Con Scenario: The Bowl

  • 26 Replies
Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #15 on: October 13, 2011, 06:29:06 PM »
You could amend the move to say that "When you enter or leave the Bowl, one person in your traveling group rolls +sharp"

Yeah, that was implicit in my thinking. Being a Burner first and foremost I automatically think "Ok, you're all doing the same thing? One person roll, everyone else help (or hinder)."

I'm working on some questions to ask during character creation to sort of act as mad-libbed versions of MC love letters which will let the players fill in your questions. :) When I get them to a state I'm relatively happy with I'll post 'em.

Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #16 on: October 13, 2011, 11:41:13 PM »

Part of what makes a scenario like The Gift work is that it starts with a very focused, very specific situation, which still manages to leave open a number of different paths for the PCs.

This scenario sounds simultaneously more wide-open and more straightforward -- there's no specific scene/mini-situation to get the PCs all together, but at the same time the assumption seems to be that everyone will be 100% adversarial. The Gift starts from a position of politeness/detente, with the possibility of escalating to out and out violence, whereas it sounds so far like you expect the two groups to be mostly trying to kill each other from the start?

I think it would benefit a lot from a more tightly-woven setup situation -- like say a delegation from one group to the other in an attempt to negotiate, or the aftermath of a specific (and perhaps very one-sided) battle, or something similar that will sharpen everyone's attention on some specific problems. The 'when you enter the Bowl' move sounds like something appropriate for a campaign -- it has that typical AW sandbox-y feel -- rather than a move that is really going to focus a con one-shot in a particular direction.

Trying to account for all possible vectors of conflict between all possible involved playbooks is, I think, going to be a somewhat fruitless exercise -- you need to bring some focus in from the start.

Similarly, I would absolutely allow -- in fact, I would probably strongly suggest or even force -- PCs to choose members of the 'other team' when they are doing Hx. Applying a blanket baseline penalty for Hx is fine, but those numbers should be overwritten and modified by everyone's Hx setup as normal. Starting with inter-team relationships in place will help fill in the immediate-history of the conflict and also of course make the actual play that much more zippy.

Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2011, 12:20:41 AM »
That's pretty excellent advice, and I agree: some element to focus attention that begs to be resolved in some fashion is needed. However, I'm hesitant to prescribe one. AW doesn't have BITs for me to push around like BW does, which makes it a little harder for me to figure out how to throw situations at the players that they'll like. I've found that asking provocative questions during character introductions is a pretty decent substitute for BITs.

So I've been busy writing questions for the players and I think I need to focus these questions in such a way that it creates that tension, that "oh, fuck" situation that can't be overlooked. I'll throw them up here when I'm done with them and we'll see if I can manage to herd these cats in a specific, yet player-chosen direction. (And if I can't, fuck it, the Chopper's sister is being held hostage in the holding.)

Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2011, 02:24:23 AM »
Ok, I've gotten the questions for 4 of the playbooks, and I think these will work nicely. I'm trying to design it so that the Chopper and the Hardholder want to rip each other's faces off while the Hocus and the Touchstone are coming to an understanding (and yet have the details of that be the players's idea). Feedback welcome!

Chopper questions:
  • Some real shit must've gone down during that last meeting with <Hardholder's name> - what happened?
  • How does your gang feel about the situation? How does *Rourke* feel about it?
  • Did having <Hocus's name> there help or do more harm than good? Tell us about it.

Hocus questions:
  • Why do people follow you? What are you offering?
  • What did <Chopper's name> do to make you look at him that way?
  • Why did Rourke take a swing at you after the last encounter at the holding?
  • <Touchstone's name> is interesting, huh? What do you like about her?

Hardholder questions:
  • What happened at the last negotiation with <Chopper's name>'s gang that caused you to toss him out of your holding at gunpoint?
  • - They haven't realized it yet, but <Chopper's name> left something behind when you met last. Something important. What was it?
  • Do you think you can trust <Touchstone's name>? And his/her right-hand... what's his name... Dremmer? What about him

Touchstone questions:
  • What's your vision? And how does your symbol tie in?
  • How did Dremmer earn your trust?
  • You and <Hocus's name> were seen having a long, polite conversation over lunch while <Chopper's name> and <Hardholder's name> were... negotiating. What were you talking about?

Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #19 on: October 17, 2011, 07:29:42 PM »
Here's how I see the difference in Burning Wheel and Apocalypse World's goals for PCs:

In Burning Wheel, PCs are assumed to be following stated goals, important NPCs are assumed to be following stated goals, to create antagonism you make characters that will obstruct those goals.

In Apocalypse World, PCs are assumed to be looking after their basic interests, important NPCs are assumed to be fucking shit up for PCs, to create antagonism you add important NPCs (Threats)

In BW, if you want to create PvP antagonism, you create characters with conflicting Beliefs, and PCs effortlessly glide into the NPC antagonism role.

in AW, its not that easy, because assumptions about PCs and assumptions about important NPCs are considerably different.

Here's a couple of ways you could do it:

A) Treat the PCs as PCs, but have them deal with a severe conflicting lack. Most basic iteration: The people in the Bowl have enough food for themselves and maybe a 2-5 other people right now, the Chopper and the Hocus are hungry. Make it your duty to play this situation as a Front if people aren't in conflict quickly enough.

