Additional Prep For Play

  • 2 Replies
Additional Prep For Play
« on: September 27, 2010, 10:22:20 PM »
So I've been experimenting with different prep sheets and different ways of organizing / teasing information from what comes out of the session. Thought I might share some things with everyone!

All this comes into play strictly by the second session, never the first. I let everything learned from the first session sink in before worrying about all this. Kinda like fronts!

1.) Barf Forth Apocalyptica Sheet
This is all done in a spiral bound notebook, all of these are. Target had some clearance notebooks on sale, and they were selling a bunch of them for 3 cents a piece! I loaded up.

Anyway, after getting a handle on what kind of world / environment we're dealing with (in my current game, it's a frozen-over wasteland), I fill this out with details. It helps me when I need apocalyptica, mainly by keeping it focused and consistent.

At the top of the sheet I write DESCRIPTORS, and I think of three words that best sum up the Apocalypse World our group has made. For this one, I've got: "cold, mists, wind". They're prompts, basically. I try to tie in a lot of my apocalpytica with those three words, but at the same time, I don't force it. If I can come up with something that deals with the cold, with mists, or with wind, then there you go - if not, no big deal. But these are a reminder of what the world is known for, and what will tie in consistency with the group. They're prompts that say, "Don't use these exclusively, but use them often."

Under that, I write QUESTIONS, and these are pretty much like the I Wonder... part on the first session sheet. Here, I write things I want to find out or that jump to me. I always write: "What's the maelstrom like, and what do people call it?" on there, as a rule. Treating the maelstrom like an NPC, giving it a name, description, and self-interests - and oh boy, PC-NPC-PC triangles! - stops it from being a faceless answering machine.

Other questions I have are:
- How does the cold weather impact travel?
- What do the mists obscure?
- What's carried on the wind?

These aren't stakes, but they very well might end up as such! But no, these are things I look for in the PC's answers and descriptions of the world, and in what the apocalyptica is shaping to. Most of this is just bits of flavor that don't have the weight of stakes or I Wonders..., but instead make intriguing set dressing. Notice how, though, I've got "How does the cold weather impact travel?" We've got a Driver in the group, so that's totally going over to the 1st session sheet. Sometimes it happens, and it's cool.

What do the mists obscure? Very open-ended. Could be any given thing at any given time. Could be symbolic or literal! But they're mists, and they're damn sure obscuring something, and I want to know what. What's carried on the wind? I know that sulfurous, smelly, salt-water-garbage air is one answer, but what else? Sounds? What kind of sounds? Animal howling? Gunshots?

The last thing on the sheet is APOCALYPTICA, and these are pre-generated color statements for when I need one quick but I'm drawing a blank. They tend to follow as possible answers from the questions above, but they don't always have to.

- The tree-people, who wear thick furs, hides, and human skins.
- Frozen-over landscapes just barely hinted at in the sunlight, buried deep, deep down.
- Bumping into something large and scary in the mists.

So I'll just cross them out when I use them and apply them to the situation at hand. "Boxer, you're trying to find your way back to the station? It's thick as all hell out here, you can't see anything. Then, like, you're slamming into something hard and heavy, and you fall on your ass, and you look up to see gleaming red lights eight or nine feet above you."

Miscellaneous features include a memo: "Remember to Digress!"

2.) Questions Sheet
For asking provocative questions!

Up at the top, I remind myself: "immediate and intimate details of their experiences," and under that, "sometimes follow-up questions that promote character development or antagonism." With that last part, when I feel like, I ask a related questions, but try to cut deeper into the character. Or sometimes I ask someone else something, see what it reveals about them. It's really cool to see how someone else's answer to a question fleshes out YOUR character. And then sometimes, I try to start shit between people in the group - "Hey, Pallor, which of these guys is the easiest to kill, do you think?"

Anyway, under that, I've got question prompts. I have a small list, but enough room to add more as we play. They're prompts that I think best bring out intimate and immediate details. Just like the ones listed in the book, pretty much! Sounds, tastes, specific details, history, thoughts and feelings. That's so you can ask, "Why is Stork Row surrounded by walls?"

"What does the mist smell like?"

"How do you combat the cold weather?"

And, as I said, plenty of room to add more prompts if I suddenly go, "Man, what about emotions? Huh!"

