[Apocalypse World] Gigs, and changing them through play instead of advancement

edited May 2014 in Story Games
Our Apocalypse World game is largely medical-themed, with the PCs living in a semi-ruined Sisters of Mercy Hospital, run by Mother Superior and the Sisters of Mercy, his inner circle of enforcers.

Lafferty the operator has seeking answers as his obligation gig: he's looking for a fabled military bunker/medical supply warehouse/research lab that's supposed to be somewhere in the city. His contact for this particular gig is Hare the NPC scavenger, a guy who likes to put on a hazmat suit and wander into the less inhabited and more disgusting parts of the city looking for valuables and curios.

First off, is this a legit obligation gig? It seems that most of the obligation gigs are more of a burden than an opportunity, where "profit" is merely managing to maintain the status quo, and catastrophe is that the situation crashes down on the operator. This particular example of seeking answers, but also seeking answers in general, seems to be more... profitable, in that there's tangible benefits at the end, beyond just "everything's fine for now". Should finding the bunker only be possible if the player takes the "resolve an obligation gig" advance?

Regardless, there was a riot/mutiny mostly incited by the PCs and Hare got the ultimate punishment: to go down alive into Sheol, the medical waste incinerator, where he gets to try to survive the three-tailed endo-rats, Encephalitis X zombies, and general disease and filth that gets funneled down there, for days or weeks until the incinirator gets filled up and activated. Lafferty hopes there's another way in (and out!) of the inicinerator, and that he'll be able to find it and bail Hare out in time.

What happens to Lafferty's seek answers gig? Does it go unworked by force of circumstance? Would it work to temporarily redefine it from "seek answers about the secret bunker lab" to "seek answers about the way for Hare out of Sheol in order to be able to continue seeking answers about the secret bunker lab"?

There's a third gig situation involving Lafferty. Zed the angel needed to add two people to his infirmary to cure Azure the battlebabe of Encephalitis X, and Lafferty spread the word, dropped some jingle, and got two people, or something pretty close: there's two of them, they know what they're doing, but they also have their own things going on, which they'll have to sideline to give Zed the help he needs. Now, it seems to me that it would better highlight what a smooth operator Lafferty is if keeping everything running required more than just paying people for their work, and were instead treated as a sort of deal-brokering obligation gig: Keeping Newton and Fauna working for Zed (they're happy and useful / they ditch your project for their own things). Unworked: they're there, but they're grumbling and slacking. Does this make sense?

Or should this actually be Zed's new gig, because Newton and Fauna are working for him? Or is it a question of which character takes it upon themselves to keep Newton and Fauna happy and useful?


  • edited May 2014
    The first question I have is "obligation to whom?" This is unclear but would probably allow us to answer some of your other questions. It sounds like Hare is not the "client" but rather the "employee" (is this true?) - so it sounds like the PC has gotten off the hook for performing the obligation himself.

    If I'm reading that correctly, the fact that Hare has become indisposed does not nullify Lafferty's obligation. Lafferty is still obligated to whomever. He just has no one to slough it off onto now. If he wants to fulfill his obligation now he'll probably have go into the ruins himself, which seems much more in line with the idea of being "obliged" anyway.

    If I'm reading you wrong and Hare is the client, I think I'd still say Lafferty owes it. Because Hare is indisposed right now, Lafferty can't actually deliver his results to him, but that doesn't necessarily mean the gig must go unworked; perhaps it just puts Hare in his debt later.

    The crux will be Lafferty's Moonlighting roll. Firstly, the player can simply choose not to work this gig this time. If it goes unworked, the player gets neither profit nor catastrophe, and according to the rules: "the mystery deepens, or something casts your assembled clues in a new, more complicated light. You’ve been wrong all this time."

    If he does choose to work it, there's a roll to make. On a 7-9 you can simply say this is the gig that goes catastrophe, with the result being "You chase a red herring". The only problem really is if he makes the roll on a 10+. That would mean he finds answers about the secret bunker lab but he can't deliver them, and now Hare is in his debt. If he ever comes back alive. :-)
  • The first question I have is "obligation to whom?" This is unclear but would probably allow us to answer some of your other questions. It sounds like Hare is not the "client" but rather the "employee" (is this true?) - so it sounds like the PC has gotten off the hook for performing the obligation himself.
    Right, Hare is the "employee", a part of Lafferty's crew/contacts. And there is a sense that Lafferty might be getting of the hook with his obligation, in that seeking answers isn't something he's forced to do (like, say, paying debts or avoiding someone), but something that he desires to do.

