Fronts question when home is a bus

  • 4 Replies
Fronts question when home is a bus
« on: September 23, 2013, 05:51:35 PM »
My group wanted to take a break from D&D since we had gotten kinda tired of the lack of story so I offered to run an Apocalypse World campaign. I have never run a campaign of anything before but I have enjoyed learning and planning this one out.

So to complicate things, the group is large (6 people) and they pretty much off the bat wanted to be a traveling group not tied to a hold (true adventurers right?) so the Driver got a bus big enough to fit the Hocus and his whole cult in with the rest of the PC's. Needless to say if this sounds like your game stop reading now!

After a little bit of setting things up after character creation to get everybody on the bus, I realized that I pretty much only have the Hocus' followers to play with as established NPC's for the time. There are some gangs that are coming looking for them, but the main thing I am wondering about is how to incorporate the followers, afflictions and the landscape.

For instance, I have planned an affliction:delusion that has to do with consuming an important McGuffin. Since the cult is in the home front should I put the affliction in the home front or should it maybe be a part of a completely separate front that is tied more directly to the McGuffin. For that matter though 2 of the 3 fronts are tied in some way to the McGuffin already, is it bad to have multiple fronts converging? Are fronts more of a conceptual framework to help you organize the actual threats and inspire story or is there a real function to them that I need to be aware of that would prevent me from listing a subset of the cult in another front as a family for instance?

I know it has been beaten to death on other posts but the whole landscape as front does not seem to offer the same sort of options for story, especially if it is something like road-Maze. Should I really be looking at landscapes and afflictions as inspirations for custom moves that make the players' lives more interesting?

Re: Fronts question when home is a bus
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2013, 06:31:54 PM »
For me, the most important thing about a front, that makes it separate from the otherwise homeless threats on the home front, is the "Dark Future." Figure out what your threat represents (fear, decay, hunger, thirst, etc) and then think about "what is going to happen if nobody stops it from happening?"

Also, just because the cult belongs to a PC does not automatically place it in the home front, it could very well be a threat listed in a separate front. If the cult and this delusion seem to go well together, you have 2 threats in a front already, and you can figure out the others from there, or figure out the dark future they represent and then figure out the other threats. Once you have 3 or 4 threats ironed out, make a couple of countdown clocks for the over-all front to help push them along.

Personally, I am not the most organized with my fronts during play, but when the fiction steers toward one of my threats I have notes ready to pull up and deliver moves from that threat accordningly. Often I spend time after the session marking off my countdown clocks as I realize the moves for the threat types or general MC moves have naturally moved things in the direction of the clock.

Once you pass 9 on a Front clock, it's too late to stop it! Your PCs had their chance, now you give them a chance to run or brace for impact as the inevitable comes crashing down.

Re: Fronts question when home is a bus
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2013, 05:03:11 PM »

It's hard to offer advice in the abstract -- the fact that you are describing your own plots as centered around 'a McGuffin' is kind of worrisome. Hopefully this thing, whatever it is, actually interests you and your players as a thing-in-itself. Barf some apocalyptica on that for us, and we'll probably be able to offer more specific advice.

Fronts are primarily a framework, for sure, and I often have different variations on the same fictional threat appear in different Fronts, when that makes sense. I.e. in the 'Gang War' Front, the #YOLOs are an Affliction/Delusion (their beliefs encourage reckless and suicidal behaviour) but when you consider the 'Endless Drought & Desert' threat they act as a Family/Cult (who preferentially feed their own and use their food stores to recruit the vulnerable).

It's easy to see how one of these threats could be neutralized while the other remains relevant, regardless of the fate of the #YOLOs themselves.

