Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat

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Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« on: June 04, 2011, 05:40:45 AM »
Good idea or not?

I've got this brainer in the game I'm MCing who's really into exploring the whole thing. I'm thinking I'd make the whole thing a threat, or even a front. The maelstrom makes a wicked landscape.

Now, the problem I might have is

Quote from: Apocalypse World, p. 136
Creating a front means making decisions about backstory and about NPC motivations. Real decisions, binding ones, that call for creativity, attention and care.

...and I'm not sure "binding" the maelstrom to anything would be a good idea. The maelstrom is interesting and useful because it's proteiform and maleable. I fear making it into a full fledged threat might kill that.

So, anyone did it or thought about it ? Pros, cons ?
« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 08:33:19 AM by gregpogor »

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Chris

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Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2011, 08:50:02 AM »
I think it has to be.

A better, longer, more personal answer:

In my experience, detailed in lots of other places on this board, I only get into trouble with AW when I try to keep the Physic Maelstrom as this unknowable thing. I have a similar desire to not want to nail the Maelstrom down into an answer and it's just turned out to be frustrating for my players every time.

The line? In some games, the players are pushing towards finding out what the maelstrom is. This happened in a game I ran for Mike P and others. He wanted to explore the Maelstrom and I wanted to keep it vague, at least to start. I was "doing it wrong". He got frustrated with me being evasive, but I had to be evasive because I hadn't nailed the Maelstrom down to anything. It was a bad idea.

In other games, I nail the Maelstrom down and the PCs simply aren't the type to care about it. I've got a driver, an operator, and a gunlugger and to them, the Maelstrom's just some fucked up thing that other people get into. But in both, the Maelstrom is a threat.

So. That's all just a really long way of saying: "Is your Maelstrom a threat, to the PCs or others? Then it's a Threat. Is it not a threat to the PCs or others? Then it probably should be, because it's the fucking Maelstrom." :)
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2011, 09:30:13 AM »
So. That's all just a really long way of saying: "Is your Maelstrom a threat, to the PCs or others? Then it's a Threat. Is it not a threat to the PCs or others? Then it probably should be, because it's the fucking Maelstrom." :)

Fuck you're right. Okay, my maelstrom's a landscape: fortress. I don't know what it's denying access to but it's huge, let's say: "the truth" for now. It expresses fear, because no one but the brainer want to have anything with it around the table.

For the cast, I'll see. Maybe dead people only, that'd be fun. It has access to information - which means that, due to scarcity, nobody else fully does.

Doing it right ? I don't want to figure it out yet, and I want my brainer to have input, but at least I've got something to work with.

Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2011, 03:31:31 PM »
In the games I've played, the Psychic Maelstrom is usually a Front, actually, but sometimes it manifests as a Threat in specific circumstances.

In the game Tony Dowler ran, for example, the Psychic Maelstrom was the ghost of the past, which we could reach through playing rock music.  When our Hocus-led band played "Helter Skelter," we used augury to accidentally summon Charles Manson into our apocalyptic future. Charlie became a specific Threat (I think, since I wasn't running it), but he manifested from the Maelstrom.

Likewise, in my current game, the Maelstrom is related to the restless echoes of everyone who died in the apocalypse.  That's all we know at this point, but those echoes have already manifested in a number of ways, driving at least one member of the quarantine's stasis insane, haunting our faceless and now our quarantine too, and making our touchstone crazy until she learned to control the voices in her head.  Those are all threats, potentially, that are related to the Maelstrom as a front. 

Then again, when people use augury or other moves  (open your brain, healing touch, visions of death, etc.) to interface with the Maelstorm, sometimes the Maelstrom acts as a threat and makes threat moves when they fail.

Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2011, 05:19:52 PM »
Every significant thing with agency that isn't a PC is a Threat (or a whole Front, as Jaywalt says). So, yes, the psychic maelstrom, too.

