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thoughts on Apocalypse World?

pemerton

Legend
For social encounters In PbtA, 1) the level of stakes must rise to being worthy of a check even being made at all
I just wanted to chime in on this point: obviously I don't know the full gamut of PbtA games. In fact I know only a tiny slice of that gamut. But in AW it's not the case that the stakes must have risen to a certain level in order to make a check. The rule for player-side moves is if you do it, you do it. So if I threaten someone with a gun, I'm going aggro whether what I'm after is the key to the vault, or a bite from their sandwich.

This is why - at least it seems to me - the design of move triggers is so important. Because those move triggers are the things that will lead to rolls that in turn destabilise the "default" conversation of the game, and the distribution of authority that is part of that default conversation.

It contrasts with a scene-framed, "say 'yes' or roll the dice" game. In BW or Prince Valiant (at least most of the time - some subsystems create exceptions); or 4e D&D (at least outside of combat) we don't need the concept of a fictional trigger for (say) a Persuasion check or a Riding check. The players just say what their PCs are doing, and then when the stakes get to a point where the GM doesn't just say 'yes' we work out what the intent is, and what the task is, and we frame the check in light of that.

In this sense, at least, AW is more of a "fiction first" game than those scene-framing systems, because the move from fiction to resolution is not mediated by a notion of "stakes" or "intent".

Realising this was, for me, a breakthrough in working out how I could come back to Classic Traveller after 20-odd years of nostalgic pining and actually make it work!
 

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Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
Here is the order of operations/cognitive workspace for GMing a Job/Score situation after the initial Engagement Roll obstacle:

Well look at this list. Extremely useful stuff here!! One question, though about the bit below (I think):

* What is the present gamestate (Position prior to this and how that interacts with the immediately prior Action Roll outcome...any Clocks out there and where are they at relative to going off?)?

So let's say there's a situation where multiple characters would be acting at once, presumably each making a different action roll, like in a combat situation. Would you typically have everyone declare, or at least float, their actions before resolving each one, therefore having various actions impact the position and effect of others? Or would you discuss and resolve each action one by one, with subsequent actions impacted by ones that came directly before?

Seems like the obvious choice would be the latter, in part because otherwise it'd be awfully chaotic. But just wondering if that's the case.

To be more specific, let's say a detection clock fills up, and the group is discovered by security droids. One player might want to open fire while another dives for cover, and a third tries to splice the security system to temporarily call off or power down the droids.

Would it make sense in that case to consider all of those actions, and then, for example, say that the character shooting at the droids is doing a desperate action, because he's a clear hostile and drawing their fire, which in turn means the position for the ones diving for cover and splicing a panel are lower than they might otherwise be, given the droids' attention on the shooter? Or is it more sensible for the system to resolve the shooter's action first, and then the others.


* 2 lesser Consequences are almost always better than 1 single big Consequence (change the situation more dynamically and give them more inputs to the changing situation, Resistance Roll considerations, and subsequent Action Rolls to resolve the new situation). HOWEVER, sometimes Harm 3 or 3 Ticks on the Clock in Desperate is just plainly the right move. If its the right move...just make it. You'll know it when it is.

This point about two lesser consequences being preferable to a single big one is really really interesting. Makes total sense, and coming up with lots of consequences is the biggest challenge for me as a new FitD GM (particularly for all those 4-5 rolls), so this is a good reminder that I need to focus on building that muscle.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I was thinking about the investigation example. I don't know how many people are familiar with an older TV show called The West Wing. Generally, it's about a bunch of staffers at the White House and the President they serve, shown 1999-2006. If you're not familiar with the show, just skip this.

Now, you can make a RPG that deals with politics of running a nation. Diplomancy, sanctions, defense, infighting, you have it. It could be a lot of fun for the right audience. I'd have a blast playing it.

It wouldn't produce an episode of The West Wing.

A PbtA RPG of the same thing would focus on what the relations between the staffers, the various factions of power, the personal connections and the strengths and weaknesses and connections and abilities of the individual characters (moves from their playbooks) for overcoming (or not) the various craziness that comes up. The characters wouldn't alway be aligned, wouldn't always win, and wouldn't rest before the denouement because they are propelled from one charged action to the next, flowing organically out of what they attempt to do.

That could easily be an episode of The West Wing. And I'd have a blast playing that as well.

