The Maelstrom Demands To Know

  • 8 Replies
The Maelstrom Demands To Know
« on: September 16, 2012, 10:18:01 AM »
Hey All,

I'm trying to brainstorm some questions the Maelstrom might ask my players on missed rolls for different moves (ie the Skinner's move, Lost).

The brainer questions all work great. A couple of others I came up with are:

Who do you love most?
What decision do you regret?
What are you hiding from Dremmer? (or any PC or NPC that the fiction may demand)

I'd love to see what other people have come up with!

Re: The Maelstrom Demands To Know
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2012, 07:37:06 PM »
One guy opened his brain to locate his shotgun which he'd been separated from. It seemed natural for the Maelstrom to ask "whom do you most regret killing with that shotgun?"

Another time the Maelstrom asked the Hocus "what are you most ashamed of?"

In both cases the answers were really excellent. I should get in gear on my AP thread.

Someday I want to ask "what secret thing do you do that would ruin you if people found out? Why can't you stop doing it?"

I save the answers to these questions so that when someone opens their brain and rolls 7-9, I can just reveal another PC's dark secret. I try to pick the most troublesome one for the opener to know. It depends on the circumstances.

Re: The Maelstrom Demands To Know
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2012, 11:27:53 PM »

It's important to consider the character of the Maelstrom in your game. The Maelstrom doesn't just pick questions out of a hat: it wants to know things. It has a reason for wanting to know particular kinds of things, even if it's just a particular sort of curiousity. Ideally, though, it wants to do something with the answers. It is, after all, a threat with a particular agenda.

One of my favourite Maelstrom questions, from a beta/playtest game of AW, went like this:

MC: So that place you came from [that you've described before] before you were here... who was it there that you trusted most?

PC: Uh, I guess it was [so and so]... [some reasons for why that is].

MC: Okay. As you think about [so and so] you realize that actually, there was someone else, someone you trusted more... but you've forgotten about them.

I was neither the PC nor the MC in question, but when this went down my excitement and apprehension about Opening My Brain went up several notches. I immediately had a sense of the Maelstrom as a separate thing, something with its own needs and also its own power. Opening My Brain was not a one-way street, where I just sort of get some information and la dee da. Sometimes there were going to be costs, and they weren't always going to be obvious.

So, I would suggest thinking about not only questions, but what the Maelstrom is going to do with those answers. It doesn't always have to be something immediate or obvious, like in the above example, and it doesn't have to be something bad either, but The Maelstrom is asking for a reason. Think about ways to make those reasons consequential, and (eventually) evident.

Re: The Maelstrom Demands To Know
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2012, 11:32:38 PM »

Please note also that in the example, even though the response of the Maesltrom to the question is destructive to the PC, it is not destructive to the fiction. We hadn't heard anything about [so and so] OR the unknown other person the PC actually trusted more prior to this interaction. Part of what makes it such a great question/response is that it invents something evocative on behalf of the PC, hints at its existence, then takes it away. It creates a very particular sort of loss that operates in this bizarre semi-meta-space between the player and the character.

It also hints at future badness -- this was not a missed roll, after all, but now the groundwork is certainly set for a missed roll in the future taking away something 'real' (i.e. already in the fiction), or otherwise fucking with our PCs' knowledge of it.

Re: The Maelstrom Demands To Know
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2012, 12:19:43 AM »
That is pretty dang awesome.

On the other hand, I've never felt deprived for not having a clear idea of the character of the Maelstrom. I've never been at a loss for good questions to ask with a Maelstrom lacking a defined agenda. I suppose I could describe it has having an impulse, to learn about the PCs, and perhaps an agenda may develop in play, but I've never started with one.

I suppose I'll try it your way in my next game and see how it fits. I could easily imagine a Maelstrom with the agenda "push everyone towards extremism," for example.

Questions that then come to mind: "When have you backed down when you should have stood up for yourself?" and "When has a compromise come back to haunt you?"

Re: The Maelstrom Demands To Know
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2012, 08:17:06 PM »
Thanks for the feedback, great stuff!

I've been prompting my players to describe the Maelstrom, so I'm starting to figure its intentions out based on that. My savvy head sees the maelstrom as a jungle, green and alive, something she's never seen in real life. My maestro d' sees it as a reminder of the loss he's suffered of the few people he's dared to love. My angel is a little... removed. He sees it as a happy dancing flower in a field surrounded by static. I think Life, Loss, and Chaos are the driving forces at play.

Do you usually list the maelstrom as a threat? I guess It could be an affliction in this case: Condition or Sacrifice?



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Re: The Maelstrom Demands To Know
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2012, 10:25:22 PM »
Do you usually list the maelstrom as a threat? I guess It could be an affliction in this case: Condition or Sacrifice?

I've had the Maelstrom as a complete Front at times, depending on its strengths and desires and abilities, so it can really depend.

My favourite questions from the Maelstrom:  "What was the last thing your dying lover said to you?"  followed by, "And how do you feel about not being able to remember that?"  Was some deep stuff!
"If you get shot enough times, your body will actually build up immunity to bullets. The real trick lies in surviving the first dozen or so..."

Re: The Maelstrom Demands To Know
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2012, 12:55:39 AM »
I'd definitely recommend listing it somewhere as a threat, yeah. It may not turn out to be that important -- it depends a lot on how interested the PCs are in the Maelstrom -- but if nothing else it is going to help the MC envision the character of the Maelstrom. Or, in the case where they are following the PC's lead, it will help them crystalize/get their dirty fingerprints all over it.

As for what sort of threat it might be, it could be any of them, right? A Landscape -> Maze is going to be a very different sort of Maelstrom than a Warlord -> Collector or a Grotesque -> Pain Addict.

Re: The Maelstrom Demands To Know
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2012, 12:20:38 PM »
This wasn't a question asked by the maelstrom so much as how the maelstrom itself developed in the first game I ran:

The maelstrom turned out to be a rainstorm that covered everything, a deluge.  Opening your brain just let you see that it was raining.  But each raindrop was a memory from someone somewhere in the world.  Sometimes they were your own memories, sometimes they were other people's.  You could be washed away in memories and find your sense of self eroded by other people's selves intruding on your own, or you could learn new things as they happened by experiencing someone else's memory of it.  But my favorite moment came when someone missed a roll and our faceless volunteered his own memories of the horrifyingly abusive cult in which he had grown up.  We learned more of his back story, and the gunlugger who experienced this grew much closer to the faceless as a result.

I don't want to copy the maelstrom from one game to another, but I really miss that one.  Having other players volunteer defining moments of their lives (good or bad) and share them with the group so that someone else could experience them first hand... it was awesome.