Going too far?

  • 14 Replies
  • 8267 Views
Going too far?
« on: January 05, 2013, 12:13:12 AM »
I'm thinking of doing something rather cruel next game but I fear I might be overstepping.  I thought I'd run it by you friendly forumers first.

We ended the last game with "And after that night everyone heals up and the city is relatively quiet ... until the gator attacks."

We also decided to start winding down the campaign (two or three more sessions). 

Anyway, my plan for next session is, instead of using history to highlight stats, I was going to have each player pick an NPC that is "important" to their character.  Then I'd pick one for that character too (using Hx as would be done with highlighting).

So then the four characters would have a stack of eight NPCs that are all important to them in some way. 

Then comes the cruel part:  I'd ask them each to pick an NPC from the stack that survives the gator attack. 

I want some of their cherished NPCs to meet their tragic ends to gear up for the upcoming climax and this seemed like a pretty good way to get their without forcing it too much.  Is that taking too much agency from them?  If your MC did this, would you hate or like it?

Thanks for any insight you can offer!

*

DWeird

  • 166
Re: Going too far?
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2013, 05:51:25 AM »
That sounds like giving too much agency to them. You basically want the players (and not their characters!) to be complicit in the murder of their favorite NPCs, without even being upfront about it.

You probably already know what their favorite NPCs are by now anyway. If you need to, kill them yourself. It's perfectly fine to - people die all the time in Apocalypse World. But it's your job to do it, not theirs.

Re: Going too far?
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2013, 06:13:49 AM »
I agree with DWeird. It also sort of ruins the surprise and shock value. If you have a good Idea which NPCs your characters are attached to, set your crosshairs on them now and kill them when the time is right or have them show up in the final body count. They're sure to know people are bound to die next session, so making them pick who sort of takes the fun and mystery out of it.

*

Arvid

  • 262
Re: Going too far?
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2013, 11:02:44 AM »
That sounds like giving too much agency to them. You basically want the players (and not their characters!) to be complicit in the murder of their favorite NPCs, without even being upfront about it.

You probably already know what their favorite NPCs are by now anyway. If you need to, kill them yourself. It's perfectly fine to - people die all the time in Apocalypse World. But it's your job to do it, not theirs.

Seconded. What I would do if I did something like this is writing start of session letters where the characters can make choices of what to do with their time, who or what to protect etc.

Re: Going too far?
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2013, 11:18:52 AM »
There's also the separate them move, then put it in the players' hands. Though separation is usually reserved for PCs, it could make the players choose who lives and who dies happen in-game and make more sense plot-wise.

Say, there's an evacuation group trying to flee while your violent types hold off the gator? Something happens to that fleeing group. Or something else attacks at the same time (baby gators? Someone tries to betray you?) and you can't fight both at once. Have the players divvy the NPCs and themselves that way (evac group, fighting group, maybe the Angel has some kind of mobile infirmary?), then make them choose.

I like what you're going for, but I would remind you of the principle of make your move, but misdirect.

Re: Going too far?
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2013, 11:21:44 AM »
I think that John Harper's article about "Crossing the line" has some importance here.

*

DWeird

  • 166
Re: Going too far?
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2013, 12:09:39 PM »
Yep, that's pretty much it.

Framing the question in terms of who the PCs choose to save is legit for AW.

Framing it in terms of which NPCs the PCs want not to die is not.

*

lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Going too far?
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2013, 01:32:13 PM »
That's a little strong!

David, it's legit by the book if you want to give it a try.

Nobody here knows how it will go.

If you do go with it, come back and tell us what happened!

-Vincent

*

noclue

  • 609
Re: Going too far?
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2013, 02:28:19 PM »
Vincent you're always so much more accepting than I am ;)
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

Re: Going too far?
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2013, 04:54:27 PM »
David, here's what I think is going on. A part of your brain thinks this is a great idea. Another part of your brain thinks it's a dumb idea, and this second part of your brain has come to the forums for reinforcements because it is losing.

So here they are: This is a dumb idea because...

a) If they're picking important NPCs, they're telling you who they want to interact with, have scenes with, and actually see in the game. If you then pick another NPC and ask them to choose between them, what do you think they are going to say? "Oh, MC, you're so totally right, I'd much rather my mom live than my sister, what was I thinking?" No, they will say "I just told you I wanted my sister in the game, I don't know why you had to invent my mom just to kill her."

b) Usually we play role-playing games to actually, y'know, play them, not trade NPCs like baseball cards. So if the gator is gonna come and rampage the holding and kill people, play it out! Just deciding some characters to die doesn't really have any impact. When it's actually part of a scene you're playing, and the dice crap out on you and things go bad, and something unexpected happens and maybe somebody does really well and saves a whole bunch of people--that's the good shit right there.

You see? That part of your brain was right after all. Or at least I agree with it and I can make an argument in favour of it.

However, there does seem to be a way you could repurpose this idea.

