PCs improving too fast?

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PCs improving too fast?
« on: February 24, 2014, 03:44:22 AM »
I'm not sure if it's because I'm used to more typical levelling/experience point systems, my PCs' highlighted stats were just very relevant, or if I was using too many dice rolls but I'm worried my PCs are improving too fast. Two of my PCs gained 2 improvements in the first session which was about 4 hours of play. I think this was due to the Angel with highlighted Sharp spamming Read Person (but only once per person per scene), and the Brainer doing the exact same but using Weird (one of her highlighted stats) thanks to Casual Brain Receptivity.

Is this normal?

Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2014, 09:42:21 AM »
Its not unusual, especially with Sharp and Weird.  As long as everyone is happy it shouldn't be a problem.

High experience tends to be self limiting as the game eventually pushes characters to change (either by adding new ones, retiring to safety or changing playbooks).

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Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2014, 01:30:46 PM »
It also varies quite a bit. A session with some tense situations might trigger a bunch of cascading rolls. Sessions where they play it safe might only trigger a few. Is it possible that you're going for the dice too often? I did that at first, and later realized that a lot of things just aren't Moves. It feels weird at first, but the dice come out at different times than other RPGs.

Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2014, 02:07:17 PM »
I don't think I'M making people roll too often. I've got a pretty good grasp of when to use Act Under Fire, Go Aggro, and Seize By Force. I MIGHT be using Manipulate rolls too much (whenever the PCs are trying to get someone to do something for them that the NPC doesn't want to do AND the PCs have leverage over them). Mostly I think the extra XP is coming from soooo many Read Person rolls.

Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2014, 02:29:00 PM »
Mostly I think the extra XP is coming from soooo many Read Person rolls.

Remember to ask them how they do anything. Read a Person requires that you be in contact (conversation, intimacy, etc.) for a while. You can't just look at someone and read them. So, if they're making rolls for everyone they meet, ask them how they're reading the person. If they don't have a good answer, then don't let them roll.

You can also highlight something else, or (as my group did) use Dungeon World's XP system, which only offers XP on failed rolls. Highlighting is still there, but at the end of the game, you ask yourself, "Was I _____ at least once this game?" (like "Was I hard at least once this game?") and give yourself one point of XP for each highlight.

There's a little more to it than that, and I can elaborate, but it self-balances since the players get less XP when their stats get better.

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Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2014, 04:57:32 PM »
My group rarely uses Read moves (which is a pity), but I could totally see that being an issue. It's all good, though, 'cause those moves are super fun no matter what. A hit? Awesome, they're lying to you, deal with it. A miss? Even better, things start going to shit. I love Read a Person.

If I'm having trouble thinking of a Miss, it's so easy to turn the question around and find out what the PC is really thinking and what their weak spot is. Handing out xp is totally worth it for that move because it generates so much good play at the table.

Aaaanyway, none of that has to do with your question. Here are some alternatives we messed around with:
1. Xp on all missed rolls, no highlights (mechanically stable but less fun than highlighting for behavioral prompts)
2. Xp on highlighted stats, but only once per stat, per scene (worked for us)
3. Xp by the book, with careful attention paid by all to the advancement rate (super metagame but whatevs)

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Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2014, 04:59:08 PM »
Ummm, also maybe they're Reading every situation, all the time? You could enforce "tense situations only."

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Munin

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Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2014, 05:52:45 PM »
There's one very important aspect to read a person, and it's right in the description of the trigger: "When you read a person in a charged interaction..."  If the interaction isn't charged, then the move doesn't trigger.

What is a "charged" interaction?  At some level that's up to you as the MC to determine, but at the very least there should be some kind of tension going on.  Someone is angry, hurt, exasperated, betrayed, lustful, passionate, etc.  If two people are just shooting the shit over beers, that's not a charged interaction, it's just an interaction.  No move is triggered.  If two guys are having beers and one of them suddenly reaches down and unclips his holster for no apparent reason, well, the interaction has just gotten charged and maybe a move is appropriate.

So if your players are wanting to read a person all the time, ask them what they're doing to make the interaction charged.  Make them establish in the fiction what's going on.  At some level, read a person is about pushing people to see how they react to that pressure.  So what are you doing to push them?  Insulting them?  Shouting at them?  Or are you just giving them the stink-eye, or treating all of their statements as obviously suspect?  Are you doing something that could be interpreted as threatening, either to them or someone they care about?  Are you being obviously evasive?  Or maybe grilling them in detail and demanding answers?

Or maybe they're doing that to you and you're trying to figure out why.

It is important for you and your players to establish what makes the interaction charged because it helps you know what happens next.  This in turn is important because the other important thing to keep in mind is that rolls have consequences.  Failing to read a person doesn't simply mean that you can't ask any of the questions, it is a miss, which means the MC can make as hard and direct a move as he or she likes.  There is a good example in the book of flipping the player's move for a failed read a sitch roll, but the same thing can be done with read a person.  Give the player a little discomfort by holding three and asking them what they intend to do, or how you could get them to leave this NPC alone, or whether or not they're telling the truth.

