Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?

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noofy

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Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« on: September 25, 2010, 08:32:35 PM »
G'day Gang,
This is my first post after recently aquiring and digesting AW.  As a relative newcomer to the Indie Skool (oh what a releif that was after years of tactical wargaming dressed as drama drek!), and Have been adopting story game principles in all my RP since. Poison'd has been one of my favourites, as has Burning Wheel and In a Wicked Age. All in all I am psyched to run this game!

So, I have the Ist session prep all sorted,  playbooks available as instructed, and blank proformas for the Ist Session, Relationship maps and player ephemera. All good so far. In terms of MC priming, I've read the rules a few times, played out (in my imagination)a few MC moves in response to Player Moves and printed out the Agenda, Always Say and the Principles. These are all very exciting and ingenious means for me to interact with the players and thus the story!

One Principle I am having a little nervousness about (due to its inversion to the traditional paradigm of the players asking the GM lots of questions) is to ask Lots of Provocative Questions. I do understand the power and importance of this Principle in allowing the players to invest in the narrative, focus on what matters to them and provide the the means for difficult choices.

I am, however, often dumbstruck during roleplay without some sort of prompt, asking instead some lame generic 'So what to you think/believe/feel/do?'. So, with this in mind, I printed out the keywords suggested by Mikael in the rules on p.113 onto cards, with an associated picture. The idea being that when I ask a provocative question, I have to include one or more of these keywords into the query.

I have found however, that despite being better than having no prompts, these keywords still leave me a mite tongue-tied and flustered. So until I develop my MC mojo and become the slick provocateur of questioning, I was wondering if anyone had any full question prompts I could appropriate to have in fromt of me for the 1st session as I 'ask questions like crazy'?

This sort of full sentence cue that 'gets below the tip of the iceberg' or hooks 'one of those fish swimming under the water' I would find immensely helpful.
Thanks in Advance,
Noofy

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noofy

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Further....
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2010, 09:58:52 PM »
Also, Bret mentions in his 'best practices' thread:
Quote
Ask more questions. The book tells you to ask questions and give the players room to answer. I wish I'd done this more. GMing impulses and traditional authority setups will leave people looking to you to fill in setting details, and your impulse will be to do that. Look for more opportunities to have the players fill in those gaps rather than doing it yourself. Do this as much as possible
What sorts of questions encourage players to fill in the gaps? My players love introducing colour generally, but I'd love to be able to specifically focus on drawing in out of them with good questioning technique. Any Advice?

Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2010, 10:09:31 PM »
So, just like, full questions?

Trying to think generally here... those questions that really get beneath the skin tend to do with personal stuff! I think you'll find that once the players get underway doing their thing, a lot of interesting stuff will pop into your head. A lot of things will go unanswered! But here's some stuff on the top of my head:

How did you get your (whatever item)?

Where do you live? Draw it on the map, here. What's on your walls? Where did you get your furniture from?

Who do you work for? What do you do to get barter?

What's the maelstrom like for you? How long has it been since you last used it? What do you think it is?

Which (of the other PCs) would you save, if you could only save one? Why?


Just remember: barf apocalyptica on it, bring it back up in play. Start with general stuff, "How do you do this, where do you find that," then slide the spectrum towards more personal stuff, when those personal details actually emerge in play. Wait for their characters to react to someone or something, then ask why.

But okay, more questions:

Do you eat the food from the creek, or wait for the traders to come in? Why? (obviously change the details to suit what you've come up with, the main idea being: present them with choices, and see who picks what, and what does that say about them?)

Have you two (players) ever gotten in a fight? (I personally love to start shit with my questions. Love, love, love it.)

Who would you turn to in a real emergency?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I don't know if you've ever stolen anything from these guys, but if you had to pick, who's the easiest to steal from?


You'll find the kinds of details you want when your questions ask about or imply bits of the world, or personalities.

If you want them to fill in the world more, easy. Pick a place on the map, and just ask about their experiences there.

Who's been to the Hole here, and what's it like?

Have you bought slaves from Abondo? Everyone says he steals them from the camps on the coast. Do you think that's true?


Every now and then, throw in one of these. This is up to preference, of course - these questions give the power directly to the player, and some MCs might not like that:

What the fuck is THIS thing, over here? (pointing to something on the map).

Why is Rock Town abandoned?


But absolutely bring up any setting element they name drop and ask about it over and over. Get different players' opinions on the same area or person.

YOU: "Where do you get your ammo from?"
THEM: "Uhh... who sells that kind of thing here?"
YOU: "Let's say Isle and Mimi. They're the big weapons dealers. Nobody else really has enough to be worth your time."
THEM: "Okay, let's say Isle."
YOU: "Why Isle, why not Mimi?"
THEM: "I don't know, uh..."
YOU: "Just make it up!"
THEM: "Isle's cheaper?"