Draw the holding on a big piece of paper. Then have the players pick an NPC that is important and YOU place them on the map. Now we know where all of them are. Then you pick an NPC that is important to each character and the PLAYERS place each of them on the map. Eight NPCs, all on the map. Then you bring out a little toy gator and have it rampage across the map! Where will it go? Who will be caught in it's devastating path of destruction? What will the PCs do, and will they be able to stop it before it gets to grandma's house?!?

Re: Going too far?
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2013, 12:43:28 AM »
Wow, thanks for all the advice!  I didn't expect that such a quick and thorough response.  You folks are awesome.  

Anyway, yeah I think there's a consensus that this wouldn't be such a fun idea.  After reading through these during lunch today I've been trying to figure out what led me to that idea.  This might just derail my own topic, but I think my problem is that it's really hard to throw "adequate" challenges at my players here in the "late" game (I think we're on game 7 or 8).  

A couple games ago I asked the three players what they were trying to get out of the game and/or what they'd like to get out of it (this is the first "non-traditional" RPG for all of us).  Two of them said they just wanted to get to the violence and that all the character stuff wasn't important.  Not the response I would have hoped for, but not the end of the world either.  

The problem is that there's a nearly maxed out Gunlugger (with his own holding + gang), a Chopper (plus his second character, a Brainer turned Hoarder), and an Operator turned Maestro'd with his posse that might as well count as a third gang.  

We've been building toward a conflict with the neighboring holding, but I feel it won't be much of a climax (they took out a well armored gang lead by a tank without too much problem last game).  

Annnnyway.  Too long; didn't read--what are some good ways to deal with late game players that are itching for a fight and not so interested in their npc relationships (at least in a way that's clear to me) without "going too far?"  

Re: Going too far?
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2013, 11:46:35 AM »
...and not so interested in their npc relationships (at least in a way that's clear to me) without "going too far?"

I'll have to address this myself in my own game eventually, but one method I have heard here is to threaten the way they get the stuff they need to be badass. Ammunition, laborers, medics, scavengers: if the badasses in authority consistently throw their subordinates and residents under the bus, "little people" have a way of disrupting the workings that the big guys rely upon.

And even if you don't want to court insurrection, certainly this rival holding can bribe people, infiltrate, or win over some of the allies/resources/vendors that the rock stars rely on to be rock stars.

This isn't quite the same as taking away their toys. It threatens their toys, their abilities, etc., and makes it challenging for them to act to keep their toys.
"Above the tortured heavens
So full of silent waiting
Howl screams of birth and triumph
Unlock the faceless hating"

- Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets, "Ogdru Jahad"

*

noclue

  • 609
Re: Going too far?
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2013, 03:13:55 PM »
It's very hard to address this without much context. Is it cool with you to play a game that's all about violence and where the characters don't matter? Do the PCs really not need anyone in the setting? If they killed off everyone would it matter?
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

Re: Going too far?
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2013, 03:40:55 PM »
Hey friends,
First of all, thanks for all the advice a while ago.  I don't think I expressed that enough. 
A bit of an update: Thanks to the advice here I didn't go through with my plan.  The gator attack happened, but I ran it using the battle rules (as if it was a 3 armored large gang) and it turned out pretty interesting. 
We continued along (using a few other suggestions here, most notably the ammunition shortage, why didn't that occur to me sooner?) and last week we had our last game.  For the climax we ended up doing something similar to what I had in mind for the gator attack.   
Right before the battle I told the other players that once they hunkered down into their positions, if they wanted to move they had to cross off something from my mystery list (in addition to rolling as normal).  Whenever they took any amount of damage, they could negate it by crossing off something from my list.  If they every failed a roll during the battle, they had to cross off TWO things from my list.
They didn't know until they had reason to see it, but each line of this list had a good thing and a bad thing (or in two cases just a really good thing).  Bad things included various NPCs from the enemy side, various NPCs that had recently betrayed them, and really good things that they enemies had.  Good things included things like 1/3 of the combined gang (that was there three times of course), NPCs they really liked, and (my favorite) "your favorite limb."  The really good things were an NPC child ward of the gunlugger and an unrequited love of the Maestro'd. 
I think there were 10 or so lines altogether.  My favorite moment was when it came down to the ward, the love, and your favorite limb/[npc turncoat] and the Maestro'd failed a roll on the last round of the battle.  He took a long time before finally choosing to lose his arm and save the ward.  He narrated saving the girl (I should note that the gunlugger and maestro'd characters sort of hated each other, so this was all the more heroic) from a grenade or something, but exploding his arm in the process.  The game reflected the meta-game decision, it was pretty awesome.
After the game I asked if that list was ok, and the gunlugger and maestro'd really loved it.  The chopper was less enthusiastic about it (he lost all but one of this 30ish strong gang), but he said he liked it too. 
Anyway, sorry for that huge block of text, but I'm glad you talked me down from using this a while ago.  It seemed to work really well as a closing to a game though (although very modified from what I had in my the first time).
Thanks again!

Re: Going too far?
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2013, 10:27:28 PM »
What I want to say most of all is, thanks for sharing how it worked out. That's a pretty awesome way you reworked your original idea and I think you managed to do what you set out to do, while making the players enjoy it, too.

I might make a list like that... there are certainly a lot of times that the PCs might lose something or have it threatened.