What are your favorite PbtA threat moves?

edited December 2015 in Story Games
Or any sort of Move used against the player characters, whether from Apocalypse World or any other PbtA game, published or unpublished, in a book or just invented by the GM. I'm curious to see how many are:
- awesome color slapped onto an extant MC Hard Move category
- narrowing-downs of said categories
- whole new types of badness to inflict on player characters

I'm pondering where the lines are between various levels of fuckery, and failed player roll consequences vs other sorts of impositions.

I'd prefer to hear about moves that you've actually used/encountered in play, but if it's just stuff you read and got super psyched about, I guess that works too.



  • edited December 2015
    I figured people would be jumping over each other to answer this one. Maybe my timing is poor. I was a bit inspired by this (especially the lower ones, starting with Johnstone's) a couple years back... but perhaps threat moves haven't been a notable highlight of many folks' actual play? Maybe "surround them" and "buy out their allies" and "target them where they're weak" is all anyone really needs, and custom-situational versions of "act under fire" are more fun in theory than in practice?
  • edited December 2015
    I read this post, and I just wasn't sure enough of what you were looking for to reply. Do you want memorable examples from PbtA games? (I can't think of any; I tend to remember the player moves more. MC moves just stick as "fiction" in my memory, for the most part.)

    I bet a good example of what you're looking for would really help start the thread! (The linked thread, significantly, led with an example.)
  • edited December 2015
    I want memorable examples from PbtA games, or memorable examples from MCs following the "make a custom threat move" option. Any format is fine.

    If I had good examples, I might not have started this thread! But I don't.

    Two examples to illustrate breadth:

    An move for Grotesques, from Apocalypse World:
    Ruin something. Befoul, rot, desecrate, corrupt, adulter it.

    A move from a hypothetical game in which tunnels are important, from a Story Games poster:
    When you sneak through the tunnels, roll+cool. On a 10+, like shadows and smoke, nacht und nebel. On a 7-9, you leave a trail that can be followed. On a miss, wolves.
  • Ah! I see. Basically, anything that's not a player-side move, right?

    The closest I can think of is a set of rules I made for a drug in an Apocalypse World game. Everything else I did "on the fly" - prepping locations and characters and threats, and letting the actual moves be improvised in play. I'm not sure if a custom move for imbibing a narcotic is a threat move (not linked to a Front, after all) or not (but it *could* be, if the players start relying on it or whatever)...
  • I'm looking for inspiration for cool threats, basically. Like, specific "what it can do" inspiration, not just "what it looks like".

    I have an idea to write an AW "module" which basically comes with purpose-built fronts and threats targeting the player character situation I have in mind. So the MC can just pick it up and play, D&D module-style. But I'd like to first see what people dig on the threat end, so I have a better idea of the territory out there. I'm not intending to break totally new ground, with all the testing that requires, but my initial intuition is that putting different colorful spins on "put them in a spot" may not suffice.
  • David, I hope this might be useful.
    In designing City of Judas (AW medieval hack) I formulated GM moves which are very similar to those in AW and DW, of course with a different color to suit the game.
    But I also introduced something additional: the GM has a counter (a Taint Tracker) that is increased by certain results in Players' moves. By spending the currency gained on the Taint Tracker, the GM can evoke demons (more powerful monsters) against the Players.
    Thus this gives a certain pace to the session and the story.
    If you are building a module, this might be something interesting for you to look at, as it gives a mechanically regulated clock (it basically works like a front but with Players' moves trigger instead).
    Also, I think you saw earlier versions of City of Judas, and you probably recall I added Conditions to the playbooks. Each Condition has a dedicated list of narrowed down GM moves to make against the affected character.
  • edited December 2015
    Ooh, very cool! Can you describe a little of how players have responded to this in play?

    I really like the idea of a custom MC "advance the progress of doom" move, but I'm forgetting how Front clocks advance in standard AW and where the difference lies.
  • In standard AW you create a Front, for example with a threat of an attack against the community where the PCs live. You tick segments of the clock with your MC moves (you basically spend you MC "hold" for a move to advance the clock). Also, certain in-fiction conditions might advance the clock (if you set at 9 "spies in the community" and with another move you reveal an NPC to be a spy of the enemy, well, then your clock goes to 9 by itself).
    In DW the Fronts and impending dooms work in a similar way.

