MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them

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MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« on: September 30, 2010, 07:33:13 PM »
Ok, so a thing that happens in ApW, which I love,is that when the MC makes a mistake, it's no big deal - "Oh right! You've got those fancy gloves on! Whoops! Go ahead and make a Hot role instead." - and it's all easy to fix. But what if you paint yourself into a corner in the fiction?

I did this in the first session of my brand-new baby game, and I feel pretty lousy about it. I didn't take the 1st Session advice and just ask questions like mad, and instead I panicked, pulled something forward waaaaaaaay before it's time, and did A Stupid Thing. As soon as I realized what I'd done, I started looking for a way out, but it was not soon enough. Argh. I'm fair chagrined. If I'd had my better wits about me, I'd've said "ok, hold up, forget that, my bad...rewind. Tell me about XYZ?"

So how do you deal with mis-steps as the MC? 'Cause sometimes it's just not smooth, and I want the fiction to be all crazy and rough and edgy, but the players to be much more relaxed and smooth.

*

noofy

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Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2010, 08:06:57 PM »
Hey Margolotte,
I have had the same problem, but as a player! I normally GM everything, being the owner of all the rulesets and the one most likely to organise a game. We usually play one-on-one, with occasional group efforts that last a few weekends or so.

So when I get to play a PC, I often (subconciously) GM the situation, and more recently in a protagonist / narrativist headset. This can undermine or support the (fledgling in most cases) GM, but had the nice side effect of highlighting an obvious, but often overlooked social construct - we are all players at the table.

Bare with me, I know we all know this, but in regards to painting yourself into a corner, the answer is easily grasped when the troupe recognises their strength: We are here to support each other & tell cool stories.

So hey, we (or one of us) have gone down a mechanical or fictional bad road. We stop, call time out and have a group discussion. Is it Salvagable or worth playing through to the end? If not, with overwhelming majority, elucidate with group discussion why?

Name the disruptive mechanical choices or poor implementation of the rulset. What would have been better options? Talk about the problems, not the players (this is most important).Then we usually rewind to the most obvious scene or conflict to 'start over'. Think of it as a possible future, closely avoided.

It doesn't have the awkwardness you at first might imagine, and in AW has the distinct advantage of providing a possible 'dark future' that we have already played out. The maelstrom has presented one of the characters with a vision of madness. As MC, I get one of the Players to open their mind, and depending on the result - how much of the fuckup they get to see as prediction of what might happen. If they miss, well, they think of the whole vision as true (it actually happened!) until convinced otherwise.

This allows for great positive narrative re-inforcement of poor mechanical implementation, and has the bonus effect of the allowing the troupe to identify sub-optimal play and provide resolution as a win-win situation.

Works for me, and my gang. Hope it helps. ;)

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2010, 08:19:11 PM »
Y'know, sometimes the obvious is so obvious :) I could have written that post. Thanks, it helped. Also, it's part of the rules that make ApW great: take breaks. Gotta remember all those rules better next time!

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2010, 02:26:29 AM »
Y'know, sometimes the obvious is so obvious :) I could have written that post. Thanks, it helped. Also, it's part of the rules that make ApW great: take breaks. Gotta remember all those rules better next time!

I'll try and bring something tasty that we can't eat without taking a break next time!

-JC

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2010, 03:41:02 AM »
Breaks are GREAT. I dislike it when, as a player, I call a break, and get up to go to the bathroom or something, and come back to find out that the fiction is still moving forward, the game is still being played. I wanted a break! I didn't want to miss stuff!

Luckily, in the GM's role (I'm MCing AW) this doesn't often happen.

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2010, 12:10:32 PM »
Without knowing any particulars of the situation: sometimes when you are heading at top speed for a brick wall you just have to floor it and smash on through.

You said it's the first session, but you also said you pulled something forward "way before it's time"?  How do you know, if it was only the first session?  If you had something preplanned, wrecking it may be the best thing possible.

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2010, 12:59:00 PM »
Nope, not preplanned, it was just way out of scale for a first session move on my part. And yeah, the brick wall thing.

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2010, 08:19:56 PM »
I finished my first session an hour ago and I felt like I made some blunders as well. The pressure to "bring it" had me escalating situations as soon as they got established and the "shifting unstable landscape" I was supposed to build in this session collapsed. The players literally left a smoldering city behind them and all but one named NPC was shot dead.
 
