Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP

  • 38 Replies
Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2018, 07:06:52 PM »
I should perhaps clarify my position here:

Apocalypse World, as written, does a great job (when played by the rules and Principles) at creating an unstable world full of threats and then helping us watch the PCs stumble their way through it and grasp for what's left of humanity, safety, civilization, and beauty.

However, it does so quite slowly.

What I'm trying to do here is a short, focused game which wraps up in two-three sessions. I'm finding that a lot of the "standard" things we do in AW work against that. There's a lot to explore, and most of my tools to "jump ahead" to the focus of the action feel like hammers and nails.

So I've been brainstorming different MC/GM techniques to get things primed more quickly, and this game is a bit of a proving ground for a variety of them.

The game I've played so far would be an absolutely *lovely* beginning to a long-term campaign, with all the right bits, and every scene we play inspires me with some thing I can reincorporate later.

However, some combination of AW's system, my "campaign starter", and my players' reticence (well, perhaps I just haven't figured out how to connect with them yet) hasn't helped us find the crux of this Situation yet, and the natural tendency is just to do the Apocalypse World thing, which is fantastic, but somewhat slow-moving in comparison.

Well, it's not even that it's "slow-moving" - sometimes, AW can speed along like gangbusters - but the lack of clear focus and direction, even for any single PC. I largely blame my scenario for this (perhaps too open-ended), but I'm still trying to figure out which precise MC tools will be most effective here.

We're having a great time playing, but I worry that, two sessions from now, we'll just be starting to get into the meat of the thing (as typically happens in a game of AW) as opposed to being ready to wrap it all up.



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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2018, 11:47:07 PM »
Oh, OK, I see the issue more clearly now.

I think presenting the PCs with a "Big Bad" early on would probably help. Give them something that touches on the stuff you brainstormed for the beginning of the session, but whose "countdown" clock is fairly accelerated and whose stages are suitably obvious and dire. That's sort of not how AW is best, but in terms of focusing the scope of the game and engaging your PCs, it certainly works. I often do that for one-shots and convention games, simply because you don't have time to go full-immersion and build from the ground up.

Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2018, 11:21:50 AM »
Oddly enough, a friend suggested much the same thing to me.

I balked a bit at the idea - presenting a Big Bad is just not that exciting to ME, as the MC, so I don't want to go that route. However, some kind of clear opposition might be just the ticket here, no question.

My struggle, I suppose, then, is finding some middle ground between what the game needs in terms of clarity and my own interests as an MC who doesn't want to decide "what the plot is", but, rather, to be surprised by the choices made by the players. Hmmm.



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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2018, 04:31:43 PM »
I feel you, but given the short-term nature of your parameters, you need something around which to focus. Also, don't think of it as "the plot," because it's not. You're using the stuff you all brainstormed at the beginning, you're just advancing some part of that to the forefront in terms of the Threat you're posing to the players.

There will absolutely be stuff that ends up on the cutting-room floor, but that's true of every good story. Don't sweat it, and better yet, sock some of those cool tidbits away for later (re)use.

Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2018, 08:04:18 PM »
Sounds about right.

Currently, my plan is to just write up each NPC/faction as a threat and then make them menacing/in-your-face enough that the PCs will likely have strong feelings about them. They will have interesting relationships to each other, as well, for a variety of opportunities/options.

I can then feel out the players' interests and focus on the one they seem to gravitate to the most or feel strongest about.

One other issue:

At the end of the last session, a PC sent 5 of the Hocus's followers after the Black Teeth, a small group of mud-covered people (for camouflage) who kidnapped Newton, a star breeder who is currently pregnant, carrying the Hocus's baby (but the baby is promised to Ambergrease).

Sometimes, in situations like these, an obvious dramatic solution comes to mind (basically, an interesting MC move). Here, I'm not sure one does. I'm thinking of writing this up as a Love Letter, to better disclaim responsibility and put it in the players' hands.

How would you write such a letter? How would it be organized?

Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #20 on: January 09, 2018, 08:05:10 PM »
(As I was typing that, a dramatic MC move/twist did come to mind. I'll keep quiet for now, though, so I can hear your thoughts and suggestions.)



