Are separate story lines normal?

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cds

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Are separate story lines normal?
« on: January 03, 2013, 12:11:11 AM »
So, we're just getting rolling on my first AW game, and I'm noticing that so far, the majority of the action seems to involve one character at a time.  For example, they're planning to mount an expedition to capture a rival hold's scout for questioning.  The hardholder and chopper talk about it and the chopper's going to head out with his gang.  So, one PC for that operation while the others do other stuff back at the hold, presumably.

Is this how games tend to go for others?

In some game systems, I know that I as GM would probably structure things so that the whole party would go or the players would just do it on their own.  But I have the impression that that's not exactly the AW way (though I'm not sure I could explain exactly why).  Another approach might be to pursue parallel stories in parallel.  While the chopper is scout-hunting, maybe I switch the focus back and forth between the hunt and whatever's going on at the hold?

I'm also imagining that this will take a fair amount of screen time, so if I do nothing and let it play out then the others are going to be idle for the duration, which isn't fun.  Maybe I should make such things run faster?

I hope you get the idea.  I'm just curious how such things typically run in AW.  Do the PCs all tend to stick together?  Does the MC jump between stories?  Something else?

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DannyK

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Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2013, 02:08:06 AM »
Yeah, separate lines happen in every game I've been in, in part because there's no reason to be a "party" and every character has their own job to do.  I like to think of AW characters in subgroups and find reasons for odd pairings when it comes time to frame a scene -- maybe the Chopper is escorting the Angel to a crash site where one of his guys is too badly hurt to move, for example. 

I find that people don't mind as long as you switch back and forth fairly often -- every time things get really exciting or suspenseful is good, like when the Chopper runs into an ambush or the Angel finds someone waiting for her in the infirmary.  It keeps the player excited to get back to the scene, and they have time to think about what they'll do. 

I also find it helps to have an expectation that other players can participate in the scene, if only by comments or encouragement.  And it's good to check in with the players and see if you can jump ahead -- it's a lot easier to combine paralell story lines if they're not too long and involved.

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cds

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Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2013, 03:40:01 AM »
I like to think of AW characters in subgroups and find reasons for odd pairings when it comes time to frame a scene -- maybe the Chopper is escorting the Angel to a crash site where one of his guys is too badly hurt to move, for example.

This comment and similar comments in the book bring up another related question.  So, when you do something like that does the action start with you saying something like, "So, the next day, Sink is involved in a crash and you're escorting Bish to the crash site because Sink can't be moved.  As you roll up to the scene..."  Because that's not a style I've really done a lot before, but that's how I interpret what the book is describing.  Rather than leading them to the action, just make some assumptions and drop them in the action (maybe being ready to backup if they say, "but wait, I would of done X, first...").

Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2013, 05:10:57 AM »
I didn't have that that much in my first campaign. I think that's because I did this a lot in the first session:

Quote from: 'Apocalypse World, p. 128'
Give every character good screen time with other characters.

Bring them onscreen in pairs and triples, in obvious groupings and unlikely ones too. Play with their natural hierarchies and bring them into circumstances where they might have something to say to each other.

If you do that the first session, in conjunction with the Hx rounds, you'll probably have a group that plays more with each other. I think.

Now, there's still moments when characters go do their own things and that's cool, but when shit hits the fan, they're quite enclined to call each other for help and stand together.

(Also, I noticed first session advices are wicked good for when your group has solved a front or two and the momentum is a bit low. Like a second season first episode in a TV series.)

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Arvid

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Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2013, 01:35:24 PM »
Yes, fundamentally the game is about a bunch of individuals and their relationships and relationship triangles. I try to focus on or cut to the parts where at least two PCs are involved. Those are usually the most interesting.

Yes, you can totally "cut to the chase" and frame scenes about the parts you find most interesting, The Operator's move "Moonlighting" is a good example of this.

Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2013, 03:20:14 PM »
Separate stuff can be fun, but leaves the others twiddling their thumbs for a long while at times...

Suggestion; if you want to get the pc's together occasionally, add a custom move; anyone can use the Savvyheads Bone feel move at the session start.

I've used this custom move in a few games, not all players will want to roll it, but many may... they'll get a choice and if they use it(or you use it), you get make cooler stuff happen because you can mix up those story arcs.

Hope that's helpful
Hanklevoncrankle ; )

Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2013, 04:33:25 PM »

This certainly happens, and cutting between one or more scenes is a crucial MC skill.

On the other hand, the more PC-NPC-PC triangles you create, the more likely you are to have good ideas for scenes that involve multiple PCs.

Even then, you are often going to have PCs isolated for various reasons -- but if there are triangles and strong relationships in place, then when one of those NPCs shows up in another scene, it's almost like the PC is present, both in terms of fictional consequence and in terms of player interest.

Like, if we've established that Balls is second in command of the Chopper's gang, then whenever she shows up in a scene with the creepy Brainer, it doesn't matter whether the Chopper is actually off on some 'mission' somewhere -- everyone knows that how the Brainer interacts with Balls is going to directly affect the Chopper (and result in consequences for the Brainer, probably.) The Balls-related triangle creates interaction at a distance, and the scene is no longer isolated from the other players.


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cds

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Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2013, 04:49:59 PM »
Yeah, the NPCs are definitely another area I need to work on.  At the least, everybody has a name, and certainly the players know who a few of them are, but so far that's mostly by their role or the actions they were involved in.  For example, a lot of them we don't know anything about them beyond, Dice is a biker, or Newton is the hardholder's page.  In order to make triangles with them, I need to figure out who they are so that they aren't defined solely by their job.  Do people have advice for how to do that?  I figure a certain amount of just figuring out who they could be and making decisions is involved, but any additional tricks or advice would help.

Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2013, 11:03:31 PM »
The stuff in the book about making NPCs just not that complicated is great advice. Have them follow some simple impulse or desire and, if something gets in the way of that, have them switch to that, then back to the simple impulse. It models realistically enough for almost every NPC. Possibly all NPCs, depending on the campaign.

Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2013, 04:17:35 AM »

As above about simple motivations, and also I like to use character portraits. It's hard to make an NPC completely boring/forgettable if you have an awesome picture for them.

Here's a link to my album of character portraits -- it's no longer AW-specific, but there are lots in there that work. (It hopefully goes without saying that these are not my photos, and therefore the contents are absolutely only for private, non-commercial use.)

https://plus.google.com/photos/115759898578469484671/albums/5761637172534317489?authkey=CLim752pnp28Eg

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cds

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Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2013, 07:15:56 AM »
Wow.  Neat portrait gallery.  Do you show them to players or use them only for inspiration or what?

Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2013, 05:48:11 PM »

I have an increasingly unwieldy number of them printed out and at the table -- when a new NPC shows up, the MC picks a portrait for them. Whenever the NPC shows up in future scenes, we usually reference the photo to remind everyone what they look like/who they are -- not surprisingly, it's easier to remember an NPC who has a human face attached. Often the photos of active-in-this-scene NPCs are placed in the middle of the table.


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Chris

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Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2013, 06:09:58 PM »
Oh yeah. But you can start to combine them if you're lucky/good/creative.
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 - "......"

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noclue

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Re: Are separate story lines normal?
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2013, 02:44:23 PM »
PC-NPC-PC triangles are your friend.
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER