Intro and beginner questions

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Intro and beginner questions
« on: October 17, 2012, 02:37:10 PM »
Hey guys! I'm new here, and looking for some help.

First, an intro to my campaign:

I was introduced to AW just month ago when I sponsored the Tremulus kickstarter, and got impatient waiting for my Tremulus PDF to be delivered. So when I discovered that AW was a very similar game, I figured I'd pick it up and take a look, so I'd know what to eventually expect. Then I fell in love with the idea, so a couple weeks ago when my friday night RPG group was discussing options of what to play (our two current DMs were both unavailable) I pulled out the pile of playbooks I'd printed that morning and dropped them on the table with a note of "here's something new to try, doesn't require any real prep ahead of time, won't hurt to give it a shot, right?". The first session started off great, no real issues with character creation (it's fast and clean of course), and in the course of figuring out their Hx values the group crafted an elaborate backstory for their characters and their history. The small "prompts" that they were given as choices seemed to flow really well into this detailed narrative, and I was really happy with how it turned out. We've been gaming together for about 20 years, but most of the time tend to get caught up more in cool game mechanics (story comes second, when we remember about it), so it was a nice change to see everybody working together to weave such a great story.

Then, we got to our first combat. The group was travelling between holdings and was ambushed by a gang from a third holding. That's when it felt like things fell off the rails a bit... we naturally reverted back to our D&D roots, taking actions, rolling dice, and the narrative slipped into the background. It became more about tactical actions than about cooperative storytelling. "I run into the building across the street [Act under Fire]. I shoot the guy there [Go Aggro]. I look around for more snipers [Read the Sitch]." It's hard to put my finger on exactly what happened, but it just felt like we lost something from the colourful narrative that we'd been telling.

Once the ambush wrapped up, we decided to call it a night. At this point I was supposed to do my "after the first session" homework, but felt like I really couldn't... in spite of all that we'd established with regards to the history of the group, we hadn't really figured anything out about their future. After detailing the members of their organization in their starting Holding, they immediately abandoned that Holding and fled for another one (because in their story they murdered the leader of their organization for sending them on a bad mission). So some of those might be coming after them, but I wasn't yet sure how far they were going to run. They had a potential enemy with the gang that'd ambushed them, but only if they decided to pursue them (and didn't just flee that territory as well). It felt like too much was still undecided, so I decided to call this "Session 1A", make the next part "Session 1B", and then do my homework after that.

So the next week we gave it another try, with a fourth PC joining the group (a Hardholder, that runs the holding the group was moving towards last week). He made some history with the Brainer, and jumped right into the narrative with no real problems. Overall this session went much smoother. They established a base (well, they had a Hardholder join the group, so no real choice there!), established what their current relationship was with their old organization (and fleshed out some of the NPCs there at the same time), and things seemed to flow better. Of course, we also managed to avoid combat this time, so that might've helped. And it ended with them returning to their new home, giving a nice end to the extended "First Session", and giving me no excuse to avoid my homework anymore... ;-)

So now, my questions!

- Any advice on how to run combat more smoothly, without resorting to the mechanical nature that we're used to from D&D? What's the best way to break the players (and myself) of that habit?

- I've got a list of point-form notes on possible threats, but I'm not really sure how to translate them into game elements, or put them together as a Front. Any advice on that front?

- The Hardholder has a lot of Wants on his city... should I make each of those into a Front/Threat of their own, to pull out when he fails a roll? Or just deal with them on the fly as it happens? Maybe make a single Front for his holding, with each want being a separate threat, and each time he fails one of them it advances the overall countdown towards anarchy and him being overthrown?

- I also want to make weather into a game factor. As the calendar advances towards winter, the bitter cold will start to become an issue (and this is going to be one of the coldest winters since the Apocolypse). Does anybody have any mechanics for that kind of thing written up that I can stea////reference?

- I'm thinking about starting a thread here to chronicle the details of the campaign/story. Is anybody interested in that, or would I just be rambling with everybody ignoring me? ;-) Is there a specific forum to post that on?

I'm sure I'll think of more questions later, and post them when I do. Thanks for your time!

Re: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2012, 02:48:43 PM »
It isn't AW but it is very helpful for answering these kinds of questions:

A Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World.

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noclue

  • 609
Re: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2012, 04:11:10 PM »
In combat, are you sticking to the choices presented in the move or just winging it? On a miss are you consciously making a move from your list of moves as MC, or just moving on to the next pc?

Not sure if this is an actual thing in your example, but "Shooting that guy" doesn't trigger a Go Agro move, by the way. You have to want something from them.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2012, 04:39:07 PM by noclue »
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

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noofy

  • 777
Re: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2012, 08:12:51 PM »
Hey Maelwys,
Welcome! What a great start :) Sounds like a wonderful game. I think you did just find following the characters around and seeing what happens. It may help a little if you search the forums for specifics on all of your questions. They have been asked by lots of folks lots of times, you're not alone!

