AW - When an MC should kill a PC?

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AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« on: October 15, 2013, 02:49:59 PM »
The MC should be a fan of the characters so it is hard for me to decide when the time for a character it's over. It's a difficult decision because not every player can handle the death of a beloved character and most of the time when a player loses a character unwillingly also loses some of the will to play that particular game.

In my particular situation i've a player who almost always do the worst possible thing in every situation because he wants an escalation in violence. Seems fine at the first glance, but every one (other players included) in my AW started to hate him and he made very powerful enemies (i.e.: he declared a war against a warlord with 300 well armed thugs by killing 6 of them and sending back to the warlord parts of them, signign the murders using their blood as ink). Now, ofc i won't kill him right away as a move because it wouldn't be interesting, but if i have to be honest with myself and the warlord (that he created when i first asked questions in the first session), he should die in his sleep pretty soon.

So, when enough is enough and you should kill a PC?

Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2013, 03:21:47 PM »
No one? I thought this would be a hot topic...

Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2013, 05:08:43 PM »
It's true that AW instructs the MC to "be a fan of the player's characters". But it also instructs the MC to "make Apocalypse World seem real" and to "Play to find out what happens". Sometimes, what happens is that a PC takes a bullet between the eyes. The critical issue is that everything that happens must be a result of the games own internal logic, as well as the player's actions.

Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2013, 07:29:16 AM »
Yes and that's the answer from rules standpoint. But what about what happens next? Players don't take their characters' death well...
How do you make them understand it was because the fiction demanded so?

Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2013, 07:39:04 AM »
I don't think I would kill a PC in his sleep. There's a certain productive tension between "play to make the world seem real" and "be a fan of the players' characters" (<= "lives not boring"). There's a certain balance of power in how hard a move you make and how much of an opening the PC left you. Ultimately, I think being a fan of the characters means to some extent that if you kill them, you have to kill them epically, in a way that doesn't violate the implicit bargain that they're the heroes of the story. They can die, but they should go out with a bang(or if it's a whimper, with an epically satisfying whimper).

But if the hardholder would, in fact, TRY to off the player in his sleep, then have him try. But have the assassin creeping into the room knock something over, so it's actually "announce future badness" -- the PC has to get the fuck out, or you make a hard move. Alternatively, have him drug the PC and schlepp him off to an undisclosed location to torture him -- separate them, take his stuff away, inflict harm. You can have him tied to a chair and beaten to the point of debility; if the PC's helpless, he can read the sitch, he can seduce /manipulate the torturer if he can find some future leverage, but he doesn't have the fictional positioning to use his badass Hard moves. If he sent henchmen pieces back to the warlord, maybe the warlord wants to remove some pieces of him.

Maybe it's been too public a challenge to the warlord for the warlord to just kill him in his sleep: maybe that looks weak, like people will talk, say the warlord was scared, had to off him quick. Maybe the warlord's angling for public torture to make a point. Or maybe someone ELSE, not the warlord, who knows the warlord wants him, captures him as a bargaining chip. Ties him up in the bunker, sends one of his fingers to the warlord: "want more? let's talk." Maybe his friends -- if he has any left -- need to mount a rescue op. If any of them are sufficiently weird and happen to open a brain, maybe have them talk through the world's psychic maelstrom, give him a chance to plead with them, to promise to make amends, maybe they'll go get him out of trouble, maybe they won't.

There are plenty of brutal moves that you can inflict on him, that make the world seem real and his behavior have consequences , that puncture his bubble of invulnerability, without permanently ending his agency.

In a way you're describing a problem the player is posing to the group; he's playing a character who makes the other characters hate him, which is great, but you also say he's making the other *players* hate his character, off-table. That may be a social-contract problem which needs an off-table solution; but if so, killing the character certainly doesn't solve the problem. And maybe you can solve the problem in the fiction, if you treat the fiction as an arena for exploring it. The game is asking you to be a fan of the character, -- it's asking you to be a fan of THIS character, the murderous, violence-addicted, heedless loose cannon. It's asking you to treat that character as if it's posing an important question, as if there's a story there to be told. The story probably isn't "he dies in his sleep, whew, now we don't have to deal with that asshole". But the story might well be "so what happens if shit finally catches up with him, big-time?"

Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2013, 08:57:03 AM »
Well, the obvious answer to me is that the GM shouldn't kill a PC. That's not the level on which the MC makes decisions in this game. The MC makes moves based on the fiction, and none of those moves are 'kill a PC'. Some of those moves might result in the PC dying, certainly, but that's not really the same thing.

