PCs improving at different rates

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PCs improving at different rates
« on: March 06, 2017, 10:05:28 AM »
How do y'all deal with PCs improving at different rates? I'm a few sessions in on my first game and I've noticed that some players are one or two improvements ahead of others and I'm doing my best to create equal amounts of screen time.

Any ideas? Does it even matter? Should I push them to make highlighted rolls?

Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2017, 11:20:54 AM »
Are you noticing any negative impact in play yet? That's really the thing that should guide you, imo. In my (kinda-limited) experience, nothing particularly bad happens when some characters are way ahead of others; if you hit the long game, it's kind of expected, actually, with new characters being brought in halfway through.

Might be worth asking around the table to see how the group feels, though, for two reasons:
1. Some folks actually enjoy falling into a bit more of a "supporting cast" role, so spotlight time may not be as big of an issue as it seems.
2. It's a good opportunity to talk about what they're highlighting and why. Sometimes it's easy to forget that you don't *have to* highlight the Gunlugger's Hard or the Skinner's Hot every session just because that's their shtick, for instance.

(Aside: sometimes, one of the best things you can do for a Battle-hardened Gunlugger a few sessions in is to highlight their Cool and say, "You're a badass, but I really want to see you be a badass in a ROAD WAR!!")


If you're looking for a rules-hack fix, I cribbed this from an old thread on here. It's a simple tweak that squares up advancement and reduces roll-mongering a bit.
Quote
• Highlight stats as normal, but don’t mark XP for rolling a highlighted stat.
• At the end of the session, ask the group the following question for each of your highlighted stats:
  — Did I show you how [stat] I can be? Alternatively, did I show you what happens when I try to be [stat]?
  If at least one player answers yes, take 2 XP.
Playing this way, the seduce/manipulate "stick" becomes truly powerful, and players typically gain 2-5 XP per session (4 max from highlights, plus stuff like insight coming into play sometimes).

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Ebok

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Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2017, 08:16:51 PM »
This is perfectly fine. All the playbooks start out badass, they don't need the moves to do their thing. People that do stuff get stuff, as a general rule. I find that if a player feels like someone else is too far ahead, maybe they turn that player choice of highlight against them that week. Or every week. I've even had players negotiating for highlighted stats, which I always thought was pretty cool. Honestly though, everyone should feel like they're involved with every other character, so what's far more important then a highlight imbalance is whether or not everyone feels engaged.

If you've got people grinding for points, and obviously so (and its actually a problem for others or you), maybe it's time to draw them into more conversation, or other less action packed screentime from time to time. Alternatively, and this is something my group enacted almost immediately: put limits on experience per scene / flow of scenes. Preventing someone from just going hard on everything all day. We balanced this by letting you gain up to 1 exp per highlight per scene. So it kind of helped people want to focus more on multiple skills, then always solving through the same best stat / stat replacement moves. It had the side effect of making manipulations downside super important, because losing a highlight was a possible 1exp per scene, rather then 2. Or 0 for the unfortunately obstinate.

Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2017, 09:44:21 AM »
Alex,

I don't think it is having a negative impact at all. I spoke with people last night around your suggestions and they seem cool with the way characters are advancing. They are also very generous with their highlighting of stats so that works out well for them. Generally, they are all close enough anyways.

Ebok, I don't have any grinding, yet. If I do, I'll dump in the 1 highlight per scene. Thanks for the timely suggestions. I'm trying to unlearn D&D habits on leveling.




Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2017, 01:33:17 PM »
Don't forget that the "endgame" for an AW character is often to "retire to safety".

The story arc isn't infinite; it comes to a definite conclusion sooner or later.

This means that if your character is advancing faster, they will "burn brighter", but for a shorter time, than the others around them. It's not a net advantage; it's just a different story arc for that character.

Also, they will be switching playbooks at some point (for me, one of the most exciting things in AW; it really drives character development). If your group isn't enjoying a constant ramp-up, you can agree to use the playbook switch as a sort of 'reset', bringing characters back down to a "starting" level again.

It's totally fine to have different characters move through those two transitions at different speeds, so long as *you* remember to be a fan of the characters, wherever they may be in their journey.

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Ebok

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Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2017, 06:37:45 PM »
I suppose I should add:

My group implemented the exp limitation because we wanted to slow down the rate of improvements to have a longer / slower narrative. We had previous enjoyed games and characters that went on for years at a time, with one game in a custom system lasting 1+ times a week for almost 7 years. So when we moved into AW things really felt flash in the pan fast, and it was a useful mechanic for a number of reasons. It also (in effect), put a positive power for the second highlight, so in a scene:

A hardholder would be more likely to go Hard Hot (if those were his highlights) then Hard Hard. Which we just found more interesting.

If you're coming from D&D and you ever struggle with switching characters into a new playbook, I also found this house-rule to be helpful: When you switch into a new playbook, you may keep up to 2 moves if you're willing to have the matching "choose a move form a new playbook" auto-checked off your new playbook. Basically, they get a new character sheet, and can mark those advances for free to keep a move or two they found essential to their character. It worked for us well.

Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2017, 08:41:03 PM »
If you're coming from D&D and you ever struggle with switching characters into a new playbook, I also found this house-rule to be helpful: When you switch into a new playbook, you may keep up to 2 moves if you're willing to have the matching "choose a move form a new playbook" auto-checked off your new playbook. Basically, they get a new character sheet, and can mark those advances for free to keep a move or two they found essential to their character. It worked for us well.
For what it's worth, the standard 2e rules are a lot more permissive than that. You can keep your stats, moves, and improvements, "all for sure." It's almost entirely a straight-up power-up but I think the idea is that (1) that's fine and (2) you naturally won't use your old moves as much if you're busy playing with your new toys.

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Ebok

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Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2017, 11:23:55 PM »
I clearly said it was a house rule.

I find however that it has never once caused even the ripple of a problem in the fiction. Some of the other house rules are: No one can take a move from another playbook that's in play currently. No one can take a move from another playbook that has already been selected by another player. This prevents any player from stepping on another player's styles and preserves a sort of uniqueness to the characters. All of these simply provide a structure that proved helpful when moving from games like D&D into this, where my few munchkins were very much placated by them and strove instead for cinematic awesome, rather then numeric.

I've never been let down by these choices, they've only improved our experience. 

To bring this back to the subject at hand. This is the same reason that one big ass truck gun shouldnt be counted as a second set of harm / recipient of harm. Trying to do things gun by gun misses the point, AW more closely follows hollywood logic then stats and spread sheet advancement. I think it should be pretty much assumed that if you have big guns, the gangs harm already reflects this. And if you have just one, it's probably not important enough to weigh into the aggregate, or if it is, then the moves and fictions opportunities should take the reigns to reflect it. Soon as you start doing that, you'll wonder what if I have two of them or three? Or four, What if the enemy has some? What if they have something else big and similar, at what point does this look more like familiar D&D combat mapping then AW?

These subtle limitations aren't necessary for most AW games, and it's probably not often you get an AW game with 500+ hours of gameplay in it. Mine have come close a few times though. These rules provide great benefit when stretched out over the long term I've found, but they're nice even right up front. Maybe you like them, maybe you dont. But you already have the rule book, so you can read that in your own time.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2017, 11:40:38 PM by Ebok »

Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2017, 03:03:42 PM »
I like those house rules, Ebok!

Great guidelines for people who have trouble negotiating the freeform "advancement" from one playbook to another, and I bet they work great.

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Munin

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Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2017, 04:16:56 PM »
For keeping moves from one playbook to another, we mostly just go with the fiction. For instance, if the Hardholder says, "fuck all this responsibility nonsense" and changes playbooks to the Gunlugger, then keeping Wealth and Leadership may not really be appropriate because he or she isn't really calling the shots and running the settlement anymore. But if the Savvyhead changes playbooks and becomes becomes the Brainer, maybe it's totally appropriate that he or she is still "spooky intense," so that move carries over, no sweat.

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Ebok

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Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2017, 02:42:56 AM »
In that particular instance, a Hardholder's wealth move is not strictly available to a Gunlugger, (not as a move from another playbook anyway) and choosing leadership as a move from the another playbook does not provide the gunlugger with the gang, making it's value pretty insignificant. The Hardholder's holding wouldn't come with, nor would his army.

If however, one wanted to make an argument to select the gang advance instead of one of the moves from another playbook, that might be reasonable (some of his men come with). But more often in my games, when a Hardholder abandons his holding, the moves he keeps are the two he had selected from another playbook before, instead transferring them with him and marking them off the new playbook.

All of this is easily managed to be honest, it's mostly used to extinguish the idea that he could keep everything when switching, as a straight upgrade. I rather like that the constraints of a particular playbook are always enforced, thus one character that changed into a chopper, wouldnt exceed what someone who started as a Chopper could do. Excepting for the improved stats.

Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2017, 04:16:18 PM »
What do you do if the stats are a poor match for the playbook chosen?

(For example, a Battlebabe who becomes a Hardholder, or vice-versa.)

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Ebok

  • 415
Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2017, 05:53:58 PM »
Nothing. If they switch into a class they're woefully under prepared for, they'll probably feel it. However really? It doesn't matter much either way, by that point enough of their stats will be high enough that even if the primary class stat can hold up, the others do it for them. In the case of someone with a -2 hard trying to switch into hardholder, well, :) I'll warn them first, and let them do whatever; I haven't had a player want that yet, but I'm not interested in seeing their stats suddenly swap around. I'd rather let them keep their old stats and move forward from there (minus those that needed a move to increase it).

Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2017, 10:35:59 PM »

Characters swapping into off-stat Playbooks is great -- why would you do anything about it other than enjoy the new perspective on that playbook? A 0-weird Brainer is so amazing and so amazingly different than a 2/3-weird Brainer, it's one of the delights of the apocalypse.

Re: PCs improving at different rates
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2017, 11:37:25 PM »
We have a weird Angel with a poor weird score. It makes Augury very interesting!