Building Fronts - No idea what I am doing

  • 8 Replies
Building Fronts - No idea what I am doing
« on: August 05, 2015, 07:15:16 PM »
So, I am just starting with Apocalypse World as an MC. We have done our first session and built an interesting setting with the players. I like the idea of Fronts but I think I may have misinterpreted them and made something out of them that was not intended. I'll try to explain.

Here is how I am currently looking at Fronts:

MC moves are designed to advance the Fronts. Basically, if I (the MC) am talking, the Fronts are advancing. Players can do whatever they want. They can hide or sit and drink in the cantina or whatever else but the Fronts are slowly closing in and left alone, a dark future will occur. This is intended to reflect a world continuously in decay and spiraling out of control, if not for the actions of the brave player characters. There will be no patron who offers our heroes 100 gold to go rescue the princess (or any other RPG trope). There will just be the steady decay and advancing threats of Apocalypse World which you can handle or suffer the consequences.

As an example, I made this Godzilla Front just for fun. (Godzilla is not really going to be in my game.)

Godzilla's Dark Future is that he destroys the city. If the countdown clock reaches Midnight, that is what happens. On the way to destroying the city is this countdown clock.

12:01-3:00: Distant roars are heard but we do not yet see Godzilla.
3:00-6:00: Godzilla is seen on the horizon.
6:00-9:00: Godzilla is just outside of the city.
9:00-10:00: Godzilla destroys buildings.
10:00-11:00: Godzilla kills key NPCs.
11:00-Midnight: Godzilla destroys the city.

So... this is how I currently think of Fronts. I like this but I know I am wrong.

Godzilla as I have designed him is a Threat, not a Front. I am honestly not sure what a Front would be in this example. The city? Is a Front a place?

Further, the way I am thinking of Fronts is that the players need to be pro-active and deal with these things or the dark future just "happens." There is no battle with Godzilla if his clock reaches midnight. He just destroys the city. The players, however, can intercept him at any point before midnight.

Have I got this all wrong? Someone please give me some insight. I appreciate it.

Brilliant Scheme



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Re: Building Fronts - No idea what I am doing
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2015, 07:44:17 PM »
You're good. Godzilla itself is a threat in the Godzilla front. Right now you've got just a one-threat front, which is fine.

Did you see Cloverfield? In that movie, there were these flea monsters that dropped off the Godzilla-esque giant monster and ate people. They were a second threat in the Godzilla-esque giant monster front. Also our meeples rescued somebody from a skyscraper that was knocked over and leaning on another skyscraper. That was a third thread, a prison-type landscape probably.

You're exactly right about the countdown. Whatever o'clock it is, that's what Godzilla is doing right now, and if the PCs want to deal with Godzilla, that's what they've got to deal with.

See? You're good.


Re: Building Fronts - No idea what I am doing
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2015, 08:41:37 PM »
Yeah, your Godzilla is an excellent threat!

The "Front" part is just an organizational tool, like a file folder. The threats inside that front are the things that actually happen. Like, you don't put your Undead Nazi Supervillain threat in your International Communist Revolution front, y'know?

Like Vincent says, it is totally cool to have a front with only one threat in it. Or it's a front full of different monsters. Or it's a front about destruction, and might include falling comets or glaciers creeping down upon humanity.

Re: Building Fronts - No idea what I am doing
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2015, 08:34:28 AM »
Well, thanks!

I get Fronts much better now and I am a lot more confident about our next game. :)

Re: Building Fronts - No idea what I am doing
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2015, 03:06:35 PM »
If it's fine, I'll hijack this thread for my own front question (let me know if I should start a new one instead):

A single front is supposed to have a unifying Fundamental Scarcity, right? And also, all example fronts I've seen represent a single situation, a single part of the setting: like "inside the holding" or "the outlying gangs" or "Godzilla".

When lumpley called a one-threat front "fine", that was reassuring - I often struggle coming up with enough threats to fill my fronts. Especially when I feel like they should be connected both in the setting and thematically (scarcity). Like, what if I have an up-and-coming mobster representing ambition, and a sickness representing something else, both inside the holding?

This turned into a criticism of the book's description of the procedure, I guess, since the situation is easily resolved by simply allowing one-threat fronts. But I have several times sat down with my first session notes, found a single threat in a given fundamental scarcity, and then forcing myself to add two to three more threats that fit both the same situation and the same scarcity. I felt like the book expected all related threats to automatically express the same scarcity, which made me feel like I'd failed when I had two unreliable people within the same gang, and one was hungry and the other ambitious.

And yeah, I get that there's a point to encouraging the MC to, when making up new threats related to an existing one, consider making them express the same scarcity. Like, if I have the Godzilla threat expressing hunger, and start thinking about related threats like the flea-type mini-monsters, then those should also express hunger for maximal thematic coherence.

Re: Building Fronts - No idea what I am doing
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2015, 04:15:56 PM »

yes it's okay to have a mobster on your ambition front and a sickness on your decay front or whatever, even if both are inside the holding.

The rule for creating fronts is to link threats thematically (by scarcity), not necessarily in the setting (like 'inside the holding'). This is so you can have different threats in the same setting ('in the holding') hitting different themes. If the two threats are thematically-related (the Cloverfield monster and its flea monsters probably are) then they go on the same front. If they aren't thematically related (the ambitious mob boss and his hungry gang member) then they go on different fronts. The hungry gang member is on a front with a bunch of other threats that express hunger (the crew that works the primitive greenhouse, the cannibals, that rival holding out on the flats with nothing to their name, whatever).

