Scarcity of room

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Scarcity of room
« on: October 21, 2014, 06:02:24 PM »
I've realized that there's a new Principle I need to add to my Apocalypse World games, one that is quite counterintuitive but which I think is implicit in the game design, and that's that one of the scarcities is a scarcity of room.

Let me come at this from an odd angle -- from out on a limb -- and say that it seems to me that if AW had to look back at all the games that came before it and pick one cardinal sin that it wanted to stand against and uproot, that sin would be railroading. And in doing so, AW explicitly disallowed railroading, built a game against railroading, and tried to find other solutions for one of the primary causes of railroading; and failed to address the other most common cause.

I have not done a statistically valid survey, but I would bet that the most common causes of railroading are a) that the GM has overprepared a bunch of content, and needs to force players who wander away from it, back into it, and that b) "to keep the party together". Or, more broadly: that the plot and narrative needs of the game are misaligned with the social needs, to wit, we came together to play a game together, and we want to play up against one another's characters -- but the characters themselves don't have all that much in-game fictional need to treat the other characters as the most important and crucial people in the world.

AW handily solves a) by making plot emergent, and when I'm MC'ing, I never find myself tempted to apply force to get the PCs back onto "my plot". because there is no "my plot", just what the PCs do and what comes of it.

AW has some tools to attempt to solve b). It throws the PCs at each other, it allows the MC to arbitrarily stick them together by simply declaring a scene, it tries to entangle them with Hx, it provides threats for them to unite against.

In my games, this doesn't help for all that long. The PCs are thrown together at the beginning, but pretty soon, left as they are to follow their own drives and visions, they disperse, and the game is a series of unlinked one-on-one PC-and-MC exchanges happening roughly in parallel.

When I say "keep the party together" I don't mean in the same room or even facing the same threat. I just mean affecting each other, inhabiting the same set of concerns, the same landscape, thematically connected.

I think the solution is to make room scarce -- put impassible deserts and emptinesses in the characters' way, force them to fall back on the same limited set of resources, to struggle over the same small world. There are bits of the rules that imply this, but it's never stated. and so I didn't do it. In my games, food and water and physical safety and love and understanding and peace have been safe, but room hasn't -- PCs have all hied off to other hardholds, over mountains, into the psychic maelstrom itself, off into separate stories.

I'm betting the reason it's not in the rules is that for Vincent and the people he plays with, it's intuitive: he's interested in small communities, in people flung together, and that impassible deserts seem not even worth mentioning, because he's just not that interested in what lies beyond them. Whereas me and my gang are naturally expansive, and ready to drop doors to other planes and being swept off to other lands into any game at the drop of a hat. Our PCs have no in-game reason to stick together, and until now I haven't had the Principle of throwing them together.

Re: Scarcity of room
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2014, 08:39:24 PM »
I dunno, I am willing to believe that this is an important consideration for you and your group, but it seems odd to me. Aren't your players interested in playing with each other's characters? Aren't they interested in the same parts of the world, and therefore bound to interact around those things anyways? I am purposefully ignoring all the things the game already says to do to encourage these things, I am just wondering on like a basic level, what is the deal with a playgroup that starts out with characters in a mutually-intertangled, self-generated situation (Hx, starting in the same geographic place), and then reliably disentangles themselves to pursue disconnected ventures elsewhere in the fiction? It just sounds like crazy talk to me. I mean, this isn't Sorcerer, where the game sets up situations in isolation... your players (and you!) have to be working pretty hard to not follow up on any of their Hx, or need each others' skills or assistance, or exist in the same location interacting with the same NPCs...

But leaving that aside, the game also explicitly tells you to make PCs who are allies, if not friends. In a harsh, post-apocalyptic world, there are plenty of problems that are going to make PCs need each others' help. It explicitly tells you to create NPC triangles, which bind the interests of the PCs together in complicated ways. It suggests a world of scarcity in which one cannot actually exist in isolation, regardless of how much empty space one can find.

So I mean, it seems like what you mean by 'scarcity of space' is more like 'scarcity of fiction' -- or more accurately, density of fiction. And the game already does a lot to push in that direction. Even inertia is on your side: you have to do so much more work as an MC to create separable fictional worlds for every PC to explore, in isolation. It's so much easier to reuse connections, NPCs, places, groups, and doing so is going to encourage interaction.

