be, if that makes sense.

Another good wonder, by the way, might be something like "I wonder where they quarried this stone" which sets up a future location.  Actually, ANNOUNCE ANOTHER FRONT might be a good MC Move in the view of Announce Future/Offscreen Badness.

Re: Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2010, 02:14:20 PM »
Hey, I feel like I can MC this already! These feel really meaty to me as they are written. You're probably right, they just need to be focused a bit.

So if I'm assembling a front in FotF, I start with a front, say zealotry. It appears in my game as an abandoned world with a weird temple, stones tumbled and burned. Now if FotF, NPCs are scarce, but mysterious are not. So I put some mysteries in my front. One is An Unfinished Project: the ancients didn't finish destroying the temple! Another one is Birth: writings in the temple talk of the birth of a chosen harbinger, and one of the community is pregnant and near term.

Now the MC says "I wonder why the ancients were so keen to destroy the temple? I wonder if the new baby is the prophesied one?"

I'm curious about the "I wonder". It sounds like you're saying that the MC should be syaing "I wonder" a lot. Is wondering here the FotF equivalent of announce future badness? Is this a flag to tell the PCs that this is what they should try to figure out? Or is the MC saying that this is an open question that doesn't have an answer yet? Maybe either/or?

Re: Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2010, 02:22:14 PM »
I like your temple, Tony!  I'm thinking that the "I wonder" statements are things the MC says TO THEMSELVES, writing them down in their notes for the Front, not things you say out loud to the players.  They're a bit like the Stakes in AW Fronts, I think, and basically just remind the MC to not have fixed answers to the mysteries all planned out.  Maybe the baby is the chosen one, but maybe not. You can only find out through play.

Re: Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2010, 02:53:05 AM »
As a note mostly to myself...

The threats above are very Archaeologist-focused which is really only one part of the game as it exists in my head.  Ancient corrupted ruins are just the easiest and most obvious thing to think of in terms of Fronts.  It's harder for me to conceptualize the other stuff in the game as Fronts -- Astronomers talking to the stars, Cartographers mapping out the unknown reaches, Architects trying to hold the community together -- and I'm still trying to figure out if that's even going to work.  It's possible that those are better modeled as gigs or something, rather than Fronts, but it means the MC's responsibilities may be less Front-focused in Firmament than they normally are in AW?  Not sure.  Fronts may be something that you pursue when the players trigger them, but otherwise you tend to use Separate Them or focus on their gigs rather than always looking for ways to advance your Fronts.

So, not really a change in form from standard AW, but more a change in emphasis: which moves you reach for more often, which responsibilities you hammer harder on.

Re: Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2010, 08:25:54 AM »
Astronomer-focused fronts:

Strangely-colored beacons leading into the darkness; no one knows who put them there.

An impossible planet orbiting a black hole.

An EXTREMELY attractive NPC who just wants to go home.

Rumors— fairy tales?— of an entire group of people, travelers who keep to themselves, on a holding that orbits The Star That Moves.

Cartographer fronts:

A man is selling maps to new stars. Are the maps real, or do they just lead to bandits?

The cartographer leads the group to a new planet. They spend the night; in the morning, all of the cartographer's beacons are extinguished. What happened?

Something is after the group because of a thing of power they retrieved: the group will have to split up. It's the cartographer's job to lead the Something away.

See also The Star That Moves.

Architectural fronts:

There's a small band of travelers. One of them murdered another. No one knows who.

The travelers visit an entropy planet, that makes everything decay. It is rich in natural resources, but clues to the planet's sinister nature are well-worn and nearly gone. Meanwhile, the travelers start to bicker..

Basically, any time the MC uses Separate Them, it's like creating an Architectural front, right?

Re: Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2010, 02:52:58 AM »
I like there.  There's also this thing that I'm trying to wrap my head around, which is creating Fronts that allow for those quiet moments, where you just sit and stare at an impossible vista or find just the right spot and decide to carve something out of the landscape.  Like, there should be things that are worth doing that aren't just about survival or chasing after things, where the GM isn't pushing or leading quite the same way they are with standard Fronts.

Maybe everyone has a Workspace-like thing, a project that they are pursuing just for the hell of it (and maybe for XP).

People getting separated isn't just the Architect's problem.  After all, Cartographers are the least likely to get lost, Astronomers can sense an individual's inner light at close range, and Archaeologists are the best at spotting physical signs that a human has been somewhere.  Good luck coordinating rescue efforts across millions of lightyears, though.

Re: Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2010, 12:27:54 AM »

Without (I think) a very firm grasp on your vision for the game, I will nonetheless say that I like the idea of the stars or celestial entities themselves becoming fronts, and displaying some sort of usually-indirect agency. In fact (though I don't think this is your game at all) I could easily imagine a game where all the humanoid threat types were simply mapped directly onto stars or comets or asteroid belts. A warlord red dwarf, a plague-bearing comet, etc.

I guess I am hoping to see more ways of introducing Fronts that do not involve any other human NPCs, or significant community interaction. But maybe that is the opposite of the direction the game is meant to go? Based on the initial description I imagined that there was like, the PCs, and most of them saw another human being like once per session or once per two sessions.

Re: Let's say you're MCing Fingers on the Firmament...
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2010, 01:49:29 PM »
No, you're totally right, Daniel. Part of what will make the hack feel super lonely is having Fronts and core issues that have nothing to do with other people and in fact pull you away from them.  Ruins are part of that, definitely, but they're still man-made.

But there should still be ways to model, say, a Cartographer's impulse to map the unknown heavens.  Last night I played a Hocus for the first time and really liked how Fortunes is a more complex version of the gig rules.  Something that like, which a Cartographer could invoke multiple times a session rather than just at the beginning... that could be really cool.