Survival/Apocalypse Genre Survivability

  • Watching The 100 thread as it goes on and on, something said near the end got me curious.

    Block Quote ...

    @TNP said in The 100: The Mush:

    Except, in my opinion, this is not the case at all. And while there certainly was a lot of IC antagonism in the beginning, it's lessened as 1) players have settled into their characters and figured out the nuances of RPing them and 2) external threats are forcing them to work together.

    At the beginning of the game, it was just the Delinquents freshly tasting freedom and squaring off over pro and anti-Ark sentiments. And then they find out they're not alone. It's a truism that the enemy of my enemy is my friend (or at least someone I can work with to stay alive).

    Keep in mind that it's been less than 5 RL weeks since the Delinquents Landed. Characters grow and change as they get played and are affected by plots.

    Its been five weeks and all this mayhem has happened (not the OOC stuff). The landing, dealing with situation, trying to piece meal some semblance of order, etc.

    I tried the first 100 Mu that came out a couple years ago and found I couldn’t get into it. For these exact reasons that folks have been pointing out, not simply jerks at all. But so much missed. As the issue in the other thread notes, they all know each other and still act like new jerks to each other rather than indifferent jerks. But also, all that history, its assumed you have to know what has gone on in most of the logs to understand your char even more, making it more difficult to get into the theme. Or be accused of doing something stupid that the character should of known otherwise about.

    Or, as other threads have pointed out, how to bring in new players in a believable fashion. Or really, is survival/apocalypse Mu*s really better for smaller groups? I don’t think there was a clear answer in the last thread, but plenty of ways were brought up to address it. The 100 has a new issue, most PCs that are ‘delinquent’ are assumed to have been in jail on the Ark. But learning the entire history of the game isn’t fun, even if a timeline of concluded events is put up, just to set up any back story with another char could take some time for new players.

    My question boils down to … while apocalypse style games seem great for a Mu*, is it better suited to smaller group styles of play, even if OTT?

  • I believe survival/apocalypse games are better suited to smaller groups, pockets of separated small groups, or need to have strong rules about danger/mortality the larger the group gets.

    See, humans at one time farmed and had to set watches to keep wolves from eating people in huts, right? But the problem I see on most survival/zombie/apocalypse games is that character types are regularly chosen to fill niches until the characters themselves negate the survival aspect of the game. By this I mean: Is it REALLY a survival game when you have fifteen soldiers, a former Navy Seal, three doctors, one veterinarian, a brain surgeon, four people with agrarian science degrees, a botanist, three midwives, two stable masters, two blacksmiths, seven leatherworkers, fifteen carpenters, two daycare workers, a horse whisperer, two poli-sci majors, six former police officers, and one massage therapist AT THE START OF THE STORY????

    Survival/apocalyptic stories are not about guy broke his leg, call the doctor, but instead they are about guy broke his leg and we don't have a doctor. They are typically about regular joes (or to quote All Flesh Must Be Eaten: Norms) and only a very few vital (maybe 5% of the population) people with very useful skills. The stories are about overcoming these adversities and surviving while unlearning old useless skills (JAVA PROGRAMMING!) and replacing them with new ones (EATING MUSHROOMS AND NOT DYING).

    So the main issues I have seen are characters who are too useful, and not enough emphasis on how such large groups are able to survive without fatigue from lack of resources. With so many capable characters, the end result is like No Return Mu: "That sucked, oh well, let's just rebuild houses and start new hospitals! We have oncologists!"

    TL;DR version: Big groups are okay so long as they're not filled with fucking experts in survival-useful skills, and so long as people realistically roleplay the struggles of survival, rather than hand-wave the actual survival part.

    I don't play "100", but are there a lot of characters with super-useful skillets despite being teenagers?

  • @Lotherio said in Survival/Apocalypse Genre Survivability:

    My question boils down to … while apocalypse style games seem great for a Mu*, is it better suited to smaller group styles of play, even if OTT?

    These games are great for a MU*. What seems to be lacking is a system that permits players to build the world around them. If all staff does is present insurmountable situations, you should not be surprised when the players and PCs end up fighting each other or otherwise walk away from the game.

    There is more to these sorts of games than the odds of dying. Try putting some effort into collaboration, cooperation, and creation, and such games might actually thrive.

  • @ghost has good points, but I think that you can have micro-level survival and macro-level survival.

