Potential Party-Breaking Decision

  • 7 Replies
Potential Party-Breaking Decision
« on: January 22, 2014, 08:33:01 PM »
Long time lurker, first time poster.

So, the gaming party I usually play with is currently in our 3rd game of AW, and my Gunlugger is standing at a bit of a self-imposed crossroads and has a few decisions in front of him, some of which could divide the party. First, a bit of context: the game is set in a broken down, rusted out sci-fi future on a desert former colony world on the fringe of what was assumably a large interstellar human civilization. The setting is basically half Tatooine, and half Southwestern USA.

Our party is currently comprised of a Hardholder whose hold is a crashed former colony ship, and he has retained the trappings, ranks, and loose organization of the former colonial military force that was on board the ship when it crashed 50 some years ago. The rest of the party is comprised of his command staff and chief subordinates and include: 1) a Gunlugger (my character), chief of the special operations division (my gang), 2) a Battlebabe, chief of the secret police, 3) a Savvyhead, chief of engineering and mad science, and 4) an Angel, chief medical officer.

The Hardholder and Battlebabe are friends from their days as child soldiers in the same platoon, and this friendship is as close as AW can get to ironclad and unbreakable. Our fearless leader Hardholder openly proclaims himself a despot, and cracks down with draconian ruthlessness on any perceived wrongdoing, chiefly sedition, treason, or any civilian of the hold gaining a firearm. The Battlebabe takes immense joy in torture and general infliction of pain under the aegis of "information gathering" and stamping out rebellious sentiments, and is the primary method for the Hardholder's punishments to be dispensed.

So, the issue currently before me is one of my gang members' close relatives is an NPC we met a few sessions ago when she was about to be unfairly lynched as a suspected plague-bearer, and due to being carried off and nearly killed she attempted to gain a gun from a rebel group inside our own hold. She was just arrested in the last session after a brutal crackdown carried out by the Battlebabe (complete with semi-feral dogs being unleashed on a crowd in the lower wards of the hold) for this and her death warrant is all but officially signed. From talking it over with the Hardholder, he sees this NPC totally in the wrong despite the fact the military failed to protect her or her family quite badly when she was nearly lynched. Between the recurring brutal suppression, a new "savage" element being added to the Hardholder's gang, and the new "zero tolerance" policies the hold is moving to, my Gunlugger has about seen enough and is considering striking out on his own. It also helps that his gang has attained near folk hero status inside the hold, and are infamous and widely feared by the various nomads and other gangs out in the desert wastes.

The issue I'm worried about is, this has the potential to introduce direct, standing antagonism between various PC's. And my follow-up question, is that worth it? Has any MC or player ever run into this issue before and what was the outcome and their thoughts on it?

Also, while my Gunlugger is a far cry from "heroic," he does have a vague set of principles, and is fanatically loyal to his men. So, does that perhaps fly in the face of the more bleak set-up AW usually trades in, and is that my main issue here?

Thoughts appreciated.



  • 417
Re: Potential Party-Breaking Decision
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2014, 12:22:23 AM »
Heh.  Part of me thinks you shouldn't strike out on your own, you should strike out at the Hardholder.  Enact some regime change, as it were.  It sounds like the Hardholder and Battlebabe have gotten a little too complacent, have too much of a stable status quo going.  You could change all of that.

One thing to keep in mind (and that I keep having to remind my players) is that Apocalypse World isn't really a "party" kind of a game.  And as such, you can't really "break" the party, because your cooperation was transient in the first place.  You don't have to (and probably shouldn't) all stick together, and definitely not all of you all the time.  But what I think is key is that you have some way to regularly have each of the characters to be on-screen with at least one other character.  If you really think it's in-character for your character to strike out on your own, discuss possibilities for how that could continue to work.  Alternately, you might want to consider taking "retire to safety" as an advance.  In this case since the wasteland scavengers are already terrified of you and/or your gang, maybe you could make a go of it in the wilderness in relative style.

What I think would be mightily freaking awesome is if you all decided to play out the fight between your Gun-Lugger's gang (probably with the help of the local rebels) against the Hardholder/Battlebabe, with the other PCs' loyalties torn and in play.  And if you win, you retire your character to safety (i.e. become the new NPC Hardholder) and the Hardholder switches playbooks (i.e. gets mercifully exiled and cast out into the desert - maybe takes the remnants of the forces still loyal to him and becomes a Chopper, or whatever).  If he wins, you get killed (giving you an opportunity to bring in a new character) but destabilize his situation such that it's not nearly so cozy anymore.  Play to find out which.  Either should shake things up nicely.  If you really want to shake things up, make your next character a Touchstone.  ;)

But here's the thing: some people like PvP and some people really really don't, and you have to treat this kind of situation with care.  It's something to discuss with your MC and the other players, and really depends on the kind of story you want to tell with your game.  Be candid about it.  "So I'm thinking about how awesome a story arc it would be if I tried deposing you..." and see who bites.

