Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)

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Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« on: September 14, 2010, 06:59:10 PM »
Split from the thread about Agenda & GNS, as this is totally tangental to the main topic of discussion in that (and that thread's basically closed). So...

Also, I've been thinking about where the mythology of shows like Lost and Battlestar Galactica meet GNS. I've seen situations where a lot of the player drive is centered on "figuring things out", but not necessarily on a mystery level of investigation a la Call of Cthuhlu. It's weird. It's more of an expectation of being fed backstory revelations every few sessions or so, but I don't actually have a set up backstory. So it turns into a Czege Principle thing where the players who are interested in discovering this weird backstory are also making it up, which is unsatisfying.

In AW, this is a drive not really to see passionate characters in untenable situations, but to figure out the Apocalypse and the Psychic Maelstrom on a metalevel. Anyone else seen that?


I haven't seen this in AW, but I've definitely seen this drive in games.  I'm somewhat susceptible to it myself - I like that complex backstory and revelations, and am inclined towards putting that sort of thing into games I run where it's applicable.  (I hadn't thought about even trying that in AW, but I can see where it might occur to me, "Hrmm. Fleece is doing this, and Joe's Girl is doing this - It would totally make sense, and complicate things in an interesting way if it was revealed that Fleece was Joe's daughter…"  And I'm not sure if doing something like that works with MCing AW the way you're expected to in the text.

So that's one question.

But for me, the bigger question is where this 'drive to figure stuff out' falls into the conception of RPG theory, and how it might be usefully applied in design.  (I have some stuff I'm working on that it's somewhat applicable to, but it's also just interesting stuff.)

Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2010, 07:41:02 AM »
This hits directly to the core of the game I am MC'ing now. (yeah, its not Apoc World, but i'm using pretty much the same MC principles etc).

I have a suspicion that some of this will come from the creation of fronts. When the MC makes these fronts he is making some decisions about the agenda of that front and its threats - You are partially making a backstory as you are making connections between threats.

The "drive to figure stuff out" is a very very important one (I feel). The majority of threats are not just the bunch of guys with guns - its trying to figure out "why are those guys with guns gunning for me" - the WHY of a situation is very important for the characters/players to base their decisions - hence the drive to figure out why.

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Chris

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Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2010, 01:05:02 PM »
I think it's a direct consequence of the maelstrom and the Weird. I'm not really talking about "Where did this chopper gang come from?". It's more like "Hey, this storm is talking to me and making me do things. I wonder what the history of it is and if it had anything to do with the apocalypse". Like these huge questions.

It's just like Lost or Battlestar Galactica. AW is a character drama with a backdrop of weird fuckery. With those shows, some people are watching for the character drama (the writers' intention with the show), but others just want to find out what the hell the smoke monster is or why Baltar is seeing those wacky head visions.

They're not really in the show; they're not really in the drama. They want answers, as a viewer. They're relating to the show as viewer to mythology, with the characters as a prohibitive element between them and the exposition dump that they're waiting for.

And I've seen it in AW. The player begins to use the character as a vehicle to explore the mythos, not as a way to explore the character through interesting, untenable situations.

As an MC, the response, at least for me, is to try to tie those situations to the mythos, but that's pretty unsatisfactory. The characters become broad strokes rather than nuanced individuals. Player focus is on the mythos.

It's a Creative Agenda problem, I'm just not sure where it lies. It's not Story Now and it's not Step On Up. It's not about "solving" the mystery or mythos. It's about getting the information, exploring this rich backstory that, in AW, the MC probably hasn't even created.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2010, 01:06:46 PM by Chris »
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 - "......"

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DannyK

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Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2010, 08:43:55 PM »
Chris, what does that look like in play?  Repeated brain openings to explore the maelstrom? Doing research to the exclusion of responding to the fronts?

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Chris

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Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2010, 07:35:14 AM »
Chris, what does that look like in play?  Repeated brain openings to explore the maelstrom? Doing research to the exclusion of responding to the fronts?

Yep to the first. Haven't seen formal research. It's an Agenda thing. The player's focus is not on their own character or the situations that come up; it's on the maelstrom.

In my game, I had a bunker that a player introduced into the game that got really Weird. And two players made that the focus of their play. "I gotta find out what's up with that freaky bunker!"

It didn't help that the whole game had already devolved into gamesmanship between me (the MC) and a player.

But yeah, I think that sometimes a desire to "figure out" the maelstrom in an investigative sense makes the focus of the game be on that knowledge. Without investigate mechanics it's entirely up to the MC to facilitate that. Which means that in order to make it interesting, you have to Lost it up and cockblock people from getting too much too fast while still making more the players are in a position, fictionally, to receive little bites.

