Why make everyone a threat?

  • 5 Replies
Why make everyone a threat?
« on: June 14, 2010, 12:33:09 PM »
Why does every NPC get listed as a threat? I dig it, but I'm not sure I see why. Is that an aspect of the system, or an inevitability of the setting?



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Re: Why make everyone a threat?
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2010, 03:34:32 PM »
Great question! I'm not sure I can explain it.

I think it's an aspect of the system. I mean, I think it's just an essential part of the approach to GMing that I'm calling "the MC." Your relationship with the PCs as protagonists, via your NPCs.

Calling them "threats" and categorizing them and organizing them into fronts is all just Apocalypse World, whatever. But any game with an MC is going to treat NPCs this way, I think, probably.

It's super significant that the exceptions -- allies, from the ungiven future -- demand that you fundamentally change your view of them, as MC. Also super significant that allies come alongside Apocalypse World-shaking changes in the PCs' reach and capabilities. They signal the approaching end of the game.

...That doesn't seem very coherent to me, I'm pretty much stabbing. Ask more if you want!


Re: Why make everyone a threat?
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2010, 04:33:30 PM »
I dunno if Vx means it this way, but I'm reading "threat" as "people in your life who don't do exactly what you want them to because they have their own pesky wants and needs" and not "dudes you have to fight." They threaten the easiness of your life. They threaten its boringness.

Not every movie/show/story sets people up like that.

Like, with the above, Inara would be a threat, but Chewbacca wouldn't. Chewie doesn't really have much agency. He grumbles a little when Han doesn't rush to attack the Death Star, but he doesn't get in Han's way. Inara causes all kinds of trouble for Mal.

It's worth noting that Chewbacca and Inara do have things in common, right Vincent? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
"I don't care what Wilson says." -- some slanderous bastard on the internet

Re: Why make everyone a threat?
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2010, 02:53:22 AM »
Yeah, what Matt said.

I'm working on an MC game now that doesn't cast every NPC as a threat (Dead Weight). It's an experiment to see what happens, not a confident manifesto.

My gut says AW got it right already.



  • 10
Re: Why make everyone a threat?
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2010, 01:11:37 PM »
Vincent and Matt have it, but as well as the rock-hard division between Allies and Threats, I think it's also worth noting that threats aren't all the same, but rather fall into a couple of different tiers of danger and organization:

  • Threats who are part of Front--an organized and complicated danger which threatens the existence of the holding.
  • Threats on the Home Front--problematic and a danger to individuals, but not working against you in a coherent way.
  • Threats who are part of your crew or gang, with motivations that generally fit with your own--actually usually on your side, but with the potential to change their mind. (Formally, these are also listed in one of the two above categories--usually the home front.)

And of course, the moment when characters are reclassified in these groups is immensely important.  (It doesn't have to be only up the scale, either.)  In a game about loyalty and survival this set-up helps the MC--only the MC, because s/he's misdirecting as usual--to keep in mind the dangerous and unstable setting of the game (make it seem real, make their lives not boring) and not fall into the habit of forgetting that NPCs have their own motivations and interests. It's only in the context of this uncertainty that real self-sacrificing loyalty becomes meaningful.

Re: Why make everyone a threat?
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2010, 09:35:43 AM »
As a player, I've found that knowing I can't rock-solid trust *anyone* is right on the line between awesome and paranoia-inducing, in a good way. If I know that any NPC I encounter has an agenda, is part of something that I don't even know about, I interact with that PNC in a more complex way. In many games, NPCs show up for very flat reasons - to get shot, to impart info, to make the set look nice, etc, etc. In ApW, I may not know the reasons for the NPCs actions, but I know they exist. I also really like the moment when I figure something out about an NPC - "Aha! That was totally a Family:Close Ranks move! Now I have a (little tiny) key into that NPC."