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    Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

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    dhlevine
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    Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by dhlevine on 2010-08-18, 17:05

    [MC's Note: I was actually pretty unhappy with my performance this session. I wasn't really prepared for things going south in the Holding, since I'd been thinking so much about Ebb, and in retrospect I feel like I gave in to my panic impulse to go with Jerry Bruckheimer explosions when in doubt, and I wish I'd played the session from a creepier, quieter place. Players, if you have any input, either on whether you share my feelings about the session, or suggestions about how to recover, I welcome them. Oh well; every serious game probably has its "uh... space pirates!" moment...]

    The session began about a week after the events of last session, with things having settled down in North Pgru. We established at the beginning of the session that Ebb had shied away from trying to get any deeper in with Dog Head's crew, but that he was now working on infiltrating The Farm for Kava - that, plus his honest work at Do's trading post and his relationship with Clarion, were doing fine.

    Then Kava blew her wealth roll. This meant that the Holding was in a mess - manifesting anxiety, famine, reprisals, and savagery. Hoo boy.

    We started with Ebb. He'd landed a gig with a guy he knew from Do's post, Bottleneck, who ran one of the boats that did perimeter patrols on the river for The Farm. The river itself was beautiful - crystal clear and utterly devoid of life. After shooting the shit over a bottle of pre-apocalypse Coke, they saw an APC from The Sisterhood crossing the bridge to The Farm's public area. With a sigh, Bottleneck explained that The Sisterhood were honored guests, and they'd be expected to go up and give them an escort.

    It turns out that Millions herself was leading the delegation. Ebb flirted unsuccessfully, but managed to at least have a civil conversation with Millions - who seemed to know who he was but bore him no ill will for the death of her previous superior. She told him that his sister was concerned about him, and ended up buying out his contract from Twice (she'd tried to buy him outright, but Twice explained he was a contractor). After Millions loaded up ten dazed-looking people she'd come to The Farm for, she and Ebb headed North along the causeway to The Convent - actually a perfectly preserved mosque.

    Meanwhile, back at North Pgru, Metzger (our new Savvyhead PC) was doing his morning routine in the basement of the building, where he slept, when the generators siezed, He heard banging at the door, but was greeted with gunfire when he asked who it was. So, he took the most expeditious escape route - down the disused elevator shaft into the sub-basement levels where no one really goes.

    [CONT]
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    dhlevine
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    Re: Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by dhlevine on 2010-08-19, 19:50

    [... CONT]

    Upstairs, Kava woke up to see combat out her penthouse window. When she opened the door, Yahtzee grabbed her by the hair and started dragging her away [MC's note: for my money, this and the gunfire at Metzger are where I really started going off the rails for the session - for future note, I think trying to pile on all a Holding's wants AT ONCE is a bad idea - here I was trying to get everything in when I could have started with "anxiety" and escalated from there]. She escaped from him and started climbing down the elevator shaft. Clarion met Yahtzee at the top and started arguing, and shouting at Kava that they'd needed leadership but she'd locked herself in her room and hadn't given any of them the codes (because, of course, she didn't trust them). Kava ended up climbing back up and giving Clarion the go-ahead to do whatever she felt she needed to to find out who sabotaged the generators and defend the Holding, since Snow was at The Farm picking up Shan.

    Meanwhile at The Farm, Snow picked up Shan. Despite my best efforts as an MC, Snow was indistractable from their task, even to talk with Ebb.

    Meanwhile, at the bottom of the elevator shaft, Metzger was faced with several folks who had apparently snuck in through some underground access point. One was dressed all in a leather-like suit with a helmet that covered her face, making a wheezing noise. She seemed to be the leader, and the rest of the group referred to her as "Joe's Girl." Oh, and Metzger's nanite-infested hand seemed to respond to her somehow. After some discussion, they tied him up rather than killing him, with some sort of bonds that were also nanite technology, and so took Metzger a while to break. In the meantime, they went up the shaft.

    Kava raised Metzger on his walkie-talkie and they traded info. Metzger told Kava to head to his workshop, where he had a still. She did, ignited it, and tossed it down the elevator shaft where, alas, Joe's Girl and crew avoided the worst of the blast. When she started shooting at them, they tossed some sort of hi-tech webbing across the shaft to block her and left.