This is a good catch all story games thread with some excellent links:
http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/14486/issues-with-my-apocalypse-world-group-/p1
Especially take note of Johnstone's posts on page 1. :) Its gold.

This Earlier thread takles some of the same issues, but specifically deals with questioning (and combat) Another excellent read!
http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/13488/aw-getting-from-good-to-great/p1

Evan has great insight in the 'Lumpley Principle'
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=1719.0


This is John Harper's very insightful take on Hard/soft moves:
http://mightyatom.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/apocalypse-world-guide-to-hard-moves.html

Combat:
Vx does suggest not having a FULL ON fight in the first session, maybe just one or two combatants, but a battle with gangs? That can cause some disconnect, but it sounds as if your group had no issue with the mechanical nature of the battle moves (most storygamers struggle to justify them into the narrative). Whereas your gang seemed to lose the fiction and emergent story of the battle.

That's OK, and quite common. Just keep asking after every move 'So what do you do?'. Ask provocative questions! When a player says they 'I shoot him, I guess I go Aggro.' Say 'Cool! So what do you do?' 'So [brainer], your in love with [gunlugger] right? When was the last time you saw her NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH? What frightened you about that?'...

Get the fiction on the table before you roll dice. The Detailed basic move discussion in the book will really help with this.

This needlessly complicated flowchart is sorta cool to reference, so long as you back each step up with provocative narrative questions...
https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1ETp72rzwzNhfGEb-yKj2buZlrZ3zfQqUnHStoNCDRBQ/edit

This is a really great combat thread:
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=1994.0


Provocative Questions:
This was one of the first issues I had when MCing, I have since printed all these questions out on my MC playmat. They are awesome for immersive roleplay.
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=486.0


Threats and Fronts
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=3969.0


This might help with your weather / winter threat:
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=2010.0


As you have surmised, these sing when you focus on the scarcity and want. Who can give the threat the scarcity it needs? What are they willing to do to get it? With NPCs, the best technique to invest players and to make your life easy is to create triangles.

Triangles
Others say it far better than I ever could :)
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=151.0


Home Front
The Player's Hardhold usually becomes the home front, the place for homeless threats. Members of the player's gangs, NPCs that live in the hold, that sort of thing. And yes they are still threats and have needs they pursue. As always, make triangles like crazy.

I'm sure folks would love to hear all about your game! I know I would. Thanks for sharing :)

Re: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2012, 09:27:39 PM »
Weird. What happened to Noofy's post? It was good.

Guess I'll quote it? Okay.

Quote from: noofy
Hey Maelwys,
Welcome! What a great start :) Sounds like a wonderful game. I think you did just find following the characters around and seeing what happens. It may help a little if you search the forums for specifics on all of your questions. They have been asked by lots of folks lots of times, you're not alone!

This is a good catch all story games thread with some excellent links:
http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/14486/issues-with-my-apocalypse-world-group-/p1
Especially take note of Johnstone's posts on page 1. :) Its gold.

This Earlier thread takles some of the same issues, but specifically deals with questioning (and combat) Another excellent read!
http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/13488/aw-getting-from-good-to-great/p1

Evan has great insight in the 'Lumpley Principle'
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=1719.0


This is John Harper's very insightful take on Hard/soft moves:
http://mightyatom.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/apocalypse-world-guide-to-hard-moves.html

Combat:
Vx does suggest not having a FULL ON fight in the first session, maybe just one or two combatants, but a battle with gangs? That can cause some disconnect, but it sounds as if your group had no issue with the mechanical nature of the battle moves (most storygamers struggle to justify them into the narrative). Whereas your gang seemed to lose the fiction and emergent story of the battle.

That's OK, and quite common. Just keep asking after every move 'So what do you do?'. Ask provocative questions! When a player says they 'I shoot him, I guess I go Aggro.' Say 'Cool! So what do you do?' 'So [brainer], your in love with [gunlugger] right? When was the last time you saw her NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH? What frightened you about that?'...

Get the fiction on the table before you roll dice. The Detailed basic move discussion in the book will really help with this.

This needlessly complicated flowchart is sorta cool to reference, so long as you back each step up with provocative narrative questions...
https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1ETp72rzwzNhfGEb-yKj2buZlrZ3zfQqUnHStoNCDRBQ/edit

This is a really great combat thread:
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=1994.0


Provocative Questions:
This was one of the first issues I had when MCing, I have since printed all these questions out on my MC playmat. They are awesome for immersive roleplay.
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=486.0


Threats and Fronts
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=3969.0


This might help with your weather / winter threat:
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=2010.0


As you have surmised, these sing when you focus on the scarcity and want. Who can give the threat the scarcity it needs? What are they willing to do to get it? With NPCs, the best technique to invest players and to make your life easy is to create triangles.