Anyways, it's cool that you've identified a thing that is not happening in your game, naming a new principle to guide your play is a good way to try and keep it in mind. But I think the tools to enact that principle are already present, and it makes sense to focus on bringing them to the forefront.

I'm also curious if your players notice this, or feel it is a problem; do they want to have scenes with each other, but feel like they've become trapped by 'what their character would do', or what? Are they just literally so geographically isolated that it no longer makes sense for them to ever interact? Also, do you use Fronts, and if so what is your Front creation like in these games?

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noclue

  • 609
Re: Scarcity of room
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2014, 09:05:39 PM »
I'm with Daniel. PC-PC-NPC triangles, Hx and the fact that all the NPCs are threats tends to keep things loosely focused in our games, but allow for bobbing and weaving. If someone goes off to do a thing, that's okay too, but eventually things tie back together because everyone's tied together.
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

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Munin

  • 417
Re: Scarcity of room
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2014, 02:54:25 PM »
The world-creation process in the AW game we're playing now happened upon a great way to address this issue - it takes place on a single space station. Granted, the place is big, but it is finite. And outside lies little but the cold, dark void.

One of the things that I noticed in our last game, however, was that the more mobile characters could hie off and do stuff "elsewhere," which left the more stationary characters (e.g. the Hardholder or Maestro D') less connected. But the Maestro D's player just used an advance to grab a second character such that he could interact with either group/location, which is great and fully supported by the game as written.

And AW places no intrinsic restrictions on timeline, so even if two characters are pursuing goals in completely different locations there's nothing stopping the MC from setting up the scene and asking one of the players, "So why has Ghislaine come back to Binghamton after all this time away?"

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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Scarcity of room
« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2014, 04:35:00 PM »
PF: Legit!

-Vincent

Re: Scarcity of room
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2014, 10:46:46 AM »
Aren't your players interested in playing with each other's characters?

The players are. The PC's aren't necessarily. Players consciously doing heavy lifting to corral their characters into doing what will be fun for the players is the kind of work against the game system that we used to do a lot of, that AW games have been otherwise sparing me.

Aren't they interested in the same parts of the world, and therefore bound to interact around those things anyways?

Nope, different parts.

I am purposefully ignoring all the things the game already says to do to encourage these things, I am just wondering on like a basic level, what is the deal with a playgroup that starts out with characters in a mutually-intertangled, self-generated situation (Hx, starting in the same geographic place), and then reliably disentangles themselves to pursue disconnected ventures elsewhere in the fiction?

The deal is just that: they are entangled, and disentangle themselves. The Touchstone hies off on a separate mission and gets captured, and the others don't go get him because they're dealing with other Threats which are unfolding based on what honesty demands and what the prep demands. The Maitre D's restaurant gets burned down and she ends up in the hardhold, co-opted with her crew at risk, spending her time focussed on wooing the NPC hardholder and figuring out the NPC social landscape. The Brainer's body is there, but occupied by the Hoarder, who figured out how to use the psychic maelstrom to unseat people from their bodies; the Brainer has gone off into the landscape of the psychic maelstrom itself, to the extent that we decided just to drop that character and give the player a new PC out of one of the NPCs who were physically present. While the Hoarder and the Maire D' are physically in the same hardhold, they're no longer aligned, they're pursuing different agendas, and they're simply interested in different aspects of the setting, and not even really interacting with the same NPCs.

I throw threats at them, but that doesn't necessarily unite them, if one decides to rally and face the threat, the other to get the hell out of dodge...

It just sounds like crazy talk to me. I mean, this isn't Sorcerer, where the game sets up situations in isolation... your players (and you!) have to be working pretty hard to not follow up on any of their Hx, or need each others' skills or assistance, or exist in the same location interacting with the same NPCs...

Following up on Hx is fine, but what does that mean? You saw into my brain when I was sleeping, I fucking hate you for it, it means you can interfere with me better, and so I have all the more reason to stay the hell out of your way. In-game, if the characters need skills and assistance, they're going to get it from whoever they can get it from -- they don't care if it's NPCs or PCs. With no scarcity of room, what's to keep them in the same location?

But leaving that aside, the game also explicitly tells you to make PCs who are allies, if not friends.

Who says they stay allies? AW has no status quos.

In a harsh, post-apocalyptic world, there are plenty of problems that are going to make PCs need each others' help.

Or just as much reason to run in different directions, or avoid each other, or sell each other out and leave each other stranded, or just not have the safety or resources available to offer help ("hell if I'm going after HIM")

It explicitly tells you to create NPC triangles, which bind the interests of the PCs together in complicated ways. It suggests a world of scarcity in which one cannot actually exist in isolation, regardless of how much empty space one can find.

That last bit is what I'm saying: scarcity of room. "One cannot exist in isolation, regardless of empty space." Right: so the space around the PCs should be empty, so that their choices are indeed "each other" or "isolation". Whereas if those spaces aren't empty, but thickly populated with threats and resources, then "isolation" does not equal "isolation from the other PCs". 

So I mean, it seems like what you mean by 'scarcity of space' is more like 'scarcity of fiction' -- or more accurately, density of fiction. And the game already does a lot to push in that direction. Even inertia is on your side: you have to do so much more work as an MC to create separable fictional worlds for every PC to explore, in isolation. It's so much easier to reuse connections, NPCs, places, groups, and doing so is going to encourage interaction.

On the contrary, in AW it is WAY less work to make more fiction than it used to be. Maybe when I was a GM-as-storyteller, having to draw up the maps and stats and relationships of the next hardhold over, all in advance, would have been a disincentive (except for the part that I loved the activity of making them). AW allows any PC to hie off over the mountains to a new hardhold and all I have to do is barf forth some apocalyptica -- eeriely silent broken roads, animal corpses in postures of pain, lights on in the ruin of the Wal-Mart, and then say "you see someone you know in the window. Who is it?" and we're off and running. There is nothing to stop you from spinning the world as big as the characters make it, so that whenever the PCs wander away from each other, unless you have a mandate to turn them back towards each other, if you're just playing to find out what happens and saying what honesty demands and being the PCs' fan, you can just follow them in different directions across a rich, thick world.

There are lots of reasons you might not have encountered this problem. You might be irritated by the activity of coming up with new settings and antagonists and stuff, rather than excited by it, and so just naturally and instinctively have, as you say, "reused". Your players may be naturally team-oriented, and their PCs may fit Vincent's original conception of a Firefly-like community of allies who fight amongst themselves but unite in the face of threats. The social contract of your gaming table may be such that when one PC refuses to go rescue another people frown and go "hey, come on", rather than chuckle in delight and nod in appreciation of the fictional rightness of that choice.

Anyways, it's cool that you've identified a thing that is not happening in your game, naming a new principle to guide your play is a good way to try and keep it in mind. But I think the tools to enact that principle are already present, and it makes sense to focus on bringing them to the forefront.

I think the tools are indeed there: making it a principle is about permission. Otherwise, when the character hies off over the mountain and I'm like "...uh... it's a big desert, nothing there, you should go back", or whatever, I feel like I'm acting against the stated principles of "being a fan", "telling what honesty demands", "playing to find out what happens", etc.

Another way to say it would be to alter the agenda to be, instead of "make the characters' [individual] lives not boring", rather "make the characters' lives together not boring".

I'm also curious if your players notice this, or feel it is a problem; do they want to have scenes with each other, but feel like they've become trapped by 'what their character would do', or what? Are they just literally so geographically isolated that it no longer makes sense for them to ever interact? Also, do you use Fronts, and if so what is your Front creation like in these games?

The fact that you say "trapped" there suggests that perhaps we have some slight difference in creative agendas? How about "seduced" by character realism, or "committed" to it, or "feel annoyed that they have to choose between honoring the fiction of what their character would do, and fulfilling the social agenda of playing together"?

The players and I find each individual scene fun, but notice to our dismay in the aggregate that they're playing with each other less. We're spending more time as spectators to each others' stories -- eager spectators, but still, increasingly spectators. Or else doing what feels like violence to the fiction in order to correct this problem.

I have always had this problem as a GM. long before I became an MC. "Keeping the party together" has always been my bete noire. AW feels like it actually made this worse, by discouraging the usual railroady methods of pushing the characters at each other. It's true, it does offer other tools which could be adapted to this purpose; but I think the principle is required to activate them, because, in  the game as published, "keeping the party together" is not demanded by the rules, by honesty, by the prep, or by the principles.


« Last Edit: October 23, 2014, 10:52:53 AM by plausiblefabulist »

Re: Scarcity of room
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2014, 10:48:39 AM »
The world-creation process in the AW game we're playing now happened upon a great way to address this issue - it takes place on a single space station. Granted, the place is big, but it is finite. And outside lies little but the cold, dark void.

See, that's exactly what I'm talking about.

And AW places no intrinsic restrictions on timeline, so even if two characters are pursuing goals in completely different locations there's nothing stopping the MC from setting up the scene and asking one of the players, "So why has Ghislaine come back to Binghamton after all this time away?"

Sure, but that might well bring Ghislane's player up short, feeling cheated of the awesome things she was planning on doing -- and which you're supposed to be a fan of -- during that "time away"

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DWeird

  • 166
Re: Scarcity of room
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2014, 11:50:50 AM »
I don't know if scarcity of room is the best way to go about it. If it was, the Maestro D and the Hoarder wouldn't be having this problem, yeah?

What you may instead be looking for instead is tighter purely causal links. For example, why doesn't it matter for the hardhold, and thus Maestro D and the Hoarder, that the Touchstone's mission failed?

Or, it does matter, but... There might be another issue that I come across every so often in my AW games, and that's the fact that different characters have different rhytms. As the most obvious example - Gunluggers live from fight to fight, and the fact that they have been in a fight usually means they get in another fight sooner, whereas Savvyheads live from project to its completion. Savvyheads go slow and steady, Gunluggers accelerate. Eventually, what happens is that either one of them dominates the spotlight, or you have two geographically and even temporally distinct stories.

What you need at that point is a resync tool, which take chunks of time and deal with them in a kind of abstract way, ending with a situation where all the player characters are back together and the situation is such that their efforts affect one another's. There are a few resync tools already built in, like Wealth or Moonlighting, as well the Love Letter format (the latter seems, honestly, exactly like good honest GM prep most of the time). Dark Ages has a whole list of them, too. Maybe borrow a page from there?

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Munin

  • 417
Re: Scarcity of room
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2014, 03:50:01 PM »
And AW places no intrinsic restrictions on timeline, so even if two characters are pursuing goals in completely different locations there's nothing stopping the MC from setting up the scene and asking one of the players, "So why has Ghislaine come back to Binghamton after all this time away?"
Sure, but that might well bring Ghislane's player up short, feeling cheated of the awesome things she was planning on doing -- and which you're supposed to be a fan of -- during that "time away"
The idea is not to cheat the player of the time away. She's spent the time away, and much of what she was doing in the other location may have happened on-screen. All you're doing is throwing a complication into the mix. It's no different than announcing off-screen badness that might affect her plans. You're not saying, "you can't continue whatever exciting or engaging thing you were working on in another location." Instead you're asking "what possible reason(s) might induce you to come back here?" with the implicit assumption that "coming back" might be a purely temporary thing. Maybe I should have phrased that assumption explicitly.

This gets easy when both of the PCs need something (and it could be that they need totally different things) or someone. You can just structure it such that they are in the same place at the same time. So Fluffy the Gunlugger is looking for ammo and Ghislaine the Savvyhead is looking for raw materials for her latest project. Why not set the scene in a hold's bustling marketplace? There's a good reason for both of them to be there - Fluffy has a line on some AP ammo and Ghislaine has finally tracked down a guy who claims to have rubber tubing in the quantity she needs. The fact that one (or even both) of them might have had to travel some distance to get there is largely immaterial. If they both have a reason to be there, just jump to the action.

This also touches on DWeird's comments as well, which is that you might need to pull up from your timeline. It's OK to have days or weeks pass between sessions, or even between scenes within the same session. And the point about love letters is a great one, because they're ideally suited to this kind of circumstance.

But it is incumbent upon you as the MC to decide what is and is not worthy of a scene. The players may want to RP through every little thing that happens to their characters, but trust me when I say that that way lies madness, especially when they're separated. AW does a good job of making sure the rolls are consequential. It's your job as MC to make sure the scenes are consequential. Elide the stuff that doesn't matter. A few moments of montage exposition goes a long way, leaving you free to concentrate on the stuff that is important to the story. Zooming in and out on the action is one of the things mentioned in the "A few more things to do" section of the MC chapter.

Also, I wouldn't be too wedded to this idea that letting the players go off in umpty different directions is necessarily "being a fan of the characters." The PCs are at their hottest when they're interacting with each other. Maybe giving them some gentle corraling is being more of a fan than letting them hare off into realms where they only get to interact with NPCs.