    When Snow arrived home (in Ebb's van, with his crew), she saw the battle and immediately joined it by having Sunny crash straight into what seemed to be the command position, and where the invaders were working to set up an artillery piece. Her assault scattered the piece and its ammo (marked "APFSDSDU," for any old Twilight: 2000 players out there), and she leapt into the fray... which may have been unwise, considering that there were two more of the black-leather-and-faceplate types there, whose bullets punched straight through the van's armor.

    Meanwhile, Ebb slipped away from Millions at the Convent, and made it for home - he'd seen smoke rising from the direction of North Pgru. He tried to barter for a working vehicle, but the best he got offered was a bicycle - so our slightly pudgy Operator booked it. On the way, he encountered, under the Causeway, a perfect replica of a picnic he and his sister and mother had shared, which he stopped to pack up.

    Back at the Holding, he braved the fray to get to the door of the Holding. A quick kiss was enough to get Clarion to let him have a couple gang members (Defcon and Missed, who now gets *all* the shit jobs), and he prepared to try to go save Snow's ass...
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    Adam Dray
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    Re: Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by Adam Dray on 2010-08-27, 13:37

    I think your performance is fine. The only criticism I have is that you need to timeshare better. I was getting uncomfortable with how little screen time Metzger was getting, especially being the new guy. His entire contribution to three hours of gaming was falling down an elevator shaft, getting tied up by gangers, and watching his hooch still blow up as Kava shoved it down the shaft.

    I'd like to see quicker cuts between players. Especially when the action is hot, scene cuts and cliffhangers work really well.

    We could do a Primetime Adventures screen time mechanic, if it would help you plan. That could be pretty neat.

    Bruckheimer moments are fine, especially in Apocalypse World. The world feels plenty real to me. My character is not a bad-ass. He's some guy who is just trying to survive, and he's willing to do almost anything to feel safe. He goes with the flow when he has to. So when Millions buys his contract, or when the city tries to eat him, or when a rival gang tries to kill the only person he really trusts, things feel pretty fucking real. So great job there!

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    Re: Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by dhlevine on 2010-08-27, 13:42

    Re: Screen Time.

    Yeah, I need to work on that. I think a PTA-style mechanic will muck with the built-in bits of AW, though. I'm realizing how much the system may turn normal principles of GMing for less aggressive players on its head. Basically, characters like Hardholders and Operators have built in screen time mechanics via their opening moves - if something goes wrong for Kava's hold or Ebb's gigs, the rules compel me to pay attention. Other kinds of characters often have to work harder for screen time.

    But part of the Metzger issue comes in to how I could have run the session better to deal with the problems I was compelled to put on screen. When shit is blowing up all over the place, it's not the Savvyhead's natural scene. But if it was just a matter of breakdowns that cause worries but don't explode RIGHT NOW, then it would have been more natural for me to drag in Metzger.

    In any event, though I *still* have no independent contact info for Dan, "more Metzger" is high on my to-do list for Tuesday.
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    Re: Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by Adam Dray on 2010-08-27, 13:51

    My favorite moment was when we were establishing Ebb's crew. Paraphrasing wildly:

    Daniel: Who is Sunny?
    Adam: My tech and driver. She has this ugly A-team armored van.
    Daniel: Describe her.
    Adam: Geeky but gorgeous. Easy going, like she's high all the time.
    Jamie: Sorta like Kaylee from Firefly.
    Adam: Yeah, but tall and thin, long blonde hair.
    Daniel: Did you sleep with her?
    Adam: Oh yeah. Of course.
    Daniel: And who is Roger?
    Adam: He's a signals guy. Radio and what-not. He's married to Sunny.
    Daniel: Were they married when you slept with Sunny?
    Adam: Probably. Yeah.
    Daniel, joking(?): Did you sleep with Roger?
    Adam, pausing, then: Yeah. Of course.
    Lots of laughter.
    Adam: I mean, it was a threesome with him and Sunny. It was dark and all I remember is there were lots of hands.

    That was me deciding that Ebb's mercenary drive to survive, his chameleon nature, probably means that he doesn't give himself the freedom to choose who he sleeps with. He does what it takes to cement relationships, to get inside, to fix things.