    In City of Judas there are standard Fronts, that you create to structure a threat which is not resolved by a single GM move. I don't know: if your module is about stealing the eggs of the mother of all dragons, once the PCs have stolen the eggs you might have a front (with a clock) with dragons trying to recover the eggs. At 3 small dragons chase the PCs, at 6 a single red dragon attacks, at 9 multiple dragons attack, at 12 the mother of dragons herself will fall from the skies on the PCs...
    (this is a lame example, to give you an idea of a basic front)

    But in City of Judas, you also have a Taint Tracker. It works like a clock, with segments that you mark when a Player move tells you do to so. For example when the Barber (the doctor) fails at healing with 6- (either regular or magical healing), their Spirit counter is decreasing and it might get to give a Taint to mark to the GM.
    When this happens the GM colors a segment.
    Basically, the most common triggers are failures in what each PC should do best, and certain conditions that go "against" the PCs "alignment" (i.e. again for the Barber, ignoring a call for medical help).

    Depending on how many Taint segments the GM has marked, at any moment he/she can spend these points to evoke a demon. There are various demons, of increasing power, and you need more Taint points to evoke the stronger ones.
    This is of course designed especially for the City of Judas setting, which is medieval and with lots of dark sorcery, and therefore demons are way worse for the players than regular monsters... plus monsters are usually just adversaries for a single combat, while demons put in motion all the political schemes and overarching plots that support a longer - campaign mode - play style.

    Does it clarify?
  • Oh, about the Players' response.

    They understood quickly how Taint works and that is bad when they give me such points.

    But they were totally cool with it. They liked to know how much Taint I had against them, and knew this was a pacing mechanism, and dreaded and looked forward, at the same time, to the next demon I was going to spring on them.

    It made this call, the decision of using demons, sort of 'neutral', mechanically triggered, not "GM's whim triggered", hence it felt always fair even when it got them into big trouble, and it was very nice for me as GM because I think I have the pacing right, and this is one thing less to keep track of in fiction...
    As GM, I don't need to think when to evoke the big bad demon, I just need to mark Taint when I am told to do so, and the tracker tells me when it's time for the big demon.
  • edited December 2015
    Yes, that's right. In AW, the countdown clocks are "both descriptive and prescriptive", and the MC advances them more-or-less purely by their whim/judgement (but governed by the fiction and the Principles, like everything else in the game).

    I like the idea of mechanizing part of that process to create a form of pacing for the game, and basing it on in-play details (like player moves) is perhaps a better way to do that than the more traditional "by session" or "by in-fiction calendar time", which can both get out of sync with the progression of the game itself.

    I could also see connecting the "timer" with particular fictional triggers ("When the PCs meet the Alien, advance the timer") or character advancement (each time the characters score an advance).


    The most obvious form of this I can think of are the monster and dungeon moves/instincts in DW.

    Personally, I have no experience with threat moves; like I said, I mostly made up mine on the fly when I played, which was more than sufficient for me if given enough information about the developing situation and my NPCs.
  • Oh, and now I remember a nice custom move I came up with playing Sagas of the Icelanders... or at least, nice for me.
    Two PCs were raiding Britain during the summer together with several NPCs; one of the PCs was a tough warrior, the other had the Child playbook and the raid was a sort of rite of passage.

    When storming the village I gave them to roll a custom move (if I recall correctly, with the usual 10+ hold 3, 7-9 hold one, 6- hold none and ...) and asked them to spend their holds in secret one from the other. Choices were something like:
    - take the village successfully (needs to be taken twice)
    - gain a huge loot for yourself, or distinguish yourself for your valor
    - protect yourself from harm
    - protect another (PC or NPC) from harm

    The funny thing was that the Child rolled a 7-9 and predictably (for me) chose 'distinguish yourself for your valor'.
    The warrior rolled a 10+, gave two to the village (again as we all expected) and chose 'distinguish yourself for your valor' instead of protecting the Child.

    All, me included, were expecting the warrior to protect the Child that was his protege from the start of the game, and that the Woman had allowed to go to the raid only after several reassurances from the warrior.
    Of course, in the process of suffering grave harm, the Child rolled something like 3 or 4 and died in battle. Well, after earning the respect of all the raiders and gaining the right to a real warrior's funeral.
    Not that this made it any easier for the warrior or the Woman, of course.