    Walking Dead (though I've never seen it) is a micro-level survival game. A tiny group where it's like "OMG we don't have a doctor."

    Battlestar Galactica is a macro-level survival game. Something like Jericho could be one too. You have a whole fleet, or a whole town, or whatnot but it's been devastated in some way. Then it's the "we have a fistful of doctors but we're running low on morphine" or "I'm a surgeon but the generator's dead so we have no lifesupport" problem.

    Both can be interesting. Just depends on what you're going for.

  • @Ghost

    I think I'm leaning the same way - smaller groups.

    But pockets of small groups bears some interesting considerations. Sort of couple with the idea of one Mu*/system for multiple games (Gateway'ish). Maybe a survival game that focused on pockets. Either via a storyteller opening a new circle of play where they control the meat (ie crazies attack, rampant nuclear modified wolves prowl the edges, zombies, etc.), or just group staff opens 'area' for app until it has its 10 players or so.

    Also, I strongly agree with the concept. Most people seem to come on as an expert trying to get their 'niche' role, the groups doctor, the groups engineer. I'm guilty of it myself, have played a little on a 5th Wave place, was the carpenter.

    I like those ideas, @Ganymede, the creation. Said carpenter, that was my best moment, helping loot wood to build up the barn for some animals others had found. Maybe most games I've seen in the genre are just tackling it all wrong, orienting it towards a style of play that favors small group? Such as making an agreement with neighboring hostiles, that's more a select group, not fitting for a larger group - or if the rest of the group worked on the fence while they did that, or scrounged for something new and useful, but had a purpose other than waiting for main group to come back and say what happened and going on to play how they react while doing little else.

  • Oh, man, this is my favorite subject. I had the greatest experience with a survival horror MUD in space with aliens. It was about 30 players at a time, and the staff head religiously logged in around 7PM every night and made stuff happen.

    I would not say there's a certain threshold or maximum of players to make a survival horror game viable. Instead what it needs is a really good staff:player ratio. Sandbox survival horror games don't tend to do too well.

  • Pitcrew

    I would like to see something a bit more like Xenoblade Chronicles X. For those not familiar with the game: the idea is that colony ships fled Earth when Earth got caught in the middle of an interstellar war. Some of the war factions pursued the colony ships, damaging many/all of them. One crashes on a new planet, scattering stasis pods across most of the planet. The main ship has been repurposed into a home base/colony, but they're on a planet filled with unknown megafauna and alien pursuers. The purpose is to survive, but also to try and thrive. So, you have a way to integrate new characters (a new PC obviously just got thawed out of a recovered life pod), you have a home base with an explicit goal of "try to live like normal people" for those people who are more social players, but you also have a constant threat of unknown and dangerous life that needs to be understood/defeated in order for the colony to gather the resources it continues to need to expand and establish itself. That many people are highly competent in a field doesn't break the bank as much, because NO ONE is competent in "what the hell is this thing trying to eat me", because it's all new species. And a new planet gives the story staff leeway to introduce new threats over time, as people expand and explore.

    Basically, I think a SF premise can be a lot more sustainable for a large population than the typical post-apoc setting, and it doesn't rely on people periodically doing incredibly stupid and self-destructive things for survival to still be a concern. Because, let's face it, if the zombie apocalypse actually happened? The living win. They may take a lot of hits in the beginning, but we're fucking humanity: exterminating anything that so much as LOOKS at us funny is what we do.

  • @Ghost said in Survival/Apocalypse Genre Survivability:

    I don't play "100", but are there a lot of characters with super-useful skillets despite being teenagers?

    Yes, but this is primarily because the theme sets it up that way. On the Ark (where the teenagers came from), there is already a need for macro-level survival (to use Faraday's words). The Ark is the unification of 12 space stations that pooled their resources to survive the ~300 years needed for the planet to no longer being irradiated.

    So, teenagers aren't just expected to lay about being teenagers. They end up in apprenticeships as early as 12 working on particular jobs needed on the space station (often based on what their family already does). So, you have teenagers that are mini-botanists, -doctors, -mechanics, -hydro farmers, -computer engineers, etc. You even have guard cadets who have the combat training in firearms, warcraft, etc.

