Apocalypse Malaise

  • 8 Replies
Apocalypse Malaise
« on: November 08, 2010, 08:30:52 PM »
So last time we were supposed to play, I just didn't prep. Just didn't. And so we didn't play (we play every two weeks normally, so it's been a while). We're supposed to play tomorrow, and damn it if I don't want to prep.

It's not like it's hard or anything, I mean, it's pretty easy and pretty fun and doesn't usually take more than an hour, but it just sounds like fucking work to me, you know? Like a slag. I don't know what's up. For some reason with AW, as MC* I feel like this pressure to perform and bring the fun, and I think it's kind of sucking away my enthusiasm.

Anyone else feel this way, with AW specifically?

*Keep in mind this is the first game I've GMed or played for such an extended time (6 sessions so far)

Re: Apocalypse Malaise
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2010, 10:01:09 PM »
Sometimes you're just not feeling it - that happens to me occasionally with almost any game and more often with games that run for several sessions.

If you've got a couple Fronts in motion from earlier sessions, prep shouldn't necessarily take too long.  Maybe fifteen minutes, in my opinion.  But some people feel they need to prep more for almost any game.  Like, putting in the time is part of what gives them confidence to really "bring it" and I can definitely appreciate that feeling.  Less so with Apocalypse World than most other games, but still.

Maybe your last session reached a sort of new point of equilibrium and you feel like there are not a lot of things in motion to inspire you and the other players.  And then you feel might need more prep.

I don't know your general methods or comfort zones.  Maybe it's really important to you to spend an hour prepping to MC a game.  I'd suggest an experiment that may not feel ideal but may be preferable to letting the game have another two weeks of downtime.

Don't prep.  Not even five minutes.  Just review the agenda and the principles one minute before you play.  Hold the session and open by asking what people are interested in.  I'll bet at least one person will have some things that get the ball rolling.  If you and others find inspiration and you feel at that point that you can "bring it" and follow the game's agenda then continue.

If not then do some socializing, talk about the game, play a card/board game or whatever else you might like to do together and hope to come back fresh next time.

I have approached a lot of games like this and it works for me more often than not.  Apocalypse World's principle of asking provocative questions and then building on the answers gives you the breathing space to not prep, in my opinion and most of the post 2nd session prep is about building confidence and a safety net of a few pieces of grist.

Remember that first session where you have no idea what the world was like and hadn't done any prep?  Maybe it wasn't the best, but I 'll bet you and the rest of the group had fun.  Don't prep, don't build a safety net and approach the next session with that same sense of wonder and curiosity you had for the first session.

AW's lists of Moves and the questions you ask can be your "prep."

And let us know how it went.  :)

Re: Apocalypse Malaise
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2010, 12:19:42 AM »
I'm with nemomeme... just turn up without doing prep. My last session as MC, I just began with "Okay, so where were we last time?" and went from there. I noticed exactly no problems with this process.

Re: Apocalypse Malaise
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2010, 08:39:34 AM »
I used to GM Call of Cthulhu and prep was such a huge bother in that game. Playing Apocalypse World is such a weight of my shoulders. You can do a Apocalypse World session without prep by following the 1st session recommendations. It will be slightly more laid back, but it works.

Re: Apocalypse Malaise
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2010, 08:44:48 AM »
Anyone else feel this way, with AW specifically?

With Apocalypse World, I very specifically never feel this way. It's the only reason that I've been able to run 10+ sessions with a smile on my face.  I've absolutely felt this agony in other games, D&D is a big culprit, but even Burning Wheel and Dresden Files tends to give me this sense of "Man, that prep is a lot of work" sort of feeling.
This is because my prep with Apocalypse World is the occasional letter from the MC, and every couple of sessions or so I clean up my relationship map, or reprint  my threats and fronts.

Maybe you could explain what you are doing in that hour of prep?  

And maybe you should talk about how your actual game sessions go. What makes you think that you are responsible for bringing the fun?  Nothing in the MC section says that.  There is some expectations to make sure the player character's lives are not boring, but the MC moves and the threat moves allow you to challenge that on the fly.  

Fun in this game seems to be designed to act as a group effort.  The MC does his moves, and the player characters respond.  The Characters act, and the MC responds.  There's a push-pull that must happen for the game to achieve fun, and part of that process involves player involvement, and is out of the MC's hands.

Again, I have no idea how your game sessions are going, but maybe you might want to talk about what you think the responsibilities of the players is supposed to be.  And compare that to what they're actually doing at the table.  

That might get to the heart of this odd pressure to perform.  I say it's odd because I've never felt that way when playing Apocalypse World, and it's one of the only games for me where this pressure is not present.

Re: Apocalypse Malaise
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2010, 04:52:04 PM »
Thanks for the comments, everybody (esp. nemomeme, that helps a lot!).

Glendower: It's not a problem with the players; like, they don't make me feel like I have to bring the fun. I just put that pressure on myself.

I just re-read the beginning of Play Unsafe and it's made me so much more excited to play. The part where Graham says, "If you play all serious, and conduct yourself like you're at a business meeting, no one's going to have any fun," really struck home with me. I think I've been running AW like I have to have this really weighty, human story, and trying to push it. Instead of, you know, just playing. I've been trying to choke the game and extract something from it (what exactly, I'm not sure), instead of going along with it.

I'm excited again about prepping. I've got some time this afternoon and so I'll probably write a couple love letters and make a front or two.

Re: Apocalypse Malaise
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2010, 05:11:28 PM »
Play Unsafe is the best.

Re: Apocalypse Malaise
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2010, 01:30:35 AM »
session went well tonight. I prepped for like 2 hours, making 2 love letters and very very bare bones on 2 fronts. Man, it takes me a long time to do this stuff!

Anyway, we had fun, I had fun, and we spent a good deal of time just chatting about the game and what's working/what's not. We're going to play twice more and then move on to something else.

Something I realized, which I'll probably expand into a blog post: I'm really sold on how Apocalypse World works, but I think maybe I'm just not passionate about the apocalyptica/scarcity fiction. In 7 sessions I've never successfully made a PC-NPC-PC triangle: the players are all just united and keep mowing down the fronts. And I've read a LOT about the triangles and how to do them! Some of the players mentioned that they just want to be heroes, which I don't think AW is good for.

I'm thinking I'll really love some of the hacks for AW.

Plus, I just want to play it.

Re: Apocalypse Malaise
« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2010, 05:54:55 PM »
Hey, Hans, I wanted to say I appreciate this thread a lot. I'm going through a similar acute mental morass right now, 7 sessions in, and this has all been helpful to read. Just reread Play Unsafe over lunch as a result, which is always a positive.

I'm interested in hearing more about the unified heroic front in AW, so maybe post a link if you blog about it?