[AP] MCing Front and Threats in other games.

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[AP] MCing Front and Threats in other games.
« on: September 05, 2010, 08:06:34 PM »
(note to lumpley: move this to appropriate forum if you think it necessary)

okiedokie.
To me the MC rules, fronts and threats, move and principles were all very new ways of doing things. I've always been trying to make up plots and stories and ytrying to fit in characters etc... When I played apoc world for the first time it was the easiest game i've ever GM''d, and the players jumped into their characters immediately - fun was had by all.

We just started a recent game, and everyone wanted to play a modern horror, in the same sort of feel as call of cthulu, hellboy, or constantine. As everyone is familiar with a different ruleset (nWoD for those interested) they wanted to make characters there, but as I was GMing I wanted to really stick as close as I could to the MC rules from Apoc World - and so the experiment has begun :)

I've kept the Agenda, Always say, Principles and Moves pretty much exactly the same - only that instad of "barf forth apocalyptica", I am going for "sow the seeds of doubt", making the world feel like there is always something else hidden, something other meaning to everything :)

The characrters were made with system rules, but I added in 3 things that were "move-like". We had starting 3 characters jumping in the experiment
Sam: beteen jobs secret agent man. Breaks into places, pretends to be other people, and always investigating (like a cross between Sherlock holmes and houdini).
Amelia: artist with a past - much like a brainer - she can find people's fears, open her mind to the strangeness of the world, and isn't afraid of anything.
Dersu: a shaman "fish out of water", who can read object's meaning, make connections really easily, and is a perfect physical specimen.

To start we wanted to have something strange and shocking to kick everything off, with Amelia waking up in a ice bath - with a phone next to her "call 911". From this moment i followed the principles - I had no idea of what was going on other than everyone wanted corruption in the city, dark occult forces at work, and conspiracies. Everything in the fiction was built off the answers and actions of the three players - the people they met were all names faces with motives:
  Andrew the night clerk at the hotel, who just wanted to stay awake and not deal with the hotel guests' strangeness.
  Dr Peter Chen the ER at the hospital who wanted a quiet shift but is horrified the organ thefts.
  Constables Petersson and Williams, the crooked cops who are being paid off to cover up the organ thefts, both living well above their means.
  Nurse Donadel, the wannabe doctor who seems to be supplying the surgical eqipment (and maybe performing surgery?)
  The unnamed lady that Amelia remembers, and has been spotted in photos with the police, and with a recent victim.

When the players were in a scene, I kep asking "what do you do", "why do you feel that way", "who else do you think is involved" - they would ask questions or state actions - roll the dice, and I would then give them answers based on their earlier questions.

I was amazed how well the method transferred from the almost "otherkind dice" method of resolution to the dice pool stat+ability methods.

I even used the "first session" worksheet. It actually worked out pretty awesome - whenever I named a NPC i plonked them down on where I though they might fit. and over time lots of arrows appeared, along with some places outside. Another difficulty was the threat types - they dont exactly fit in a modern occult horror, but they almost come close if you look at them at a weird angle...

The hardest part about filling out the 1st session sheet is asking - what scarcity does this npc represent? Often I had no idea of what threat they were until they had done some activity, but my first gut feeling was often pretty good. Here's what my sheet looks like. Next up over the week - classify these as Fronts and the custom moves :)

Hunger:
George McInnes [DICTATOR]
 - hungry for money and adulation
 - owner of many restaurants/nightclubs
owns -> The VanGough [Mirage] club
 - people are enticed and lulled into security here by "the Lady"
owns -> The Church [Breeding Pit]
 - ultra-exclusive nightclub.

Ignorance:
Constable Williams [Grotesque] young
 - Drug addict / party boy
 - also still a police officer (sanitized records??)
 - being paid off/protected by ???
 - nice house, strange sphinx door statue - occult? watchdog?
 - pictures with Tracy and "the Lady".  ::relationship???