And for the two, I'd given my druthers I'd probably collect different RPG friends who are looking for those experiences to form the group. Some overlap, but each group gung-ho for the type of game they are playing.

This is like the difference between a investigative procedural murder investigation, perhaps done in D&D 5e or maybe something like Gumshoe, and a PbtA murder scene.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Thinking in AW rather than FitD terms, it seems that the high-pitched keening was an announcement of future badness. Which the player ignored - which sounds like a perfect opportunity on a golden plate - so then rather than calling for the Attune action (because if they didn't do it, then they didn't do it!) it seems like making a hard move was in order - eg A powerful blast rips the back off your vessel. Looking up into the sky you can see the A-Wing that's been following you and has chosen this moment to attack. What's left of your boat is crashing down to the ground. What do you do? The hard move could even have included killing the offsider NPC.

(Is the "boat" a flying vessel as I've assumed? If not, and it's a waterborne vessel, then imagine my suggestion has been appropriately adapated.)

Building on @chaochou's reply, I think the real risk in what I've suggested - and I get the feeling from your post that you were aware of this risk in the moment of play - is that the player will think you're being unfair. Where's the saving throw? Or roll to hit, or whatever? Where's their Passive Perception? I've got nothing very useful to say about how to overcome that feeling. It was an issue for me when I started GMing Burning Wheel, and to be honest I think as a GM I sometimes held back too much, afraid of being seen to be unfair. My friend who GMs me is better than me at being as brutal as the rules require!

I'm no expert, but my understanding is that "saving throw" was the soft move you made first. It was announcing future badness, and at that point the characters could have "saved" by reacting and doing something about it. That you then followed up with a hard move with real consequences or complications is the natural progression, no more or less offsetting than a failed save vs. web will entangle a character.
 

So let's say there's a situation where multiple characters would be acting at once, presumably each making a different action roll, like in a combat situation. Would you typically have everyone declare, or at least float, their actions before resolving each one, therefore having various actions impact the position and effect of others? Or would you discuss and resolve each action one by one, with subsequent actions impacted by ones that came directly before?

Seems like the obvious choice would be the latter, in part because otherwise it'd be awfully chaotic. But just wondering if that's the case.

To be more specific, let's say a detection clock fills up, and the group is discovered by security droids. One player might want to open fire while another dives for cover, and a third tries to splice the security system to temporarily call off or power down the droids.

Would it make sense in that case to consider all of those actions, and then, for example, say that the character shooting at the droids is doing a desperate action, because he's a clear hostile and drawing their fire, which in turn means the position for the ones diving for cover and splicing a panel are lower than they might otherwise be, given the droids' attention on the shooter? Or is it more sensible for the system to resolve the shooter's action first, and then the others.

I'm going to address your situation in the last two paragraphs and write out a blurb of what this handling might look like:

GM: Jess, you're right out there in the open when the blast doors lift. You're about to get a face full of blasters. These 3 are dangerous (S&V NPC Threat Levels page 204). They aren't just mooks. They take the initiative and fire the moment the have a shot. What are you doing? Jack, I know you've got your blaster out, but you've got a little distance and some obstacles between you and the 3 dangerous droids. You see this whole thing go down when Burgley's Hack failed (this triggered this deal...Burgley failed a Desperate/Great Hack and this is the Consequence). Instead of the door opening to the bay where your ship is, this damn door with the welcoming committee opened!

Jess: Well, hell...I'm hauling out of there to cover. This room is a Hold so its pretty big. I'm far from Jack and Burgley but can I dive behind the cargo that isn't too far away?

Jack: Yeah, I'll help her with some covering fire!

GM: Jack, is this an attempt to actually do damage to the droids? Its going to be Controlled Position but Limited Effect due to all of the obstructing stuff. If you're going to actually fire at the Droids, you aren't going to do much. But you can trade Position for Effect if you want to step out in the open and get a clear shot. But if this is just a Setup move for covering fire, then Limited is good enough. Which is it?

Jess, you're Desperate/Standard. There is some cargo nearby to get cover behind, but you're going to need Great Effect to get all the way over to Jack and Burgley. Its just too far.