I agree with sully that the "Dark Future" is particularly worth considering, especially in your setup -- it's going to be particularly important that your Fronts actively threaten the particular lifestyle & situation of your PCs. I.e. if they can just drive away from it, it's probably not a Front. Remember, Fronts are not 'interesting adventure hooks' -- they are 'horrible problems'. That doesn't mean there can't be that other stuff, too, but you need to think about what makes it a threat -- and what makes it a threat specifically to your group of people on a bus. Remember that one of the crucial First Session questions to ask yourself is: where are they vulnerable?

Re: Fronts question when home is a bus
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2013, 04:26:14 PM »
OK, I don't know why I was being weird and vague, I guess I was paranoid someone from my group would read it but who cares, their loss if they don't heed the warning.

So I think part of my mental block is that I am struggling with the dark future vs adventure hook thing. So the object of desire is a flower imbued with some of the maelstrom that is valued as a drug but also has potential to combat some of the decaying effects that are taking place because of the maelstrom's hunger. The apocalypse is primarily environmental caused by a slow leeching of life force by the maelstrom. The players don't know all of the potential yet. So the first session Cuba and his gang came after the bus with the intent of getting this Lotus.

I have Cuba as a front that expresses ambition because he is actually being manipulated by his brainer Filter who knows about the potential of the Lotus but has told him just to get it so he can reverse engineer the drug capabilities. The dark future is Filter getting in kahoots with the maelstrom and starting a new nexus of decay in the players' back yard.

The problem is that the session ended with the gang surrounding the bus after blowing out a couple of tires and the rest of the characters finding out about the flower but there doesn't seem to be any way that this is gonna end because the skinner with the flower is best friends with the gunlugger who is going to do his best to mow through the whole gang with the help of some bus mounted machine guns. Should an entire front be so easily stopped? Should so much time be dedicated to a standoff in the desert?
The other front I devised is from the Driver's past. Chin and his gang got screwed over by Tex (the Driver) and his partner the savvyhead Jebadyah. I have this front express fear because Tex is on the run from Chin and Chin is afraid of the people he ended up screwing over. They were supposed to do some kinda gig that would benefit the Black Bark cult who are also trying to get into kahootz with the maelstrom but maybe for a different reason than Filter. None of this has come to light yet since we have been dealing with the first front. So I had the dark future as killing off the characters but is it really more like super-charging the maelstrom with some tech-powered cult rituals? Maybe they will end up trying to get their hands on the Lotus too. Maybe Jebadayah will try to do some reverse engineering of the Lotus or maybe he will think he can do more if he joins the Black Bark cult.

There is also a front that is different Maelstrom landscapes and an affliction:delusion to eat the Lotus that expresses decay. So all of these tie into the lotus and I worry that maybe it is too focused on this one object (there are other Lotuses though).

The last front I devised is a hold that they reach where an affliction:custom is to send off members of the hold by lottery to the neighboring hive queen's hold where they are forced to breed with her mutant children and finally eaten. This front expresses despair. The dark future is the characters are captured and eaten by the mutants.

So I have the fronts. Have I planned them out too far in advance? Did I plan the wrong things? Things were kinda awkward at the start when it was just a bus full of characters and the Hocus' cult. I tried to propel some interactions but it is like everyone was up in everybody else's business. The players said they liked it when the gang showed up and there has been some good PC conflicts but I feel like I am doing something wrong like I can't zoom out as far as I would like to and the world just feels a little too confined right now.

I guess that is a lot of information. I don't really expect answers, these are just the questions I am asking myself now that I actually ran a session.

Re: Fronts question when home is a bus
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2013, 04:49:20 PM »

I will try to get back to this and give a more detailed response, but the first thing I will point out is that a Front usually consists of multiple threats. If all your Fronts are a single threat, they should probably be fleshed out more. Because, yes, if the only threat in a front is a 'gang of armed dudes' and your PCs kill all of them, then probably that's not a threat anymore.

For example, your Front about the gang/Brainer who covet the flower; presumably there are other manifestations of that particular ambition out there, besides this one guy and his one gang. What other things are going wrong because of this ambition? What other sorts of troublesome ambition does the existence of this flower create?