How to deal with "When you open your mind..." Move?

  • 4 Replies
How to deal with "When you open your mind..." Move?
« on: May 26, 2016, 08:54:24 AM »
Hi all,

I want to apology for asking newbies questions. We're having great times with our AW games who started as a one shot test play and became our main weekly campaign. We're getting used to the system and the interactions with the community on these forums are really helping. Really thanks to you all.

There's still one thing we're struggling with: the psychic maelstrom: "When you open your brain to the psychic maelstrom, roll+weird ..."

I have trouble to deal with this move. What do I answer? What do I ask for?

Here's how I deal with it for the moment:
-Generally, when the player wants to know something he cannot know on a situation, he opens his brain to the maelstrom, knowing the information will surely be very hazardous ;
-When a player opens his brain, I look at my threats. I generally have some stake questions linked to these threats. I pick some of them and ask them to the player. "You see the Horde is in fact prisonner of the tempest. You're inside and there's this big placenta of compact ashes the guys are trying to slash with axes and chainsaws. Will they get out or no?" So I put decisions in the character's vision. Not sure with the effect but for the moment we tried

I'm not 100% sure about this, I got this feeling I'm missing something. Could anyone help with :
- how to deal with this move? how do you use it? Please share.
- what information do you give? what do you ask?
- how do you deal with a fail?


Re: How to deal with "When you open your mind..." Move?
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2016, 10:49:18 AM »
Usually, when people roll weird in my game, they are looking for new information. In our game the sun's become a red dwarf - even at midday everything is really dark and dim. But when you open your mind, everything is bathed in bright, warm sunshine. If they've asked for information, they'll get a vision seeing it, and I'll describe it like any other scene, except it's now bright. On a partial, it's too bright to see much, but they'll get a few tips. Some characters do it for a move, which is usually spelt out what they get. Rarely people do it just for fun or to connect with each other during downtime (usually because they have weird highlighted). Then I'll just go to questions, I'll be nice if they get a 10+, meaner on a partial.

Then I'll ask my question. I usually go with questions that pull out the psyche of the characters. Not necessarily any thing to do with the plot directly, but background and flashbacks. Things that give you new insight into them.

My favorite is "Who was the first person you killed?" - Everyone's a little dark and has a story to share to the group about this.
"Who was the first person you loved?" "When was the first time you felt real pain?" Things like that. I try to think like some weird twisted therapist.

Misses are harder. I'm still having difficulty with how hard to make hard moves. Give them a frightening vision of one of your threats doing something awesome/terrifying? It doesn't need to be related to the move. I've used fails with moves to interrupt whatever's happening with raiders attacking. Once when someone opened her brain and failed, I was lazy and just went with "Deal harm". A flash of light, she was flung across the room. 2 harm(ap). Not sure how I feel about that, the player was kind of upset. But it was getting late, I wanted to wrap up so people wouldn't miss trains (again). I made up for it by making it super easy to heal the harm next session.



  • 609
Re: How to deal with "When you open your mind..." Move?
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2016, 04:01:56 PM »
You can use just about any GM move on a miss. The problem with dealing harm in the example is you didn't establish it. If last time she had missed while opening her brain she had experienced a vice like pain and had to act under fire, she'd likely not have reacted badly this time, when she took harm on a miss.
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."



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Re: How to deal with "When you open your mind..." Move?
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2016, 06:58:22 PM »
There are many ways to use this move, it's ambiguous and defined on a per game basis.

The first order of business is to establish what the maelstrom is, how people interact with it, and then why is can be dangerous. The first couple times that the characters open their brains are great opportunities to find out how people interact with it. It's best, I've found, not to be predetermined explicitly, let your players have a hand in its formation. Often times if you have a player whose class revolves around weird, you should be asking them what is it, what does it do, what they do imagine when they use their abilities, how are these abilities Weird.

Now, weirdness can mean a lot of things too. I always ask my players How are you weird? Weird as in, you're not an npc, you're not just one of the crowd, you're you. What about your character (personality) makes you stand out. Then we build on that.