Jack: Just a Setup move for covering fire. I'm going to buy her time and give her increased Effect so she can get all the way to us so she doesn't have to Scramble with worse Effect again to GTFO when Burgley gets the stupid ship bay doors open. I got a 5 on my Scrap. <GM tells Jack the Controlled Complication...Jack elects to Resist it because he has a lot of Stress left to risk and doesn't love the complication>.

Jess: Awesome. So Desperate/Great with Jack's covering fire. I'm hunkering down (that is what people reflexively do in this situation right?) and just hold onto my helmet as I hustle over to Jack and Burgley! Alright...Never Tell Me the Odds produces a Gambit on a Desperate Roll so here is a Gambit for you Burgley! Daredevil also gives me +1d for Desperate Action Rolls and I'm going to spend 2 Stress to push for another +1d. Got a 6 with on my Scramble! I'm with my mates! Get us the hell out of here Burgley!

GM: Alright Burgley, you're 2/4 in your effort in your Override the Security System Clock so you can open the bay door. Its been an effort to hack this system and the high Tier base (+1 above Crew) has pulled out some of its countermeasures. You've got Standard Effect because of your Fine Hacking Rig + your Crew upgrade for these kinds of implements. 2 Ticks will finish off the Clock and get the door open.

Burgley: Wait a minute boss. My Analyst Special Ability gave me the info on the owner of this system in my last Hack attempt (like a 6 was rolled in Gather Info). Doesn't that give me some protection here against its countermeasures? Better Position; Risky/Standard?

GM: My bad. That's right. You know all about the recent software bugs of this system. You can have Position or Effect so if you want Position, then take it.

Burgley: Awesome. Alright, I'm spending the Gambit that Jess just earned us. I don't have the Stress to Push. How about a Devil's Bargain <GM gives Burgley a DB with something about Burgley's rival; a 2/6 Tick Clock starts that will have to be addressed during downtime or something computer-ey will happen>. Alright, I've got 5d6; a Crit!

GM: With blaster fire bearing down on you guys, bouncing off walls leaving melted steel behind...the security system gives way with triuphant doot-dee-doot noises and the bay door whooshes up! Do you guys all exalt or is it all business?

Burgley, you want to clear a Stress or a boon <the boon is the egress to the ship has increased Position because Burgley's hack effed with the pursuing droids as well>?





That is a hypothetical of how it would go down in a S&V game I'm GMing. Hopefully that is all clear. If you have any questions, fire away.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
And I have no idea why you would say this. If there's a roll, there's always a chance for a failure. You're trying to give a speech to rouse the morale of the troops. Make a Persuasion or Performance roll or whatever. The troops do well at war or anything, your renown might very well go up because it was your speech that urged them to fight harder.
I think this is a vocabulary issue. The two of you are using different meaning of "failure".

Say you can attempt to pick a lock, and if you do not succeed nothing happens. It's a null, no change in state. You can try again. This I believe is how Faolyn means failure, but not how Ovinomancer was using failure.

Say you can attempt to pick a lock, but if you fail a poison gas will fill the room. There is no null state. If you roll 6-, poison gas. If you roll 10+, the lock opens and you can grab what's in the chest. 7-9, maybe both - gas is filling th eroom, do you wnat to blindly grab what's in the chest or get out? That's failure in PbtA terms. Not a simple lack of success, but a consequence.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm no expert, but my understanding is that "saving throw" was the soft move you made first. It was announcing future badness, and at that point the characters could have "saved" by reacting and doing something about it. That you then followed up with a hard move with real consequences or complications is the natural progression, no more or less offsetting than a failed save vs. web will entangle a character.
Fully agreed. But for players used to structures with mechanical buffers like saving throws or passive perception, having the buffer be fictional rather than mechanical can generate the sense of unfairness. I'm not interested in asking whether it's really unfair - to me that seems a dead-end inquiry. I'm thinking more about the practical issue of how to get someone whose main play experience is with recent versions of D&D (or similar RPGs) into the required "headspace" for the sort of game @Grendel_Khan wants to run.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I assume you're talking about me. I guess that me playing and GMing Fate, Cypher, GURPS, TOON, oWoD, CoC, d6 system games, homebrew games, and probably dozens of other systems over the course of 30+ years count as "not planning on playing RPGs outside of D&D"?

