Gigs, and changing them through play instead of advancement

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(Cross-posted from Story Games)

Our Apocalypse World game is largely medical-themed, with the PCs living in a semi-ruined Sisters of Mercy Hospital, run by Mother Superior and the Sisters of Mercy, his inner circle of enforcers.

Lafferty the operator has seeking answers as his obligation gig: he's looking for a fabled military bunker/medical supply warehouse/research lab that's supposed to be somewhere in the city. His contact for this particular gig is Hare the NPC scavenger, a guy who likes to put on a hazmat suit and wander into the less inhabited and more disgusting parts of the city looking for valuables and curios.

First off, is this a legit obligation gig? It seems that most of the obligation gigs are more of a burden than an opportunity, where "profit" is merely managing to maintain the status quo, and catastrophe is that the situation crashes down on the operator. This particular example of seeking answers, but also seeking answers in general, seems to be more... profitable, in that there's tangible benefits at the end, beyond just "everything's fine for now". Should finding the bunker only be possible if the player takes the "resolve an obligation gig" advance?

Regardless, there was a riot/mutiny mostly incited by the PCs and Hare got the ultimate punishment: to go down alive into Sheol, the medical waste incinerator, where he gets to try to survive the three-tailed endo-rats, Encephalitis X zombies, and general disease and filth that gets funneled down there, for days or weeks until the incinirator gets filled up and activated. Lafferty hopes there's another way in (and out!) of the inicinerator, and that he'll be able to find it and bail Hare out in time.

What happens to Lafferty's seek answers gig? Does it go unworked by force of circumstance? Would it work to temporarily redefine it from "seek answers about the secret bunker lab" to "seek answers about the way for Hare out of Sheol in order to be able to continue seeking answers about the secret bunker lab"?

There's a third gig situation involving Lafferty. Zed the angel needed to add two people to his infirmary to cure Azure the battlebabe of Encephalitis X, and Lafferty spread the word, dropped some jingle, and got two people, or something pretty close: there's two of them, they know what they're doing, but they also have their own things going on, which they'll have to sideline to give Zed the help he needs. Now, it seems to me that it would better highlight what a smooth operator Lafferty is if keeping everything running required more than just paying people for their work, and were instead treated as a sort of deal-brokering obligation gig: Keeping Newton and Fauna working for Zed (they're happy and useful / they ditch your project for their own things). Unworked: they're there, but they're grumbling and slacking. Does this make sense?

Or should this actually be Zed's new gig, because Newton and Fauna are working for him? Or is it a question of which character takes it upon themselves to keep Newton and Fauna happy and useful?

Re: Gigs, and changing them through play instead of advancement
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2014, 05:12:29 PM »

I think the question to ask re: 'is this a legit obligation gig?' is just 'does the character feel obliged to do this?' Like, if all other incentives were absent, would they still feel pressured somehow to still seek these answers. And if so, why? What is the source of the obligation -- what is driving Lafferty to look for this place (which clearly is just a myth and does not really exist, come on Lafferty) despite the fact that there are clearly lots of other useful things they could be doing with their time?

If there isn't anything -- if this is just a promising lead on some sweet barter/useful community goods -- then it's not an obligation gig. I'm with creases in the sg thread -- I think most obligation gigs are on some level personal. Even in the case of paying off debts: those are personal debts. They're the Operator's only, they can't be sloughed off onto their crew or passed off as 'just business' or however else the Operator treats their regular gigs.

If it turns out that this seeking answers thing doesn't really fit the bill as an obligation gig, then maybe the thing with Newton/Fauna at Zed's could replace it; though that only sounds like a good replacement if Lafferty feels some sort of obligation to Zed to keep them working. i.e. he gave his word to Zed, or has some other personal reason for wanting Zed to like him, or is personally invested in saving Azure's life, or whatever.

On the other hand, if the seeking answers thing remains in play, you could still decide to model the Zed situation as an obligation gig if you think that makes sense -- personally I would probably prefer to just play it out, at least for awhile. If it settles into a pattern where Newton/Fauna clearly would rather be doing something else, but Lafferty keeps providing them minor incentives/hassling them/covering their shit elsewhere... at that point, where it's an ongoing thing, an obligation gig is going to start making more sense. Remember that gigs are regular, ongoing things that have become part of the Operator's routine, for better or worse -- that's why they just sort of happen, every session or two, even if the Operator has been focusing their on-screen efforts elsewhere.


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As If

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Re: Gigs, and changing them through play instead of advancement
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2014, 02:06:58 AM »
I'm reposting this here because I'm interested to hear Vincent's reading.

