Rules question - monsters

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Rules question - monsters
« on: July 03, 2013, 08:47:58 AM »
Hi all. I'm about to take my first crack at GMing anything other than a pre-canned D&D campaign tonight (and even that was 10 years ago). Obviously I'm choosing to do Apocalypse World, and I had a quick rules question.

I can see lots of reasons (especially given what the guys I'll be playing with will likely dream up) why some horrible post-apocalyptic monsters might come up as a threat, at least a side one that gets in the way as they try to accomplish other things. However, the rulebook never really goes into how you should treat monsters as a threat. Has anyone come up with a good rule of thumb for how to bring monsters/creatures into play?

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Re: Rules question - monsters
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2013, 12:12:08 PM »
One of the rules is make everyone human which I always took to include monsters. So monsters can communicate and have goals you can comprehend (even though they might be horrible). You can manipulate or seduce monsters although it might be a great deal more dangerous than with most people.

Tbh I have not used many monsters outside of maelstrom experiences because making a fucked up person with peculiar needs and powers is more interesting. A few true monsters I've used:

The wolf with human eyes: a big scary wolf that literally has human eyes. It's very intelligent and gathers a pack of regular wolves (3-harm hand, no armor, 2 hp like humans) around itself for which it acts like a strong leader. From time to time the pack grows to a maximum size of 40 individuals. If the wolf with human eyes is killed it is reborn from the flesh of another wolf within a month but it will have to start from scratch gathering its pack. To stop it from coming back you need to erase it from the maelstrom, in that game it would have meant capturing it and keeping it alive since the maelstrom was the underworld created by a deadly virus. Its threat type was Alpha wolf (duh).

The thing in the mist: the players never saw it. They were in a (apocalypse: the ground has been swallowed by sinister mist) bunker and something was banging on the door. It would have been an animated corpse stretched out thin by the gravity event that collapsed the ground so it would have long limbs and a freaking neck. I'm not sure how I would have handled it mechanically, probably it would have been hard to kill with each attack maybe severing a limb but not really stopping it.

Murder of poison crows: controlled by an evil shaman. They had poisonous beaks and liked hanging out in trees outside marked peoples' homes. If you went out at night they would attack and swarm you and inflict a poison that dealt 4-harm(ap). Being nice to the shaman helped deal with this problem but so would probably a surprise explosion.

Skeleton on motorcycle: encountered in the underworld. Blinds you with the headlight and runs you over with its motorcycle.

Remember that the PCs start out powerful and quickly grow very powerful in terms of everything. Don't count on numbers to provide any sort of satisfying challenge but make monsters serve to highlight a scarcity or be connected to another threat. Or monsters can simply be a punishment for fucking up when dealing with another threat. I had some PCs exploring an underwater ruin in scuba gear and one PC had a strong fear of octopi (water apocalypse, octopuses would crawl into people's homes and steal their stuff including pets and babies) so when they opened a cupboard one obviously attacked her face and started strangling the air tube on top of being scary as hell. A failed act under fire to remove it with a sword lead to cutting off the air tube in the process of removing it which made the logistics of the trip much harder.

That was the first session at a con but a second session would probably have included two threats linked with the octopi thieves (the maelstrom was a literal maelstroms occuring in the ocean, the brainer would go freediving when opening her brain, the hocus would simply meditate floating in a flooded house).

  • The depths: Breeding pit (impulse: to generate badness)
  • Octopi burglars: Sacrifice (impulse: to leave people bereft) (seeing as they are not very dangerous or even very common but the people would react strongly to them, the faction that was the hocus water cult worshipped them as messengers of their watery god)

Re: Rules question - monsters
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2013, 12:38:40 PM »
Thanks! Very helpful. The octopi example is probably pretty close to what I'm thinking. My Savvyhead player wants to start with a workshop at the top floor of a skyscraper, with his relic of the golden age being a disused helicopter on the helipad that he wants to fix up. Trying to think of ways to make this difficult, and a nest of horrible giant bird mutants seems like an easy way to do so. Might need to get more creative, though...

Re: Rules question - monsters
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2013, 01:56:29 PM »
I have tended to use variations on the landscape:breeding pit (generate badness). This is limited, though, since the "badness" itself doesn't necessarily have its own moves. Like, maybe the badness is a bunch of bugs all over your stuff (as in the example from the rule book), but the bugs themselves don't really have a move; they're just there to be bad. I've used this threat myself to represent an effect the landscape has on NPCs (as the "black sick" that turns people violent and makes them seep oily muck from their pores); some affected just go nuts and have basically only one move (violently spread the sick), and those who survive with their sanity become a "grotesque:disease vector" – still a character, not a monster.

That said, I get the impression that classic "monsters" were left out pretty intentionally, as so many other games focus on that so much already. This game focuses on people, environments, and harsh circumstances, so I've been trying to take that to heart and resist the urge to throw in evil mutants or whatever.

Re: Rules question - monsters
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2013, 03:13:51 PM »
This is good feedback, better to hear it this way rather than figure out the hard way that it isn't fun and ruin the game for my 5 friends :D. I'll try to think up some other difficulties he has for the helicopter... perhaps the fact that no one on the blasted earth probably knows how to fly the damn thing will do.

Re: Rules question - monsters
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2013, 04:53:47 PM »
Instead of having the monster itself be a threat, focus on the effect that the monster has on the community, and make that an affliction type threat. Does the monster expose people to danger? Make it an Affliction: Condition. Does it dominate people’s choices and actions? Affliction: Delusion. Does it leave people bereft? Affliction: Sacrifice. Does it impoverish people? Affliction: Barrier. Be sure to include any affected characters on the threats Cast List.

Re: Rules question - monsters
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2013, 09:12:22 PM »
Yeah when the savvyhead tries to do something cool make sure other people sit on the material or some of the knowledge required. Maybe they're excited to see a helicopter too but in that case they want a piece of the action.

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noclue

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Re: Rules question - monsters
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2013, 10:28:45 PM »
Thanks! Very helpful. The octopi example is probably pretty close to what I'm thinking. My Savvyhead player wants to start with a workshop at the top floor of a skyscraper, with his relic of the golden age being a disused helicopter on the helipad that he wants to fix up. Trying to think of ways to make this difficult, and a nest of horrible giant bird mutants seems like an easy way to do so. Might need to get more creative, though...

Seriously, you don't need bird mutants to make that difficult. Just ask the Savyhead where he gets the parts made for the copter and what he trades for them.
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