• one guy says: he's just smarter then most of the people around him. Cool!
  Maybe he interacts with open your brain when he dives into the maelstrom with his minds eye. (imagination)
• another says: they shy away from people, they don't like the things other people do.
  Then they might interact with the maelstrom on the fringes of society, in the dark corners, when people watching, etc. (vision)
• I've had one say he's clairvoyant, he just knows things for no reason at all. (smell)
  We ended up saying he interacted with the maelstrom by smelling it on the air. A bad feeling, a good one, a draw, a push, etc.
  ex. he opened his brain to something, and had a feeling that there was related trouble down at the church house. He could smell it.
• One guy said he's different from other people because he's just a total klutz who was stupidly lucky.
  When he opened his brain, he would stumble into, fall on, luck into whatever the answers were by pure chance.  (touch)

You can set that information alongside the understanding of what the maelstrom is:
• a poisonous cloud of maisma that blows around and fertilizes the soil, causing rapid moss and other gunk to grow dangerously fast.
• the crumbling vortex of space time
• the damn oddness in the air that creeps into your psyche until you just lose you mind
• a mystery that haunts everyone, but the knowing is too dark for the mind to grapple with and win (do you look into the abyss?)
• literal demons that reach out of the nether-lands and possess or interact with your sorry existence
• etc (I've had versions of the maelstrom being weather, magic, ghosts, old-modern-tech, cyberneticAI, even just pure Cold.)

Knowing the context of what opening your brain entails in the fiction is important, because if you open you brain to find a clue to something in a room, then you need to know what that means. When a character open his brain, their Player decides the character is to step close to the edge of the maelstrom and peering inside for answers. Maybe the character does this intentionally too, maybe the player is inviting an accident, whatever. You determine that with them.

But if we take some of the examples above:
the maelstrom is: • the crumbling vortex of space time
the character is: • just a total klutz who was stupidly lucky
they interact mostly via: • touch

Now add that to a situation. You walk into your room back at the apartments to find that it has been utterly trashed, and "Ratz" is laying in a pool of her own blood on the floor. When you take a step in and look at her, you see that her throat has been slit wide open, probably from the back. There are signs of a violent struggle, but the room looked tossed like someone was looking for something or just trying to destroy everything inside. What do you do?

The player decides that they want to know who did this. They're going to look around the room for clues, rushing because it's bad enough that Ratz dead, but the idea that someone could do this and get away with has them furious. I drop a couple of hints form things they might find, but they want more. So they want to open their brain, inviting danger.

I get to ask some questions. "I ask, hey what was in your room that was worth anything? Anything come to mind?"
He tells me, yeah, "An old book with some fancy writing inside, golden-age stuff that I never did understand." Then I ask, "How well did you know Ratz, I mean, do you know why she was here?" They say. "We've were having an on again off again thing, she was probably here looking for me."

( My favorite use for these questions are to ask personal stuff about a pc, what do they love, hate, who hurt them how, who did they lose, when? etc. I then try to tie it into the current situation, but not always. This is also a greta time to ask about how the interact with the maelstorm, when was the first time... what happened after... who was the first person you lost to the maelstrom... how does the information come to you, visions, knowledge, taste, etc?)

I inform him that the room's spatial stability falls out of whack a bit due to his high emotional state, and ask him to roll.
"Scrambling over the wreckage, you trip and reach to catch yourself but your hand falls through a tear in the world, ...
Your chest hits the floor and with one arm and your head through the rip, you see a man with a bloody-red-scarf on a stool in a dour shit-in-wall bar. A flicking neon relic showing a nude women rests wall next to yellowed pictures. He's sitting alone, the bar's empty, but he looks like he's been there awhile. A still bloody knife rests on the table in front of him as well as a fresh stack of barterables. Someone out of sight calls out the name "Hey Barn!" and he turns... as the rifts edges start to fray. You pull back just before the rift snaps shut.
Your chest hits the floor, hard, dazed you realize your hand is beyond cold–its numb and plunged right through the edge of the world. You yank you hand back before you lose it, and find a bloody-red-scarf grasped tightly in the fingers you can't feel.