When you make your mobster threat and create a front around him, some thematically-linked threats will come to mind that are also linked to this mobster (his lieutenant who wants to take over, or that scrappy street kid who's dying to get noticed by the boss and become a made man). When that happens -- great! Add them to the front. If nothing comes to mind and you need to fill up that front with other threats, invent some threats that also express ambition, whether they tie directly to the mob boss or not -- the DA who is running for governor and is making a show by cracking down HARD on the ghetto where the PCs live, maybe? (I know that's a little weird for AW; I'm assuming a Goodfellas-type hack of AW with mobsters and stuff). In the end, you have a front that expresses ambition seven ways to Sunday.

Sometimes you'll have a threat and won't know exactly what front it goes on (that is, you won't know what theme it expresses right off the bat). That's fine too. Throw it on the Home Front until you figure it out.

At the end of the day, you have all your threats organized by theme (as opposed to being organized by how they relate to each other in the fiction, or organized by where they live, or organized according to a million other schemas). This should hopefully make it easier to keep the themes your game is expressing firm in your mind, which in turn will hopefully make it easier to look for ways of expressing those themes. So every time that hungry gang member comes on stage, look for some way of letting his hunger (or someone else's, whatever) shine through by word or deed, for example. No one is going to go through your fronts and complain that you don't have the mob boss and his hungry gang member on the same worksheet. It's really there as a resource to help you, not to lock you into some rigid format, right?

Make sense?

-- Christopher

PS: I guess I should point out that in addition to theme (scarcity), the threats on a given front are also linked by the fact that they impinge on the PCs' lives. The ambitious DA in my silly example above needs to impinge on the PCs' lives (like, she needs to make waves where they live or something, not Back Home On The East Coast or whatever). I'm sure you knew that though, just clarifying.

EDIT -- re-reading what you wrote, I'm positive you already get most of what I wrote. Sorry for mansplaining it to you. I'll just leave it here in case someone else finds it helpful.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2015, 05:16:09 PM by ColdLogic »

Re: Building Fronts - No idea what I am doing
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2015, 06:36:16 PM »
I don't mind hijacking this thread as long as I can comment on it, too. :)

I am a newb at AW and may not understand how it works properly but the way I took the fundamental Scarcity was that the Scarcity represented how the player characters could overcome the Threats in the Front. It was not only thematic but also mechanical. So, if people are starving in the city, and the Threat is "starvation," the Scarcity is Hunger. The way to combat "starvation" is (obviously) by combating "Hunger." Combating Hunger might mean planting crops or capturing a warehouse of grain or making a run to the old supermarket deep in the mutant Wasteland or some clever idea the players come up with but the point is to get food. If the player characters decide that instead of combating Hunger, they hunt the mutants in the Wasteland, the Threat for "starvation" keeps moving forward, getting worse and worse.

On the same Front, if Bandits are raiding because of the fundamental scarcity of Hunger, they are also best combated by combating Hunger. While player characters can kill the current wave of Bandits, more Bandits are going to appear because there is just not enough food to go around. The Bandit Threat keeps moving forward until there is enough food for everyone.

I get the feeling that this was not how Fronts were intended but I think my misinterpretation could theoretically work.

Re: Building Fronts - No idea what I am doing
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2015, 11:37:53 AM »
Brilliant Scheme,

That's one way of thinking about it. In other words, 'What Fundamental Scarcity is driving the bandits to raid?' That's pretty much what the book says as far as using Scarcities to make fronts. It doesn't represent how the PCs can overcome the threats, as you said -- it represents what needs to be overcome. Also note the the bandit threat advances until a) the PCs have somehow changed the world for the better with respect to HUNGER or b) until the dark future of the bandits is realized (the holding falls, rioting, burning, killing scapegoats, everyone taken back as slaves or food, or whatever you have in mind).

You can also look at the Scarcities as being themes you want a threat to hit on. Maybe you decide your bandits are really hitting on Despair instead -- like, given enough time, the people of the holding come to believe it is hopeless trying to resist the bandits, that carving out some semblance of civilization out here in the wastes is futile, that they are better served by savagery or suicide or joining the bandits. You could probably create multiple threats on the Despair front like that -- the factions in the holding expressing their Despair in different ways, the death cult that's on the rise, the bandits outside the holding always pushing in. Just make sure the PCs are in the middle of it all.

Either way works. Using both approaches to fill out your fronts works great too. That's what I do, personally.

-- Christopher

Re: Building Fronts - No idea what I am doing
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2015, 01:30:10 AM »

Personally, I do not spend a lot of time worrying about whether an individual Threat is representing a particular scarcity. The way I see it, the scarcity helps inform the Front, and is resolved and addressed primarily on the level of the Front; as long as the Threats make sense in the context of the Front, they are going to contribute to that general resolution.

Similarly, when building out a Front the question is not 'can I think of some other Ambition-related Threats?' -- the question is 'can I think of some other Threats that fit in this Front?' Sometimes those Threats will fit thematically (particularly in the case of a more abstract Front, like I dunno 'the loss of human memory'), but sometimes they will mostly fit logistically (often with Fronts that have a strong connection to a place or group of people.)

As long as the Dark Future and related moves/countdown clocks of the Front are thematically coherent, and it is clear how each Threat could move the world towards that dark future, the Threat is guaranteed to address those themes insofar as it is participating in the Front.