I asked Ovinomancer questions because I wanted to understand how to play this game. For whatever reason, they refused to answer me, refused to say what about my assumptions were wrong (just that they were), or to show me what the correct methods are. I must have asked how do I do this? half a dozen times. They didn't even bother to link me to a site that explains it!

What, is the AW rulebook holy writ that must never be questioned? Is this a cult? Are you told to shun those who don't immediately see the light? What's going on here?
Ovinomancer is not the only person here you can engage on this matter. You don't have to turn your thread engagements into walls of quote arguments. Others are more than capable of answering your queries about PbtA, and they have tried to do so. You do have the option to engage others about this. I'm not entirely sure why I and others have mostly been ignored when it came to understanding the game. But should you be interested in continuing the discussion with me or others, then I am okay with that too. If not, then this thread will still exist and you can read at your leisure through our replies explaining things.
 
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Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
That is a hypothetical of how it would go down in a S&V game I'm GMing. Hopefully that is all clear. If you have any questions, fire away.
Holy crap. That is a master class right there. Incredible rundown of all the possible angles and rules interactions, especially passing Gambits along and doing Setup actions, and how those are incorporated into the sequence of actions

My only question, because it's still my biggest source of anxiety, is what you might pick in the moment for the complication you mention here:

"Jack: Just a Setup move for covering fire. I'm going to buy her time and give her increased Effect so she can get all the way to us so she doesn't have to Scramble with worse Effect again to GTFO when Burgley gets the stupid ship bay doors open. I got a 5 on my Scrap. <GM tells Jack the Controlled Complication...Jack elects to Resist it because he has a lot of Stress left to risk and doesn't love the complication>."

I'm guessing you wouldn't do reduced effect, since that would kill the success entirely. There are obviously lots of possibilities, but I'm still wrapping my head around appropriate combat-related consequences that aren't in the standard critical failure mode (which doesn't seem appropriate here).
 

Helpful NPC Thom

Adventurer
@Faolyn:

Betwixt you and @Ovinomancer, there is a fundamental miscommunication about the terminology. Prime example is the disconnect between your conception of GM authority and his conception. Even in your examples where the players are "leading the story" and you're improvising, you, as GM, maintain all narrative authority. In Apocalypse World, the GM's authority is constrained, and the players share authorship over the story. When a character goes aggro (intimdate) in Apocalypse World, the NPC must react in a way prescribed by the mechanics. The player can say, "I'm going to shoot this fella if he doesn't give me all his gold," and if he rolls a 10+, the NPC must either give the PC the gold or let the PC do what he's threatened, which might include shooting him and doing damage without involving the fight mechanics. The GM can't say, "No, you can't shoot him, he ducks out of the way" if the PC rolls a 10+. It's off the table. By using the go aggro mechanic, the player is taking partial ownership over the narrative and saying, "This scene is going to play out this way."

If you're really interested in knowing more about Apocalypse World, shoot me questions and I'll answer them. But I'll give you the long and short of Apocalypse World play:
  1. The GM has a list of threats and moves at his disposal.
  2. The players roleplay as you would in a typical RPG, though there may be more narrative distance between what "I" would do as my character and what my character would do in a story.
  3. In response to those actions, the GM uses his threats and moves to escalate tension. It is job to "push" the players into acting by bringing danger to their doorstep.
  4. The players respond to escalating tension through conversation (roleplay) until the climax of a scene is reached.
  5. Moves are utilized.
  6. Conflict is resolved. Tension falls back to baseline.
Repeat. It's basic story structure but mechanized.

In the Apocalypse World lexicon, soft moves are distinguished from hard moves. Soft moves are things the players can react to, whereas hard moves are things that the GM does and can't be negated. Typically, hard moves are in response to a bad roll (rolling a 6 or less) whereas soft moves are used to escalate a scene. Example using D&D tropes:

  • GM: The orc charges at you, swinging his mighty orc axe. What do you do? (Soft move.)
  • Player: I duck under the attack to get in close and gut him with my sword. (Player acts.)
  • GM: Opts to invoke mechanics, at his option there may not be a roll involved. Dice come out. Player rolls and scores a 6-.
  • GM: The axe thunks into your shield, splintering it and knocking you to the ground. (Hard move.)