I'd say to just dump it all exposition style and move on, but the player's enjoyment in the game is focused on this backstory. I feel obligated as an MC to make that interesting for them. But I don't think that the game supports that well. To make it interesting, you need this big backstory and you need these little moments of "here's another piece of the puzzle" that are, at the core, preplanned GM stories. You start getting into Illusive GM territory pretty quick.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2010, 07:38:08 AM by Chris »
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: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2010, 09:44:20 AM »
Chris, what does that look like in play?  Repeated brain openings to explore the maelstrom? Doing research to the exclusion of responding to the fronts?

Yep to the first. Haven't seen formal research. It's an Agenda thing. The player's focus is not on their own character or the situations that come up; it's on the maelstrom.

In my game, I had a bunker that a player introduced into the game that got really Weird. And two players made that the focus of their play. "I gotta find out what's up with that freaky bunker!"

I think Chris is talking about me. I was that player (I don't remember who the other player was that was interested in this... I thought it was just me. The only other person I remember even going into the bunker outside of trying to kill Colt was Poppy - and that was just because she wanted her nieces back and/or safe - it was a direct conflict with her character).

But, I don't see it as not putting the character in the untenable situation. My character, a hocus named Dust, well, his foundation was kind of tied directly to this maelstrom. There were clues dropped about the maelstrom and this lady who might be tied to it. The lady could actually clone herself somehow and had "infinite bodies" she could revert to. She literally killed herself in dangerous situations and "reappeared" later.

My character wanted to know how. I was exploring my character in the sense of his purpose in the world and relation this weird thing happening. If it were a countdown clock, where was this countdown going? What happens at midnight?

Nothing apparently.

When we finally went into the bunker, it was just a big mud puddle with no explanations or anything. It was quite clearly "nothing". I had opened my brain earlier and saw "scientific" equipment and tubes with bodies in them. That's what I expected.

The problem was, Colt wasn't real. She broke several of the MCs principles (make AW seem real, look through crosshairs at your NPCs).

This whole game devolved into a not-real session of gameplay that ended with two characters in another realm inside a bunker where nothing was real (literally) and a nuke, that had been planted on a monster truck, going off because one of the characters (the gamist mentioned) raped Colt, to which she responded, "Bring it on big boy!"
« Last Edit: September 17, 2010, 09:49:06 AM by Michael Pfaff »

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Chris

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Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2010, 11:21:04 AM »
Chris, what does that look like in play?  Repeated brain openings to explore the maelstrom? Doing research to the exclusion of responding to the fronts?

Yep to the first. Haven't seen formal research. It's an Agenda thing. The player's focus is not on their own character or the situations that come up; it's on the maelstrom.

In my game, I had a bunker that a player introduced into the game that got really Weird. And two players made that the focus of their play. "I gotta find out what's up with that freaky bunker!"

I think Chris is talking about me. I was that player (I don't remember who the other player was that was interested in this... I thought it was just me. The only other person I remember even going into the bunker outside of trying to kill Colt was Poppy - and that was just because she wanted her nieces back and/or safe - it was a direct conflict with her character).

But, I don't see it as not putting the character in the untenable situation. My character, a hocus named Dust, well, his foundation was kind of tied directly to this maelstrom. There were clues dropped about the maelstrom and this lady who might be tied to it. The lady could actually clone herself somehow and had "infinite bodies" she could revert to. She literally killed herself in dangerous situations and "reappeared" later.

My character wanted to know how. I was exploring my character in the sense of his purpose in the world and relation this weird thing happening. If it were a countdown clock, where was this countdown going? What happens at midnight?

Nothing apparently.

That's the point of the whole "Where does backstory mythology fit into CA" talk. The only situation was "Does Dust find out about what's in the bunker or not?" and it's not untenable at all. It's also not a situation AW is equipped to deal with at a mechanical level or one that I find interesting at a narrative level. It's just playing out me (the GM) giving this backstory I wrote up while I was at home to you (the player).

I did write up what's up with the bunker and it has a countdown clock. But nothing happened that advanced it. The countdown clocks really aren't designed as "Give out backstory at regular intervals.

The whole bunker thing was one of the players putting a bunker into the game with the sole hope that there was awesome stuff inside that they could later get.

But we've had the Step On Up/Story Now conflict discussions elsewhere.
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: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2010, 11:31:28 AM »
That's the point of the whole "Where does backstory mythology fit into CA" talk. The only situation was "Does Dust find out about what's in the bunker or not?" and it's not untenable at all. It's also not a situation AW is equipped to deal with at a mechanical level or one that I find interesting at a narrative level. It's just playing out me (the GM) giving this backstory I wrote up while I was at home to you (the player).