Fear:
Red Collar Gang - Will the bartender
 -blue collar vigilartes [FAMILY]
 - concerned that crimes happening on their turf.
 - hate the "rich folk" living of them (literally??)
 - Dersu making friends with them

Paintings?? (maybe?) [PRISON]
 - paintings in various houses, made by local artists
 - contain occult symbolism
 - they whisper subliminally - control.
 - Who put them up?????
 - VanGough club, Constable Petersson's hosue,

Despair:
Dr Peter Chen [MUTANT????]
 - stuck in night shifts at hospital ER
 - sees the worst of humanity
 - it got worse - police covering up organ thefts
 - terrified, thefts must stop!

Envy:
Constable Petersson [COLLECTOR] old
 - sees criminal living high life, wants it himself
 - takes bribes (massive) to fund "finer life"
 - collector of antiques
 - his work record has been "sanitized" by ???
 - has phone no. of George McInnes

Michael Collins [????]
 - Agency friend of Sam
 - doing little things off record
 - byline: "you owe me now"

Ambition:
Nurse Tracy Donadel [SYBARITE]
 - wannabe doctor
 - poor, lots of medical books in apartment.
 - has a really rich boyfriend (who???)
 - visits "The Church"
 - works in hospital as candy striper,
 - gets her nervous when doctors argue about organ theft stories.
 - Who is paying her??? and for what???

Outside the ring I had a few others.
The Old Governor Hotel [FURNACE]
 - boutique 5 star.
 - Andrew the night shift clerk
 - 2 thefts were here.
 - staff covering up???

The Lady - [Disease vector or mirage]
 - the lure
 - was out with Amelia the night before
 - was out with athlete who had lung lobe stolen (pictures on phone camera)
 - photos with Const. Williams
 - who is she???


Organs being taken - regularly lunar cycle.
eye, lung, kidney.. what else?
people survive - good specimens.
 - athlete loose lung
 - health fanatic loose kidney
 - eye guy had 20/20 vision


Dark Presence [PAIN ADDICT?]
 - Dersu senses around hotel when recover Amelia.
 - Again in hospital w/lung athlete in recovery.
 - Talked to Amelia when in ice-bath??? Or something else?
 - watching, growling... animal?
 - Amelia's nightmares - Dragon/Worm chasing, trying to eat her?

Social network?
 - its not theft for money? Confirm/Deny??
 - everyone knows each other somehow.
 - high society vs blue collar?
 - victims have been poor/tourists/transients.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2010, 08:09:05 PM by Dionysus »

Re: [AP] MCing Front and Threats in other games.
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2010, 08:19:46 PM »
As far as I can see, MCing is exactly the right approach to GMing most of those White Wolf games, as well as Ars Magica. You've got the PCs as uneasy allies against a host of nebulous threats, and the GM's job is to stage-manage the threats against the PCs in such a way as to always give them something to do, and never let them quite get on top of everything.

A lot of White Wolf GMs already discovered this style, as I suspect Vincent did playing Ars Magica. What you could do to make the MC moves work even better for you is to make yourself a new set of threat types, and a new set of moves linked to those.

In terms of interacting with the nWoD ruleset, I think your only challenge is to make sure that when you're rolling dice, you're genuinely resolving conflicts in the fiction, rather than just resolving tasks, and leaving conflict resolution up to the GM. That's important to the "Play to find out what happens" agenda. If you're setting up the threats and also tacitly deciding when they're resolved, you're not playing to find out what happens, and you're giving yourself a much harder job.

The rules as written don't give you a lot of guidance on that issue, and I've found that individual groups vary widely in their use of the WoD rules. It may be that you're using the rules as a conflict resolution mechanic already.

A good discipline I used to get accustomed to resolving conflicts with the dice is to announce each and every time the consequences of a failed or successful roll before the dice hit the table. It's surprisingly hard to remember, but also very easy to do. Saying things like "The danger is..." or "If you win, you'll..." or "What's at stake is..." will help make sure you're resolving conflicts with the dice.


Re: [AP] MCing Front and Threats in other games.
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2010, 11:16:39 PM »
If you're setting up the threats and also tacitly deciding when they're resolved, you're not playing to find out what happens, and you're giving yourself a much harder job.

