When there's no PC hardholder...

  • 7 Replies
When there's no PC hardholder...
« on: January 06, 2017, 03:54:18 PM »
So, the classic "so who's boss, is it one of you..?"-leading question left a big "no". Luckily the nice person who everybody looks to and has done so for a long time ended up married to the though guy-Angel Grip. She's named Hindenburg and is more a leader and caring individual who tries to make life in Train Station good for everyone, and relies heavily on the Council of people who knows stuff. This means she leans heavily on her husband The Angel, The Savvyhead ("if there's one thing you can count on, it's thing's break") and The Hocus, who got the answer on a read person that HE couldn't do anything to strenghten her resolve, but her husband did so regulary.

I've had this before, and sometimes The Chopper is the boss, or otherwise I make a hardholder with good and bad sides. I try to make the hardholder female (I should definitely make the next MC-hardholder a transperson), mainly because it's cool and a really good habit to make the boss female. (I often GM for kids, at summer school and the like.)

Do you have any Do's and Don'ts? Good habits, nice tricks or just scene-framing-routines for when there's another (benevolent) big playerâ„¢ in town?

And talking about benevolent? What kind of threath is she/he/they?   

If my questions and prompts fail to enthuse, tell us about a NPC hardholder/leader type who worked good in your campaign (before ...or after... eating it).



  • 417
Re: When there's no PC hardholder...
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2017, 06:04:35 PM »
My games have had all sorts of NPC hard-holders. Some are decent people trying to do right by the folks who depend on them, some are vicious warlords with delusions of grandeur, some are petty tyrants trying to squeeze all they can before the sudden and inevitable betrayal, and some are people with no clue who have been thrust into the role. A lot depends on the nature of the campaign and the PCs places within it.

My favorite NPC hard-holder wasn't a single person at all; it was "The Jury," a council of twelve people who made all the decisions for the settlement. Cue backbiting and intrigue.

Re: When there's no PC hardholder...
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2017, 11:11:04 PM »
I feel strongly that NPC hardholders can either be highly competent or have good intentions, but generally not both. This can be a problem when your players sneakily set up a Very Status Quo set of relationships (we're married! this place has been around for years under the same leadership! etc.) and you have to figure out how the leader in question has secretly been a Threat all along -- or what sort of Threat they are that has been manageable up until now, when it suddenly isn't any more.

Most of my positive experiences with NPC authorities involve their being too ambitious for their own good, or too cruel for anyone else's, or both. Crazy is also a good one, but that is usually easier for NPCs who start slightly out of the picture, not people who the other PCs have known for an extended period of time.

So for example, one of the last games I ran featured a local 'boss' called Twice, as in 'don't make her say it...' I decided early on that Twice's primary interest in life was to hunt down and destroy anything that made the mistake of presenting as likely, or particularly interesting, prey -- a sort of elite-ops/small-scale version of a Warlord/Alpha Wolf. But it had also been established that Twice was the stabilizing force in the area (a loosely organized commercial hub based around a semi-collapsed mall), so she had to be selective enough in her pursuit of that goal that -- for those not directly in her way -- she could be seen as an authority, a sort of necessary evil floating around, useful mostly because of its penchant for eating any lesser evils that happened to stop by.

So the other NPCs treated Twice and her pack of savages like you might treat a volcano -- a sacrifice may be necessary from time to time, but if you keep on your toes then it probably won't be you. And anyone who rolled into town like they were big shit? You just ducked and smiled, because you knew what happened to people who got Twice's attention.

But because we were playing the actual game now, Twice's place in the situation had to be unstable. Since the portrait I had chosen for Twice was of a woman in her 50s at least, I decided that, as she grew older, her desire to live had simply been increasingly eclipsed by her desire to hunt -- to hunt things that were not, properly speaking, prey. Or at least, that weren't the sort of prey that lead to stable local politics.

« Last Edit: January 06, 2017, 11:16:49 PM by Daniel Wood »

Re: When there's no PC hardholder...
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2017, 04:44:58 PM »
I dunno, having a reasonable authority figure seems pretty workable to me. My current game has a couple, and that's worked out fine. The key, when dealing with the existence of such figures, is twofold:

1: Remember that 'friendly, reasonable, and likes the PCs' does not mean they aren't a threat.

