The lazy post-apocalypse

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Lukas

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The lazy post-apocalypse
« on: February 07, 2014, 04:39:48 AM »
While the spontaneous and group-based setting creation of AW is good at providing a place for the PCs in the world, I often feel as though certain clich├ęs pop up ever so often. I have tried to identify some of them, to make them more avoidable (for myself, if no one else).

The acultural apocalypse: I think this might be the consequence of taking the playbooks' approach to names and gender identity and assuming that this applies for the entire setting. This type of apocalypse has communities, but they don't really have any sense of cultural identity, no common traditions, no celebrations, no common modes of dress, nothing that differentiates them from the next hardhold in terms of who they tell themselves that they are. Even in fifty years, a lot of traditions and shibboleths can become established, so it's probably a good idea to have a more anthropological approach to communities in AW.

The gimmick cult: This is a cult doesn't really seem to have a purpose other than to worship. Its activities are all centered around being part of a cult, with very little that actually makes the cult attractive. This makes it seem shallow, all ceremony and no psychology. I think, perhaps, that the Hocus playbook should come with an extra question: what does your cult promise? That way, the important part of any cult would be front and centre, instead of being an afterthough once you've decided whether they disdain hygiene or are perverse and decadent.

The term 'psychopath': I really dislike this one. It has a clinical meaning, and labelling large parts of the post-apocalyptic population with it makes things dull, about as fun as deciding that they are Always Chaotic Evil orcs. Deciding that large amounts of people of the setting are clinically incapable of empathy or remorse makes the game less interesting, since it removes something that is present in 99% of humans from social interaction.

The 'no status quo' status quo: I sometimes see the term 'no status quo' used to justify why something the PCs created should be impermanent and make no difference. They overthrow the hardholder and institute an elected council? It will fall to infighting and create a new strongman, no status quo. The savvyhead builds irrigation facilities for the desert? There will be no long-lasting agriculture, no status quo. The problem is that this attitude creates a much stronger status quo, one where every attempt at lasting change just becomes another quaint feature of the entropic wasteland that seems to overtake anything. The meta-status quo where every attempt to build something lasting is doomed to fail, because that would be seen as creating a status quo. My reasons for opposing this are also partially political: while "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions" is an interesting motif and a good foundation for tragedies, it is also a fundamentally conservative attitude, one which tells us that all attempts to change things for the better will only make things worse. In order to preserve player agency, and in order to make the 'no status quo' principle ring true, there needs to be room for lasting, positive change of the setting.

Re: The lazy post-apocalypse
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2014, 05:24:52 AM »
+1!

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Munin

  • 417
Re: The lazy post-apocalypse
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2014, 09:50:26 AM »
A great post!  I'll add:

The emtpy wasteland: While it is true that population density is lessened and that people naturally hunker together for protection, it is also true that people can and will strike out into empty space.  If history has taught us anything it's that by using a little ingenuity and flexibility, humans can live in some crazy-harsh conditions.  Furthermore (and this ties in with psychopaths above), not everyone who lives outside of the hardhold's walls is a bloodthirsty raider looking to take whatever you have.  Yes, caution dictates that you should always be suspicious, but most of the time the folks who are living away from other people mostly just want to be left alone.  If you don't bother them, they won't bother you.

Re: The lazy post-apocalypse
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2014, 12:44:55 PM »
(Just +1ing--you're a hell of a good writer, Lukas.)

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T.G.

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Re: The lazy post-apocalypse
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2014, 01:14:05 AM »
Excellent food for thought.

Re: The lazy post-apocalypse
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2014, 03:44:22 PM »
The 'no status quo' status quo:...In order to preserve player agency, and in order to make the 'no status quo' principle ring true, there needs to be room for lasting, positive change of the setting.

I usually leave this to be where the advanced improvements come in...
12+ on manipulate, 12+ on act under fire, retire to safety, and a few others I'm forgetting, go a long way to actually *building* this sort of lasting change...

I think it's unsaid, but the real way to move towards a resolution is to slowly move away from "no status quo" as the players advance, especially as they hit 6-9 advancements or more...

Just my thoughts!
- Alex