Isn't this exactly how Apocalypse World works?

I get the sense that your advice is NWoD-system-related, but I couldn't help but point out that AW is a task-based resolution system in which the GM both sets up threats and then tacitly decides when they are resolved. That the game makes this work is I think a testament to how the moves are structured and the way the PCs get to drive the action, even if they don't get to decide individual outcomes.

Re: [AP] MCing Front and Threats in other games.
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2010, 01:57:42 AM »
Not to derail the thread, but AW has an explicit conflict resolution system (as opposed to an implicit one - all games, in play, have a conflict resolution system).

Maybe start a new thread about it? I like talking about conflict resolution and task resolution.

Re: [AP] MCing Front and Threats in other games.
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2010, 06:20:58 AM »
As far as I can see, MCing is exactly the right approach to GMing most of those White Wolf games, as well as Ars Magica. You've got the PCs as uneasy allies against a host of nebulous threats, and the GM's job is to stage-manage the threats against the PCs in such a way as to always give them something to do, and never let them quite get on top of everything.

Thats what I had thought, but in the last games I played and ran, there was always a set story ready and waiting to be played. For example, one story was of the last grandchildren of a famous sniper coming back to the reading of his will, and being forced to deal with malevolent spirits - the story was that the grandfather had made a deal with an evil spirit, and it was coming to collect.
That was the story setup before the players even came to the table...
In this game, all we had coming to the table was the three characters, and that the first scene was "you wake up in a tub of ice-water". I had no idea of who or what was involved.

Quote
What you could do to make the MC moves work even better for you is to make yourself a new set of threat types, and a new set of moves linked to those.

I was thinking about that, and while the scarcity types work pretty well, the threats are maybe a bit iffy. The impulses are perfect though :) Just might rename the threat types. But honestly once I linked the NPC/Threat they actually became more clear in my mind - especially as to how they might act.

Quote
you're genuinely resolving conflicts in the fiction, rather than just resolving tasks, and leaving conflict resolution up to the GM. That's important to the "Play to find out what happens" agenda. If you're setting up the threats and also tacitly deciding when they're resolved, you're not playing to find out what happens, and you're giving yourself a much harder job.

Here i sorta disagree. I am explicitly NOT trying to resolve conflicts. At this point i didn't even know what the conflict are, I was just trying to describe the world, sow doubt amongst the players, make them paranoid basically. HOW i specifically did this was as so:

Scene, In the hospital, Amelia on bed, Sam at bedside. Just arrived from hotel where amelia woke up.
MC "What are you doing sam?"
Sam "Waiting for the police so we can file an assault charge"
MC - oh, police should be there... ok. "You wait about an hour, watching various injured people coming in. The room smells of alcohol, stale smoke from the clothes of the patients. Eventually a pair of police constables come wandering in. They look nervously around before they talk to a doctor. He points over toward you and they come introduce themselves..."

I go on for a while, we start chatting, The police are asking question about what happened, what amelia can remember. etc...

Sam "Hmm, I'm feeling suspicious, I'm watching how they behave," he rolls wits+empathy(+investigation) its his "sherlock holmes ability. 4 successes.

MC - hmm, so suspicion was justified, lets see what he sees...

Sam: Are they asking police-like questions? Taking notes?
MC: hmm, no. They seem to be almost leading amelia They are asking lots about wat she remembers from before.
Sam: ahh, so they are checking out if she remembers.
Amelia: I bet they are checking if I need to be dissappeared. When i'm talking I'm telling them I remember nothing"

So suddenly, there are police checking out that the victim remembers nothing. I now have constables Petersson and Williams who are, for some reason, checking if they need to "clean up" after the organ thief. I had no conflict in mind for the hospital, but the players pretty much set it up themselves. Like in Apoc World, if a bunch of people are in a room, and the player says "I am trying to read a charged situation" - that is now a charged situation.. as an MC i would be looking to see how I can make the NPCs act more tense and on edge.