Either way I don't think there's any "right" way to do it.  At least not in any sense other than "right for you and your group."

Re: Potential Party-Breaking Decision
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2014, 12:25:08 AM »
Conflict between PCs is common in AW, in my experience, up to and including direct physical confrontation. The game stipulates that the PCs should all begin the game as general allies, but there's no reason those initial relationships couldn't deteriorate over the course of decisions made, outside events, etc.

Given that this is your group's third game with the system, I feel like presumably the players can all see this conflict coming, and also understand the system well enough to see different ways that sort of conflict could play out, from straight-up PvP to something more subtle or indirect. Given the fictional situation you describe, it seems like the Gunlugger breaking off with his gang -- or staging a coup, or whatever -- would be a pretty awesome direction for things to go.

But I mean, as with all situations like this, it's important that your group is on-board with the idea and that it's not going to be a social problem if you start going after each other's PCs, or interfering with each other's plans, etc. If you've gone 3 AW campaigns without this ever coming up before, it might be a new thing for the group, and worth approaching with caution (and based on the tone of your post, it sounds like that's the case?)

To me, that seems like a totally healthy and interesting direction for an AW game to go -- particularly when the in-game disagreements seem to be at least partly ethical in origin. I mean, that's the game right there: the question of how should we live, now that civilization is gone? Different PCs are always going to have different answers to that, and when the PCs occupy powerful social roles/playbooks then those answers are going to have serious consequences on the community they live in.

I mean, there is no status quo in AW. Hardholds fracture, especially when under pressure from militant dictators and torturing authority figures. I can't imagine that your fellow players are expecting their actions to have no consequence (and I don't mean 'because they're morally wrong, therefore must be punished' I just mean because they are significant actions taken by PCs.) The Gunlugger deciding that this isn't how they want to live anymore is a pretty interesting consequence.



  • 262
Re: Potential Party-Breaking Decision
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2014, 03:22:28 AM »
You can do anything you want, as long as the other players percieve it as a gift.

Then they will "yes, and..." it and you're still playing a game together.



  • 12
Re: Potential Party-Breaking Decision
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2014, 11:50:21 AM »
Talk with your players, let them know your concerns.  It could be that they agree conflict is inevitable and they're willing to face that and see where the story goes.  It might be that they didn't really realise that things were escalating, and out of character, behind the scenes, they figure a way to pull it back together and then play it out in game.  Don't worry about the party, but do make sure your players are on board and happy to continue along whichever road they choose.

EDIT: from another thread

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.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2014, 11:54:37 AM by Tsenn »

Re: Potential Party-Breaking Decision
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2014, 07:39:03 PM »
Appreciate all the feedback.

So, here's the update on things:

My Gunlugger had a decision point against the Hardholder/Battlebabe power duo, and with the implicit support the Hardholder enjoyed from the Savvyhead and Angel characters, I summarized it to be a battle I wouldn't come out the better for if I decided to go Hard against the regime. So, an accord was struck and I took the "get a Hold + Wealth move" upgrade, since I had one to cash in.

Unfortunately, we've arrived at a new problem:

My Gunlugger, at least in the session or so he's had his new hold, has basically become a total non-factor in the story.  I'm afraid that while I got what I wanted in the story, I've lost the potential for fun and shenanigans by not choosing a more dramatic rebellion maneuver. It also doesn't help there'a feeling of general malaise setting in, but no one in the group or the MC is exactly sure why.

Any thoughts or ideas on potential fixes are appreciated.



  • 417
Re: Potential Party-Breaking Decision
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2014, 10:57:42 PM »
That malaise quite possibly stems from an increasingly entrenched status quo.  If it feels like the central conflict(s) of the story are solved, then it doesn't leave people wanting to see what comes next.

At some level this is OK.  Wrap up the story, give everyone an epilogue, and start fresh in a new setting with all new characters.



  • 18
Re: Potential Party-Breaking Decision
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2014, 07:34:55 PM »
^ this.

You don't play this game to go the shops and pick up some milk and bread. You play this game to do extreme shit and see where it leads.

I personally think you should have gone for it, even better if you go down heroically. AW isn't a game for keeping your characters alive and safe, it's a game for entertaining shit and seeing where it goes.

Rather than looking after your character at the expense of a better story, you should be looking after the story at the expense of your character. I personally think that, in the same way the MC looks at the NPCs through crosshairs, you should look at your character through crosshairs.

I've found both Tremulus and AW to be better if you play for the story rather than preserving the character