In my games, it's been a threat on the home front, a threat in a different front, and a front of its own. Oh, and a threat that I never wrote up specifically (I do that a lot).

Making it a Landscape: Fortress sounds awesome.

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lumpley

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Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2011, 08:53:00 PM »
It can also be part of the cast of a threat, or part of the casts of more than one threat. It can also be a weapon.

I think that keeping the world's psychic maelstrom perpetually undefined will be counter to your agendas and principles practically every time you play. Sooner or later, in practically every game, you'll have to decide and commit to some concrete explanation, or history, or something for it.

Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2011, 11:58:29 PM »
In the games I've played, the Psychic Maelstrom is usually a Front, actually, but sometimes it manifests as a Threat in specific circumstances.

In the game Tony Dowler ran, for example, the Psychic Maelstrom was the ghost of the past, which we could reach through playing rock music.  When our Hocus-led band played "Helter Skelter," we used augury to accidentally summon Charles Manson into our apocalyptic future. Charlie became a specific Threat (I think, since I wasn't running it), but he manifested from the Maelstrom.

Likewise, in my current game, the Maelstrom is related to the restless echoes of everyone who died in the apocalypse.  That's all we know at this point, but those echoes have already manifested in a number of ways, driving at least one member of the quarantine's stasis insane, haunting our faceless and now our quarantine too, and making our touchstone crazy until she learned to control the voices in her head.  Those are all threats, potentially, that are related to the Maelstrom as a front. 

Then again, when people use augury or other moves  (open your brain, healing touch, visions of death, etc.) to interface with the Maelstorm, sometimes the Maelstrom acts as a threat and makes threat moves when they fail.

That is so cool and very similar to how I imagine the psychic maelstrom.
I see it as a massive wound in the world's psychosphere caused by the death of so many sentient beings at once, kind of like a world wide mass haunting that every living person is psychically plugged into.

Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2011, 03:17:00 AM »
Yeah, before my current game started, I kinda decided in my head what the Maelstrom would be like (ghostly echoes of some kind), but kept it flexible enough so I could see what the players did and how they interacted with it. Once it became clear that it was driving people crazy (psi-harm, since we had a quarantine) it began to take shape and then, the past session, when people started using augury, things got clearer real quick.

Good call on casts and weapons, Vincent. I'll have to think more about that.  People in the games I've played have definitely used the Maelstrom to gain the fictional positioning needed to make otherwise impossible moves.  Like opening your brain or using augury and then moving from there to do something else, like reaching into somebody else's mind or seizing control of crazy weird tech or something.

Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2011, 10:27:10 PM »

The Psychic Maelstrom is my Follower.

The Psychic Maelstrom wants to shut down my Maestro D's brothel.

The Psychic Maelstrom is a Grotesque named Rolfball.

Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2011, 05:14:12 AM »
I think that keeping the world's psychic maelstrom perpetually undefined will be counter to your agendas and principles practically every time you play. Sooner or later, in practically every game, you'll have to decide and commit to some concrete explanation, or history, or something for it.

That would have been good to know in the book! (he said, trying not to sound like a jerk)

Anyway, in the first game I MCed, the maelstrom was super-vague & undefined & only towards the end did I define it for myself as something less vague like, "all the souls that died in the Apocalypse, floating in psychic space." It didn't really play a large part in the game, and my less vague description of it didn't come up in a meaningful way.

I realized on my own that that keeping it vague was problematic (just because it didn't seem to be anything, and I wanted it to be something), and in the game I'm MCing now I came up with a fairly concrete definition up-front (for myself). But I never even thought of the possibility of making it a Threat! Or a Front! Maybe I should do. But for now, I feel on solid ground with what I've got. Maybe it'll get solider.

Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2011, 05:19:28 AM »
Yeah, before my current game started, I kinda decided in my head what the Maelstrom would be like (ghostly echoes of some kind), but kept it flexible enough so I could see what the players did and how they interacted with it. Once it became clear that it was driving people crazy (psi-harm, since we had a quarantine) it began to take shape and then, the past session, when people started using augury, things got clearer real quick.