Whenever my player is this MC'd nWoD game failed their rolls, then I made one of the moves - made them buy stuff (needing expensive tickets/gear to do something), announced badness (nightmares, phone call from the Doc saying there was another victim, etc), Separated them (loose sight of Dersu in the crowd at VanGough club)..

Basically, I was waiting to find out what the heck was going on as much as the players were.

Quote
A good discipline I used to get accustomed to resolving conflicts with the dice is to announce each and every time the consequences of a failed or successful roll before the dice hit the table. It's surprisingly hard to remember, but also very easy to do. Saying things like "The danger is..." or "If you win, you'll..." or "What's at stake is..." will help make sure you're resolving conflicts with the dice.

This is actually something I think I need to do more of. I wasn't explicitly saying to the players that, but they would be saying "i want to do X by doing ..." eg, We are driving to constable williams house, we are keeping an eye out to make sure no one is watching us. Sam's player already setup the stakes - high success they sneak there unobserved, low they spot that they are being watched, failure they dont notice they are observed sneaking.

I never ask them to roll anything unless there is something important at stake, but you are 100% right that I should make those stakes as I understand them even clearer :)

(although - I would not use the word conflict, but just set the stakes)

As I said earlier though - now how the heck to make sense of these various NPCs and questions and turn them into fronts... I'll probably give it a shot tonight - but its all percolating around my head at the moment.

Re: [AP] MCing Front and Threats in other games.
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2010, 10:58:46 AM »
Onto making fronts.

Thansk to Octoscott - i got to thinking about threats into the kind of horror they represent. It actually clarified things for me greatly.

Looking at all the various threats, there are 3 main groups
- the Corrupted who have crossed a line
   The gang, the nurse, the doctor, the police, the intel agent
- The Authorities who cause more trouble
   The owner, the "social group", the Lure
- The Hidden, supernatural issues
   The paintings, the dark presence.

Looking at them this way, in conjuction with the original fears/motivations makes some connections apparent that i'd missed before. This lets me makes some fronts (I hope)

I see
"The Authorities" - These are the various men and women who have been influenced by the occult powers. They try to eliminate all evidence of the Occult workings in the city
Cast: The 2 policemen, the Agent, The Hospital (The Paintings?)

"The Bloody Thieves" These are the people involved in the organ thefts and missing persons. They find victims, kidnap them and take parts - or take them to be sacrificed whole cloth (so to speak)
Cast: The Nurse, The Hotel, (The Dark Presence)

"The Frightened" These people have been affected by the occult, they want to strike back and warn others - panic and fear will spread and people will get hurt.
Cast: Red Collar Gang, The Doctor

Not 100% sure, but this does lend itself to some interesting thoughs :)

Re: [AP] MCing Front and Threats in other games.
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2010, 08:55:50 PM »
I've been toying with a Planescape-y Solar System hack, using MC moves to make that kind of city-based, highly political play easier to run.

What I did was organised a few different kinds of front. I'm still working on it, but here's two I've got:

Conspiracy:

A conspiracy is a group of threats working towards a common goal, concealed behind an apparent goal.

Choose a true motive for the conspiracy

Choose an apparent motive for the conspiracy

Choose a threat that is at the heart of the conspiracy - those that stand to gain from its true motive.

Choose two or more proxies for the Conspiracy. These are threats that may be motivated by the true or the apparent motive.

Mystery

A mystery is a linked series of threats that protect a secret. The secret is a source of power, either physical power, or political power.

Choose a secret, and how that secret gives the holder power. The secret is discovered when the inner sanctum is penetrated.

Choose an inner sanctum. This is a threat that holds the secret. They may use it or not. The inner sanctum is reached when the second tier is breached.

Choose a second tier. This is a threat that protects the inner sanctum. Maybe agents of that threat or else dupes. The second tier is reached when the public face is deeply investigated.

Choose one or more public faces. These are threats that represent the pbulicly-known effects of the secret. The public face is known to most or all people.


Are those useful to you? Do they make any sense? That's all taken from my rather dense notes to myself.

Re: [AP] MCing Front and Threats in other games.
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2010, 03:21:15 AM »
oooh!
Even better! :) Thanks Simon. Those are nice!