Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire

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Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« on: January 04, 2011, 04:05:52 AM »
So, there's this thing that always worries me a little when I think about running Apocalypse World.

It's that whole "and if you _____, you're acting under fire", such as happens with a refused seduce/manipulate move, for instance.

Acting under fire makes a whole lot of sense to me when there is a clear, urgent fire. But when it's the chain reaction of another roll, sometimes it's not clear what the urgent, present fire is.

In my head, at least, this leads to this weird situation where the dice are rolled, and the fiction is relatively static. On a miss, the MC is supposed to make a hard move, but if there is no current and immediate danger, doesn't it feel a little artificial?

Like, yeah, we make moves all the time in any game we play, but doesn't, "OK, you missed the roll, so now this entirely new bad thing happens to you," feel just a little contrived? How can you misdirect and not speak its name, and all that, enough to make it feel natural?

For instance, there is a move where you give someone a gift of 1-barter, and it counts as a 10+ on a seduce/manipulate roll.

So I picture this wealthy hardholder calling up his good friend for a chat over some tea, and this goes down. It's all dark and intimate, whispered conversation between friends in a rare calm moment.

He offers the friend some jingle, and now if the friend refuses they're acting under fire. They roll+cool and blow it (or 7-9, whatever). What happens? Do raiders suddenly burst through the wall?

How do you do this without it feeling totally contrived?

Re: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2011, 06:14:59 AM »
From my interpretation, acting underfire also includes social fire like when you are stressed, when you are under pressure from another person or when you try to lie. In this case the person rejects the gift, part of the manipulate/seduce, then has to come up with a good reason why not. Otherwise they risk the ire of the giftgiver, having the gift forced on them anyway or both (or some other MC fuckery).

Re: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2011, 09:54:56 AM »
I agree with Hidersine.  It should more properly say "Attempting to refuse is acting under fire."  If they blow the roll they have to acquiesce.

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lumpley

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Re: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2011, 11:55:14 AM »
Oh no, you can always just choose to refuse. You're acting under fire because you've refused, not in order to refuse.

Paul, 3 things. 1: make as hard and direct a move as you want to make, not a hard move in any absolute terms. 2: make a move that you CAN misdirect, not a contrived move. 3: don't call for the roll+cool until you know what the refuser is going to do instead.

Barbecue, the hardholder: Hey Rex, you know your mom? Here's 1 shiny jingle. Go punch her in the face for me, she needs it.
Rex, the gunlugger: What? No.
Me, the MC: What do you do instead?
Rex: I just refuse. I'm not going to go punch my mom, as if.
Me: Sure, that's fine. What do you do then, instead of punching your mom?
Rex: Oh. I still want to talk to Barbecue about Hapler.
Me: So you just let it slide, keep talking?
Rex: Yeah.
Me: Okay. That's under fire, because of the shiny jingle. Roll+cool.

Rex rolls, hits a 10+
Me: Cool. Carry on.

- or -
Rex rolls, hits a 7-9. There's kind of an ugly choice already present in the situation, so I just say it out loud.
Me: Huh. Do you accept the jingle, though?

- or -
Rex rolls, misses. I give my list of moves a quick glance. I've got nothing else brewing, no raiders or cannibal cults or handy interruptions, so I decide just to tell consequences and ask.
Me: You let it slide? If your mom finds out, she's going to be wicked pissed you didn't do anything about it.
Rex: Yeah. I can deal with that when it comes.
Me: Okay, your call! You want to talk about Hapler, you said?

-Vincent

Re: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2011, 02:13:30 PM »
Thanks, Vincent. That example is tremendously helpful, actually. I'll have to see it play a few times and see how it goes, but that gives me something to work with, for sure.

I'm really enjoying the text for the most part, but one thing I wish there was more guidance about is precisely this: "make a hard a move as you like."

Now, you make it clear that "as hard as you like" doesn't always mean "hard as possible". But where the book isn't terribly helpful (at least as far as I can tell, it's very likely I've overlooked some advice somewhere in there!) is in helping the MC decide just how hard a move to make.