    I did things like this in other games and usually I find it easier to come up with moves with 'holds' to spend, and let players decide what they care about the most.

    Also, secret choices are always fun (when they're in custom moves - so not too frequent - and when they're justified in fiction - like in the chaos of a battle)... they add a thrill, a sense of having to bet on your fellow players' choices, to have to blindly trust them, or let them down when they least expect it, and so on...
  • Davide, cool! Will reply in a bit when I have more time.
    The most obvious form of this I can think of are the monster and dungeon moves/instincts in DW.
    Can you elaborate?
  • In Dungeon World, each monster and dungeon writeup usually has an "instinct" and/or sample move, which are, precisely, prepped MC moves.

    Here's an example:


    There’s not but one person in all the King’s court allowed to speak the truth. The real, straight-and-honest truth about anything. The fool couches it all in bells and prancing and chalky face-paint, but who else gets to tell the King what’s what? You can trust a fool, they say, especially when he’s made you red-faced and you’d just as soon drown him in a cesspit.

    Instinct: To mock

    * Expose injustice
    * Play a trick
  • Oh, okay, when you said "most obvious form of this" I thought "this" meant mechanized pacing. The logic/function of that DW snippet is familiar to me from AW's threat types. Great example, though, in that "say what others can't" is kind of a "special power" that we don't routinely encounter elsewhere.
  • Great thread!
  • edited December 2015
    I like that one from the book which says when you read Monkey you roll Weird instead of Sharp because, you know, the way the guy moves is really unnatural and fucked up.

    Its so simple yet full of flavour. :)
  • edited January 2016
    @davidepignedoli sorry to disappear for so long!

    Secret, mutually-relevant hold-spending is definitely a neat trick. I wasn't seeking player moves, but seeing as how that's the sort of situation an enemy might want to put them in, maybe I can think of some situations where that might come up.

    Re: City of Judas, I have read through the relevant sections, and I think there's a lot of really cool stuff in there! Here's how I see it:

    A lot of the useful moves the players will be rolling can lower their Counter scores, thus saddling them with Conditions which allow and encourage the GM to make two types of moves the GM wouldn't otherwise make:
    Type 1: basically usefully-defined subtypes of the game's usual GM moves; however, the Hard varieties can be made without the players failing any rolls, because the Conditions already account for the other Hard move criteria: "you knew this was coming and didn't act to stop it".

    Type 2: tougher and/or more influential foes than are otherwise in play. There won't be any Princes of Hell... unless the player characters suffer 5 Spirit losses. And, as you note, this kind of dynamic could be employed for any sort of "big bad". I'm thinking of everything from invading armies to natural disasters.
    The overall Taint dynamic is similar to the "Front advances, more badder stuff happens" of AW, but there's a much tighter and more defined and known relationship between player character efforts and positioning and threat. You can see the numbers; you don't have to wait for the GM to manifest everything fictionally. In a perfect world, I'd prefer a flawless GM, but in the real world, this seems like a great way to make sure a certain part of the GM's job gets done. As a GM, I'd be grateful for the assist. Plus, despite being similar to Fronts, Taint is definitely not identical, and I see a lot of room for fun with the differences.

    The more general thought this gives me is that, potentially, anything might be a legit GM move if enough known conditions must be met first. I mean, when would a player be okay rolling @Judd's "when you become a wolf" move? Certainly not the sort of thing most players would embrace simply after one bad roll in a combat against a werewolf, right? But if, instead, your Health counter is brought down by werewolf attacks enough times to advance the Lycanthropy track to 5, then yeah, you obviously have to roll that move. :)

    Back to the condition-specific GM move subtypes, I see a lot of hindrances for the characters (e.g. -1 to Advantage Die) and a lot of stuff that launches the characters into new problematic situations. "Now you have to hunt for a healer" or "NPCs look to exploit your condition" or "this travel is now delayed or difficult" or "there's now a price on your head" -- these fit within the AW MC's job and toolkit (as far as I can tell), but might or might not show up much in a given game depending on the MC. I would envision City of Judas's more specific Condition-related avenues shaping my GMing beyond whatever I'd ordinarily do with the broader move categories. I like that. The Tainted GM moves also do a nice job of bringing the problems back to a consistent source -- the character has the attention of Dark Forces.
  • In looking over other threads and PbtA games, I'm seeing a pattern of "players have to make a special move in X situation", with that special move following the Act Under Fire logic of "roll to avoid letting a tough situation get the best of you".