I mean, inflict harm (as established) could certainly result in a PC being almost-dead, but their player will always have the option to take a debility instead of dying. And "(as established)" means that the PC has almost certainly had some opportunity to react to whatever situation is causing the harm. What counts as 'establishing' that a PC is going to be killed in their sleep is of course a judgment call of sorts, but if I was running a game where that might happen I would probably just straight up say 'you're pretty sure they're gonna try and kill you in your sleep sometime soon' and see what the PC does about that. Maybe they'll just ignore it, and then later when it makes sense -- like when someone misses a roll, or nothing else is going on? -- you'll be like 'okay so that guy comes to kill you in your sleep, like we all saw coming, want to take a debility to survive?' I mean if you describe a guy throwing a grenade and an unarmoured PC jumps on it, did you just kill a PC? Is anyone going to get upset if that PC dies?

Other moves might also result in a PC dying, but only through their own choices and agency, as a reaction to those moves -- because every move pretty much ends with the conversation passing back to the player of the PC. That's just how the game works. There's no meta-level cognition required on the part of the MC -- in fact, the game explicitly tells you NOT to think about whether this or that move will or will not kill the PCs. If you're like 'oh now I'm going to kill this PC', you are not playing to find out what happens: you've decided what's going to happen already. A more sensible approach is to be like 'wow, this PC is in an incredibly dangerous situation, I wonder if they'll die?' and then play the game and find out. Probably the person who decides if they die or not will be the player of the PC.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2013, 09:01:54 AM by Daniel Wood »

Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2013, 11:07:17 PM »
That's not what i was really asking...

Let's take for granted that the MC (or me if you prefer) followed the fiction and that fiction should kill the PC because of his choices and actions: like for example a gunlugger who went straight ahead against an enemy warlord gang knowing he had like 10 times his firepower...

Even if you follow the fiction, players won't take well their character death.

Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2013, 01:47:00 AM »
Even if you follow the fiction, players won't take well their character death.

That's not a given. I've got my share of PC death whose player's reaction was "...awesome."

MC don't kill PCs. NPC kill PCs. And sometimes PCs kill themselves.

You inflict damage "as established", right ? Meaning that you don't inflict damage from sources the PC isn't aware of, directly or not. No "blam, there was a sniper, take 5-harm" without warning, right ? You have to tell them somehow: a glimmer of light on the watertower, or some NPC warning ("I saw Eightball going to the watertower with a rifle, mumbling "I'll show 'em all", boss"), etc.

That means that when there's deadly danger, the PCs will know they can take big fat harm. It's up to them to risk their skin. If you established there was a mad sniper aiming at the PC, and the PC does something that urge the sniper to shoot, 5-harm it is.

BUT! It's a big decision, isn't it. Big decisions are hard to take, but you don't have to take them yourself!

Quote from: 'Apocalypse World p. 115'
You can put it in your NPCs’ hands, you can put it in the players’ hands, you can create a countdown, or you can make it a stakes question.

Would Eightball, pissed as she is, shoot Bish in the head just because Bish is walking towards her even after Eightball fired a warning shot? If so, Bish is up for 5-harm. If not, hey, what would Eightball do? It's in Eightball's hands, say.

The MC can't kill a PC because a PC isn't a real person and the MC is. But the MC's job is to make the world seems real and play their NPC like real people and sometimes it means shit happens and people kill people. Don't cuddle your PCs, they can take it: disabilities, one bullet for free, etc. If you really think the player don't get how dangerous it is, you can always tell the consequences and ask.

Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2013, 01:54:06 AM »
That's not what i was really asking...

Let's take for granted that the MC (or me if you prefer) followed the fiction and that fiction should kill the PC because of his choices and actions: like for example a gunlugger who went straight ahead against an enemy warlord gang knowing he had like 10 times his firepower...

Even if you follow the fiction, players won't take well their character death.

Oh, okay. That seems like a purely social/player-level-expectations issue, but I think the game becomes much harder to MC if you have to worry about whether or not the PCs will or will not die in a given situation. But I mean, I feel like the answer to the question you are asking is not actually game-dependent at all; it's a question about your group of players and you. Insofar as your question has an AW-specific answer, I think it is covered by the principles, as gregpogor illustrates.

But it's also still extremely relevant that PCs can take all four debilities before they actually have to die. Being able to choose not to die gives players an opportunity to 'get out' of an unsatisfying or upsetting death if they want -- if the idea of their PC being scarred or broken or whatever feels just as bad as death, then I think it's definitely time to discuss as a group whether or not AW is the right game to be playing.

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Oldy

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Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2013, 07:38:53 PM »
Hi all,

New to AW, old to gaming and GMing.

The described scenario to me sounds like "suicide by cop". The key word in that phrase is "suicide". The MC isn't killing the PC (ok, NPC isn't killing the PC, world isn't killing the PC, whatever semantic you wish to use), the player is killing their own PC by taking that course of action.