Having read over your example, above, my feeling is that the mental process is roughly along the lines of:

"Ok, here's the fiction as I'm imagining it, with roughly this range is plausible and likely outcomes. A blown roll means I interpret a likely outcome, but very much biased to the worst possible end of the spectrum for this, current situation."

So, in this case, refusing the jingle doesn't have any likely or plausible immediate, "hard" consequences (unless the hardholder brings them himself, of course). But what's a thing that could go wrong because of this? Well, sure, word could get to the guy's mother that the hardholder asked him to punch her and he didn't really  bat an eye.

So, here, "telling the consequences and asking" is setting up a harder move down the road, right?

Anyway, assuming that's roughly the right angle, I do find myself wishing there was some advice on how hard to push those MC moves, especially when it's "as hard as you like". Because that's basically asking the MC to go on his or her instincts, which is great, but not always enough.

Are there particular moments in play where it's better to stay gentle (as in this example), and other examples where even a violent distortion of the fiction is worth paying for some more extreme drama?

I do realize that the flexibility of this kind of situation, for each group to find their own sweet spot, is part of the design, but still I'd love to hear some thoughts from Vincent and any other experienced AW MCs.

When it's "as hard as you like", how do you choose when to go full throttle, and when to baby it in a little more?


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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2011, 03:03:17 PM »
Thanks, Paul!

The rules answer is the agenda and principles. Make as hard and direct a move as you like, where what you like is to make Apocalypse World seem real, to make the characters' lives not boring, and to play to find out what happens; and bearing in mind especially that you should follow from plausible established causes, you're a fan of the characters, you should occassionally give them everything they hope for, and "not boring" doesn't mean "worse and worse."

Given that you're following the rules, there's nothing to go by but what you happen to want, in that unique moment of play. It's the same as choosing your character moves as a player: choose by taste and whim, case by case by case.

No legal move is a bad choice, every legal move is fun, and you get to choose the ones you like!

-Vincent

Re: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2011, 03:37:03 PM »
Hey, great answer, Vincent! Thank you.

The next step, though, is the "how". For instance, "how" does making a harder move at certain points make AW more real (it's pretty clear it generally tends to make the PCs' lives not boring)? "How" do harder and softer moves play effectively into being a fan of the characters?

This is an area of the game that seems to me to be asking for a lot of trial and error on the part of the MC, which is how most games work, but I wonder if there might be some more juice in this particular issue. I always like teasing out little "tricks" that make games more fun and easier to play, so that's my goal here.

I think your answer (as written above) is pretty concrete and thorough, so if you want to drop it here, that's fine by me (though I do always enjoy hearing more of your thoughts on this sort of thing).

I'd also really love to hear what the other experienced AW MCs around here think about this, though - sometimes the designer can have a different perspective on how their creation can best be used than someone looking at the game from an outside perspective. Just like how a proofreader can often improve a text in surprising ways.

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Chris

  • 342
Re: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2011, 12:04:49 PM »
Oh no, you can always just choose to refuse. You're acting under fire because you've refused, not in order to refuse.

- or -
Rex rolls, misses. I give my list of moves a quick glance. I've got nothing else brewing, no raiders or cannibal cults or handy interruptions....

I cannot describe how much I hate this. I run it to where the "fire" in a seduce/manipulate is the roller's hotness and if the player under fire fails the roll, they accept the deal; you should have been cooler. Running it as "if the roller rolls well and the roll-e botches the resulting act under fire, raiders burst through the wall" does not flow for me. Following my principles, it would almost always always turn out as Vincent's example, where the only plausible misdirect that naturally flows from the current scene is usually going to be tell the consequences of the decision from a third party and ask.

This means that there's two consequences for turning down the offered deal: the naturally resulting consequence that comes from turning down whatever the person who just rolled has offered and also the consequence that comes from the MC's misdirected move.

In Baker's example, the two consequences would be both whatever Barbecue decides is the course of action he wants to take in response to the jilted offer and then also the announced consequence of the Mom. I'm just not a big fan of adding a consequence that requires that level of misdirection when there's already going to be a possible/probable consequence.