    The triggering situations can include:
    - crossing boundaries -- entering new jurisdictions or terrain types
    - entering or acting in an area where you have certain relationships
    - moving through the home of a specific threat
    - nightfall
    - whenever the regular, periodic guard patrols reach your camp (e.g. daily at 3pm)
    - when a threat's first telltale appears
    - something happens to a character that changes them, or threatens to (e.g. a curse)
  • The best threat move is the Grotesque's 'Display the contents of its heart.' Followed by Brutes' 'Tell stories' and Landscape's 'Provide another way.'

    I have no idea what this thread is about at this point, but that's the answer to the subject of the OP at least.
  • @David_Berg I am glad you liked City of Judas. The idea of regulating the GM work with Conditions and Taint responds to a need I felt personally, but I am glad that others indeed see a value in it.
    I think it's good, as you said, to regulate pacing, to provide inspiration, and to leave less responsibility solely on the shoulders of the GM. As you said, in a perfect world with an ideal GM this would be maybe unnecessary, but I am far from being perfect.
    So again, I am happy if the game will inspire you in your work.
  • edited January 2016
    @davidepignedoli, absolutely! Thanks!

    @IceCreamEmperor, thanks for bearing with the confusingness. Would you mind sharing a little bit about what has made those 3 awesome in play?
  • edited January 2016
    I like them because they encourage the MC to lead with the fiction, even when describing Threats, an element of the game that GMs generally want to have a mechanical element of some kind in order to feel 'real' or 'correct.' It's easy to think that these are a special category of Game Thing, when in fact Threats are just a way of organizing the things you have created according to the broader Principles/Agenda.

    The Grotesque & Brutes moves also play towards the 'make everyone human' Principle, which I think is particularly easy to overlook in the case of something called a 'Grotesque'.

    I guess I feel like... the other parts of Threats, where they just do dangerous threatening things and/or have threatening custom moves that force the PCs to choose between awful consequences... that's the obvious stuff. But remembering to display the contents of your Grotesque's heart, or seeing your terrifying Landscape as a source of opportunity, or thinking about the culture of your Brutes -- those are easy to overlook, when you are busy making hard moves and constructing elaborate countdown clocks and all the rest.

    An example from play, which I have probably written up somewhere here ages ago but whatever. Gather ye round, patient listeners, and hear: The Story of Abs.

    Abs was, I believe, the very first NPC that appeared in the very first game of AW I MCed (the second game our group had played, back in the playtest days.) One of the PCs was a weirdo Savvyhead who had a giant radio tower that he used to try and decipher the omnipresent 'Static', the dominating metaphor for the Psychic Maelstrom in our snow-filled apocalypse. So naturally, it's the first session, we're just following him around -- what happens to Savvyheads in their daily lives? People show up and bother them when they're trying to get work done.

    Abs showed up because he wanted to sell the Savvyhead something; specifically, he wanted to sell him some contraband goods. Some OBVIOUSLY contraband goods, that would get the Savvyhead on the wrong side of a cult of car-worshippers.

    Obviously, I wasn't thinking of Abs as a Threat when I first introduced him. I was just thinking of this guy, who I had to give a name and obvious motivations. His overwhelming characteristic was a sort of desperate confidence combined with a total lack of competence. I decided that Abs had never actually done any of this before; he was totally out of his depths and covering for it by faking it for all he was worth. It was a very fun scene, and Abs' particular blend of optimistic incompetence and endless hustle made many appearances in the first few sessions of the game. He's one of my favourite characters qua characters.

    But of course it turns out that in Apocalypse World, everyone and every thing is a Threat. And as I began to develop this part of the game, Abs became a bit of a conundrum for me. I had lots of very obvious, very excellent Threats and Fronts -- the identity-disintegrating Static, the territorial auto cult, the inevitable water-shortage combined with the toxic-but-oh-so-drinkable snow -- but I kept putting off Abs. Abs as a character seemed like the opposite of a threat, in the sense of an active danger; he was a sort of incompetent social pariah, sure, and I guess well-meaning incompetence can cause a lot of trouble... but what sort of Threat, capital-T, is that?