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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2018, 02:46:00 AM »
I wouldn't put that in a letter at all, but that's just me.

If a PC successfully talked 5 NPCs into going to do something. I would ask myself, are these 5 able to do it? (looking at both the mud people and the makeup of the five). I mean, people in the apocalypse aren't automatically raiders, or even all that hard.

So in the case: well, definitely, they can do it. I would say then they do it, but what went wrong? Maybe let the player pick what went horribly wrong in the lover letter, but have them get the girl.

In the case: well, lol, no. They could never pull that off. I might put this in the lover letter, but no options would say they do it! Instead, all options would be able what they didn't do, or how much face or blood they lost trying.

Otherwise (in most cases): really what I would do, is say, hey you talked 5 NPCs into fighting for you? Cool, did you tell them where to find her? If not, then they don't. Oh you did? Great! That sounds like a gang. They're not fighters so we're talking maybe 2 harm (assuming handguns), tiny gang, 0 armor. You're not going with them? Sounds like they're leaderless to me. The mud people are like 15 strong? Mud for armor? Okay, no worries there. They've got some guns too? Hm. Okay. So 2harm, small gang, 0 armor.

Now that we've got that figured, sounds like a seize by force roll to me, cause they're going to be in a battle way over there. So that's 2harm 0armor, your guys, up against 3harm 1armor those guys (after size). Make your roll, after the harm happens your 5-man gang is going to scatter to the winds, hopefully, they get what you wanted, hopefully, they also get her back to you.

So I would probably do it in play with a roll to see what's what. Assuming that it makes sense that the sides fight over her. On a miss, if they choose to seize her anyway, cool okay, one of them gets captured, two die, and the last two, still freaking out, get her back to you (or maybe straight to the Hocus). But she's been shot too and is bleeding everywhere. What do you do?

After the roll you can say how it happened, the results should provide some insight there. That's just me though, maybe you can get an awesome love letter out of that--but really I'd want my love letters to be shaping what's coming at you next, not if something happened at all that you've succeeded already to push into action. In my view, OF COURSE something happens, you just talked those 5 into it. Was that a good idea? Dunno, I guess it depends on what's happening, whose who, etc.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2018, 02:56:59 AM by Ebok »

Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2018, 11:37:37 AM »
Or hey. What if the raid doesn't go off at all?

What if Newton's not a captive anymore?  I mean she was, but she is all round and radiantly pregnant and oh -- she has a brilliant creative mind. Surprise, motherfuckers. The Black Teeth are now her cult.  They're sitting around, listening to her make up resonantly enthralling fairy tales.  The PCs' bag team show up ready to throw down and get sucked into the story instead.  (I mean, these guys are followers.)  Now they're part of her brute squad.  Is small plus tiny still small or does that kick it up to medium? 

I wonder what soft power Scheherazade will do with her newly earned political strength.

Good morning, heroes.  Your little rescue mission never came back.

What do you do?

Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #23 on: January 11, 2018, 04:49:34 PM »

We're thinking along the same lines here!


You're right that, by the book, this should probably be a Seize by Force roll. (I say "probably", because it's happening off-screen, and so other things are possible, too.)

I have a few issues with that:

It's simultaneously too much and too little player control for my tastes.

Why too much? As we've discussed recently, the new version of Seize by Force is very... deterministic. Assuming the player is committed to getting Newton back, the only thing the roll will determine is how much harm is dealt. Those aren't terrible interesting variables for me.

Choosing getting her back over the lives of those other followers? That could be interesting, but I'm not sure whether it will be or not (it's a new game, after all), and it really depends on the stats I assign the gangs. Some ratios of harm/armor will create that as an interesting choice, and others will not. (For instance, the difference between "they're nearly all dead" and "they're almost all dead", in some scenarios.)

The character's isn't in a position to be making this choice narratively, and I want the actions of the previous session to have consequences (it's not the Hocus who sent these men, but her friend). Putting her in charge means she feels the consequences less. Having the other PC roll and choose would be more interesting, but is starting to distort the rules quite a bit at that point!