Good call. To me this says, "when people interact with the maelstrom, it should gradually become clearer what it is." That's super helpful. Though the PCs have been using Augury in our game since session 1 (that Hocus never seems to roll less than 10 on his Fortunes).

I think I need to cultivate a voice for my maelstrom.

Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2011, 10:48:57 AM »
It can also be part of the cast of a threat, or part of the casts of more than one threat. It can also be a weapon.

I think that keeping the world's psychic maelstrom perpetually undefined will be counter to your agendas and principles practically every time you play. Sooner or later, in practically every game, you'll have to decide and commit to some concrete explanation, or history, or something for it.

So where's the line between writing into a the fiction as a Front/Threat and allowing the players to define it in play by exploration? Actually writing it up feels like I'm violating the 'Play to See What Happens' principle.

I have some ideas about what the Maelstrom is and why it's like it is in our 'Super-Apocalypse' game, but I fear that setting that stuff down too concretely shuts down (or just really restricts) the players' chances at exploring it at their own pace.

Honestly, based on my reading of the book, it hadn't even occurred to me that I could use 'The Maelstrom' as a threat or even a Front. I'd love to see more specific examples of how people are doing this in their games! (And for anyone on here who is in 'Decimation City', be ready for a spoiler or two, maybe, as we talk about this, and maybe skip over my posts!)

-JC

Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2011, 12:55:47 PM »
So where's the line between writing into a the fiction as a Front/Threat and allowing the players to define it in play by exploration? Actually writing it up feels like I'm violating the 'Play to See What Happens' principle.
It seems to me that what a front is, and what happens, are totally different. I mean, if writing up the Maelstrom violated the 'Play to See What Happens' principle, wouldn't writing up any front violate that principle in the same way? I don't think it does, though, because you can nail down all kinds of concrete details about the setting without driving the story towards particular outcomes.

I have some ideas about what the Maelstrom is and why it's like it is in our 'Super-Apocalypse' game, but I fear that setting that stuff down too concretely shuts down (or just really restricts) the players' chances at exploring it at their own pace.
Why do you say that? Why couldn't they explore it at their own pace, whether or not it is nailed down?

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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2011, 01:09:58 PM »
You can nail it down upfront, or you can nail it down only as the PCs dig into it - either's fine, it's all to whether you prefer to decide in advance or improvise it.

What you can't do is resist the PCs' efforts to dig into it because you're trying to keep it undefined.

Re: Turning the world's psychic maelstrom into a threat
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2011, 01:47:30 PM »
You can nail it down upfront, or you can nail it down only as the PCs dig into it - either's fine, it's all to whether you prefer to decide in advance or improvise it.

What you can't do is resist the PCs' efforts to dig into it because you're trying to keep it undefined.

So, if I go with the idea that it is the potential energy of the 90% of life on Earth that was erased from existence by the Anti-Life Equation, but don't decide exactly what that looks like, or how exactly you can fix it, I'm good?

That's cool, I think maybe I got caught up in the notion that the Maelstrom is a piece of the setting that's explicitly undefined. You guys are saying that yeah, it starts play that way, opaque to the PCs, but that doesn't mean the MC can't have notions, or even a concrete idea, of what it represents and how it affects the world, what it wants, etc, I just can't arbitrarily styimie any of the PCs' efforts to look into it (or force them in that direction if they don't find it interesting.) Right?

Part of my disconnect may be the practice in both long-term games I've been in (one as a player, the other as MC) to have the PCs each describe what the Maelstrom looks like to them. In play, that's made it feel like I shouldn't (as MC) push a particular interpretation. But it sounds like I can know what it means, and what it wants, but that it's totally OK for each PC to interface with it in a way they think is cool. I just need to do a bit of shoehorning to work those individual interpretations into the overall thrust of it.

-JC
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 04:15:57 PM by Jim Crocker »