For example, a Warlord (Dictator) can be nice as pie as long as you acknowledge their authority and do what they say. Of course, what they do to people who don't acknowledge their authority might not bear too much thinking on...and they're likely to make demands of the PCs to boot. Asking the PCs to go fight in a war for you is every bit as much of a threat to them as attacking them, demanding that they pay taxes is every bit as much a threat as stealing from them, and requiring that they follow laws is not exactly non-threatening either.

For another example from my most recent game, one of my PCs took a lover, a member of her gang who was utterly devoted to her (and part of her gang's Threat-type as a Family). Loyal beyond reason and willing to do anything for her. The PC had to restrain her from killing anyone who looked at her sideways. She killed several people the PC didn't want, as well as almost killing many more. Love and devotion don't make someone not a threat to peace, stability, and other things.

2: External and internal threats other than the leader. If the PCs want a reasonable leader, more power to them. But that doesn't mean anyone else does. Usurpers, enemy warlords, the relatives of the people she killed to get the job might easily feel the need to be rid of her, and take steps in that direction. Everyone wants a piece of the hardholder...and if the hardholder is an NPC, they're very fragile since you're looking at them through crosshairs, so they'll likely need the aid of the PCs to protect their position or they'll lose it and die. Having the PCs desperately try and prop up a particular status quo in Apocalypse World, despite the nature of the world fighting that idea, is an excellent source of plot and drama.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2017, 07:46:11 PM by DeadmanwalkingXI »



  • 609
Re: When there's no PC hardholder...
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2017, 07:12:23 PM »
They can be reasonable and nice and that's why they're a threat. Because you like and respect them and what they ask is so reasonable.

They're still in the cross-hairs.

You still make them human. They have things they want and even need. They have people they care for, maybe will even kill for. They have responsibilities that may be bigger than any particular member's feelings.
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."

Re: When there's no PC hardholder...
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2017, 12:05:52 PM »
Thank you all for great thoughts, excellent writing and both inspiration and assurance that the choices I/The Conversation make.

I remember Cheyenne, who was a female hardholder who tried to do her best for the society. She was a potential threath to the Hocus and the Faceless. The Hocus' cult was really industrious and nice, allthough the seremonies was about sinning and fire and they soon evolved differently. The Faceless was partners, if not friends, with Cheyennes go-to-man. Cheyenne had a thing for the Driver, and they responded to a booty-call out of fear (for the safe haven) and ended up with -1-ongoing for almost the complete campaign. Oh, and she became a scary threath when the Faceless' discarded mask took her...

Now the only threath Hindenburger is involved in is the Angel's vision of her being shot by Cobalt. Cobalt was stitched together and on a 7-9 result I assured the Angel that Cobalt would survive the surgery.



  • 157
Re: When there's no PC hardholder...
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2017, 03:15:30 PM »
My favorite trick for an NPC Hardholder: "Hey, PC A, the cardholder just asked you for a way to neutralize the threat posed by PC B if they ever go off the reservation.  Just an insurance policy. What do you do?" Get the Savvyhead working on a gadget to disable the Brainer's gadgets, or the Brainer trying to put a kill-switch in the Gunlugger's head.  It doesn't have to be mean, it doesn't have to be a secret.  It's just, "I gotta protect the settlement, and you're a major threat." 

Re: When there's no PC hardholder...
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2017, 02:59:30 PM »
Wow! That's cool DannyK. Especially if it's a benevolent/likeable Hardholder.

I think I experienced it from an PC Hardholder once, as the Gunlugger and Battlebabe had complained about my Brainer being a terrible threath and the Hardholder said in really clear terms that "[Brainer] has prover her loyalty over and over again, she's just come home after being tortured. You [gunlugger], you don't pull your share here!"    ... and the situation was ended with 'im as a end-scene quote to the sniper-Battlebabe: "... you know, if [brainer] ever becomes a threath..."  and the [Battlebabe] responded: "Sure. With pleasure."

The NPC Hardholders shouldn't do anything less than PCs, just be easier to read and have simpler imperatives. :D