If you walk your character (effectively alone) into a no-win scenario, then the best that can happen is that you'll be blown away, left for dead, and eventually die. Having some deux ex machina come along and save the unconscious character, unless it make the fiction HEAPS better, is a limp free pass that cheapens the experience and just tells the players their "reality" is weak.

In my humble opinion!

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Munin

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Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2013, 05:27:14 PM »
I am pretty squarely with Oldy on this one.

But I feel like this topic touches on an issue that a lot of gamers ignore, which is that sometimes players (and GMs for that matter) need to be trained out of being douchebags.  If your player is consistently making "bad" decisions and trying to escalate to violence, you might have a problem.  If this kind of behavior is getting on the nerves of the other players, then you absolutely have a problem.

Essentially, what is happening under the hood is that this player's play-style is disruptive.  It does not fit in the with the (usually unspoken) social contract under which the game is trying to function, and therefore it is annoying.  If all of the other players were like, "Hells yeah, hoss, thanks for starting another fight!  Now I'ma get my bang-bang on!" then it wouldn't be a problem.  But I get the sense that whenever this player makes a move, everyone else at the table is thinking to themselves, "Jesus, here we go again."

As such, if the fiction demands it (or maybe if it even gently suggests it), squash him like a bug.  And if his next character is the same way, squash that one like a bug too.  Give plenty of explicit warnings and be up-front with him about it ("Dude, if you roll out heavy and try to take all these guys on at once, you will die").  But don't compromise.

Eventually, one of two things will happen: either he'll get sick of losing characters and quit the game (in which case the rest of you can get down to having the kind of fun you want to have), or he'll figure out that the root cause of losing characters is in fact his own behavior and he will modify it accordingly.

Alternately, you can take the direct approach and just take the player aside and say, "I get that you want to play the hardest hardass on the planet, but you're being kind of a jerk and ruining it for the other players."

I know that lots of people play in places where fellow gamers are hard to come by and people are afraid of alienating someone and losing a member of an already small player pool.  But I've had it both ways and I can tell you flat out that I'd rather have a game with one or two good players than a game with five or six plus one bad apple.  And by "good player" I'm not making any quality or value judgements beyond "willing and able to play nicely with others."

Honestly I feel like a lot of this stuff would get sorted out if players and MCs/GMs alike were more articulate and up-front about what they want out of a particular game.  If my buddies are all about some kind of deep, story-driven narrative collaborative play and I just want to roll dice and kill stuff (because work is sapping my soul and all of my creative energies), then I can just say, "Hey, guys, I think I'll sit this one out."  And everyone should be OK with that.

Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2014, 01:19:31 PM »
What about if a PC kills another PC?  In the section on harm in the rulebook there's an instance where Keeler is about to shoot Bran in the head with a shotgun.  (It's called off at the last second.)  I love this instance, and the game invites difficult situations which might result in this kind of outcome.  But it's hard to know what to do with Bran's player afterwards.  In *cough* D&D I would just hand off a high-powered NPC to the dead player, or have her roll up another character-- some random adventurer rolling through town that the party could recruit --but with the "Your characters are unique in Apocalypse World" principle it seems a little trickier to just procure a replacement. Thoughts?

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Munin

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Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2014, 01:33:21 PM »
I would encourage the player to grab a new playbook and go nuts.  Figure out who this new character is and why they have suddenly come into the scope of the game.  For some it will be easy, e.g. the Chopper rolls into town at the head of his gang, looking for a score or some work or just a place to post up to make repairs to their bikes.  Some will be harder (unless the Savvyhead has chosen vehicular transport as part of their workspace they lack the mobility to just "show up" one day.  The Maestro D' is similar in some regards), and in those cases you might have to get creative.

One thing you should absolutely do however is go around for Hx with the new character.  If any of the other PCs have Hx options they haven't used yet, give them an opportunity to spend them now (e.g. I bring in a new Driver and the Gunlugger didn't previously use her "someone who's fought shoulder-to-shoulder with you in the past" option, she can take it with my new PC). This will hook the new character into the game from the jump.

Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2014, 03:20:20 PM »
What about if a PC kills another PC?  In the section on harm in the rulebook there's an instance where Keeler is about to shoot Bran in the head with a shotgun.  (It's called off at the last second.)  I love this instance, and the game invites difficult situations which might result in this kind of outcome.  But it's hard to know what to do with Bran's player afterwards.  In *cough* D&D I would just hand off a high-powered NPC to the dead player, or have her roll up another character-- some random adventurer rolling through town that the party could recruit --but with the "Your characters are unique in Apocalypse World" principle it seems a little trickier to just procure a replacement. Thoughts?

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Munin

  • 411
Re: AW - When an MC should kill a PC?
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2014, 04:30:38 PM »
Holy deja vu, Batman!  Not sure how your post got made twice two hours apart, but my response is in the middle there.