You just fall through the damned floor, you expected ground but nope. There's only air. You barely have the time to flail your arms wildly before you face plant into a grimy floor. Ugh... Peering from the ground, you see the room you're in isn't unoccupied, and while people don't normally fall through the world, this isn't entirely unheard of. Someone walks over and offers your a hand up.

You find yourself completely disoriented and lost. It looks like you've fallen into some dour shit-in-wall bar. A flicking neon relic of a nude women rests on the wall next to a few hundred yellowed pictures. The man that helps you up is a stranger, he's wearing a bloody red scarf, some scrounge wear, and a heavy bag. As you accept his hand, he introduces himself "The names Barn. You've got to be careful now.." Looking over his shoulder at some of the other occupants of the dark corners. He murmurs, "That's Red's gang, they love harvesting from lost travelers. You best keep clear of them or their alleyways."...

This maelstrom provided a theme that included passing through space. In the worst zones, we had waterfalls pouring from thin air, buildings shaved off clean, bubbles of space-distortions that scrambled and fucked with the world. All types of crazy. Most of the time effects where subtle. The everyday stuff was like small distortions, visual cues, nothing unlivable. That could be scaled up to things like time lapping itself, an hour passing in seconds, the same split second scene happening twice (providing a +1 forward to reacting the second time), people, parts, or things appearing where they weren't, etc. Fun ways to handle moves flavorfully (bonefeel became a straight up teleport.)

THE EXAMPLE:  The miss in this example was separating the player from his own turf, and easy routing to the other PCs. So now he's alone, stranded, I gave him none of the clues that the guy he is talking to was the guy he wanted to find. Instead I give it a twist by making this guy the most willing and available friend out of other announced badness.

You don' have to make the miss related to what they were looking for, but it should be a problem that could be reasonable expected. Like, maybe instead of having the weird eat him, I say:
You hit the floor, Hard. You're pretty sure you just fell on the corner of your dresser. Ouch. (no harm), However you forget the pain pretty quick, when the whole room started to wobble and a ripping sound can be heard. You're not sure... but you think that the whole room might be being torn off of this dimension.  The door's still there.. for now, what do you do?

Never just deal harm as a surprise on a miss, always instead announce the threat of harm and ask them what do they do. The room in this case is gone, everything in it too. It could appear down the street, a mile into the sky, on the other side of the world, maybe inside another building, or the middle of the ocean. Not a good place to be. They need to gtfo. Are they going to  bolt for the door, are they grabbing anything on the way out? etc. Playing with the maelstrom can be dangerous.

if you don't know yet what the maelstrom is, it might be hard for the players to say how they interact with it. Start off small, ask questions that define the maelstrom: piece by piece. Make sure to ask leading questions, In what way do you sense the maelstrom? What is the maelstrom in, people? The air? the water? the weather? things? the darkness? the light? memories?.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2016, 07:37:49 PM by Ebok »

Re: How to deal with "When you open your mind..." Move?
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2016, 12:15:33 AM »
I try to think like some weird twisted therapist.

Lots of good answers here, but I wanted to highlight this one, 'cause I think it's spot on. I feel like whenever possible you should imagine that it is the Maelstrom asking the questions, not the MC. Not surprisingly, the Maelstrom and the MC will often be interested in similar things, and so especially at the beginning this distinction might be less important -- but eventually, all these questions start to build up a picture of what interests the Psychic Maelstrom. A Maelstrom that is always asking about traumatic memories or murders or the like is subtly different than an otherwise identical Maelstrom that always asks about family members and social connections.

Eventually, as you figure out what the Maelstrom is like, the questions will start to become part of its agenda -- and as that questioning voice becomes clearer, the players (and PCs) can start to interact with that voice in different ways. Their answers can start to have clearer consequences in the world, or at least the part of the world the Maelstrom has influence over.