Hacking the MC

  • 6 Replies
  • 4956 Views
*

Jwok

  • 59
Hacking the MC
« on: July 15, 2014, 07:46:05 PM »
So, its come that time when I've got the hack itch again. For reasons beyond my understanding, I'm feeling a lot more confident on the player-centric end of AW-hacking. The moves, playbooks, their implementations and purposes - all that's coming much more naturally to me. However, I've come to the point of looking at the MC's side of things, and have hit a bit of a wall. AW's Mc instructions are obviously built for a world in which things are reactive, and people have their own agendas they are following (and will follow through on if no one does anything). I'm curious to know what peoples experiences have been with Hacking the MC's side of the AW engine, specifically how conflict/drama is constructed compared to the threats and the first session setup of AW). Has anyone toyed with these sorts of mechanics, and if so how has it changed (or been changed by) the nature of the game you were designing for?
« Last Edit: July 15, 2014, 07:50:27 PM by Jwok »
Welcome to Jwokalypse World
http://jwokalypseworld.weebly.com/

Re: Hacking the MC
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2014, 06:56:06 PM »
Can't say I've explicitly hacked the MC-side of the rules (yet), but I can see where you're coming from with the "hitting a bit of a wall" bit. Perhaps it's because AW is such a player-facing ruleset? Maybe that makes it hard to specifically hack the MC's role, arguably since that role is intentionally set up to provide the best possible support for the playstyle that the game seeks to enable its players to pursue / unfold / embark on...

Going with this idea of the MC role as a "supporting" role then, it might logically follow that it "gets hacked along with" whatever changes are made to the part of the rules that deal with players / PCs, perhaps?


On a different angle, while I agree that there are probably few "explicit" hacks of the MC role, I get a feeling that many MCs sort of "soft-hack" * (or drift) the ruleset for themselves, on an individual, and often case-by-case, basis.

Coming to think of it, AW in its entirety, and the MC sections in particular, seem like such a "peak" design, it's like standing on a literal mountain top - wherever you go from there, you can only move downwards.

The MC role as conveyed in the rules is such an ideal supporter for a player-driven playstyle, it's hard to hack without immediately making it worse in that regard.


* with regard to the "soft-hacking" / drifting, consider for example that the rules do not specify exactly how many questions you should ask of your players, or how often you should do so. Some MCs will "ask the players" more, some less. Some will present them with a lot of opportunities, but almost never separate them.
Also, the rules say to "take away their stuff", but also tell you to leave their important (defining) stuff alone... there's a lot of flexibility there for any given MC in any given game, scenario, or even situation.

Perhaps this large amount of wiggling room ultimately also makes it so that these parts of the rules don't lend themselves very well to "explicit" hacking?

Re: Hacking the MC
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2014, 06:51:58 AM »
Here's an idea I had in mind for a "delving into conspiracy" type hack:

Fronts that work a lot more like PC playbooks, geared toward specific archetypes.

So each front is it's own MC playbook.  For my conspiracy hack, it might be "The Church", "The G-Men", "The Hidden Order", "The Alien Infiltators", and so forth.  Each one comes with lists and checkboxes that define what the conspiracy's goals are, what sorts of resources they have, what their threat moves are, etc.  It's an approach that I think would work well in any setting where you're dealing with strongly defined, archetype based factions.

Re: Hacking the MC
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2014, 10:46:31 AM »
I think looking at the various Powered by the Apocalypse games out there most common MC hacks involve redefining a few of the MC moves (perhaps adding or subtracting a few as well) and adjusting the Agenda. Unfortunately I've not had the opportunity to play enough of them to say what effect it all has.

*

Jwok

  • 59
Re: Hacking the MC
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2014, 03:29:16 PM »
@auburney: I agree that, for the "play to find out what happens / player driven" game, AW's Mc instructions are pretty freaking spot on. I'm working on a hack right now that is really more of a re-skin (changing the setting and playbooks, but keeping the same drive of play), and I think that aside from some wording changes, there really isn't anything that needs to be altered. It seems to be one of those "if it ain't broke" sort of things.

@arscott: Hot damn, thats a cool idea! Have you had a chance to playtest that yet?

@the forums: I had an interesting conversation yesterday with some of my group about the nature of asking questions as a GM. We had just played a game Dread, and found myself somewhat put off by the "the GM brings the story" structure. There was positive feedback from the players about the questionnaire portion of the game setup, and I found myself as the GM wishing I could have had the same "discovery through questions" experience that the setup gave them. I'm curious if anyone has designed / knows of any games in which question asking is a central mechanic to the game?

Afterthought: In fact, I think my underline interest with this thread is how games are designed in ways OTHER THAN by saying "hey GM, bring the story." I really cherish the idea of the Mc as another player character, with their own mechanical drives that push towards discovery and that give structure to improvisational scene setting.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2014, 03:34:35 PM by Jwok »
Welcome to Jwokalypse World
http://jwokalypseworld.weebly.com/

Re: Hacking the MC
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2014, 02:00:45 PM »
One could view the Stakes questions of a Front in that way. The players are your randomizers (living dice) in response to your moves, their reactions gradually revealing the answers to your big questions.

Saga of the Icelanders does this by having setting questions about the direction that Icelandic society as a whole will take. I'm planning on doing something similar in my upcoming Apocalypse World game.

Re: Hacking the MC
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2014, 02:16:07 AM »
Actually, I've found that the MC's side is the MOST IMPORTANT side of the hack. On my (stalled) hack, I've only hacked the MC's ruleset: agenda, principles, moves, threats, fronts, etc.

Think about it this way: the MC's rules, as a single system, do more to shape the way the game is played than anything else. Not the playbooks or even the basic moves. It's the way the MC sets up the game, the moves he uses all the time, the structure of the challenges--hell, even the basic goals of the game!

Not to say that much will be changed, but I found that color and inspiration are as much a part of hacks as mechanics. BUT if you want to look at a couple existing examples side by side....

Apocalypse World has threats, picked form a menu, each with a unique impulse that is different for each type of threat, but common moves for threat types. Threats are organized thematically in fronts as large or small as needed. Fronts--not threats--have dark futures. Threats just help bring that to fruition. Side note: I like this system the best. It seems the most organic. But that's just me.

Monster of the Week has a single monster every week, necessarily with some custom moves. That one monster, plus some SPECIFIC other threats (bystanders, landscapes, etc.) makes up the front for the week. You "solve" the front and move on to a new one. Then, the arc of the longer story is another, slow-burn sort of front, living in the background. This makes for a totally different feel to the game.

Monsterhearts has no formal "fronts" system except for the unique way threats are created. Impulses, moves, and leverage are all chosen separately, creating a mix of different options. There's no thematic groupings, since threats take up more fictional space in the smaller world of school.

So hacking the MC's side doesn't have to be just moves. Changing the agenda and/or principles (take a look at Monsterhearts again for an awesomely different set of those) really changes the focus. And changing the threat impulses totally changes the challenges that the PC's will face.