And most importantly, have the NPC act on the answers to those questions.  So if the NPC knows the PC is lying, well, maybe that snowballs into another MC move, like announce future badness - "You and I had a deal, and I see now that you have no intention of keeping up your end of the bargain.  Hey, boys, why don't you tell Mad Max here what happens in Bartertown when you bust a deal."  Or if the NPC knows that the PC intends violence, he moves to arm himself.  So maybe the MC's next normal move is to put someone in a spot.  "So as you're talking to Hickey about the disappearances, he's looking pretty nervous.  Eventually he leans forward and puts his hands on the table, and one of them is holding a gun.  It must have been up his sleeve, because you never saw him draw it.  He says, 'I think this conversation is over.'  What do you do?"  This establishes something in the fiction.  It tells the player that if he wants to resort to violence as originally planned, it's sure as hell not going to come as a surprise, and the PC is risking harm in return.

And any MC hard move is open on a miss, including inflict harm.  How could harm be inflicted or traded off a missed read a person roll you ask?  Ever heard the phrase, "whaddyou lookin' at?"  It's almost always a prelude to getting punched.  Someone might have a hair-trigger temper and not appreciate you giving them the stink-eye.  Or maybe you inadvertantly touch a nerve and the person reacts suddenly and violently; "You ask Marie about her son and next thing you know she's gone from zero to psycho in no seconds flat.  She's on you and jamming a scalpel into you over and over and over like a goddamn sewing machine, screaming, 'You stay the fuck away from my son!!!'.  Take three Harm and make the Harm move for me."

The thing to keep in mind is that read a sitch and read a person aren't generic perception rolls.  You're never rolling to see if a PC spots some random detail.  What you're rolling for is to see if they spot that detail when there's tension, when the consequences of spotting it (or not) are more important than the detail itself and bound up in the overall situation.

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Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2014, 07:23:09 PM »
That's an excellent writeup and exactly what I was hinting at with my replies. Well said! If players are using it as a perception check, show 'em what an MC move looks like. It's why that move is one of my favorites: nothing comes for free in Apocalypse World.

If all that is going on and they're STILL gaining xp from rolling it all the time, well... they earned it!

Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2014, 09:15:07 PM »
Thanks a bunch for that input. I'll surely keep this stuff in mind for my next session.

Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2014, 10:51:47 PM »
Munin, that was a beautiful explanation and helps a ton!  I mostly understood that before, but you made it feel crystal clear.

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Munin

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Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2014, 05:44:35 PM »
Thanks, happy to help!

Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2014, 12:34:10 PM »
I would like to ask a very similar question.  We played our first session with me as MC last weekend.  As little bit of background information my group has mainly been playing D&D for quite some time and have never played any game as story and character focused as I am trying to make this campaign. (I personally feel the AW system lends it self best to this)  As such they have a habit of focusing a lot on stats and optimizing them and min-maxing a bit.  Not maliciously or anything, just to get the best out of their character. 

    So last session one of my PCs used his highlighted stats a lot on purpose and improved pretty quickly and used that improvement to make another move used a lot in the situation use one of the highlighted stats so that almost everything he was doing gave him experience and ended up gaining another improvement and starting toward the 3rd before the end of the session.  Most of the other PCs barely got their first improvement if I remember correctly and one may not even have gotten it.  As such I am somewhat worried about him improving too quickly and the gap between players being a bit of a problem.

   I know that we can somewhat limit him next session by highlighting specific stats which may help.  It also seems like Apocalypse World  with a story and character focused campaign might not suffer as a result of this too much but, none-the-less I like to go into my sessions prepared so I would like to have an idea now.  He may use these improvements to keep up his momentum as well and the fact that we have a Solace in the group who can give him more experience may not help.

Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2014, 01:39:45 PM »
If it seems like things are going too fast, you can borrow the "one XP per highlighted stat (or specific XP move) per scene" limit from Monsterhearts.

It's not a problem in itself for the PCs to advance at different rates, though. Fast advancement may make for a shorter campaign, mainly.

Re: PCs improving too fast?
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2014, 08:25:13 PM »

Well, the character in question had to have made ten moves in order to advance twice -- assuming these moves had consequences in the fiction, that suggests that a lot of stuff must have been happening, which is good? The only thing I would be worried about is if players are making moves that don't seem to do much; it may be that you are going to the moves even in cases where they aren't required (probably not?), or that the scope of the moves' consequences are small, or that you are not taking advantage of any missed rolls to make appropriately hard moves (not a problem in the first session anyways.)

I think my main concern would just be: are the other players still doing stuff, and making moves, and having fun? Did they do a similar amount of stuff, just not with their highlighted stats, or did the PC in question overshadow everyone by constantly pushing for these moves? The latter might be a problem if it continues -- sometimes players get excited about opportunities to make moves (especially with highlighted stats) and so they forget that the game is a conversation. Or they forget that conversations are better when everybody gets to talk. As an MC you can deal with that pretty easily, by simply directing more questions at the players who are otherwise being talked-over, or otherwise ensuring everybody has a chance to show off their bad-ass, sexy character.