It wasn't a backstory. There was no backstory with Dust. I was playing it was it happened. Like, Shamrock showing up with strange markings all over her. It's just something that occurs, which I assumed had a countdown clock or something related to it.

And, "Does Dust find out about what's in the bunker or not?" was the only situation because that's the only thing that happened (the answer is, no, Dust didn't find out what happened in the bunker).

It's like if Rum is getting munitions from somewhere and my character wants to find out where those munitions are coming from. That's putting my character in an untenable situation because Rum may or may not be interested in divulging that information. There may be consequences for interfering with those resources, etc... etc...

The bunker seemed to indicate some sort of resource. There wasn't any. It was a big illusion. Therefore, no situation.

(Actually, technically there was a situation - that of Tutu, who was being held prisoner there. But, it was completely irrelevant to the whole "Colt mystery".)

Exploring the world should yield untenable situations, just by means of the dice mechanics. Like, me trying to open my brain in the bunker and it flatly not working. Instead, Colt saying, "Don't do that in here. Let's walk around and talk."

That wasn't my goal. I didn't want to "talk" about this weird mythos that was going on with the Red (the maelstrom) or whatever. It was simply a matter of finding out how this person was transferring her mind from body to body. I wanted to see AW real. It wasn't. It was an illusion. Fake. It was MC fiat to keep her alive and that's it (you've said this yourself), I just expected there to be an explanation at some point. There wasn't.

It'd be like if in the example above, finding out Rum got her munitions from a random "munition spawn point".

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Chris

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Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2010, 12:17:15 PM »
That's the point of the whole "Where does backstory mythology fit into CA" talk. The only situation was "Does Dust find out about what's in the bunker or not?" and it's not untenable at all. It's also not a situation AW is equipped to deal with at a mechanical level or one that I find interesting at a narrative level. It's just playing out me (the GM) giving this backstory I wrote up while I was at home to you (the player).

It wasn't a backstory. There was no backstory with Dust. I was playing it was it happened. Like, Shamrock showing up with strange markings all over her. It's just something that occurs, which I assumed had a countdown clock or something related to it.

No, the bunker's backstory.

Exploring the world should yield untenable situations, just by means of the dice mechanics. Like, me trying to open my brain in the bunker and it flatly not working. Instead, Colt saying, "Don't do that in here. Let's walk around and talk."

That wasn't my goal. I didn't want to "talk" about this weird mythos that was going on with the Red (the maelstrom) or whatever. It was simply a matter of finding out how this person was transferring her mind from body to body. I wanted to see AW real. It wasn't. It was an illusion. Fake.

Make AW seem real does not mean "realistic", it means "fictionally consistent". The things happening in the bunker were consistent. You opened your brain fine, it's just that the bunker was built solely to keep the maelstrom out.

The rest of it (the stuff where Tom and I got stupid) has already been talked about. Back to the mythos stuff.

And, "Does Dust find out about what's in the bunker or not?" was the only situation because that's the only thing that happened (the answer is, no, Dust didn't find out what happened in the bunker).

It's like if Rum is getting munitions from somewhere and my character wants to find out where those munitions are coming from. That's putting my character in an untenable situation because Rum may or may not be interested in divulging that information. There may be consequences for interfering with those resources, etc... etc...

Yeah, the stuff with Tutu was the situation. But here's the point of the whole thread. One player is in the midst of negotiating a deal with a possibly crazy woman to get her niece back when her niece is not entirely sure if she wants to go or not. Interesting. But then Tom shows up with the sole goal of figuring out the bunker and breaks the earlier, interesting situation so we can have a less interesting, entirely challenge-based one.

But as has been said earlier in the thread, I think that getting too involved in the mythos, which is essentially a GM backstory, is not really something that AW is good at.



« Last Edit: September 17, 2010, 12:21:54 PM by Chris »
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: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2010, 12:19:19 PM »
But as has been said earlier in the thread, I think that getting too involved in the mythos, which is essentially a GM backstory, is not really something that AW is good at.

Agreed.

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Chris

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Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2010, 09:56:46 PM »
A review from Amazon, on Lost. There may be Lost spoilers in there, but only realy, really light ones:

Quote
It's all about the characters?