    But what's a good example of seeking answers? I don't think it's seeking answers for a client as you seem to suggest; I'd expect it to be giving answers if that were the case. Obligation gigs don't seem to necessarily be obligations to someone else; for example, pursuing luxury or maintaining honour. I think seeking answers is intended to be similar, the operator's obligation to himself: something like Mulder in The X-Files compulsively searching for his sister.

    But it's hard for me to draw the distinction in play between "I'm looking for the bunker lab because it haunts my nights" (which sounds more like an obligation) and "I'm looking for the bunker lab because if I find and loot it I'll crazy rich and powerful" (which sounds more like an opportunity).
  • My first instinct is to say, the crucial part of an Operator's obligation gigs is not that they're burdensome, but that they're personal. So I interpret "Seeking answers" as trying to solve a mystery about something that happened to you. Veronica Mars style: "Who killed my best friend?", "Who attacked me that night?", "Where did my mother go?", that sort of thing.

    So, in response to your first question, I'd answer: if what you're doing works for you, go for it, BUT, if it were me, I'd want to know why he wants to find the bunker so bad. Is he trying to cure somebody who's dying? Is he trying to find someone who was taken there? What questions does he have about himself and his loved ones that he thinks he'll find answers to there?

    To your second question: "Save Hare from Sheol" sounds like a countdown clock to me, not a gig. In the meantime, as long as Lafferty isn't actively seeking answers about the lab, "the mystery deepens, or something casts your assembled clues in a new, more complicated light. You’ve been wrong all this time." Just like the book says.

    As for your third question: That could very well be a gig for Lafferty! If he took responsibility for keeping the labrats happy. Notice who he owes it to, though: he owes it to Zed, not to Newton or Fauna. It's Zed he's letting down if he fails.
  • edited May 2014
    Personally, I take the word "Obligation" to mean an onus to deliver something to another person. You're right that a couple of them seem more personal than interpersonal, but I would still read those socially, because the word used is "Obligation", not "Elective" or something else. In other words, I would take "Pursuing Luxury" to be an obligation to live up to some luxurious standard set by your family, mentor, boss or whatever, for social purposes. I would take "Maintaining Honor" to be an obligation to your unit, commander, flag, rank, mentor, sensei, or social status.

    The question isn't whether these can be ignored; all gigs can be ignored if you choose not to work them. The question is "what makes them obligatory?" The answer in the case of the "social" ones would be something like "because to do otherwise would be to bring shame, dishonor, downfall, ostracism, judgment, etc to those people."

    But I'm not 100% sure of the above. I'm not even sure if it's an important distinction to make (personal vs interpersonal), as long as it is felt as an OBLIGATION. In Lafferty's case, it feels like it isn't.

    ETA: I suppose a neurosis would count, as long as it truly compels character behavior.

    What's a good example of seeking answers? I'm not familiar with your game world but certainly there is a reason why the NPC client is looking for this bunker. It may have nothing to do with the bunker itself; maybe it's about something inside the bunker, or about someone who is or once was inside the bunker, or about what happened in the bunker that caused something else to occur... Maybe it's something super-fucking-awesome the NPC's father told him about when he was a kid, and he's always burned to find out if it's true, but he's afraid to go look for it himself. Could be anything. Doesn't have to be sane.

    You don't even have to answer it now. You can let clues develop until you figure out what it is, and then decide which ones were random coincidences or red herrings. You can let the player guess out loud about WTF the big mystery is, maybe you even take his suggestion and run with it, or twist it a little, you can even tell him one thing and change your mind later - hell, maybe he was being sent on a goose chase for some totally different reason, just to keep him away from someone or something else! You have tons of options here. But the way I see it, if it's an active gig, the word "Obligation" must retain its meaning.
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