    Now obviously, looking at the book, Abs had to be some kind of Grotesque -- he had no friends (despite what he would tell you) or powerful allies, he wasn't a landscape in disguise or a secret arm of the Static. He was just this lonely guy trying to scrape a living. Thus, Grotesque. But what kind? Going through the list was pretty frustrating, because they all seemed to describe these extreme sort of creatures, and Abs was if anything the most normal character in the game.

    Eventually I decided that Abs made the most sense as a disease vector. It just seemed the most innocuous choice, in a way; my initial thought was that he would contract some new, weird Static-related illness or maybe the car cultists would catch up with him and convert him to their visionary, CO2-inhaling ways. But these choices didn't feel great; they felt like I was using Abs as a tool for some OTHER thing, that had nothing to do with Abs himself except that the book told me I had to make him a Threat so I had to pick something.

    This is where the Threat moves come in. (See, this was actually going somewhere.) The first two threat moves for the Grotesque are:

    'Display the nature of the world it inhabits
    Display the contents of its heart'

    Thinking about these moves was what made it clear to me that my previous ideas kind of sucked; if Abs was just a vector for some OTHER thing, what would there be to display, really? Just... that other thing? Abs deserved better, as a character. Abs' grotesquerie had to be about his world, and his heart; what was it like to be Abs, on the inside? It was thinking about these moves that made me decide that Abs was, after all, still a disease vector -- his disease was hope. It was precisely this kind of optimistic, untethered hope that would help explain Abs' personality up to this point, not to mention his tireless hustle.

    But of course, having decided this immensely satisfying-to-me but also totally abstract thing about Abs was one thing; conveying it to the players, having it impact the game, was another. But that's why I am such a fan of those threat moves: the same source that provoked me to make the decision was also the means by which I could communicate that decision. I just had to find opportunities to show them the nature of Abs' world, and the contents of his hopeful, misguided heart.

    So when some of the PCs came to visit Abs at his latest run-down shitty hovel, and Abs was distracted by an angry landlord, I showed them: at some point, perhaps before he became a desperate peddler of stolen auto parts, Abs had imagined a better future. For everyone.

    He had found a camera and rather than selling it he had, in his infinite optimism, taken dozens of photographs of the run-down, snow-eroded city-scape in which the game had taken place. Then he had filled an entire notebook with an architecture-grad-thesis' worth of notes and ideas and sketches for urban renewal. The mudpit-trench soccer field outside the high school became an elaborate hydroponic greenhouse and community garden; the enormous sinkhole around which the city organized its marketplace was outfitted with crazy hydro-thermal wind turbines; the collapsed skyscrapers were linked with rope bridges, patrolled by well-organized community policemen; etc, etc., for pages and pages. Each idea more preposterously unfeasible -- more totally out of reach of even the PCs', let alone Abs', abilities -- than the last. The product, in short, of a heart sick with hope.

    It wasn't, like, the greatest scene ever, but it added a new dimension to the character -- and through the character, and because his personality had been so well-established up to that point, it added something to the conversation about the world. About the limits of the world, after the apocalypse. Everyone knew that Abs was NOT the shining light of hope; that everything Abs ever did turned to shit; that he couldn't even pay his rent, or make a friend who took him seriously. But while everyone else was out getting shit done and murdering cultists and assembling crazy radio towers, this was the guy trying to imagine a better future. The future nobody would ever deserve, or ever get.
  • Dave,

    That's a very good insight about a threat move being anything you want it to be so long as the players buy into the threat in the first place. Your example of Lycanthropy is perfect.

    Here's another:

    AW sets up the psychic maelstrom as a specific sort of thing, raw, powerful, far-reaching, and completely unpredictable.

    If you attack your friend with a broken bottle, and you roll a miss, you'll accept a certain range of things. May some scratches or a broken arm.