Couple of notes: A hard move doesn't mean do damage, and Apocalypse World typically resolves a scene in one or two rolls, and there are special mechanics for getting hurt, so everything spirals differently than in D&D. Getting into a fight in Apocalypse World is very different than in D&D because (a) even taking a tiny bit of damage has the potential to take you out of a scene entirely, and (b) allow a threat to advance. In response to a failed roll, the orc gang might slaughter the town's garrison, kill or endanger a loved one, etc.
 
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Fully agreed. But for players used to structures with mechanical buffers like saving throws or passive perception, having the buffer be fictional rather than mechanical can generate the sense of unfairness. I'm not interested in asking whether it's really unfair - to me that seems a dead-end inquiry. I'm thinking more about the practical issue of how to get someone whose main play experience is with recent versions of D&D (or similar RPGs) into the required "headspace" for the sort of game @Grendel_Khan wants to run.

One of the interesting things about how Blades in the Dark functions is that you can inflict consequences on the PC much as you would with a hard move in AW, but in Blades the player will have the option to resist the consequence after it’s been described.

It may cost some stress to do so, and it may only reduce the consequence rather than eliminate it, but that element of the game really gives the player a lot of say about what happens to their PC.

And it kind of absolves the GM from having to feel guilty about hitting them with a harsh consequence (something I know you’ve struggles with at times @pemerton ).

All of this to say that @Grendel_Khan (or anyone else new to running Blades or S&V) shouldn’t shy away from inflicting consequences. Let those chips fall where they may and put it on the player to decide if they’ll resist or not.
 


Holy crap. That is a master class right there. Incredible rundown of all the possible angles and rules interactions, especially passing Gambits along and doing Setup actions, and how those are incorporated into the sequence of actions

My only question, because it's still my biggest source of anxiety, is what you might pick in the moment for the complication you mention here:

"Jack: Just a Setup move for covering fire. I'm going to buy her time and give her increased Effect so she can get all the way to us so she doesn't have to Scramble with worse Effect again to GTFO when Burgley gets the stupid ship bay doors open. I got a 5 on my Scrap. <GM tells Jack the Controlled Complication...Jack elects to Resist it because he has a lot of Stress left to risk and doesn't love the complication>."

I'm guessing you wouldn't do reduced effect, since that would kill the success entirely. There are obviously lots of possibilities, but I'm still wrapping my head around appropriate combat-related consequences that aren't in the standard critical failure mode (which doesn't seem appropriate here).

Controlled Consequence for a Muscle in that situation might be:

* Oh no your pouch for your Mystic Ammo box got clipped when you swung your blaster around to fire. Its spilled and the Ammo is all over the floor around you. You're going to have to make a move to recover it or spend a DTA to get more.

* +1 Heat; the restaurant upstairs in the spaceport can absolutely hear the blaster fire bounding off the metallic ceiling/walls.

* 1 Harm (burned hand - affecting future moves with this hand); blaster quirk caused it to overheat from the effort.

* Krieger blaster goes from Fine to Normal until it gets fixed by a DTA (something went wrong mechanically or it got hit by fire or shrapnel in the exchange).

* +1 to a Faction Clock; you get a closer look at the droids and they bear the logo of x (a clear sign that they're nearly ascending...lets say this Faction is an enemy of yours and they're nearly going to Tier up with this Faction Clock).

* You get a crackling call on your com from the pilot droid in your ship to hurry the hell up. They've just gotten a signature that the spaceport is initiating the protocols to start the Tractor Beam system (1/4 Clock "Tractor Beam").
 

To continue the discussion of 'mystery' and 'investigation' in Apocalypse World and whether it 'does them', here are some more ideas.

Let's say Dust, our Hocus, says while being asked what's up with her followers that a couple of them have been killed recently. Let's say it's Zeal and Crater that got aced somehow. Great - we have something of a mystery. How did they get themselves killed? Is it coincidence, plain bad luck, a vendetta?

So we can ask Dust some provocative questions about the circumstances? Were they both killed in the junkyard? Were they lovers? Had they made you angry recently? Were they close? What was the last thing Zeal said to you?

We immediately let the player establish all kinds of additional elements about this mystery before we do anything. We establish the player's fears and suspicions, their connection, their attachment.

This is the foundation of mystery in Apocalypse World. You care enough about the player characters to ask them what matters to them and what the boundaries of their knowledge are.