If the receiving player turns down the offer and the rolling/acting player isn't particularly inclined to "punish" them, then I don't see a need for me as the MC to choose a "punishment" from the list of moves, which what that example feels like to me.
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: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2011, 02:03:44 PM »
The next step, though, is the "how". For instance, "how" does making a harder move at certain points make AW more real (it's pretty clear it generally tends to make the PCs' lives not boring)? "How" do harder and softer moves play effectively into being a fan of the characters?

Hey Paul, that's something I've struggled with.  There is no straightforward answer, you've got to take Vincent's guidance and make a judgment call based on what feels right to you.  If it ends up feeling right to your players as well, then you've succeeded.

That said, often times the answer will be obvious.  Lets look at the two parts of your question:

1) When will a harder move make AW more real?
2) How does being a fan of the characters play into making a harder or softer  move.


Okay, part one is actually easy.  Any time your characters miss a roll and the people around the table are like "Oh Shit!", then it's time for a hard move.  Because the obvious consequences of failure are really bad.  When you pull punches too much, that makes AW seem false.  When a hard move is called for, you've got to make that hard move. 

Furthermore, sometimes a missed roll won't have an obvious consequence.  However, you're making AW seem real, so you've got to do things like look through the crosshairs and put your bloody fingerprints on everything.  That means bad stuff happens sometimes, not every time, but sometimes.  So you'll make a hard move the players weren't expecting, but it will support the feel of AW as a hard dangerous place.  (This usually flows from your prep with the threats though.)

Part 2 (being a fan) is trickier.  It means you want to see them be awesome.  Sometimes that means you give them the soft move, and sometimes it means you give them the hard one.  In Firefly you see two of your favorite characters kidnapped and brutally tortured.  It's a hard fucking move, but it sets things up for those characters (and the others around them) to be 100% more awesome than if life were easy all the time.  However that isn't called for all the time, sometimes your move is nothing but an opportunity you're offering them.  It's as soft a move as you'll make, but it can lead to some awesome moments for those characters.  Be a fan, try to integrate both of those.


Of course you're left with snap judgments on all of this.  Is this a good moment to give them everything they could ask for, or is this a moment to really screw them hard?  If you've been focusing on the principles though, the answer should flow naturally.

Re: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2011, 09:04:14 PM »
John,

That's some good stuff there, too, thank you.

Chris,

Running it as "if the roller rolls well and the roll-e botches the resulting act under fire, raiders burst through the wall" does not flow for me. Following my principles, it would almost always always turn out as Vincent's example, where the only plausible misdirect that naturally flows from the current scene is usually going to be tell the consequences of the decision from a third party and ask.

We're on the same wavelength here, and I wonder if we're misunderstanding something or if this is just the way it's supposed to go in this game.

My issue with what's being described, in addition to what you've described, is as follows:

In Vincent's example, we've got two rolls made, decisions made by both parties as well as the MC -- a lot of overhead, a lot of engaging the mechanics. But in the end it doesn't seem like anything's changed in the situation, or really any different from how things would have gone in completely free play. After all, even if the acting under fire roll had succeeded, there's no reason to assume that the guy's mother wouldn't be pissed off later on.

Are the three possible outcomes really all that different from each other?

What's the value of those two rolls in that scene?

Am I misunderstanding the game, or just missing something obvious?

*

Chris

  • 342
Re: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2011, 05:49:57 AM »
In Vincent's example, we've got two rolls made, decisions made by both parties as well as the MC -- a lot of overhead, a lot of engaging the mechanics.

Paul, I think I read elsewhere that you hadn't really ran the game yet. That might be one of the issues toward seeing how it runs. Overheard, to me, isn't really the issue here. In practice, the process is mostly intuitive, so I've never felt overwhelmed.

That said, you hit my real issue better than I did: that the mother in Vincent's example becomes angry because the guy turned down the offer to punch her. Sure, not fictionally, and we misdirect and wrap it all in a bow, but conceptually, it's hard to see how one flows from the other, other than in a "oh, bad things happen when you miss a roll" conceit.