As soon as you find someone who buys from Mimi instead of Isle, ask why, why, why.

And think off-screen - why is Isle cheaper? Is she really cheaper, or is she giving that player a special discount? Shit like that goes on your sheet under I Wonder.






Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2010, 10:44:11 PM »
Another good tactic, I think, is to ask for details about their stuff:

"So [Brainer], tell me about the weird animals that live up in your tower with you. Rats or pigeons?" (Apparently it's bats. He's got bats in his belfry!)

"[Chopper], you make probies do that crazy hazing death-trap run? Who died last trying to make it into your gang?"

"[Skinner], who's your best customer? Why do you like her?"

"[Hardholder], what's the deal with the tents?"

Basically, any time in the first session that anyone says anything and you think "Huh, I wonder.." ask them out loud!

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noofy

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Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2010, 03:21:38 AM »
Hey thanks Keith & Margolotte!
That's exactly the type of full sentence prompts I was hoping for!
I'm sure once the snowball starts it'll get easier, but these ideas (especially ones related to their character playbook) are great openers.
Cheers!

Feel free to add any more folks.

Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2010, 03:56:41 AM »
Just as an extension of that principle:

Don't worry about asking clever questions, or asking questions that immediately fuel ingenious story.

Ask the questions that come naturally to you. Be comfortable asking simple questions. Don't feel like you need to build every answer into a phenomenal story arc. Just take it one question, one move, and one moment at a time.

What will likely happen is that you'll end up effortlessly creating compelling situations, together. You'll ask something simple, and the answer will snowball into another question, which will inform something that comes later. Trust that it'll happen.

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Judd

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Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2010, 05:02:51 AM »
Yeah, don't be afraid to let answers to questions just gestate for a while in everyone's heads. AW is designed to be a long term game, so you don't need to use those answers right away, just store it away and let it ferment.  That is okay.

Also, maybe you don't use it, often the answers do nothing more than flesh out the character for everyone else at the table, including the player who answered.  That is making the game more real for them, a big plus.

Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2010, 05:16:12 AM »
You can also start real simple and then chain questions together, in order to maneuver a player into an interesting situation.

Where/Who do you get your water from?

Where/Who do you get your food from, and where do you eat it? Anybody ever take it from you? Do you know what's in it? Do you WANT to know what's in it?

Who's your favorite team? (cue hooligans!) How do you get along with Jackson then, when she hates them? What do you do when people want you to switch teams?

Where do you live? Really? How do you stand the smell? Why do so many people think your neighbours are crazy? Why don't you move into a larger place, there's bound to be one around here somewhere?

Are you single or attached? Anybody on the side? Why is that? So last time Iris was hitting on you, what did you do? Did anybody see? So why's Toyota always giving you that look, or is it something else?

Where did you get your clothes? Did you find/make them yourself? Are they new or worn out? How many people have tried to kill you for those shoes of yours? Princy said Wilson has the exact same jacket as you, what do you think of that?

What do you do for fun, usually? Do a lot of people do that or you on your own? What happened the last time somebody tried to stop you, and who was it? You think that'll happen again? What happened when you were doing whatever it is you do for fun that you don't tell anybody about?

What does your mom wish you were doing instead of this?

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noofy

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Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2010, 05:27:52 AM »
Thanks everyone, I feel rather looked after here! (odd for a game about scarcity and inequality).

I really appreciate Judd and Johnstone's advice on developing questions of my own, though my OP was obviously shying away from that. I especially like the idea of 'peeling back the layers' of one topic/subject/keyword. Almost like that annoying kid that asks 'Why?' ad finitum. Brilliant stuff.

On a tangent, have you folks asked a provocative question to another player in order to increase the tension? Is this commonplace? More importantly is it cool?

What I mean is, say someone pushes a move in answer to a provocative MC question. Then the MC asks a deeper question (revolving around the same issue) of another player character, effectively inviting someone else's vision of AW into the mix.

Workable?

Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2010, 08:47:15 PM »
What I mean is, say someone pushes a move in answer to a provocative MC question. Then the MC asks a deeper question (revolving around the same issue) of another player character, effectively inviting someone else's vision of AW into the mix.

Workable?

Definitely! This is a super fantastic way to build PC-NPC-PC triangles and otherwise entangle the PCs in the same issues. Remember that most holds are gonna be pretty small places, and the players are all 'colleagues' at least, and know each other, so when something is important to one PC, it's quite likely that it's important in the same or a different way to another PC. If I'm understanding your question right, at least.