That brings me to the final point: since Seize by Force is mostly about the exchange of harm, and I haven't already decided on the Black Teeth's numbers (I suppose it depends who's waiting on the other side of the river!), it's very hard for me to disclaim responsibility. In assigning those stats, I will largely be deciding the outcome, instead of leaving it to the dice.

Now, why too little?

It comes down to a die roll and deciding how gets hurt how much (and possibly whether Newton is worth it). That affects one player.

If I turn it into a love letter, instead, I can give everyone input and create some other interesting possibilities.

For example, I can say, "Hey, is it true that you've been stealing weapons from Tip's compound and selling them? If so, surely the followers got some of them. Give the Hocus +1 to her roll. However, in that case you can't be too sure who else got their hands on a few of the guns, now, can you?"

Now I can tie the other two players into the action and create decision points for them. In the above example, I've offered the player the chance to create conflict with an NPC (Tip) and to set up some harder moves from me (stolen weapons). That's more exciting to me than just having the Hocus decide whether she wants the Black Teeth to lose one or two people in a fight or three or four.

Still, your answer feels like the correct one, going "by the book". I'll have to think on this some more.



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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #24 on: January 11, 2018, 11:16:26 PM »
Honestly, Seize by force is what you make of it. Harm can mean all sorts of narrative things too. Especially when that harm is happening off-scene like this. Sure, the play might always choose, they certainly grab her. In fact, that's not so unreasonable, even if it was a love letter, most of my love letters would also give the player a chance to say, they grab her too.

So we already determined, that if they couldn't do it, then this roll does happen. It only happens IF there is a chance that they could. I might give them a penality of -1 or -2 on the hard roll, depending on how good the chosen bunch of random followers turned into a crappy gang would fight together. I'd also certainly use the hard of the character that talked them into it for the roll.

Maybe this is only because of my hack, however. But:
10+ options:
  take definite hold: They most certainly grabbed the girl, too!
  suffer less harm: Keeps "Boxtop" alive, the Hocus's favorite, otherwise Buhbye Boxtop. I assume if the NPC's were on scene and talked into doing something, we as the players might care about one of them more than the others... I'd use this to decide if our favorite gets back at all. You also suggested that it wasn't the Hocus that talked the followers into doing this, is the Hocus really okay with it? If not, I'd push there hard.
  deal more harm: They even managed to kill one of the BlackTeeth! Pissing them off mightly, and making it harder for them to recover to the same level of dangerous. This might make the resulting snowball less threatening.
  frighten, dismay, impress: The BlackTeeth won't come back at the Followers in the night, to their homes, to their families, at their soft underbellies. Instead, they'll be more cautious in their approach, coming straight to the players with demands. If the player picked deal more harm, this violence here will be deadly. If the gang didn't deal additional harm, then they went to use their hostages to demand from the people that loved/needed them, terrifying the shit out of them, maybe burning something along the way. This prompts an even more drastic response to the always statement.

  always: the harm being inflicted here is substantial to that group of 5. 2 or 3 is not a small chunk. What happens when they're caught? What value did they bring to the community that's now gone? When the BlackTeeth use them as hostages... who might care? If they really were nameless and expendable, I'd change that immediately by bringing in those NPC's who cared about them in some way, or who relied on them to survive. I'd bring them right up in the Hocus's face in an unignorably pleading or angry sort of way. I'd probably, as I always do when people choose to inflict extra harm, add casualties to the conflict that maybe aren't always moral. Like the followers ended up killing some of the kids there too, or wives, or the favorite son of the gang, or bystanders got shot. Unled brute Harm has been dealt Dealt.

