Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)

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Chris

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Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2010, 08:04:24 AM »
I notice I have this impulse as well, not to reveal too much at once, to try to sidestep direct questions or put off player advances that would push me towards complete transparency on a particular plot point. This is a bad impulse, at least as it occurs in my own MCing. I should just tell them. If the game is forcing you to string them along because of some application of the mechanics or the principles, that's one thing -- but I don't really think you've made the case for players having this desire to be 'strung along'. That part seems to be coming from you -- what the players want is to find out.

No, it's definitely coming from me, the stringing out part. The players want to find out. Because if the player's make that their agenda, it needs to be interesting.

That's like saying "Well, in DnD, the players want to win encounters. Why are you making it hard? Just give all the critters 1 hp." If that's their primary agenda, then that's where things need to be interesting.

Despite the whining of everyone who watched shows like Lost or BSG about being strung along, since the primary focus of the show (or at least why people watched) was the weird shit, they had no choice BUT string them along.

LOST S01E01:

FADE IN:

[JACK SHEPHARD IS THERE. HE'S A DOCTOR]

"There's this island. Here's what it is. Isn't that interesting? We thought tha.... What? We're cancelled? OK."

FADE OUT

Whereever the player's primary interest is, that needs to be the interesting part of the game.

The above responses are basically "Well, just tell them what they want to hear so you can move on to more interesting things." I'd love to. But in some cases, you CAN'T. I'm not talking about an interest in the maelstrom as flavor. I'm talking about interest in the maelstrom as the game. 

To me, it's a problem.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2010, 09:03:07 AM »
The above responses are basically "Well, just tell them what they want to hear so you can move on to more interesting things." I'd love to. But in some cases, you CAN'T. I'm not talking about an interest in the maelstrom as flavor. I'm talking about interest in the maelstrom as the game. 

Except, that never happened in the game. It was most definitely an interest in the maelstrom as flavor.

The problem was, the maelstrom was never opened up to the players to inject some of their ideas as to what it was. There was never any questions asked about how they interact with the maelstrom, or what the maelstrom meant to them. This is what my character was pursuing. Not, "what is the maelstrom?", but, "what is the maelstrom to me?" And, it made sense. My character had a weird+3.

Unfortunately, the maelstrom was predetermined by the MC, you, to be some sort of background thing going on in the world. There were often comments during the game like, "You guys don't realize what the maelstrom is yet..." and so on. Really? Well, what is it? Either tell us or let us tell you. Never happened.

Instead, we were met with the Elminster of Apocalypse World, a 20th Level Wizard named Colt who could teleport at-will (back to her bunker by shooting herself in the face), never die because of her "clones" and lived in a bunker that was essentially a wizard's tower that only she could navigate, could cast a world-ending fireball (a nuke), and laughed in the face of a PC raping one her entities.

And, we were just 1st level PCs - one of us trying to kill her for her loot and the other trying to find out "how the fuck is she cloning herself and switching bodies?"

Honestly, this whole "there's a problem with the game because one player wants to explore the world" is being blown out of proportion. The real issue is, as an MC you were creating barriers for the PCs (or as DST put it, MC "cock-blocking") and breaking a couple important MC principles (which you've acknowledged). You had a favorite NPC, Colt aka Elminster of AW, and didn't want to "spoil" her cool backstory or let her die so it was never revealed. 

At least, that's the way I saw it as a player.

The real important part of the game that I was looking forward to, the situations that arose from the exploration of that bunker that did arise, were drown out in cartoonish (not real) portrayal of the characters. At one point, one of the characters, Express - a driver - got inside the bunker, finally! This is what he wanted for so long, so he could kill her and take everything.

And, he had a perfect way to get her in a spot. Her "daughter" Tutu was in there. But, so was my character, Dust. I wouldn't let him use Tutu as bait, fearing collateral damage. Great. We have an awesome showcase of where our loyalties lie. Express gets pissed at Dust, but that's ok. We're still in this together.

Dust leaves to go back to his cell (it was part of his condition of being in the bunker in the first place). Express stays and waits for Colt to return in order to capture her.

Well, wizardy ensued and Express got "trapped" in the bunker in a tiny room with Colt. He knew he couldn't kill her. She would just "respawn" in an adjacent chamber and he'd be trapped there for good (put 'em in a spot for sure!). So, instead, he tells her, "I'm going to rape you mercilessly until you let me out." She sucks it up. Now, at this point, I'm emphatic because Express now has to go through the act of raping this old woman. This douchebag of a character (the player is actually cool, but his character was a douche) finally has his antics about to be spotlighted in the harshest way possible. And, to top it off, there were two characters standing on the other side of a porthole to the sealed door. They get to witness. Oh my, gripping. I'm thinking to myself, "I don't know if I can watch this" - like a scene out of Blindness.