Personally, I take the word "Obligation" to mean an onus to deliver something to another person. You're right that a couple of the obligation gigs seem more personal than interpersonal, but I read those socially, because the word used is "Obligation", not "Elective" or something else.  In other words, I would take "Pursuing Luxury" to be an obligation to live up to some luxurious standard set by your family, clan, mentor, boss or whatever, for social purposes. I would take "Maintaining Honor" to be an obligation to your unit, commander, flag, rank, mentor, sensei or whatever, for purposes of maintaining social status & face.

The question isn't whether these can be ignored; all gigs can be ignored if you choose not to work them. The question is "what makes them obligatory?" I believe the answer in the case of the "social" ones would be something like "because to do otherwise would be to bring shame, dishonor, downfall, ostracism, judgment, etc to (someone)."

I'm not 100% sure of the above. I'm not even sure if it's an important distinction to make (personal vs interpersonal), as long as it is felt as an OBLIGATION.  I suppose a neurosis would count, as long as it truly compels character behavior.

But in Lafferty's case, it feels like it doesn't.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2014, 02:12:10 AM by As If »

Re: Gigs, and changing them through play instead of advancement
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2014, 03:25:30 AM »
I think the question to ask re: 'is this a legit obligation gig?' is just 'does the character feel obliged to do this?' Like, if all other incentives were absent, would they still feel pressured somehow to still seek these answers. And if so, why? What is the source of the obligation -- what is driving Lafferty to look for this place (which clearly is just a myth and does not really exist, come on Lafferty) despite the fact that there are clearly lots of other useful things they could be doing with their time?
This feels like a good reading.

Re: Gigs, and changing them through play instead of advancement
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2014, 03:26:45 AM »
I'm reposting this here because I'm interested to hear Vincent's reading.
Thanks, I was just going to ask you over at Story Games if it's OK to copy past parts of your interpretation to get more comments here!

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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Gigs, and changing them through play instead of advancement
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2014, 09:10:48 AM »
Lots to answer here! I'll hit some points, and if I miss a question anybody needs an answer to, please ask it again.

First off, you should always feel free as MC to ask the player to swap their obligation gig for a different, more fictionally current one. This isn't by the strictest interpretation of the rules, so if the player refuses you should shrug and move on, but it's by the next-to-strictest. So Shimrod, if it comes to it you can always just say "hey, this seeking answers thing, cross it off and write in 'keeping Newton and Fauna happy' instead, okay? You can get back to seeking answers whenever." That's your fallback.

Next up, the gig is seeking answers, generally and unspecified. Trying to find the legendary bunker is a perfect example of what seeking answers means for the operator here and now, but as MC, you don't limit your thinking to finding the bunker, you start slipping in clues right away that the bunker is just one piece of a much larger puzzle. That way, you can let the operator find the bunker just as soon as he legitimately would, you don't have to put him artificially off.

So he finds the bunker, and you've laid the groundwork for it to not be the final answer, but to raise tantalizing new questions. Now it's the player's choice whether to spend experience to resolve the obligation gig, declaring that the answer he was seeking really was just the location of the bunker, or else to leave the gig in effect and pursue the mystery beyond the bunker.

Okay! About the "obligation" part of the obligation gig: the only obligation that's required is the consequence of leaving the gig unworked. There doesn't need to be an obligation to another person, and there doesn't need to be any driving internal pressure. If the player feels comfy leaving the gig unworked and dealing with the consequences, that's fine, that's the choice he gets to make.

The consequence of leaving the gig unworked is on you, the MC, to create. For the seeking answers gig, the consequence of leaving it unworked is that the mystery deepens, with new clues that don't fit together. (This is good, it feeds directly into the above.) It's your job to make this happen and you should take this job seriously. The good news is that it's not your job to capture the player's interest and make him pursue the mystery after all, it's your job to make the mystery interesting to you, yourself. If you're having fun ramping up the mystery, and the player just keeps leaving it unworked, no sweat! You're having fun doing what you're doing and that's what's called for.

Concretely: you should write up the bunker as a threat, give it its impulse, and when the operator leaves the gig unworked, make one of its threat moves. It seems to me that Hare should be square in its crosshairs.

Then as the bunker develops in play, as its moves form a pattern and as you lay the groundwork for the deeper mystery, have an eye toward writing up the deeper mystery as a front, with the bunker as just the most prominent, first encountered threat.

Anyhow, go look at pages 139-140 right now, I think you'll find something you like.

-Vincent