One-Shot advice?

  • 2 Replies
One-Shot advice?
« on: September 27, 2010, 08:40:05 AM »
I ran a one-shot this weekend, my first time GMing Apocalypse World. I was lucky to have two guys at the table (out of 3 players) who had run the game previously, which was a big help.

The whole session was just OK. I'm not sure what I was expecting, maybe more interesting and difficult situations for the players to address, but it felt a little flat to me. Part of this may have been the accelerated and sub-optimal one-shot format, for sure. I can see the payoff of extended play.

For the one-shot I set up a pretty straightforward situation. Local hardholder is fat and happy and into appeasement and delay, evil outsiders are eager to devour her holding and its valuable orchard. The PCs aligned themselves with the hardholder against the bad guys by choice - one guy was a local (and the hardholder's lover), one guy was a merchant's bodyguard, one guy was the town's paid muscle. It was a good setup and we tied them all in to NPCs pretty well. I also authored a locational threat and a disease threat, but these weren't brought to the fore by player interest or role choices and I couldn't really hit them all.

One guy played a gunlugger with all the gunlugger stuff (he was his own gang and did extra harm) that made him, by himself, a match for the largest, meanest threats I had created. And that's cool, I know it isn't my job to create challenges, but it made it hard for me to make his life interesting. Everybody at the table knew that the bad guys could never succeed by force majeur, which sort of sucked the danger out of the situation. When there was a fight, he realized that the enemy gang could not even harm him. They feared him, he was a god of war.

So if this were a long term game, I'd totally build up the nice developing NPC relationships and then have the bad guys use those as ratlines to get into the hold, bypassing the god of war. I can see how that would go and it would be fun. But in a one-shot, there wasn't space to develop that. My front countdowns were all "they try to be nice, they make veiled threats, random violence, directed violence", which totally didn't work. I was tempted to ramp up the badassery of my rival gangs, and that is not a good sign.

Should I have rewritten my threat countdowns as soon as I saw that their approach was totally FUBAR?

I guess I'm asking for advice on how to structure a one-shot game, which obviously needs a strong situation but can't be completely informed by player choices.



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Re: One-Shot advice?
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2010, 05:54:33 AM »
I don't use Gunluggers for one-shots, because they make violence too easy an option.  Although note that even with NTBFW (acting as a 3-harm small gang in battle) and 2-armor and choosing "take little harm" on a seize by force roll, a Gunlugger will still take 2 harm from a 3-harm 1-armor large gang. Not likely to be much fun for the now-dying other PCs, though.

Here's my thinking after running a dozen one-shots (8 Hatchet City and Blind Blue, 4 Operator and Crew): For one-shots I like to use an Operator with the other PCs being her crew, with an NPC or two as well. The players talk over what sort of moonlighting gigs the Operator should take (since that influences what characters are good, or rather, players choose characters they want to play, and Operator chooses gigs that suit those well), we work out back story and Hx and highlights and all that. For a 4-hour 4-player one-shot I don't offer all the characters. I put out Vincent's trifolds (MUCH better than the teensy playbooks) for Operator, Angel, Battlebabe, Brainer, Driver, Savvyhead, Skinner, skipping the ones with large casts of NPCs (Chopper, Hardholder, Hocus). After the characters are created, the Operator makes her starting Moonlighting roll, and things develop from there.

I used to skip Savvyhead, but after seeing one played very well at GPNW I offer them now. Possibly I'm being unfair to the Gunlugger, but I prefer running one-shots in low-firepower settings, where a gun is a serious edge, and I find conveying a sense of danger is much easier without the 'lugger.

Operator and Crew doesn't show all the deep intricacy of the long-running campaign game, but it is sharp and fun and shows the players how the rules and setting work and gives them an appetite for more.

I have a much longer and more detailed description of how I run AW one-shots that's available for the asking via email.  And by no means am I claiming this is the best method. It's just a method that's worked well for me (and others) in the time constraints I'm usually under, and I continue to refine it.  I'll be using it at Endgame's 10/16 minicon, and at Go Play SF Bay's "Taste of Apocalypse World" 10/21 at Endgame, and no doubt a bunch more times.

Re: One-Shot advice?
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2010, 07:35:51 AM »
Thanks very much, Carl! That sounds like really good advice.