I just started MCing an Apocalypse World series for the first time and I’m sort of surprised by how the main action/premise of our game is coming together. But I guess it would be helpful to explain what my expectations were first. I had heard Apocalypse World was a “blood opera” where there is some loaded initial situation involving a character map and conflicting desires created by the relationships in that map. We’d all collaboratively create this map during character creation. Then play would start with the PCs pursuing whatever goals made sense to them and I would play the NPCs reacting to their actions while being sure to introduce new complications when they miss their moves.
I was correct that there is a relationship map, but mostly wrong about how loaded things would be to begin with. This partly depends on what hx questions the players decide to answer. For example: “One of them once let you down in a pinch and left you holding the bill” is going to create a spicier situation off the bat than “One of them once faced down dedicated violence to get you out of a fix”. But the context here is basically still just flavor, it’s either “oh I’m bitter about this” or “I like you because you did that”. It might help a player decide how to react to something that the other character does, but it doesn’t create any kind of stakes or motivation on its own (at least that’s what I’m seeing).
There’s also a bunch of NPCs that get created at this point, mostly as part of player’s playbooks (gangs, followers, crew) or by asking questions like “where do you get your bullets and food from”. As the MC I create all these characters as Threats which gives me a helpful list of things they might do to drive the action… But that’s not exactly what I was hoping to do as the MC.
I really should have known all this from reading the book, I’ve read it like three times at this point. The threat map is literally a circle with “The PCs and their resources” inside it and threats pointed at it from all sides. I mean that’s pretty clear… and wait in the section titled During the First Session it says “it’s your job to create a fractured, tilting landscape of inequalities, incompatible interests, PC-NPC-PC triangles, untenable arrangements” which is then followed by some famously good advice on how to do just that. So basically I need to work on my reading comprehension or something!
I honestly can’t say where I got this impression of how creating the initial situation for play was going to work, but it doesn’t really matter. I really am enjoying our Apocalypse World game at this point, so I’m not asking for advice on how to fix it or anything.
The only games that seem to really make scenario creation everyone’s job are Follow and Fiasco which are GMless of course. And maybe Sorcerer but I haven’t played it, and while kickers are a cool concept the book doesn’t give you many tools for them.
Basically I have a bunch of questions. Has anyone played Apocalypse World in the way I was expecting it to be played? I saw that Paul (sorry not sure how to mention someone here) posted what is basically a Fiasco playkit for Monsterhearts which I think would lead to basically what I am describing. Does that work? Am I wrong to want this? Is it better to start slow and poke the PCs until they develop motivations of their own, does that lead to better games? I do see the joy in allowing the stakes to emerge at the table, but I worry it will be mostly me pushing those things into place.
The thing is that I’m totally happy to play a cast of characters most of whom are antagonists, I just want to be able to start with a situation (that I did not author myself!) where the other players in the game are already excited about all the stuff they’re going to do rather than waiting for me to poke them with my NPCs. In a Wicked Age seems pretty cool, and I think does what I’m describing, but are there any other cool examples? Any and all thoughts would be appreciated