    We haven't established if Ebb and Snow have slept together. At least, I don't remember it coming up, surprisingly. My first instinct is that he hasn't, that he hasn't needed to, that she probably wouldn't do it anyway and Ebb knows that, and that he creates a safe place with Snow by being the guy friend she has who doesn't try to get in her pants. Though it could be interesting if they have slept together, a while ago, and it's something they don't talk about. I'd defer to Angela about Snow though.
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    Re: Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by Adam Dray on 2010-08-27, 13:56

    Well, screen time is a different issue than scene cutting but can be mitigated by frequent cuts. I think if you're cutting away from the crazy shit that the rules compel you to pay attention to, sideline characters will still get enough time to keep the player interested.

    I don't think being an aggressive player makes a bit of difference. I'm pretty damned aggressive and tried to extract Ebb from Millions and shoehorn him into the Snow scene three times before succeeding.

    Dan, who was far more laid back (at least he was the first time playing with us strangers), seemed okay with relaxing on the couch and watching us do stuff. I would have at least liked him to have shorter waits between stuff, even if he ended up with the same amount of screen time--so more aggressive cutting back to him.

    Do the rules have anything to say about managing screen time?
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    Re: Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by dhlevine on 2010-08-27, 14:12

    There are no explicit rules for screen time. By "mucking with" I just meant in tension - e.g., I'd planned to focus more on Ebb last session, but then everything went to hell at the Hold. I don't think we need a new mechanic - I think I just need to be more careful about it.

    What stood in your way of getting away from Millions? Ebb went along with her, and you certainly could have hitched a ride with Snow.

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    Re: Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by Adam Dray on 2010-08-27, 14:56

    You did. A couple of times, you told me to hold my horses. =) You were dealing with other scenes.
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    Re: Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by greymaiden on 2010-08-28, 23:34

    I'm also feeling like the screen time dynamic is a little off and we need to come up with some way to manage it better. It seems like a serious flaw in the system to me. Most systems that are not party based also include some kind of guide for managing screen time, but Apocalypse World apparently doesn't. Your storytelling has been working for me, Bruckheimer moments and all, but sharing time when all the PCs are in different places doing different and at times unrelated things is awkward. It is only saved from being boring by the fact that the players in our game are fun.
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    Re: Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by dhlevine on 2010-08-29, 13:22

    So, I hadn't realized that screen time was so much of an issue! (Though, as an aside, part of my worry about "Bruckheimer moments" is that they can tend toward me "storytelling" rather than collaborating with you guys - when shit is blowing up, there's less room for meaningful choice as opposed to blind reaction on your part).

    I've been thinking about ways to handle it better. I still think a PTA-style mechanic will interact somewhat awkwardly with what's already there, but let me toss out an idea that I think is more of an extension that might help by giving us *some* formal screen-time sharing.

    1. I try to ask pointed questions, but everyone else can, too. If it's not your scene, but you want to know something about the PCs in the scene, ask away! (This isn't quite screen-time-sharing, but engagement-promoting)

    2. To steal a bit of a mechanic from 1001 Nights: at any moment, you can say, "I wonder what's up with ______," and I'll cut to them as soon as fictionally feasible (let me finish my sentence, at least). "_______" can be your character. I don't think we need anything more than "don't be a dick about it" to rein in this mechanic, in our group.

    Thoughts?

    Also, keep in mind that I try my best on these things, but I'm only human. Adam called me out on Metzger, and I appreciated it and did try to give him more screen time.

    I need some help breaking my "storytelling" habits sometimes. After the session, I realized that I broke the "if you do it, you do it" rule when Metzger offered to help Joe's Girl. I had it in my head that there was nothing he could do, and she wouldn't buy it, but that was BAD WRONG AW MCing. What I *should* have said was "let's see if she buys it - roll+hot to manipulate." If you catch me not giving you a choice, or a chance, when I should be, tell me! Sometimes I just get swept up myself and don't notice.
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    Re: Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by Adam Dray on 2010-08-29, 19:05

    That works.

    Personally, I was thinking about some kind of silent token passing mechanism, but it was too hippie to work, probably.

    "I wonder what's up with _____" is cool. So is "cut to _____" if you want to cut away from your own scene, right?

    When Steph and I GMed a game together a decade ago, we actually used a 3-minute kitchen timer for scenes. Worked like a charm and made players really focus on their screen time to get stuff done in that three minutes.
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    Re: Things Get Out of Hand - 17 August 2010

    Post by dhlevine on 2010-08-29, 21:19

    You can say "I wonder what's up with (not me) during your own scene."

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