Okay, we've asked our MC questions and maybe Dust is now intrigued enough just by what came out of that to get proactive to sort this situation out. They go and see Francois, the Maestro D and offer fancy candles for their place if Francois will bring in the killer. And Francois agrees, as long as there's a case of whiskey in it too, and now Dust owes Francois a set of fancy candles and a case of whiskey and Francois has Fingers in every Pie and hits the roll and two days later the head of the killer arrives in a box.

And maybe now we're done with that.

Or maybe someone hands me the MC a golden opportunity, like upon seeing the head Dust says 'Anyone know this guy?'

And so maybe I make a soft move like 'This old timer everyone calls Bleach hobbles over and says 'Sure. He runs with that badass assassin crew out of the old clocktower.' Like, I'm announcing future badness and we have a new mystery as to why this crew are killing off Dust's followers.

Or maybe Francois misses the Fingers in Every Pie roll and now it just got real for Dust and Francois.

Or maybe instead of all of that, Dust just goes to Crater's place and opens their brain to the maelstrom and sees their death happen.

Or maybe in their answers to my provocative questions they said someone brought them a bullet, or axe, or lawnmower blade which killed Zeal and they take that to Leone the Savvyhead and he can make stuff speak to him and he learns stuff that way, maybe clear stuff or cryptic stuff, and we get our mystery expand and deepen that way.

Or maybe none of the above happens, and instead the player does nothing. But when they miss their next Frenzy roll we know why their followers turn on them - cos Dust didn't protect Zeal and Crater and now they're afraid and angry, and Dust better make amends right now...

So I hope it's clear that mystery and the unknown can easily form a really central element of Apocalypse World play (and hopefully its also clear they usually do in my games).

And I hope it's equally clear that what we're not doing is railroad investigation into stuff the MC has written for the players to 'find out'. Pre-scripted, pre-determined, zero-agency 'learn what's in my notes' play. Jumping through hoops finding scripted 'clues'. There are plenty of games to do that with if you enjoy it - and Apocalypse World isn't one of them.
 
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To continue the discussion of 'mystery' and 'investigation' in Apocalypse World and whether it 'does them', here are some more ideas.

Let's say Dust, our Hocus, says while being asked what's up with her followers that a couple of them have been killed recently. Let's say it's Zeal and Crater that got aced somehow. Great - we have something of a mystery. How did they get themselves killed? Is it coincidence, plain bad luck, a vendetta?

So we can ask Dust some provocative questions about the circumstances? Were they both killed in the junkyard? Were they lovers? Had they made you angry recently? Were they close? What was the last thing Zeal said to you?

We immediately let the player establish all kinds of additional elements about this mystery before we do anything. We establish the player's fears and suspicions, their connection, their attachment.

This is the foundation of mystery in Apocalypse World. You care enough about the player characters to ask them what matters to them and what the boundaries of their knowledge are.

Okay, we've asked our MC questions and maybe Dust is now intridued enough just by what came out of that to get proactive to sort this situation out. They go and see Francois, the Maestro D and offer fancy candles for their place if Francois will bring in the killer. And Francois agrees, as long as there's a case of whiskey in it too, and now Dust owes Francois a set of fancy candles and a case of whiskey and Francois has Fingers in every Pie and hits the roll and two days later the head of the killer arrives in a box.

And maybe now we're done with that.

Or maybe someone hands me the MC a golden opportunity, like seeing the head Dust says 'anyone know this guy'.

And so maybe I make a soft move like 'This old timer everyone calls Bleach hobbles over and says 'Sure. He runs with that badass assassin crew out of the old clocktower.' Like, I'm announcing future badness and we have a new mystery as to why this crew are killing off Dust's followers.

Or maybe Francois misses the Fingers in Every Pie roll and now it just got real for Dust and Francois.

Or maybe instead of all of that, Dust just goes to Crater's place and opens their brain to the maelstrom and sees their death happen.

Or maybe in their answers to my provocative questions they said someone brought them a bullet, or axe, or lawnmower blade which killed Zeal and they take that to Leone the Savvyhead and he can make stuff speak to him and he learns stuff that way, maybe clear stuff or cryptic stuff, and we get our mystery expand and deepen that way.

Or maybe none of the above happens, and instead the player does nothing. But when they miss their next Frenzy roll we know why their followers turn on them - cos Dust didn't protect Zeal and Crater and now their afraid and angry, and Dust better make amends right now...
Not railroady enough in my opinion.