    But when you open your brain to the maelstrom and miss, I can say things like, "What's your fondest memory? You don't remember that anymore", or have you step into a different reality and not realize it. You've already bought into the maelstrom being so far-reaching and so mysterious - AW has mentioned it again and again, all over the place, including your character sheet, including the name of the move itself - that you won't refuse this new development, but, instead, embrace it with (at least some) excitement.
  • Daniel, that is awesome. I've played characters who would absolutely have jumped on that notebook of futile optimism with some extreme reaction -- maybe "oh shit, he's right, this is what we should be doing, and once we can, we will" or maybe some sort of rage about what we'll never have. My Hocus might have burned the notebook as heresy.

    I was mainly looking for interesting ways to turn general sources of menace into unique moments with their own specific risks and stakes, but I think your example shows a similar dynamic without the menace. Through Abs, you told the players something new and unique and specific about their environment, and now they have to answer the question of what they do with that. Even "we are completely unmoved" says something new about their situation.

    I think you make a great point about turning functional stuff that has to exist/happen into expressive fiction. When playing a Threat, the MC shouldn't just be trying to stick it to the characters, or ad lib roleplaying any old thing that comes to mind; some mini-Bangs of ways to present what makes the Threat tick are great tools to have on hand. I'll definitely think about that for whatever Threats I come up with.


    Two more general AW thoughts:

    1) Looking over threat moves for concept fodder never occurred to me! I wonder how many MCs do this? Now that you've pointed it out, it seems kind of obvious as a way to prime a good connection between what the Threat is and what it's gonna do.

    2) I'm curious: at what point did you conclude "the book says I have to make him a Threat now"? What triggered that?
  • Paul, I think the maelstrom is a tricky case, with potential for both compelling and confusing types of open-endedness. It might be productive to talk about when it's which one? I'd be happy to chime in on a new thread about that, but I don't think I have the brainpower to start one right now.
  • I agree absolutely: the maelstrom is a bit of grab-bag which could right and go completely wrong, because it's so vague and open-ended. It might be very interesting to have a conversation about it, but I'm not sure what else I could say about it at this point.

    However, my point is:

    The mood/colour/design of the game primes you, in some way, for buying into different outcomes.

    Whatever you want to say about the maelstrom being unsatisfyingly vague (if indeed you do!), there's no question that "part of your memories end up stuck inside" is at least a plausible MC move, whereas it almost certainly wouldn't be on a "go aggro" move.
  • Daniel,

    That Abs story is lovely! Really enjoyed it.

    I think going through the book and looking at the threat moves seems like... almost the entirety of the MC's prep in AW, to me! I didn't do this when I MCed AW, but only because I had more than enough ideas already coming at me from the players. I definitely would go there first if I was stuck and looking for inspiration.

    I'm also curious about Dave's second question!

  • edited January 2016
    1) Looking over threat moves for concept fodder never occurred to me! I wonder how many MCs do this? Now that you've pointed it out, it seems kind of obvious as a way to prime a good connection between what the Threat is and what it's gonna do.

    2) I'm curious: at what point did you conclude "the book says I have to make him a Threat now"? What triggered that?
    I don't know how many do it, but I find it quite invaluable, as my own tendency as an MC is to be fairly laid-back and reactive, which can sometimes lead to excessively slow pacing; seeing an exciting and specific Threat move encourages me to make my Threats more proactive, and also provides some guidelines on how to do so.

    But looking at the threat moves is also a good way of checking in on a threat's type; sometimes it seems clear that some group of NPCs are Brutes, but when you look at the Warlord moves those actually seem more appropriate. This can prompt some reflection about what is actually going on with that Threat, and lead to more consistent or inspired characterization. Again, it's not important that these types match up for any mechanical reason; it's a tool the game is providing to help you think about the fiction and what might come of it.

    As for #2, that's what the book tells you to do after the very first session. Abs was just one of several NPCs that got tossed into the Home Front and left alone, threat-determination-wise, for many sessions. The impetus/desire to define Abs' threat-ness more clearly was mostly the result of the work I was doing on other Fronts/Threats, which were quite tightly integrated, and the fact that the character was recurring enough that it seemed worth thinking about.

    My initial thought, as mentioned, was to integrate the character more into the existing Fronts, which were by that point the main MC-side drivers of the game; that way we could all see more of Abs, and his relationship to the Big Issues. It just happened to turn out that he wasn't directly connected; he remained in the Home Front, and was in many ways still his Own Thing. But his own thing was still thematically relevant to the game.