    Most everyone that has come on the grid, unless they were boxed/jailed before their apprenticeships got anywhere (i.e. the second child app that was boxed at age 12), most have a beginner's to intermediate skill level of their particular skill set. This sets them up for being able to at least figure shit out even if they aren't as skilled as their adult counterparts up in the sky.

    Survival/Apocalypse genres require more storytelling, from my limited perspective of 5 weeks actually running one. Having participated on other survival-style/apocalypse games, I have found trouble getting integrated into the game because I wasn't part of a group app (to fit that micro-survival). So, I would come in, alone, with no one else to integrate with, and end up phasing out after a couple weeks because there was no way to get footing or my character on track (even after reaching out OOCly to see if I could become a new cling-on for an already established group).

    In my opinion, there's two basic sub-genres in the Survival/Apocalypse genre:

    1. Waking Up to Chaos: this is your classic zombie scenario where everyone wakes up in the morning to find their world in total chaos because of some world-changing event. You have to grab whatever shit you can carry and find some people to survive with and then run away as fast as you can from the source of the apocalypse. I guess, @faraday would call this "micro survival."

    2. Post-Apocalyptic/Societal Recovery: this is more in line with themes like The 100 (to some extent, though I think that theme has some of #1 in it, too, particularly from the Ark perspective), Defiance, The Postman, Mad Max... This is where the bad apocalypse is already happened, and the world's landscape has totally changed both physically and culturally. You have a variety of societies that are vastly different from "Earth Norm," and there isn't a lot of happiness or stability, and the world is generally unkind. So you have larger groups (even whole societies) just trying to survive while being in a harsh world surrounded by harsh societies.

    Do I think that these types of genres can support a game longterm? Don't know. I think that once the metaplot is over, you end up with more of a sandbox game where people run their own stories and plots, and maybe split into groups. You end up with a more "typical" game where you have a setting, theme, factions, and players are more or less responsible for their own storytelling with a passive staff helping them along.

  • @GirlCalledBlu Gotcha gotcha. I've never seen the TV show so the show setting that up makes more sense to me. Danke

  • @Pyrephox said in Survival/Apocalypse Genre Survivability:

    Basically, I think a SF premise can be a lot more sustainable for a large population than the typical post-apoc setting, and it doesn't rely on people periodically doing incredibly stupid and self-destructive things for survival to still be a concern. Because, let's face it, if the zombie apocalypse actually happened? The living win. They may take a lot of hits in the beginning, but we're fucking humanity: exterminating anything that so much as LOOKS at us funny is what we do.

    10 billion rounds of ammunition produced ever year, not including gun owners that reload (use their shells to make their own rounds/shot), there is more than enough bullets to take out every zombie that isn't impaled on some stick/fence/wrought iron contraption in the wild.

    7 billion people left in the world .... assuming 10 percent survival after initial outbreak (and 90 percent zombies), that's 700 mil folks still kicking it. If 10 percent of survivors were good enough with weapons (if they could kill 1 zombie per day), and had all 10 billion rounds ... it'd take less than a year to knock off all those zombies (100 days). If the number of folks left were close to how they are in most zombie flicks/fiction, they wouldn't be fighting over bullets, they would have stockpiles.

    But ... SF survival sounds interesting. I always wonder, every one who likes Dune wants L&L pre Muad'Dib. I'm a God Emperor fan, I think it would be fun to play post/Scattering.

  • Pitcrew

    I think in most survival games (admittedly my experience of the genre is Battlestar, which is a twist on it...though arguably I would say that survival/EOTW games are the most individualistic because there's so many scenarios) there's an easy way to introduce "pockets" of new pcs/survivors, the only issue is that this can also mean you perpetually have to deal with pissing angst contests about who had it worse. Which again,is cool now and then but can be tiresome/deflating of ooc morale (new pcs want to tell their story and get yawned at or alternatively the pissing contest starts). It can be managed by having staff ready to have things for people to do and ways to help incorporate the new folks in, which may not be feasible depending on the staff.

  • I would think a lot depends on how it is approached and trying to encourage a certain OOC atmosphere (Extra xp for st's, staff helping ST's instead of red taping and hoop jumping them to 'fuck it' levels of exhaustion and frustration), and yeah, a lot more staff run plots and just flavor and stories.

    As long as people are willing to make that effort to include people, especially new people, then it should be alright.

    But until I get TDM up and my little hopeful and probably overly optimistic bubble burst? I'll be over here taking notes and trying to learn.