Then down underneath that, at the bottom, the PROCESS:

1) barf apocalyptica on it
2) refer to it later in play
3) use it and its implications to inform your aesthetic

Just a reminder!

3.) Play Sheet
This sits right next to my 1st session worksheet. It's basically where I write my notes, answers, and scribbles before finalizing it anywhere else.

Up at the top I've got the DOCKING BAY, which is where, when I ask a question, I write the answer down. "How do you combat the cold?"

"Thick jackets, furs."

And room to write down which PCs this applies to, as well as extra space to barf apocalyptica on it - and then, later on in play, I can scan the list and reincorporate it! This helps facilitate the Process from the previous sheet.

Thick jackets and furs - PCs: Boxer, Jag - how to keep warm. Dirty but warm jackets, stretched animal hides and mottled fur, little spines and grooves on the skins. Maybe little tassels or rabbit's feet or something hanging from them?

I also put plans or objectives the PCs undertake: Pallor went to go find a medic for Boxer. Jag wants to avoid Winkle. Boxer needs medical attention.

None of those need to be connected, don't look at it that way. Sometimes they are. But look at each one as its own individual thing. I only put stuff that gives me a chance to respond in a big, interesting way, or things that might take some time - like if I could jump to a new scene before resolving it. But it's there so that I can scribble down some notes:

How could I respond with fuckery?
What apocalyptica applies here?
Does this beg some questions?
How will this invoke any PC-NPC-PC triangles?

Lastly, at the very bottom, there's OFF-SCREEN ACTION. If I'm thinking, "Brace Win is totally going to gather some people, start some trouble," then I'll write it down there. I'll bring it in when it seems appropriate. Any "Announce off-screen badness" goes here, as well as any open-ended "Announce future badness."

4.) NPCs

Lastly, on the back of Front sheets, I write down some things about my NPCs.

Name - current self-interest - how does this NPC engage in a PC-NPC-PC triangle?

Here's Krin. A basic run-down, Pallor the brainer froze her in place with Puppet Strings, and kinda forgot about her, so she had to stay and watch while he raped and abused the love of her life (he did it for the Deep Brain Scan sex move, for a job) - so now she tries to attack him whenever possible, and enlists powerful people to help hunt him down (like the group's gunlugger, Boxer!):

Krin - wants to torture Pallor - shows undying love (to her dead boyfriend) and strength to Pallor, and shows desperation and need to Boxer.

The goal of these sheets is to help facilitate the prep, which sometimes, when things get hectic, I run into trouble doing! When I go to make a move, I pick one, and see if anything in the Docking Bay or off-screen action needs attention. Then I dress it up with apocalyptica. Then I ask questions! It's not for everyone, and it's a lot of paperwork, but it's helpful.



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Re: Additional Prep For Play
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2010, 11:39:46 PM »
Hey Keith, that helps me lots!
I like the idea of labeling your notes into categories like Docking Bay, Off Screen Action and the Extra's Cast. Great organisational pointers for poor dyslectic souls like myself.

Just a query as to yor workload...
DO you ever get players to take responsibility for recording / noting stuff? What I mean is; Would it work that if in answer to a leading, provocative question a player authors some cool shit / NPC / event / setting / situation into the story that you nod along with and respond to by asking them to record it (a group notes pool somewhere)? My thinking is that they share the 'load' whilst you ponder your moves snowball, fuckery or simple barf apocalyptica onto their answer.

Workable, or not a good idea? I'm a big fan of mutable roles by the way, so long as it doesn't descend into squabbling over 'who's job is whos' in the secretarial side of any RPG.

Re: Additional Prep For Play
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2010, 10:22:47 AM »
It could work, I don't see why not. I'm obsessive over my notes though, so for my group in particular, I handle all my MC-related stuff myself. It's all dense flowcharts and sections, difficult to navigate unless you're in the thick of it. The players make their own notes from time to time, but for the most part, they've got a handle on things themselves.

I'm a big fan of when my players create ephemera of their own accord. One is an artist, and always draws her characters, usually during the first session of whatever we're playing, for example. Sometimes I might prod them into making, maybe, a chart of who's who in a gang, or who sits where in the ambulance, whatever, but I like for them to have their stuff and me to have mine.

But, yeah, you could totally do it that way if you want. It's cool to get the players involved in crafting things.