Except, not really. Express starts raping her, she apparently loves it. Slaps him on the ass and says, "You go big boy! Gimme more!" Then, "You know what, fuck this!" Colt sets off the nuke.

And, totally deflates the whole game.

So, this whole problem of the characters wanting to "explore" the world becoming a problem isn't really the problem. The characters exploring the world is a great way for them to interact with NPCs and that puts them in untenable and interesting situations. How would the other characters have reacted if they had to watch the old women getting raped brutally through the porthole? Would they have said something to Express? Got retribution? Let him slide? Even with her broken fingernails on the concrete floor? Even with her blood and tears and Express' semen puddling beneath their feet when the door finally opened? That's where the game should have shined. We don't even have to watch the scene. Fade to black and cut to when the door finally opens. Express just went Aggro on an old lady by raping her to do what he wants. That's fucking serious shit. Express wanted to "beat" Colt that bad.

Instead, we skipped that and went into this weird and unsatisfying bout of back and forth between Dust and Colt about what the fuck is going on in this bunker. Certain, he's not going to get any answers out of her, he opens his brain. It doesn't work. This bunker is immune to opening your brain. So, we finish the session with this awkward scenario sitting in a Cape Cod kitchen eating donuts and scrambled eggs. :)

Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2010, 11:59:57 AM »
The above responses are basically "Well, just tell them what they want to hear so you can move on to more interesting things." I'd love to. But in some cases, you CAN'T. I'm not talking about an interest in the maelstrom as flavor. I'm talking about interest in the maelstrom as the game. 

To me, it's a problem.

I would disagree.  What I was trying to say, and perhaps I did a poor job of doing so, is that make telling them what they want the interesting thing.  Give them what they want, but do it in a way that puts them in untenable situations.  If the players truly want to find out about the maelstrom the game then that is the game, at least in part.  You can't just dismiss it as something to get out of the way so that the interesting stuff can start, because at least for that player and the character they are playing that is what is interesting.

Basically, I was trying to say fold your interest in to theirs.  And from Michael's response above, it sounds like it's what he wanted as well: Not to just "be told what the maelstrom is all about" but to have his character spend his time exploring it, in difficult, untenable, dramatic and difficult circumstances that put him at odds with other characters.
My real name is Timo

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Chris

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Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2010, 01:04:41 PM »
Sure. But again, I'm talking about a CA problem. If the player was interested in untenable character situations involving the maelstrom, there would be no problem. Use the maelstrom to explore the maelstrom sure.

I'm talking about when the player cares about the maelstrom more than exploring their character. So untenable situations are still just a shell game for them. "I want to know about the maelstrom".This isn't really directed at Mike, but at another player.

It's not really even just a roleplaying problem, but a larger, more interesting issue of this across pretty much every story-based medium. It's easier in books or movies to pace these things across 300 pages or and hour and a half. But a serial? It's more difficult, as evidenced by Lost and BSG's failings.

I'm talking about genre, really. If we make AW a mystery, then that's fine. We're still in story now, everything's great. That's where Mike was and I had stuff written out for him and we were exploring it, great.

But then you get the guy who wants to turn to the back of the mystery novel and read the ending. So in roleplaying terms, he powers through situations to get to the "end". Except I don't want to end it. And explaining it all removes the interest in the maelstrom and Weird, at least for me.

This isn't really an advice thing. The answer is just stop playing with that guy or have a talk and get on the same page. That's fine.

I was just more interested in everyone else's experience with maelstrom/weirdness pacing. I guess a lot of it depends on your maelstrom.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2010, 01:20:42 PM »
Sure. But again, I'm talking about a CA problem. If the player was interested in untenable character situations involving the maelstrom, there would be no problem. Use the maelstrom to explore the maelstrom sure.

I'm talking about when the player cares about the maelstrom more than exploring their character. So untenable situations are still just a shell game for them. "I want to know about the maelstrom".This isn't really directed at Mike, but at another player.

What do they want to know about the maelstrom? Is it something specific? General? Does it have to do with the setting or the characters or something random? "I want to know about the maelstrom" is pretty generic.