How do we get the bad guy to do the thing in the place with the people in your fangled scenario, HUH?! Didn’t think a that did ya?!

Too table facing.

How am I going to get in-character when I don’t have to ask the GM “do I know x, y, and z?” How do you expect me to not focus on the rules to the detriment of the fiction and optimize the game into oblivion when I know the rules and can interact with them? Didn’t think of that did ya?!

Where the hell is the strudel-baking, the drunken singing at the tavern, the existential musing and brooding for 45 minutes over campfire?

Terrible.

YOU LOSE

GOOD DAY SIR
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
To be fair, AW's version of 'investigate a mystery' is pretty, um, IDK, maybe aggressive is the right word, because the game indexes that kind of play. What AW doesn't do is more contemplative investigation (a phrase that's at least close to what I mean). Perhaps that second case might also be indexed as 'clue focused' (setting aside the scriptedness of those clues). However, the fact that AW doesn't do the second should surprise no one since that kind, or style, or manner of play wasn't the goal of AW's design.

The post above (@chaochou ) illustrates nicely, IMO, that mystery can indeed work just fine within AW's design, and also should serve as an excellent index to how well the PbtA design philosophy could accommodate that same style of play when the design choices are made more specifically to support it.

The take home here is that PbtA design in many cases is as much about types of conflict as it is anything else. There's nothing one way or another in that which obviates the idea of a mystery, with one exception. As mentioned above, if you want a scripted mystery, one where the clues and solution are all prepped and set by the GM prior to play, then you will inevitably be disappointed. That said, I think it's important not to conflate that one kind of investigative play with investigative play more generally, or, worse, talk on as if that kind of play is somehow the pure goods while everything else is a muddled reflection. What we're really talking about with, just to pick an example, CoC investigative play is that the mystery is entirely within the agency of the GM. In even a straight PbtA adaptation of CoC (see Mythos World) that agency gets shifted. Not everyone is happy to let go of being in charge of all the fiddly bits.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
A small addendum to my post above. We often talk about investigation or mystery in terms of TV, movies and books. In all three of those cases there is a script in play - one that dictates the outcome of the mystery in advance. However, I think it's worth at least considering whether or not that notion actually means anything in terms of whether the show/movie/book was any good or not. What do we want out of those media? We want an exciting or interesting story (read series of imagined events if 'story' rubs your rhubarb wrong) and a satisfying conclusion. Neither of those things, in RPG terms, bears any particular connection to the scriptedness of the set pieces involved. I only mention this because in a couple of places above the idea of pre-scripted set pieces has been set as equivalent to the presence of 'mystery', an idea that doesn't really hold up under examination.
 
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Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
I could be off-target here, but my overly brief sense of the main difference between investigation in many (most) trad games and investigation in something like PbtA or FitD is that the latter are not interested in dead ends. They either skip right past them or mechanically turn what might be a dead-end scene in another game into a surprise plot twist or revelation.

Does that sound right? In a sense, it seems like that's a main, overarching feature of Story Now games--get to the conflict already.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
I could be off-target here, but my overly brief sense of the main difference between investigation in many (most) trad games and investigation in something like PbtA or FitD is that the latter are not interested in dead ends. They either skip right past them or mechanically turn what might be a dead-end scene in another game into a surprise plot twist or revelation.

Does that sound right? In a sense, it seems like that's a main, overarching feature of Story Now games--get to the conflict already.
Well, sort of? PbtA and FitD don't script set dressing. There's no "the duke's diary is in the third drawer of his wardrobe" sort of clue salting. The framing of clues is a direct consequence of the players' actions and the fictional positioning. So if the players actually search the Duke's bedroom successfully, you can then feel free to have a diary with some useful content appear because it makes sense that it could be so. Less true if they search a random apple cart in the market. This does indeed obviate the dead end issues experienced in some games, but only as a by product of being interested in other things (like the conflict you mention)

Edit: to clarify, and now I'm talking about my own personal running of PbtA games, if the Duke is a key figure in a threat, I might have noted down that correspondence of his misdeeds exists, but I likely wouldn't have been any more specific than that. Mostly a reminder to myself that incriminating documents could be a thing at some point.
 

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