« Last Edit: October 23, 2014, 03:54:22 PM by Munin »

Re: Scarcity of room
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2014, 04:36:50 PM »
While the Hoarder and the Maire D' are physically in the same hardhold, they're no longer aligned, they're pursuing different agendas, and they're simply interested in different aspects of the setting, and not even really interacting with the same NPCs.

I throw threats at them, but that doesn't necessarily unite them, if one decides to rally and face the threat, the other to get the hell out of dodge...

I dunno, I read all this and then when you talk about the "heavy lifting" from the players (including yourself0 that would be required to avoid such a situation and I just scratch my head, because it looks more like 'a bit more awareness' and 'a small amount of effort' would be enough.

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The fact that you say "trapped" there suggests that perhaps we have some slight difference in creative agendas? How about "seduced" by character realism, or "committed" to it, or "feel annoyed that they have to choose between honoring the fiction of what their character would do, and fulfilling the social agenda of playing together"?

Sure, I said "feel trapped". (I don't think we have any differences, here, for whatever it's worth, all your responses make sense to me.)

But I guess part of what I'm trying to say is that just as the rules and PCs and fiction allow for the disentanglement you describe, they also allow for more entanglement, or the same amount, or whatever. And none of that requires players to somehow give up on 'character realism' -- they just have to think about it occasionally and make different decisions as their character. Decisions which will also make sense and fit the fiction, etc. etc.

Sometimes that's not possible or you make a decision that results in more isolation after all, or something is just so interesting to you that you must pursue it -- but that doesn't last forever. As you said yourself there are no status quos. And the PCs do after all have a shared history.

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I have always had this problem as a GM. long before I became an MC. [...]  in the game as published, "keeping the party together" is not demanded by the rules, by honesty, by the prep, or by the principles.

So I mean the other thing is, is this actually a problem? I mentioned Sorcerer not because it is a terrible game that doesn't allow for the True Pinnacle Of Great RP (Party Interaction!), but because it is a great game that has absolutely no problem with all the PCs doing their own thing, and provides tools to keep those things thematically inter-related.

And similarly, the way you describe playing AW does not seem like it's a problem, as long as you are happy with a more disconnected story/world. Which it sounds like you are, at least on some level, because your natural inclination as an MC is to broaden the world/fiction.

But if this is an impulse that you want to mitigate, I think Fronts are really your best bet. You mention Threats a lot and how an individual threat does nothing to keep things tied together, but that's kind of why Fronts exist; to group threats together thematically/narratively so that when the PCs engage with the Threats in different ways, that has more complicated interactions on the level of the Front.

Now if your PCs literally ignore your Fronts or decide the best response is to run for the hills, then as you point out that's still a problem. But your Fronts and your Threats are supposed to be built out of things you have observed of the PCs, and questions you have asked them in the first session, etc. And obviously Fronts can expand, as the world expands.

I don't know if this is true of you and your group but I feel like lots of MCs (especially after one or two campaigns) often stop worrying about Fronts, at least in a formal manner, because their games are naturally achieving that kind of interconnected-density-of-threats for whatever reason. But in cases where that's not happening and things are drifting apart (whether because of the natural creative impulses of their MC style, players, etc.), Fronts remain a useful formal tool for keeping things connected even over what seem like major narrative/geographical gaps. In the most extreme case Fronts become a thematic tool, like Sorcerer's Humanity, so that even PC activities that are entirely disconnected in the causal sense are connected thematically, via their shared inspiration in scarcity.

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Ebok

  • 415
Re: Scarcity of room
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2014, 11:33:02 AM »
You know. In most of my games, teamwork is the last thing on anyone's mind. I've watched games break down and scatter fast. The thing is, it's not so much about dragging people back together, nor is it about FORCING someone's hand and shoehorning them into something that is purely unrealistic. In my experience, my players rarely want to bring other players with them into something, and often are aggressors to each others ends.

I don't think this is a problem. You are not bound to keep players together. You should make it clear that the camera is going to remain focused on the single group-narrative and not turn into 3-5 different unrelated stories taking place in the same gameworld. So if you can zoom out the changes the characters are making to be bigger, more world-shaping, then sure let them scatter and grow until theyre right there butted up against each other again. The thing is, you focus on the interplay between the characters, if not directly then indirectly.