    Also, since we're on the topic of Threats, I would highly recommend you read this amazing analysis over on the AW boards, if you have not already. It is definitely the single best resource I have seen for thinking comprehensively about the role of Fronts and Threats in a longer-term AW game.
  • edited January 2016
    Cool, thanks for outlining the thought process on Abs' threat status. That makes sense to me.
    Also, since we're on the topic of Threats, I would highly recommend you read this amazing analysis over on the AW boards
    Whoa! That guy was inspired. To me, that list looks like it's a few specifics away from being a ready-to-go cast of NPC pre-gens.

    It's funny -- as much as I'm impressed by what other GMs have gotten out of using Threat types and Threat moves to help define their NPCs, it's still a foreign way of viewing things to me. I grew up GMing immersion-focused games, and the one thing I never forget for NPCs is to conceive them in my head as real people with their own wants and needs and dispositions. The rest flows from that. That methodology has its pros and cons, but the end result is that what I usually find myself most in need of are unique details or functional conflict aids.

    In the latter case, I am particularly fond of concrete rules or procedures to use in play. "Things that an NPC might do" which are expressed purely fictionally share a somewhat complicated relationship with my "NPC runs itself" orientation, so a tool like "this NPC can try to hypnotize the PCs, and when they do, players roll with X factors to navigate Y outcomes" is a godsend.

    I don't wish to supplant the standard AW encounter paradigm -- consistent player moves + varied fictional situations is fine by me -- but I think a few highlight special cases would add a lot. Especially if those cases are the persistent "big bads" of a static play location.

    Hopefully the things we've all discussed in this thread will help me improve on both fronts -- the varied situations presented by NPCs both fictionally and mechanically.
  • edited January 2016

    Hopefully the things we've all discussed in this thread will help me improve on both fronts -- the varied situations presented by NPCs both fictionally and mechanically.
    I'd love to hear what you consider useful takeaways from this thread, Dave.

  • Just stuff I've already noted.

    Not ready to do a summary yet anyway. I'm still hoping for more custom moves!
  • I grew up GMing immersion-focused games, and the one thing I never forget for NPCs is to conceive them in my head as real people with their own wants and needs and dispositions. The rest flows from that. That methodology has its pros and cons, but the end result is that what I usually find myself most in need of are unique details or functional conflict aids.
    I don't really see that as the primary use of Threats/Fronts, though. I have a similar background, and certainly I had no trouble conceiving of Abs as a real person, etc. What the Fronts/Threats paradigm pushes for -- or at least, what I find it most helpful for -- is organizing these people into thematically related/consistent groupings. It's a tool for constructing on top of the things you describe, because 'the rest' does not necessarily flow from that, when the rest includes things like addressing larger themes in your game.

    Sure, it will also inspire new characterization, etc., and it can provide some specific moves that can be very helpful to push you in different directions as an MC; there's lots of good 'oh I hadn't thought about THAT' type stuff in the specific Threat moves (as this thread discusses.) But Fronts in particular are not about making sure you have real people with their own wants and needs -- there's already a principle for that, several in fact. The Fronts and Threats are about building those real people into usable structures that can express things about the world -- or reveal things the world is already beginning to express -- that would otherwise have no clear expression.
  • edited January 2016
    Great point. I agree that "the rest" doesn't always just fall out, and I do love being on the receiving end of some good thematic content as a player. So, no quibbles with the MC product here. The MC process, though... still wrapping my head around that. Slotting NPCs into useful theme-expressing categories sounds very much like work to me and not at all like fun. I do see some "fun value" in your situation where Abs already had "contents of his heart", and the right item on the right list reminded you to show them to the PCs, though. I do like me some reminders. Although I prefer them as "in the moment" play aids. Hmm. Using a pre-made scenario with defined Fronts, that might be something I could make...
  • The way I see Fronts is basically as a brainstorming tool:

    "Here's a person, place, or thing I made up. How can it threaten the PCs? Oh, here are some creative prompts."

    That seems pretty valuable, and some of the categories are likely to inspire interesting outcomes (as in Abs's case).

    Beyond that, it does seem a bit like "busywork", as Dave points out.

    I like the idea of using Fronts as an organisational tool, however. I'll look into that next time I play AW.
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