It's not really even just a roleplaying problem, but a larger, more interesting issue of this across pretty much every story-based medium. It's easier in books or movies to pace these things across 300 pages or and hour and a half. But a serial? It's more difficult, as evidenced by Lost and BSG's failings.

That's why I think you gotta just tell them (or ask them) straight up. What's this maelstrom doing? "Well, you realize that it's doing this."

It's why I hate having players roll for "knowledge" checks in D&D. I just give them the knowledge. I'm more interested in what they do with that knowledge.

Lost is terrible in this sense because they do try to keep those mysteries going. It's the "plot" method of GMing that Apocalypse World specifically tells you not to do. We're not playing to follow the breadcrumb trail. If something needs to be explored (like the maelstrom), let's explore it, decide on it and see how we use that in the game, right?

I'm talking about genre, really. If we make AW a mystery, then that's fine. We're still in story now, everything's great. That's where Mike was and I had stuff written out for him and we were exploring it, great.

But then you get the guy who wants to turn to the back of the mystery novel and read the ending. So in roleplaying terms, he powers through situations to get to the "end". Except I don't want to end it. And explaining it all removes the interest in the maelstrom and Weird, at least for me.

I think this may be the problem. You don't want it to end. You want that mystery there. You want the players thinking, "Hmmm." Part of the problem with that means that when the players get to the part where they're ready for the reveal (to get on with the rest of the game) is that you may not be ready for it. So, instead of revealing it, you're blocking it. It's going directly against the grain. It doesn't feel natural. Don't plan for that reveal if you've got it. Just let it happen when it happens.

What's interesting to me, isn't the reveal, but how the reveal impacts the play. We just explored this bunker and found out this thing... Now, how the fuck are we going to handle it? Do we even need to handle it?

Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #20 on: September 21, 2010, 03:28:16 AM »
Okay well, I guess I can only say that in my experience, when my players have been interested in investigating the Maelstrom, they have not actually wanted to be strung along -- they just wanted to investigate the Maelstrom, and find out answers, as the mechanics of the game allowed. And I found that when I tried to interject my own pacing on top of or instead of those mechanics (to artificially draw out the 'investigation'), this was not the right thing to do. It is entirely possible that your players and mine did not actually want the same thing.

(Also I think you are really misusing 'Creative Agenda', but that is as always an enormous can of worms.)
« Last Edit: September 21, 2010, 03:32:56 AM by Daniel Wood »

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Chris

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Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #21 on: September 23, 2010, 11:11:56 AM »
There were often comments during the game like, "You guys don't realize what the maelstrom is yet..." and so on.

Nah, that was never said. At any point. You guys acting, in fiction, like you didn't know what it was. I you would have said, I know what it is, then you would have. Remember, I didn't make it up, decide what it was, or how it acted. That was ALL player. I think you playing every other session means that you missed a lot of Tom and Phillip stuff. We had basically two first sessions after you murdered everything in the first game (:) ), and you missed both of those, when that's where most of the setting was created.

Unfortunately, the maelstrom was predetermined by the MC, you, to be some sort of background thing going on in the world.

No, it wasn't. I didn't make up the maelstrom in that game.

Instead, we were met with the Elminster of Apocalypse World, a 20th Level Wizard named Colt

Except that I didn't make up Colt or how powerful she was. Colt was an NPC brought into the game by a PC. Tom's thoughts ran like this:

"I want an impenetrable bunker full of high tech shit. If I just say I have one, Chris will shoot me down. If I say that there's this weird chick in a high tech bunker tied to the maelstrom and technology who's all mysterious, Chris will say fine. And then I can spend the rest of the game (over two characters) trying to kill her so I can have an impenetrable bunker full of high tech shit."

Colt's existence in the world was a complete instance of Step On Up play. And that's how she was interacted with and that flavored her.

But that's all besides the point of the thread and its just problems of my group:

I think this may be the problem. You don't want it to end. You want that mystery there. You want the players thinking, "Hmmm."

I guess. I think that's a big draw for me from the setting itself. Without the maelstrom being this weird, alien thing, I'm just not as interested in the game. Once the maelstrom becomes a coded thing, I lose interest in AW. "The maelstrom is x. It does this. Move on." is just not satisfying to me.

Maybe that's just me. Because I really wish they didn't explain half as much as they did in Lost or BSG. That's where the shows fell flat to me. It's like a mystery novel. No one is there for the solution; you're there for the mystery. Otherwise, it'd be called a solution novel. :) Or at least, that's my stance.