  • Honestly... I think survival/apocalypse genre games need either a highly involved and active staff that is making plotfu happen at regular intervals /or/ coded threats/bots that attack and screw things up at various intervals.

    If you don't have those, then you lose the 'survival' aspect of the game because there's nothing threatening your survival during those lulls.

    If you are randomly RP'ing and all the sudden you are attacked though, then shit just got real.

    Same if you are having to go out and coded look for supplies to 'survive' with and then bam, attacked, or maybe it's just another type of survival event. That ground? Yeah that wasn't ground, that was actually a leaf covered rotted remains of a floor over a basement full of murky stagnant water and who the fuck knows what else. Deal or die.

    Survival and apocalyptic games /need/ to have existential threats, and often, or it's not really a survival or apocalyptic theme imho.

  • Pitcrew

    I would say it requires proactive staff or mature player base, preferably both. Certainly that's possible.

  • Most survival places seem in the staff-lite box too lately (just me), but the voice seems to say if its not a small group of players that gets along, it certainly needs more staff.

    I do like the code suggestion. I've seen scavenging code done up here in there, including Mush (I throw that in cause its usually code-lite compared to other places it seems). But I like the situational concept too. Would it get much use?

    The last place I've seen situational generator was on a super hero game (mux) and it was done quite well, just not used, more ignored. It had a lot of things factored in from situations to circumstance. Like villain doing something wrong for right reasons (saving a friend), or other heroes doing something wrong for other reasons to simple burglary.

    Proactive staff and mature players. I'm still ponderous about the multiple groups idea. A page from Redemption from those that still remember it, it was built up staff-like (4 staff, one just to help with code and wiki), but brought in ye olde OOC/IC Faction Heads (like story telllers in a manner). They recruited to each faction players that tended to have play circles that would follow them. They would be active with their circle, and the interactions between factions would sort of flow out. It was meant to allow for change from players; it fell short by some faction heads not wanting to give up any IC control alas. I think the idea still has merit and could work in the genre of survival by what folks are saying, but like @mietze pointed out, mature players (which includes mature staff).

  • Tacking on to feedback @Ghost and @Lotherio both provided, I would say that the setting of game isn't necessarily as important (to me) as the type of game. I think the genre of this game works best when:

    • There are real risks and you might actually die. The environment is trying to kill you while the surviving groups are also trying to kill you because of resource competition and you're adding to these chances by having to get from A to B by deciding if taking the dubious rotting bridge over a raging river is safer than going all the way around, which sets you back by hours but means you're stuck out in the wilderness when the sun disappears.

    I can't really speak to games I'm not familiar with but I tried No Return and in addition to what @ghost said: there was literally no risk to this game. Sure, people died but they were dying because the players were shelving them because they were bored or they had a flaw that required them to die by x time. And even the unlucky players who were the victims of bad rolls and gotten bitten by zombies, still had to do a check to see if they turned and even then could take a serum that would cure them of permadeath. There was little risk inherent to this game and it mostly resulted in a lot of playing house and having babies and ignoring a lot of basic cooperative survival needs like making sure the PCs had a secure fence.

    Staff on the game kept trying to course correct these issues through very hamfisted plot devices but they often ended up over correcting where it became railroady staff fiat in the form of IC punishments or the plot devices were so drastic and theme breaking that, most players literally didn't want to deal with it, ignored it and just kept scavenging for canned pears in light syrup.

    Which feeds into...

    • Active plot staff or active plot runners. If the staff are the kind of staff that don't want to run plot that doesn't basically react to players ignoring previous staff fiat and want players to do it for them largely, then empower your plot runners to keep running plot that moves the game's story arc forward. Otherwise, again, you literally have nothing to do but scavenge for lawn chairs and ignore theme. This can be avoided by just pushing the main story line along on a proactive basis.

    • Set a date for the game to end. Most of the survival genre is counter intuitive to this (the author of the TWD has stated that he planned to keep telling the story for as long as he could which is turning out to be a very long time and not necessarily for the better). A game with a beginning, middle, and end in this genre sends the message that you don't have time to sunbathe on top of the abandoned mall when you should be stock piling ammo because the Reavers are coming. It gives players a chance to make more meaningful and strategic choices and if they blow it, well then they blow it. Losing is fun, I think.

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