And as to your OP, yeah, I can't really think of specific questions to suggest, other than the standby of "I dunno, where/why/how *do* you do that?" when someone asks you a question about the world. A nice variation of this technique is to spit out a detail of your own, but then ask for more from the player. Something like if someone says "What do they use for barter around here?" and you say "Most folks use hubcaps, because it's built on an old junk yard. Do you roll with that, or do you have something else valuable?"

Oh, and as a final point, I think Vincent mentioned in another thread that, yeah, you as MC still have editorial authority over contributions from players. So if you're like "what do you eat around here?" and somebody says "as much delicious, healthy food as we want because there's more than enough to go around!" you can go "uh, maybe not so fast". But you'll be surprised at the cool stuff your players will come up with and how it will interact with what you already have vague notions of. It's fun to "find out" about stuff you'd normally have to make up on your own (and still get to make up the stuff you want to :) ).

Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2010, 04:49:48 AM »
Hey thanks Keith & Margolotte!
That's exactly the type of full sentence prompts I was hoping for!
I'm sure once the snowball starts it'll get easier, but these ideas (especially ones related to their character playbook) are great openers.
Cheers!

Feel free to add any more folks.

Noofy, don't forget that you can also get great stuff by encouraging them to ask EACH OTHER questions, too, especially in the first session:

"So, everyone look to your left and ask that person a question they can answer in one word that isn't yes or no." or something similar. Get them thinking in that mode and they'll be a big help.

JC

Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2010, 10:55:18 AM »
Quote
On a tangent, have you folks asked a provocative question to another player in order to increase the tension? Is this commonplace? More importantly is it cool?

Yes, it's cool. After asking  "[Chopper], who died last trying to make it into your gang?", I very nearly turned to another player and asked "[Hardholder], who was that person to you?", but I decided not to open up that possibility of antagonism in the 1st session.

Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2010, 01:32:06 PM »
From another thread:

In 1st session setup, I asked Specter, the Savvyhead, "What's one thing you've created that you wish more than anything you hadn't, and who did you make it for?"

The answer was that he worked with a woman (named, of course, but I can't remember it off the top of my head) who ran a clinic to engineer a strain of poppy that grew fast, hardy, and strong, so that she could have pain killers for the people she treated.  Next time he came by the clinic, she was gone, and a few months later a new narcotic started becoming very popular among low-class brothel owners and slavers for keeping their people in line.

It was like being handed the character's heart on a gold platter.

Fuck, that one is good!


What's the last job you did that you wish you'd have turned down?

Which one of them do you regret saving?

Why don't you like Tolliver? (then make another NPC dislike the same thing)

What went wrong the last time Willis hired you?

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noofy

  • 777
Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2010, 07:16:30 PM »
Noofy, don't forget that you can also get great stuff by encouraging them to ask EACH OTHER questions, too, especially in the first session:

"So, everyone look to your left and ask that person a question they can answer in one word that isn't yes or no." or something similar. Get them thinking in that mode and they'll be a big help.

Jim, that's gold. So do you have some questions suggestions to write in at the bottom of each Playbook that specifically focus on this concept? I would assume that as a semi-formal step after allocating Hx? I am veering toward generalities, like Love, Hate, Need, Want, Protection, Debt, Scarcity, Violence, Healing etc... But perhaps you have more specific questions in mind that you've got the players to ask one another?

Margolotte - Its almost as if the act of questioning is the genesis for triangles, and a very powerful one at that. Thanks! This will definately focus my technique.

I'm pretty excited (rather than anxious) for the first session now, thanks for all the support everyone, it really has made a huge difference.

Re: Asking Provacative Questions - MC Prompts?
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2010, 10:51:01 PM »
Noofy, don't forget that you can also get great stuff by encouraging them to ask EACH OTHER questions, too, especially in the first session:

"So, everyone look to your left and ask that person a question they can answer in one word that isn't yes or no." or something similar. Get them thinking in that mode and they'll be a big help.

Jim, that's gold. So do you have some questions suggestions to write in at the bottom of each Playbook that specifically focus on this concept? I would assume that as a semi-formal step after allocating Hx? I am veering toward generalities, like Love, Hate, Need, Want, Protection, Debt, Scarcity, Violence, Healing etc... But perhaps you have more specific questions in mind that you've got the players to ask one another?

No, since the whole point is to let THEM decide what's important to them, framing HOW the question should be asked, but not anything about content seems like the best way to get people coming up with stuff you wouldn't have thought of yourself. The beauty of getting them to answer questions for each other is that you probably learn about BOTH of them, with the bonus of finding out what the questioner REALLY has on their mind, and that's awesome for leverage with the triangles.

-JC