Okay well, I guess I can only say that in my experience, when my players have been interested in investigating the Maelstrom, they have not actually wanted to be strung along -- they just wanted to investigate the Maelstrom, and find out answers, as the mechanics of the game allowed. And I found that when I tried to interject my own pacing on top of or instead of those mechanics (to artificially draw out the 'investigation'), this was not the right thing to do. It is entirely possible that your players and mine did not actually want the same thing.

(Also I think you are really misusing 'Creative Agenda', but that is as always an enormous can of worms.)

Sure. For the CA thing, here's my thoughts: is the investigation of mysteries Step On Up play? It seems like it is. But I know that the Gumshoe system sidesteps this by making the mystery un-unsolvable. :)

That's the thing. If the game becomes a game about the desire to discover this stuff, is that a point where we just say "Here you go"?

I know that my games that don't focus on the maelstrom are infinitely better than my games that do.

Because the game can devolve from Apocalypse World to Maelstrom World and my attempts to bring the game back down to reality also devolve into cock blocking.

So that's the consensus here?

And I found that when I tried to interject my own pacing on top of or instead of those mechanics...

And there's my problem. Because you DO still have to pace the game. That does still require skill on the MC's part. The vast majority of the overall pacing has nothing to do with the mechanics. It's more of a group thing. Hmmmmm.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Re: Revelations of the Apocalypse (World)
« Reply #22 on: September 26, 2010, 03:17:04 PM »
Sorry to bail on my own thread - Too many fronts in play RL and I haven't had much spare time to devote to the AW board.

With Lost, and w/ Battlestar Galactica, they were ostensibly character drama, but they ended up being mostly about 'What the fuck is really going on?' They kept delaying the revelations and moving the finish line to keep the shows going, and it was apparent that if they did explain what the fuck was going on, the show was over, so they weren't going to do that until the last episode.

But then after a while that further obfuscation to keep the show going accumulated to the point that I realized, "Even if/when they do 'explain everything', it's not going to make sense of it all and I'm going to find it unsatisfying."  I stopped watching Lost after about 4 episodes, and BG after 2. From what I've heard from my friends regarding the finale of BG and Lost, that was a good move on my part - I'm like, "That's what they finally came up with?"

So now some meta analysis on AW. The tagline for AW: "Something's wrong with the world, and I don't know what it is…" is potentially misleading, because the point of playing AW isn't really to find out what's wrong with the world.  It's not really even about fixing what's wrong with the world - It IS about characters, and fixing what's wrong with them, which I would say is, in general terms as they start the game, that they're largely isolated, selfish and detached from the world.  In play the characters are transformed in a really literary, Campbellian fashion and as each character overcomes those deficiencies, they either expand the frame of the 'world' and start over, or they leave play.

Personally, I think the 'world' of Apocalypse World serves mostly as a metaphor for the characters.

From The Anatomy of Story by John Truby, (which is, well, pretty much what you'd expect from the title) on page 78 he talks about the 'Story World' and 'connecting the world to the hero's overall development' in this bulletpointed passage.

* Beginning (slavery): If the land, people, and technology are out of balance, everyone is out for himself, each reduced to an animal clawing for scarce resources or a cog working for the greater good of a machine.  This is a world of slavery and, taken to its extreme, a dystopia, or a hell on earth.

* Endpoint (Freedom): If the land, people, and technology are in balance (as you define it), you have a community, where individuals can grow in their own way, supported by others. This is a world of freedom and, taken to the extreme, a utopia, or heaven on earth.

I don't know how useful this is to 'fixing' games like some of the ones described above - It sounds like that 'game w/ the bunker' had problems besides just the 'never-ending mystery'…  But I'd proffer this:

The dictate is: Play to find out.
It's not: Play to wonder about shit.

If people are playing AW to find out, "What the fuck is this Maelstrom thing?" or some other big mystery, then go with that. Don't do the Lost thing and obfuscate or cockblock 'em, let em make progress towards finding out, using the rules/system as a group as best you can.  Now, when they find out, and they should find out, that particular story is OVER. Depending on the group, that may be where play ends.  Or you might keep going, because now it's potentially about, "What do you do with that information?"  When TV shows do stuff like this, it's called changing the core premise, and they often loose viewers, because you have, in effect, a different show and it may or may not appeal to the original audience so much.  But you're not compelled by your ratings and your network exec to keep going, so 'play till you're done', whenever that occurs, and then stop.  Then start another game of whatever.