Humpocalypse Day

Humpocalypse Day
Session 3

I found the missing feels!

They were hiding at the intersection of psychic maelstrom and threat prep, traveling at the velocity of several hours of play time X three or four advances for each character.

By some miracle of table zeitgeist, everyone had “Weird” as a highlighted stat last night. I had thought about pushing that myself if nobody else did when they chose new stats to highlight, but three of the five did it on their own. Made it look less weird for me to just follow along and do the same for the other two players. The maelstrom was the center of attention this session so it was a good stat to push.

I’m still feeling out the tension between the blow-by-blow play that snowballing moves demands and the bigger-picture narrative-level authorship that all that delicious prep wants. It’s a good tension! But I’ve got pages of threats doodled up and I can’t really get to much of it at the pace we’re going.

Nothing super notable about the session to talk about, not really, other than the fact that I’m now definitely seeing the hooks sink in and the trappings of pure adventure game fall away a bit. The maelstrom is asking more and more pointed questions, largely emerging from my prep. The new moves folks have are prompting new and interesting angles of play, and I kind of wish they got to buy more moves! But I think every playbook is limited to like, two of their own moves, maybe one from somewhere else, then it’s just stat boosts. Which is fine, whatever, just enjoying what the moves do more than what failing missing less feels like.

I did have an unfortunate hiccup with our newest and least-experienced player, and I’m still chewing on it. (This isn’t a cry or even a request for help btw.) One of my players got fixated on very precise details about fictional positioning, which to where I was sitting felt like getting boxed into a rhetorical trap. Like, if I mentioned something about a previous scene that looked like it would preclude her plans, then that’d be the GM trying to screw the player. But she was also super-uncomfortable with framing her own scene, despite my strong encouragement to do so — because she probably felt like it was a rhetorical trap and I was just looking for a reason to NOPE her plans. It was a bummer of an impasse, emerging entirely from trust stuff I think, and not improved by some ill-considered snark on my part when we just couldn’t move on. I’m still thinking about that a little. Other than reining in my urge to be a dick, I’m not sure what else there is to be done other than continue building trust (which, yeah, my snark interfered with). Not a showstopper and we got through the session, but still. Disappointed in myself.

This feels like the halfway point, but unfortunately come December I’ve got a player or two whose schedules are gonna not allow us to play. So we need to decide whether to continue without the missing player(s) when the time comes.

EDIT: Oh, as promised, here are the custom moves I revealed in play last night:

When you first talk to the guards at the gate to Durango, roll +hard. On a hit, they let you pass but they keep an eye on you in town. On a 10+, they’re so impressed they take you to Mice to talk recruitment into the Patriots: take an XP if you meet with Mice, or +1 ongoing whenever you deal with the Patriots, because now you’ve got their number. On a miss, they see you as a total pushover: give them something valuable or things will get worse.

When you first interact with a child in town, roll +weird. On a hit, the child is actually an extrusion of the psychic maelstrom. On a 10+, the child takes you into the maelstrom with them.

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0 thoughts on “Humpocalypse Day”

  1. I absolutely love making sure everyone has one common stat highlighted. It’s a secret GM tool to signal to the players “this session is going to be about fighting/manipulation/paying attention.” Where it hits a bit of a wall is when less-confident players, or players who are afraid of rolling a miss, choose not to roll at all if their stats are low. What I find works then is to separate them into twos and threes, clustering the low-stat and high-stat characters.

  2. The maelstrom can eat the absent PC and spit them back out when they can play again? 🙂

    We’re playing sunday (our 3rd session). We have a Child-Thing in the game, so our maelstrom talk has leaned heavily towards these “wolves” the playbook mentions. I hope we delve into that more, esp. since when asked if my Chopper was a wolf, I said yes?

    We’re very much not a party in the traditional sense, either. In my other gaming group, there’s this sense that everyone’s going to go along and be a team before too long because that’s how you do things and I keep waiting for that to happen here but the child-thing seriously really wants to eat my character’s leg. It all feels very “premium cable show”, which is cool, but it’s a change for sure.

  3. Hey Paul, I’m loving these posts. Regarding the hiccup: i know you didnt ask for feedback, but it triggered some thoughts in me that I’m trying to work out.

    In my experience, player plans get screwed pretty often in AW. Early on as a player I had my ideas thrown out the window many times, cause there just isn’t much room for narrative handwaving or fictional ambiguity. That is, in the rules as written.

    The GM and the players have to work out the level of detail they want to establish and hold each other to, I think. AW doesn’t do much to explicitly change the traditional GM role there, other than letting them ask specific questions of the players. So it’s really a negotiation to change that assumption.

    As a GM, my personal preference is to leave plenty of wiggle room for the players to take advantage of, narratively and mechanically. If it’s too unclear for them, or they don’t want to take the lead, it comes down to me. Sometimes I’ll just openly ask what their intentions are so I can avoid blocking them, but sometimes the game traps me, tough luck. (Maybe as a player, I should try announcing my intentions as soon as possible so the GM and I can negotiate the fiction appropriately. Or at least I can get set straight early before wasting time on unworkable ideas.)

  4. Aaron Feild​ yeah that’s totally where we’re at too. We went through an identical process! I looked for the underlying intent, but this player isn’t wired/trained to think in those terms, and she got flummoxed, then frustrated, then angry.

    Other than my exasperation turning into me being a dick, I think it worked out…okay. The player intent thing is probably, IME, the hardest tabletop player trust skill anyone ever learns.

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