Triangles
Others say it far better than I ever could :)
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=151.0


Home Front
The Player's Hardhold usually becomes the home front, the place for homeless threats. Members of the player's gangs, NPCs that live in the hold, that sort of thing. And yes they are still threats and have needs they pursue. As always, make triangles like crazy.

I'm sure folks would love to hear all about your game! I know I would. Thanks for sharing :)

EDIT: Ah, guess the boards just needed a poke? I can see noofy's post now.

Re: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2012, 10:58:11 AM »
Thanks all for the great answers and info! And lots of links for me to read up on...

I've started a GoogleDoc to track the details of our collaborative world, and will be inviting all of the players to add/edit it together with their own contributions, so that we can build a more rich and detailed world to live in. I've just filled in some of the preliminaries from my own notes so far (and left spaces for them to fill in things as they get a chance, none have yet), but if you're interested in following along, check it out here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1d-wTJEAKKk2-fVlqLOPfGyaPvkiPbWaAaT1CGq8naX4/edit I still have a lot of cleanup to do, and the players will surely have a lot to add (in particular, I've left the sections on their characters blank), but if you keep an eye open there hopefully you'll be able to follow along with the adventures of the group.


Re: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2012, 11:14:51 AM »
Combat:
Vx does suggest not having a FULL ON fight in the first session, maybe just one or two combatants, but a battle with gangs? That can cause some disconnect, but it sounds as if your group had no issue with the mechanical nature of the battle moves (most storygamers struggle to justify them into the narrative). Whereas your gang seemed to lose the fiction and emergent story of the battle.

That's OK, and quite common. Just keep asking after every move 'So what do you do?'. Ask provocative questions! When a player says they 'I shoot him, I guess I go Aggro.' Say 'Cool! So what do you do?' 'So [brainer], your in love with [gunlugger] right? When was the last time you saw her NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH? What frightened you about that?'...

Get the fiction on the table before you roll dice. The Detailed basic move discussion in the book will really help with this.

Yeah, it wasn't really a "battle with gangs" (in that, I wasn't really using the gang rules). But as they were travelling I could tell that they were just itching to be ambushed, so I figured I'd give it to them. Since the first session was all about exploring the system (to see if it was something the group would want to play again or not), I wanted to try it out and felt like they did to. And as I mentioned, the combat was definitely the weak point of the night, but since we also all realized that we'd probably done it wrong, nobody really blamed that on the system and instead it just became a learning experience (to try to "do it better" next time). All of the advice here is great though... I think that towards the end of the battle they were getting better describing moves and things already, but by then the whole pacing had been thrown off by the rough start. So I'm already pretty confident that the next battle can go better, and the notes that you've given here should hopefully help!

Oh, and the other lesson that they learned from the battle... injuries suck! The fact that nobody but an Angel can bandage you up, sucks. And the fact that even WITH an Angel (we brought in an NPC Angel when they got to the Hold) it requires a week of bedrest sucks. Especially for people that are used to always having a cleric in the party, and so at most you might suffer overnight (if he's out of healing spells) before everything is magically fixed... ;-)
[And btw, all of the "sucks" above are not a complaint about the system at all, just the players realizing that the system is actually fairly realistic, gun wounds take time to heal, and so it's best to avoid getting shot in the first place]

Also, I realized after that I'd forgotten to make the Harm rolls when they got hurt. No big surprise there though, from what I've read on the forums that's a fairly common problem. ;-)

Re: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2012, 11:20:33 AM »
You can keep a record of your game in a thread right here in this subforum if you like. Check out some of the threads marked [AP] or actual play for some examples of other peoples' games.

It looks like there's only 1 ap thread on the first page, but there's a few more on pages 2+3, and lots more buried deeper than that.

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noclue

  • 609
Re: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2012, 12:07:24 PM »
Yup, injuries are a bitch.

What was the npc healer's name? Why did he heal them? What provocative questions did you ask about him?

We had this guy who had turned an old Ralph's Grocery Store into a compound. He was expensive. My Operator had a bitch of a time keeping his hands full of jingle. Had to loan out the savvy head to fix a few things for him too. Really got in the way of my gigs. Plus he was obviously working his own agenda, turning us against each other.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2012, 12:13:43 PM by noclue »
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: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2012, 01:34:19 PM »
What was the npc healer's name? Why did he heal them? What provocative questions did you ask about him?
I actually went with the third option at the time (there's an NPC angel, but he's not important). I didn't want to put too much emphasis on the healing at that moment, so we just fast-forwarded past it until they were all back in action and ready to continue.