AW's one real problem, for me and mine, has been that when you've played the game for a prolonged time and everyone has experience on both sides of the MC/PC line, it becomes harder and harder to misdirect. Everyone knows the moves and despite the book's command of "never say your move", you don't have to anymore. Players begin to engage the MC's moves directly, consciously or not.

Another issue in that same vein and stemming from the same issue is an unwillingness on the part of some players to Read a Sitch or a Person. Because they know that a miss will result in a hard/hardish move against them, there can be a real "kicked dog" effect on the part of some players. Yes, misdirect and all that, but if a roll is failed, another problem is introduced and for some of my players, they won't roll a Read unless they've felt that they've controlled the surrounding fiction adequately. "I'm not going to read him here on the rooftop 'Let's take this meeting into my fortified office, where I have better control of the surroundings'".

In other words, in some cases, there can develop a un/conscious tendency to actively fight misdirection, as if making it harder for the MC to misdirect will make the hurt less painful.

The above might be a non-issue/intentionally built-in. It does flow from the fiction, but I'm just not used to the fiction being thought of at a meta level and then strategized about in terms of the MC's agenda, principles and moves.

I'm not trying to turn you off of the game, Paul. It's amazing and it's something that needs to be played. It's a game that's hard to put your head around otherwise, so I do really recommend playing it before trying to draw conclusions of your own.
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: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2011, 10:11:34 AM »
Right. I've played AW, just haven't run it myself yet, which is what I'm preparing for.

Re: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2011, 01:18:07 PM »
I totally sympathize with the "situation control" you describe there Chris.  That's a problem I have all the time in many games.  However, for some reason it hasn't been a problem for me in Apocalypse World.  My players have moved away from their risk-adversity and embraced the story.  Instead of investing themselves in their character's success, they're invested in the quality of the story we produce.

I think the difference is in the perception of hard moves.  A hard move isn't punishment.  It can be just as satisfying for the players as anything else.  Often you actually want a hard move against your character.  It's what engages them in the story.  One session a PC spent the whole time in his fortified office (just as you describe), end result: Nothing cool happened to him.  Cool stuff happened to the players out on the dangerous rooftops.  Some of it was hard, not all of it promoted their well-being, but they got to be heroes.  Isn't that the point?


As for the misdirection, that hasn't been an issue for me.  I don't rely heavily on the move list.  I usually do whatever sounds good and can look it up on the list later if I want.  It's primarily a source of inspiration when I'm stuck.  So I don't know how my players could work against my misdirection, when there isn't any misdirection.

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Chris

  • 342
Re: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2011, 04:54:29 PM »
Often you actually want a hard move against your character.  It's what engages them in the story.  One session a PC spent the whole time in his fortified office (just as you describe), end result: Nothing cool happened to him. 

Oh yeah. It's not a full on group thing, with it being a ubiquitous problem; it's just a few players here and there, from two different groups. Usually, the player will notice that they're not getting the same cool shinies that everyone else is turning xp in for or that I'm simply not focusing on them as much because they're boring me.

I think the difference is in the perception of hard moves.  A hard move isn't punishment.

Absolutely. I think it depends on how "into" the character's head a player gets. Because it absolutely is a punishment from a character perspective, but a reward from a player perspective. In other words, Kreider might not think that being out on the dangerous rooftops is particularly heroic, while we as an audience think that it is. Where does the individual player fall?

What's the player's agenda and what should it be and how close are those? Or is that even a valid question here?

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: Moves leading the fiction, and acting under fire without a fire
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2011, 05:42:52 PM »
That makes sense to me.  In my game we've shifted more toward making the exciting choices.  It's pretty easy to justify too.  Maybe your character just doesn't experience fear like you do, or maybe he doesn't want to appear afraid, or maybe he just didn't feel like interrupting things to walk ten minutes over to their office.  To put it another way, an audience member wouldn't blink an eye at either decision, so make the fun one.