Which is why millions of people communed on message boards and around water coolers across the nation, to discuss at great length and depth the characters of the show. There were so many theories and much, much speculation as to the state of Sun and Jin's marriage, and whether Jack would ever find reconciliation with his deceased father. Everyone wondered if Michael would ever find forgiveness in the eyes of his estranged son, Walt. Will Hurley ever find love again? Will Kate and Sawyer be able to escape their turbulent pasts? Will Sayid ever be able to forgive himself? Yes, these were the discussions taking place on message boards and around water coolers for the past 6 years. No, wait... I'm remembering that wrong.

I've loved Lost since it premiered in 2004. I've followed the show faithfully, which is why, even to this day, when I talk about Lost, I get pissed. Really pissed. Without "spoiling" anything, I will say this: What "answers" (and I use that term loosely... VERY loosely) the writers did give us were the kind of answers that parents give children who ask questions they either don't know the answer to, or are just too lazy to answer intelligently. But then again, what am I saying? This show was all about the characters.

This is a response to the producers of Lost saying that the show is about the characters, not the mythology and their resulting decision not to spend the last season doing 42 minute expository pieces to answer fan questions about the show and instead continued the formula of exploring the characters through interesting, and often weird, situations. I disagree with the response, but there you go.

I see AW like this and don't really want to get the above complaints from my players. Weird shit happens in the game. A lot of it. And I don't really want to play the moving shells mythology game as I string my players along because their main focus in on getting answers from me about the game. I try to tie the mythology stuff to the characters and use it to heighten drama, but it's gotta exist as a spice rather than the meal.

Anyone else getting any of this in their games?
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 - "......"

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lumpley

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Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2010, 10:28:25 PM »
I don't understand. When you find that a character's really intently pursuing the origins and history of the world's psychic maelstrom, which the game on purpose gives them some tools for, why don't you take ten minutes between sessions and decide about the origins and history of the world's psychic maelstrom? Then they can pursue it, and you can reveal it to them, and then play continues and they still have to decide what do I do now?

(Unlike Lost, where maybe they took those ten minutes, but if they did they sure never revealed it to ME.)

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Chris

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Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2010, 07:29:39 AM »
I don't understand. When you find that a character's really intently pursuing the origins and history of the world's psychic maelstrom, which the game on purpose gives them some tools for, why don't you take ten minutes between sessions and decide about the origins and history of the world's psychic maelstrom? Then they can pursue it, and you can reveal it to them, and then play continues and they still have to decide what do I do now?

(Unlike Lost, where maybe they took those ten minutes, but if they did they sure never revealed it to ME.)

I think it's because most people, if they were controlling the characters of Lost in a roleplaying game, wouldn't really develop those character interactions. I mean, the logical thing to do is to stop fighting and just figure out what the hell this smoke monster is. Like the weird island stuff is BIGGER than everyday life. It's not a ten minute thing. It's like the Lost producers getting tired of fan questions and just having the smoke monster sit down and explain everything in ten minutes.

Like I know the backstory to both the maelstrom and what's beyond it and what's inbetween. But it's not why I'm playing the game. But some players, the characters are just vehicles to get expositionary information. "What do I do now?" is "figure out more about the 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: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2010, 01:30:23 PM »
I've been tyring to think of something sensible to say about this thread, and I'm really not going to say much more than Vincent did:  So what?  Ok, you're playing to make for interesting intercharacter drama.  They are playing to find out about the world (or, as michael pointed out, playing a character interested in finding out more about the world).  So make interesting intercharacter drama out of them trying to find out more about the world.  Finding out why the psychic maelstrom IS interesting to me, so when my players start searching for it it makes for good story.

For the record, I would rather cut my own throat out than play an RPG that ended up like Lost.  Being told all of this stuff that threatened me and mine and made for all this interesting stuff was "just because" or "don't worry about it" is completely messed in the head.  But that's just my opinion.
My real name is Timo

Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2010, 05:28:42 AM »
And I don't really want to play the moving shells mythology game as I string my players along because their main focus in on getting answers from me about the game.

I'm kind of just adding a gloss to Vincent's response, but the part I am wondering about here is bolded. I don't know if I've missed it or what but there is nothing in what has been discussed so far that suggests you need to string anyone along. You can just give them the answers when they do things that get them the answers. And don't be stingy, and don't play any shell game: figure it out, then tell them. Then see what they do next.

I notice I have this impulse as well, not to reveal too much at once, to try to sidestep direct questions or put off player advances that would push me towards complete transparency on a particular plot point. This is a bad impulse, at least as it occurs in my own MCing. I should just tell them. If the game is forcing you to string them along because of some application of the mechanics or the principles, that's one thing -- but I don't really think you've made the case for players having this desire to be 'strung along'. That part seems to be coming from you -- what the players want is to find out.