But that brings up another point... does anybody else give the PCs homework? Or do you generally try to make all of the decisions/story at run-time?

In my (extremely limited, thus far) experience I've been mixing up the two, with fairly good results. The history/relationships of the group was entirely made up during character creation, and I was really happy with how that turned out. They got a good, well detailed story put together. I threw in a couple extra NPCs to help flesh it out, but for the most part it was entirely their doing (with some prompting from the Hx sections of their various characters and a few probing questions from me). And obviously, anything urgently important to the story is made up on the spot. But to avoid putting the characters on the spot for every little thing, or slowing down the action too much to fill in a lot of non-urgent (I won't say unimportant, since anything can become important) background, I've been making some notes for the players to fill in between sessions.

So for example, in the first session we determined that the Operator had recently gone on a gig that went pear-shaped, and most of his crew were killed. Also as a result, he was about to flee town (leaving behind any surviving crew members, at least temporarily). So for the purposes of keeping things moving (and not taxing his creative centres too much), I didn't push him to detail much about his crew. Instead I waited until a few days later and sent out a "homework assignment" to everybody, where his included a lot of questions about his crew. Who were they? How many survived? What was his relationship like with them? I told him that I didn't want him to write anything down, just think on it for a bit and come to the next session prepared to discuss them. Likewise, the Brainer didn't really explore the Maelstrom at all in the first session, so her homework was questions about that. How did you first get exposed to it? What is it like? Is it something that scares you, that you need willpower to expose yourself to? Or somewhere that feels soft and comfortable, where you hide from the harshness of the world? And she came back to the next session ready with a lot of details about how she'd been raised by a coven of Brainers who taught her everything she knows, etc, etc.

So likewise, when the Hardholder joined us last session, I didn't push him too much to fill in details about NPCs in his holding right away. We fleshed out his character background, details about his holding, his relationships, and things like that. But then his homework was to fill in more information about the people there. What is the name of your angel-on-staff (that helped the other two) is one of those questions. And what's his/her story? Your holding is fairly agressive, doing a lot of raiding. Do you lead those raids yourself? If not, who does? How much do you trust them? If you do lead them, who is in charge when you leave? How much do you trust them?

So, I think I've been doing pretty good at the probing questions... I've just been limiting how many I ask during the session, and asking the rest between sessions. I think this helps to create a well-detailed and complete world, without slowing things down because somebody can't think of a name for the random NPC that works for them. Has anybody else tried similar tactics? How has it worked for you?

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noclue

  • 609
Re: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2012, 06:21:11 PM »
Generally, I think questions should all be asked in play. That doesn't mean they all need to be asked at once. Once you have something interesting, play to find out. Come back to it later if it looks like there's something there and poke it with a stick.

To me, a healer in a world defined by scarcity? ...immediately interesting.

Oh, I found my AP post with Grip and his hospital inside grocery store. http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=1961.msg12851#msg12851
« Last Edit: October 18, 2012, 06:30:13 PM by noclue »
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

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Scrape

  • 378
Re: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2012, 12:54:16 AM »
It isn't AW but it is very helpful for answering these kinds of questions:

A Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World.

I saw this thread and was gonna link this, but was beaten to it. Thanks!

Combat can be really difficult to get a grip on, when you're just starting out. Check out that guide; I wrote it for Dungeon World, obviously, but a lot of the advice applies to any Apoc engine (even tremulus). The biggest hurdle is adjusting to the idea that you're no longer using combat rounds, nobody is taking turns resolving their actions. You're not like, "okay, roll to hit. Now it's my turn" or anything. Instead, it's a back-and-forth thing where the GM is always setting up dangers and the players are responding.

It can be tough at first, but once you understand the flow I think it's the most rewarding combat system out there. So check out that guide, it'll help make your combats exciting, I swear!

Re: Intro and beginner questions
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2012, 09:15:14 PM »
Hi Maelwys. It looks like you're getting solid advice and support. I have a couple questions though. Did you make a relationship map after the 1st Session, and have you used Love Letters for any subsequent sessions yet? The first will help show you where to tug on the Pc/NPC web to get at interesting connections, and the second is a prime way to get all that cool stuff the PCs are creating off-screen to show up in-game.

I very rarely give my players homework, and if I do, it's pretty defined in scope: "October, you took an Operator move this session, so detail your new gigs. Skritch, your workspace took a real hit; figure out what you lost. Grimbals, think about why you care that Twobits is looking to jump into Fringe's gang." I mostly think that those moments of adding detail to the world are great, because everything can then build on everyone's contributions.