The player characters are a savvyhead, angel, driver and a gunlugger so the gathering point is the modified london-style doubledecker they nicked from a museum. The savvyhead and the medic each have their workspaces in the second story of the bus. My players are not very experienced (neither am I) so I think they felt like having something to tie them together might be a good thing. I wonder how that shit will work out if the driver opts to just leave them somewhere :P

I had some trouble getting the characters to interact with each other. I felt like I was announcing future badness and jumping out with named NPCs all the time just to keep the dreaded silence at bay. I chalk this up to my inexperience and nervousness, but it did not leave much time for filling out that 1st session sheet.

Ill dial things back the next session. Take it slow and see if I can't get some more fluid scenes with more than one person interacting at a time. Building meaningful relationship triangles when the player characters are always on the move seems challenging though. Any suggestions?

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2010, 10:54:15 PM »
Yeah, as the man says, 'ask questions like mad!' It totally fills the silence, fulfills your MC directives, and gets the players to make up cool stuff for you!

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2010, 06:38:24 AM »
My first two session ended without a fight, and the PCs are all together against an external threat. I really should include an internal threat, but it's tougher.

Also, I have asked for no more than 3 or 4 Move rolls, and there is way too much discussion/plan between PC to advance the fiction.

I have the feeling that we are too close to classic party rpgs, and I don't like that.

MCing is really harder than I thought...

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2010, 08:08:50 AM »
Why the limit on move rolls?

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2010, 05:07:31 PM »
I didn't consciously limit the rolls, but either I failed a lot of times in recognizing an action as a Move, or they did lots of thing that were not Moves. Also, I think they do things knowingly to avoid Move, as I feel it : they poisonned calmly and with a great plan a NPC, and so there were no Seize by Force of Go Aggro. All I could do is say "ok, it works" because nothing in the rules seems to prevent it.
I feel like it kills the suspens and the drama, when a situation gets resolved without rolls.

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2010, 07:21:27 PM »
they poisonned calmly and with a great plan a NPC, and so there were no Seize by Force of Go Aggro. All I could do is say "ok, it works" because nothing in the rules seems to prevent it.

"That's a great plan!  To pull it off, you're Acting Under Fire, and the fire is 'do you get noticed?'"

*

DannyK

  • 157
Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2010, 09:07:19 PM »
I don't see that as a bad thing, you don't WANT to make it hard to kill NPC's, right? 
I do like the Act Under Fire roll as a general "did you get away it?" Move, though.

My biggest mistake so far has been having a gang fight in the first session, which fell flat because we don't really know the Chopper gang that much and the other guys were just a horde of nameless mooks fighting for nothing in particular. I think I pulled it out by figuring that hey, these guys are insane already because of [censored], let's do a banzai charge!  And that wrapped it up nicely. 

Re: MC mis-steps and how to deal w/them
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2010, 10:21:12 PM »
I didn't consciously limit the rolls, but either I failed a lot of times in recognizing an action as a Move, or they did lots of thing that were not Moves. Also, I think they do things knowingly to avoid Move, as I feel it : they poisonned calmly and with a great plan a NPC, and so there were no Seize by Force of Go Aggro. All I could do is say "ok, it works" because nothing in the rules seems to prevent it.
I feel like it kills the suspens and the drama, when a situation gets resolved without rolls.

There's never a great plan in Apocalypse World.

Ever.

There's a great idea, a great proposition, but dammit if things don't get in the way.

Poisoning a dude? A million ways for that to go south! Remember that your agenda is to make the characters' lives not boring. Straightforward plans that go off without a hitch - periodically, rarely, every now and then, they're great, they're a breath of fresh air - but they are boring. If you can't outright see a complication, make one up!

How did they get the poison? Who wants a favor for giving it to them? Did they find it? Who did it belong to? Who wants something for having it taken? Did they make it themselves? Where do they get supplies from? The ingredients? Who accidentally inhaled fumes or particles? Who's showing signs of having been poisoned themselves?

How did they sneak in to drop the poison? What did they poison? Who was there? Who walked in at just the worst moment? (make it an NPC connected) How do they escape?

Look at the minute-by-minute details if you need to. Every question you consider could be a problem - and hell, those above are just Act Under Fires! Who knows what else can happen? You're not trying to stop them from doing what they want to do - poison the motherfucker, awesome - you just want to make it interesting to do.

If your players are getting too buddy-buddy, well they're basically allies but you want some friction there, right? You want there to be some in-fighting, some bad thoughts, some petty grievances, all developing naturally, maybe turning into fights, screaming arguments, outright murder attempts? Well, up to you how far you want to push it, but yeah. There's some fun things you can do for that, but it's ultimately up to the group and the circumstances. Why not talk a little bit about them?