7-9 options: (same as above but, the NPCs get to pick one if the player doesn't cancel it out)
  NPC's choices...
  frighten, dismay, impress: The Followers that went come back Freaking out, with a capital F. They're literally balls to the walls terrified. They wish they had never done this, they might even act out against those that talked them into it. Of those that returned, they're not the same. I'd go as far to say I'd change their threat type, maybe already delivering some additional trauma in a counter attack where the NPC's were weak (home, family, etc). Maybe even have one or both of them leave the cult entirely, or demand recompense, depending on the setup. One thing's for sure, those guys will never do something like that again.
  deal more harm: Okay 4 harm? If the player lets this happen, every single one of them has been at least shot or stabbed. One of the two of them who would have made it back died out there instead. This should snowball, I'd certainly snowball part of that into a bleeding (shot or stabbed) pregnant girl.
  suffer less harm: Okay, so the BlackTeeth didn't even get hurt. I'd only consider this if the player didn't select deal more harm, because then I've got a full-health gang coming back at them, or chasing them on their heels. I might go as far to say, that when they show up with the girl, they show up still in the middle of that battle, they've just brought it all the way here to the PCs, except they brought it on them in a place that isn't good for the PCs. Maybe at night, maybe sideways, maybe through or into something else that shouldn't get all shot to hell. Dunno.
  take definite hold: If the player didn't choose to take the girl, this would be they barricade themselves up tightly with her now. Maybe they make her theirs, or as was mentioned before, she makes them hers--but turns out that she didn't really want to get "kidnapped" back to the Hocus anyway. If the player did choose to definitely grab the girl, the NPC's could counter that neither group has her, she got lost somewhere in between with all the fighting and when the followers come running up screaming to the PCs for help... Now she's not in anyone's hands is even MORE dangerous. Now the story snowballs sideways because she's far more likely to get kidnapped by something worse out there alone, and far more likely to get shot by competing interests, fighting over her on whatever's been turned into the battlefield. This is also true if neither side picked to definitely grab the girl.

On a Miss: (same as above, but worse)
Okay so in my hack, the NPC's now get 3 choices (or 2 if the Blackteeth arent really all that), and the player gets 1. So that always makes the situation worse.

No matter what: We solved something with violence, and it was done off-scene with brutes. That means there is a fucking mess on our hands. That is snowballing for sure, and this snowball I'd probably have moved to either immediately on the scene, or into a love letter for partial resolution. The followers that started the fight will always suffer enough harm to break, so they're not helpful at all in what comes next. What comes next is most certainly a violent or hostile response of some kind. The battle isn't over, there is just an intermission.



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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #25 on: January 11, 2018, 11:28:10 PM »
Of course, just starting the next session with, Okay she's now in charge of that gang like some weird goddess, and they've taken all 5 of those followers hostage. Is also pretty cool.

The above example isn't to say, DO IT THIS WAY, but simply to show that Seize by force, especially when nebulously defined in size, location, and scope in the off-scene... can be very potent narratively. It is only just an exchange of harm if we say it is. My hack helps, I think, give actual tension to this kind of roll though, because without it we lose most of the dangerous results.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2018, 11:37:34 PM by Ebok »

Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #26 on: January 11, 2018, 11:36:52 PM »
Excellent points, both!



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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #27 on: January 11, 2018, 11:37:39 PM »
A quick way to show LOCATION based tension:
You tell the player, okay, so the gang doesn't find the BlackTeeth hiding out there in their muck camps or whatever, but instead tracked them down to some other holding. This holding probably should not be buddy buddy with the players, but it's best if we'd heard about them before. Or you just introduce a new one if there's room for that in your fiction. The unled brutes don't think too hard about it, and start a battle in the middle of the market over the girl. The options outlined above, might still apply, but the always statement afterward could change too:

The hardholders favorite X (son, daughter, arms-dealer, drug-dealer, etc) was in the market that day, and died out there with a gunshot to the face. Your guys got back with the girl (if they picked that option), but the hard holder knows where they came from. Because someone else in the bloody market that day recognized them.. or maybe the BlackTeeth were hit the guards hard there, and the hostages that would have been their's are now this guy's. They flipped at the first sign of pain, barter, or whatever else. Now the Blackteeth have basically been wasted, there might be a straggler mutant/cannibal threat surviving out there somewhere, but we've changed that into a different kind of foe. In this case, I would probably not be as hard when it comes to injuries on the people that make it back. Because the focus won't be small scale violence, but the new looming intimation.

If neither side ended up with the girl, then the hardholder did by default. Now maybe he wants a second wife out all this.

Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #28 on: January 12, 2018, 03:51:25 PM »
I really like that, too, Ebok. Excellent!

