Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Breaking the World

Since one of the main players in my last Apocalypse World game has bowed out, it doesn't look like The Pit is going anywhere. I am starting to feel the desire to MC another game though.

Last time, I had problems getting the players to feed me enough information about the shape of the world. I mainly wasn't asking the right sort of questions; they were too open, leaving people floundering for a good answer, and often letting them put their characters in comfortable situations. I didn't ask enough leading questions that channelled or suggested an answer, and I didn't pop any situations on them as fait accompli - I always gave them the option to demur and deny what I was offering.

I'm never sure how to set up the actual world for Apocalypse World. Asking the players what the world's like seems to mainly result in not-very-weird post-nuclear-war worlds. I don't want to come to the table with a complete pre-built world, but I may approach the next game with an apocalypse in mind so I have something to fall back on and colour my input. Of course, if the players come up with something of their own, I'll run with that instead.

Another thought I had was to use the same sort of list Hardholders use to define their holding - get the group as a whole to pick options off a list and discuss them to establish what's fundamentally wrong with the world. I based the options off the lower tiers of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

There’s never enough - food, water, shelter, comfort. People take what they can from those who can’t hold onto it. Everything decays, and the only thing that stays the same is the fact that nothing else does. 
The world is broken in other ways too - wrong, dangerous, fundamental ways - and people adapt as best they can. As a group, answer 3 of the following questions, talk about the whys and the wherefores, and also what you can do to safeguard yourself:
  • What makes breathing a problem sometimes? 
  • Why is the water supply hazardous?
  • What’s wrong with the food supply?
  • Why do you need protective gear to go outside?
  • What makes trying to have kids difficult?
  • Why can’t you stay in one place for very long?
  • Why can you never let your guard down?

What do you think? Are there any other questions you'd add to the list? Would you frame the options differently? Keeping in mind that it's basically world-building training wheels for me as an MC, do you think the whole thing is an unnecessary exercise? How do you do it? Is there a better approach?