B) Treat the PCs as PC/NPC hybrids. Give them Threat Clocks that list ways that they are and will be Fucking The Other Sides Shit Up, and imply that filling up your threat clock is something to be proud of.

Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #20 on: October 18, 2011, 01:41:52 PM »
Scenario (A) is already there, really. The fact that there are no status quos in Apocalypse World guarantees that even though the Bowlers are the haves, it's only just barely.

I should say that a Front might be a good idea, but I have no idea how to write one, especially without a first session to work from. I mean, I've read the chapter and all, but I've never been in an AW game that wasn't a one-shot, so I have no experience doing it. Although, given that we're right around Halloween, I've considered having a zombie hoard come in half way through to hammer home the "no status quos" thing. "Oh, you've been fighting over the little bowl? That doesn't matter now, because the 2nd wave of the apocalypse is coming."

Also... not to sound unappreciative, but you don't have to tell me that this isn't Burning Wheel. I'm well aware of the differences (and the similarities) between the two games. Hell, that's why I'm leaning on you guys for help because I know I can't just write some Beliefs for the PC's and be done with it! What I need is some way to focus the PC's on a particular situation, but still make it feel like they had some hand in creating it. I'm trying to use these directed, semi-open ended questions to direct them. That's what's on the table; that's what I need help with. Kicking over the table doesn't really help me, ya know? I'm not aiming for perfection here, just fun. So how about critiquing these questions for me a la an MC Love Letter?

Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #21 on: October 18, 2011, 07:16:21 PM »
You seem to be describing an argument that isn't happening. I think the scenario as a whole sounds cool. I think the questions are neat. I don't believe the table has been kicked at all.

Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2011, 11:01:01 PM »
Well never mind, then. :)

Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #23 on: October 19, 2011, 02:37:06 PM »
A couple things I've learned form running at cons:

It's a good thing to have an un-ignorable urgent thing which needs the players attention. This isn't necessarily the "plot" of the scenario, but it's needed to get things moving and avoid the black "what do we do" stares at game start. Maybe in your case this is the other group of players, but I'd probably have something important immediately at stake.

Probably shouldn't allow both sides to take the same playbooks. Making them available is ok if they can agree which one gets it, but don't let both sides have an Angel, for instance.

Suggest avoiding an entirely PvP game though, after all they're all just trying to survive against scarcity and what's out there, right? Maybe a common goal or greater evil?

Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #24 on: October 19, 2011, 03:22:19 PM »
Yeah, there'll be both antagonism and coalescing on both sides of the fence. The Touchstone/Hocus are technically on "opposite" sides, but I'm setting them up to be friends. As a result, they'll probably be a little at odds with the people on their same side, but not completely. It should add a nice little tug of war element.

Also, midway through there'll be a zombie horde coming upon them. I'm thinking about having the countdown clock for that being based on how often they refuse to work together...

Oh, and yeah, certain playbooks are available to both sides, but only one of each playbook will be in play.

Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #25 on: October 19, 2011, 06:56:20 PM »

I haven't had time to look at them in-depth but my feeling reading the questions was that they are a little too push-y in terms of suggesting very specific relationships between very specific people.

I think one or the other of those is good -- i.e. it's fine to specify that the Hocus is in love with <some PC>, or that the Touchstone feels <a strong emotion> for the Hardholder, but specifying (or strongly hinting towards) both the person and the relationship seems like it's probably overkill. Like I think I would get kind of annoyed by the Touchstone question about the 'long, polite conversation' -- my immediate impulse would be to answer 'we were politely discussing how I am going to murder all of his/her followers', just because the question's phrasing seems to disingenuous.

If you want to preset the relationship map, I think you need to out and out do it, not sort of hedge and pretend you're letting players decide while employing lots of rhetoric to get things aligned the way you feel they should be. Now maybe that is what you intend to do, and it's just a tone thing, I dunno; I know everybody seems to love these 95%-rhetorical MC gotcha-style questions, but I am personally not a fan, so that may be colouring my response.

I would also think about baking a lot of these questions into customized Hx setup -- since that's pretty much the phase of the game where you're going to want to be asking a lot of these questions anyways, so maybe adding them in (or modifying existing Hx choices to be more immediate/specific) could be a good way to do that.

Also to be clear, I do like the questions in general, I just think that for a con scenario with legs, you'd be better off setting it up so that sometimes the Touchstone and Hocus like each other but sometimes they hate each other; pre-established relationships with player-set targets (as in Hx setup) are going to create  a lot more variety from playthrough to playthrough.

Re: Con Scenario: The Bowl
« Reply #26 on: October 19, 2011, 07:11:33 PM »
Some very good points. The tricky balancing act here is between:
  • Having a good con scenario
  • Making the game feel like Apocalypse World, complete with the non-planned, character-driven, emergent story
These goals seem to compete rather strongly - more strongly than I would've anticipated at first.

I'm running a play test of the scenario as it's evolved to this point this weekend. I'll report back afterward and see what comes of it.