Unfortunately, I don't have a ready-to-go location which would be appropriate, but I could always have a group travel through the area, set up temporary camp, be conducting business or barter, or something similar.

The last few answers showcase nicely why I was hesitant to simply use Seize by Force (or some other form of clear resolution), because what I really want is for this to develop and grow more complex/involved.

The first line of thought (which I also had) was to develop/complicate the girl's deal. This second one here, instead, keeps the girl's deal simple, but starts building a larger set of relationships/concerns from this single event.

Perhaps there is even something of a good Principle in the idea that a good way to deal with uncertain action absent PC presence is to complicate, develop, or spin out. I'll have to think on that one for a bit, too.



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Re: Crow's Flats: Skyfall - A Scenario and brief AP
« Reply #29 on: January 12, 2018, 06:35:51 PM »
I think it all comes down to the tempo. If you have a game that isn't interesting enough, then spin out of control and crash into something else, involve MORE moving parts with urgency. If you have a game that is wildly interesting and this is something happening on the side, resolve it. If it's instead somewhere in the middle, and this is an action you wanna follow, set it up to snowball.

Love Letters for me are about resolution. They step in and make things happen and resolve it right there to be good for you or not. By resolution, I don't mean it's done either. I mean it has settled for a perilous moment, where you can look away and at something else. It's off-screen after all.

Seize by force however only resolves the scope you set it on. Followers + DreadTeeth fight it out over the girl, maybe it was an ambush, maybe it was a sneaking at them in the middle of the night, maybe a straight challenge. The only part of this set up to be resolved is where the girl might be, the rage of the Dread Teeth, and the condition of the broken follower gang. It does not resolve the position or momentum of the INCOMING snowball.

You can also write a custom move for the event too. Which might be a love letter.... or a start of the session type of roll. I'd just flavor the results of the same seize by force myself.

When Noodle, Boxtop, Teddybear, Tablespoon, and Mittens take on the more numerous and dangerous DreadTeeth for you, roll+Hard.
On a 10+: choose 3
7-9: you choose 2 the MC chooses a complication.
Miss: you choose 1 the MC chooses 3 complications.
Either way: Noodle got shot several times in the face, and Tablespoon got bloodied bad and caught, and Tommy's Bar (and those lurking around it) where the DreadTeeth were at got all shot to hell.
This means that there is always some complications. How bad this should be is up to the pacing and the fiction I think. Anyone that cares about these NPCs will be upset. Anyone that could be threatened with a hostage, should be. The environment of the fight, whether in a bar like I said, or somewhere else, can easily involve other parties. Other parties that might have watched Mitten's shoot someone important, or otherwise inspire serious problems. I once had an important diplomat passing by an exchange, someone everyone knew was doing something cool/important/good. Then described them bleeding out on the road because of an unrelated squabble using firearms.

• Teddybear wasn't injured too bad and Boxtop didn't get killed in the escape.
• Mittens actually rescued the girl from the Dread Teeth while all this fighting was happening, otherwise, the girl resisted and something strange is going on.
• The Dread Teeth's leader took a bullet to the chest, but his widow is enraged.
• The Dread Teeth were taken by surprise, and need time to regroup, otherwise, they're coming at you hard, now, or barricading themselves in if they've still got the girl.
• Tell the MC to pick one less complication.

• The survivors are emotional, shellshocked, and forever changed.
• The Dread Teeth didn't suffer any other injuries so they're all ready for a fight, otherwise, they've got some injuries.
• The Dread Teeth caught Teddybear too and injured Mittens pretty bad.
• Mittens lost track of the girl somewhere in between there and here, and stumbles into you all panicked like.


The reason I would consider this roll over just narrating the girl took it over... is that you've already got a PC that convinced 5 brutes to violently recover her. Unless they're smarter then most, I'd probably say they're going to make a mess now, and they're outnumbered so you can be sure some of them are gonna die. Just how bad was convincing them to do that? Roll to find out.

This is Seize by Force. We just list the repercussions of the roll in a less opaque way.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2018, 07:01:26 PM by Ebok »