A large enemy force rises up from the south with hundreds of men, their influence is felt scattered throughout the characters who've each laired somewhere separate from each other. Maybe the fact that each character is shutting down bandits means the landscape in the area is rather peaceful...maybe that opens up something new to grow which affects both, like maybe the holdings start trading with each other, or start fighting over a resource.

SPACE isn't a scarcity without other facets of the world in lack. The players have whatever you give them, it's the mandate of the game-world to have their collective actions tell a story. It doesnt mean they're forced to interact, but their world should be the same world, and should feel the same threats. If they expand, then broaden the threats that come up. Broaden the amount of travel characters do, push change into all of them constantly. Just because they scatter for now, doesn't mean they're going to be scattered tomorrow. There is no status quo. 

They should be unable to find nirvana anywhere. You should indirectly keep them relevant to each other, even if its only through npcs, or lost rare treasures, or landscape threats.  the second they completely outgrow the narrative they've telling collectively, it might be time to narrate one of them leaving into the sunset and another character rise up within that story. There should be a STORY being told by their actions that isn't one man walking through a desert, another man living on a wintery hut in the mountains. Those are now two different games, and maybe play them both, talk and decide which comes first.

As for players not reacting to the same threats in the same way, yup! I've never seen players come together under fire. Never. Ever. This isn't a problem, it an opportunity. What if when a bandit shows up and one character gets captured and drug off, they take someone important directly or indirectly to another pc too. What if they steal something or raid something from the savvyheads lab that he really needed. What if words comes around that the bandit is related in some way to another character. What if what if what if. Tie the dispora together so they can share the same movie set.

I think of AW like a movie. If the characters arent together, then there needs to be something tying them close, else some of them have gone off-screen and it is time to refocus. If the PLAYERS dont share thinks they like and this breakdown happens in ever game constantly, maybe you need to rethink something.

Re: Scarcity of room
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2014, 12:07:17 PM »
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Also, I wouldn't be too wedded to this idea that letting the players go off in umpty different directions is necessarily "being a fan of the characters." The PCs are at their hottest when they're interacting with each other. Maybe giving them some gentle corraling is being more of a fan than letting them hare off into realms where they only get to interact with NPCs.
I'd have to agree with Munin on this. It does, after all, say "Bring it. MC the game." in the book as well...
Or in other words, complete freedom is perhaps not always the ideal way to go. Creativity can profit from a certain amounts of limitations, sometimes.

There have been plenty of suggestions already, on how to "tie characters back in" to each others' stories. I'd like to add two:
For the Brainer in the maelstrom, detached from his body - consider bringing into play something that threatens his physical body. (A plague, a big raid, some shenanigans that Hoarder is unwittingly up to...) He will be able to feel (or even precog) this in the maelstrom, perhaps, making him strongly consider to return to his body... at least for as long as it takes to avert that threat.

For the guy who goes off to another hardhold over the mountains, and starts a new life there, makes new alliances, etc. - consider revealing that this hardholder's leader(s) is/are planning to raid, or even annihilate, the other hardhold. The one where that PC originally came from, and where (some of) the others still are. Now with that, even if the PC doesn't decide to abandon his newly-found alliances and return back home to warn/help the others... even when he stays right where he is and keeps on doing his thing - the situation will become of greater (and increasingly more immediate) interest to the other PCs... one of which may just decide to drop by one day... or at least send a few goons over perhaps...
 
---

Alternately, you can perhaps fruitfully go the other route, and permit the PCs their wandering-around every which way into the larger world (and other worlds). In this case, sooner or later, consider giving all of the players addititional PCs to play in each other's stories.
If, as you said, you're becoming "eager spectators" to each other's doings, why not have the group create some people who are all disembodied people who have gotten dragged into the maelstrom - or entered it of their own free will. Your Brainer would have good company, and the other players would get something to do, above and beyond just watching the 1-on-1 play...

The same thing can be done with PCs who have gone to other hardholds, are hanging out in different social strata of the same big hardhold, etc.

Just try to avoid hardcore hermits alone in the middle of the desert, and you might just be fine ^^


If, at some point, the stories of the (original) PCs should happen to re-align, fine. You can have a grand finale that wraps up a lot of common threads then.
Or the stories may remain separate, but then at least all of the players are invested in all of them and each gets to shape each other's while it happens...
« Last Edit: October 30, 2014, 08:58:47 PM by Auburney »