Tuesday, July 7, 2015

About the Perception move

Some questions from Gregory - see the original G+ thread here .

As somehow new to the Apocalypse World system in general, I just would like to have your different views here about how you deal with the Perception move.

For instance, during and investigative mission I asked my PC to have a Perception check because they were watching over their client. One of the PCs got like 3 holds/questions and started to ask me things like : what’s hidden here, what might be the escape route, and so forth. Only matter was that I didn’t plan anything really dangerous at this point so I had to play along because I didn’t want to rob the player of one of his hold. What do you think?

During such a kind of watchful mission, would you maybe have your PCs to roll for Perception only once and assume this check will cover, say a day of watch or maybe like a special event only?

One, very useful answer from Richard Sardinas:

You can always tell the player that they can keep those holds for the future. Well not too far into the future, but maybe the scene, where they can ask other questions as the RP develops. I’ve seen GMs that sometimes merge Read a Sitch and Read a Person if the player rolls high enough, and there’s not enough relevant information for either moves.

A lengthy answer from myself:

A perception move is somehow broader than read a situation or read a person, in the sense that it can be triggered also by the GM (”When you observe and ponder, when you need to decide your course in battle, when there’s something to notice).
If as a GM you call for it, the idea is to let the person with the highest Stat roll for the group so that they can be prepared for what’s coming.

Now, for the example that you mentioned: if there is no danger, I tell that to the players. The thing is: if they’re rolling perception in a dangerous situation, then the answers are usually obvious.
But if there is no immediate danger? Well, that can be a good thing for the characters, if they can use this time, safely, to setup something or pursue something in relative safety.
Why where they watching over the client? was he someone that they needed to protect?

It is fine to use a single roll to cover a longer period of time: if you prep says that the afternoon will be quiet and someone will try to kidnap the client at night, then you can say that they spot no one until after dark…
Or you can say something that will put them on alert: for example that there is no immediate threat but they notice a couple of fake beggars checking out the surroundings reasonably in preparation for some later attack…
In general, as you said, tune accordingly to the situation, and be honest with the players. Sometimes if there is no danger, there’s no danger.

The only thing, of course, if you give them a relative safe time/safe zone, then you should stick to it. Make it clear to them when the situation changes and another roll would be needed to ensure everything remains safe.

And continues after a reply from Gregory:

If they work together - they keep watch together on a small location - yes, I’d say ask the one with highest Brains to roll and the others to help.
It’s one roll: they should not be frustrated… there would be plenty of rolls for everybody as a follow-up from the Perception. I.e. if they gather info on the threat(s), then every character would have a role in dealing with it.
Say that they ace the roll, a 10+: this doesn’t mean that you cannot show an incoming threat. It means they’re aware of it and ready to act before the enemy gets to them. For example they will have the time to organize a defense, to setup a trap or an ambush, to escort the client out from a backdoor and try to run away safely… or they might try to kill the spies sent by the enemy (this will give up their intentions to the enemy, but the enemy will receive no info about the client) etc.

I wouldn’t ask “on what or who their watch will be focused”: the game is not much about making the perfect choice as ‘players’ (a player is only vaguely aware of what the GM thinks - remember the scene of the bribe in front of the gate?). The game is about what happens to the characters.
This is their job: they know what to look for… If they stick together, the one with the highest Brains rolls and the others chip in to help if needed.

Let’s say the one rolling gets a 7-9, and one steps in to help. He gets a 7-9 too, so he brings the Perception roll up to 10+ (it goes up one step, not just + 1), but he’s now exposed.
How did it go in fiction? Let’s say the sorcerer is on the watch, he notices something, the other player wants to help, he steps out of the gate to check it out and thump, a dart hits the wall an inch from his nose. The spies have seen him and have decided to try an attack on their own…

They want to act independently? Ok, so deal with the first one on the watch. He gets a 10+ and they use the safety at their disposal to setup some defense. They don’t? Ok, so tell them that they’re just wasting time, are they sure they don’t want to try to prepare something in advance?
Then move to the next turn of the watch, who’s on the watch now? … since we’re not going to sit all night rolling Perception, then give them signs of the approaching danger. A good Perception roll will just allow them to spot them.